Q: Mark, you founded offrs.com in 2013 – a fairly turbulent time in the real estate industry. Did you know at the time that it was going to become what it has today?
Well, like many broker owners at the time, I recognized that data, really access to data was a key element to an agent’s success. Remember, that at that time, only giant corporations similar to Facebook or Google could afford access to consumer data. There weren’t affordable outlets for agents out in the field doing the daily grind of relationship building. I did expect that others would enter the market alongside of us, but expected more competition from large corporations once they recognized the importance of data and predictive analytics. The reality is that democratizing big data is hard and providing real estate professionals with usable toolsets is even harder. I suppose it was our other innovations, our toolsets that helped to make the data more practical to an agent, that boosted our brand in the market.
Q: More so now than ever, the industry seems to be leaning on technology to help stabilize the market – is that how you see offrs.com – as an equalizer?
I do. It’s a tough time for agents right now. It’s more than that though. Homeowner trust in the services that an agent provides is in question and if we’re being honest, many incoming and outgoing agents have dropped the ball when it comes to longterm conversion strategy. It’s become an industry catering to weekend salesmanship and when that doesn’t work out as a stable business model in the long term, they drop the ball and leave the field. But this also leaves many hard-working agents to deal with the reputation that operating a business in this manner creates. That said, there’s still an industry filled with those who are working hard to build lifelong relationships. offrs provides solutions that work towards levelling the field a bit, so I’d say offrs is an equalizer, sure.
Q: Similar to stock trading in the 80’s we’re hearing a lot about big data and predictive analytics in SMB real estate operations. How are agents using your data solution able to access and ultimately put big data to use in their business – it sounds fairly complex?
Yeah, these are exciting times. I think it was a Forbes headline that stated that “businesses adopting Big Data, Cloud & Mobility grow 53% faster than peers.” We’ve built a proprietary predictive algorithm that highlights the homeowners in your farm that are most likely to list within the next 12 months. But we also spend a lot of time and resources going through our prediction results in order to adjust the efficacy of our solution and we’re proud to have maintained a 70% or higher prediction accuracy. This is critical, as homeowners go with the first agent that knocks on their door. It’s really as simple as that – placing our agents at the door first, before their competition. We use data and our proprietary algorithm to make that situation happen.
Q: But data isn’t the only product or solution you offer, right?
No, raw data (even cleaned and prioritized data) isn’t enough. It makes sense though, right? If I were to hand over contact information for someone in your area that is likely to list their home within the next 12 months, you’d still need a way to reach out, to keep track of your touches over time and, for many agents, insight on what to say or how or when to say it. So around our data, we’ve built mass communication tools, a light CRM for those that don’t have access to one as well as scripts and updated best practices on lead conversion that works. That’s really what this all comes down to – using data and technology to build relationships and sell homes.
Q: Okay, so it sounds like the offrs value proposition is access to exclusive, cleaned and prioritized big data, a light CRM with mass communication and automation tools as well as scripts and best practices. I can see how you’ve maintained head-of-pack status, but who would you then say are your closest peers?
Yeah, we’ve been pushing the envelope, innovating wherever we saw a gap in the agents’ day-to-day activities. Obviously, with access to so many agents, you learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. The market changes every year, sometimes month to month when dealing with regional input, so our monthly updates keep our solution relevant. It’s not just data, it’s relevant data. Keeping it relevant, staying ahead of the shifting market – that’s what offrs does. Peers? The whole industry, really. We work with multiple technology providers to connect their services with ours, we’ve built hundreds of partnerships that help us roll out our enterprise solutions to their regional or national teams and we contribute alongside other industry thought leaders to help bolster agent success and best practices. I can safely say, there’s just no one that offers all of the agent solutions we do in one package. You’d have to pay countless thousands per month for the services that offrs provides and we do it exclusively. We’re proud of that, but we also enjoy the services and insights our peers bring to the industry.
Q: Speaking of national reach, offrs.com is headquartered out of Sarasota, Florida, but you cover most, if not all of the top, national brokerages, correct? Why Sarasota?
