What Century 21 Canada is calling “the largest custom real estate platform build via contract in modern history” was launched at the end of September.
Jack Miller, CTO of Century 21 Canada and president and CTO, T3 Sixty, says that while there have been many real estate companies that have hired developers internally to build their customized websites, Core21 is the result of a 150-page RFP – the largest ever developed by the company – to partner with a vendor who could fully deliver on their ambitious plans.
The project spanned three years from concept to completion, with close to 40,000 man-hours of planning, development and training being clocked in by Real Estate Webmasters (REW) and Century 21’s internal management, staff and agents.
“Agents are spending upwards of $40 to $50 a month on property searches, saved searches and client communications,” says Miller. “So, we have provided a brand new, best-in-class, SEO-optimized website where agents have full control. They can add pages, do their Google analytics, Facebook pixel tracking and design customized marketing products for themselves and their teams.”
Core21’s integrated CRM system allows agents to access their clients’ property search history from the moment they register to the site. “Agents can see all of the history of things they’ve (clients) looked at. And that’s powerful. If you’re sending traffic to your website and you’re getting a bunch of people registering on the site, you now have a much better ability to convert them to be clients. You get this really smart integration and lead management product that makes it easier for them to see all the inquiries and leads they’re getting for every new registration,” says Miller.
Agents and brokers spend countless hours and money per month “trying to figure out what the best products are and how they can use these products that may not work together,” he says. “We’ve done all of that for them, so they show up, turn it on and start using it out of the box.”
Along with full integration with G Suite (Google’s productivity tools and software), possibly the biggest value proposition of the Core21 platform is its marketing centre, which provides agents customized and high-quality printable marketing materials that they can use in the marketplace.
After the recent rebranding of the company, “We had to change all our yard sign designs, our stationary, business cards, stand-up banners and office signage. Basically everything, every touch point that anybody would come into contact with the Century 21 brand, had to be redesigned because of the new brand identity,” says VP of marketing Chiyoko Kakino.
The unveiling of Core21’s marketing centre was cheered by more than 700 delegates at the company’s recent convention because “when agents put up an MLS listing, within 24 hours, they get this email that congratulates them on their new listing and provides a buffet of marketing materials that are already pre-done for them. All they have to do is look over it and make sure it’s accurate, so they can get out there and start marketing,” says Kakino. “Our whole idea is to help our agents sell more homes faster.”
This buffet of marketing products encourages Realtors to think differently by suggesting both traditional and non-traditional ways of marketing their listing. “The first thing Realtors think of is creating a property sheet. But the marketing centre gets them to think outside the box,” says Kakino.
Core21’s platform has created a “social media brick” through which agents can leverage their clients’ social media presence to market their services. The salesperson gives it to the homeowner “so their client can use that social media brick on their social media channels, distributing their listing information to their followers. And then hopefully, the agent might get a referral from a client’s follower,” says Kakino.
Creating feature sheets, postcards, door hangers, brochures and other marketing materials are a mouse click and drag away in the new marketing centre, which allows agents to order and get the printed product shipped to them via the company’s national partnership with UPS, “just like buying something on Amazon,” says Kakino.
Despite its promise, Century 21’s new platform went through its fair share of internal agent criticism, especially by one of their longest-standing agents, Joel Ives, who is broker/owner of Century 21 Colonial Realty in Charlottetown.
Ives was only 10-years-old when his now 76-year-old father began working under the Century 21 banner. As such, the Ives’ loyalty to the company cannot be undermined. However, the three-year tenure of the website project led Ives to question whether the company would, in fact, be able to deliver on their bold undertaking.
“I expected it to be done a lot quicker and it seemed too good to be true. When somebody says you’re getting something new, you don’t want to wait 16 to 18 months. You want to move on it sooner. But that’s partly because I sell real estate. I don’t design web platforms for 8,000 people,” says Ives.
Admittedly, Ives was losing interest and considered whether to wait for the platform or move on to something else. But after Ives and his team went through internal training before the platform went fully live, “I’m impressed with what’s there now, so I guess I have to eat a little crow,” he says.
Currently, Century 21’s “concierge program” is working on providing one-on-one training to the company’s agents. The program allows admin staff in the offices to support an agent going through the learning curve. The concierge has access to the salesperson’s accounts so they can be assisted as needed.
“We are providing everything an agent needs to be successful in growing their business, from game-changing technology, to innovative lead generation tools, to a revitalized brand,” says Kakino.