Here we are – four days, 62 panels, 50 new business cards, hundreds of handshakes and countless references to Google later and what can we take away from SES Chicago 2007? Here are the top three things we gathered that you should start doing with your real estate marketing efforts immediately: 1) Be authentic 2) Test everything 3) Keep moving Be Authentic Whether one of the themes of the conference was meant to be centered around authenticity or not, it was apparent that this was the direction that just about every single speaker and specialist drove home. Let me elaborate. To really have a successful business and presence online, whether your business is B2B or B2C, you MUST be authentic. Stop trying to create things and stop implementing strategies primarily for the search engines. This applies to website design, website optimization, social media marketing, content writing, blogging and just above everything else you are currently doing to market your site online. The search engines can tell and more importantly your visitors and prospective customers can tell. Both are extremely more savvy and are becoming more so each day. Example: A perfect example of what is being referred to would be using the power of social media marketing mainly to build links or drive traffic to your site. There has become an ugly trend of people taking advantage of sites like StumbleUpon, Flickr and YouTube mainly for search engine visibility. The result is the quality of these great sites being compromised by your unauthentic attempts to become a part of these communities as they were meant to be used. As the search engines move faster and faster towards "Universal Search" everyone is going to become very familiar with these social media sites and if people continue to throw their pathetic advertising focused attempts up onto these sites then we are going to eventually see the usefulness of them fade away. Bottom Line: Whether it be designing your site, writing new content or immersing yourself in online communities and social media sites, if you are genuinely passionate about what you do and how you portray it to other people then your efforts will spread like wildfire and you will build a strong, loyal following of like minded people who may become a new customer for you or tell someone else who might. Test Everything One of the greatest things about Internet Marketing, whether it be pay per click, search engine optimization, social media marketing, email marketing and so on, is that you can track your ROI and make adjustments as necessary. And the best way to get the most for your investment is to constantly be testing what works and what doesn’t. Traditional marketing is rapidly going to the wayside as these exact measurements of what you are getting for your time and money cannot be drilled down to anything as accurate or useful as with Internet Marketing. Traditional marketing has become comparably expensive, inefficient, slow moving and near ineffective. With the ability to literally test everything you put on the Internet, the effectiveness and cost efficiency of Internet Marketing is rapidly leading many businesses to completely abandon their traditional marketing altogether. Just a disclaimer here though – if you are doing something that is working for your business than by all means do not stop doing it, just think about it how you can do it better. Example: Landing pages are the perfect case study as they are well known, but a lot of time ineffectively managed. I sat in on a panel about how a search marketing agency specializing in landing page conversion optimization helped SmartSheet.com really turn around and boost their conversion percentages from their landing pages and website. By implementing multivariate testing with the company’s existing landing pages the agency was able to pinpoint the exact components of SmartSheet.com’s landing page effectiveness and ineffectiveness. Simple things like trying different calls to action (Start Now versus Sign Up Now versus Start Sharing) and different font colors (red versus black versus blue) led to exponential spikes in conversion. Bottom Line: If you are not currently testing every page (or at least your homepage and landing pages) with multivariate testing then I recommend you do so immediately. Once you are done testing, test again! Never stop testing. If you are not finding the most effective solutions for your site’s pages then you are losing customers and money. Keep Moving If you have never heard of Flickr or Delicious than you better start sprinting because you are about to get lapped. The Internet moves so fast that if you are not sharing photos on Flickr, tagging sites on StumbleUpon or poking people on Facebook than you are probably so far behind that by the time you catch up these sites will be old news. Constantly moving does not just pertain to knowing and using the trendiest new sites. It also has to do with knowing your ever changing customer. People today know what they want, when they want it, where to find it and how they want to get it. On top of this, people want everything faster. If you do not make yourself present in any or all of these stages of consumer behavior than I can guarantee your competitors already are. And even worse, if you are slow moving than you have already lost a good percentage of prospective business to someone else. Example: There is no better form of validation for the necessity to constantly be on the move than that of Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I am sure that the executives of Barnes & Noble constantly kick themselves for not being Amazon.com. There is no reason why they should not have been what Amazon is today. Instead of constantly moving with their customers, Barnes & Noble stuck with their old, outdated business plan and saw Amazon quickly pass them by. Amazon kept up with their customers, sometimes seeming to be one step ahead of them, and have become the biggest online retailer there is. Bottom Line: The most effective, cost efficient way to increase your business is to know your customer. The only way to really know your customer is to keep moving with them. The best way to keep moving is to immerse yourself in new facets, channels, groups, communities and portals where your customers are. To summarize (for those of you with short attention spans like myself): 1) Be Authentic – stop implementing strategies primarily for the search engines 2) Test everything – the best way to get the most for your investment is to constantly be testing what works and what doesn’t 3) Keep moving – if you are slow moving than you have already lost a good percentage of prospective business to someone else For more information on any of these takeaways such as examples and case studies, please feel free to email us. In the meantime, we will be thawing out from the Chicago cold in warmer weather in sunny, always 75 degrees Southern California.