Grier Allen, CEO of BoomTown - Proactive Planning, Predicable Results/ Data-Led Decision Making for 2021

Brian Charlesworth
October 8, 2020

[00:00:00] Greer Greer is in the house. Look at that. Everybody, how are you? Good to see you. Good to see you as well.

[00:00:08] Let's see here. I think I've got the wrong thing up here.

[00:00:10] Let me get let me get the set up for you anyway, so.

[00:00:18] I'm really excited to have you in here today. I know I've been trying to work closer and closer with you guys since, jeez, since we rolled out two years ago.

[00:00:28] And anyway, it's just been fun to have an opportunity to work with your team closer over the last several months.

[00:00:36] And I'm excited about some of the things we have coming up to announce. I don't know if we're going to announce some of that today or or what.

[00:00:44] Yeah, I don't see why not now. I mean, it's been great working with your team directly as well, Brian. And it's you know, we're super excited about what what this deep integration can mean for our mutual customers.

[00:00:56] So for those of you who don't know, we'll share with you now that. Sisu and Boomtown have done a direct integration, it's in testing, we have three to five customers getting up on it this week, but it'll really just simplify and eliminate any costs associated with an integration. It will also just simplify and and make the data more accurate that you're pulling in. So rather than everything being based off thinking with an email, it's actually based off of the client ID. And so anyway, we're super excited about it.

[00:01:39] I know we've had several team members focused on that for the last month, month and a half, something like that. And super, super excited to get customers going on that here in the coming weeks.

[00:01:53] Now, what's exciting is just the the two way synchronization as well. I think, Brian, is something to point out. There is is the fact that when you update things within your Sisu platform that synchronizes back to Boomtown and vice versa and in the teams are really doing a fantastic job of creating just really a one of a kind integration with Sisu.

[00:02:16] And I'm just really excited for people to be able to experience that.

[00:02:20] Yeah, yeah, we are as well. And I think that's that's been something that we've seen team owners complain about over the last few years is I just can't get my agents to go back in and put it into the CRM. You know, when something goes under contract or closes, well, that'll automatically be done for you now. So anyway, we're we're excited about that. And just really automating the business and eliminating the duplicate data entry is is a huge focus of ours.

[00:02:48] And together, we were just doing a far better job of that now. So anyway, I'm excited to work with you guys on it. Career. Likewise, man. So let's move into proactive planning, predictable results.

[00:03:03] Tell us tell us more about that.

[00:03:06] Yeah, so so Brian, ever since this this this pandemic came upon us back in February and March, you know, we've been we've been we've always been very led by data and really analyzing things.

[00:03:23] And really the purpose is always been behind our mission. And our mission is to make real estate agents successful. It's it's a very simple mission. But but it's but it really guides us in every single decision that we make. And and I would say that there's there's a lot that we've been looking at. And right now we're just you know, we're really believing in the fact that this that the latter half of this year was was pretty amazing in terms of what we saw in terms of market activity. But we have reason to believe that twenty, twenty one is going to be even stronger. And that's something that we all need to prepare for over the next quarter. And just just a few stats that we have some insight into. Brian is is just around this pent up demand. No. One, that that is that is being released into the market post the lockdown earlier on this year. And that's that's still playing out. I mean, typically we're seeing a little bit of a dip in activity come September, but October and November are typically down about 10 percent in terms of transaction volume. But we're not seeing the same thing this year.

[00:04:36] I mean, the seasonality is is is not as is not as dramatic going into the fall season as it has been in previous years.

[00:04:47] In fact, if we're looking at year over year data from our platform, traffic on our consumer websites for our clients, consumer websites is up twenty two percent year over year and September leads are up twenty four percent year over year.

[00:05:03] The cost per lead is down almost 20 percent, nineteen point nine percent in September.

[00:05:11] So those people that are spending and investing in their growth and the ones that have been since this pandemic began are really reaping the rewards of being able to get in there and having a less competitive option in Google and Facebook because people are pulling out due to the uncertainty and therefore getting just just loading up with the top of the funnel and producing way more leads at 20 percent lower cost. So we've got pinnings are up 15 percent over the last two weeks compared to the previous year or so. So all signs are pointing to a pretty busy fall and winter season that we're about to embark on here, even with the with the election coming up.

[00:06:01] Ok, thanks for sharing that with us. Those are some interesting stats. So how do how do we prepare or how to how do team owners. Prepare to take advantage of that.

