Connect the Speakers: Jack Miller on building a competitive brokerage tech stack

Jack Miller works with brokerages every day to help them identify technology that’s right for them as part of T3 Sixty — and what’s right for one brokerage might not necessarily be the best choice for another. “Most brokerage companies, even franchises, don’t have time to really get to know and understand these companies,” he noted. “And we have experience with that; our goal is to fit the broker with the best technology both ways because it works better.”

He’ll be talking about what you need to know to buy your tech and how to power your indie brokerage to its best advantage at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. We caught up with him to talk about the competitive playing field in real estate and why opportunities to focus aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution for brokerages.

Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?

I think of it as competitors — you have a competitive playing field, and there are some new competitors in the field. There’s a whole set of competitors who are taking a different way to approach the industry. There are those who recognize this is happening, those who don’t recognize it’s happening and those who are at the end of their career and are probably going to move out anyway. So how you react depends on your positioning. But these competitors are using technology to get a lot more competitive: The flat-fee companies are using technology to reduce the need for staffing, or companies like eXp are using it to jettison entire items from their expenses. They’re using it to become more efficient and cost-effective. They can offer a different split to the agent, and that causes its own kind of market shift.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are brands using technology in order to position directly for the consumer. Redfin is the poster child for this, but some of the other new market competitors are doing this as well. They’re investing more than the traditional industry has in this and are doing a much better job of it. So they’re going to capture consumer and agent market share for agents who are attentive to that.

Brokerages say “we have website and CRMs,” but it’s not why agents are joining your firm; you have it to say you have it. We’re moving into an era where how it’s executed really matters. Agents are choosing the CRM as much as the company. And you have people who are using it to disrupt the middle of the market by providing a much less expensive, cost-effective option.

I think in that environment, if you don’t have a strategy for choosing the right technology, you’re going to get killed. If you just keep doing what you’ve been doing, that’s not what competitors are doing. They’re lowering fees for agents or providing such incredible value that your top people are going to leave. I don’t believe it’s optional now. You have to play with every card in your hand, and technology is one of those cards. Most brokers aren’t playing with very many of those cards.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?

It’s not that everybody needs to go and do _______ because then people end up doing weird things that are kind of dumb because your business model isn’t the same as your competitors’ business model down the road. You need to understand the value proposition you provide in the market, understand who you’re going after from an agent and consumer perspective, and then evaluate if you’re best-in-class in all the places you need to be best-in-class. Do you have technology and marketing in the places that are most important? Let’s understand what you’re trying to do here and look at what you have — you’re supposed to be best-in-class in marketing but you’re running on a 10-year-old marketing engine that needs to be put out to pasture.

The biggest opportunity for brokers is themselves: Understanding themselves, their value proposition, and putting vendors and technology or training into place that fits them really well. We have a leadership narrative with our brokers about how they need to quit copying and pasting what other people are doing; it might not work. But if you deliver value to your agents and customers, that will work every time. What’s good for Howard Hanna is different from a RealtyOne franchisee is different from a KW franchisee is different from an eXp team. What they need to focus on is what makes them different, and that’s the answer that stands the test of time. It’s always what’s in your market. Maybe no one’s playing hard in the luxury end of your market, which is kind of underserved right now, or a particular demographic — the first-time homebuyer millennial. Look at what’s going on nationally, but look at everything that’s going on through the lens of your local market.

To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?

There are two parts. The contract to close is a huge opportunity for most brokers in improving the consumer experience — and none of this is new. A lot of this comes down to communication; people want to know what’s going on, and the contract to close process is right in the heart of that. The other one that is also not new — it’s just hard — is what happens from the time a consumer comes to your website and fills out a form until they actually meet with an agent. It’s quite difficult to pull off. Those are two that I think the industry still struggles with and more investment and work is needed in making those better, but they’re fundamental, they’re going to happen again and again and again.

What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?

We are working at T3 Sixty to provide the industry with the best possible market intelligence and business intelligence in order to navigate a time of great change. Our goal next year is to provide some new products that will help brokers make much better decisions, understand their market and their business better, have some benchmarks and standards they can rely on and use as navigation instruments. We want to provide people with a kind of intelligence about their business that they’ve never had.

Separately from that, we view ourselves as a neutral, trusted resource for the industry, that’s our position, and we’re building a team right now — up to about 14 or 15 people, seven consultants — that we are available to help people through a time of change, to make better decisions, to adopt best practices and do all the things we know will help them have a better business. So I’m focused on building the strongest consultant team that I can to provide them with a level of professional service that we don’t think has existed for real estate. We’re transitioning from more of a cottage mom-and-pop industry to more of a professional business environment. So my personal goal is to build that team, pick great people, train them really well and make sure they have great systems and tools to take care of our clients.

Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.

Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.

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