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Mother-in-Law Knows Best
It sometimes takes counsel from unlikely sources to get outside yourself
and take your business marketing to the next level.
When I was growing up, there was nothing better than getting my mother’s glowing approval.
She was—and still is—the biggest fan of
all things “me.” Then I met my wife, and
she became a pretty vocal advocate of
mine as well, always able to communicate
with love how I can make something even
But last autumn, something happened
that neither the praise of my mother nor
the support of my wife could fix. I had
tasked myself with creating my company’s new website. It was a complete
redesign from the bottom up.
The problem was that nothing I
created satisfied me, and I was driving
everyone around me crazy. I heard things
like: “It’s fine.” “It’s good enough.” “You’ll
never be satisfied.” That was all true.
I barreled through until Christmas
Eve, when I found myself working away
at my mother-in-law’s house. I was
positively fuming: After four months of
work, I wasn’t happy with the results and
decided I would have to trash the site.
“OK, who is making you do this?” my
“I am,” I replied.
“Right, but what’s the rush?” she
countered. “Getting it right is more
important than releasing something that
Of course, she was right. My release
date was arbitrary, based on my goal
to launch before the Inman Real Estate
Connect conference in January. It was
ego-driven, not wisdom-driven.
I started on my design again with a
pen and paper. I sketched it out, stopping
only when I reached a place of calm. I
finally got it! I started feverishly creating
the coding for the Web design. Then, my
mother-in-law got involved.
Now, unlike my mother and wife, my
mother-in-law is virtually unbiased when
it comes to my abilities. She loves me, but
she’s not vested in what I do.
“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to
an image I used to represent my company. The image was a retro graphic of
a woman with a phone, which basically
meant to say, “Contact us.” I explained it
to my mother-in-law.
“The image is wonderful,” she said.
But there was one problem, she added: It
didn’t inherently get across the intended
message. If I wanted the image to tell
people to contact my company, then it
should literally say so. “Don’t make me
think,” she said.
“You know, my focus goes here first,”
she continued, pointing to another spot
on the site. “Is it supposed to?”
Holy moly—no, it wasn’t supposed to!
I had just started the new design, and it
was already being torn to shreds. Or was
“Mom, what do you want to see first?”
I asked my mother-in-law.
Over the next hour, she told me what
she loved and hated about the design.
She became my focus group of one—the
best money I never spent. As I developed
the site from the initial sketch at her
kitchen table, I would send her updates
weekly. I would listen and take notes. I’d
ask more questions. Then I’d act.
Now, the creation I’m most proud
of in my professional adult life—aside
from my own brokerage—has been
realized. My company’s new website,
RLathome.com, gets nine times the clicks
that the old one did per week, and the
average usage time is 6. 5 minutes, up
from one minute.
And I owe it to my mom. Not the one
who gave birth to me, but the one who
came into my life 15 years ago. Next year,
I won’t complain about the long drive to
get to her house. I think I owe it to her.
Darrin J. Friedman is co-CEO
and cofounder of Chevy Chase,
Md.–based real estate brokerage Real Living | At Home.
Note: Opinions expressed in “Commentary” do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Association of REALTORS® or REALTOR® Magazine.
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Nothing I created satisfied me, and I was
driving everyone around me crazy.