NAR: Use of Internet for Home Search by Buyers Hits All-Time High at 92%

According to an Inman News article posted on November 4th,2013, “Use of the Internet among consumers in the homebuying process continues to grow, but those buyers are more, not less, likely to use a real estate agent, according to an annual survey from the National Association of Realtors.”  NAR’s study, which  was based on 8767 people who purchased a home between June



Picture 3 2012 and June 2013 , reported that  92% of the buyers used the Internet to search for homes, up from 90% last year  and 71% in 2003.  The report also indicated that 88% of the buyers used an agent.  Interestingly, 42% said searching online was their first step in the buying process, while 17% said their first step was contacting an agent.  In summary, buyers are using the Internet to search and agents to help with the purchase transaction.  As various local markets lead the recovery in the real estate industry, realtors need to match the consumers’ requirements for technology and services.  Consumers understand that purchasing a home is a complex transaction, one  that requires expertise to protect against the risk of mistakes and to guide the process to a smooth and successful completion.  Most homebuyers are tech-savvy enough to use property search applications  to find potential homes to buy.  Successful  realtors  include both requirements in their marketing strategies, and they provide home search (IDX) programs on their websites, so  prospective homebuyers can search MLS listings and generate buyer transaction leads directly to the realtor. Successful realtors also  provide a full set of services for buyers, both to achieve client satisfaction with the purchase, but also to generate future business (81% of the sellers used a full-services broker, and 63% chose the broker via a referral).   Agents who used to think that representing buyers consisted of finding and showing them listings from the MLS  now understand that they can rely on a good IDX system for some of the finding process, and they focus instead on responding to leads generated by the IDX, showing homes, and  managing the purchase process for the buyer.

Blazing Systems helps hundreds of Delaware Valley realtors with marketing strategies, websites,  and an industry-leading

IDX home search.  Please contact us to arrange a free initial consultation.

     Bill Patch








The PC's Time is Gone

Several current news items clearly show that the personal computer–the primary driving force product in the IT industry since 1980—has become just a minor piece of hardware .  The first set of data shows that the PC has been replaced by the mobile phone.  In Q04 2010, 92 million PCs were sold,while 101 million smartphones were sold.  By 2014 there will be over 1 billion smartphone users.  Nearly all Generation Y consumers own a mobile phone of some kind and 72 percent own smartphones  Over three-quarters of Americans age 43 and under now use a smartphone.   53 percent of American consumers use their smartphones to access search engines at least once a day.  Smartphones and tablet computers will increase mobile Web traffic by 26 times during the next four years.  The  other current news items that are pointing to the demise of the PC include:


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  • Dell, the company that mastered the low-cost commodity distribution strategy for PCs, is struggling, and its board is asking its founder to buy it and take it private.
  • HP, the company that tried to save itself by buying Compaq, perhaps the premier desktop provider,is thrashing around , generating rumors of a break-up.
  • BillGates, the master of the PC product world, is now seeking to invest,not in PC-related businesses, but rather in the next-generation condom maker!

These major events have been driven by more than just the rise in mobile phones, but the smartphone is clearly taking over some of the key uses previously performed by the PC—like eCommerce ( now it’s mCommerce. )  Dell–although they undoubtedly beat the market by being the cost/price leader, never did get a toehold in account management via professional services.  Dell was just the cheapest commodity box maker.  HP,  for years looked successful because of their dominance in the desktop printer market.    The results produced by that dominance masked the deep problems and old-fashioned vision inside the company.   They never succeeded as a system solution provider, and their service business never evolved from the primitive break/fix cost center model.  They hoped that buying Compaq’s line of high-end servers would help them succeed as a mid-range system provider, but their stodgy approach to services locked them into the commodity product corner.


When you live by the product–instead of providing needed canadian online pharmacy services to your customers— you die when the product gravy train is interrupted by the next best thing.

