All across the country, top producing agents and teams are starting to get back to basics.

The laser like focus on digital marketing, whether through Facebook ads, SEO, or display ads, has been slowly giving way to something more central to a Realtor’s bottom line:

Relationships.

That means relationship marketing– the systematic cultivation and nurturing of relationships to grow your business– is having something of a moment.

One of the earliest adopters of this strategy in the real estate tech space is Contactually CEO Zvi Band.

In order to get a sense of what relationship marketing looks like with the tools available, we sat down with Zvi and picked his brain.

Here’s what we learned:

Escaping the Tyranny of the Urgent

Smart automation of daily relationship marketing tasks helps agents escape the daily grind of small tasks that demand immediate attention. Like any entrepreneur, Realtors need to focus on the big picture work that will actually propel them forward.

Getting stuck in the weeds with calendars, emails, texts, and social media means that big picture focus often takes a back seat. This is what Zvi calls the “tyranny of the urgent” and beating it is a crucial goal for any Realtor who wants to grow.

Automating Personal Connections to Build & Nurture Relationships

While it may seem contradictory at first automation is the perfect way to make the personal connections that a crucial to build and maintain relationships. This was Zvi’s goal for Contactually from his days as a tiny startup, and is their core principle today as one of the largest and most powerful real estate CRM’s available.

For example, Zvi used AI technology to determine the best time to reach out to each contact in your CRM. While your buyer with cold feet might be more likely to answer an email at noon, your former colleague who might want to sell may be more likely to respond at 7:00am.

While you could take meticulous notes on your friend’s schedules, wouldn’t automation make the process much easier? After all, you have big picture work to do today.

Zvi Band Interview Transcript:

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Hey everybody, we’re here with Zvi Band, the CEO of Contactually, one of the best real estate CRMs around. And we’re here today to talk about Relationship Marketing in particular, some of the pain points agents have and the idea that it’s something worthwhile, maybe a new concept for some of our listeners.

So we figured, we go right to the source, Zvi started Contactually, what was it 5, 10 years ago?

Zvi Band:

It was 6 years ago, I feel like I’ve aged 10 years, but it’s been going so fast that I still think it was last year that I started it. So sure why not all the above.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

That sounds perfect. I know that for startups, it’s like feast or famine, you guys have seen incredible success over the past 6 years. I know you’re growing in leaps and bounds like our sister site, Fit Small Business. We actually love Contactually. I think you have a product that is kind of head and shoulders and what a lot of people are trying to do is, what I mean is that you guys have a precision scalpel that just seems to work great.

So, why don’t we just start out for people who may be new to Contactually or even to CRM general? You’d be surprised! I know, I won’t name names but I know an agent on a team who just sold an 8-figure listing in Manhattan, he came to me looking for advice for your CRM and I asked him what he was using and he said he was using Excel. So, just for the people who maybe some sort of catching on new agents. I know that Contactually focuses more on Relationship Marketing…

Zvi Band:

Yeah.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

…so maybe if you can talk a little bit about what relationship marketing it is, why it’s a better system to nurture leads and maybe how can Contactually or other CRMs or maybe even just as a concept that people can apply to their to their lead nurturing

Zvi Band:

Yeah absolutely. So first off thank you so much for having me, especially braving the flu to have this conversation today. Yeah, so, Relationship Marketing, let’s pull back and kind of view it as a real estate agent and again real estate agents, I hate to say, are not unique because there are your lawyers, and financial advisors, consultants, and small business owners and entrepreneurs, they share the same trait where when you boil it down, their core asset is who they know and who knows them, right? That is their currency, especially in a world where the knowledge gap disappears because I can go on Zillow or Redfin to find any property I want, the skills gap is gone because , there are 1.2 million other real estate agents in the US that can do what you do and so we’re really left with that relationship gap,how do I build and maintain that best relationship and so Relationship Marketing is all about this general idea and practice of, how do I better market my skills and my services to and through my relationships, to nurture new repeat and referral business.

So it’s really taking this whole idea, yeah, I know people are important some way and I care about referrals, and breaking it down into what is the exact strategy? , who do I talk to? What do I need to talk to them? What do I say? And that is really solved through both people, processes and technology and in Contactually we’re were thankful that we provide what we believe and what our many customers believe is one of the best pieces of technology to help solve that Relationship Marketing challenge. .

