Eric and Janelle Boyenga are a husband and wife real estate team working with buyers and sellers in one of the most technology focused markets in the world for two decades. California’s Silicon Valley is not only the epicenter of global technology, but also real estate technology. To position their company, the Boyenga Team comfortably promotes themselves as Property Nerds. They aim to deliver the best digital experience to their clients with an abundance of software applications. They target their services to engineers and other employees of online companies like Google, Facebook, Sun Microsystems, Apple, and the many leading technology firms in the Silicon Valley. “You cannot grow a successful real estate team in the Silicon Valley without a constant investment in cutting edge technology,” says Eric Boyenga.
The genesis of creating online engagement with consumers started for the Boyengas early in their careers with Intero Real Estate. Intero was among the first brokerages in America to deliver agent websites with full CRM, lead management, and transaction management in the early 2000s. At the time, Intero’s partner was the AgentAchieve platform that is now offered through CoreLogic. As the Boyenga Team grew and evolved, they found themselves moving further away from the technology offered by their brokerage and towards investing more in their own suite of applications. That shift, combined with the business model and team support ideology, caused the Boyenga Team to move their business to Keller Williams in 2012.
Over the years, the Boyengas have pursued many strategies to engage consumers online; manage the relationships forever, using a variety of tools from a wide spectrum of real estate technology innovators. Although the Boyenga Team is expert at operating real estate technology solutions, they are not programmers. “We listen to our clients who share stories about their buying and selling experience,” says Eric Boyenga. “That influences the strategic direction that we pursue in delivering online excellence.”
The Boyenga Team is fortunate to be able to solicit feedback from customers who have expertise in technology that overwhelms that of any real estate agent, team, or brokerage. “Our customers are the people who have reimagined how the internet operates at its core, and they have their hands on developing the amazing technology applications that shape how the world engages online,” says Boyenga. For example, when it comes to developing a strategy for listing syndication, the Boyengas learned from their clients about their preferences for online search. Customers told them that Zillow was a game changer, so the Boyengas leaned into Zillow services in a significant way.
In 2015, Eric Boyenga was recognized by the Zillow group as an outstanding user of their online advertising platform. In recognition of the skills that the Boyenga Team applied to nurturing and converting online leads, Zillow selected them to become trainers for the Zillow Accelerate Program for Zillow Premier Agents nationwide. “Generating online leads from Zillow and other portals is not a strategy for every Realtor®,” says Boyenga. He goes on to tell that managing Zillow leads takes immediate response and a commitment to helping consumers for weeks, months, or even years. Boyenga proclaims that too many agents are short sighted in their lead-to-close methodology, focused too much on only working with consumers who are ready to transact right now. Agents check in with the lead once or twice, then drop them. The Boyengas take every lead and stay with that customer forever. Boyenga acknowledged research performed by WAV Group suggests that the average lead takes over 200 days to convert. This acceptance of the incubation requirement is fundamental to the Boyenga strategy.
Today, the Boyenga Team continues to leverage services of Zillow Group. It is difficult to search for property in Silicon Valley without encountering the Premier Agent profile of the Boyengas and their team, or finding their listings.
After Zillow introduced the Zestimate®, real estate was changed forever. The Boyengas find that the Zestimate, for all of its strengths and weaknesses, creates a context for conversation for buyers and sellers. “Consumers want to understand the Zestimate, and we are happy to be the trusted real estate experts who explain what it is, how it works, and the impact that it has on home pricing. Consumers just see numbers that frame home pricing. Through our conversations, we express that the value of a home is exactly the amount that a willing seller and home buyer agree upon.”
The second and more profound impact that Zillow has had in real estate has been their ratings program. From the perspective of the Boyenga Team, Zillow frames two key components of their value proposition that encourage consumers to work with them. First and foremost, Zillow displays the reviews and ratings of hundreds of satisfied customers. It’s one thing to achieve 5 out of 5 stars from a handful of customers, but getting a 5 star rating from hundreds of satisfied customers is transformative. Moreover, every member of the Boyenga team is curating their own ratings. As the Boyengas deploy their team to manage their huge database of customers, Zillow shows that the customer service level does not drop. This is a strong testament to the quality of the team that the Boyengas have cultivated. The ratings of their team members assure buyers and sellers that they do not need to depend solely on the availability of a pair of top producing agents. The Boyenga Team has a dedicated group of specialists who are always there to make sure that every customer task or request is always handled quickly and professionally.
The second profound impact of Zillow is their practice of showing where the Boyenga Team has transacted. “Again, it’s one thing to tell a customer about your experience in transacting all over the valley, but it’s profound to show consumers where those transactions have happened.
As you can see from the illustration, the Boyenga team provides consumers with transactional services across the entire area with price points ranging from the high $600s to over $2 Million. “Our customers tell us that this type of information provided by Zillow explains the quality of our service and the breadth of our experience better than any sales presentation. It allows us to present facts about our exceptional experience and service rather than empty promises,” says Boyenga.
