Having read Dale Ross’s recent post that noted RPR was “hitting a wall of entrenched attitudes…” etc., that was keeping them from meeting their goals I was a bit surprised. I was surprised because in many ways I thought RPR had a pretty good year with the addition of some of the big boy MLSs that had been standing on the sidelines, while this post seemed to highlight what isn’t working.
My take on RPR, before the post, was that now was the time for RPR to ride their recent signings and begin
toshow everyone how their products and technology were really making a difference for Realtors using it. Do some case studies and note best practices and show how these products really are helping Realtors and consumers. I saw adoption and value as the key to getting the rest of the MLSs on board. Getting the deal is just the first step for any technology company, especially one that sells non mission critical tools. The real key is whether the users find what is being offered compelling and necessary for their business. If they do, you have a winner. If you don’t, you have a problem.
Data is mentioned in Dale’s post as a key value in what RPR brings to the Realtor. I would argue, as Greg Robertson noted in his post, that Data is not what it’s all about, at least to the average agent. MLS and tax data were there already. OK, RPR offers data from other MLSs but how often is this really a big deal to the average agent on a day to day basis? They could see MLS data on Realtor.com before RPR if they wanted to, at least the IDX view of that data. They can find other cool data on 3rd party sites. Data is not going to be the key to RPR’s success in terms of getting people to use the products. If RPR tools present or allow users to use the data in ways that are truly unique and valuable to the average agent and subsequently the consumer, and if the date is accurate, they will be adopted. If not, it’s an uphill climb.
I still go back to a discussion I had with Dale and Marty at the NY Inman conference, shortly after their big announcement in San Diego, where I suggested they only had to do two easy things, beyond their current strategy, to be totally successful, at least in terms of signing up MLSs. After that the products still have to work and be valuable but I think the “wall of entrenched” attitudes Dale refers to could be climbed over pretty easily. What I suggested to Dale and Marty was pretty simple:
1. Promise MLSs you will not compete with their local MLS ever. If RPR ever does offer an “MLS like” solution it would never be offered to their members except by invitation of the MLS. This guarantee would have to be a standing guarantee outside of the existing agreement term controlling the rest of the agreement.
2. Set a revenue/profit number after which revenues would be shared with all participating MLSs. There is no reason that RPR and NAR can’t have all of the great benefits they want from this initiative and also agree to share profits after some level of success has been reached. Dale has said they have not excluded this possibility but that is a big difference from saying they will do it.
Whether RPR makes the changes I suggest or simply get’s the rest of the MLSs to sign up they still have to get Realtors to use their products and to see them as a “must have” technology. Current RPR license terms are not long. In a recent posts, WAV Group and Brian Larson noted it is really time to look at the value MLSs are getting from RPR. If the value is real, great, renew your agreement. If the value isn’t real, evaluate it like you would any technology.
Now consider if RPR was sharing revenue with the MLSs, now or in the future. Then the decision wouldn’t just be about the technology value to their brokers and agents but would also be a financial consideration. Now their participation means they stand to make money, just like RPR. I would bet that if this was the case renewing these agreements would be a no brainer and that the rest of the MLSs would sign up in short order. RPR could easily ask for long term contracts as part of the deal. RPR would still have to provide good products but this scenario would create a feeling of a long term partnership where everyone is working together.
If revenue sharing with RPR was in place, and they had a guarantee that RPR wasn’t going to try to take over their MLS some day, Realtors really would feel like they were working together with RPR and that they had a mutual stake in the game. In Dale’s post he tells us to ask ourselves “When the current economic challenges are behind us, who do I want controlling our industry?” I’m not sure the average Realtors sees how joining RPR really gives them any more control of their industry but I do know this. If MLSs and/or Realtors stood to gain financially along with RPR, not just because they were members of NAR but because there was real profit sharing agreed to, I think this would make them feel more in control and would remove the remaining resistance to participation. Money talks!