Proptech Panel: The Disruptors of Real Estate Lead Generation

Guest Speakers:

Sarah Bell, Co-Founder at AIRE

Mona Chebbou, Head of Sales & Marketing at ActivePipe 

Zoe Pointon, CEO and Cofounder at OpenAgent

Transcript:

Kylie Davis: (00:11)
Hi everybody. My name is Kylie Davis and I’m founder and president of the PropTech Association of Australia. And it’s great to see you all joining us here today for our sixth PropTech panel. Now, before I begin in the spirit of reconciliation, PropTech Association Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. And we pay our respect to elders, past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples joining us here today. And I’d especially like to thank our founding sponsors, Stone & Chalk who have made this event possible today. And for those of you who do not know Stone & Chalk, it was founded as a not-for-profit in Sydney in 2015 to help FinTech startups commercialise and grow. And from 40 startups in 2015, it is now around 200 startups in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide covering all areas of emerging technology, including PropTech and currently around 20 PropTech called Stone & Chalk home.

Kylie Davis: (01:17)
And I’d also like to thank our new foundation partners, the Real Estate Institute of WA REIWA. Macquarie Bank and Pixar. And I’m very excited about today’s panel. It’s our first all-girl panel, which is completely awesome. The mix in PropTech is about 25% female to 75% males, so this is a little moment in the making. But there is nothing more important in residential real estate than lead generation. Identifying who is ready to sell their home and convincing them that you are the right agent for them is literally the lifeblood of the real estate industry. But the way that real estate agents find leads in Australia has undergone an extraordinary amount of change over the past five to six years. Whereas, once agents would pound the streets dropping off letterbox flyers, door knocking or hitting the phones to do a 10 call, big data, digital marketing and AI have combined to revolutionise the speed and the accuracy with which leads can be identified, nurtured and acted upon.

Kylie Davis: (02:26)
And this means that agents no longer need to phone hundreds of homeowners in the hope of unearthing a single listing and giving them back thousands of hours to use on better services to sellers and to buyers. But of course, this only works if agents embrace it. So in the panel today, we’re meeting three disruptors whose PropTech’s have dramatically changed how agents are finding the next listings in residential real estate. And with market volumes at all time, lows due to COVID and lock downs this has never been more important. At one of the lead generation spectrum, we have Zoe Pointon co-founder of OpenAgent which allows agents outsource their lead generation through its own popular third party website that nurtures sellers. So welcome Zoe.

Zoe Pointon: (03:13)
Thanks Kylie. Great to be here.

Kylie Davis: (03:16)
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Mona Chebbou head of National Sales and Marketing at ActivePipe. An email marketing platform that allows agents themselves to own their own lead nurturing and encourages agents to be in regular communication with their contracts. So welcome Mona, great to have you on the panel.

Mona Chebbou: (03:33)
Thanks for Having me.

Kylie Davis: (03:36)
And last, but certainly not least Sarah Bell, Mother of RiTA, the real estate robot at AiRE, which provides larger real estate agencies and groups the option to completely automate all aspects of incoming communications and market analysis to both surface leads and to manage and measure action. Welcome Sarah.

Sarah Bell: (03:57)
Thanks Kylie. Hi everyone.

Kylie Davis: (03:59)
So welcome ladies. It is really great to have you on the panel and it is great like I said before to have an all-female panel. Yay. We’re allowed to be a little bit silly for God’s sake anyway. So Zoe, let’s start with you because when OpenAgent launched, when was it, about six, seven years ago, selling leads to agents was pretty controversial, wasn’t it?

Zoe Pointon: (04:25)
Yeah. We’ve copped our fair share of flack over the years.

Kylie Davis: (04:28)
So how does OpenAgent work today?

Zoe Pointon: (04:31)
Look, I think it’s important to understand our vision is to make it easier for people to buy and sell property and how we do this is we make it easier for agents to help connect and help qualified buyers. So I guess if I was to just break down in essence, our goal is to let our agent customers focus on selling properties and let us focus on doing all of the work we need to do to fill their pipeline with highly qualified sellers who are looking to transact in the near future. So we really have two products, our first product and the one that made us famous if you like is our lead generation product. And we use our own digital marketing and nurturing techniques to find sellers and we use our own large Sydney-based team of people to then qualify these sellers and connect them with our agent partners.

Zoe Pointon: (05:22)
On our second product, we’ve taken everything we learned in becoming lead generation specialists and turn this into a product that agents can use in their own business. And we call this one Prospecting Assist. And that’s where we use digital marketing, big data nurtured techniques and even our own people to find and qualify sellers from within an agent’s database. So agencies won’t miss out on listings from within their own context set. That’s basically it but the one thing I’d love people to take away today is our role is for us to fill your pipeline with highly qualified sellers.

Kylie Davis: (05:57)
So what’s your charging model now? I’m sorry, because when you guys first launched, you were charging a percentage of commission and that was that it was quite controversial. How does it work now?

Zoe Pointon: (06:08)
Looking at our core product in that lead generation product we have two charging models. Now, we have two tiers of service and charging models relating to that. Our premiere service basically allows agents to see more leads and it also gives those agencies really great dashboard with heaps of performance information to help those agencies do better on the leads and actually if something’s going to list, make sure they win as many of those as possible. So that’s Premiere. And in Premiere we charge it slightly differently. It’s no longer a percentage of the commission.

