When Move Inc. hired real estate industry executive Suzanne Zinn Mueller as senior vice president of industry relations, the company signaled its continuing commitment to strengthen its vital connection to the real estate industry — including brokerages, MLSs, and REALTOR® associations. Mueller joined Move, operator of realtor.com®, in December after a decade as a marketing executive with Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, the last seven years in the brokerage’s top marketing role. She spoke with REALTOR® Magazine about her new job and her goals for the rapidly evolving real estate services website.
Tell us about your position. What do you oversee exactly?
I oversee Move’s relationships across all of the key industry audiences: the MLSs, the associations, the brokers, and the agents. Adjunct to that is providing a dynamic communications channel that gives all partners and customers a voice back into the company. This includes meeting regularly with key advisory boards and other thought leaders and influencers of the different pivotal audiences throughout the industry. Another important part of my role is fostering our relationship and communication with the National Association of REALTORS® because, quite frankly, we love the contractual relationship we have and want to continue to build on it. Much of my time this first month has been spent learning how the company thinks and breathes to discern ways to move forward.
How did your background prepare you for the role?
Although I never practiced as an agent, I have worked in the real estate industry for the past ten years. Coldwell Banker Bain is one of the largest brokerages nationally, and through my role there as a senior marketing executive, I gained extensive agent and broker knowledge along with a deep understanding of how the industry works and interacts. Before that, I ran the office of a national marketing agency based in Chicago. Visa was a past client, and there’s a parallel there in the way the company focused on its members.
How will you work to balance the interests of the different industry players?
It might be too soon to say, as I am still learning. I will say that I believe there is more unity among industry groups than might be evident from media headlines. Quite honestly, we in the industry all have the same goal. Everyone wants to strengthen the ability of people to buy and sell and to keep the REALTOR® central to the consumer relationship. The REALTOR® is a critical, professional component to buying and selling a home. As is often noted, it’s the largest financial transaction that most consumers will make in their lifetime.
How has News Corp’s 2014 purchase of Move Inc. changed perceptions about realtor.com® or the operation of realtor.com®?
It has resulted in big improvements, and it’s one of the reasons I was so keen to take this job. I’m excited about the direction we’re moving. Our efforts to increase our brand recognition and leverage News Corp’s media platform and editorial expertise have helped drive a dramatic increase in consumer visits. As of September, we saw year-over-year traffic on realtor.com® grow by 43 percent. Today, realtor.com® is the fastest growing real estate services destination, and our visitors are more engaged when they visit our site. This is a phenomenal message for me to take to the industry audience.
We’re also actively engaged in product development. We’re working on technologies that will drive consumer engagement and connections and help REALTORS® grow their business and their relevance in this age of disruption. We have some pretty exciting developments in the customer relationship life cycle. We’re looking forward to bringing those to the industry soon in a holistic way.
We are also excited about the new Agent Profiles and Real Ratings & Reviews. We built these tools with the input of the industry, and they allow REALTORS® to take control of conversations that might already be taking place on channels like Yelp. The Agent Profile allows REALTORS® to put forward as complete a presence as possible for consumers as they make decisions about working with a REALTOR®.
What’s the biggest misconception about realtor.com®?
One thing we often see is a tendency to think of realtor.com® as a portal and equate it with other services that may look similar. Yet, there is a big difference between realtor.com® and its competitors, and that is our relationships with the National Association of REALTORS® and nearly 800 MLSs nationwide. Realtor.com®’s roots and legacy are found in the industry itself. We have the highest coverage [of homes for sale], the most accurate data, and the highest-quality leads. We know this from talking with our customers, and I also know it from my experience with Coldwell Banker Bain. Also, this company is one of the biggest guardians for the industry in regard to data privacy and usage, because we have the strictest data protection and privacy protocols in the industry. This is really critical; it sets us apart, and it is going to get nothing but more important.
Any final thoughts?
I feel realtor.com® and Move are poised for tremendous strides and advancements. This is a company on the rise. I am so excited to have this role and be here at this time.