York Baur – CEO, Moxi Works
Redfin went public last week, raising well over $100M at a valuation of $1.5B. That’s what all the media is focused on, but what does it mean to you the brokerage owner?
The bad news is that you should be concerned. Redfin has deep pockets, deep technology, and now has access to the public markets to raise more capital as needed to grow further. They invest tens of millions of dollars in their technology annually, have a great website, and spend lots of time and money driving traffic to it. Like it or not, they’ll be a factor, and they’re going to put pressure on you to deliver better technology and a slicker experience for both your agents and their consumers.
The good news is that you have everything you need available to you to compete successfully. How can I be so sure? Because Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate has had Redfin operating in its home market of Seattle for 12 years with $200M of capital, and despite all the hype, tech and money, Redfin still has only 2.6% market share compared to Windermere’s 21%. Even more important, Windermere did 38% more transactions last year than 5 years ago in the tightest inventory market we’ve seen in a long time.
How can Windermere continue to dominate in the face of Redfin? And Zillow for that matter (also based in Seattle’s tech-centric market), supposedly siphoning away business by selling leads to the highest bidder? And how can you do what they’re doing? The answer is:
- Continue to focus on agent’s sphere of influence – the people that already know, like, and trust their agents. Sound obvious? It is, but I’ll bet you’re not doing it enough. We talk to brokerages across the country every day who are distracted by chasing a lead generation battle that they can’t win. How are you seriously going to compete with the billions of dollars of capital that Redfin, Zillow, and Realtor.com spend every year driving consumers to their sites? You can’t. Period. Lead gen will continue to be a small piece of your business, but that’s it – a small piece. The biggest piece of your business is the core business, which is transactions coming from consumers an agent already has a trust relationship with.
- Quit focusing on buyer leads. Every realtor and broker wants a seller, not a buyer if they have the choice. Redfin generates buyer leads. Zillow generates buyer leads. What’s the overwhelming source of seller leads? It’s an agent’s sphere. Control the inventory in your market by concentrating agents on their sphere, and you make money. There are only around five million homes transacted every year no matter how many buyer leads are generated – don’t you want to control the seller side of that equation?
- Control and centralize your data. Windermere decided years ago to put an open platform in place. It’s like a power strip where they can plug in all their agent tools and have them work together. How? By putting all their property data, agent and brokerage data, and consumer data in one place. Windermere currently has over 2.6M consumer names in that platform, allowing agents and the brokerage to market to those consumers to generate listings, using dozens of tools in various markets to do so. Do you have a centralized database of your agent’s contacts? What are you doing to help them stay in front of their sphere of influence?
- Quit creating islands of data and technology. Windermere has taken the platform concept to heart, and has solved the problems of tools that don’t work together, redundant data entry, and not being able to get a comprehensive view of their business. A technology platform allows them to save millions of dollars annually in office staff time, custom software development, and management overhead. This is in sharp contrast to most brokers, who don’t have a technology strategy. They buy the latest shiny technology object, and don’t even ask the question of how it works with the other technology they have now or might use in the future. Agents are demanding a better experience, and that means not having to start over from scratch with every new tool you provide them, upload their database for the 17th time, or having to rekey data.
- Training, coaching and sales discipline. Redfin has made much out of the fact that they hire agents and support staff as full-time employees, not contractors. But that’s not the big difference – we hire contractors in the tech world all the time, and they contribute just as much as our employees do. So what’s the difference? It’s not the person, it’s how they’re trained, coached, and held to a standard of how to do business. That means having a training program, providing good coaching (which means training your coaches), and having a technology (specifically a CRM system) that reinforces the sales discipline every day as agents do business. Windermere has trained over two-thirds of their agents in the Windermere sales discipline (heavily influenced by Larry Kendall’s Ninja Selling), puts an emphasis on managers doing agent coaching, and has built their discipline into their CRM to provide ongoing reinforcement.
With Redfin beating its chest on Wall Street, you need a response for your agents and your consumers – now. Do nothing and you’ll lose agents, because they won’t tolerate inaction. And don’t forget the Millennial agent who isn’t just comfortable with tech, they demand it as a necessary tool for doing business. But despite all the hype and money spent, Windermere did eight times as many transactions in the greater Seattle market last year than Redfin did. With performance like that, we’d all be well served to look at what they’re doing right.
Find out more about brokerage open platforms and how they work by clicking here.