Zoe Pointon: (06:42)
On the Prospecting Product that I mentioned it’s a flat monthly fee and that’s commiserate with the workload on our team because there’s actual people making actual phone calls on your behalf, we just charge a monthly fee and overall that one is like $600 or $1,200 depending on the package which works out to be a tiny fraction of what you might pay an assistant or somebody like that, but importantly both of our products are going to deliver to you every single month multiple actual listing opportunities. So you can focus on winning those appraisals and on your transacting customers and we’ll just keep filling your pipeline with these opportunities. So I think by combining the tech and the data with also the people, what you as an agent can be confident in is that when we send you a lead, it’s actually highly likely to list in the very near future.

Kylie Davis: (07:36)
Awesome. So now if anyone’s got any questions for Zoe, please pop them into the Q&A section in the zoom call. Now so why do you think real estate agents need help identifying leads these days?

Zoe Pointon: (07:53)
Look, I think agents are being asked to do way too much. And I think it’s not realistic to be a great listing and selling agent and for example, great at admin, great at social media, great at SEO, great at content nurture, make a hundred calls a day, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, right? And like anyone an agent needs to figure out where do I actually spend my hours to be the most effective. And most of the agents I’ve come across in the last seven or eight years would much rather focus on their live transactions and helping people buy and sell property, that’s usually why they got into real estate in the first place. They don’t mind making a few calls, but they don’t want to have to make 30 calls for one appraisal. It should feel more like I make three calls and I get an appraisal. And that I think the role that we play by just partnering with agents and we split out the bit we’re good at and let them focus on the bit that they’re good at. I’d say that’s pretty much it.

Kylie Davis: (08:53)
Yeah. So what about the criticism that you guys copped that was around you only recommend agency use your service, you’re not necessarily recommending the best agent in the area or that only agents who desperately need help are actually using lead generation services like yours.

Zoe Pointon: (09:12)
Yep. So first of all, the not very good agent complaint is actually just plain false. We look at all the top agent list published by REB or anyone else and the way in which we’ve gone out around building our agent network has by design meant that we’ve worked with the most successful agents out there, and any idea that you want to take we’re usually working with 70 or 80% of the absolute top guys, including and we got guys and females including the number one agent female agent in the country and so on and so on. If anything, what I’d say is that the stronger the agent or agency is the more likely they’ve got a growth mindset and they want to grow their business and they’re interested in ideas and new tools and services that help them do that.

Zoe Pointon: (10:02)
And pre-COVID when we had an office and our whole team of people sitting there, I’d bring agents in and they’d walk in and their mouths would just drop and they would say like, “Holy shit, I didn’t realise there was all this work going into generating these leads for us.” And then the next thing I think is, “Man, how cool would it be if I could get these kinds of 50 or 60 people working on filling my pipeline full of warm listing opportunities.”

Zoe Pointon: (10:26)
So those are the ones we want to work with. It’s okay for us to not work with everyone. I’m totally fine with that. To be honest, we track a tonne of data to understand who does a good job with our leads. Who’s offering the consumer a really good quality experience. It doesn’t mean that if you’re not successful with OpenAgent that you can’t be successful elsewhere, there’s plenty of opportunities like that. But sorry, examples of agents who are like that, but for us, we want to offer a great customer experience and that means we need to work with agents who can work well with us. And so for us, we really view it as a partnership. And as I said, I think our network very much tends towards the top.

Kylie Davis: (11:04)
Awesome.

Zoe Pointon: (11:05)
It’s simple as that really?

Kylie Davis: (11:09)
So a question from the floor, which I’m going to direct to you because it seems most relevant now, is how many agents would you engage for every lead that comes through your system?

Zoe Pointon: (11:19)
So the average is 2.4. We never send more than three. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s three depends a little bit on the conversation we have with the vendor. And if they’ve seen a bunch of agents already and they still want to meet with someone, you’ve got to ask your question, why? So if somebody is saying five and big healthy dose of scepticism on that phone call, but sometimes people have met with two and they just want one more. There’s one in our list that we think that really should meet. Other times they come to us and haven’t met with anyone.

Zoe Pointon: (11:50)
And in those cases we would say, “Hey, you know what, you really want to compare because there’s an order qualifier here of finding somebody who’s going to give you a good customer experience and who’s got the right level of sales experience in the area to be able to help you and be qualified to do the job. But then there’s also that personal touch.” And some agents are going to resonate with some vendors and not with others and that’s just the game. People go with the agent that they feel that they have a good relation working relationship with. Yeah, 2.4.

Kylie Davis: (12:26)
Yeah. So you guys use an awful lot of digital marketing, I guess to attract people to the OpenAgent website and to promote yourselves as being someone who can navigate or help buyers and sellers navigate real estate better. How much do you guys spend on generating on that work each year on behalf of agents, how much are you investing in it?

Zoe Pointon: (12:53)
It’s many millions that gets every year. And not just in digital marketing, because that’s certainly a big cost. But we also run a pretty large call centre team who frankly do the work that agents don’t want to do themselves of making that ratio of calls to successes is very different. And that’s how we generate the leads which is of such high quality. So when we send a lead it has like a more than 60% chance of going to market within the next 12 months, more than 60%. So if you call two one of those people is listing.

Zoe Pointon: (13:29)
And so, when we send that to you that that’s a listing in there, right? And as I said it’s our marketing dollars being spent up front. It’s then also our call centre team. It’s also our tech team, our content team it’s everything. And it’s as I said, many millions and OpenAgent is not rich. We’ve raised a lot of money over the last seven years in the zone of 20 million and we have not turned a profit. So that will tell you just how much we’re investing and trying to make this work and how much our investors are backing the broader vision of trying to make those transactions easier and free agents up to focus on the parts of the transaction where they really shine.

Kylie Davis: (14:18)
So the agents who are using your service, why do they prefer to get them from you rather than nurturing themselves or are they taking them from you as well as doing other things to nurture them themselves?

