#149 Mail-Right Show With Special Guest Zvi Band CEO of Contactually
We Interview The CEO Zvi Band of Contactually A Leading CRM System Aimed At Real Estate Professionals
Zvi Band is the co-founder & CEO of Contactually, the top CRM which empowers professionals in real estate, consulting, and other professional industries to build authentic relationships. Having founded Contactually in 2011, Zvi has led Contactually to $12M in venture backing, 75 employees, and tens of thousands of customers, including 8 of the top 20 real estate brokerages in the country. An engineer, a seasoned entrepreneur, developer, strategist and startup advisor, with unique both technical and non-technical operations.
Thrice named a Washingtonian Tech Titan, featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Washington City Paper, Zvi was also a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year . Zvi is a passionate speaker and author whose writing has appeared in Forbes, Inc, Inman News, and many other outlets. His first book, a study of relationship marketing, will be coming out with McGraw Hill next year. He also hosts the Real Relationships podcast and has interviewed hundreds of leaders on how they built the relationships that moved their careers and businesses to the next level.
Here’s a Full Transcription of Our Interview With Zvi
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the Mail-Right Show. It’s episode 149. My co-host is not with us today, Robert. He’s traveling, business traveling. But we’ve got a fantastic guest for the show. I’ve been really looking forward to this interview. We’ve got Zvi Band, CEO and joint founder of Contactually. Zvi, would you like to just give a quick introduction of you and Contactually.
Zvi: Absolutely. Hi, everyone. I’m so thankful to be on this show today. I’m here in the beautiful non-state of Washington, D.C. Contactually, we are an intelligence CRM, serving some of the top performing Real Estate Agents as well as their Brokerages as a whole. Myself, I’m a Software Developer by trade. I should be sitting behind a keyboard coding but unfortunately, my Engineers don’t let me code anymore which is why I’m here today.
Jonathan: Yeah. So you’ve got the time to join us. That’s great. Thank you so much. So, I’m notorious for my long-winded questions that are in multi-sections but I’m going to try and keep in sync.
Zvi: All right. Chapter 1. Let’s go.
Jonathan: Yeah. Let’s go. So, Contactually. There’s a lot of CRMs. I personally think you’re one is one of the better ones myself.
Zvi: Thank you.
Jonathan: In interface design and just ease of use. But why should a Real Estate Agent that’s under a lot of pressure, either trying to get leads, trying to get clients, all the day to day stuff that goes with this industry, why should they invest time in a CRM in general and specifically in your one?
Zvi: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s break it down. What is a CRM? A CRM at a core is a database of relationships or what we think of an intelligent CRM is an intelligent tool that helps you maintain relationships. So, I think the better question is, why are relationships so important? I think every Agent out there knows that their best and most reliable and lowest cost source of business are people that already know them. Past clients, referral sources, even online leads that you met that weren’t necessarily ready to buy. So, when you think about that and you think about the incredibly long transaction times, the fact that 6, 7, 10 years may go by between transactions, maintaining that relationship over a long period of time is very important. So, we know relationships need to last for a long period of time, okay. Well, the problem is that at both sides of that relationship are two human beings.
If we are robots that never forgot anything, fine but we’re human beings. And if we can’t remember what we had for breakfast 2 weeks ago, how are we going to remember who we met or more importantly, how are they going to remember us? The human mind can only track 150 relationships at any point in time. That’s been proven by Science. And so, we are actively forgetting people. And so, technology that can help us maintain those relationships so we can keep providing value so at the right time they think of us, that’s a business critical asset.
Jonathan: You’re preaching to the converted really. I totally agree with you. But in this particular industry, for understandable reasons, there’s two areas that I’ve worked with a number of clients and I’ve observed is one, I’m not talking about an Agent that’s involved for the first year, first 18 months and they’re still in the business, they go over the first hurdle which is survival. And then, they’re going into how, “I’ve got enough income so I can stay in this business and I want to stay in this business. I now want to grow my business. I need to grow this to the next level. A, I haven’t got enough time in the day anyway.”
