Russ Cofano the CEO at Collabra Technology talks about his long experience with law school background working in a law firm legal hotline. Russ discussed the importance of eXp model and how the timing is incredibly valuable to effectiveness of this model. Next, he talks about a tool that his company has developed with the purpose to help agents build their digital marketing part of the job. Last, he explains why sales without marketing and branding is only half of the equation of digital marketing.
If you’d prefer to watch this interview, click here to view on YouTube!
This episode is brought to you by Real Geeks.
D.J. Paris 0:00
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a tool that existed that measured all of your social media channels and effectiveness and engagement and compared it among the top Realtors in your marketplace and then told you what to do to get to their level? Well, stay tuned. This episode of Keeping it real is brought to you by real geeks. How many homes are you going to sell this year? Do you have the right tools? Is your website turning soft leads and interested buyers? Are you spending money on leads that aren’t converting? Well real geeks is your solution. Find out why agents across the country choose real geeks as their technology partner. Real geeks was created by an agent for agents. They pride themselves on delivering a sales and marketing solution so that you can easily generate more business. Their agent websites are fast and built for lead conversion with a smooth search experience for your visitors. Real geeks also includes an easy to use agent CRM. So once a lead signs up on your website, you can track their interest and have great follow up conversations. Real geeks is loaded with a ton of marketing tools to nurture your leads and increase brand awareness visit real geeks.com forward slash keeping it real pod and find out why Realtors come to real geeks to generate more business again, visit real geeks.com forward slash keeping it real pod. And now on to our show.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keeping it real the largest podcast made by real estate agents and for real estate agents. My name is DJ Parris. I’m your guide and host through the show. And in just a moment we’re going to be speaking with Ruska Fano about his new venture sphere builder.io. Before we get to Russ, just a couple of quick reminders. As always the best two ways that you can help support our podcast. Number one, support our sponsors, check out what our sponsors are offering we love our sponsors, they pay the bills, and please check out their products and services and to tell a friend about the show. Tell one other realtor that you know you gotta listen to this episode. Specifically today we’re going to be talking about how to measure your social media presence against all the top producers in your marketplace. Very very cool stuff. So tell someone else about our show. That’s always the best way that you can help us keep going. But guys let’s get right to it my conversation with Ruska Fano?
Right, today our guest is Russ confido With Collabra technology. Let me tell you more about Russ now. Ruska. Fido is the CEO of Collabra technology, a digital marketing technology and analytics firm, which operates sphere builder, a comprehensive digital marketing platform that instantly provides comparative ranking and personalized insights about an agent’s online presence. Now Cabano has more than 30 years of senior leadership experience in nearly all facets of the real estate industry including brokerage technology, MLS associations and affiliated businesses go find his previous roles include President and General Counsel of EXP world holdings, Senior Vice President of industry relations at move dot inc, which is the owner of realtor.com By the way, I always thought realtor.com was owned by the National Association of REALTORS not not so anymore move dot move dot inc sorry moved attic move Inc owns and Russ is also was the Vice President and General Counsel at John L. Scott real estate and CEO of the Missouri Realtors Association. Kobato holds a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor from the University of Washington. Welcome Russ to the show. By the way, before we welcome Russ, everyone, I want you to go to sphere builder.io Sphere builder.io. And I want you to put in your information to download their white paper, specifically referencing and this is an incredible white paper about digital marketing use cases for real estate agents, you’re going to see what top agents are currently doing to expand their digital presence and engagement and improve their business. Russ, welcome to the show.
Russ Cofano 4:31
Thank you, DJ, thanks for having me. And looking forward to a great discussion about marketing for real estate agents.
D.J. Paris 4:37
Yeah, let’s let’s let’s dive into it normally, I mean, you’ve done you’ve done everything in this industry. You’ve been on really all different sides of the business. I’d actually I’d love to first before we get into marketing. We’d love to learn a little bit about your journey, sort of how did you get involved in real estate? Obviously, you know, you you’re an attorney, you’ve run Businesses and also worked in various aspects of real estate. So just walk us through kind of how you got involved
Russ Cofano 5:07
by at complete accident. So after law school, I was a lawyer that went into and my, I really wanted to be a developer. That was where my thought my calling was, I felt I, I, as a young boy, I really enjoyed going on vacations, my family, you know, was a middle class family. And so, you know, we would go on on car trips, and a lot of plane trips, and occasionally, we would stay at, you know, a decent hotel, never real luxury stuff that was not within my family’s means. And, and I wanted to build hotels, I thought that was really cold people like love going into hotels, and I thought it would be great to be a developer of some luxury hotels. And it the time I got out of law school, the commercial real estate industry was, you know, interest rates were, you know, hovering around 20%, it was just not a great time to be in the building business. And so got some great advices and you want to go be a lawyer and, and help developers from a legal side and then learn the business. And then once the market gets better, then you can, you know, actually move to the business side, I never intended to be a lawyer long term ever. And I got into this law firm, and by chance, a pure by chance, they were in a really good real estate specialty. And that’s what I wanted to do. They operated the legal hotline for the Washington Association of Realtors. And, you know, for those agents that watch, they know that in many states, there’s a legal hotline where you can call and get, you know, answers to your questions, etc. And so this law firm, basically had the contract for providing the Legal Hotline. And as the newbie, I that became part of my job,
D.J. Paris 7:05
you got to be the guy that answered the phones, I got to be the guy that answer
Russ Cofano 7:08