[00:06:13] Like I said, I mean, it's it's the the next few months are pretty critical. And one of the stats that that I found was that Lawrence Yun, who's the who's the head, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, is predicting that in 2020 we're actually going to be up in terms of transaction side year over year from twenty nineteen by about a point one point one percent. To put that into perspective and knowing how busy everybody has been, he's also predicting that next year in twenty twenty one we're going to be up eight to 12 percent over twenty twenty, which you put that into perspective.

[00:06:59] And your as you kind of look towards twenty, twenty one guys, I mean, it's, it's all about getting to getting to a point where you're just sustaining the same market share that you have this year. You're going to be doing eight to 12 percent more volume than you did the year before. But I know that everybody that's listening here is not just about sustaining the status quo year over year. They're looking to take market share away. And so you're going to be working off of a base of eight to 12 percent growth year over year. On top of that, you're going to add on what you're going to do in terms of taking market share away from your competition. And so I think that there's a lot that you need to focus on here to make sure that your team is prepared and you've got the right leverage in place and you've got the right tools and systems in place to make yourself successful in a very busy year ahead of us.

[00:07:50] You know, the the thing that I hear over and over and over again and I've seen grear is that in times like this.

[00:08:00] Those who take the market share keep the market share, so it is a great example of that if you. If you took took it as snow days and we're just going to hang out and watch Netflix all day, you lost market share. But if you if you took your team and said we are going to meet every day at eight a.m. and we're going to report our numbers out, we're going to get ready for the day.

[00:08:31] Even if we're in our homes, we're going to still do that. We have zom.

[00:08:35] Then you took market share and you've seen that growth.

[00:08:39] So going into next year, how what what can what can team owners do to just make sure that they're on top of that? I mean, do they need to spend more dollars on marketing? Is now the time to be doing that? What things can they do to make sure they increase that lead flow, increase their market share so they can maintain that market share when the market does dip ultimately?

[00:09:03] Absolutely. I mean, I think with the stats, I just share your your your your September this year at nearly 20 percent discount on the cost per lead, knowing that you're going into a year where there's going to be an eight to 12 percent increase in transaction volume. Now is the time to invest and now is the time to kind of push on the pedal. And and that's what's going to enable you to take that market share away. Some of the other very important things that I think are worth mentioning here is that the consumer experience is vital. I think a lot of people know we're sort of debating this. Have we just lost to the big portals, Zillow dot com, and we just lost the game completely to to them. And I think when you're seeing a lot of the business model changes with with Zillow and realtor dotcom coming into effect, it's not necessarily I don't see it as a as a as a as an attack on on real estate agents necessarily. I just see it as a as their north star is the consumer and they're trying to provide the best consumer experience. And and that's that's that's the game that they're playing. And and I think that knowing that and knowing where knowing their North Star is the consumer, you've got to do the same thing in your business. And that's why we've invested pretty heavily over the last several years to introduce a consumer mobile app for our customers, to be able to be able to introduce to their customers. We're already seeing the engagement on that app in terms of time spent and listing's click showings showing inquiry submitted is nearly double that of of of what the websites produce.

[00:10:53] And so so one important takeaway here is focus on your consumer experience is no longer an option or a nice to have to have your own digital experience. You have to have your own digital experience and add on top of that. You've got to be able to fill that funnel. Like you saying, Brian. I mean, that's a critical piece. But but also leveraging your database, continuing to engage your database is going to be absolutely critical as well. So being able to have that consumer experience that offers those virtual tools to either search in a time where, like you were saying, I went to California, a lot of teams can't even get together at this point in time. And they certainly can't go out and show properties in a lot of areas. And so having those virtual showing options available on your consumer website are going to be critical, but also having the tools to automate, automate, touch points with your consumers. And this is really where your database comes into play, being able to send out personal personalized marketing automation that really works and is proven. We have a listing alerts or alerts that send out new properties and price reduction price reduction listings that account for still seventy five percent of our repeat traffic back to back to our customers websites. And that's literally tens of millions of sessions over the course of this year alone. We also have Marketing Central where our clients can go in and launch retargeting campaigns that are specifically optimized to keep their brand front and center in front of the consumers that they have in their database. So these are tools that are or are you just throw that out. Last year, that was just this past year.

[00:12:35] And so this thing has a lot more about that, because I think a lot of people don't realize you actually do that.