Zoe Pointon: (14:30)
I’m sure it’s the second and there’s always going to be that repeat business especially some of those agents who’ve been around for a while. And even though the mix of how things are happening is changing there’s still unsure people who walk in to the shop front and/or respond to a leaflet or any those things, right? You’ve got all kinds of customers out there. But I think the reason why agents would choose to supplement what they do and ideally partner with us and see just to give you an idea.

Zoe Pointon: (15:04)
An agent who we really partner with, who goes on a premier contract and is getting prospecting from us, we would be aiming to send them more than 50 listing opportunities in a year. That would be leads that list. And you don’t have to make a thousand phone calls. We’re going to send you a 100, 150 people and of those 50 are going to list. So that’s amazing right? Now, you’re not going to win all 50 but man, like return on your time and return on your dollar like there’s nothing better out there. So I think that’s why agents say, “Well, I’m prepared to invest a bit and partner with these guys because they’re the specialists at this and I want them on my team.”

Kylie Davis: (15:45)
Awesome. Awesome. Thank you. Now, if anyone’s got any questions for Zoe just a reminder pop them into the Q & A section and send them through because we’re going to continue the chat with as a panel after we’ve gone through everyone. Mona Chebbou from ActivePipe, let’s move on to you now. We’ve just heard from Zoe about how about how OpenAgent works because they have this big digital marketing and lead nurturing funnel, I guess, happening inside OpenAgent in which they share, but ActivePipe comes from completely the opposite end of the spectrum. Give us a quick summary of how ActivePipe helps agents find leads.

Mona Chebbou: (16:25)
Yeah. Cool. So look, ActivePipe is a lead nurturing and lead generation platform and we’ve tailored specifically for the real estate industry. So what we do is we automate on-brand emails that are relevant to each and every context needs and we unlock opportunities within the agent’s database. And the opportunities that we actually serve are those that are ready to buy or sell today. So right now, so if you think of ActivePipe as a big sea of working in the background, we’re constantly sifting through the tens of thousands of contacts in the agent’s database and at the bottom of that comes the goal, which are the leads that are ready to transact today.

Kylie Davis: (17:01)
So you guys have done a pile of research around the unpleasantly lead leakage. Let’s talk a little bit about that. How big a problem is lead leakage in real estate and why do they leak?

Mona Chebbou: (17:19)
Look, it’s so big. At 45% of leads have lost every single year. That’s massive. That’s almost half of the leads. So and it’s typically due to there being more contacts in an agency and they can physically keep up with. They’ve spent years and years adding the contacts in but as I mentioned they can’t physically call all of them, right? Try and find a needle in the haystack, who’s looking to transact today, who wants to list or sell their home. So they’re not able to call every single contact. They’re not able to remain front of mind with their contacts and in turn, they’re not able to build those long lasting relationships and maintain it and that’s why it results in the lead leakage. People just go elsewhere.

Kylie Davis: (17:58)
So how effective is email marketing at surfacing leads inside your CRM?

Mona Chebbou: (18:05)
Yeah, really good question. Email marketing is extremely effective at surfacing leads. So people don’t want to answer their phones these days. 27% of people actually want to take a phone call. So email marketing then takes place. So we’ve recently actually sent a new client live on the ActivePipe platform and they had around 11,000 contacts in their CRM. In the first 24 hours of being live on ActivePipe, we managed to surface 93 contacts in the database who were active in the market right now. We also had 156 contacts that updated their profile and they were flagging to the agent the type of property that they were looking to buy or sell.

Mona Chebbou: (18:46)
But most importantly, we also received 10 appraisal requests within 24 hours. So you can see this database was sitting there for years and years and building and all of these hidden opportunities were being pushed to the side. And to put this into context, Kylie, if an agent wanted to call 3000 contacts it would take them about 60 full days of work to make contact with 3000 people. So we’re talking a database of 11,000 that would take an agent in excess of six months to make contact and generate the leads that ActivePipe was able to generate in just 24 hours. So email marketing is super effective.

Kylie Davis: (19:22)
Yes. So I’m always astonished, I have a handful of agents who contact me on a regular basis. I don’t think a few of them have worked out who I am. I don’t even know who I am to a couple of them call me and I’m always astonished at how awful the conversations are when they call me. Although the newsletters are quite good. So it’s not always the best way a direct cold call is never I don’t think the best way to try and find those needle in the haystack because if you’ve got 137, what did it say 137 or something people?

Mona Chebbou: (19:59)
There was only three contacts that were active to buy or sell at that given moment.

Kylie Davis: (20:03)
Yeah. Out of a database of 11,000, what’s that, what’s my math? That’s a roundabout just under the 1% mark isn’t it, of context that we’re looking to list.

Mona Chebbou: (20:13)
And the agents, again, they can’t make contact with all those people. So they’re not to know who’s actually looking to buy or sell. And again, they can’t physically keep up to date with all of the contacts in their CRM either. So we allow them to build those relationships and remain front of mind at scale we do all the work in the background for them.

Kylie Davis: (20:30)
So we’ve had a question from one of our audience. So how do you identify that someone is selling by using ActivePipe, what’s the trigger?

Mona Chebbou: (20:38)
Yeah, of course. So every single contact in your database has different property needs, and we understand that. And so what ActivePipe does is we use surveys and behavioural data to identify the needs and the intentions of your contacts. So we identify with the upsizing, downsizing, looking to sell or even looking to invest and we can do that as mentioned through surveys. So people are actually putting their hand up and say, “I want to buy a three-bedroom home in these areas. This is my price range.” Or we have really smart behavioural data that we’ve got in the background that’s working and profiling those clients for you.

