Technology Boot Camp Is a Fast Track to Internet Success

By John Brian Losh

Many Realtors don't know beans about technology.

This isn't exactly breaking news. Realtors have plenty of valuable skills -- good communication, customer service skills and marketing expertise, to name just a few. But for many Realtors, their knowledge of technology is limited to surfing the Internet and checking and sending e-mail. (Pop quiz: Do you know what SEO stands for?)

After all, a Realtor's schedule is demanding enough without adding keeping abreast of emerging technologies to the plate. But on the other hand, Realtors who make use of technology, particularly by having an effective Web site, have a definite edge in the industry. So what's a busy Realtor to do?

The answer is: enlist in a technology "boot camp." These short conferences, which generally last two or three days, are being offered with increasing frequency. The idea is, you take a few days out of your schedule to immerse yourself in an intensive crash course where tech-savvy speakers describe, in layman's terms, the high-tech tools you need to make your business more successful. At most technology boot camps, you'll also get a handful of valuable hand-outs take home and use as a reference.

The prospect of attending a technology boot camp appeals to a lot of Realtors because the information is focused and the time frame is short -- the equivalent of skimming the Cliff Notes versus reading an entire resource book, so to speak. Some boot camps, such as Luxury Real Estate's Tech Exchange, which will take place in Seattle in February 2006, are even geared specifically to real estate professionals for an ultra-focused learning experience.

Some of the topics typically covered at a technology book camp include:

--Search Engine Optimization, or how to get your website to appear at the top of the list on major search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, by using certain keywords and phrases. (Note: If you weren't able to answer the question about SEO in the second paragraph, now you can.) 

--The qualities that make a strong website, including tips on design, copy writing and maintenance.

--Online inquiries -- getting them, transferring them into business, and the part many Realtors (especially in a large organization) find the most challenging -- tracking them. The latest lead-tracking software can help.

--Which technology investments reap the biggest Return on Investment -- from professional website design to the latest gadgets, including Short Messaging Service-compatible cell phones, Palm Pilots, iPods and portable data/access applications.

--Servers and the most cost-effective way to store your data.

In addition, most technology boot camps give participants the opportunity to meet one-on-one with one or more high-tech specialists to discuss specific issues your company may be facing.

Another bonus is that a Realtor-specific conference will give you the opportunity to network with colleagues from other parts of the country, which could result in referral business down the road.

If you're shaking your head and wondering how you'll take two or three days out of your busy schedule for a technology boot camp -- guess what? There's no reason you can't send a staff member in your stead. In some instances, sending one of your employees may even be more appropriate, especially if you have an IT person on staff. Employees who work in design and marketing are also natural choices who will likely pick up many valuable tips, and work in a position where they can implement what they learn.

Remember, knowledge is power--and in the case of technology, knowledge can improve your bottom line. 

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