the phones. And so And initially, I thought, come on this is this is not I’m not building hotels here, I’m, I’m talking to realtors, right. And yet, I fell in love with I fell in love with, with the people in the industry. They are people that are glass half full people they have to be because it’s such a tough job. And they were so appreciative of of information that we gave them, I would get calls many times before they would call their broker, but they didn’t want their broker to know that they sold the house twice. Or, or, you know, other really challenging scenarios. And, and I just fell in love with the business, I fell in love with the people, all those things. And so that was sort of an entree sort of diverted the path. And then this law firm also did a lot of work representing realtor associations and multiple listing services, and brokerage companies. And I just, my my career just fell into that path. And that’s through sort of it just, you know, sometimes you get into a stream, and it takes you downstream and you don’t really decide to go there. It just takes you there. And I’m really fortunate that I’ve had a wonderful career that didn’t end up being a hotel developer. And, and I practice law for about 10 years. And then I during the the time when the internet actually became something of a commercial medium. I was became fascinated. I had a brother who was very much on the technology side and he kept on sending me things and I just I couldn’t get enough of where I thought this thing called the internet was going to be the 90s Right. And I started developing a specialty around data licensing and it was what at the time when multiple listing services. So realtor.com started you know, it came on to the scene homes.com Cyber homes if people remember that I mean just arrived the initial portals and and they were going to the MLS is and seeking to license data and MLS at the time. And many of them were still operating off literally computers and big rooms as opposed to the PC. Right. And so this was, you know, a long time ago, relatively speaking, and they didn’t really understand IP intellectual property and what it meant to date licensed data and all that and so I became that guy I started doing work for MLS across the country and helping them live Since their data, and I remember I was at one of the very first inland conferences, late 90s. And I was doing a speech on data and IP and real estate. And there were some guys in the audience that were running a little startup company in Seattle, they had gone down to San Francisco. And they heard me talk. And when I got back, I got a phone call from them. They said, hey, you know, we’re some extra Microsoft developers. We’re building this new application, it was one of the very first virtual tour applications. And they, they said, we need, we need some help, right? We know how to build great technology, but we don’t really understand this real estate world. And so I started being their lawyer. And then shortly thereafter, I got so enamored with what they were doing, and the opportunity to build some really cool technology that I jumped for my law firm became CEO of this little startup company, and we did the whole startup thing and eventually failed. You know, we, we almost got bought by one of the big players, but NASDAQ and the crash of NASDAQ really took the sales out of that process and learned a ton about technology development, learned a ton about bringing product to this industry. Some great lessons learned even though we ended up failing as a startup, wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s helping me today, learning going through the things we went back literally 20 years ago. And, and I don’t know all the right answers. But one thing that experience does is it tells you what alleys not to go down, right? And because if you go down that alley, you’re gonna get beat up, right? So the wisdom that I learned is what not to do. There’s still a lot of learnings about what to do in a very dynamic environment. From there, I went back into the brokerage side and my career ventually took me into organized real estate with the Missouri Association of Realtors, and and then back in 2014. Zillow was really making some headway against realtor.com Real Talk comm went from the number one portal to the number three portal I remember. Yeah, behind Zillow and Trulia. And, and some major execs left Zillow, and went or left realtor.com and went to Zillow. And that opened up a spot to come in and, and so I joined realtor.com. And at a time when they were going through some changes and being acquired by Rupert Murdoch, and and, and that organization and learned a lot again from from a technology portal standpoint, leads and all that and then left realtor.com and got the chance to, to help exp in the initial growth phase with the company, which was tremendously exciting and interesting. exp is a great company. You know, bringing a new model to real estate and the challenges around that. Again, another great learning opportunity and eventually left them and took some time off and got rejuvenated and then got this opportunity to come to collaborate and build what we think is a is a truly groundbreaking application for helping real estate agents be better marketers.
D.J. Paris 13:35
I’m really excited to dive into that I did want to touch since you you were, you know, part of EXP and helping them in really in their growth phase, which seems like they’re always in growth phase and they have just been skyrocketing. But that is a true success story. I mean, I am We’re an independent brokerage here in Chicago, so we’re not affiliated with anyone but we have about 800 agents or so here. And I know how long it took us to build that and I if I had one regret it was boy I wish I would have come up with the EXP model before exp because boy, are they just taking the ball and running with it. Basically the way I understand exp model is they took what Keller Williams had attempted to do in the past but didn’t quite have it fleshed out in the same sort of program, this idea of having a downline and having agents kind of underneath you and really just leaning into that model and realizing what exp realized I think that no other brokerage realized is that they leaned into this whole influencer kind of idea where people can build these online presences on YouTube on tick tock and really become this broker that or agent that other agents follow. And then that draws people in. I mean, I’ve interviewed some exp agents. I’ve had them on my show who have like 1000 Plus team members, because they’re a real popular or a person online and they provide all this value to other agents and then agents sign up is really an incredible thing that sort of caught fire. And I’ve always thought exp is really a b2b brand a business to business and not really a b2c brand. I don’t think I don’t think they care that much about the consumer because they focus all of their effort for their marketing on the b2b side, which again, it’s just such a brilliant idea. My hats, my hat’s off to them. I think exp does some really, really neat things. And they’ve really caught lightning in a bottle. I think very, very impressively.