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Great, yeah and I think that’s such an important concept that everyone sort of understands intuitively I think like you said, most people that are in sales are like, well, I need to develop these relationships…

Zvi Band:

Yeah.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

…to take my business to the next level but it kind of gets lost when it comes down to the actual processes and the actual strategy. Like I said, I’ve known a lot of agents who, they had a birthday list, they have a list of , anniversaries for move-ins and move-outs back to back kind of stuff and that works to some extent but to do this really effectively and especially in 2018, , there’s a lot better tools that you can use that are going to sort of augment the just the Excel or email lists or something like that.

Zvi Band:

Yeah, yeah, so I think you’re there, that that’s kind of one of the interesting things. I think the first step is to take that as a new year’s resolution of saying, oh, I want to be better at my relationships and breaking that down into the strategy that you want to do, like, okay, this is a strategic process I’m going to follow and then the next are the tools. So I actually think what if you’re making the Excel spreadsheet work for you, great!

I know fortune 500 CEOs who literally their processes every morning, they wake up and they write down on a piece of paper a list of the ten people they want to talk to that day, they put in their pocket and then over the day, they’ll email those people.

That might work, right, the challenges is , especially in this day and age, Excel spreadsheets and thousands of contacts and who run it? Who do I need to talk to? That’s where those things for most people very quickly fall apart and we built Contactually hoping that we can actually solve that issue.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Yeah, absolutely and I think also we’re talking about CEOs or people that are the sort of front view of any kind of business, their circle is a lot smaller in some ways because they have maybe 10, 15 people that they really need to talk to, maybe someone comes in, a new client they have to move or something but , I mean real estate is such a numbers game.

Here in New York City we’re dealing with renters. When it was working as an agent, I could get , 50 calls in a weekend, just it’s a sort of churn and burn and I think the sheer volume of people that real estate agents need to talk to in the numbers that they need to convert whatever , 3%, 1%, it’s just a lot higher so that’s where I think this focus on relationships kind of comes good.

Zvi Band:

That goes back to that issue why I started Contactually six years ago is I think yeah there are… it’s not even a matter of like how many people we need to engage with per say but it’s also just the number of people coming into our sphere every day right? the human mind, your research has proven that the human mind can only remember 150 people at a time and usually those are the 150 people that you’ve been engaging with most recently, maybe not necessarily the most important people, so , I would meet someone for coffee and then 2 weeks, later completely forget about them and so, yeah, if I can’t remember who I sat down for half an hour with and had coffee, , how is a real estate agent going to remember the lead that came in 3 months ago, right? And so, yeah, I think that is a big opportunity that is kind of the big gap in the human condition that technology really can fill and fill it incredibly well.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Definitely. So speaking to that, so how do you think agents today, I mean, talking just where we are in 2018, I think a lot of people are starting to wake up to sort of , I mean, not the drip emails or anything or new technology but I think people are starting to wake up and say, “Hey look, I can kind of systematize this, I can send these templates and I can make this. So it’s a lot less sort of busy work I don’t jot down the leads, I can just sort of set it and forget it in the sense.”

But, so how do you think… because I feel like a lot of agents do that but maybe they are a little too much on the side of, just automation and they don’t really have that sort of personal touch in there. I think that’s something where people think like oh well I get these market reports from my broker and it’s like oh, this is the vacancy rate or, I may just kind of pump it out and it’s not making that sort of personal touch, it’s like birthdays or something like that. Is there something you think that agents are doing a good job of this and in your sense right now or is it something that…?

Zvi Band:

I think there’s definitely something there and that’s kind of the issue right. I think agents, I think unless you are really great at building and maintaining rapport, you’re dead right, you’re really not in business as a real estate agent. Let’s face it, I think this is one of its points where all right, they know that digital marketing is really important and being able to strategically market themselves is important.

I think this is where that may be an issue where other industries are coming in and somewhat corrupting it right because you’ll bring in a tool like MailChimp or a HubSpot or something like that. Or some general digital marketing practices that are meant for brands and companies to maintain relationships with thousands of contacts right and in a very brand specific way and that kind of over automation and over-mechanization yeah that can kind of lead people astray.

Listen, it’s still important to have a monthly newsletter and send you the market updates but still an agent and a consumer still has to have that personal relationship so I think yes, like one-to-one relationships sitting down, being together it was on one side and then your mass marketing on the other there is that gap in between.

