Anton Babkob, Chief Executive of Rex Software, discusses his findings from Inman San Fransisco, 2015. Day one down!As you might already know, some of the Rex crew and I are in San Francisco for Inman Connect - a major real estate tech conference. Over the next few days we’ll be posting anything interesting / relevant we see and hear.
What's happened at Inman San Fransisco so far
Inman San Fransisco's first sessions were made up almost entirely of moderated panels. Three or four senior real estate brokers were quizzed on a variety of topics ranging from how tech drives everything from efficiency to profitability.The panel session was incredible. I think I probably picked up more interesting ideas listening to these people for three hours than I have in past conferences that have run for three days.I’ve set out a quick summary of the most interesting points below.Before I cover off on those points, I want to share something really struck me today about the attitude of the industry over here in the US. For a tech-focused real estate conference, there doesn’t appear to be much talk about the coming tech-driven real estate Armageddon or other doom and gloom that seems to be so prevalent in Australia. Instead, tech seems to be viewed as an opportunity to radically improve efficiency and ramp profits. It’s still early days, and the tone may change as the conference goes on, but it seems the perception is that the latest tech can - and should - be used to allow agents to spend more time delivering a better service and building stronger relationships.I love that attitude.
Main take-aways from today’s sessions
Here are some key points of interest from today’s panels:
- Instant valuations by text: One agency targets potential clients in the “millennial” generation by providing instant SMS property appraisals. If I understand correctly, when potential clients message in their property address, a custom software service built by the agency pulls valuation data from the US equivalent of RP Data and reverts back with an estimate.
- In the digital age - speed is key: There’s an expectation of near-instant responses to web generated leads, but agents take as long as 15 hours to get back to people. In that time, buyers will have already contacted other agents. One agent short-cuts response times by recording a quick 20 second video reply and sending it to the buyer by email or SMS.
- Marketing message is critical - the mediums will follow: What’s your big idea? Don’t spend your time thinking about which of the hundred potential digital marketing channels you can work with (Facebook vs. Google Ads vs. SEO etc.). Get your marketing message and brand image rock solid - the appropriate marketing channels will select themselves based on your message and campaign.
- Blog about new developments: One agent created an impressive online presence by writing a regular blog that covered new and upcoming residential developments. His enquiry from investment buyers skyrocketed because this information wasn’t really available in a single, consolidated location anywhere else.
- Agents are expert advisers - not technicians: You don’t call a stockbroker to find out the price of a particular share - that’s information you can get anywhere. You call them because they can provide expert advice by combining their knowledge of your needs and their experience in your local market. Real estate agents need to position themselves as experts and deliver expert service.
- Transparency through agent ratings on Yelp.com: Instead of using agent profiles on Zillow (U.S. equivalent of realestate.com.au or domain), agents create a profile and solicit ratings and feedback from their clients, which are then published online on yelp.com. It’s scary - but being transparent about how past clients feel about you will do amazing things to encourage better service delivery. Yelp profiles with a good number of ratings perform well in search profiles and can help drive traffic to your website.
- 40%(!!!) of revenue is driven from ancillary services: From mortgage and insurance referrals to post-sales services like moving trucks and internet connections, one broker made an astonishing 40% of his revenue from referrals and after sales services. For independent agents in Australia - this represents massive untapped potential revenue.
- Make social media about them - not you: The head of marketing for a group with 300+ agencies strongly discourages their agents from posting listings and sales results to social channels. This type of activity makes it “all about you” and turns people off from social engaging with you. Instead they encourage their staff to “lurk” on social media - looking for key events like kids going to university (potential downsize), new kids (upsize!), travel and so on. If you spot something - ask people to go for a casual coffee catch up.
- Your own agents are the best source of new staff: The same way referrals from past clients are great for picking up new listings, referrals from your staff are an outstanding source of quality people. By recommending someone, your staff are putting their own reputation on the line; it’s likely anyone they recommend will be a sure bet.
- Build up specialist roles or teams so that your agents can focus on their job: Marketing, admin, databasing - all these functions should be given to dedicated expert staff or teams in your agency. By offloading things like writing listing ads to specialist marketing staff you ensure quality and free up agents to do what they do best: list and sell real estate.
- Use Matterport 3D for incredible 3D walk-throughs and floor plans: One of the conference sponsors has built an extraordinary new technology that uses proprietary camera and software tools to generate and host fully immersive 3D walk-throughs. Buyers can literally walk through 3D models of properties on your website. See: http://matterport.com/technology/for some background information on Matterport and their product and http://www.livrealestate.ca/ for an agency that creates these walkthroughs for every listing.
- Build dedicated lead generation teams to support your sales staff: A growing source of new revenue for U.S. brokers are teams dedicated to generating listing leads for their agents. Agents pay a fee for leads generated by these types of teams - either at a fixed cost per lead or contingent on successful sale.
- Set your staff free by removing ties to the office: Owners from a number of smaller boutique offices used entirely cloud based software systems and entirely removed reliance on fixed line phones to reduce the time agents needed to spend working in the office. This gives them the freedom to work flexibly and efficiently anywhere.
- Giving agents equity participation: To create maximum retention agents who consistently meet or exceed earnings brackets are given the opportunity to participate in the growth of the broader business – either through a profit share or direct equity. This entrenches the best staff already in your business and helps to encourage more to join.
Hopefully this list gives you a few ideas to think about in your own business.More to come!