QR code usage is on the rise at associations.
[*Here’s a great video explaining QR codes from Cnet:
If you know what a QR code is, consider yourself tech-savvy. If you’ve actually used one, consider yourself ahead of the curve.
Regarded as the missing link between the real world and the Internet, these bar codes (which deliver up to 4,026 characters of text or link to a Web page when photographed by a mobile phone) are steadily becoming mainstream. There was a 1,200 percent jump in QR (Quick Response) code scanning from July to December 2010, according to data compiled by JumpScan, a QR code generator.
Think of QR codes as hyperlink Post-it notes that can be stuck to practically anything in the real world. (The new term is “object hyperlinking.”) For example, hold your mobile phone camera up to the QR code on the train platform to receive the exact location of your train. Photograph the QR code on a package at the supermarket to receive a recipe or a coupon. Snap the code on a business card and the contact information is automatically entered into your phone’s contact list.
A recent article on QR codes in USA Today cited the use of these codes in the real estate market: “Real estate agents are placing them on front lawn for-sale signs, enticing prospective buyers to hop out of their cars, scan the tags and receive all the listing information, including photos, to help them make a purchase decision.”
QR codes and associations
By using any of the free QR code generators (there are dozens online), associations can create bar codes to print on marketing flyers, magazine ads, Web pages, business cards, and more.
Gina Barajas, AE with the Lompoc Valley Association of REALTORS®, Calif., has been spreading the word to her members. “I have explained the value of using the QR codes and I’ll be generating flyers and other communications with QR codes.”
Katie Shotts, marketing and events manager with the Memphis Area Association of REALTORS®, uses the codes on printed material promoting events, which link to the Web page (and registration form) for the event.
The San Mateo County Association of REALTORS® has added QR codes as an event sponsorship benefit. “We’ll create a QR code for any of our sponsors that goes to their choice of landing page,” says Julie Ziemelis, the association’s communications director. “We put the QR code on a banner at all events to encourage REALTORS® to ask what QR codes are and then the affiliates can actually teach the REALTOR®.”
If you haven’t noticed codes yet on NAR materials, you will see them popping up there, too. The AE Professional Development department has started using them on its RCE marketing materials.
QR Code How-To
Step 1. Download a QR reader to your mobile phone (if it doesn’t already have one). Here are some app suggestions: for iPhone, QuickMark; for Android, Barcode Scanner; for Windows phones, MicrosoftTag; and for BlackBerry and Palm devices, NeoReader.*
Step 2. Start scanning. Practice on the codes in this issue of REALTOR® AE magazine.
Step 3. Generate your own codes at http://zxing.appspot.com/generator. Save the code as you would any photo. Post it on a Web page or for printed material make sure that it is print-quality size and in .eps format (you may need to use a photo editing program, such as Photoshop, to convert the image into an eps file).
—By Amy DuBose
Gear Up for Open House Weekend
Launched in 2010 by executives at local and state REALTOR® associations, the Nationwide Open House campaign has become a major consumer marketing blitz to promote local real estate and, of course, the benefits of working with a REALTOR®. This year, the event is receiving promotional help from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, and promises to be even larger.
Participation in Nationwide Open House is not mandatory for associations or members; however, AEs say it’s a great way to connect REALTORS® with their clients as a member benefit. “In central Ohio, we typically average about 170 open houses per week,” says Marque Bressler, communications director of the Columbus Board of -REALTORS®, “but during the Nationwide Open House last year we had 1,616 open houses in one weekend.”
When the Washington Association of REALTORS® surveyed their members after last year’s event, 13 percent said they sold one or more homes as a direct result of the event, while 47 percent said the event, and media coverage leading up to it, helped increase consumer confidence.
In Florida, 92 percent of local boards participated in promoting the 2010 event, generating between 15,000 and 18,000 open houses statewide. The Florida Association of REALTORS® created newspaper ads, radio spots, and custom graphics to promote the occasion in addition to building a database for local MLSs to display their open houses for consumers.