Kylie Davis: (21:13)
Okay. And so what are the key mistakes that you see agents making that makes it difficult for them to surface leads?

Mona Chebbou: (21:23)
Look, it’s all about going back to basics, Kylie.

Kylie Davis: (21:25)
Yeah the simple stuff.

Mona Chebbou: (21:29)
There’s so many agents that still don’t collect those email addresses and don’t enter data into their CRM. They get phone calls, they get leads and they’re not entered into the CRM. So your CRM is a tool that if you use it correctly it works for you. And without that data being in there again, that’s where the leads get lost. So email addresses and entering that data in without that, it makes it really, really difficult to actually surface leads effectively and efficiently for these agents.

Kylie Davis: (21:55)
And so what’s the behaviour of the agents who are getting the most out of ActivePipe, what are they doing?

Mona Chebbou: (22:03)
Yes. There’s a few things. Again, they collecting email addresses and they entering the data in. So that’s the first step. But we also know that top agents respond to 100% of their leads in under 100 minutes. So it’s about getting in while they hot and that’s why ActivePipe delivers the leads directly to an agent’s inbox. So a second someone tells us we’re an upsize or a downsizer or they want an appraisal that goes straight to the agents and they can contact them immediately. But lastly 54% of the REB top 100 are using ActivePipe. So this is why it’s also so important to be using the correct tools that actually compliment and assist the agents in their day to day.

Kylie Davis: (22:45)
So I think that number 100 minutes, can contact the now under a 100 minutes. That might be one of your numbers, Zoe from some research charging.

Zoe Pointon: (22:53)
Sounds familiar. Yeah.

Kylie Davis: (22:55)
It does sound familiar, doesn’t it?

Zoe Pointon: (22:57)
It’s like calling everybody call them fast before you make contact. If they’ve reached out and they’ve said like, “I’m looking to do something.” Just because I didn’t pick up the first time doesn’t mean that they’ve all of a sudden changed your mind.

Kylie Davis: (23:11)
Yeah. Mona, I just want to ask you too with ActivePipe the thing that I’m always astonished about when I look at the system and I see the whole that agents don’t necessarily get, like it just doesn’t trigger for them but where it does is that ActivePipe is really successful at looking after buyers. It makes it really easy to care for the buyers in your system and provide them with really useful information really quickly. And there’s an awful lot of people who still sensibly believe that they should sell their home before they buy it. But if you can find the people who are looking at especially in that upsize a category then you’re probably going to find people who are looking to sellers as well. So ActivePipe really good at finding, identifying people as buyers who are probably also then likely to sell.

Zoe Pointon: (24:09)
You’re exactly right. No one decides they want to buy a property or they want to list their home and it’s on the market the next day. People do that research. So because ActivePipe actually works off the engagement and we’re continuously nurturing in the background. We can see when your clients come into real estate mode. So if there are sitting dormant and all of a sudden they’re clicking on emails that are in properties that the current listings we can see from where they live to what they’re clicking on and all that engagement and identify before your competitors those that are looking to buy or sell. So it allows you to come in quickly, build the rapport, reengage the relationship if you haven’t spoken to him in a couple of years and as you mentioned, have the opportunity to not only sell them one of your properties but at list their home.

Kylie Davis: (24:54)
Awesome. And, okay, so the questions we got before, which I think I might pop into at this point in the panel too is we’ve talked about, we’re talking and that’s, the focus of today is talking about prospective vendors but is there any way to identify PM’s target prospective landlords?

Mona Chebbou: (25:16)
Through ActivePipe, of course.

Kylie Davis: (25:17)
Yeah. I’d thought so. Do you want to go from there? I know Sarah will have something to say too.

Mona Chebbou: (25:23)
We identify investors. So one of our categories around 10 categories are actually investors. So the opportunity there is when someone’s flagged themselves and investor, you can actually pass that lead onto your property management space and get them to do an introduction. And you’ve got a potential to then list their property or to build on your portfolio just from them flagging that they’re an investor looking to buy or potentially even again looking to sell some of their homes.

Kylie Davis: (25:50)
Okay. So a lot of agents do email marketing badly and then it comes across as spam. What’s your advice on how to avoid that?

Mona Chebbou: (26:03)
Yeah. The beauty of ActivePipe is it’s all based on engagement. So people are clicking, they’ll continue to receive emails and it’s all relevant. So what ActivePipe does is we only send relevant communications. If someone says, they’re looking for a three-bedroom house in X area for X price, they’re only going to receive those properties that are relevant to them. As they click and as they interact, they’ll continue to be taken on a journey. So they’ll receive open for inspection reminders, auction reminders, but they’ll only get those reminders for the properties that they’re engaging in interacting with. So ensuring your database is clean, which again ActivePipe will take care of that for you and sending personalised and relevant communication is the way to then avoid the whole spam or on the other end the unsubscribes.

Kylie Davis: (26:46)
Okay. Awesome. So Sarah, we’re going to move onto you now as co-founder of AiRE and Mother of RiTA, we’ve heard on one side OpenAgent they’ll let you outsource it as an agent and just provide you with qualified leads. We’ve heard from ActivePipe that they can bring it all in-house and help you manage and nurture on leads and everyone’s quoting the REB list. So obviously, there’s lots of agents doing both but where does RiTA and AiRE sit in this spectrum?

Sarah Bell: (27:20)
It’s a really interesting question, Kylie. I think in a way RiTA defies the spectrum because it’s rather than being technology that’s a tool that you use, we’ve positioned RiTA as a collaborative employee that you work with. And so there’s certainly the opportunity to, take leads that she surfaces, we call them opportunities. So RiTA will automate a list of opportunities for you to connect with today and how you resource that is really up to you. You can call them yourself as an agent knowing that it’s an optimised list that’s been produced with artificial intelligence.