Google and the Open Internet

Google co-founder,  Sergey Brin, was recently quoted extensively in an article in The Guardian   about keeping the Internet open.  He said he is “scared” because current conditions and the trends he sees in the future are endangering the freedom and openness of the ‘Net.  He says that he and Larry Page would not have been able to create Google in today’s environment, due to efforts by governments, the entertainment industry, and “walled gardens, “like Facebook and Apple, to control content .   The warning that he could not have developed Google in today’s environment   is perhaps a bit of hubris from Google’s view of the rest of us.  He is making an argument, trying to convince the reader/listener of a point—that governments and others are controlling content.    To make his point, he’s assuming that we hold Google in such high regard, that we are swayed to his side of the argument by the fear that  a Google-like entity will no longer be possible …

He over-estimates the affinity for Google…..Too bad, Sergey, you wouldn’t be able to make a billion bucks…so sad!    He also seems to under-estimate how the 800 million Facebook users feel about Facebook.  They feel that Facebook is theirs, and they probably take Google for granted.


There are many issues involved with keeping the Internet free and open—-here’s

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s summary:

“We want to keep the internet open for the protester using social media to organise a march in Egypt,” Clinton said in a major policy speech last year. “[For] the college student emailing her family photos of her semester abroad; the lawyer in Vietnam blogging to expose corruption; the teenager in the US who is bullied and finds words of support online; for the small business owner in Kenya using mobile banking to manage her profits; the philosopher in China reading academic journals for her dissertation … internet freedom is about defending the space in which all these things occur.”

These are serious freedom-of-information and freedom-of-speech issues, as opposed to dire predictions and absolute judgements against entities trying to control content on the Internet by the organization whose goal it is to “crawl ” and control all the information on the Internet.  But in recent years Google has not seemed satisfied with acessing and aggregating all the content, they have seemed to be going through an identity crisis.  With Google Apps f0r word processing and spreadsheets, they seemed to want to be Microsoft.With Google Plus, they now seem to want to be Facebook.   They crushed the search engine market, missed the social media market, and are trying play in the app market. ‘Stick to your knitting ‘ is an old strategic planning concept that may apply here.

Keeping the Internet open is important, but we have to remember that we in the US have many decades of experience managing and protecting free speech ( tricky issues, like do the Nazis get to be in the parade in Chicago). The rest of the world needs our help in managing a completely free Internet.  There’s lots of work to be done there….No time for throwing stones at  and raising fears about “walled gardens.”

Google is a great search tool. We all use it, and depend on it more than we perhaps realize.  Let’s hope they thrive and continuously improve, and that the Internet remains free of control by governments….and giant media/entertainment conglomerates.

Bill Patch







Cloud computing is getting all  the attention these days in technology journals and publications.   Major corporations are shifting from in-house data center operations to cloud computing models for two reasons:  better computing for less cost.   To understand cloud computing,and why it is suddenly the hottest trend out there, we need to review the context of the evolution of professional computing during the last two decades or so. In the mid-1980s, in the middle of the PC revolution that was shaking the foundation of mainframe computing, Sun Microsystems was growing rapidly, selling expensive servers running Open Source operating system software.  Today, when we take for granted the huge network called the Internet, it’s difficult to imagine a time when computers were not networked together, except in limited “Local AreaNetwoks” (LANs)
.During that time, Scott McNealy, then-president of Sun, said, “The network is the computer,” with prescient insight that was typical of him.


Then and Now

Then, every organization had to be self-sufficient for computing—everyone needed their own processor and storage, and connecting computing equipment was complex and expensive.  Now,  thanks to the Internet, computers can be connected easily and inexpensively. This means that one computer, running on the Internet (the”cloud”), can serve many different organizations.  Now software programs, which used to be needed for each organization who licensed it, could be provided for multiple organizations.  One set of programming being used by multiple customers, running on one server.  The benefits of cloud computing are apparent.  More computing capacity for less expense.  Now, large organizations are taking advantage of the cloud model;and at Blazing Systems we have designed our delivery model to do the same.  The result is that our customers–individual professionals, small-medium businesses, and non-profit organizations, can all gain the same advantages from cloud computing as the large corporations are.We are Open Source, and we endorse the delivery of software as a service(SaaS), not a proprietary product.