That’s right, we have formed strategic partnerships with all of the national brokerages, a significant amount of top-producing teams and agents, as well as many dominant independent brokerages. I think that’s why Sarasota. It’s a lot of work and our teams pretty much live out in the field, reaching out and supporting our clients where they work – doing so on a daily basis. So, coming home to some of the nicest beaches in the country surely doesn’t hurt.
Q: It sounds like you’ve got national reach, but what about other markets? Are you looking to expand your services?
Well, I don’t want to get too far into that here, but yes. offrs agents sometimes wear multiple hats, providing services in several crossover markets, so we get that question a lot. We see exclusive offrs territory data access being used as a bargaining chip for other industry referrals or forming partnerships and we encourage that sort of industry relationship-building creativity. Have we looked into expanding the toolsets for these crossovers? Sure.
Q: You obviously didn’t make it to the top of your industry alone. Tell us a little about your team.
A great bunch of gals and guys, seriously. It’s a mix of 50 or so specialists in their fields, from data analysts and multi-platform developers to brokers and agents putting updated regional data and what they know about the market to use for agents nationwide. I have no doubt that it’s my team that makes this all possible.
Q: The market has shifted quite a bit since you’ve launched offrs. With so many startup real estate service providers, many of which offering some form of access to data, how have you maintained offrs’ stance as an industry leader?
It’s not so much what we did but what we continue to do daily that makes offrs an industry name. Yeah, we see a lot of large startups come and go, having failed to pay tribute to the legacy and core of our industry: building relationships. Anytime a group somewhere in the country pops up to improve your phone with an app, they’re missing the point. If you can’t ask yourself “How does this help to create or maintain my relationship with my neighbors?” then it’s just glitter. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really cool gadgets out there and we’ve introduced many of them to the market, but it can’t be everything you’re offering. So we’ll continue to add these sorts of tools as a value-added service, knowing that the core of our solution is relationship-building through access to cleaned and prioritized data that agents couldn’t otherwise afford.
Q: Without going into too much detail, can you give us an idea of the typical day in the life of an offrs agent?
It varies quite a bit. Some are brokers or team leaders, so their day may begin with reviewing the results of a recent mass messaging campaign sent out the day before, checking out the incoming seller lead referrals from their teams’ offrs Smart Sites and either setting their automatic lead routing assignments to members of their team or assigning them manually in order to get their day going. Then there are the individual agents that signed on to get access to the regularly-updated data. It’s really amazing to watch an agent that was getting trampled by competition in their farm, use our exclusive services to turn the tide. For them, it’s often the relationship building and lead conversion activities they’re focused on, so they’ll be going through their seller lead email notifications or logging on to the offrs platform to filter the list by a multitude of lead factors – whether the homeowner has a pool, lives in a particular community, is close to some amenity or cultural landmark and so on. The sort of information tied to a lead that can open the door to conversations and listing appointments. Our toolset covers a lot of business operation models. We provide cleaned and prioritized data… after that, how our agents use the tools to put that data to use in their business varies. We’re always trying to capture their stories and see industry patterns – these continue to help us expand our best practices by market and region.
Q: We’ve seen a lot of this sort of tech crossover in other industries, so it’s interesting to watch your company as it has transitioned from a small startup so many years ago to its current position in the industry spotlight. Is there anything we should be looking for in other industries that might help successful startups navigate those sorts of changes?
Well, I can’t really speak to the needs of other markets, but I’d say pick a solid, talented crew and listen to your market. It’s not just what they’re saying or even what they’re asking for necessarily, but the trends in the comments and questions that can tell an overarching story. This will help you better analyze the market and industry data coming in. We spend a lot of time out in the field, attending or sponsoring industry conferences, hosting in-office training sessions throughout the country and so on. These efforts afford us the opportunity to listen, apply what we hear and to build tool sets that help small to medium-sized real estate businesses navigate the ever-changing consumer market.
Q: Mark, thank you for your time. You mention conferences, what’s the next conference our readers in the real estate market can find you at?
Thank you, it was a pleasure. You’ll spot us all over the map of course, but the next major conference we’ll be at is the upcoming Inman Connect event in San Francisco, July 16th.