Sarah Bell: (28:01)
So that’s the best people for you to connect with at the best time for the best reason or we also have a phone service of telemarketers trained by real estate agents, so we call it AiRE sourcing. So you can have somebody else call that list for you and simply booking appointments. And so the resourcing of the work is something that’s, I guess, less what RiTA is about but what we want to do is make sure that however you design the service that you want to give as a real estate agent and that will be brand dependent, that will be agent dependent and it will be capacity dependent as well. So however, you want to design your service RiTA is going to work with you to execute that. So definitely there’s a lot that she will do automatically and then how you resource the human element of the work once it’s handed over is a design choice for the agent.

Kylie Davis: (28:58)
Unlike OpenAgent and ActivePipe, RiTA is highly configurable, isn’t it? She isn’t out of the box and you just use her the way she’s built to be used. You’ve got a lot of choice around how you set her up and wind her up to go.

Sarah Bell: (29:14)
Yeah, there’s no two businesses that are the same. There’s no two databases that are the same. There’s no two markets that are the same. And so RiTA’s intelligence ends up being bespoke because of the data that she’s fed. And if we look at, I mean, there’s been a lot of conversation about channel, about phone channel and email channel today. And the research or the evidence that we look at AiRE has guided us towards making RiTA an Omni-channel solution. So flowing email and SMS. And that’s because we want to make sure that you get coverage of your database. It’s one of the dirty little secrets that we don’t like to talk about in real estate or marketing, is that your customers have a preference about how they want to be contacted.

Sarah Bell: (30:02)
If you look at a database and they’ve got one in front of me now it’s about 40,000 contacts in it. And over 14,000 of those just don’t have an email address. And a lot of them are older clients, past clients that are really high quality that you just won’t reach if you’re limiting yourself to one channel. And so really what we want to do is make sure that the opportunity from the data is engaged and that we don’t have those drop-offs because of channel. The research talking about lost listings and lead leakage before we did a six-month study with 190 offices and across that group there was $750,000 in GCI per day, every day over those six months in lost opportunities and so our calculation is a little bit higher, it’s about 1.5 million a year per office.

Sarah Bell: (30:59)
That being said, if you’ve got a lot of data it’s bigger than that. I looked at it at a new business this morning and they were at 1.5 million per month. So the data that you have sitting in your database, it’s you’ve got to engage with it and if you are interested in dropping people out of your data model and just talking at the people that want to sell today, then you are only engaging with less than 1% of your data. And that won’t give you the positioning that you need to leverage the relationships that you have in order to win more business. I think certainly there’s a strategy and a place for lots of different tools in business but certainly what I’m seeing from three years of research is that the disengagement over 80% of these property owners that are already in your database, that you already know that I not cold calls because you already had a relationship with them, haven’t heard from agents in six months or more. So there’s the opportunity that’s there to be lost or won if it’s engaged.

Kylie Davis: (32:09)
Okay. So what’s the role of AI in all of this and in surfacing those leads, like how does AI do it better or differently?

Sarah Bell: (32:20)
Yeah. So it comes down to capacity planning there’s that famous saying that we’ve all got the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce and it couldn’t be more true for a real estate agent you’re the product.

Kylie Davis: (32:31)
Yeah. It’s the Beyonce reference that’s throwing me.

Sarah Bell: (32:34)
You are product and so time is really a commodity. Everyone’s got the same hours a day and really it’s about how we optimise that to make agents more productive. So the role of AI and certainly the role of RiTA is to help agents with that business problem that they have every day. I’ve got 40,000 people pieces of data in my database, who is the best person for me to talk to today at the best possible time, for the best possible reason. And so AI gives us the ability to take multiple sources of data and answer that much more complex question so that the service that you can provide as a real estate agent is hyper-personalised. So instead of just recognising that somebody might fall into the category of a seller, RiTA will recognise it or property owner and she will also find, for example, that a property on the same street has been listed by a competitor agent.

Sarah Bell: (33:35)
So that’s your client, you’ve got the relationship with. It gives you the opportunity to get in front of that competitor agents letter box drops or door knocks or listing marketing that they’re doing, call your client and have that conversation that’s hyper relevant to them. I’m your real estate agent, I’m the expert in your area, there’s property on your street that’s come up for sale, would you be interested in a comparable valuation to that one or comparable appraisal to that one? And so by not only maintaining contact and engaging with your database, making sure that you’re engaging with the best people each day. We’re also engaging with them in a hyper-relevant way, not treating them as a segment, treating them as an individual with a really situational context as to where they are not only in their real estate journey, but in their community. And AI is the only technical means that that allows for that complexity.

Kylie Davis: (34:38)
So what’s the response been to the agents or to agents that you’re dealing with whether they’re clients or not clients, but what’s their response been to this idea of them needing AI to do it, do they see it as an additional layer of complication and complexity, or are they or are they more than happy to hand over to RiTA?

Sarah Bell: (35:00)
Yeah. So Simplexity is one about design value.

Kylie Davis: (35:02)
Simplexity.

Sarah Bell: (35:05)
Simplexity and it’s really about taking all of that complex stuff that’s happening in RiTA’s brain and just presenting it really simply to the agent. Here’s who to call here’s what to say today. And it’s funny like I thought when we started on this journey that our avatar would be the young up and coming stockless tech savvy, real estate agent.

Kylie Davis: (35:28)
With the amazing eyebrows.