Bill Patch





Websites are for People

Websites are a great medium for organizations to communicate and conduct transactions.  Websites are “open for business ” 24/7/365, assuming they are well-built and hosted in a secure environment. Unfortunately, too often, people build websites for themselves, and not for their constituents who will be using the site.  These websites, sometimes called “brochureware,” tend to talk a lot about themselves, informing the visitor to the site of everything they ever wanted to know–and more–about the organization.  These sites are difficult to navigate, and the visitor often finds themselves in a dead end spot that is hard to leave, or loses track of where they were, and they end up hitting the “back button” repeatedly to escape.  The pages themselves on these sites are crammed with lots of verbiage, narrative prose content, and not much white space or images.  It’s usually difficult to determine how the visitor can communicate with the organization–because they really aren’t that interested in hearing from you.  These sites are called ‘brochureware” because most of them are just the organization’s marketing brochure copied and pasted on  to a website.


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Effective Websites are designed and built for the people who will be using them.

It takes more effort to design and build a site that anticipates the needs of the people who will be using the site.   You can’t just copy your print media and slam it up there.  You have to think of how the users will perceive the page, and what the will want to do, how they will want to navigate.   When you get on a site that has been well-designed, you can feel it right away.  We call this “intuitive”—
Is it easy to understand, easy to move around?  Are things where you expect them to be?  If so, it’s because somebody paid attention to those factors when they designed the site and loaded the content. One new site that manages to present a huge amount of information and functionality in a very attractive, appealing, intuitive,  user-friendly site is, the website for the Building a Better Boyertown organization.Building a Better Boyertown (BBB) is a non-profit organization formed in 2002.  BBB staff and volunteers develop and accomplish tasks that maintain Boyertown’s historical heritage, promote downtown Boyertown,  and attract people to the community. Many people, from BBB Board members to downtown merchants and visitors rely on the site for timely information about news, events, and meetings.

As you will see when you visit the site, each page contains lots of information, displayed in an easy -to-see and understand format. Special care was taken in the design of the interactive calendar, because so many different constituents use it.  The site is also designed to make it easy for  local businesses and organizations to add and update their information on the site.

Care was also taken to make the donation function clear and easy to use.  This site was designed for the people who need to use it.  As a result,  information will be updated in a timely fashion, and people will enjoy accessing the site for information they need.  Because lots of thought and hard work went into the design, using the site will require less work and generate satisfaction, rather than frustration.













“Mongo is but a pawn in Game of Life;” , or Why ‘Blazing Systems?’

Shortly after we launched Blazing Systems, one of my friends–a colleague in the IT industry –asked me how we came to choose the name of our new company.   He chuckled when he asked me, which is part of the answer to his question.
In this age of taking yourself too seriously, as in “Web Technology Solutions’,  we wanted to show our sense of humor, our human side, and show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  We wanted to present a friendly image for customers. Many customers we encounter have been taken advantage of by technology companies who act like they are smart and the customer is not, like technology is some sort of mysterious stuff that only they can understand.  (This is a posture which positions the company to over-charge and under-deliver.)
Technology, as practiced by those companies, can be impersonal and even threatening; so we wanted to project the opposite.

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Technology doesn’t have to be painful, like the dentist–It can be fun and human -scale, like the movie.  The name Blazing Systems starts things out on a friendly note. “What about people who don’t get it?”  my friend asked.  “What if they don’t appreciate the humor, and they decide not to do business with you?  What if they do get it, but have no sense of humor, and don’t think it’s funny, or if they think it’s stupid?  My answer  was , “Fine.We probably wouldn’t want to work with them , anyway.

 Bill Patch


Great Expectations

Expectations are powerful, and they affect our lives all day every day. High expectations are combinations of hope, optimism, and trust.

Negative expectations are based primarily on fears.

We set ourselves up for reality by expecting it to be either good or bad. When it happens and it’s better than our expectation, it’s a pleasant surprise.

Since the mid-’80s service companies have understood that customer satisfaction is tied directly to the customer’s expectation. If the service delivered meets or exceeds the customer’s expectation, then customer satisfaction has been achieved. The term ‘exceed expectations’ has become an idiom.

Negative expectations can also influence outcomes. Sociologist Robert K. Merton is credited with coining the term “self-fulfilling prophesy.”

In his book, Social Structure and Social Theory, Merton says, “The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour which makes the original false conception come ‘true’. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.”

Examples of self-fulfilling prophesy happen many times in daily life. Every year it impacts grade school students, for example:

Little Johnny does ok in first grade, but he fidgets at his desk and talks a lot. At the end of the year, the first grade teacher notes these behaviors in Johnny’s record.