I think that’s where an agent has the opportunity to really focus on. This becomes the root of the issue that we see is that in the present day and age, we’re so stuck in focusing on what’s urgent like meaning, like the push notification that came up, the listing appointment I have today, the lead that just showed up, the inspection that isn’t happening, the transaction have to close this moment that we often lose sight of the longer term opportunities right? Who are we going to do business with in three years?

Therefore, I just want to touch base with them today and check in and make sure they know that I’m in their corner and that is really the core essence of relationship marketing, how do we break out of their urgent and the tyranny of it and spend more time on that important side.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Right. The tyranny of the urgent that we have to steal from you…. That’s a great way to say it. I mean there’s so much we actually have to do. It’s not something we invented but there’s this idea of rock’s, if you’ve heard of this so it’s this idea that yeah so you have the sort of bigger long term goals that you have and you have the sand and this the pebbles that are sort of the smaller day to day emergencies and fires that come up and focusing on the long term is super important

Zvi Band:

We can spend all day in our inbox, right?

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Oh yeah easily.

Zvi Band:

All day in our inbox responding to what just came in and completely forget about let’s say kind of you go three or four pages back in our inbox and kind of going, “Oh I talked to that person two weeks ago and I haven’t spoken to them since June maybe it’s worth sending her a message, right?”

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Just out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on AI coming in and there’s all this stuff that’s supposedly going to be able to disrupt the industry. Returning this but I still am sort of under the idea that again the little personal touch accounts which is why even something that’s super corny like the the pop by gift with a little corny message on it, it’s just like it puts you in there, it helps you build a rapport rather than just your faceless nameless information sort of person who’s just giving them market news.

So do you think that, is there like an equivalence is there like a digital equivalent of that pop by gift? Is there something like I know you guys have dabbled with handwritten notes and stuff like that that get sent out or is there anything you think that might kind of replace that or is that something agents are always going to have to just sort of use shoe leather it to get results?

Zvi Band:

I mean I think it’s important I think to kind of identify like with that pop by gift or the closing gift or the personal coffee what is it? And what’s going on there and my friend Jason Gainart he runs a great series of events for CEO’s, he kind of told me one day that caring is the ultimate competitive advantage. What we’re doing with that pop by gift or with that personal outreach or the holiday present is we’re showing that we care about them right and especially when you’re dealing with such an incredibly valuable transaction like my biggest asset the biggest purchase I’m ever going to make it’s terrifying, it’s scary.

I need to make sure that I have the best person in my corner making sure that I’m working with someone who does care about me that matters a lot right? I’m in them in the market for a new home don’t tell anyone and I’m working with a number of different agents and I’m able to see clearly like all right who’s treating me as another contact in their database for lack of better terms and who’s going above and beyond and showing, they really care about me and I think it can be translated in a digital way, in pretty straightforward ways.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

I think one cool thing that’s come on our radar recently is a company called Eva Bot, have you heard of this?

Zvi Band:

Yeah.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

It’s an interesting idea and that I think it’s also this thing where it’s making it helps you make this personal connection but it also kind of increases the distance in a sense because it’s like it helps you figure out what they want ostensibly, but if you’re building rapport with somebody you should kind of that’s kind of the point of giving a gift. You get to know somebody and say, “Oh I think they would like this and there’s some thought behind it.”

Zvi Band:

That’s okay right I think at the other day like when the important thing I think and this is something we get caught into sometimes too is like there’s all this talk about it’s all about the follow up and the follow up and the follow up. Yeah I mean following up is basically just means maintaining cadence, really what you’re trying to do in that is you’re trying to deliver value right and show you’re valuable and show you care. Yeah, I mean giving a gift is really valuable but at the same time to your point if you over mechanize it to say, “Oh clearly I’m just a line in Excel spreadsheet that says okay you should care about Emile today.” that does attract it and so that’s why the over automation, it’s a double-edged sword for sure.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Definitely and then so if I can get in another kind of big picture question I think we can get down to the weeds and as far as leadership training and technology and all that but just a bigger picture question. We keep hearing these certain rumors about the impending disruption that AI is going to bring. I just I don’t see it, I feel like we have a lot of remote workers in the Philippines and they do amazing work and it’s that personal just okay yeah, I’m a human and I get you, and I think I feel like that it’s just people are going to automatically sniff it out and if they don’t like it… God forbid like you said you’re looking for a house have you have you gotten canned email responses and recognize them as coming from a certain CRM?

