In a few hours I am heading to Seattle to visit the Motherland, the Zillow headquarters. It can get a little lonely working from my home in Chicago all the time, so it is great to get reconnected with all my Zillowite co-workers whenever I can. Also, while I am out there, I try to drink a month's worth (time since my last home office visit) of the free soda the home office employees get to enjoy every day. So I don't know how much mingling I actually do, since a lot of my time is spent in the bathroom....
Actually, the purpose of this trip has more to do with getting the national sales team together to meet the new VP of Advertising Sales, Greg Schwartz. Greg has a strong advertising background having previous worked at Doubleclick, Yahoo, and most recently CNNMoney.com.
While we are excited to meet him and hear his strategy for hitting our revenue goals, I think it is important to note what this hiring says to the real estate community.
One of the first questions I always get from people is, how do you make money? Fair enough. And this question has an easy answer, by selling advertising on the site. But many times I sense (and read about) skepticism when I give this response. In the back of the Realtor's mind I can see the questions forming- how soon until you start charging for leads or when are you going to get involved with the transaction. And I can appreciate how these thoughts are started. One minute you are paying RealEstate.com for leads, and the next minute they announce that they are opening a brick-and-mortar brokerage and will be competing against you.
Zillow has also been very forthright about saying that we have no desire to get involved with the transaction or in the lead generation for real estate agents. That we are a media site. Hopefully the hiring of this high-ranking position solidifies this position for the skeptics out there. We are fully committed to continuing to offer free marketing tools to agents, and how we are able to do this is through the advertising you see on the site.
So, I look forward to meeting Greg this week and I wish him all the best. Because the more successful he and his team are, the more money we will have to continue paying brilliant programmers that are creating innovative and free tools for the real estate professional to use to market themselves and their listings.
So with my 1 quart clear plastic bag holding all my less-than-3 oz liquids in one hand and the latest issue of USWeekly in the other (it can't always be all about real estate) I start the trek to the Motherland.