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Going to the ’Net Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

Advertising real estate via a book just wasn’t cutting it for Real Living Realty One anymore, so the company expanded its reach by launching RealtyOne.com The Magazine.

The magazine is available on newsstands and provides links to Realty One’s Web site for more information.

“You use the Net for its advantage, which is way more information and pictures,” says Barbara Ann Reynolds, president of Real Living Realty One. “You use print also as an adjunct and support to the Internet.”

Reynolds says the company started investigating the benefits of using the Internet in the late 1990s. Although the use of the Internet as an advertising tool seems like a no-brainer, Reynolds says that wasn’t the case: Any time you are transforming the way you have traditionally communicated to a consumer, there are questions surrounding a change.

“Is it going to be accepted?” she says. “Is the public going to be ready for this? Do they just as well want print and don’t care? Those are all challenges.”

Reynolds says she first tried to get everyone internally on the same page by spending a lot of time in focus groups with employees and agents, who have day-today contact with customers. It took more than a year of engaging people in what the future would look like, what was happening in other industries with technology and how the company might adapt before she made a move.

“At the time, there were a great many that considered the Internet a threat to Realtors,” she says.

Fast forward to 2007, when Reynolds looked at Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom to see how they use their catalogs and the Internet to market their products.

“If you look at any of those catalogs, at the bottom, it directs you to the Net,” she says. “It is from that I am taking a retail approach, also knowing full well there is a good marriage between print and Internet. We tend to want to make it exclusively the Internet or exclusively print, and it’s both.”

Reynolds says the pluses of using the Internet to market far outweigh the minuses because it is a great way to educate customers, and “an educated consumer is your best customer in the end,” she says.

Several years ago, in an effort to understand what the customer was thinking, Real Living Realty One invested in a large amount of consumer research. And it went a step further and did individual interviews with people who used the services of its competitors.

“We always stay out in front of our competition,” Reynolds says. “Whatever that takes.”

And for companies that have not yet fully embraced the Internet, Reynolds has this advice: Look at it as if it were the opening of the company’s biggest store.

“I would say, when you are doing a Web site, consider it your No. 1 biggest store because it has everything in it,” she says. “It’s the Wal-Mart superstore of any company. It is opening the doors of your company to a broad reach. If you look at the Internet as every little piece is a different department, you can go to every department.”

Overall, Reynolds said using the Internet heavily to market properties was an evolution for Real Living Realty One.

“The Internet offers so much to the public,” she says. “There is still a person that lingers with print, but it helps them realize print is great, but go to the Net because there are so many more things we can offer you on the Internet, so much more information in real time and so much content. It is bridging those two things and making sure we are supporting 100 percent of the public.”

HOW TO REACH: Real Living Realty One, (866) 438-7315 or http://realtyone.realliving.com

The Digital Age

Real Living Realty One isn’t only using the Internet as a way of reinventing its marketing campaign; it has also invested in billboards, including the 180-foot by 40-foot former “Goodyear” board above I-77 and I-480 to advertise realtyone.com.

The company is also using digital billboards, which can change messages instantly, according to Barbara Reynolds, president of Real Living Realty One.

But companies should be ready to pay to advertise on the signs. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Clear Channel division President Bill Platko says that depending on the amount of time a billboard is rented, prices could range from $8,000 to $10,000, or even up to $30,000.

Reynolds says that although electronic boards are more expensive than most traditional billboards, the flexibility makes it worth the cost for Real Living Realty One.

“The idea that we have the same message up for all that time is not as nearly as exciting as being able to change it,” she says. “It’s real time.”

“On the way to work, we could say, ‘Have a great day, go to realtyone.com.’ On the way home we can say, ‘Did you go to realtyone.com today?’”