[00:12:41] Absolutely. No, thank you. So the so really, what would what Marketing Central is designed for is two separate things. Number one, it's it's it's dynamically retargeting your database. And because this system is intrinsically tied together, we're able to understand and get knowledge about who's likely who is who's kind of scoring these leads and basically putting these these advertisements out in front of of consumers that are more likely to want to click through those or or more likely to to transact in the near future. And so it optimizes your advertising spend. And most of that is done on on Facebook and Instagram, Brian. And another aspect of this is that you can advertise your listings. And so when you get a new listing or have a. Reduction have an open house that you want to promote all those different parts of the listing journey are covered within Marketing Central as well. And this is just a self-service application directly within boomtowns, not an upscale necessarily. I mean, you're basically just paying for the ad spend that you're doing for these particular campaigns. And it's just a self-service way that a lot of our customers are leveraging to keep in front of their customers and put their listings out in front of their their prospective buyers.

[00:14:05] Ok. Interesting, yeah, I.

[00:14:11] Having a wife that uses Boomtown, I don't know that she's actually utilizing that, so we need to get that going.

[00:14:17] No, it's a great tool. It's a great tool. And it's just it's additive right in like I said, I mean, listing lurks or tried and true contributing. Seventy five percent of the repeat traffic. But as a result of adding marketing central to the mix, we're seeing a lot of repeat traffic, just a lot of growth in the repeat traffic that's coming from those social channels that are engaged through marketing central.

[00:14:41] That's great. All right, so.

[00:14:46] I love that you say focused on the consumer experience. Everything I've read about the the new Zillow brokerage and the interviews I've listened to, they've all that's been one hundred percent of their focus is better consumer experience, maybe not having to rely on agents who are not going to effectively convert those leads.

[00:15:09] And so the question is, can they bring people in-house that will effectively convert those leads? Who knows?

[00:15:15] But in the meantime, what we or what our customers as agents and team owners should be focused on is improving that client experience, which I know you guys are focused on that. We're focused on that. And I really believe that is the future.

[00:15:34] Absolutely. Now, I mean, you made a good point there, Brian, in terms of in terms of you've got to bridge the gap between the digital experience and in the in the personalized experience of of having conversations. That's that's a critical handoff. Right. I mean, you're building trust if you're providing a great consumer experience on the digital side. But you really have to you really have to convert those those digital consumers into real conversations and personalized conversations at a time like this year. I mean, it's all about building trust and being the knowledge broker, which Tom Perry talks a lot about. And also our friends at Casey. Keeping current matters talk a lot about is just being that knowledge broker and helping them to understand the market. And a lot of this is is just kind of working them through the funnel and understanding where to spend your time and energy. And you said, can you hire those people internally to help your agents because the agents need leverage, especially going into a year where it's going to be eight to 10 times eight to 12 times busier than they were this past year. They need leverage and you can go out and hire ISA's.

[00:16:50] But another service that we've that we've invested heavily into over this past couple of years, Brian, is is what we call success assurance. And that's where we're nurturing leads on behalf of our customers. And and this is not through a. This is not through I. This is this is through a real US based people across the US that are engaging leads in. Their goal is to engage the league to understand where they are in their process, to use open ended questions that a lot of the technology can't handle right now. But using open ended questions to really get to the meat of what is their motivation for moving in and really being able to pass off of a pretty descriptive explanation to the agent when that consumer is agent ready, as we call it, in in in presenting that to the agent in a way that that sets them up for success in that conversation. And so there's a lot of there's a lot of ways to do it, but part of to twenty twenty one and being successful is about is about giving your agents leverage.

[00:17:57] So with success assurance, rather than giving your agents hundreds of leads that they'll never be able to follow up on, it's giving them better leads of the right so that when they do get those leads, they can deliver and get them to contract. I wanted to ask you about PBC because I know you guys have been running that through Boomtown for quite some time. It seems it seems that those leads are getting far more traction, having far more success. Than they were in the past. Right now, I don't know if it's just the market we're in, but maybe you could talk to that. I'm seeing that at a smaller level from Sisu perspective. But but from your perspective, has that gotten a lot better this year? Should it should we be investing more in that?

[00:18:46] Well, if you think about it, Brian, what you've got is you've got two primary platforms that you're going to be doing the majority of your advertising on in the digital world. And one of those is, is Facebook. And in one of those Facebook and kind of the social platforms. And then the other one is through through Google and and the reason why we have invested so heavily into optimizing for PPC on Google and other search platforms is because they're intent based searches. So people are actually going out and searching our homes for sale or searching for an agent in a specific market area. And that was their intent when they went to Google. When when you're on social media, we like to leverage social media for for new lead generation as well. But we're going to heavily bias our our our lead generation efforts towards towards Google because they are intent based on the on on social. That's really kind of just staying in front of the consumer. And in those clicks are typically from our data, we see that they they they transact, but it takes longer and and they convert at a lower rate.