Sarah Bell: (35:31)
And I called all my friends that fit that bill and then I started calling other people. And it’s funny I’ve got a beautiful client over in Perth. And he’s a, let’s say a veteran of the industry.

Kylie Davis: (35:46)
He wears socks basically.

Sarah Bell: (35:47)
He wears socks, yeah. He’s been around for a very long time and he’s never engaged with technology well. He’s had a CRM and he’s just always relied on having a go for that which is terrible phrasing but he hasn’t known how to drive…

Kylie Davis: (36:07)
It’s a no brainer I can do it.

Sarah Bell: (36:07)
He hasn’t known how to drive at all. And so but with RiTA, what she’s done is just put in front of him every day what the goal was and the goal did in terms of like who to call and what to say. And he said to me, “You know what RiTA has given me my cards back.” I was like, what do you mean? And he’s like, “Well, back before everything was in the computer I just used to have a box of cards and I could just pull out the cards and I’d know who to call and RiTA has just like gone through and given me the cards that I need for the day.” And so it’s been really interesting to go, “Yes AI, it’s super complex and automation is this fantastic engine that drives this whole new future of work.” But actually it can be as simple as here’s who to call and a conversation you can have with this person and don’t worry about the rest. Let RiTA worry about all of that.

Kylie Davis: (37:10)
She’ll take care of it all for you. So how important or dominant is solving the problem of lead generation in the work that RiTA does, what else is she doing for agents or agencies?

Sarah Bell: (37:23)
Yeah, so lead generation is the easy part because we’ve proven there’s plenty of opportunity in the data that exists. And so the challenge that we now have with where are the other gaps, what’s happening but then in the data and in the human process to stop that leakage? And so from the data, certainly there’s through the buyer channel read has got the capability to intelligently respond to buyer inquiry. So when an inquiry comes in from REA and RiTA will understand the questions using natural language processing, she’ll go to the CRM, find the information, answer that in natural language and customers really don’t have a comprehension that it’s not a real human. They’re like, “Thanks RiTA. That was great.”

Sarah Bell: (38:14)
And then what she does for the agent is then she will update the CRM. She’ll also find out if they’re a property owner and she’ll present that match to the agent. So we’ve got a buyer inquiry on this particular property who owns this particular property and you should call them now about that and then you can have a hyper relevant conversation. I think that you’ve inquired one, two, three Smith Street and you on 7th Church Street, did you want to have a conversation about the swap over? And so it is a highly targeted, highly personalised or you can send a text message, multi-channel approach to that.

Sarah Bell: (38:53)
And the other challenge and we’ve all talked about leads and lead generation today. But the problem that we haven’t really talked about is leads presented to agents. And then what, because after leads are presented to agents are they calling them, are they following up on them on those leads? What happens if they call and that person that he said wasn’t on the list today actually wants to list in six months’ time, what happens between now and six months? And they usually just fall out of the data model. So in terms of solving that problem RiTA has strategies in terms of organising everyone into a seller timeline and presenting relevant topics and prioritising people based on where they fit in that timeline to make sure that they don’t fall out of the data model. So that potential lead today isn’t… Even if one and two is listing today, you still got 50% of that lead that you’ve generated that will drop out of the data model that needs to be recycled so that you get them when they can do.

Kylie Davis: (39:58)
So what about in the property managers space. Are you guys doing anything in that space?

Sarah Bell: (40:03)
Yeah. And really cool stuff. So we’ve got clients that have actually allow their property managers or the BDMs to have access to the sales database. And that’s been one of the biggest blockages because you have all of this beautiful data of property owners and service history that exists in the sales CRM and the PM’s aren’t allowed to use it. They’ll have another system with 200 or 300 contacts and they’re supposed to generate 10 new listings a month and the volume is just not there to do that. So certainly there’s heaps of opportunities those buyer’s sellers for example they might be buyer investors because no one lives in two houses. So if they’re not selling, it’s an investment opportunity.

Sarah Bell: (40:50)
So if the sales agent finds that out, they can assign that opportunity to a BDM to follow up and you do that or within RiTA. And it just makes sure that that doesn’t fall through the gap. For example, if there’s a property owner in our database and their property comes on the market as a vacant rental with a competitor, there’s RiTA will put that much together and if they’re the best people for you to call she’ll present that to the BDM to go and offer either a sales appraisal, because it’s vacant or a rental appraisal is a second opinion and then once they’re identified as an investor the BDMs will nurture the relationship in the same way that the sales person would.

Kylie Davis: (41:38)
Awesome. So does RiTA’s stand for anything or is it just a name?

Sarah Bell: (41:43)
RiTA stands for Real Estate Intelligent Transaction Assistant.

Kylie Davis: (41:48)
Thank you very much. So Sarah where do you think AI is it going next and how is that going to affect how real estate agents work?

Sarah Bell: (41:58)
Yeah, I think hyper personalization is the future of marketing. I think people have worked out as we sit here, I’m still getting 10,000 emails about everybody’s COVID policies that from everywhere I’ve gone to toothbrush in the last 10 years. And I think people were worked out that brands are not their friends and that I’m being very targeted on Facebook right now. I think…

Kylie Davis: (42:26)
It’s not the universe telling me to.

Sarah Bell: (42:28)
Yeah. Consumers aren’t silly 100% and real estate as well. This is a professional fee and it’s a position of grave trust that people are engaged with. It’s not selling consumer goods fashion or soy candles or whatever else we buy on the internet shoes. And so I really think that the hyper personalization and the differentiation of agents by relationship and service history will be a competitive battleground for agents for agents.

