Turn Big Data Into Big Dollars

Get recommendations on products and strategies real estate brokers can use to leverage data and effectively increase their bottom line.

July 28, 2015

There are so many tools for collecting data available to real estate brokers today, that it can be difficult to choose the right ones and then get them to all work together.

Here are some products and resources for brokers interested in new ways of capturing data, analyzing it, and making decisions on how it will be most effectively used to increase profitably.

Gathering Data

Most of the data we’re looking for as brokers must focus on potential customers. Whether they’re new leads or past clients, we look for ways to predict who is the most likely person to buy or sell a home.

We can buy this data or build it. Many brokers just use a list of every home in their local neighborhood, zip code, or area. They send mailers and postcards to everyone, without much strategy. It may have a slight return on investment, but it’s certainly not optimal.

Rebogateway and Smartzip are two companies that can enhance that ROI. Instead of mailing materials to everyone in your city, these companies allow you to view different tracts within the area and find which areas are turning over faster.

For example, if West Seattle is your market, but zip code 98136 turns over every five years and zip code 98126 turns over every 12 years, then it’s time to point more of your marketing at 98136. After identifying those tracts, the broker can make more strategic decisions about which part of town to focus advertising dollars.

The next step is identifying likely sellers by identifiable events. Instead of ignoring the rest of West Seattle outside of 98136 with its high turnover, brokers can get alerts to events such as divorces, expired listings, FSBOs, defaults, probate, and so on, across a broader area. Targeting these kinds of property owners will result in significantly higher rates of conversion than blindly blanketing the market.

Layering the Data Effect

Of course, sending postcards doesn’t sound like a high-end use of technology, but when we identify prime targets and then combine that data with other tools, we can supercharge the connections we have with those potential clients.

Social media advertising has grown greatly in popularity in recent years, but many brokers are still using scattershot methodology. With our predetermined 98136 zip code of high-turnover homes, we can target the most likely home sellers or buyers in that area. Advertising online allows us to go so much further than blasting an ad or postcard to an entire zip code or city. Much like probability targeting in postcards, we can take Facebook or LinkedIn ads to the next level by selecting the age range, area of residence, marital status, level of education, or even the company that we want in our ad recipients.

We could target the ad to users who live in 98136, are married, have college degrees, are over 35 years old, and work in the software industry. The first step is to find the data to pinpoint who the likely sellers and buyers are in your market. Once you have your prospects nailed, this strategic method of focused advertising reduces cost in a huge way and increases conversion rates significantly.

Building Your Own Database

Creating your own customer database large enough to be an effective marketing platform isn’t easy. It takes time and commitment to provide something of value to your database. It becomes highly valuable, though, when targeting potential buyers and sellers.

Using a website platform call Real Geeks, my team has implemented a friendly-but-forced registration system that draws users in and keeps them coming back. Our database of more than 20,000 website users contains a fairly captive audience. They automatically get new listing drips every day, based on their past search behavior on the website. It’s the best drip campaign money can buy, and they feel that we’re delivering something valuable to them.

After developing a large database of users, we can now target them in buyer or seller campaigns. Our website has a home valuation tool, similar to a zestimate, yet more honest in its tone. It’s a potential seller magnet. We sent a single e-mail to the entire database, letting the users know that property records had updated and they could get a new customized value report online. It generated 200 potential seller inquiries in two hours.

What we do with those leads, of course, is the important part. Having identified them as possible sellers, and having their home addresses via the home valuation tool, we have options to send them print mail directly, knock on doors, e-mail or call them individually, or try to connect with them via social media. Whatever route we choose, we know what message to use. We’re focused on an engaged user base made up of people who are much more likely to be considering a home sale than the general public.

Connecting via Social

The other opportunity for those who build their own database is the chance to move your connections over to other platforms. With registered users’ e-mail addresses, brokers can use tools like Rapportive to automatically find the social media profiles of every user. Connecting with these users via a personal Facebook account, company Twitter account, or LinkedIn are all good ways to strengthen your long-term connection.

We can also see what style and location of homes these users have been searching for on the websites. If we segment our database of users into groups by search locations, we have even further targeted prospects. Any time we list a new home, we can send it to just that segment of our users who are looking in the same area, instead of blasting everyone in the database, to whom 90 percent find it irrelevant.

E-mail may not cost money in the way that print mail does, but it’s still costly if it’s overused. Keeping your audience engaged and not overwhelming them is highly important to staying out of spam filters and continuing to be able to reach them.

Closing the Sale

Getting new clients via big data is a great first step, but using data to actually find the buyers for you or your agents’ listings can also be done better by using data. We use Coldwell Banker’s CBX tool, but there are other sources of profiling data as well. We can pinpoint the kind of buyer who is most likely to be purchasing in the area where our listing resides, and then create a map of likely nearby locations of buyers. From their employment, income, and age range, we can show our sellers where we'll be targeting our marketing for the most likely buyer candidates. It's not only a strong part of a listing presentation; it's also a strategic way to ensure more of your marketing dollars are going to the most effective locations for your clients.

Big Picture: Upstream and Potential Uses

The partnership between NAR, brokers, and Upstream RE LLC has great potential for brokers to access better data. While the end product is still in flux, the image projected looks to be one where brokers input all of their listings at one entry point and then choose how and where that data is delivered.

With the right analytics assigned to brokers’ listings via Upstream, we could have a single platform of metrics to help us make decisions regarding which outlets are really working. Imagine if you could easily find out which portal is actually generating leads that sell homes? How much of your traffic comes via the MLS and IDX? Does the quantity and quality of traffic and leads vary significantly on one portal vs. another? This will help you see where your advertising dollars get the best ROI.

Real estate data has always been fragmented. Upstream has the promise of simplifying, and improving, our ability to make data-driven decisions in the future. That’s a win for all brokers.

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Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord is managing broker and vice president of strategic growth for Coldwell Banker Danforth, past president of Seattle King Country REALTORS®, vice president of government affairs for Washington REALTORS®, and NAR president's liaison for MLS and Data Management. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.