HousingStack is a real estate technology landscape that provides a dynamic visual that reflects the rapid changes in the sector. The HousingStack is exclusively for HW+ members. To join the HW+ community, go here.
I’ve been looking forward to talking about this segment for a while, especially since we released the lead generation segment of HousingStack. More recently, Diego Sanchez wrote a brief piece about the feedback HousingWire has received on lead generation. Then, Mary Ann Azevedo followed up with another great article on the ROI of purchased leads. I also chimed in with this article, trying to help answer the question, “Is buying real estate leads really worth it?”
With nearly 100 companies (and there are certainly more) claiming to generate real estate leads one way or another, it’s no surprise how many companies there are to help brokers and agents manage those leads. And that’s exactly what brokerages and agents need if they want to rapidly respond to, nurture and convert those leads into opportunities and commissions.
In total, HousingStack identifies 67 companies in this segment and many don’t just play in one sandbox. At least half of the companies offer multiple products for lead generation, management, nurturing and conversion, along with websites, mobile apps and even transaction management and back-office tasks.
I’ve tried my best to categorize products and companies where I thought they fit best, but as always, we need feedback to help make sure we’re putting products and companies in the right place and that we have the most up-to-date information. You can always do that here.
I’ll break things out a bit more here into the subcategories of specialty services, marketing automation and CRM. In some cases, there are products that try to provide all of these capabilities. In other cases, these are add-on products to other lead generation tools, such as integrated websites, landing pages and other inbound marketing techniques.
Chat and Chatbots
The rapidly evolving segment of chatbots has been interesting to watch. Most have been designed to help instantly answer questions and qualify leads before handing them off to an agent. If there was one important message in my last article, it’s that rapid follow-up is crucial to conversion. And if you engage consumers while they’re actively searching or considering selling, your likelihood of converting to a real life conversation dramatically increases.
A few interesting and important statistics compiled by 99firms is that 79% of consumers prefer live chat on websites and 92% of consumers are satisfied with their live chat experiences. But another key statistics that’s crucial to remember is that 70% of consumers prefer live agents to AI or bots. So while there’s been a lot of energy going into the creation of conversational bots, humans still prefer humans.
Roof.ai, out of Montreal (a hotbed for artificial intelligence) and AskAvenue, out of Toronto, appear to be cruising along in the chatbot segment. Automabots was acquired by Ben Kinney Companies and seems to have been integrated into the whole Brivity platform for a more seamless experience rather than a standalone chatbot. Structurely has gone the route of integrating with many other systems and focusing on brokerage and mortgage lead workflows. All of these companies have a slightly different approach but the same goal in mind – help brokerages and agents better engage with their leads up front to increase the chances of conversion.
But Ojo Labs is clearly the big story out of this bunch and has taken on a life of its own powered by loads and loads of underlying data. Ojo, which has been leveraging its venture-backed capital infusion, is not only investing in its technology, but also a massive data platform thanks to Wolfnet and one of the more highly trafficked and data-rich consumer sites with its Movoto acquisition. This end-to-end strategy is way beyond “chat” and looks to be an attempt to create a frictionless flow for consumers and agents.
There are so many statistics floating around about how long the average buyer spends searching for homes before contacting an agent. I’ve seen lows of six to eight weeks and highs of 20 or more weeks. I’ve also seen the real, behind-the-scenes data tracking consumers over long periods of time showing that the search process isn’t just a search, it’s more of a meandering stroll. Some people, a statistically relevant group, take well over a year from the point that they start dreaming to the point that they close on a property.
Why does this matter? It matters because this is where marketing automation matters. Sure having a website with saved searches helps to convert visitors into leads and give you a way to stay in touch. Yes, allowing for saved properties and updates keeps people engaged. But those are table stakes. Marketing automation is about the long haul of ongoing, targeted, relevant communication that’s expected by consumers looking for value throughout the process.
The good news is that there are over 20 companies who have built out a variety of solutions and approaches for this. Too many to list out individually so definitely look at the HousingStack graphic for the full list. But here are a few that jump out.
KWKLY, part of the Ben Kinney portfolio, is an automated text response product designed to integrate into your yard signs. ActivePipe is an email engagement platform designed to simplify the agent’s job by keeping consumers engaged with content through email throughout their journey…and tell you when they’re ready to go. BreakthroughBroker is a marketing department in a box that helps brokerages create a consistent brand presence while agents can automate communication to their contacts and beyond through easy-to-use teamplets. And HomeActions offers a highly content-driven approach to engagement marketing through the use of localized data to deliver consumers insights that show the agent’s knowledge.
A couple “specialty” marketing solutions worth mentioning are BombBomb, which has dominated video email with agents to engage clients and leads alike, and VScreen, which was acquired by Terradatum and provides ways to deliver engaging online video content customized with loads of underlying statistical data.
One thing is certain, no matter what solutions you may be looking at, you want to make sure it plays well with others. Meaning, standalone systems that don’t integrate with your other systems are going to create more problems than they solve. This holds true for any system you look at, but especially here where it’s so critical to track and measure engagement across channels.
When I first got involved in the real estate industry, it seemed like nobody really knew what a CRM was or what the letters stood for. Customer. Relationship. Management. Today, you can’t walk down the street without tripping over a real estate CRM. I’ve identified 36 of them in the HousingStack, and I’m positive there are even more. Some disguised as website back-ends. Some attached to lead generation platforms. Some are even part of your mobile IDX.
Again, there are way too many companies and products here to call out everyone but here are a few of the more active and prevalent systems:
- Follow Up Boss is an extremely popular CRM that is typically used by individual agents and many top teams.
- LionDesk is a feature-rich CRM used by over 165,000 real estate professionals to manage contacts, communications and campaigns.
- Firepoint and Realvolve, two top CRM providers, have combined to create a new solution based on the best of both systems and delivering a more end-to-end approach.
- BoomTown ROI provides a systematic approach to lead generation, follow-up, nurturing and closing including websites, landing pages, marketing automation and more.
- Brivity, another member of the Ben Kinney family, includes task management, marketing, CRM, a client portal and transaction management in one system.
- CINC (Commissions Inc.) delivers an end-to-end approach for generating, cultivating and closing leads and was acquired by Fidelity National Financial four years ago.
- kvCore, from Inside Real Estate, enables brokerages and hundreds of thousands of agents with various options to integrate with other systems and additional IRE offerings.
- MoxiEngage is part of a modular set of easily integrated systems from MoxiWorks, originally born out of Windermere Real Estate.
- Elevate, by Elm Street Technology, offers a CRM plus additional modules for everything from lead generation to social media marketing to IDX websites.
With another 27 companies in this category (and growing) your options abound so do check out the options and think about what you’re using today, what you need and what might help you to better manage your day-to-day integrations with leads, prospects and clients alike.
With the millions of leads generated each year, you need a systematic approach, as much automation as you can apply and personalization that’s impossible to manage without great data to back it up. Generating leads from landing pages, 3rd party networks, your own website, social media marketing, PPC and social ads, outbound campaigns and plenty of other approaches might seem like the major challenge, but I’d argue that targeted follow-up through a combination of valuable content, the right timing and the right calls-to-action are where most of the art and science come into play.
No doubt many of you are already using one or more systems for this today. But hopefully you’ll see some systems in the HousingStack that you weren’t aware of and dig a little further into your options. It’s always a good idea to stop for a moment, jot down what you like and don’t like about how your systems are working for you today, and evaluate your options because there’s definitely no shortage of them!
Up next, I’ll delve into the world of lead conversion before taking a deeper dive into back office systems.