In August the second grade teacher is reviewing the students for the upcoming year, and Johnny’s behaviors in first grade are noted.

The second grade teacher decides to deal with Johnny right off the bat, and assigns him to the desk right in front of the teacher’s. His behavior is scrutinized by the teacher, more so than the other students’, and the first time Johnny fidgets or talks, the teacher comes down hard.

Pretty soon, Johnny starts forming his own expectations.

The Price is Right?

Pricing high-end technology services is a complex process, and it’s different from pricing a product.

When you price a program for services, all the costs have yet to be incurred.  With a product, the costs have been spent, and the margin can be more easily determined.

Sophisticated service organizations utilize complex algorithms and modeling to predict costs that will be incurred to deliver service.  There are lots of averages and metrics applied to the process:  The average time between failures, the average time to restore, the average cost of the labor component, the travel.  Unfortunately, some of these complex methodologies end up reducing the forest to the trees, and as a result services pricing is more art than science. We tend to me more inward-looking, and price according to our costs–rather than focusing on the market and what the customer will pay.

A true story from about 25 years ago illustrates this point, and a couple others:

The owner of a jewelry store in Santa Fe, NM, took a large inventory position in high-end turquoise and silver jewelry made by a leading local artisan.  Unlike the stuff sold on the roadside in the Southwest, this was very high-quality art jewelry.  She displayed it in one of the regular cases in her store, priced moderately.

For weeks the line did not move.  She moved it into the feature showcase in the center of the store, and featured some information about the artist.  The jewelry still didn’t move.

She was getting ready to go on a 3-week vacation, and she was reviewing the various items to be done around the store with her assistant.  Among the other items, she told the assistant to cut the price of the jewelry in half–she had decided to cut her losses and move out the inventory.

When she returned from her vacation, she noticed that virtually all the art jewelry had sold.  She mentioned to her assistant that it was a shame to have to lower the price to move it, but at least it was gone.

The assistant was surprised.  She informed the owner that she had misunderstood, and instead of cutting the price in half, she had doubled the price.

It is ingrained in each of us, “You get what you pay for.”

People expect to pay a reasonable price for quality services.

Nobody wants a “cheap” turquoise bracelet.


Organic vs Commodity Growth

Growth by acquisition has been a viable strategy in the technology service industry for decades, and there are some large “roll-up” plays currently active in the industry.

Growth by internal sales is hard work.  Selling service is harder than it looks.  When you’re selling a product, you’re selling a thing.  It is +85 concrete, real, you can take a picture of it, you can demo it working.

When you’re selling a service, you’re selling a promise.  It’s intangible.  Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.  This requires a much more sophisticated sales model, worked by highly-skilled folks.

A services acquisition involves people (customers & employees).  The retention rate of the revenue of the base acquired is directly proportional to how well the acquired business is integrated.  An acquisition brings in a new culture.  Acquired workforces create horizontal pressure in the organization.

Internal sales growth extends the structure and staffing incrementally, driven by revenue increases.  Internally-driven sales extends the current culture.  Internal growth stretches the workforce and provides promotional opportunities.

There are some interesting parallels in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing.  Pay-per-click commodity programs can acquire immediate results, while organic programs create long-term equity.

Service organizations are best served with a strategy that blends organic and commodity growth.




Chicken or Egg?

Marketing a service is different from marketing a product.  A product can be demo’d, it is tangible.  Service is a promise to deliver, an intangible.

Service companies can demonstrate how many trained people, how quickly they respond, how long it takes on average for them to fix the problem, how often you’ll need help per year…but, service is manufactured daily in front of the customer.

We recently needed to develop a marketing collateral piece, requiring content and images.  Which comes first, the content (message) or the image(s)?   What’s the “best practice” for the creative process?

In this case, we started with an image, and that led to the content:

This is Chloe, a developer-in-training, staring out the window in the office this winter.

Looking at this picture generated the idea for the content:  She’s watching traffic go by.  Some small businesses are watching the internet traffic go by, rather than participating and getting their share.  So the content line became, “Just Watching the Internet Traffic Go By?”

Check out the postcard that was created on our website.

When it comes to the question of which comes first, with image & content it’s the same as with the chicken & egg–It doesn’t matter, as long as you get one or the other to start.