If your focus is on delivering cutting edge technology experiences for your customers, you must test and deploy a lot of websites. Over the years, the Boyenga team has launched hundreds of websites across a multitude of domains. The largest expansion of their online strategy came from their customers. “When we wanted to develop our Search Engine Optimization strategy, we talked to our customers who work at Google,” says Boyenga. Their customers explained the value of having multiple domains that are hyper-local, and populated with unique content that talks about lifestyle and market trends in the area where customers want to live. To deploy this strategy, the Boyenga team partnered with Real Estate Webmasters, a full service online marketing company that manages an array of websites, property search, online advertising, and content development for the team. Today, the team not only generates leads though Keller Williams and Zillow, but also from the hundreds of domains that are operated by their technology partners. In total, the company is generating hundreds of leads per week.
It is hard to imagine a real estate team that is generating so many leads that they are dying the death of a thousand cuts, but that is exactly what happened to the Boyengas. Real estate lead generation is dynamic. Fierce competition for online lead generation ebbs and flows in Silicon Valley. Brokerages, teams, and individual agents will frequently overspend on lead generation and impact the lead flow from time to time. But the Boyengas stay true to their course and manage their online investments around key performance indexes. Again, their experience indicates that too many real estate professionals are trying to generate leads that close today, and are not executing a long-term strategy for customer acquisition and retention.
The Boyengas stay consistent in their strategy and recognize that lead volumes will vary. However, there is very little variability to the incubation and conversion of the tens of thousands of consumers that they have already engaged. The company works the sales funnel at all stages. One of the key issues the Boyengas faced was managing the multiple lead funnels that exist in the wide array of technology systems that they are using. “Our team members were logging into dozens of back end systems to manage hundreds of customers. It was paralyzing to manage customers in different systems.”
I invited Eric Boyenga to share how they solved this complex challenge using Chime.
Chime Consolidates Lead and Customer Management
To solve the problem of multiple systems, multiple back ends, multiple lead funnels and the challenges faced by lead fatigue, the Boyenga Team hired Chime to consolidate all of their customers into a single system that supports multi-user teams. The Boyenga team keeps all of their domains and systems alive. They focus their marketing efforts on a primary site, but keep the other sites in play to leverage their search position online. Some of their sites only generate a deal or two a year, but that is enough to justify keeping the site.
Today, Chime provides Eric and Janelle a single site and backend that enables them to visualize and manage all of their customer activity and team activity from a single application. Chime has removed the daunting task of trying to assemble a federated view of their business across multiple applications. They still use AgentAchieve, Real Estate Webmasters, and a variety of other solutions – but everything now integrates through Chime.
Chime Leads By Lead Source
One of the key features that the Boyengas like with Chime is the ability to run reports across all of their lead generation efforts in a single application. Chime gives them the ability to see where leads are generated — the source of leads. They can also view the engagement and conversion rates of those leads by lead source.
Another key feature of Chime is lead validation. Everyone knows that it would be irregular for Bill and Hillary Clinton to be shopping for a second story walk up in East San Jose, but they get those leads. The Chime application has a system for phone and email validation that saves the team time chasing consumers who do not want to be identified yet.
Chime Gmail and iCal Integration
As an independent contractor, the Boyengas use the Google suite for managing their calendar and email accounts. This integration allows all of their client communications to be organized in the Chime solution to provide a lifetime view of all customer communications.
The Boyengas also leverage the shared calendar functionality in Google Calendar to coordinate the tasks and meetings across the entire organization. They really like the flexibility of allowing their team members to choose the PC platform of their choice. Google Calendar syncs with everyone’s Apple or Microsoft mail and calendar applications and mirrors that on Android and iOS mobile devices with no training needed.
Most of all, the credentials to the Google Suite are fully integrated into Chime on desktop and mobile. Team members do not need to leave the Chime application and bounce over to their mail or calendar applications to communicate or schedule time. They can do that in Chime and the application replicates it seamlessly into the mail and calendar applications of team members.
Chime Search and Notifications
At the heart of all lead management solutions is property search, saved search, and favorite listings. Chime goes further and indexes listings that the consumer may have viewed but not necessarily added as a favorite. This provides team members with a deeper understanding of a consumer’s search activity outside of the saved search criteria or specific listings. It allows them to have broader conversations with their customers about areas that they may not have explored that offer the housing choices that the customer may not know about. The team especially likes the polygon search feature in Chime that is typically only found in MLS systems. It allows consumers and the Boyenga team to get very exacting around the areas someone wants information about and excludes areas they do not like.
Chime Activity Feed
For most real estate professionals, they wake up every day and put the weight of building their business on their shoulders. A great feature about Chime is that they wake up each day with a view of all client activity displayed in the application as a news feed. Customers are engaging with the Boyenga Team and their websites 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At a glance, they can visualize that activity and avail themselves of the opportunities that are all around them.
Chime Lead Scoring
Chime develops an algorithm that looks at all consumer activity and scores each customer with a number that indicates their likelihood to transact. Boyenga loves the performance of the lead score today, and actively provides feedback to Chime on ways to improve. One of the keys to managing tens of thousands of customers is to treat each one uniquely. The lead score does exactly that.
