#310 Mail-Right Show: The New Placester, Inc
With Special Seth Price VP of Product at Placester Inc
Placester‘s move from low cost do-it-yourself websites for the average agent to robust enterprise tools and services to outsource website and marketing.
Seth Price is a serial entrepreneur, executive and startup advisor. He’s the VP of Product Management at Placester responsible for Agent Management Tools, the Codeless Website builder, and Concierge Custom, a new platform for real estate professionals to outsource marketing workflows and one-off creative tasks.
Robert Newman: Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, to the Mail-Right podcast, it’s episode 310. And I finally, after many years get to use the line. Our next guest needs no introduction, or at least they don’t If you happen to have been in the real estate marketing space, or if you’ve used real estate marketing services. Our next guest is about as famous or infamous as you can get in this space without necessarily being Tom ferry. So we have Seth Price on the show today who has been one of my personal, heroes for lack of a better word, because he was really one of the people that brought hotlight to some really high quality, large scale content marketing to the real estate marketing space. And, this is no longer what Seth does, and I’m going to want to explain how we managed to get him on the show. But before I do that, Seth, why don’t you go ahead and in your own words, introduce yourself to our audience.
Seth Price: hello everyone one, I appreciate you guys having me on, it’s been, almost two years actually pre-pandemic that I sort of tuned out of social and speaking on stage, I just felt like the tail was wagging the dog. And, I’m happy to talk to you guys. I run product at Playster, so product and product marketing and the marketing team. So I still have a hand in content. I’m just not writing myself anymore and not outlining anymore. And, I’ve been with Playster since the beginning. I was the number three hire and I’ve been through all of our ups and downs and, ups again. So, that’s a snippet.
Robert Newman: So for those of you that may not be familiar Playster is, I mean, Seth at point, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m on other channels, probably having said similar things, which is they’re the big boys in the web development world inside, the real estate space. The last time I had saw any published numbers for coming from playster they had hundreds of thousands of active clients in the real estate, WordPress websites space. that puts them way ahead of anybody. you can name any kind of web provider that you care to Wix, a website bo it doesn’t matter. Nobody has nearly as many live real estate websites, over Playster. So they’re huge in this space and most of you by numbers, by licensed real estate agents in the US most of you probably have heard of them. Many of you might even still have one of their website products up someplace. So am I right on those numbers did I get that.
Seth Price: Yeah. I mean, I think that was one of the problems. You know, we are a venture-backed company. And so one of the things we wanted to do from the beginning, of course, it’s deliver great software, but scale. We wanted a massive scale and you know, that has pros and cons, right? The pros are, Hey, you get a lot of people on your platform. hopefully you grow your revenue. but it also presents challenges for who are you building for and how do you service that scale in a way that’s really providing value. And so we’ve since, at one point I think we had 400 and something live sites, and we were onboarding because of our large partner relationships, you know, the largest of them, they were onboarding, their entire brand 4,000 new agents a month. And we would onboard those 4,000 new agents a month to a website. and so that is not the business we’re in today. We’re much more focused. so those numbers are significantly less we’re in the 30, 40,000 range and as far as sites.
Robert Newman: Okay, well, that is incredibly good information for me personally, as a practitioner inside the same space as you. get into, there are so many things I’m excited to talk about for those that you are listening today. I’ve always wanted to have a conversation with somebody from Playster Seth would have been my first pick, Matt Barton-
Seth Price: You never reached out. I would have. I pretty much answer all of my, especially in industry. I mean, I knew you were, but I’d respond.
Robert Newman: I don’t do a ton of outreach. I really let them, like, I actually follow the inbound, all the really cool meetings that I’ve had have been a hundred percent somebody reaching out to me like [Inaudible 05:02 ] presence and other people that are notable in the industry. When I get a chance to talk to them, it’s because they’ve reached out to me, I’ve always had, I’m going to put out very, even-handed, incredibly detailed, like content and other people like other notable people in the industry want to talk to me about it. I’m the same as you I’ve literally taken every meeting, every call, every email that I’ve ever been sent and take any complaints or any concerns or anything.
Jonathan Denwood: You are going to introduce me Robert?
Robert Newman: Yeah. Like I said, before, we get off to the races, let’s introduce John and, let John introduce himself to the audience, but I will give you the spin-up that I usually do. John is an amazing WordPress developer. He’s got another podcast that he does that is one of the biggest in the WordPress world. He has a product that he’s made for WordPress and real estate. And it’s incredibly interesting offer an interesting service. And without any further ado, John, why don’t you go ahead and in your own words, introduce yourself to the audience.