[00:20:02] And so other words, Facebook, I'm sitting here, I'm scrolling and I'm just kind of looking and maybe I have something catches my interest, but I'm probably not an active buyer. Whereas with Google I've actually gone in and searched for a home in a certain area or homes in that area.

[00:20:21] That's correct. And that's correct. And that's what I'm talking about there, Bryan, with Intent Base. And thank you for helping me clarify that. But it's an intent rather than an interruption on social. It's more of an interruption that you see in your feed. And you're saying that looks interesting, which is great for retargeting. And that's why we built marketing central around that that concept of of of retargeting and staying up, because you can you can get those impressions a lot cheaper. And it's great to keep your brand in front of those consumers that you've already brought into your pipeline. So, yes, we are seeing a lot more interesting activities that that that are happening through the PPC lens. So with PPC, we're seeing almost a 50 percent increase in the amount of high interest activities that are that are coming out of those particular leads that are generated through that channel this year. And I don't know whether that's all pandemic related or being able to meet the consumer where they are and offer them different ways of viewing homes like virtual showings. But we are seeing a significant lift in the quality of of PPC leads over over the past several months.

[00:21:35] Yeah, one of the things that we're most excited about, about our integration grear, is automatically being able to let all of your customers know exactly what their cost per lead cost per closing at the team level and at the agent level are for every one of your late sources so that they can actually make these intelligent decisions about where do I spend my money?

[00:22:01] Because there is a balance there. Facebook, those are cheaper leads. And so I think a lot of people might be tempted to say, hey, that's where I want to spend my money.

[00:22:11] But if you're spending five thousand here and five thousand here, you're getting fewer leads maybe with Google, but you're probably getting far more results.

[00:22:20] So if if you're not measuring that, if you guys are not keeping track of that and not looking at that to make your decisions on where to invest your money.

[00:22:30] If it's going to it's going to hurt you in twenty twenty one, because the key thing is make the decisions to invest on the things that are driving your business forward.

[00:22:40] Absolutely. I couldn't have said that better, Bryan. I mean, really, that's that's one of the most exciting things I think about this direct integration is the fact that, you know, that we have an opportunity to to really sort of close the loop, in essence, and taking it from that click all the way through to that closing and really understanding those those conversion metrics, but also really understanding the costs associated with each channel and being able to really have that full view, that full picture of the click all the way through to the close. And so, you know, there's that's that's sort of been a holy grail for us for a long time. And we're edging our way down. And so now nowadays with success assurance, where we're actually trying to convert them to an agent ready conversation, we're no longer looking at cost per lead. We're really focusing more on cost per agent transfer, you know, and so so but I think the visibility that this integration with Sisu is going to give them is going to be just super enlightening, because I don't know of another combination between two software systems that are going to make it this easy to have that visibility.

[00:23:51] Yeah, cost per close is something that not many have. And the industry, I think the holy grail that the industry has been talking about for the last decade has been who's going to build that lead to close platform and.

[00:24:08] To try to play in the CRM world and play in something else is a very difficult task.

[00:24:13] Just being a CRM and being a leader in that space is a very difficult task. So that's one of the things we're so excited about.

[00:24:21] With Boomtown, with Sisu, you now have a full lead to close platform with everything being fully integrated, communicating back and forth, having everything in Boomtown as far as all your closings, all your under contracts and anyone you mark in Boomtown having that within Sisu to start going through that transaction or contract a closed process or or really.

[00:24:48] Is the contractor close, it's really appointment to close, right, with the management Sisu so so anyway, grear, any last advice? We have five minutes left.

[00:25:00] What is like the most important thing that you think team owners should be focused on?

[00:25:07] As you and I, we both work with a lot of teams we work with. I guess we both work with some some brokerages as well. What is the most important thing?

[00:25:18] That our customers can be focused on Q4 to get ramped up and ready for the strongest year ever. I mean, this year has been the strongest there ever organically with everything going on, but with an eight to 12 percent growth for next year.

[00:25:38] What is the most important you've talked about a lot of things already, so maybe you've already covered it, but what is the most important thing I can do if I'm a team owner, broker, owner, to really make sure I drive my business forward effectively?

[00:25:52] Absolutely.