“The media coverage was phenomenal,” says Lisa Walker, director of communications and public affairs for the Florida REALTORS®. “The value of the TV coverage alone was $200,000, according to an external audit.”
NAR is supporting Nationwide Open House this year with national media coverage and a tool kit on nar.realtor with logos, ideas, and resources for local associations. Stay tuned to nar.realtor for more or visit the event’s Facebook page. n
Make ‘Game Changer’ Ideas Work for You
You’ve read about the innovative programs developed by the REALTOR® associations in NAR’s Game Changer program. Now, NAR makes it easier than ever to put those ideas to work at your association and boost your value to members. A new toolkit helps you select which ideas best suit your needs. Play an informative and interactive online game that will guide you to a few game-changing ideas to implement at your association. Answer the questions under each association challenge for a solution from the award-winning Game Changers’ ideas. Access at nar.realtor/association_executives/gamechangers.
Seattle Association Coordinating Japan Disaster Relief
The Seattle-King County Association of REALTORS®, the official NAR Ambassador Association to four nationwide real estate associations in Japan, is accepting donations online and by mail to The REALTORS® Environmental Council (TREC) for long-term relief projects in the country, including those devoted to temporary shelter and rebuilding following the March earthquakes and tsunami. Once qualified projects are identified, TREC will forward 100 percent of the donations to the relief projects. For more,
Jason Watabe, a REALTORS® from Mercer Island, Wash., is the NAR President’s liaison to Japan’s four real estate associations, and is working with the Seattle-King County Association to develop additional support programs. “We cherish our business relations in Japan,” he said. “And we have to show our friendship by extending financial support in providing the victims food, water, heat, and shelter for tonight and tomorrow.”
NAR Urges Donations
“REALTORS® build communities here in the U.S., but we also have a role to play in the global community, as well. With that in mind, we want to express our heartfelt concern and support for the people of Japan during these trying times,” said NAR President Ron Phipps, in a March 16 REALTOR® Magazine story.
In addition to the TREC fund, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® identified four funds that it believes are well equipped to provide disaster-relief services: AmeriCares, Habitat for Humanity International, United States Fund for UNICEF, and World Vision. Learn more about all of these funds at
Members to Lead Green Home Education
Emerald City homebuyers and home-owners are passionate about green—environmentally friendly homes, that is. Yet, REALTORS® in Seattle report that until recently, it was difficult to find credible and useful sources of information on green building and energy efficiency. This led the -Seattle-King County Association of REALTORS® to create and deliver green information as part of a new member service called GreenHomeAdvisor.org.
“Sustainability and energy efficiency relating to single-family homes has been an area of growing interest among consumers and government policy makers in Seattle,” says David Crowell, the association’s government affairs director. “We sought to develop a Web site tool that members could use with clients that would aggregate sustainability and energy efficiency information in one place.”
The association launched the consumer-facing Web site in October and is gathering feedback from members. The site is filled with information on how homeowners can save money on home energy, reduce energy consumption, and take advantage of tax credits and rebates. It also includes green home features and remodeling ideas. Members of the association are invited to brand the site as their own.
The site is more than simply member marketing and information, notes Crowell. “We’ve positioned ourselves to be proactive on this issue both in terms of public awareness and as a policy direction,” he says. “The site puts our members out in front as providers of information to educate homeowners on how they can reduce their home energy expenses and energy consumption. Moving forward, we hope policy makers will recognize that voluntary measures and an informed public have the potential to be far more effective than the regulatory mandates that have been discussed at federal, state, and local levels.”
Although there are no expansion plans yet, Crowell says the association would be delighted to see the program extended nationally. For more, visit www.greenhomeadvisor.org.
CAR to Launch REALTOR® Ratings
The California Association of REALTORS® is testing a new REALTOR® rating program with six brokerages before its anticipated statewide offering
to members in 2012.