Russ Cofano 15:33
Yeah, you know, the, the model, what, what exp is a perfect example of is how timing is so incredibly important to the effectiveness of a model. So Glen actually started exp in 2009. I think 2008 2009. And I met Glenn, when I firstname.lastname@example.org, I ran what was called our broker advisory board. And Glenn was on that that board, which was kind of weird, because not that Glenn’s not a smart guy, but but we had, you know, the biggest companies in the country on our brokerage doors, and we had this at exp, which was at the time at 500 agents in a kind of an odd model. Nobody got Yeah, nobody really understood it. Yeah, it stood it right. And so exp really kind of bumped around for about six, seven years. Before a variety of things came together and and the model took off and it was Right Place Right Time. For that model to come to the industry when the industry was looking for an alternative to agents were looking for an alternative with can be multiple streams of income, give me autonomy, it’s not about your brand is about my brand, my brand new agent. All those things leveraging a digital environment there exp world as and using the savings from that to be able to fund these alternatives, streams of income better, you know, revenue share model versus profit share model of kW stock you know, all those things were were groundbreaking right, Brett groundbreaking and, and it was just a perfect storm, in a good way. Good storm for the for the folks at exp that really got it going and continue to do quite well.
D.J. Paris 17:31
It’s funny, you say that the timing thing. So we’re at our brokerage here in Chicago. And I know we’re getting a little into the weeds. But just for people, I think this is kind of interesting for them to hear. And then we’ll dive really deep into marketing and branding. But we’re 100% firm, which which just means we have a transaction fee versus splits for our brokers. And we’ve made friends with pretty much all the big 100% firms all over the country. And we sort of do a lot of these mastermind meetings. And what we found funny enough from talking to all these, these big 100% firms is that usually almost in almost every case, they were first to market, they were just happened to be the first one in their city to do it. And so you’re right. And same with us. I would love to say that we are so brilliant that we had this thought and we executed it and the reality of it was it was perfect timing. We just got we got lucky. And you know, it’s well
Russ Cofano 18:23
yeah, I wouldn’t say you got lucky. I say you I mean I think luck is a is a function of of strategy, right that effort and effort you put your you make your luck. And so congrats. 100%. Agree,
D.J. Paris 18:42
I just need the timing was very fortunate. Had we done it six months before, after it might have had a different result. So sometimes the timing, timing works out. But you’re right, it’s ultimately it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But anyway, let’s talk about sphere builder because I am a big believer, and I’m quoting one of our frequent guests on our show Ryan de April, I don’t want to steal his words. But it’s probably not probably not even his initial words. But he’s something he professes to all of his agents, which is your network, your net worth is or your network is your net worth, right. So the idea that your sphere is really where you’re going to build your business, maintain your business, that is your asset. And so this idea of deep, sort of figuring out how to further deepen those relationships, create more bonds, more connection is only going to help grow the business. But you need help to do that. And that’s what you guys do. So let’s talk about sphere builder.
Russ Cofano 19:43
So, sphere builder is a we’ll talk about the application. But I want to talk more about sort of this, this movement that we’re trying to create around this idea of building a digital sphere. And it’s got sort of multifaceted to it. The first is that as to your point. Agents, when you go into a room, if you say to a group of agents, do you have a sphere? One out? They all they all say yes, I’ve got Yeah. And they know what it is right. And they know it is because it’s so important to their business and, and, you know, just this last week, some data came out. Zillow now owns 50% of the search market. And, and when you look at 98% of search is owned by big portals and by some large brokerage companies, only 2% is owned by the rest of the the entire rest of the industry, right? It used to be that and what is search search is today’s version of the Sunday paper from 20 years ago, that acted as a place where people could get outreach to or from, and so the industry, whether it’s right or wrong, lost the search battle, it’s gone. It’s now owned by other people that, you know, the traditional industry view is non traditionalist. So the question is, does that mean that the industry is subservient to those folks? And the answer is no, because the sphere, who agents know, in their local communities, their local presence, cannot be matched by a portal. And, and it’s that group of people that know like, and we talked about this all the time that know like and trust the agent, you’re walking down the street, you’re in your local environment, and and you’re the expert. You’re the influencer in your local community. And, and yet, when we talk about spheres of influence, most agents are really able to talk about how that sphere works in real life, you know, the 100, or 200 people that are in their quote, unquote Rolodex, or a CRM, that if they walked down the street and bumped into him, they could have a conversation. But what we’ve seen is that today, with the emergence of the digital world, social channels, Google, all those things, there is another sphere of influence. And that’s what we call the digital sphere of influence. And we believe, and our data shows that the tools and strategies and tactics used to build your sphere in real life, where you are engaged, your personality comes out, all those things are different than the tools and tactics and strategies that are that are necessary to build your digital sphere. And yet that digital sphere, the breadth, and the scope of that sphere can be 10 101,000x, the number of people that can be in your real life sphere. And and can do this by can do the same thing. It can create that know like trust relationship, that that is not reliant on search engines or portals or paid lead gen or all that to generate great word of mouth referrals. And at the end of the day, the best and most sustainable businesses in real estate, operate off those word of mouth referrals and repeat business.
