Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Social networking for business purposes?

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a business presentation for a couple of hours at our local community college. The title was, "Formula for Success". In these trying times, I thought it might be interesting, so I went. Appraisers are notorious loners when it comes to stuff like this (due not a little to our drastic rise and fall of our current popularity based on the most recent valuations we've submitted, and how high/low they were compared to the desired figure...), but I try to break that mold as often as possible. So, I donned the business suit from the back of the closet......and off I marched.

The presentation was surprisingly well done! In depth enough to be informative, without being so in-depth that they lost the audience. Lots of action, crowd participation, all the elements that are important. I was impressed!

The topic(s) surrounded how to improve your business at ANY time, which is even more important in times of economic challenges. Basically, putting yourself in the shoes of your customers/clients and seeing what THEY see. Does the business do things to attract your business? Or are you just there because there is no other option? Is the signage neat and clear? How is customer service? What does this business offer that is different from their competitors? Would you become a repeat customer? What else can we offer? And finally, how can it be attracting new customers?

Some of the topics didn't apply to me, as the appraisal business can be contentious by sheer nature. Strict federal guidelines limit who we can share certain information with and how the influence on the final opinion of value is prohibited. It goes on and on and on.......really. My ethics manual is several hundred pages long and is updated every two years. Its really crucial stuff to those of us that value the profession, but few people are aware of this side of my industry. That's okay........honestly. I mean, let's face it. The reason I hire a licensed electrician to do electrical work on my home is because I expect him/her to know the current electrical codes so I don't have to.......right? Appraisers SHOULD be the same way. Part of what I'm paid for is to know the federal regulations necessary to my profession.

But with that said, sometimes things like "customer service" aren't easy with an appraisal business. I can't advertise and say, "10% off all appraisals with a value over $400,000 this week". It would be a severe ethical violation. And I'm not always going to give the property owner the value they were hoping for. Period. And I can't call that property owner and say, "Let's just do a drive-by appraisal, because your house is a real dump on the inside, but the outside looks pretty good!" Those decisions are made by the lenders and others......not the appraiser. So..........customer service is different with my business.

And then they got to the topic of social networking. The speaker encouraged everyone to join Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. and network their business! Hmmmmmmmm.......Once again, the speaker had some valid points. If you run a motel. Or a travel business. Or a bookstore. But I'm not sure how to embrace my ethical regulations, while supposedly marketing through social networking. Particularly since there are strict regulations that prohibit a property owner walking into a bank and saying, "I want to apply for a mortgage and I want this specific appraiser that I met on MySpace to appraise my house." No can do there. The borrower can't select the appraiser.

So........I don't know. I gotta think about this. If I can meet potential lenders this way, okay.....? I think? Are lenders out there on Twitter looking for appraisers? Seems kinda odd to me. Any thoughts?

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