[00:25:52] So I think one of the one of the things that we're that we have the benefit of is, is having these these these high powered teams on our platform and being able to learn from them and in and sort of collaborate with them on on what the future is going to look like. We've got about 40 percent of the top two hundred and fifty teams by transaction sides on the Wall Street Journal, real trends, top two 50 list that use our platform. We listen to them a lot to understand what's important.

[00:26:27] And and when I think about the ones that have really just broken through and been able to go through these through these certainly challenging growth cycles and growth is not easy. And and one of the things that you need to understand is to think teams generally do is that is that you have to provide leverage on your team. You have to be able to you have to as things get busier and busier, you have to find ways to put the right people in the right places. And and I think that's going to be the most and most vitally important thing going into this year is really looking at things from a leverage perspective. Should your agents be following up with hundreds of leads a month or should they be focusing on the further down funnel conversations that they're having? Should they be doing transaction coordination or should you have somebody on your team that's devoted to that because they're much more dialed in on attention to detail?

[00:27:31] And so so those are the types of things that you need to consider as it relates to the whole entire consumer experience, because that's what's ultimately going to get you that repeat business that that drives your business forward and helps you grow faster without having to spend to acquire. Those are the types of things that that I think are incredibly important. And so the other thing that I see with these top these top agents teams is that they've got their numbers in front of them. They understand everybody on their team understands what they are responsible for. And I think this is where where we get tons of usage on our on our vitals dashboard. But really, Sisu this integration puts it on steroids. You know, it really helps and see the whole entire funnel. You can gamefly it through adding these competitions. That is something that that is why you see a lot of the top teams in the nation adopting Sisu is because they understand how important accountability is and they understand how important they understand exactly what what they should be accountable to. And so along with the leverage, helping people to understand exactly the role that they play in in in in how the consumer gets from point A to point B is is incredibly vital in being able to give them the visibility into those things is critically important. So I got to give Sisu a lot of credit there because they you guys have done a fantastic job of providing that data layer to be able to have that that sort of visibility and understanding of of what's going on in their business.

[00:29:11] Thank you. Grare I couldn't have said it better myself. So thanks. Thanks. Thanks for the Sisu pitch there. But the reality is every agent, I think a lot of team owners just bring agents in and expect them all to be the same.

[00:29:28] The reality is they don't all have the same desires. They're not all the same. They don't have the same goals. Some people want to do ten transactions a month and some want to do, too. And it's all about helping them get to their goals, not your goals. If you need to get to your goals, it might mean hiring more agents and it might be you can get there with your agents.

[00:29:53] But you can expect the same consistency from all of your agents that you want to have within your team. Let's just say let's put a number of 20 transactions a month, 40 transactions a month, whatever that number is.

[00:30:08] You can expect that with ten agents, you're going to hit that every month, it may be because they're going to go through their cycles and understanding that this is so important and understanding for your business, how many agents do you really need to have to accomplish what you want to accomplish?

[00:30:25] That's right. And I think that's that's a really good point, Brian. I mean, we're looking at our own business planning and trying to understand, you know, how many how many sales reps we need know it's all about taking that bottoms up approach and saying, OK, all right. And it's this different real estate because you have agents that have different desires, like you mentioned. But, you know, taking that bottoms up approach to saying, OK, these are the goals that that that agent, these five agents have. They're different and they roll up to this particular number. And if your goal is, let's say, 20 to 30 percent higher than what that number is, you're going to need more agents to achieve what your goals are. And and hopefully you have some sort of past record of their achievement based on based on what they put their goal at this year. So you can kind of discount what they've said. But I think that's a really good point. And as we're talking about this business plan for two thousand twenty one, these are the little tips and tricks that are going to help you to set yourself up for an amazing twenty twenty one, because the market's going to be there in year your is your market share to take. And and if you're listen to this, I know that you guys are already ahead of the competition because you're because you're tuning in here and investing in the strategy of your business going into twenty.

[00:31:46] Well, Greg, thanks as always. It's always it's always fun to sit down with you and your wealth of knowledge.

[00:31:53] And congratulations on what you guys have done for this industry and really driving it forward. There is a lot of teams out there that we talked to that are super grateful to be a part of your organization.

[00:32:04] So, anyway, congratulations on all of your success and we'll see you soon. Thank you so much for joining in today.

[00:32:11] Thank you so much for having me, Brian. I really appreciate it. Yeah, have a great day. You too, man.

About the Author

Brian Charlesworth
Chairman and CEO

Brian is an entrepreneur and business builder. He has built and sold companies in the software, telecommunications, and franchise space. He’s passionate about technology and focused on changing lives through driving technology forward.