zaplabslogoThat is the question for many brokers today who are part of the Realogy® Franchise Group. This group includes brokers who may be a member of any number of franchises spanning Century 21®, Better Homes and Gardens®, Sotheby’s®, Coldwell Banker®, ERA®, and some others. As WAV Group detailed in this case study of BH&G Metro Brokers in Atlanta – the Zaplabs platform is excellent – combining an effective mix of agent website, CRM, Lead Management and other vital agent business tools. But the question to Zap or not to Zap is really not a question about technology at all. It is a question about strategy.

Consider the Cost of Change

Franchise technology solutions come in three business models – free, freemium, or premium. Sometimes the vendor is external, like Zillow, Smarter Agent, Marketleader, or DotLoop. Sometimes the vendor is internal like Zap or LeadRouter. If the vendor is contracting directly with your brokerage and not through the Franchise, there would be no cost of change. The cost of change comes when the franchise makes a choice to continue or discontinue a product. It is also the cost that you may have of migrating from your current solution to Zap. Are the customers and agents portable.

Example: Smarter Agent

Realogy just notified some or all of their franchises that they are sunsetting the relationship with Smarter Agent for their mobile app. It will be replaced by the Zap App. Both apps are excellent. There are a number of unanswered questions about what happens with the agent apps. More details to follow on this. Do not panic if you are using Smarter Agent today, but understand that changes are happening.

Consider the cost of change that is related to the legacy customers who are using the app. Agents have been giving out that app for years to their customers. Brokers have made it the cornerstone of their mobile strategy. How will they port the customers from Smarter Agent and get them to download the new app? Will the saved searches and favorites be transferred? Who will retrain everyone? Who will rewrite all of the recruiting and marketing materials?

Consider that there may be a day when you reverse your decision to Zap. What contractual assurances do you have that your firm and switch away in the future and keep the data exclusively? Realogy has made Zap the hub of the technology strategy for all of their brands, and they will continue to develop around it.

Who Owns the Customer Record?

Zap is an excellent, complete, and seamless business tool for agents that is designed as customer for life software. If you lead your brokerage through a conversion to Zap, you better think first about what would happen if you had to convert away from Zap. Is Zap an open system that allows the brokerage to switch to something else in the event that Zap encounters problems or in the event that your franchise relationship ends? Who owns the customer record? What, if anything can REALOGY or the franchise brands do with the customer record? WAV Group’s understanding is that the platform has been designed so that the originator of the lead (agent, broker, or brand) has control over how to treat that lead. Brokers should have this conversation with their brand representatives.

Will Zap Impact Recruiting Competitors?

REALOGY franchise group has done and excellent job putting walls between their competitive franchises. Zap is different. All REALOGY companies are transitioning to Zap. If your goal is to recruit from another REALOGY franchisee, and you are using the same technology tools – you become undifferentiated. I think that this issue cuts both ways.

Example: Intero

Gino Blefari and his partners at Intero worked with a vendor to create a CRM solution with a vendor. Intero leveraged this technology platform to build a large and successful business in the heart of Silicon Valley, CA. Once agents adopted the CRM, they would not leave Intero because the technology was helping them sell more real estate. Agents are organized with a CRM – they are planning their work and working their plan. Leaving Intero would disrupt all of that. In order for Coldwell Banker to recruit agents back, they had to license the same CRM. That is the power of CRM systems like Zap. They can work for you as a recruiting and retention tool – or work against you if it levels the playing field and enables agents to move around and take it with them. (I believe that the only company that sells exclusively into a given market place today is The Enterprise Network with their Booj platform).

Zap may be able to help you recruit in your marketplace. It is an excellent product. If you have an inferior agent website and CRM system today, Zap could be your savior and lead to a robust and dynamic lift to your recruiting and retention of both agents and their clients. It could also work against you if another REALOGY franchise broker in your market is also on Zap. Talk to your franchise representative about this issue. Bring your marketshare reports to that meeting. Talk to your agents about Zap. This is a big decision.

I imagine that this issue has been an ongoing concern across many of the Realogy brands for some time, particularly where there is a lot of brand overlap. But remember that no technology is a silver bullet. The best technology in the wrong hands can be completely ineffective. But the flip size can also be true. A great operating company with marginal software can make good progress. Obviously, the best situation is a combination of both, great tech and great operating company. So, with this in mind, the effectiveness of Zap often resides on the commitment, processes, and coaching provided by the company. There can be significant differences in results between two companies using Zap. If you plan to use Zap, how will you make it successful?

Why Did You Franchise In the First Place?

WAV Group’s smallest client pays over One Million dollars a year to their franchise. There reaches a point when the value of a franchise is less than the franchise fee. This typically happens for firms with over 300 or 500 agents. This is true not only of franchises, but also brand licensing like Christies. At some point – the broker is delivering more value to the franchise than the franchise is delivering to the broker. WAV Group measures this with consumer research. We break the name of the brokerage away from the name of the franchise and test it with local area consumers. In nearly every case, the large firm has a bigger brand than the franchise and is trusted more among local consumers and agents. This is absolutely not true of small firms. Firms with fewer than 150 agents have insignificant and niche local brand value relative to franchise brands. Small firms need brands to cut away from appearing to be a home based business or garage operation.

Brokers need to consider their franchise renewal starting 3 years ahead of the renewal date. If you think that your renewal is questionable – there are many things that you need to do. Your communication plan needs to change subtly, and you need to carefully consider to Zap or Not To Zap.

Be Careful

WAV Group is a consulting firm. We are in the business of strategy development and execution. Zap is as good as any broker solution in the market place, better in some areas and not as strong as others. Such is the way with technology. Nobody is great at everything.

Zap is a great opportunity for firms that plan a long term relationship with their franchise. If you want to roll out Zap, we can help. If you want to consider other options (which is smart decision making methodology anyway), we can help with that too. Don’t follow the siren call of the the wether’s bell without giving it some thought.

The Zap® Platform:

The proprietary Zap platform is the highlight of ZapLabs’ technology offerings and, year-to-date, Zap has been rolled out to over 880 Realogy brand-affiliated brokerages and over 48,000 sales associates across the nation. The fully integrated Zap platform currently includes:

  • Zap broker and agent websites
  • Zap Customer Relationship Management Tool (ZapCRM)
  • Zap Mobile CRM (iOS and Android)
  • Zap Mobile app (iOS and Android for consumers)
  • ZapLeadsSM, a search-engine marketing (SEM) program for lead generation
  • ZapStoreSM, a first-of-its-kind real estate appstore of third-party technology providers