Jonathan Denwood: Thanks Robert, I am the founder and CEO of Mail-Right. We produce WordPress websites for private property investors and real estate agents. If you want the power and freedom of WordPress, plus a host of marketing tools come over to Mail-Right and we’ll do a free demo and we will be sure that you’ll be amazed back over to you, Robert.
Robert Newman: So I got Seth’s permission and again I would like to get it on, on-air, but I’d like to explain how we even- Publicly, it’s been two years since you’ve been focused on us. So here we are, we think this is a great show and it probably is a top 10 show in the real estate marketing space, but you’re a guy that could book, like he could probably call Tom ferry and he’d be like, yeah, sure I’d love to have you on the show. So how did you end up on the mail right show? If you don’t mind? I’d like to share that story.
Seth Price: So, I mean, this is sort of the backstory of that is about three years ago. we were pretty clear that we weren’t happy with our product. I was in a different role, and the CEO was sort of frustrated with, Hey, we had grown a lot, but the product, hadn’t evolved to where we want it to be. And we were sort of serving everyone. We had the large enterprises that we had partnerships with, which are very much like the tail wagging the dog, especially in this industry. And then we were serving the newest of new agents. And so we had highly complex software to service our enterprise customers and very simple, basic software to service the new agent through NAR or whatever partnership. And no one was happy. We weren’t happy. And none of the constituents were really happy.
I mean, it served a purpose, but just not enough to be super valuable. And so the CEO asked me, after I was complaining a lot like, Hey, you know, I was the representative of the company publicly, right? I traveled all over the US all over internationally and spoke about marketing. I was writing all of our content. I had a team like I was doing all that stuff. And, part of it, if you care about doing it, if you’re speaking, you want it to be backed up with something that you’re super proud of. And we had gotten to a point where I was like, this is not tenable. And he was like, this is not tenable. And we came to this agreement where he said, well, if you want to take over product, I think this is the right thing to do.
And I’d never run product before. So it’s sort of like, not really knowing how to swim and then being thrown into a very deep pool. Like there’s a lot like people within the org going WTF, who are you? Like, you don’t know anything about engineering. You don’t know anything about product, but what I did know is I speak to customers and I can tell when something is valuable to them and they’re actually gaining value out of it. And I can tell when we’re missing the mark and so fast forward three years, and I was on YouTube and I saw the review that you did probably, I don’t know, is it two years ago?-
A long time ago. And I looked at it and I was like, wow, our product is completely different. And what we’re doing is completely different. we are still partially in the website space, but we do so much more. And so I literally just pinged you. And I think I sent you an email and I was like, Hey, do you want to chat? I’d love to show you what we’re doing. And then that was the beginning of our conversation.
Robert Newman: Yeah. And then, so when Seth reached out to me audience, and for everybody listening, I expressed a willingness and an interest to redo the review, but it occurred to me at that moment that John and I have this amazing show that has been growing and that we’ve really been putting a lot of time and effort into wouldn’t it be cool instead of me just doing a straight-up, one-on-one call with you with a video like this, to talk about a product that instead we did a, podcast to show so that our other podcast audience could get the benefit of that. And then I would, according as a major linchpin in terms of rewriting my review and talking about Playster again and all that I asked if you’d be willing to come on the show, and you said, you do graciously, here we are.
So, John, I have thousands of questions and know exactly what I want to say. So, because I had unbelievable prep time for this side. I’ve looked at the new platform, the new Playster platforms, Seth was kind enough to give me a demo account. one of the Playster reps has been reaching out to me consistently to ask you to finish the setup on the account. And, I know where I want to go, but I want to make sure that you get your questions answered. So John why don’t you pick it up?
Jonathan Denwood: Sure. So Seth you know, on reflection, you know, your company’s VC backed. and I know you are an intelligent guy, and so is your executive team. You know, what the game is about when you take VC money? On reflection was that one of the problems about the initial offer you are in?
Seth Price: I’d say yes and no. I’d say, there are definitely challenges with either self-funding or being VC-backed. They have different types of challenges, self-funding you certainly get a lot more control, but oftentimes you, don’t have the resources to gain velocity. To realize ideas at scale. VC backing is, Hey, you’re signing up to, your backers and a board that has a goal to grow a large company. They’re not into lifestyle companies. That’s not why they invest in them. Right. And those are just very two different things. But I think the fundamental challenge, at least for us, excuse me, and many in this industry is that I’d say there were two big mistakes or assumptions that were wrong that we made, and maybe not wrong, but I’ll just explain them and you can reflect on them.
