We live in an age of ‘consumerism’ where potential clients have more information on us than ever. But it is also true that we can access a whole lot more information that enables us to be smarter at marketing to them. Together with CoreLogic Australia, Elite Agent gathered an expert panel to discuss and provide readers with insights into how new tools are re-inventing prospecting. Following is an extract of our thought leadership for 2016, Big Data and the Future of Prospecting. You can also watch the highlights of our leadership panel above.
Our panellists: Georgie Brooke, Greater Data, Josh Cobb, Stepps, Douglas Driscoll, CEO Starr Partners, Annie Liao and Mitchell Privett, Quantium, John Owed, Data Republic.
Facilitator: Kylie Davis, CoreLogic.
Never cold call again. Pardon the pun, but it does have a great ring to it, right? With tools now available, it is possible to predict a vast array of human life changes, well beyond the four ‘traditional Ds’ of real estate: death, divorce, debt and departure. These life events might include having a baby, teenagers leaving the nest, a change in jobs, trends in spending patterns and much more.
In turn, this knowledge can lead to better communication with your current and prospective customers. Rather than calling people you don’t know out of the blue, it is possible to get close to predicting which house, in a street, in an area, is most likely to list next – and then use smart methods of content marketing to attract them to you. It’s not science fiction; it’s here to stay, thanks to some clever data and analytics.
What is big data?
Our panel started the discussion by agreeing that the term ‘big data’ is largely unknown and/or misunderstood. “Agents are not database administrators, so there is a learning gap on how to get the data maintained,” says Brooke.
Says Privett, “Typically given the big data definition which is all about the ‘fun stuff’ we can do with it. definition is that it is data that’s too big to be handled in the traditional ways. You can’t use it on one server, one office, you can’t analyse it in the standard way that we’re used to. That usually means that it’s broad; it’s got multiple sources, multiple agents, and is disparate until you do the work to clean it and make it useful.”
Where is the real estate knowledge gap?
An area where Brooke believes there is a wide gap in knowledge is to do with the advantages that could be gained if data was to flow seamlessly between franchise offices and head office, something that is being overlooked by many real estate brands. While some are successfully sharing data, he says, most businesses would be amazed at how much crossover there is right now between buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords. Three or four different franchisees might be speaking with the same person, which really no longer needs to happen. “We’ve just gone through the process of selling and buying, and I’m being contacted through three different offices from the same franchise,” says Brooke. Greater Data is working with some of the larger franchises to bring their data together with more intelligence and cohesion.
Top of the funnel
Despite the perceived franchisor/franchisee gap, there is now a capability in overlaying consumer behaviour insights onto property data to allow smart targeting to consumers. Previously the industry has had access to property data via CoreLogic but little information about the person/people in the property. Big data and analytics marries the two.
Around this table alone, there are three different ‘propensity to list’ models. “These guys,” says Brooke, referring to Quantium and Data Republic, “have a huge amount of behavioural information, and we’ve got the demographic and life stage information to be able to predict when someone is able to do something.
“Specifically our interest is in bridging that gap with answering the question of what your existing customers are doing. How can you maintain that and continue to segment your messaging to get the right message across to the right person at that time?” says Brook.
Says Driscoll, “There is now an ability to be able to ‘second guess’ people – just based on consumer behaviours, their everyday lives. The reality of the situation is that we are all fighting at the ‘bottom of the funnel’ at the moment, and as a result it becomes a bloodbath. We undercut each other on fees… but if you can get further towards the top of the funnel you are far more likely to have sensible conversations that should demonstrate value long before that person looks to list a property.”
While Brooke has already mentioned the work that Greater Data is doing with some of the franchises, Quantium has been working with CoreLogic on a product called SmartList, a product that some companies, like Starr Partners, are already using.
Says Liao, “ essentially is taking all the information we have about householders plus the 9.8 million or so properties here in Australia (through CoreLogic’s data), tying that together with all of the market trend data analysis information and consumer insights data. Then we try to predict who is more likely ready to sell through consumer behaviour and also whether the area has been good with recent sales.” The output of this is people who are more likely to sell, a warm list of prospects.
“With all predictive modelling there is no 100 percent certainty. It’s about highlighting and identifying the people who are more likely based on their behaviour.”