D.J. Paris 23:37
So if I just to recap what you said, because you said a lot, and I want to make sure that I caught it correctly. This idea of having a digital sphere will say is can get the same results as a in person sphere, we’ll call it we’ll just I’ll just use in person and digital as as opposites. And in person sphere, we know we understand that we understand the value of that we also know that there’s a value to the digital sphere. What what I guess the distinction we’re making is that both can get you incredible results. But with the digital side number one, your reach is exponential, because of course, the way that technology connects us via social is obviously apparent to everyone but also the techniques or the practices to cultivate the digital sphere is going to be a different set of practices or some degree different than what you might do in person to develop those relationships.
Russ Cofano 24:36
That’s correct. And, and most agents today do a very poor job of being a digital marketer. Now I want to I want to, and it’s not because they’re not able to, I mean, they’re certainly capable. They just haven’t learned the tools and the techniques in order to do that.
D.J. Paris 24:56
Right. I was laughing because I put myself in the poor digital mode. I couldn’t category as well. So I am one of one I am one of, I am just like the listeners,
Russ Cofano 25:07
and you have lots of friends. So don’t don’t feel alone in that in that category. And it’s important that one thing that we were one of our mantras is this in, in every organization, there is a sales function, there’s a sales department, and there’s a marketing department. And they’re different. They’re they’re managed by different talent sets, the the deliverables are different sales is about lead gen and conversion, and the driving of revenue. And marketing is about positioning and branding. And, and creating a fertile ground for the salespeople to to work off of, they work synergistically and collectively together toward the same result. But they’re fundamentally different functions in any organization. A real estate agent is an organization, it’s a business, right? And, and what we believe is that, and it’s, it’s a sales business. So the people that come into it, tend to be great on the sales side, they know how to lead generate, they’re good at it. It’s, you know, the technology tools that have been built today are focused on lead generation, if you go to any Facebook group, and you talk about you throw out the word lead, Gen, you’ve got people from a variety of different perspectives, talking about the best, the next, the coolest, the newest lead generation scenario, big companies talk about the leverage of lead gen lead gen lead gen, all great. But lead gen without marketing. Sales without marketing is only half of the equation. And, and so our perspective, and our technology is designed to help agents not be better lead generators, there’s plenty of stuff out there to be lead generators, but actually help agents be better digital marketers. And that’s what we’re trying to solve a sphere builder. Because we want the business to come to agents through building of great spheres, as opposed to an agent having to go cultivate that business, your lead generation.
D.J. Paris 27:18
Interesting. So how do you do that?
Russ Cofano 27:21
Well, first of all, the cool thing about the digital sphere, and a digital agents online presence is it’s measurable with data, we can actually look and we have a tool called sphere index. It’s the first tool of its kind, it’s groundbreaking. It’s a real time analytics tool, where an agent will come in and provide to us their social handles their Google business profile, their Zillow review page variety of places where they show up online, they give us those public profiles, and then we have an application that goes out and essentially crawls those sites, takes looks at the at the publicly accessible data, we don’t look at private stuff, we’re just looking at what anybody would see. If I went to your, your Facebook page or Instagram page, we have a we have a way to look at that we capture it. And then we run it through an algorithm that basically measures and puts different I’ll call it emphasis on certain activities. And then we come up with a score. And that’s what we call our sphere index score. It takes about three minutes. It’s free. And it’s it’s the first like I said, real time scoring mechanism of an agent’s digital presence. It’s important that when you begin a digital marketing journey, you begin with a baseline, because what happens what’s happening in the industry today, agents will go to a conference or they’ll see something on Facebook or they’ll go to the watch somebody somewhere they say you should do this. And so they’ll throw that piece of spaghetti at the wall, and then it will generate immediate results. They go, Oh, that didn’t work. And then they’ll go see somebody else saying something else and they go, they’ll take that other piece of an Italian guy, so you know, the it won’t be spaghetti. It’ll be rigatoni. They’ll throw rigatoni at the wall. Right? And, and that didn’t work, right, that didn’t produce a lead, oh, shoot, then they’ll see somebody else. And they’ll say, Well, that’s some vermicelli and then throw those vermicelli at the wall. And and, and so they’re constantly throwing things at the wall. We want to get them off of that of that treadmill and say look at let’s look at where you are. Let’s measure it. Let’s measure it against a benchmark. And this is the cool thing that we developed. We have what’s called a local pro benchmark. And the idea is that and if you go to our site, you’ll see We We essentially create a score of zero to 100 as to how effective an agent is in their digital marketing presence. But if we just said to you DJ, your score is 45, you’re gonna go, great. What does that mean? Well, honestly, it means nothing because there’s no relevancy to it. There’s no comparison to it. So what we do when we go into a local market, and we launched this application first and in Denver in Huntsville, just a couple of weeks ago, and it’s going to be going nationwide. We go into create, we actually look at top producers. So in Denver in Huntsville, we went out and collected data around the top 5% of agents in those two market areas by volume production, these are the agents that are doing production, right. And we ran all those agents through our algorithm. And we then developed a score that reflects how those agents are doing digital marketing. What is their what are their Facebook profiles look like? What does their Instagram profiles look like? How do they show up on on Zillow? How many reviews? Do they have? All those things? Do they have a Google profile? What’s on their Google profile? What are their reviews in Google or Facebook or Instagram? A massive amount of data and we created a score that basically is this benchmark that says if you’re a top producer in these markets, your marketing looks like a 72. Okay, now, when I say to DJ, you’re 45. Yeah, you say, Okay, I’m gonna 45 compared to people that are the top 5% of the industry doing 72. And we want you to the next question to be, how do I get better? How do I