If there’s a trend dominating headlines and transforming businesses today, it’s predictive analytics. To become more efficient in generating and curating sales leads, the best-in-class predictive tools mine databases to augment the best in human intelligence. Today, society benefits from predictive applications in everything from online shopping to homeland security. In real estate, it should come as no surprise to learn that market-dominant brokerages of all sizes are also embracing the concept, utilizing their own ‘big data’ to win new business and gain a competitive advantage.
Enter Buyside, a groundbreaking data analytics and marketing company helping some of the nation’s top real estate firms leverage their data for greater profit. “We call it augmented intelligence,” says Buyside Founder and CEO Charles Williams. “Buyside is about enhancing existing processes with real-time data in a way that not only gets the agent in front of more customers, but also differentiates their skills and knowledge in a manner that wins more business.”
In this exclusive interview, Williams shares the strategies behind his company’s success, and the reasons why more brokers nation-wide are adopting Buyside’s winning approach.
Barbara Pronin: Let’s begin with a brief recap of your career path, Charles, and how you came to found Buyside.
Charles Williams: I’ve been around real estate my whole life. My grandfather was an investor and my mother is a licensed broker, so, naturally, I went in the opposite direction and got a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Bucknell University. I began my career as a project manager with General Electric, then moved into Mergers and Acquisitions. In the evening, though, while completing my MBA from Goizuta Business School at Emory University, I bought and sold properties over 20 times by the age of 30. When the market was trending downward in 2008, I noticed that there was a gap in the marketplace; that finding buyers was not as transparent as finding listings. I asked agents and brokers if they had a system to find buyers relevant to their properties. The answer was a resounding no, so I decided to build it.
The goal was to collect and analyze buyer activity in a given market so that brokers could not only speak to the demand for a property, but also be able to directly access agents with matching buyers for it – a compelling value proposition to attract seller leads, win listing, and close more transactions.
Gino Blefari, President & CEO, HSF Affiliates
BP: How does the process work?
CW: Many brokers don’t realize their data is a billion-dollar asset — one they already own but often don’t know how to leverage. According to industry statistics, brokers and agents spend millions each year to generate and capture buyer leads, but less than 3 percent of those leads, on average, are converted into closings. What remains is a wealth of buyer activity and behavioral data representing the interest and demand for various types of property.
Buyside helps brokers tap into that asset so they can demonstrate to potential sellers how many buyers are looking for a home like their right now, in this neighborhood, in this school district, with these features, in this price range, etc. Showing homeowners that they can interpret real-time demand and match their home with a list of verified buyers becomes a powerful way for agents to differentiate themselves and win more listings.
BP: Is all data created equal?
CW: The challenge with any big dataset is that it’s so fragmented. which is especially true for buyer behavior. It lives in a dozen different places — brokerage websites, portals like Zillow and realtor.com, mobile apps and even showings and open houses. The power we provide is being able to aggregate and normalize all that data, because once you have the full picture, the data becomes meaningful and actionable.
BP: Where and how is Buyside currently operating?
CW: The company is based just outside Philadelphia, in Wayne, Pa. We have a team of 20 passionate Buysiders who are currently serving more than 50 of the nation’s leading real estate brokerages. Industry leaders like Gino Blefari, president and CEO of HSF Affiliates — which operates Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate — saw an early opportunity to help future-proof his franchise group by deploying Buyside company-wide. With our clients’ success stories growing every day, we’re attracting top franchises and brokerage firms around the country.
Steve Brown, President, Residential Services, Crye-Leike, REALTORS
BP: Other companies are entering the world of real estate data. What makes Buyside unique?
CW: While many other companies can analyze data from your brokerage website, Buyside is the only platform able to capture real-time buyer data from virtually any source and use it to power actionable insights and compelling marketing tool. We know that buyer activity will continue to take place across many different platforms, so we remain technology-agnostic. By capturing the full picture, we’re able to help brokers get in front of prospective clients, while helping agents tell a compelling story that wins new business.
BP: What kind of results are your clients seeing? Are you able to measure their ROI?
CW: Clients are seeing incredible results, and because we capture all their data in one place, we’re able to track their ROI very closely. In fact, one of the enhancements on our immediate roadmap is a Brokerage ROI Dashboard that highlights the number of seller leads captured, listings taken and closing as a direct result of Buyside.
BP: How do you ensure client success?
CW: Our entire leadership team has roots in real estate, so we know firsthand the challenges brokers, managers and trainers face when rolling out new technology to their agents. Success with any new platform begins and ends with the implementation. If you can’t get your agents excited, engaged and using the technology, it’s an exercise in futility. We have a unique roll-out process that not only focuses on how to use the tools, but also how the tools can help the agents win more business.
Rajeev Sajja, Vice President, Digital Innovation, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS
BP: How do you think the real estate industry will utilize big data in the next five years?
CW: Real estate has a way to go to catch up with other industries, which for years have been building businesses and basing key operating decisions on a solid foundation of data analytics. Smart companies will use data to give themselves a competitive edge. Look at Amazon, Netflix and Facebook, who leverage user and behavioral data to provide actionable insights. I think our industry has just started to make this shift, and I expect the effort will increase over the next five years. While real estate will always be face-to-face and relationship-oriented, agents powered by Buyside will emerge as true knowledge brokers, guiding consumers through a complex process with the most comprehensive, data-driven insights powering each step.
BP: What are you looking forward to seeing Buyside accomplish in the year ahead?
CW: We’re excited to be a leader in this rapidly evolving space. For 2018, we’ve already begun our continuing investment into the Buyside platform. We’ll be adding additional integration partners and expanding the options for our users to differentiate themselves using data as an asset. We also look forward to partnering with more top brokerages in every major U.S. market, confirming our mission to help real estate professionals get more listings, close more sales, and keep their clients loyal and happy. RE