You have the information; now have the right conversation
Driscoll has been using the SmartList product for a couple of months and is one of the first in the industry to do so. He notes that the data is impressive but there are a couple of challenges that they need to come to terms with as a business to get the most out of the system.
“The numbers we are talking about is that one in 10 people will list their house in six months, and one in five within 12 months. They are pretty impressive numbers.
“But it’s all about the approach. You’ve got a list of names and numbers, so you’ve got to figure out the approach for contacting these people. Is it a mailbox drop, is it an intelligent letter, is it an email, is it a phone call? So that is where we are still trying to come to grips with it. But so far so good.”
Liao agrees; it is still going to come down to the conversations a real estate agent subsequently has with those prospects. “You have to understand the behaviour behind the algorithms that identified them in the first place to increase your chances of converting the listing.”
Davis also acknowledges this. “You can’t have people ringing prospects and saying, ‘our data says you are about to sell’. So now we need to have a conversation about how to manage the slightly creepy side of big data and how do you ‘de-creep’ it.
“Under no circumstances can you have a conversation that says, ‘I know all these things about you’. It’s more about providing the right information that ‘magically’ turns up at the right time or when you’re in the right headspace for it.”
Prospecting on Social
One of the main elements of feedback from clients, says Liao, is not being able to activate directly the insights that big data provides. As a result, Quantium has partnered with Facebook, as a media activation channel, and created more than 150 segments (QSegments) across consumer-type behaviour, sociodemographics, property attributes and more. Says Liao, “This allows our customers to target specific types of people that they want to talk to on Facebook.” Like any marketing, whether it’s advertising or content marketing – it then comes down to the creative and how appealing that happens to be. But you can be smarter at creating a message if you know where you want the message to land.
Says Brooke, “If a real estate agent is advertising on Facebook with a message that just says, ‘List your house now’, it doesn’t really appeal to anyone. If you’ve got a picture of a lovely house in the ’burbs with a young family holding up two kids the mind tells you, ‘That’s me, they’re talking to me. This resonates better with me . This is more relevant’.”
Over the last few years, notes Cobb, it has been harder to reach people on Facebook, no matter what industry you are in, unless you now pay Facebook to promote your post. In fact, Cobb has been working directly with his real estate clients with the CoreLogic and Quantium QSegments and says the results have been outstanding in both cost reductions and conversions.
“On the property-related ads that we’ve been running for a select group of clients on Facebook, specifically promoting a property or development of some kind… we’ve been able to reduce that cost for the same result by up to sixty percent,” says Cobb.
“When it comes to content, we spend a lot of time talking about the top of the funnel: attracting people to our business through helpful content, whether that be lifestyle or related articles, how-tos or establishing someone as the leading authority in their local market. We’ve seen up to a 70 percent decrease in the cost per conversion because what we’re doing is essentially being more relevant to the people that matter only to our business.”
Says Cobb, “It has allowed our clients to determine, ‘Well, I’m spending four thousand dollars on DL cards or offline marketing, traditional things that real estate agents do… I’m spending a thousand dollars over here on Facebook.’ The difference between the two is when it’s digital it’s far more measurable and you can determine, ‘Is my money better spent over here?’ We would never suggest ‘cancel this one for this one’. But you can make a much more educated decision on where you’re going to spend your money.”
Many of our panellists expressed concerns during the conversation about the current state of the industry in both training on big data and also storage of existing data. “If databases are still held in Excel at franchisee level, if we don’t have the ability to understand existing data, we can’t, with confidence, step into big data,” says Brooke. “To understand acquisition properly you really need to understand what existing customers look like.”
Driscoll believes this to be the result of a lack of the right type of training to equip the industry with the skills it needs to understand the opportunities and the potential. “One of the major issues is to do with upskilling. We’re still rolling out the same kind of training as an industry that we were 20 years ago. This isn’t futuristic stuff; this is stuff people in other industries are doing now.”
The big data loop also does not stop with simply getting your data in order. It’s about having a continual feedback loop and learning more from your experiences to benefit the industry as a whole.
Says Owed, “If you’re using SmartList, which is derived from big data… when you capture a response, it enables a whole new set of data to be collected. So what is the message that you delivered? What response did you get back? Then feed that back into the algorithm. The amazing thing about big data is you are not just limited to one point in time; the data you collect has a network effect that you can keep building. It’s a continuous cycle and it’s really phenomenal.”
Read more about big data and the future of prospecting in our thought leadership publication Insights.