The REALTOR® Ratings program is a joint effort by CAR, MLSListings Inc., and independent consumer review agency Quality Service Certification. According to CAR, the goal of the program is to develop an industry standard across northern California for measuring real estate agent performance and customer service based on independently verified reviews from home buyers and home sellers.
“Despite the variety of real estate agent review sites, there is no single consistent standard for comparing agents, nor in many cases, reliability of the reviews themselves,” explains Jim Harrison, president and CEO of MLSListings.
Similar to the Houston Association of REALTORS®’ Client Experience Rating program, CAR’s program is expected to be free and optional for members.
Market Conference Delivers Positive News for Members
At its first annual “Future of the Housing Market and Real Estate Technology” conference in February, the San Mateo County Association of REALTORS®, Calif., aimed to answer the critical question: “How’s the market?”
Nearly 120 attendees listened to three 45-minute presentations, ate a boxed lunch, and participated in a two-hour mini-REBarCamp, which is an open discussion forum for attendees to create conversations on various hot topics. REBarCamp topics ranged from, “How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation” to “Short sales: Outsourcing The Work To Carry a Larger Load.” The conference featured 10 exhibitors and cost $25 per person.
In addition to understanding market trends and statistics, the conference also focused on new ways REALTORS® can disseminate this information to home-buyers. Some tips from presenters on getting the word out on the market included
1) developing a Web presence that mixes both search engine and social media optimization;
2) becoming a trusted adviser online via a Web site, blog and social channels, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube; and
3) developing a content marketing plan that includes a target audience and the type of information they need.
“This conference gave our members what they needed at the right time: positive news and stats about the approaching spring market that they can share with clients, along with solid tech tips they can use to market their business in 2011,” said Steve Blanton, the association’s EO.
Learn more at www.samcar.org/future.
—By Julie Ziemelis, public affairs director, San Mateo County AOR
With Age Comes Opportunity
By Amy Robey, Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, Ill.
From promoting professionalism to protecting the interests of homeowners, REALTOR® associations have a lot to be proud of. So when an anniversary comes up, by all means, celebrate the hard work that has led to an association’s successes. Keep in mind, though, that anniversary celebrations need not be private affairs. These tributary occasions are the perfect opportunity to spotlight a local association’s attributes and promote its success and longevity to members, clients, and the broader community.
Everyone loves a party
From a low-budget parking lot barbecue to a catered gala, everyone loves a good party.
At Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, we’re planning an open house at our headquarters this summer to bring together members, vendors, and local residents to celebrate our 90th year. We’ll have food, prizes, and giveaways.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Monmouth County Association of REALTORS® in Tinton Falls, N.J., will throw a black-tie gala for members and local dignitaries to commemorate its 75th anniversary. The association will also be a sponsor of the popular New Jersey Seafood Festival. Sponsoring a community event during your anniversary year is a great way to get extra public exposure.
As different as the events are, each will draw the community together and create buzz.
Tell your story
Consider hiring a professional writer to craft some -narratives about the history of housing in your area. Pair these with photos of your region from 50 to 100 years ago, as well as stories from longtime REALTORS®, and pitch them to media outlets.
If you print a magazine, devote one issue entirely to the history of your association and real estate in your area. You should also use social media tools, such as Facebook, to share these histories with the widest possible audience.
Taking a multimedia approach, the Portland Metro-politan Association of REALTORS® commemorated its 100th anniversary this year with a video that combined historical photos with interviews that tied its past accomplishments to its current mission.
At Mainstreet, we filmed interviews with seasoned members and posted them online. To further engage them, we drew on suggestions submitted by our 11,000 members to Mainstreet’s blog (which is the primary way we communicate directly with consumers) to put together a series of anniversary-themed posts, featuring “90 real estate tips for consumers.”
Consider asking members to post their own stories and testimonials about your association (or real estate in your area) on your Facebook page, or to submit them for publication on your blog or Web site.