Jonathan: I find that their database, their contacts are spread all over the place and getting them into a central depository like your system is great news. But secondly, for understandable reasons, it’s a commission lead generated business so there’s a lot of pressure to get the next lead that will convert. So, it’s really hard to explain to Agents the benefit of trying to build these relationships online or keep in contact with what I call your farm in the community. Has that been one of the greatest challenges, not the technology but really explaining the great benefits of your software package, these kind of ideas to your target community?
Zvi: No. I think there’s enough Real Estate montra out there. Every top performing Agent or really any Agent who’s seen any kind of success will preach more than even we do about the value of relationships as an important asset. So, I think everyone knows that relationships are important. That’s usually not the issue with selling Contactually. Our big issue is more, I think the core aspect of relationships is, it is a farm and it takes time to grow and it takes to nurture those relationships. And we as human beings, one, we’re wired for the short-term, not for the long-term. If all of us were thinking about what do we want our life to look like at 60 and doing everything we can to kind of get to that, we wouldn’t be eating sugar anymore. We’d be going to the gym and never the take the elevator and take the stairs.
We’d be thinking about the long-term but we’re always thinking about the short-term and not enough about the long-term gains. That’s just human nature. That’s how we’re wired. The second aspect of it is I think we all know that these are important things but we often times fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent. Let’s face it. We may set off, like start our day with a to-do list and a fresh mind and all these things we want to do but then what happens? This is what happens. The push notifications on our phone, the Slack messages, the emails coming in. There’s so many things trying to interrupt us and trying to say, “Hey, do this now. This is really important.” So, I’m actually not surprised at all. Everyone knows that their sphere is important but so is the inspection that they have to handle today or the transaction they have to close today or the lead that just came in that they want to respond to right now. So, I think the key struggle that we kind of help Agents and Brokers with isn’t necessarily justifying that Contactually is important or not or relationships are important or not, it’s helping them balance the important versus the urgent.
Jonathan: The other thing I’ve noticed and I just want to get your feedback is that there seems to be an artificial divergence between what I call the Buffini methodology which is build very close relationships in your community and get very close, not that many but when you do get a referral, it’s really fantastic. And then, you get people that pay for leads using Zillow and other online portals and I’ve noticed a lot of those people do very little relationship building in any shape or form. I think the best methodology is the middle methodology where you try and build up local, very tight relationships but you also farm and nurture your online leads or possible leads. Do you think I’m right? Is this artificial?
Zvi: I think the pendulum definitely swings back and forth between what’s more important, the relationships or online leads. And so, we started Contactually because we believe that relationships are a professional’s most important asset and emphasize the word asset because it’s something almost physical that you can count and touch and maintain and grow and lose as well. But then attending a lot of Real Estate conferences and hearing about what a lot of people were talking online, there was so much focus around optimizing your website and Drip campaigns and online leads and almost like a disregard for the people behind them because it’s all about just like, “How do I just get more leads in and convert them?” And yeah, I definitely do agree with you that I think both are important. We always say that if you only had $1 to spend, that $1 should be spent preaching to your own choir first, that first $1. But then, that second $1, yeah, that should be getting someone new.
And the reason why I think we shouldn’t necessarily skip out of the database is like imagine if these are the relationships I have, not focusing on your relationships is like having a leaky bucket. It’s like punching holes in the bottom of this and letting water fall out. And yeah, I can keep dumping new leads and more water in and keep paying for that and that’s great. I can still drink and business will be going great. But I still know I’m losing so much at the bottom. And so, I think relationship marketing is all about plugging that hole and making sure that, yeah, you can keep spending money on Zillow and Realtor.com and Homes.com leads and your website and bus ads and things like that because then it all of a sudden becomes more valuable because then those relationships stay there. 47 percent of online leads never get a single touch. So, stop spending money on online leads if you’re not even going to bother talking to them.