The difference between closed and open platforms exposed
By Mike McHenry, VP of Channels and Partnerships, Moxi Works
- A platform is like a power strip; it lets you plug and unplug tools
- An open platform differentiates a broker’s tool set, aiding recruiting and retention
- The difference between a closed and open platform is monumental
A “Platform” is whatever you want it to be
Platforms have existed in technology for ages. Most industries have already adopted them, but it’s a relatively new idea for a residential brokerage. I’ve noticed that the word “platform” is being thrown around heavily right now – it’s the 2017 buzz word and because of that, it’s starting to lose its meaning.
Some of these vendors that are calling themselves “platforms,” however, don’t actually do what they should and because of that, you’ll need to know what to look for. There are five basic services that a proper platform should have and offer:
- Property data that can be shared across all tools eliminating redundant entry
- Brokerage and agent data that’s up to date
- Consumer data so technology can help agents manage their SOI
- Integration with both Microsoft and Google cloud environment to easily and securely share data across tech companies
- An API (it allows other tech companies to integrate and share common data)
Let’s also put some rumors to rest. Just because you use a platform doesn’t mean you need to embrace the entire platform. It would be insane for a single brokerage to use every single one of our 30 integrated partners. A platform is whatever you want it to be for your brokerage.
Also, Security isn’t an inherent problem in open platforms just because a system is open, doesn’t mean it’s insecure. YouTube for instance, is an open platform site. No one is afraid to use it.
Closed vs. Open Platforms
I have to shed light on how important the distinction between a closed vs. open platform is. Many vendors that call themselves “platforms” are just products that sit on a database with no API – meaning they have no way to communicate effectively with one another. Here are some examples:
Open platform: Microsoft Windows. Windows is an operating system that allows you to download whatever you want, whether that’s QuickBooks for your taxes or Adobe Photoshop, and delete the apps you no longer want or use. If apple is more your speed, think iPhone and the AppStore.
Closed platform: Video game consoles. If you buy a game for Xbox and you get a Sony PlayStation, you have to buy your games all over again. The choice is not up to you if you ever decide to switch.
As a broker, this means with a closed platform you have to go with whatever tools the vendor chose to work with OR the vendor built it all themselves and can’t afford to evolve it over time at the same speed as competitors. Either way, it can be a disastrous future for a brokerage.
The reality is, no one can be great at everything. An open platform allows a brokerage to get all of the best tools out there, have them work together, and can change tools at will – hassle free.
Open Platform Benefits
If you’re a broker and you’ve already invested in some tech solutions over the past three or four years like a digital transaction tool, gifting, or lead partners, you don’t have to change them to get on an open platform; you integrate them and preserve your investment in agent training. That’s why an open platform is so dominant: the power and tools stay in the brokerages hands. They help companies retain the tools they love and find replacements for the ones they aren’t jiving with.
If you choose a platform provider for those benefits today, that provider can help you flawlessly transition as new tools come online in the future. At the end of the day that’s what everyone wants right? No headaches and a shorter list of items for a brokerage to worry about.
If those are not good enough reasons to use an open platform, then how about this: money. Maintenance and support are cheaper on an open platform because it leverages the entire community that makes up the cloud. Development time also decreases. Boeing doesn’t make aircrafts, they assemble them.
What’s an Ecosystem?
This is another term used in the platform realm. An ecosystem is a collection of complimentary applications all working together, sharing data, that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Each platform has its own ecosystem that makes up the cloud.
Again, think of your iPhone. You can have all of your applications together so that the device becomes an indispensable business tool. You get to pick à la carte whatever applications you need and don’t have to worry about how they work together. If you find later you don’t like an application, you can delete it and install a different one.
Why a Brokerage Should Care
It’s no secret that the pace of change for real estate technology is accelerating. We know that there are hundreds of companies making technology for residential real estate, which makes for thousands of applications available for use today.
What this means to a brokerage owner is that there’s no way to predict which companies and applications are going to succeed or even to envision what technologies will come into the market in the future.
Having a platform and ecosystem of applications that run on it is the key to agent productivity and retention. If you don’t think that having a complete integrated technology platform and applications to offer your agents is important, talk to a broker that just lost an agent to Compass.
If you choose the right platform, you’re going to get most of the benefits that Upstream promises for your brokerage today and will future-proof your brokerage for what’s to come in the future.