The Boyengass are constantly evolving their lead engagement practices, but it is pretty easy to imagine that customers with the highest lead score require the most amount of support. If customers are on one of their sites every day, opening email alerts every day, inquiring about listings every day, requesting showings on a regular basis — they want to work closely with an agent. Eric believes that those customers want the agent to let them know that they are by their side and ready to help them at any moment.
The middle lead scores need a completely different level of engagement. Customers that are searching once every couple of weeks or once a month have middle range lead scores. These customers are still getting engagement from team members, but at an appropriate rate that matches their behavior. These customers are not likely ready to transact, but they are interested in the value of their existing home, and market trends in areas where they are watching the market. This is a great opportunity for the Boyenga team to give them market overviews and deeper levels of market statistics and activities to further educate them on what is happening in the market. These are future customers that may have a longer term transaction horizon.
With the lead score and the ability to drill into the activities of a consumer, agents gain a picture of the customer that most lead systems do not support. Everyone’s home buying and selling activities have a story. A person may be up for a new job or a raise — and if it happens they may aspire to move. Others may have a great job, but want to be able to switch gears quickly if their startup does not get that next round of funding. Life stories are erratic and individual. The consumer behavior runs in starts and stops, and you never know when they are ready to pull the trigger. But by staying connected at the appropriate engagement level, when the spark ignites activity, the Boyenga Team is right there to assist them as they have been all along.
Low lead scores still represent outstanding future opportunities for the Boyenga Team. These are tire-kickers who do not have a relationship with the Boyenga Team yet. They probably have not defined what they want and probably have not settled on a technology resource that will give them the information they need as they need it. The Boyengas use tools like Smart Dialers, script managers and pre-recorded voicemails to engage. Their team is not smiling and dialing blindly. The smart dialer does the targeted work for them, leaving message for them, and helping them know exactly what script to use on the chance that the person answers.
All of these groups are assigned to smart drip marketing campaigns. They do not push the same materials out to their entire audience at the same frequency. If you give too much stuff to people who are not that interested, they go away. If you provide the right information to the right customer at the right time, they value the professionalism and service.
Text Message Integration
One of the emerging trends that Realtors® are beginning to understand is that consumers like text messaging. In many cases, younger tech savvy home buyers and sellers prefer text to telephone calls. People will routinely have a conversation with you via text during a meeting, a meal, or when they are out running around. But if you call them, that feels like an intrusion. The Boyenga Team has been astounded by the response rates to texting and their team members are overjoyed that they can text a customer right from within the Chime desktop or mobile application, with a record of the text message saved in the system.
Triggered Task and Action Plan Management
For the most part, technology applications are pretty poor at understanding what happens at each step of the customer’s journey. But Chime has developed Task Management and Action Plans that are triggered by consumer behavior. Out of the box, Chime delivers some excellent task lists and action plans, and the Boyenga Team enhances them to fit their unique style of customer engagement.
There are an infinite number of examples of events or behavior that trigger actions. In transaction management, these things are pretty obvious. But in the different stages of lead incubation, action plans are shaped to conform to the behavior of the consumer. If the lead saves a listing, you may want to subtly ask them if they want a property report on the subject property, the market around the property, or the neighborhood — or trigger some other activity — and the platform takes that action automatically. So, consumer behavior actually creates the events, and the Boyengas schedule how the team’s agents and systems automatically respond. They also leverage Zapier integration to a variety of applications that adds a communication dimension that leverages all of their software to deliver a variety of information service to their customers.
One of the most difficult components of having a team is team management. When team members are slow to respond, fail to make calls, or don’t engage with customers in a timely fashion, the Boyengas need to know! That knowledge provides them the opportunity to celebrate team mates who are performing well, and coach others who are not putting enough effort into their success.
The Boyenga Team has 8 members today. The reporting on customer activity and agent activity allows them to constantly adjust the size and quality of their team so that every team member is doing enough transactions to be successful. Unlike large real estate brokerages, teams have little tolerance for idle agents. Produce or go somewhere else!
To be successful as a team, you need to innovate constantly. Of course, that doesn’t mean constantly jumping from one platform to another. When you pick a platform, keep it running long-term, as long as it is producing activity. Consider every lead a customer for life. Once you have the treasure of a customer’s contact information, never stop engaging with them, but do it gently. Don’t overwhelm tire-kickers with too much information at one time. Don’t make your most active customers wait for your response. Automate as much as you can to trigger the correct information that is uniquely tailored to that customer’s action and behavior. And, if you are overwhelmed with multiple systems — consider consolidation using the fully-integrated real estate operating system, Chime.
If you would like to tell us how you have developed a center of excellence in your business for consideration in a future case study, reach Victor Lund at 805.709.6696 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Victor Lund is a founding partner of WAV Group Consulting, CEO of RE Technology, and consultant to many leading industry initiatives.