Jonathan: Yeah. It’s amazing that figure, isn’t it? It’s an amazing figure. So, somebody sets up their Contactually account and you offer a 30-day, a fully functioning account, don’t you, which they can try out this service and product. Got any kind of tips about how to get started on this? Because I think obviously you’ve got to be motivated but I think everybody when they open a new program, a new system, “I’m going to get going. I’m going to get started with this.”
Zvi: I know.
Jonathan: Got any insights about that?
Zvi: Yeah. I think there are lots of, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of, we do believe that Contactually is, we’ve built a very user-friendly tool. That being said, there’s lots of advanced functionality and there’s a lot of things that I would say, in your first couple weeks, you don’t need. So, we say like to get it up and running, it’s a 3-step process. The first is getting all of your account connected. The real initial magic of Contactually is we pull in all of your email conversations, phone calls, text messages, calendar appointments, we pull all of that into one place. So, we always say, “Hey. Connect your email accounts, get your calendar in, pull in your phone contacts, any Excel spreadsheets you’ve been using, get in one place.”
So that alone all of a sudden, if nothing else, you’ve got a really good database of people that you can look at. The second step is pretty easy and we give you like buckets which are kind of like categories or folders of people. Take a look and make sure that you’re creating buckets that are around what you believe is most important for your business. So, again, we’ll give you a set but you may want to tweak it based on how you want to grow your business. And step three, this sounds silly but we have an arcade game built in Contactually called the Bucket Game which will basically let you put the contacts into the buckets and what you’re doing is you’re prioritizing the relationships that are going to be really important for you. So, it’s really that 3-step process, that’s all you have to do. You could do that within 10, 15 minutes. And then, all of a sudden, within a couple days, Contactually is going to start reminding you about people that you completely forgot about. You didn’t even realize you forgot about. So that’s the real value of Contactually.
Jonathan: That’s great. We’re going to go for our break folks. We’re coming back. I’m really enjoying this chat with Zvi and we’ll be back in a few moments folks.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back. Like I say, my co-partner in this podcast has disappeared for this week.
Zvi: He’s lost.
Jonathan: He’s lost. But he said he’s definitely coming back next week which surprised me. No, I’m only kidding folks. Another factor I’d like your insights into is obviously, as a valued proposition, any sofware, obviously, you rely on the feedback of your existing user base but there’s always, to add more value, to add more features, to add this bit, to add that bit. You get these requests. You at them and you see how many requests come in. But there’s always A, the possibility of defocus and ending up with a Swiss army knife of a bit of software that really doesn’t do anything that great. It does a lot of things reasonably okay but it doesn’t do anything specifically that great. I would imagine this has been an ongoing conversation in your company. Got any insights on how you deal with it? And what your philosophy around, A, do you agree with some of what I’ve just said?
Zvi: Yeah, absolutely. I believe focus is one of the most powerful tools that we have as professionals that I think we don’t take enough advantage of because there’s so much information and content and good ideas and what the person next to us is doing and what the person behind us is doing and in front of us is doing. Let’s go do all of that. Those are all great ideas. So, really focusing on what you want to work on. I believe that’s a very powerful tool. Yeah, in terms of kind of, to answer your question, we definitely made the decision early on that we wanted to be a best new class system and we want to do only CRM.
That’s it. That’s all we want to focus on for the foreseeable future. That’s all we have focused on. So, we don’t do websites, we don’t do transaction management, we don’t do lead gen. We build a really great CRM and provide it and our CRM is focused on your sphere of influence. We’re not focused on, again, your website. Yeah, we can pull in your, we’re a Zillow tech connect partner and things like that and can serve that but we are focused on people who believe that their sphere is their most important asset. And so, that’s why I believe it’s important for professionals to not just go with a one size fits all solution and not just do what the person next to you is doing. Really identify what’s important. We have a free trial because I want them to set up 15 different CRMs. See what works for you. We could be the best for you or we could definitely not be the best for you. That’s why I think it is important that every Agent designs the business the way that they want to operate and then finds tools to match the way they want to do business.
