We talked to Thomas Bible on how RealtyZapp makes real estate marketing easy and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Thomas Bible: We are fine. We have followed recommendations for wearing a mask in places where social distancing is not likely. We carry sanitizer everywhere, keep it in our cars for each time we exit a public area, and limit our in-person meetings with more than 3 or 4 people. We are not letting fear dictate our actions, but rather common sense. It has always been a good idea to wash your hands several times a day, distancing from anyone who shows signs of an illness, and clean your surroundings regularly. Anyone who has had kids will tell you that. The only new thing is the mask ritual, which is a pain no matter who you ask, and we look forward to a time where that is not an inconvenient necessity.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded RealtyZapp?
Thomas Bible: My career began in marketing. I helped many companies grow their customer base by showing the importance of brand awareness and a multi-faceted marketing approach, employing various short-term tactics as part of a well-defined long-term strategy. I never considered myself a salesperson, but rather a business consultant, often helping clients with initiatives outside of the scope of what served my interests, as I knew it best served my clients’ interests—this built relationships that lasted years, and friendships that remain to this day.
I entered the commercial real estate field in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, as I predicted there would be much uncertainty in the market for some time to follow. Still, I knew there was relative stability in Commercial Real Estate, and this was a place where I could help others with my marketing skills. For example, I was the first in my market to send out a monthly broadcast e-mail cataloging all my firm’s listings in a single, indexed multi-page PDF, which caught the attention of several other brokers. I was among the first to create interior 360 virtual tours of office, retail and industrial spaces before Matterport existed. And I have helped many of my real estate clients realize greater returns through creative solutions to common problems. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology and have enjoyed teaching those around me how to use it best to benefit their business.
I launched RealtyZapp a little over five years ago to bring much of the proactive methodologies that served me so well in marketing and commercial real estate to help other brokers accomplish more with less. I saw the potential of Wall Street monopolies placing pressure on the main street brokerage community and thought, “Someone has to step up and offer marketing solutions that provide a cost-effective, sustainable option for CRE professionals who simply can’t afford thousands per month for online marketing, that honestly, shouldn’t be that expensive.” To this day, I help individual commercial agents realize the importance of personal branding through vehicles like YouTube channels, social media, and professional collateral materials and help to automate these things so that brokers can focus on a more pro-active and productive marketing strategy.
How does RealtyZapp innovate?
Thomas Bible: We are Broker driven rather than investor driven, so innovation comes from my experience as a broker, collaboration with professionals in our field, and feedback from our clients, which we often act on in short order. Many of our features have come directly from client requests and feedback. I look to see where inefficiencies exist in a broker’s business process. Then we integrate features that are easy to set up, modify, and employ to lessen the time spent on redundant tasks while improving the brand consistency across their website, marketing materials, and online profiles. Our primary concern is empowering agents to get their listings ranked in prospect Google searches, helping them connect faster with these buyers and tenants when they call, and to ease the process of follow up, activity, and pipeline tracking. Suppose it relates to marketing, which is a broker’s primary role in this business. In that case, we want to be the leader in providing the most cost-effective and simple solutions in one platform, so we look for ways to improve upon this by continually improving and optimizing elements of our site to enhance speed and functionality.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Thomas Bible: Covid only affects our ability to meet with the entire brokerage. We are looking forward to doing that again soon, but in the meantime, we use Zoom to conduct on-screen demos with the firm’s decision-makers, then again for training and on-boarding with the team. Since our launch, we have been Zoom clients, so we were doing this before, but now we are using it on a larger scale.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Thomas Bible: We have not had to make any difficult choices as a result of Covid. We are happy that we have provided firms with a better, more cost-effective solution when they have all had to make some difficult choices. In doing so, we have also extended our 25% firm discount rate to all, regardless of whether the entire firm signs up or not. This was an easy decision, and people are very thankful. My biggest lesson learned through this pandemic is that the entrepreneurial spirit’s power is strong enough to turn any adversity into an opportunity for growth. If we help one more broker each day realize what can be done to overcome the obstacles that are sometimes placed in our path to be able to focus on the bigger picture and emerge better for it, then word of mouth will spread among brokerage communities to enable entire markets to better collaborate through the tools we provide and drive their business further. If we help enough brokers improve their marketing and business processes, we will reach our goals.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Thomas Bible: Since I am inspired by helping others succeed, speaking with a broker who understands marketing and wants to step up their game puts me in the best frame of mind, so I usually block off time each week to cold call and spread the good news about RealtyZapp. Those who take the time to sit for a brief demo usually thank me for it and are amazed that we do for so little. This usually results in a new client who soon enough sends us a testimonial to use on our site. For me, this is the best stress therapy.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Thomas Bible: If you are in the commercial real estate business, you know of LoopNet, Crexi, and Brevitas. These are our primary competitors, but since we offer solutions for all things marketing, I would include MailChimp or Constant Contact, ACT or Apto on the CRM front, and a few others on the design side. Several platforms have emerged in the last five years, but none do as much as we do for so little. We intend on being the sustainable option, keeping our rates affordable, and locking in a client’s book rate for as long as they are with us; when others come into a market, get a following by offering free listings, and then leverage lead information to force the agents to sign up to receive any value from the platform. We believe that if you continually bring value to your clients and treat them honestly and fairly, they will be with you long-term. Our platform is strictly a broker-upload model, which means that listings are more accurate, and photos come directly from the broker, insulating us from copyright infringement issues. We plan on being around a long time, to be able to serve the brokerage community through bull and bear markets.
Your final thoughts?
Thomas Bible: I endeavored to build RealtyZapp.com after learning that investor-driven platforms cannot effectively serve two masters, and as a result, we have accepted the challenge of growing organically. It is a more challenging road, but we are committed to serving our client’s best interests above all else. We have been approached by several investment firms and realize that the process of exponential growth would be significantly accelerated. Still, the result would be higher fees for our clients and an eventually forced exit strategy that would jeopardize the trust we have built and potentially disenfranchise those who supported us. This is happening now with other Goliaths in the industry, and my commitment is to the industry we serve. As I genuinely enjoy helping others, I can’t see myself doing anything else, so I encourage any broker reading this to register on our site for your free trial, take a look at our YouTube channel linked below, add your listings, and take advantage of all that we have built to improve your business. And will continue to listen, respond, and innovate to support and empower the brokerage community like no other firm while allowing you to keep more of what you make.
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