Brand your anniversary
Developing a special brand for your association’s marketing materials is another great way to make the most of your anniversary.
For instance, in 2008, the Chicago Association of REALTORS® turned its inaugural event into a celebration of its 125th anniversary and branded the entire year with a special logo and the theme “Look How Far We’ve Come.”
As part of its centennial celebration, the Portland association also created a popular online tool kit for its members featuring a series of anniversary-themed flyers on topics such as property rights advocacy and homeownership.
From then-and-now fact sheets comparing home prices and other market factors between your charter date and today, to timeline flyers that highlight key historical events and association milestones, an anniversary logo can be used virtually anywhere to enhance your message.
Use your anniversary logo on T-shirts, flyers, e-mail signatures, and more to keep your association’s longevity and prosperity front and center.
An anniversary year gives your association a well-deserved occasion to celebrate its successes, but it also provides you with a chance to spotlight its achievements and contributions. So celebrate, yes. But don’t be afraid to commemorate your association’s next big milestone by shouting its praises from the nearest rooftop—or Web site, for that matter.
Are Plaques Passé?
Should you spend hundreds of dollars on award plaques, crystal trophies, or golden statuettes when so many members no longer have offices to put them in? Today, AEs are finding that technology can make member recognition more relevant and cost effective.
“Two years ago we moved away from printed award certificates to electronic certificates,” says Toni Wilson, marketing director of the Bay East -Association of REALTORS®, Calif. “Those members who like to have certificates can print them and for those who don’t, we aren’t spending money printing and mailing certificates that ultimately end up in the garbage. All of our award winners are listed on our Web site.”
For many members, their Web site is their office. It’s where potential clients visit, gain information about services, and make the first contact. So this is naturally where displaying association recognition is most effective.
An “electronic award plaque” could take the form of a graphic or -photo that a member can post on his or her site. To prove authenticity, it should link back to a page on your association site where the recipient is again identified and the award is explained.
Creating a virtual “wall of fame” on your Web site is another way to honor members for their service. It not only publicizes their accomplishments and contributions to fellow members, but also ensures that their name, along with their award, will show up in Google results whenever anyone searches for them.
“Our award winners are on our Web site in a digital publication and we distribute a logo for them to use in their own marketing materials, along with logo guidelines,” says Jessica Kern, marketing communications manager for the Chicago Association of REALTORS®. “Every year we see the demand grow for the digital logo, and it’s becoming more widely used.”
Noon New CEO of Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® welcomed Lisa G. Noon, RCE, CAE, as its new CEO in April. Noon was the vice president of member outreach with the Virginia Association of REALTORS® and replaces Lisa Yates.
Get the Political Survival Initiative Facts
The REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative comes up for a vote in May during the board of directors meeting at the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings and Expo in Washington, D.C. The initiative aims to give REALTORS® more advocacy resources at the national, state, and local level.
Since the proposal was announced at the AE Institute in Dallas in March, associations have been busy fielding questions and comments from members. The latest facts on the initiative, along with videos, feedback forms, and communications tips for associations, are available at nar.realtor/topics/political_survival_initiative/ae.
OfficeMax Joins REALTOR Benefits® Program
REALTOR® associations, their staff, and members can save significantly on more than 12,000 office supply products from nationwide retailer OfficeMax. Order supplies online, at retail stores, and through OfficeMax’s commercial catalog, which is not available to the general public. There is no charge for shipping. To take advantage of this program, first request a Digital Retail Connect Card via e-mail to AdvantagePrograms@OfficeMax.com or by phone at 800-248-6343. Let OfficeMax know if you have more than 25 employees to learn details about its “Business-to--Business” program. For more details, visit: nar.realtor/OfficeMaxRAE.
Order 2011 Association Resource Packets Today
Help communicate the benefits of NAR with the 2011 Association Resource Packet, which includes 100 copies of two 6-inch by 10-inch printed pieces: the catalog (highlighting NAR’s products, education courses, and REALTOR Benefits® partners) and the Top Benefits of NAR brochure, which includes a
CD with NAR member programs and services ma-terials. Order today for $12 at nar.realtor/store.