Jonathan: Yeah. I totally agree with you Zvi. I’ve noticed with your interface, you use the bucket metaphor which I think is a great metaphor to utilize. You haven’t gone through the fully tag methodology. You are still using lists. I suppose you can probably utilize both. Can you use tags and lists in the metaphor buckets?
Zvi: Yeah, absolutely. So, buckets, they’re similar again, to like categories or folders. Usually, you have a finite set, maybe 8 to 12 buckets. Some people have more, some people have less. It’s fine. But usually, it’s like it’s a finite set. Whereas tagging is a little more free form where you can have thousands of tags. So, we like to think a bucket is past clients, whereas a tag would be loves horses, entrepreneur, business owner, three kids, New York. Those are more descriptive but you want to kind of prioritize your relationships around buckets. Buckets actually came about in an interesting way.
One of the things we’re thankful for is from very early on we’ve really focused on customer feedback and we’ve always had people willing to give us customer feedback. And so, we got feedback early on from a couple initial Real Estate Agents that literally told us word for word. Yeah, I think about my relationships, my sphere of influence as like buckets of people. That’s a very clear visual thing. We all know what a bucket looks like. It’s used to capture people and collect people or collect things. And so, a bucket, yeah, it’s a great way of thinking about how to collect relationships. And so, we came up with bucketing but we still know that some people like having that free form ability to type in any kind of descriptor and that’s where we use the tag taxonomy for that. But we always say starting out, “Hey. Just stick with buckets. They’re very simple to understand.” And if you want to get more advanced or start trying to say, “Hey, I want to pull up all of the people in my sphere that are really into horses.” Okay, great. Then, tag the people who are into horses as such and then you can find those relations later on. But most people don’t need that.
Jonathan: That’s great. Thanks for that Zvi. Are there any kind of Brokerages or Agents that you’ve recently been aware of that have been put to your attention that you feel that have been utilizing your software in a really interesting and are good examples to our listeners and viewers?
Zvi: Yeah, absolutely. We’re thankful to work with now close to 100 of the top performing Brokers in the country. I think, of which, I think like of the top 20 Brokerages in the United States, 8 of them are customers of ours so I think it’s great. Among all of the different levels and different types of markets or different shapes of businesses, we’re thankful to see varying levels of success. I see a lot of Sotheby’s Brokerages doing a lot of really great things because especially in like Luxury markets, relationships are so insanely important. Relationships are everything because when you have basically everything else you want, the only thing that you really need is you need that social connection.
And so, having that relationship where it’s not just about staying in touch but it’s being of value and of service to people. That’s something that the Sotheby’s affiliates, that we’re thankful to partner with, are knocking out of the park. At the same time, we also see a lot of independent Brokerages doing some really, really bang-up jobs in terms of not just kind of saying, “Hey. We’re just going to just buy an off the shelf system but we’re going to take the pieces, we’re going to take the best in class tool over here and the best in class tool over here and we’re going to connect them together through APIs and things like that.” And that allows them to really tailor a very specific instance versus being able to say, “Yeah. I think our website has a CRM.” They’re able to say, “No, we as a Brokerage are providing you the Agent and team with the best in class solutions.”
Jonathan: Are there any particular Agents that come to your notice that you thought they were doing something not totally linked to your own product but combining it with outreach that you thought was original or insightful?
Zvi: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. The core aspects of relationship marketing really come down to who do I need to talk to, when do I need to talk to them and how do I add value in order to increase the relationship. And it’s that last point that’s like so fun and exciting because that’s usually where we don’t get involved. We tell you and we prompt you and we can help you reach out but it’s up to you to really make sure that every interaction is meaningful, relevant and personal. So, I can think of tons. I know, for example, Peter Lorimer in L.A.
Jonathan: He’s been on the show actually.