Sarah Bell: (43:00)
If I had a real estate guy who treats me as an individual and knows my context and knows my circumstance and we haven’t a relationship, a lot of that relationship can be had with my digital assistant as my digital double in terms of the leg legwork and the capacity management of that relationship. But certainly, I want to go in there not as one of three agents on equal footing, I want to go in there as the preferred agent, the trusted agent who is positioned for the business. And it has been there at the right time providing that information and building that trust in a hyper relevant way. So that’s where I think AI is geared and going at facilitating that hyper-personalised experience.

Kylie Davis: (43:48)
Fantastic. Well, look, let’s open it up to a broader discussion. Thanks everybody so much. We’ve been getting quite a few questions down the tunnel, but if anyone has got any questions pop them into the Q&A where we’re working through them. With COVID we saw pretty much and lockdowns really affected the volume of properties on the market and credited a huge shortage of listings, how did it impact your businesses, who wants to start?

Zoe Pointon: (44:23)
I’m happy to. Look it hurts, right? Especially for OpenAgent. We actually only get paid when the agent gets paid in 99% of our products that we offer. So, if there’s zero listings there’s zero revenue for their agent, there’s also zero revenue for OpenAgents. That’s a real problem. That said, we actually launched our Prospecting Assist Product in the pandemic giving agents I guess, a better way to engage with their own data and position themselves for those people who will transact because as Sarah rightly pointed out, this is not retail or online shopping the demand is there, right?

Zoe Pointon: (45:13)
So if you’re going to translate, you’re transacting for a life reason and so building that relationship is really important. And so we launched that product and even through the pandemic we actually didn’t lose a single customer. In fact, we grew a brand new product line. So there were you’ve got to adjust and adapt just your customer, but I think it goes to show that those very, very best agents stay focused on the bigger goal here knowing that there’ll be pent up demand on the other side of this and I want to be well positioned to write more business on that other side and it’s exactly what we’re seeing with our customers.

Kylie Davis: (45:55)
And what about you Mona, how did you fair?

Mona Chebbou: (45:58)
Yes. I mean, similar to Zoe, let it hurt and our customers felt it so we’re affected, right? But we spoke to our clients we listened and we supported them through it. We were agile as a business and we managed to build a release in excess of three new features throughout the pandemic. But whilst COVID has been tough, one thing we did see was a surge in adoption of tech and it actually shifted digital marketing from a nice to have for a must have for the real estate industry. So as tough as it was agents recognise they actually need digital marketing, they need to invest in the technology to actually support and assist them through times this and we saw that shift happened very, very quickly.

Kylie Davis: (46:44)
What about you Sarah?

Sarah Bell: (46:45)
Yeah, so COVID happens straight off the back of a tour. It did hit every Australian and New Zealand city at the beginning of the year. The wall that was hit by the industry so suddenly. It affected everyone and the real estate industry our clients there, they are my friends as well that have been in the industry for two decades as a business owner. And it was really tough to see people and just struggling and not have any clarity on how to handle this. And so what we did is we took the ingredients of COVID and we were working on a new version and our developers put their heads down and some of them are working 18-20 hour days for weeks at a time. In the very earliest stages of COVID we released our new version of RiTA with some features that would really help our clients with COVID.

Sarah Bell: (47:44)
So when you’re stuck at home in lockdown and your clients are one of the things that you can do is communicate with your database and we had a product for that. But what we did was built in the ability to make private inspection appointments directly from the RiTA interface and then email customers invitations to those calendar appointments and things that that would really practically help our agents deal with the new terrain that had been thrust upon them. So again, it was about agility and I think one of our values is care. I think it comes from just a deep care for the industry.

Sarah Bell: (48:24)
And our approach was like, “How can we help?” We’ve got all this research and all this capability in terms of a product that we have sovereignty over what we do with it. So how do we just put our heads down and deliver something that’s going to help people right now. And so we also grew during COVID but I think something I’m really proud of is that our team stayed intact. We employed more people. We supported our customers. I know I was on about 20 Zooms a day helping people learn the platform and helping with scripts and things that. And we managed to as well bring our customers together.

Sarah Bell: (49:05)
So when Victoria went into the harshest levels of lockdown we had customers who’d really excelled during those circumstances in Oakland. And so Megan Jaffe team in AiRE, we had Nick Lyus who is a beautiful human being and a wonderful agent there do a webinar with all of our Victorian clients taking them through how he handled dialogue and talking with his customers during COVID. And I think he did more in the month after lockdown than he did in the 12 months prior to COVID because of those conversations and the engagement that he’d had during that lockdown. So it was a real… I think we had the opportunity to share stories of hope as well just because of how invested we are in the community.

Kylie Davis: (49:56)
Awesome. But we are still in a period of extraordinary low listings. What are you seeing ladies that the near future looks, when do you think we’re going to come out of this period, what are your systems indicating that when is the market gonna get back to normal in terms of leads, and what’s a normal market? A normal market is around about 400 to 500,000 listings a year do you reckon, what do you recommend there?

Sarah Bell: (50:31)
Yeah, I was selling during the JFC when listings dropped because people didn’t have the cash to transact. No one could afford stamp duty to move or removal. And that’s what made JFC, the JFC tough. It wasn’t the lack of finance it was lack of stock. And I think certainly being in those conditions again, I think government’s got a role to play the new South Wales announcement earlier this week in terms of stamp duty reform, I think will be a big thing. I think there’s a lot of levers that can be pulled to get us back to a normal market. And I’m confident that, that our regulators are aware that the economy of Australia no longer rides in the back of sheep in a way it rides on…

Kylie Davis: (51:25)
It turns up at an auction on a Saturday.

Sarah Bell: (51:28)
Absolutely it does. And so I’m confident that we understand the importance of the property sector in terms of recovering from not only the crash of COVID, but the tail and the drag of it.