Marketing Update with Bob Goldberg, NAR’s senior VP of marketing
NAR’s New Online Member Guide, 2011
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® developed and distributed the first Member Guide to all REALTORS® in the spring of 2000. The Member Guide broke new ground because it was the first time NAR provided members with a customized resource about their REALTOR® membership. The guide included a membership card personalized with their name and NRDS number, membership benefits information, and customized messages from each member’s primary local and state REALTOR® associations.
NAR continued printing and mailing the Member Guide annually for the past decade with great success. In fact, a 2010 NAR survey indicated 74 percent of members keep their copy.
2011 marks an exciting new beginning for the NAR Member Guide. Coming this May, the guide is moving from print-and-mail to a new user-friendly digital format. The goal of the guide remains the same: to deliver an efficient, personalized experience, which defines core membership value.
The online Member Guide will keep the features that made the printed guide valuable
to members and associations, and will add some new features:
1. Customized. Members will receive customized information based on their NRDS ID.
2. Real time. The guide will have up-to-the-minute member benefits information and news from local, state, and national.
3. Comprehensive and accessible. Associations can easily log into the Web-based administration tool to upload (and update on an ongoing basis) their benefits message, education programs, and events—at no cost.
4. Mobile. New iPhone and iPad apps.
5. Member card. Customizable digital NAR membership card, for display on a member’s smartphone and available to print on both paper and plastic.
6. Quick reference. High-level benefit information links members to nar.realtor for more.
Take Advantage of This Free Tool and Add Your Message Today
Contribute, at no cost, your association’s logo and message of up to 1,000 characters
before the Member Guide launches on May 10.
• April 25: Administration tool with instructions available to associations. Review and update your message and events at least monthly at http://MemberGuide.REALTOR.org/admin
• May 10: Online Member Guide portal at http://MemberGuide.REALTOR.org and apps available to all members. Encourage members to log in and get started with their customized guide, download the iPhone and iPad apps, and customize their card. Promotional materials, QR code, and widget available at nar.realtor/AEMemberToolkit.
• May 11–13: Visit the NAR booth at the Midyear Trade Expo to demo uploading your association message, tour the Member Guide, and download the apps.
Working together, we communicate best and most efficiently to members—in one voice
and on multiple platforms—all the benefits of membership and showcase the strength of
the REALTOR® organization.
Conference on Building Better Public MLS Sites
The Houston Association of REALTORS® is launching a new national conference designed to help MLSs develop public home listing Web sites or improve existing sites. Scheduled for June 2 and 3 in Houston, the event, called MLS Cloud 2011, will feature speakers from across the country who operate some of the largest and most successful public-facing listing Web sites, including Curt Beardsley from REALTOR.com, Brad Inman of Inman News, Kristi Graning from RE/MAX International, David Charron from MRIS, and HAR’s own Bob Hale, among others. Sessions will discuss changing consumer behavior, the ways in which cutting-edge real estate portals and franchises are working to attract consumers, and how to improve the REALTOR®-consumer dynamic. HAR launched its MLS Cloud, which is a Web site directory of public MLS sites, in 2009. For more on the conference, visit www.mlscloud.com/2011.
South Carolina Wins Google Contest
The South Carolina Association of REALTORS® was one of 10 winners worldwide in a promotional campaign sponsored by Google. The associations submitted a story about how and why it moved its information technology system to Google Apps, a bundle of Web-based computer applications.
The prize was a billboard (pictured above) sponsored by Google, which was erected in Columbia, S.C., near the association’s office.
“Google Apps enabled our association [11 staff] to eliminate downtime, eliminate license fees for software and spam filters, reduce staff, and reduce our IT costs—total savings of over $50K a year,” says association CEO Nick Kramedyes.