Zvi: He’s great. One of the things I know like is he’s, I wouldn’t say he’s recluse but like definitely very quiet and down to earth, doesn’t do a lot of social events but for his kids birthdays, they do blow out birthdays. They invite all of their past clients and prospects and friends and do blow out parties. In Chicago, Shay Hata, she has a thing where instead of the usual like holiday card, come Valentine’s Day, she emails all of her clients before Valentine’s Day and says, “Hey. By the way, I made reservations at all of the top area restaurants because I know many of you may have forgotten to get a Valentine’s Day reservation. Which restaurant would you like to eat at?” And then, they’ll rent out movie theaters and things like that. And then, there are the people who frankly just believe in the same old. Sean Carpenter, every day he starts out off with like a 4-step process of identifying what he’s thankful for.
I forget his exact process so I’m going to butcher it but he talks about the 4 H’s but he has a process that every day he keeps it very simple in terms of exactly what he does. And so, I’m so inspired by those but I would say, again, for people listening in, it’s not about just identifying what other people are doing and copying that. It’s using that as inspiration for finding who is your tribe. Who do you want to be attracted with? Who do you want to be working with? And then, finding the points of value or the ways to engage that they would find most meaningful.
Jonathan: I think that last bit really resonated with me Zvi because I think we were discussing it last week. Just coping other Agents methodology and ways of outreach probably won’t work. You get influenced by people that you think really know what they’re doing and you like what they’re doing. But then, you’ve got to combine it so it becomes an individual kind of star on voice, haven’t you?
Zvi: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s really important because I think there’s, everyone and it’s not just about like trying to be original. It’s not trying to be unique because that’s where like human beings, like you think you’re being unique but so does everyone else and you end up doing the same thing as everyone else. It’s really identifying what is your strengths and what do you want to do? And it might be the same as like 50 other people and that’s completely okay. But the difference will always be it’s you at the center. So, yeah. I always say to be you, not necessarily be original.
Jonathan: Yeah, because it can become rather cliche otherwise, can’t it, in a very cliche world. I think the other factor I’d like to, before we wrap up the podcast part of the show is I think the other opportunity, I don’t want to overemphasize this because our listeners are professionals, you’re a professional. It’s about building a career and a life for your family. It is serious. But we all are in a way into storytelling, aren’t we? You’ve got a story that you wish to promote about your great business. But the great thing is what a lot of Agents is that they’ve got a, most Agents have got a great tool in their pocket, their iPhone or their Android that can take video, record podcast, take photos for Instagram. They’re not lacking the technology now to really push that story to their audience, are they?
Zvi: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s definitely an opportunity to improve.
Jonathan: Right. We’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. Zvi’s been very generous with his time because I know he’s an extremely busy man and he’s going to be with us for another 10 minutes which you’ll be able to see on the Mail-Right website with a full transcription of our interview and links. Plus, you’ll be able to watch it on our YouTube, the whole interview. So, Zvi, if people want to find out about you and what your company’s doing, what’s the best ways of getting that info?
Zvi: Yeah, absolutely. If you just do a Google search for Contactually, that’s Contact and Actually, if they had a baby Contactually. You can find us. We’re at contactually.com, @contactually.com on Twitter, facebook.com/contactually. We’re pretty easy to find. And obviously, if you want to see my ongoings, if you just search for me, Zvi Band, there’s really only one of me. For better for worse, that is a unique thing. So, feel free to connect with me on any social network or anything like that.
Jonathan: Oh, and they’re really nice people folks. They’re really easy to work with. I would highly recommend the company. If you want to get a hold of me and Robert, it’s really easy. Go to the Mail-Right website, the contact form, the Facebook page. You’ll find me quite easily, a bit like Zvi. There’s not too many Jonathan Denwoods on the Internet. I’m pretty easy and pretty approachable and we’ll see you next week. We’re going to be discussing some technology or some insight that will help you in your Real Estate career. We’ll see you soon folks. Bye