I’ve written about category kings before: it’s what every startup should be striving for.

There’s one unquestioned “Category King” in real estate. Among real estate portals (in the US), the clear, runaway king is Zillow Group.

There will be “Category Kings” of various segments of the industry, and I think we’re seeing one of them emerge.

Imprev, in marketing automation.

The Imprev platform already powers the marketing centers for hundreds of brokerages and franchises—representing over 20% of real estate agents in North America—including RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Corcoran Group, NextHome, Realty World, and Hunt Real Estate, as well as Homes.com and MRIS.

You may have seen the recent Imprev partnership with NextHome, a real estate franchise with 290 offices and over 2,400 agents. The company also owns the Realty World Northern California & Northern Nevada franchise networks, collectively controlling over 400 offices and more than 3,000 agents. The company closes over 14,000 transactions annually worth over $4.6B in volume, and is more often than not one of the companies in contention when brokers/agents are considering a change of brokerage (see here).

In the press release, James Dwiggins, the NextHome CEO, says “We’re Raising the Bar in Real Estate Marketing”. That obviously implies that Imprev’s platform is helping facilitating that. To me, the Nexthome deal marks a major notch in Imprev’s quest toward domination of marketing automation in the real estate industry. We’re at the point where if you’re in this industry and realize you need marketing automation, there is no real question as to who the leading provider is.

Founded in 2001, Imprev is an example of a company that remains in the slow and steady wins the race camp. That’s my type of business. They aren’t flashy. They don’t overpromise. They don’t care if they are on stage. They plug away with improving their product and increasing their sales one day at a time. Every single day, month after month. Year after year.

Congratulations, Imprev. Welcome to the throne as the category king for marketing automation in the real estate vertical.

I’ve known their CEO, Renwick Congdon, for a number of years (see his meet the RE tech entrepreneur interview from last year). He’s a class act. We’re fortunate to have him as a founding member of the Geek Estate Mastermind. I had the pleasure to ask him a few questions to dig more into their recent work and where he sees the industry heading.

What’s Your most significant business focus for 2018?

Helping brokerages and franchises build stronger relationships with their agents through marketing automation. Marketing automation helps the broker act as a “marketing guide” for their agents and systematizes best practices to make everyone more successful. This is a key service where the broker can offer tangible value to their agents. For example, marketing a luxury home in Los Angeles requires different steps and workflows than a starter home in Indiana. The broker has the benefit of looking at all the company’s listings and pinpointing trends, successes, and failures, then using that knowledge to automatically recommend the next best steps to not only market a new listing, but to use that marketing to generate more business. That type of support is powerful!

When did you originally realize marketing automation was where the company would make its mark, and what’s been the hardest part of fulfilling your vision?

Since 1992 when I wrote my first marketing software program—before I started Imprev—I’ve had the vision of handing real estate agents all the marketing materials they need to promote a listing and their business. The hardest part has been waiting for technology to catch up. When I started Imprev in 2000, our technology was able to deliver functionality that few other companies could match. Agents could create all their materials, from flyers to flash multi-media, within a very easy user interface, and they had access to hundreds of professionally-designed templates.

In 2015 we felt the technology to create all the design work for agents automatically was ready for scale. We launched our first client on automation, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, and haven’t slowed down since. Today we have 212,000 agents experiencing marketing automation and are generating millions of pieces of marketing across print, digital, social and video.

What’s next for marketing automation?

Continuing to help brokerages and agents generate more business from the listings they already have on a larger scale. Opportunities include leveraging the vast amounts of data out there to automate hyperlocal marketing for agents. I find that idea really interesting. The portals have a tight grip on the consumer right now; how can we change that and give some of the power back to brokerages? I believe that automation—used correctly—will bring agents and brokers closer to the consumer. Every day we’re expanding the scale of what automation can handle.

What real estate technology trend or product are you most excited about?

Artificial intelligence. I see AI as telling the computer the rules, and letting it figure out the options, versus machine learning, which just shows the computer a bunch of experiences that it can choose from.

What do you like about being a Geek Estate Mastermind member?

Connecting with really smart people about cutting-edge topics. Drew brings up subjects that are so far advanced; it’s a great reminder to keep an eye on the future and make sure we’re prepared for the next big thing.

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