Zvi Band:

I can tell for example at this point I can almost tell which automated marketing tool they’re using these days based on the design of the email. I can tell that that’s coming from that system or I can tell you’re paying that service who I know and love right? But you’re right like maybe I sent an unique place because I know so many but I think there is a little bit of concern that it becomes an arms race and everyone’s arming themselves with tools and that’s why I do think using those tools in the right way but then again layering in your own personal and authentic relationship building on top of it that is going to be they can be competitive advantage.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

I absolutely agree and it just seems like drone photography and the 3D tours and all this and everyone said, “Oh this Open Door is coming it’s the end of the agents.” Yeah I’m sort of heartened to see that you’re a tech guy and you’re kind of agreeing here… hopefully.

Zvi Band:

Remember I’m actually a software developer. I actually like naturally an incredible introvert so I actually spent two weeks on the road just now I came back and I spent the entire last weekend just literally in a hole not talking. But yeah I learned early on that there’s such incredible value in relationships and that is really what set me on this path so now this is something I’m thankful to be able to dedicate the past six years of my life to.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

You’re saving introverts and bringing them up into the daylight, I love it. Cool. So just one more quick thing, so I noticed that you guys have something called like the best time to send email intelligence and I just sort of came across that and I’m just curious if you can just give a quick description, I mean if it’s anything proprietary we’re going to have to get into the skunk works here but just a quick overview of how that works for lead nurturing is it something where it’s just time of day or is it by lead or…

Zvi Band:

I mean we talked about it you touched on a little bit earlier. I do believe it’s a over-hype concern about artificial intelligence and it potentially replacing us entirely, right? I don’t think that’s that’s the point I think it’s it’s really thinking about how can artificial intelligence actually help. the best time to send and where we are heading to as an intelligent CRM is how do we take the information that we have and help you in a way, right? So what we do is again we’re tracking 250 million relationships at any point in time. We’re pulling all of your email conversations we’re looking at all of your calendar appointments.

So we are pulling in all this information for you, what we do with that is then how do we help you with that and so one thing again, we’re looking at 250 million relationships I can tell based on the patterns that you and I are using to communicate that the best time to send you an email is at 10:00 AM. Why? That is when you’re most responding to people. That’s when you’re engaging with the most number of messages so I know that I want to email a meal all right 10 AM is the best time and so Contactually our whole purpose is you don’t care about the algorithms and all the prediction stuff that we do behind the scenes, you just want to know all right when Contactually says you should reach out Contactually says, “Hey by the way email him at 10 AM, click here and we’re going to automatically schedule the message to go out this time.”

Emile L’Eplattenier:

That’s great and that’s super important and I think it’s nice to see people that you’re trying again to sort of bring this into the fold and saying, “Look we have data here” and the amazing thing too is just having access to that data which is just unbelievable and I think it’s going to lead to even greater stuff down the road. Just to be clear, am I pronouncing Zvi, correctly?

Zvi Band:

You got it listen, every relationship I’ve had in my life, has begun with like so how do I say your name? We’re doing great man.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Awesome same, my name is Emile spelled E-M-I-L-E so yeah, we’re sort of in the unique name club together so I’m glad I nailed it on the first try. Awesome. Hey it’s been absolutely fabulous talking to you is there anything you want to kind of mention to for listeners or anything got coming down the pike and you think it’s exciting new products cool stuff.

Zvi Band:

Yeah absolutely I mean so Jeff Bezos has CEO of Amazon has this attitude that your every day is day one and that’s definitely something that we subscribe to at Contactually, right? We believe that relationships will always be this important asset that’s one thing that won’t change but then everything in terms of how we interact them, how we build and maintain relationships that is what is so incredibly powerful. So yeah I mean we know we’re just the beginning of our journey, we’re thankful to partner with thousands of agents and work with seven of the top 20 brokerages in the country as well as dozens of others but really like our mission is we believe that the best businesses are built on personal authentic relationships.

So, for any of the listeners here and for anyone that that Emile, as our team’s incredibly receptive and we’re always happy to help in any way.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

Awesome great and that’s contactually.com.

Zvi Band:

Contact and actually if they had a baby.

Emile L’Eplattenier:

I never got that awesome Zvi Band thanks so much appreciate it.

Zvi Band:

Thank you so much for your time.

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