One is, is that software was going to help an agent be more productive. that was, at least a hypothesis that if you think back 10 years ago, it wasn’t easy to get on the web to connect email, to do retargeting all of that stuff was not simple. And so the assumption was, Hey, technology is coming like a freight train. If you give it to agents, they are going to inherently be more productive and that’s not true, or it’s proven itself not to be true. We still have the same disparity where you had 10% of the agents doing 80% of the transactions. And so what hasn’t changed is that software hasn’t made an okay agent, like massively successful. It hasn’t done the same thing of providing efficiency that it does for a larger organization. Like if you think about your organization, you can do 10 times of what you could do three years ago with less people, right. That’s just what software has brought to the table. So that was sort of assumption, number one, that we got wrong.
assumption number two, which is just, it’s a bet that didn’t lead to massive scale as far as potential revenue is we did not go after the transaction fee of real estate. So if you look at all of the IPOs that have happened in real estate, they’re all about some organization that has said, we’re going to take a percentage of the fee. That’s what the market sees as potential because that’s the largest asset that exists. And so we didn’t take that stance. And there was a, if you’re trying to grow and have the support of the market, you sort of need to deliver on something at that scale. So those are two big assumptions that really, it’s not about the VC backing. It’s about, Hey, you make a bet when you build a business, and is your bet going in the right direction. And so, you know, realizing that those two things were not the train that we wanted to bet on, we had to rethink everything.
And part of that was, we had to I’ll say, right, R I G H T we had to right our team, like get our team into alignment, our leadership team, the managers, the entire organization, to understand what we were going to focus on. And then we had to rebuild their product. So that’s sort of, it’s a long-winded answer to go, yeah, VCs are part of it, but there’s always infrastructure of whatever path you choose and you got to live in it. I didn’t see it as a cause of us having challenges.
Jonathan Denwood: So speaking of VCs, did I read something correctly where you just literally, not that long ago, got another funding round of 50 million I think it was.
Seth Price: I mean, that was a while ago. I mean, fortunately, we have raised a lot of money and we have a lot of money in the bank, so that is the fortunate part. and so we get more at that. We get to, have the time and resources to rebuild our platform. I mean, it took us almost a year to extract ourselves from some very large relationships, which were very taxing on our organization, without the, commiserate, revenue associated with it. So if you’re providing 4,000 sites a month you need to deliver support for 4,000 agents a month who really don’t, they don’t know about technology. I mean, you guys experienced that. There’s just no scale. It’s not like- I talk with some friends that are outside of real estate and they sell software to businesses.
Agents are not, they are businesses, but they are not- They often don’t have a business plan nor do they have like a bunch of people helping them. They’re all sort of, you know, they’re winging it. And so spending time on their software and understanding it is like not a priority. So for us, I think the biggest challenge is rewriting sort of our playbook of where we wanted to go and who we wanted to serve. And that sort of we’re coming out of the other end of that now, Which I’m very excited about
Jonathan Denwood: We need to go for our break Robert.
Robert Newman: So when we come back, ladies and gentlemen, what we’re going to be talking about is we are going to be talking about, I’ve looked at this new product I’m going to share some of my thoughts. I might do that towards the later part of the episode, but we’re going to talk about whatever changes Playsters made in the customer service arena, how they intend to scale up the second time with this new refocus. And also, I’ve always had some concern or I’ve always had thoughts. I don’t know if concerns is the right language, but I’ve had thoughts about the ability of Playster or Playster’s products to deliver, lead generation. And so I’m going to ask Seth these questions. When we come back from our break, stay tuned.
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Robert Newman: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the Mail-Right podcast, it’s episode number 310. We’re here with Seth Price, and we’re talking about Playster. And, before the break, we were talking about the customer service experience, the lead generation, as he refocuses. as he does a number of different things. So he’s in a new role. He’s now the VP of product, which, he was kind enough to share how that transition happened before the break and in his new role his interests are aligned with developing a really great product, because as he mentioned, he was on the front line of consumer concern with the first iteration of Playster, without any further ado Seth if you would, why don’t you answer for me what is it that you’ve done that you feel will help improve the customer service experience? Based on, let’s just say like, based on my original reviews comments, because I use the product I called in as a customer on behalf of one of these brand new agents. They were exactly the person that you just described. The person that I was doing this for, they were very low experienced inside the business world didn’t even technically know how to call into a technology company and try to get good service. That was how low their experience was. So I agreed to do these things for them, as long as they were willing to let me publish my results live in a digital format. So I could basically get my review content. So all of that stuff is online. But go ahead and let’s dig into it. Yeah.