actually get from 45 to 72. And we patterned the application off of a very popular consumer application called Credit Karma. I’m not sure if you’re using Credit Karma, but we love it. And Credit Karma basically gives consumers a credit score. And, and says, Okay, you’re a 675. Right? Well, good, you need to get to 700 to be good. And if you want to get to excellent, maybe you want to be to 800. And then they take you through this prescriptive journey in doing things to help you have a better credit score. And as you do those things, when you go back to credit, karma, your 675 just became 700. And then it became 725 became 750. And now you have this, this scoring incentive around your credit score that helps you go through this, this journey, right, because it’s not a 90 day, get fit, quick scenario. It’s a journey, it’s a long term approach. And so we say, credit, karma is for consumers on their credit journey, as sphere builder is for real estate agents on their digital marketing journey. So we start with a score. And then we create what we call recommendation cards. And we help agents based on their data, not other people’s data, their data, how they can improve their profiles, how they can create content, both non listing and listing content, to create more engagement, more followers to build it. And over time, as we re measure them, that’s that four year 45 will become a 50, and a 55 and a 60. And all of a sudden, you’re going to be at 70, which is similar to a benchmark. And we’ve seen a tight correlation between digital marketing activities and production.
D.J. Paris 33:33
So as there’s a positive correlation, then between the score as it rises, you’re seeing income, production volume increase, as a result of tightening up some of the practices. You know, this is, this is very, very interesting, because it’s, it’s, it’s so it’s so interesting. So I know talking about measuring, and we don’t really measure social engagement as a whole, or sorry, I just say, digital marketing, we’ll just say, we don’t really measure it, we measure it in little silos, right? We say, Well, we did this one post, and here’s, here’s the results. And I like it, or I don’t like it, or here’s what I need to fix for the next time. And then over time, you can maybe start to see some trends in videos that are produced or static images that you’re throwing up on Instagram, Facebook, tick tock even. And you can start to start to figure out what your audience is into. But what what you guys have done is actually say, we’re going to actually, we’re going to actually benchmark the most successful agents in your area and kind of show you what they’re doing and guide you from where you are today. Almost like a Credit Karma repairing your credit score repairing your social media credit score over time, and as you increase, we’re going to be checking to make sure it’s going up and you’re just going to do these Several things that we’re going to suggest to you, and then you’re going to get the results of that. I mean, it’s it’s a very simple idea. But it is it is brilliant in a way, because it really does. It’s like, you know, I can step on the scale every day. And it will tell me how what my actual weight is. And it might also tell me my body fat and whatever metrics it measures. But if I only look at that weight measurement, I don’t really know what that tells me, right? It tells me what my overall weight is. But it’s not particularly helpful to to know if I’m healthy or not. I mean, yes, it would tell me if I’m overweight or underweight. But other than that, it’s kind of like, what do you do with that? And what do you want it to be? And that’s where people then go to personal trainers or dieticians or people that can actually make sense of this, this information, and say, Here’s where you really want to be. And here’s how to get there. I love the fact that you guys are like a prescriptive kind of service where it’s like, hey, you know, we’re gonna, we’re gonna, you’re gonna go see the doctor, we’re gonna give you your weight. And then we’re gonna tell you what you need to do to, to get to get, you know, more fit, so to speak, in the digital marketing space. Super exciting. And I don’t, to my knowledge, I don’t know of any company that’s that’s currently doing that for realtors.
Russ Cofano 36:08
No, we’re, we are the first we won’t be the last. I mean, we every good idea has other folks that want to replicate it, but we are the first real time analytics and and marketing platform that, you know, there are some things that we do that other people do, nobody has put the package together. And what we’ve found is that Realtors don’t, they want easy, and they want things to be very intuitive. And one thing we’ve done in the design process is try to put everything in one platform. So an agent, you know, is not having to navigate from one platform to another platform to log in, log out Log In Log Out. The hope is that this becomes their digital marketing platform. You know, we have content creation opportunities, it’s, it’s very Canva. Like in from a content creation standpoint, we connect to an MLS. And so the moment an agent takes a listing, that listing shows up in our in our in our application, so an agent can then create marketing materials around that listing. We have an both an organic sharing function so we can take content, and seamlessly. If you’ve got multiple social channels with one click share that content out in one click in a very effective way. And we also have an advertising platform. Obviously, organic sharing is great because it helps your current followers know that you’re doing things. But if you want to grow your sphere, you’ve got to advertise, you’ve got to reach new people with new content. And, and so our system essentially replace replaces Facebook Ads Manager, which is for most agents a nightmare. And now you could take content that’s created in the platform, and with a couple of clicks get advertising campaigns created. So it’s designed to be kind of a one stop shop that begins it’s wrapped around data and analytics. And that’s the thing that we as we’re iterating around the idea, we actually went out to this industry called martec marketing technology. It’s a $500 billion worldwide industry. And we looked at martec applications outside of the real estate industry. So now what real estate was doing, but what other b2b and b2c companies were doing with Mar tech. And the two things we found that really kind of drove how we ideated around the technology was one automation was critical, right. And today, automation is very possible. And quite frankly, it’s going to become even more interesting with the chat GPT stuff. And then analytics, analytics were interwoven with all of the automation and drove with with data and machine learning the ability to be smart automators. And so we’re bringing those two things together. In an application, the the metaphor that we use internally is we built an iceberg. We want agents to see the tip top of it above the water that’s beautiful, and easy and to navigate around. But underneath it is a massive amount of of application data and tools that the agent will never see, but we’ll help them be better at at this marketing game.
