February 11th, 2019

To improve and maintain subscriber satisfaction, multiple listing services must continually articulate the value that they provide, both as an organization and through products and services.

In more than half of the MLS strategic planning processes I facilitated over the last year, pre-planning surveys and other research showed most subscribers were unaware of many of the products and services the MLS provides in exchange for their access fees, and less awareness directly correlated to less satisfaction with the value provided for those fees. For some clients, where I performed more detailed research, it was apparent that even when subscribers were aware of a product’s existence, they were not aware of specific features or recent enhancements and their benefits. Raising awareness about the value the MLS provides as an organization and through products and services is difficult, but it can and must be done. Not putting resources into such communications and making sure the effectiveness of those communications is maximized would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Value of the MLS

Too many subscribers still think of the MLS as the way to access a database. When it comes to promoting the value of the MLS organization, the “Making the Market Work” campaign released by the Council of MLS back in June of 2017 is still the best resource for MLSs to adopt and promote through all channels. I’m still surprised how many MLSs have not adopted this campaign on an ongoing basis. If you’re an MLS executive, at your next board meeting, try giving your board members a short quiz about the value of MLS – if even they can’t articulate the tenets of confidence, connections, and community to at least some degree, more work is certainly needed.

Value of MLS Products and Services

There’s a saying in the industry: “Realtors Don’t Read” or “RDR” for short. I dislike this saying because I have worked with so many professionals over the years and they DO read … if the message is interesting. All too often the headline, Facebook post, or tweet reads something like “[MLS] Releases [Product Name].” If I was a busy professional I wouldn’t click through on that either.
Professionals are primarily motivated by four types of benefit-oriented messages:

  1. This will help you make more money (“profit”)

  2. This will save you time (“ease”)

  3. This provides insight into your business (“control”)

  4. This will reduce risk or prevent you from falling behind (“fear” or “fear of missing out (FOMO)”)

  • “Read about the new changes to listing input” will not generate nearly as many click-throughs as “New listing input feature saves you 20 minutes per listing”.
  • “Learn more about [product]” is not as effective as “This [MLS] agent closed 18% more transactions this year by using [product].”
  • “Sign up for [product] classes” will not generate as many click-throughs as “[Product], offered as an [MLS] benefit, helps you close transactions 15% faster. Click for a 5 minute video with everything you need to know.”
If when the professional clicks through from calls to action, there is a short web page – possibly with a short video – that continues to sell the benefit of a product and how to get started, you will start to see more product awareness and adoption. And, if they’ve already tried the product but aren’t seeing the benefits, this type of messaging may well get them to look closer at how they are using the product. Either way, they are being reminded of the value provided by the MLS.

Targeting and Improving Opting

Another important MLS communications trend has been to improve targeting and opting.

Still, some MLSs are still not targeting properly and sending every message, even those that would only apply to some subscribers, to every subscriber by email. Or, they present messages that apply to only some subscribers to all subscribers in an MLS post-login popup. If an MLS doesn’t target properly, it’s easy for subscribers to burn out on the quantity of irrelevant messages they receive. Ensuring subscribers are sorted into groups based on role, product and service use, and other factors is key to targeting communications properly. If messages are not targeted, subscribers may decide to opt-out – an MLS communications disaster!

Another problem I still see at some MLSs is that they have a single opt-out – all or nothing. These days, when you try to opt out of most websites, they encourage you to opt out of certain types of communications rather than all types, and MLSs should follow suit. Just the other day, I received a brokerage email about the value of my ex-house and when I clicked to opt-out, it opted me out of communications about that property only. I would have had to navigate the site further to opt out of more than that. Some MLSs say they can’t have a more sophisticated opting system because their marketing system doesn’t provide for it. If that’s the case, it’s time to find a new marketing system.

Continuous Improvement

This article has covered just a few components of how MLSs can improve and maintain subscriber satisfaction by continually articulating the value that they provide, both as an organization and through products and services. Some readers will remember that I literally spent hours at the 2014 Clareity MLS Executive Workshop providing a more comprehensive review of communications best practices – it’s a huge topic! Still, with just a bit of planning, by taking more care to use benefit-oriented language with subscribers to articulate the value of what the MLS provides, and by improving targeting and opting methods, MLSs can dramatically improve subscriber engagement and satisfaction over time.


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