Robert Newman: So, I mean, I think the biggest, this is the thing about moving a large ship, the biggest, you know, if I look back and I’ll say three years ago, and maybe four years ago, I didn’t run the support organization within our team. but of course, I liaised with them on a regular basis. And the challenge that we had internally is that 80% of our support volume was driven by folks that paid us $5 or less. And so when I talked earlier about the challenge with scale and making certain assumptions as a business is that we were literally the tail wagging the dog. We had made these partnerships and they were great. They looked great in the press. We got massive scale and it was supposed to be the sell-through, but we were stuck in the mud, trying to service an audience that wasn’t necessarily well, one, they, for the most part, this could be a little bit of a generalization, but I’ll say they weren’t already successful as an individual agent.
They were looking to whatever tool they were signing up for to solve that problem for them, meaning, Hey, I signed up for a thing. I still haven’t made any deals. How come this is not helping me close deals. And that’s just not how software works. That’s not how websites work. You can do a great website and generate leads. You still have to know how to run your business, to close those leads and turn it into profit. Right? So that was number one. So the first thing we had to do was untangle ourselves from these relationships. And that just took a long time. Cause they’re contractual, you can’t just go see ya and walk away. You’ve got to do a very long and detailed exit cause you need to leave them in a great place. You can’t just, I mean, for a whole bunch of reasons, you could get sued, right. But also it’s the right thing to do. So that was its own thing.
once we did that, we still had the challenge with the problem or the challenge of the software at the time, if you look back three years ago, or even two years ago was just not, it hadn’t evolved. it had bugs in it, it was some of the processes were outdated. And so even if they could get someone on the phone from our team to help support them, maybe that support person couldn’t even solve your problem because the software hadn’t evolved to address what problem you have. So thing too was we had to rebuild the platform. And I think what you saw is, the portion of our platform, which is about customizing a site that’s called the customizer.
the third part that we focused on is it’s very clear in this industry and in other industries, and you’ll see it if you go to Shopify or Squarespace, or Wix, professional services has become a key component to delivering their software because every business has a dream of doing thing, but doesn’t always have the resources or the time to get it done.
And so we had to spin up a professional services component to what we do. So someone could, I mean, it’s one thing to say, Hey, I want an area page or a landing page, or I want a new website for 10 of my agents. And we go here, here’s the software you could do it yourself. It may take you months to get to it.
And so, we about, I’d say nine months ago launched, services. If you go to Playster.com/services. We’ve got about 80 or 90 services there that we can do on your behalf. And we do them very quickly and everything from creative work to SEO optimization, to landing page, to logo, redesign, video editing. Like if you need stuff, you need it for someone that not only can do the thing, but then implement it on your site. So that’s that piece.
now the other piece that we evolve too, because when you’re going, we still serve agents and we have a DIY product, but we are focusing more on brokers who support a lot of agents because we’re aligned, right. They need that agent to be successful. They have internal teams, admin, or back-office teams that help onboard those agents. And so we built a lot of tools to help them. You may not have seen that. Cause we released that recently we call it agent manager. so we built those tools and we’ve also built a workflow engine. So it’s a, way that we can take repeatable processes that you might do as a brokerage, matte them in a workflow engine and then apply our services to that so we can execute it repeatedly and at speed.
So an example would be, you know, there’s probably a trigger every time you have a listing, every time you have an open house, every time you recruit an agent that you need to do a series of, five to 20 things, we will matte that with all the, if then statements, you’re an actor in that if needed, like there may be some things you need to do physically, but if it’s all stuff we can do, we will literally get the notification of a new listing or a new agent via whatever transaction management tool or Zapier or, Excel sheet that we can see that you updated. And then our team will go to work, set up a site for an agent, add them to your roster, create a detailed page, create a social post, put it in your email client and then ask you to send it. Like, that’s the kind of stuff that we’re focusing on, that process automation piece.
So that’s the gamut that has allowed us to focus on delivering service. So we have a team for support a team for service and then tools to allow us to automate the things that you want to get done repeatedly. hope that answers your question.
Robert Newman: I’ve never been jealous of resources before, but I’m a little jealous right now after this conversation, but I’m going to say I have three comments. first, my bailey, which I’m sure at some point you did a very small bit of research on me. Probably.
Seth Price: Yes, I did.