D.J. Paris 39:52
I think that’s great. This idea of just getting a score. There used to be a social score, sir So that was popular about 15 years ago, and I can’t recall the name of that cloud clouds. Yes. With a K. With a K. Yeah. And thank you, that is a thank you. And if anyone who’s listening remembers cloud, you would get a score, and you wouldn’t know what to do with it, you would see it, and you would go, Okay, I’m a 77, or whatever it was, and you’re like, I don’t know what that means. And they, and they never figured out what to do with the number. And I don’t know if clouds still around or not. But but but yeah, they, they had a really neat idea, the metric of it, and then they weren’t able to sort of say, well, here’s, here’s how to improve that score. That’s what you guys are essentially doing, and which I absolutely love. So what are some of the lessons you’ve learned from studying some of these top producers in the various markets that you guys have explored? What are some of the things they’re doing well on on social or digital marketing? So any suggestions, just overall suggestions that you are or even mistakes that you see agents making?
Russ Cofano 41:09
Well, we talked about the mistakes, let’s talk about the successes, because it’s a far more positive thing, right? We actually, as we were building the application, we said, you know, there’s, there’s a bunch, there’s people out there that are being successful in this digital marketing endeavors. And we need to go out and find them and do some research around them and, and bring their stories to the rest of the industry. And so we spent months researching and writing a industry paper that you mentioned, thank you at the beginning of the show, you can you can go to it at sphere builder.io. and navigate to the paper and download it. It’s about an 18 page. It’s not it’s not a two pager, it’s it’s a very in depth paper at the end, it’s a deep
D.J. Paris 41:57
dive, and it’s a it’s a worthy read, it’s everybody should go to sphere builder.io and scroll to the bottom or you’ll see it’s actually right at the top, put in your information, you you’re going to want to read this.
Russ Cofano 42:12
And we found me there’s we found many we can only highlight for Nikki Beauchamp, Stacy Stob, Pinky Benson, Brad Allen, a couple of folks run brokerage companies, some are individual agents, different parts of the country, doing things all incredibly successful, all very successful, but doing things differently. And so the first learning is that there, there is no one size fits all approach. And we don’t, when we talk about being prescriptive, we don’t tell agents, this is who you need to be online, that the thing that stood out with all of these folks, and I think if you were if they were your guests, they would say there’s an authenticity that comes through in who they purport to be online. Because, again, think about this, in this in the sphere building in real life, you meet somebody in your church group, or your kids soccer team, or whatever environment and and it’s you and them and your personality and who you are, is coming through. Well, now you’ve got to replicate that in an online digital environment where you’ve got to provide snippets of information about who you are, and what makes you you and, and everybody is different and unique. And so what we found is that they all approached both the platforms that they used, that they relied on, some were heavy, YouTube, others heavy Instagram, others, heavy Facebook, some Twitter, others combination of all the all of the above and more Tiktok. Find the platforms that you really want to excel on, that matches who you are, and the method and that you want to share content. And then the second piece is be consistent. And over time, because this is not a 90 day diet, you’re not going to become a successful digital marketer. By approaching it with a 90 day lead gen mentality. You won’t so you might as well not do it. It’s like It’s like going on, you know, a 90 day diet, you may lose weight, right and then 90 day diet, but guess what, if you don’t change your lifestyle, that weights gonna come right back on. Yeah, you can, you can fix your credit score. And yet, if you go back to the same spending patterns, your credit score is gonna go right back to where it is. And the same analogy holds true for digital marketing. If you don’t build a sustainable approach Due to developing the know, like trust persona, online, then you you may make short term inroads, but long term if you’re in this business for the long term, and that’s who our customer is what we’re not. And you know, I hate to say this, but we really don’t want to serve agents who are in the business to make a quick buck. That’s not who we’re marketing to. We want agents that are serious about being real estate professionals. A lot of quick buck agents are leaving the business because it’s not as easy to make that quick buck anymore, right. And so we want to help those agents that truly love this business, are professionals do great service for their clients, and need help being better marketers. And the four people that we highlighted in the paper, I think, are great lessons for agents in your, in your watching this podcast to go and read about how they’re approaching this marketing approach and being very successful and in different ways.
D.J. Paris 46:01
Yeah, so So walk me through. So let’s say I sign up, I submit my my social channels to you guys, you start, which by the way you can do for free, you can go to the website, again, also to check out the white paper, sphere. builder.io is where you can go to do this. But anyway, let’s say I sign up, I submit my my social accounts to you to your team, you start to analyze it, you assign me a social score relative to the you know, an agent in my agents in my market, who are who are have a strong digital presence as well as a strong business. And so now I know where I’m at, where some people I might aspire to be or at, then how do you help get me from here to there.