Kylie Davis: (51:44)
So your platform sees a lot of data coming through it and big picture, what are you saying?

Zoe Pointon: (51:50)
Yeah, look, there are still plenty of sellers out there. And I sort of made the point before people transact largely and property, not opportunistically but because they’ve got stuff going on in life that means they need to transact and that’s still going to happen. And, we absolutely still see plenty of sellers coming through. I think the key here is being the smartest and this isn’t about the shiny glittery tool, it’s about consistency. And there’s a great saying that that I love which is just like, “When times are good chop wood carry water and when times are bad chop wood and carry water.” It’s exactly the same stuff. And what’s really, really hard is to do that every day.

Zoe Pointon: (52:34)
A lot of people can make 50 calls once, maybe once a month. Very few people can do it do all the things that they need to do every day, every week and if you do those small things and you do them well, you won’t have a problem in your business because absolutely your competition is not doing that. And that’s what I would say to the agents and particularly our customers say like, “Let us help you just make sure that you can have that consistency in your business every single day.”

Kylie Davis: (53:00)
Fantastic. And so where do we think the future of lead generation is going because I’m conscious of the times that’s going to try and wrap this up, where do we think the future is, what’s coming next?

Zoe Pointon: (53:15)
I think all of us are saying, some similar things, right? Different solutions to a very similar problem. There’s a lot of data out there that an agent has and there’s a lot of tech and smarter ways of using that data across checking it against other data sets, whether they be core logic data sets, economic data sets or OpenAgent data sets and things that to generate the warmest leads. Then being able to know a lot and have a personalised conversation with that person, I think all of us and being able to do follow-ups at the appropriate time with the appropriate content. I think all of us would probably agree with that fanatic.

Zoe Pointon: (53:55)
And then it’s just choosing the tool and going all in really, really making sure we make the most of that tool that you have chosen or that stack or that approach that you’ve chosen. And then for me, I would just say recognising your own strengths and recognising where you can get help be that technical help or human help to have that consistency, it’s actually simple. The solution here is to make sure who’s likely to be transacting, make the calls that you need to make, be responsive and then do what you do best and be able to rely on a really solid stack to help you do that. So that will be my piece. I think there’s a lot of consistency across the group but I’d love to hear what the other ladies have to say.

Kylie Davis: (54:45)
Mona, what do you think?

Mona Chebbou: (54:48)
I agree with Sarah. I mean, these days’ people want their name on a card bottle. People want their name on a veggie mart or on their beach towels. So again, being relevant and being hyper personalised and relevant is super important in lead generation. People are going to go to those that they trust and those that are front of mind. I don’t know about you, but I open my inbox and I have about 50 emails every single day from different online shopping or real estate agents or whatever it may be. The name that they know, the name they trust is what’s going to stand out to most of them. What’s personalised is what’s going to stand out most, that’s what’s going to get the cut-through. So it’s all of that comes back to nurturing those relationships, building long lasting relationships and remaining front of mind consistently so that way your clients come back to you.

Kylie Davis: (55:34)
Awesome, and Sarah.

Sarah Bell: (55:36)
Yeah, I think we’re going to be able to leverage technology for the greater productivity. So in terms of providing that hyper personalised service and it actually scaling the human function, I think as AI continues to learn and to become more humanised in a way that it naturally interacts and conversationally interacts conversational marketing is huge emergent untapped field in real estate. And I think that as we see these more humanised technologies taking form I think the real estate agent will be able to leverage those with a minimal investment in resources and have the same impact as they would have if they traditionally had put on very expensive human resources to help them gain more productivity. So that’s where I see the focus for the next 12 months and I think in the 21st Century we don’t look too far beyond 12 months because who knows what AI is going to do next.

Kylie Davis: (56:44)
Well, I mean, they’re saying out of COVID that we’re going to see an increase in divorces and increase in babies and that both of those things made a lot more property listings in the future because they’re actions that basically indicate someone’s going to move. So hopefully we’ll see a lot more listings coming through too.

Sarah Bell: (57:02)
See, I’m always ahead of the curve, I have a son.

Kylie Davis: (57:05)
Well, you’re not the only one Sarah, Zoe had a baby this year, too.

Sarah Bell: (57:08)
So congratulations to her.

Kylie Davis: (57:12)
Your turn next Mona. Now, ladies we could discuss this all day, but we are going to have to wrap it up. So I wanted to thank our panellists, Zoe Pointon, Mona Chebbou and Sarah Bell. Thank you so much for your time and your insights. It’s been a great discussion today.

Sarah Bell: (57:28)
Thanks.

Zoe Pointon: (57:29)
Thanks for having us on.

Mona Chebbou: (57:30)
Thanks Kylie.

Kylie Davis: (57:31)
And I’d also to thank the PropTech association committee, Simon Hayes, Jennifer Harrison, Marie-Anne Lampotang, AJ Chand and Kylie Dillon for their help with this event. And a very big thank you to Stone & Chalk for getting behind the event and their support for Australian PropTech. We will be sending out links to panel on YouTube and you’ll also be able to hear it as a podcast as a bonus episode for the PropTech podcast. So follow the PropTech association on LinkedIn. We have more than a thousand members now and if you’d to join the PropTech Association, it’s time to commit for the new year so sign up at http://www.proptechassociation.com.edu. So thank you everyone for your time. Thank you again to our panellists. Our next panel is actually going to be in the New Year. We’re finalising all the topics now and we will also be launching a second monthly series covering commercial real estate. So stay tuned for that. Until next year, Happy Christmas everybody. Keep on PropTeching. This is Kylie Davis signing off. Thanks.

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