Robert Newman: And did it, but my love, my passion. It’s not so much like my bailey. It’s just what I’ve loved since I got into it as a profession, which was, is SEO. So I will tell everybody that’s listening because I believe it in my heart of hearts that I have not used this product. I have not looked at it yet, but I will say this in terms of inherent institutional knowledge if Seth wanted to build something that was going to be effective for SEO, there are very few people that have the skills and talent that I’ve seen you have, because at one point there was nobody that would touch playster in terms of traffic. Or content I read through a lot of your content. It was always amazing. Like you had the same philosophy as I do, which is it should be useful or people should be able to get to get into it. They should be able to open it up and actually learn something whether or not they use playster as a service content.
that content that level of quality tends to be, it’s not universal, but it tends to be highly rewarded by Google, with placement. And, and you did all that. So if you were going to build the components, you’d be the guy I will say that you would be the guy. And the other thing is that I again, have not used your product, not the same way that I did on the first review, but I have done the demo and I will say this in terms of my own personal customer service experience, I’ve had a rep reach out to me three separate times already basically asking me if I was going to complete the build of the demo that I did.
Now I was just looking at what you were showing me, and I didn’t want to build the site. I just wanted to see and see and develop an opinion. My opinion, it looked very easy, like paint by numbers is how I kind of, I walked away thinking, okay, this is really easy. And it should be doable for people with almost no technological experience and also should be easily for operations people with limited time, but a lot of technological background, which is oftentimes like you’re talking about brokerages in the small and medium-range brokers site, which is a lot of what, where I do do my business and have done my business for 16 years. Those guys do know what to do, but they’re always low on time. It’s not just knowledge. It’s literally-
Seth Price: you have to have The resources and that can just be time or it can be humans, to help them.
Robert Newman: Right. And then the third, what was the third thing? I forget what the third thing was, to be honest with you. So, John, do you have, any questions or comments that you want to add on to that part of the conversation?
Jonathan Denwood: I’ve got a enormous amount, but, as you know, Robert, I’ve got the greatest respect for Seth and he’s a guest on the show. I rather leave it to the bonus content, actually.
Seth Price: you’re holding out on me.
Jonathan Denwood: And, I think we need to wrap up the podcast part of the show.
Robert Newman: Okay. All right. So we’ve had 30 incredible minutes with Seth who so far, we’ve talked about how he arrived on the show, his new role with Playster some of the changes that they’ve made to address the customer experience, which at size, all of the things that he’s saying would really have to be addressed. And it seems like they’ve done an amazing job. I am, personally of all the things that have been shared with me that by the way, Seth, I’m incredibly grateful. The thing that struck me as really cool was the professional services being able to do all these things and have them be like assisted by human and try to make it as paint by numbers, my personal opinion, just my personal opinion is that that is what is missing inside the real estate marketing space. And it seems like you saw that you, you’re making a stab at plugging that hole. I’m super excited about that for you guys. all right.
With no further ado, we’re going to move the last 10 to 15 minutes, this conversation over to our video platform, which is on YouTube. So it’s going to be YouTube/Mail-Right John, and I’m going to start with you, should somebody want to reach out to you and talk to you either about mail, right? Or just basically, pull your ear on any other subject, how would they, how would they go ahead and get in touch with you?
Jonathan Denwood: It’s really easy just go to the Mail-Right website mMailhyphenRight.com and book a demo all the demos, are done myself, and also, I’ll be more than happy to discuss any questions you have about digital marketing, how to use the power of WordPress to power your website over to you, Robert.
Robert Newman: And Seth if you did want somebody to reach out to the new Playster and maybe reference some of these new products or new services or anything in general how would you prefer for people to go ahead and interact with Playster?
Seth Price: Yeah, I’d say, we still have a ton of content and we are, I have spun up the content arm again. So we’ve been producing some really great, very in-depth, eBooks we’re not doing infographics but long-form email@example.com/academy. So it’s the real estate marketing academy. If you’re interested in product, go to the site, playster.com, you can request a demo, you can start a free trial and see sort of the agent version of it. If you want to see all of the agent manager tools, you need to do a demo and they can give you access to it. that’s probably the easiest way. I’m not on social. So if you ping me on any other platforms, it may be a long time before I respond, because I’ve deleted all the apps and turned off all notifications.
Robert Newman: And, I, of course the founder of inbound,REM.com, which is a website that has a lot of content similar to Playster. I have always made an effort to focus on different categories than some of the big boys like Playster focus on. So if you’re interested in, you know, what my spin on content is, you’d go to that website and you’ll find plenty of ways to reach out to me should you choose to., well, thank you so much Seth are you good with spending another 10 minutes with us?
Seth Price: Yeah, I’m game I’m here to hang.
Robert Newman: Awesome. All right. So stay tuned, guys. We’ll be on the video channel and we’re looking forward to seeing you there.