Russ Cofano 46:49
So we have these recommendation cards. And so we’ve analyzed your data. And for example, we will analyze your social profiles, there’s a ton of information on your social profiles, that it’s important to be consistent in how you provide that information. And a lot of agents are not consistent, the first thing I will tell you is that we asked you whether you have a Google business profile, if you do not have a Google business profile, you will not score well in our in our system. Because if you don’t have a Google Business Profile Google in Google Search, how somebody’s going to find you. They punish you, right in from a search algorithm standpoint. So the very first thing we will say is get your Google profile, and we provide a link to go do that. We also analyze the data that’s on your profile. So if you don’t have a website, link there, if you don’t have a phone number, if the information is not consistent, we we show that to you, again, lots of agents, maybe got their Google profile Google Business Profile three years ago, and then move brokerage companies. Well, guess what, they probably still have some of their same, they haven’t updated it. So there’s somebody who goes or Google profile Google business profile, sees broken information from three years ago, well, well, that’s not good, right. And, and so consumers are smart, especially the younger consumers, they They stalk agents, right? Before they make that phone call reach out, they’re looking at your online presence. And if they see inconsistent profile information, that’s a sign that you are not on top of how you present yourself to them. How well are you going to be on top of presenting their property and a listing? Right? It means something to consumers today. So we go through that process. And then we start analyzing, you know, what is your follower base? How engaged are your followers? How often are you posting? What are those posts doing for you, and then we help you get better at that through content, both listing content, not listing content, it’s, it’s not hard, it’s just something that requires a bit of training. And we want to make it fun at the same time, right. So hopefully, the fun comes in. And in seeing that score, tick up as you do these things, and hopefully generate some business in the, in the context. And you can see this, this, we call a virtuous cycle of, of feedback that breeds activity, more good feedback, more good activity. It’s like getting I mean, your analogy to stepping on the scale. If you if you’re if you’re trying to lose weight, and you step on the scale in the morning, and you see that you’re two pounds lighter, you’re gonna be psyched to go on that evening run. Right? That’s true. And that’s what we want to create that that measurement over time is that dopamine hit that we want to deliver to the agent to keep them on the train down this path.
D.J. Paris 49:50
I think that is so well said it really you’re a coaching company of sorts, but in a different way. You’re a digital coaching company, in the sense that and an analytics company I don’t I don’t want to lump you in with with all the other coaching programs out there because that’s not really what you do. But in a sense, you are a consulting firm, I guess maybe that’s a better way to say it. Because what you’re doing is you say, give us all your dad, not all your data, but all your social channels so we can analyze the data. And we can take a look and see what works, what isn’t working, where there’s room for improvement, and then come back and say, Hey, by the way, we noticed your LinkedIn hasn’t been updated in three years. And it’s still showing you with your previous firm. By the way, your your Zillow, you have three different Zillow profiles, they’re all over the place, we need to get all of this working cohesively because we don’t know where someone’s going to look for information for you. But certainly Google, you know, is is Google My Business, for example, is a place that that, you know, people don’t think about. But of course, we all utilize when we’re searching for local things. So the idea is you guys are going to give suggestions and not just the top 10 things to do to get your digital marketing health in order, but really saying very prescriptively. Here’s based on what you’re currently doing, and we’ve analyzed everything, here’s what the exact steps you Mr. or Mrs. Agent need to take?
Russ Cofano 51:11
Yeah, so two things I want to I want to clarify one is, is we are not, we’re a SaaS technology company. So we don’t provide managed services, we don’t charge agents for talking to a human that is that’s not what we’re about. In fact, we, we want to support coaching organizations, our application would be a great I mean, if you’re a coaching organization, you should call us. And here’s why. Because today, you have zero ability, because I don’t think you have our tool, it took us a long time and a lot of engineering to build the tool that we have, we can help you help your clients, if you’re a coach, understand their their digital presence and manage it over time. To the extent that there’s specific things that a coaching organization is helping their agents or their clients do, we don’t want to replace that. We want to augment that right? And so really, there’s a place there’s a really synergistic place for us to work with coaching organizations because of the approach that we take to data analytics. So that’s that’s number one. And and number two is you know, in terms of of right now we’re I want to make sure that we’re clear with your your viewers. We’re in Denver in Huntsville. Today, we’re going to be doing a national launch in the next quarter and available to agents around the country. So there’s a place on our website that if you’re interested in this technology, you can let us know. And part of of us developing why it’s so slowly roll out is we need MLS data, right and, and MLS working with MLS is they’re great to work with, but they’re not the speediest organizations in the world. And so we’d love if there’s an MLS, listening to this, we’d love to talk with you. Because these are this is the kind of application that we’re the partnership with MLS, we can bring it to all your agents and get them going on the application. And then finally, the third thing I will say is, we’ve had really great conversations with brokerage companies who want to integrate the application as a productivity tool. We’re being told by brokerage executives that agents, especially today are looking for ways to build market share. And you know, back to my old business school days, there was this old adage that in at the top of the cycle, you drive revenue, that’s when you you put you put your foot on the gas pedal, and you make as much money as you possibly can. And at the bottom of the cycle, you drive market share. People are going out of business, you capture their market share so that when the cycle recovers, you can step on the gas pedal. And so now is absolutely in our opinion, and we’re hearing from brokerage companies, executives as well is that we’re in a down cycle. Nobody can change that right and we know it will get better and the cycle will wrap up again. Now is when smart brokerage companies and smart agents will be building market share and there’s no better way to do it than traditional marketing.
