Many business owners have discovered that the key to success is the ability to specialize, and that’s true in the world of on-line businesses as well as the traditional marketplace. Richard Janssen, president of RealSelect, founded his Westlake-based firm in 1993 with the intention of building a broad client list. But two years later, the company’s strategy began to change.
The National Association of Realtors hired RealSelect to provide a free online national database of homes for sale, called REALTOR.COM. The Web site contains statistics on residential homes for sale nationwide, with a search engine that allows the user to tailor their search through more than 80 qualifiers (such as location, price, lot size, number of bedrooms, etc.). A home shopper can then contact the Realtor listed with the property or use their own Realtor to arrange a viewing of the home.
Janssen admits that he didn’t know much about real estate when RealSelect started the National Association of Realtor’s Website, but today RealSelect handles only the REALTOR.COM site and it’s now Janssen’s job to look at the Website from the perspective of a potential home buyer. He recently spoke with the Business Journal about the necessity of finding a niche in order to have a successful Web design company. He was interviewed by Joyzelle Davis.
We had other clients when we started this account, but gradually they got supplanted by REALTOR.COM. We’ve focused our energies on this site alone, and it’s paid off: the average user spends 19 minutes at our site, and we just announced our millionth home listing.
We’re presently operating this site on a long-term contractual basis for the National Association of Realtors. Is it unusual for a Web site design company to have just one client? Well, there’s no such thing as unusual on the Internet. If you think about it, the Internet has really only been around for about two years. The growth is phenomenal and partnerships are being formed at an amazing rate. And because it’s growing so fast, you really need to specialize.
What people want from the Internet is more consumer-oriented tools, and you have to know the mind of your particular consumer to be able to do that.
We market REALTOR.COM as a time-saving tool; we provide an electronic way for busy people to look for a new home rather than tie up their Saturdays and Sundays. Now that both members of a couple are breadwinners, people don’t have the time to look for a home. So they can use our site to search for a location, price range whatever matters to them. Then they can see a photo of the home, a paragraph describing it and a locator map. Not only does it save time, but it takes some of the drudgery out of window shopping and it also works as a decision-support tool.
Most of our revenue comes from advertisements either Realtors or moving-related services like shipping companies or long-distance telephone carriers. But the consumer ultimately determines if we’re successful, and so far we’ve increased our number of visitors 10 times since last year. People (who use the Internet) lead hectic lives, and you’ve got to be useful and relevant in order to get their attention.