D.J. Paris 54:34
Yeah, this is the year to capture market share it is we get as Russ said, we know there’s been an exodus started already. We also have a holding company for agents that don’t actively practice and now it’s the weirdest thing I never thought I would say this but our holding company actually has more agents that are actively producing company. They’re not related. They’re separate entities but, but we we never thought that This little holding company that we created would now have like 900 agents it’s because the conditions of the market have changed and people are the onesie twosie agents, the the part timers are starting to exit and sunset out. And it’s a great time for agents to pick up market share this year. So this is a good time to get your digital marketing health in order. And and you know, again, I always I have this fantasy recite, it’s so funny because what you guys, what you do in real estate is kind of the always the fantasy I have around the service providers in my life. So like my accountant, all I mean, I want my accountant to keep me out of prison, and to make sure that I’m not being audited. Of course, yes, that’s that’s the job of the accountant. But I would I would, my fantasy is that my accountant goes, I have a few ideas for you this year. Right? My accountant doesn’t do that. And I’m not I’m not disparage, I’m not trying to say anything pejorative towards towards my account, I love BioCarbon. But that would you know, those are what, what I would be looking for, I would like to know, you know, here’s what you could do to, you know, this next year to really increase you know, your, or decrease your tax exposure or whatever. So basically, you guys are a prescriptive service. And I love that and you’re utilizing technology. And really, you’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re not saying, Well, this is what we think works, you’re literally just going market by market and say, here’s what the people in your market are doing. And that and I understand, also, the challenge of connecting to all the MLS is to get this data, I can appreciate that all the MLS has have different API’s, it’s gotta be a nightmare. I can’t imagine what your engineers have to deal with there. But this is something that you definitely want to be on the waiting list for because once they do open up in your market place, the top agents are going to subscribe to this service, because it’s the only one that exists out there. So now’s a great time to learn about it. Also learn some best practices, if you read the white paper, they have four case studies that are just incredible reads of really successful agents and for different markets, what they’re doing digitally. And they’re doing things a little differently, as Russ said, and you can take some of their, the their suggestions and actually apply it to your own business. But I want to know my digital marketing score as well. So if you go to sphere builder.io, you can see the white paper you can get on their waiting lists to see if when they open up in your your market. And by the way, if you’re in Huntsville, Alabama or Denver, and we have listeners, I’m sure in both of those markets, we should reach out because they are basically almost good to go there. So they are ready to launch. Russ, is there anything else that that we should know about what the tool does?
Russ Cofano 57:47
Know I think this has been a great conversation DJ and I think we’ve we’ve covered right place right time for a new piece of technology. You know, we we know that agents are inundated today with people looking for their attention. And, and so this is something that is worth a few minutes of agent’s time to come in and investigate just the white paper in and of itself is, is worthy of spending an hour with and reading it and, and it will generate ideas for you. Even if you never use our technology or ever become a subscriber, you’ll get some great ideas. And, you know, we’re a company that is built with people who have been around the industry for a long time who support the industry. We’re not about disintermediating the realtor in fact, we’re about empowering the realtor i i As I said in the beginning, I fell in love with the industry and the people in the industry 30 years ago and I think that the United States needs effective Realtors helping consumers and this is just one way that we can help that process.
D.J. Paris 59:10
I agree. So everyone who is listening, please visit sphere builder.io By the way, we’ll have a link to that in our show notes. So you can just scroll there and click and get read the white paper get on their waitlist, continue to follow collabora which again is the company that that is putting out these products and see if it would be a good fit for your brokerage. And by the way, if you volunteer or work at the local state or national association level, great conversation to have at your next meetings with whatever committees you might be with to say, hey, this might be something we would want to bring to an association or in MLS directly as well. So I imagined that that could happen for you guys. So that’s very exciting.
Russ Cofano 59:56
Well, we are all heirs and DJ thanks for having me on today really appreciate the conversation. And hopefully some of this has been helpful to your listeners.
D.J. Paris 1:00:06
Definitely. And so before everyone leaves, just a couple of quick reminders, please help us continue to grow by just telling a friend about one friend about this episode, maybe somebody who’s struggling with their digital marketing in your office, somebody you know who’s an agent that could benefit from hearing this great conversation with Ross, send them a link to our website, which is keeping it real pod.com. Or if they’re a podcast person, just pull up any podcast app search for keeping it real, hit that subscribe button. And also, please leave us a review. Let us know what you think of the show that helps us continue to improve and grow as well. On behalf of the audience want to thank Russ for his time. Amazing conversation. Russ, thank you so much. On behalf of Russ and myself. We also want to thank the audience for continuing to support also, by the way support our sponsors. We love our sponsors. So please continue to listen to the show support us let us know we can do to help keep making the show better for you. And we will see everybody on the next episode. Thanks Ross.
Russ Cofano 1:01:03
Thanks, TJ. Talk to you soon.