Ep. 8 – Technology Chat: Alex Parge, Owner of REIvolution and smrtPhone CFO

About Alex Parge

Alexandru Parge is the founder of REIvolution as well as the CFO of smrtPhone. He has a passion for numbers and making things work in Podio. He’s helped to drive the creation of the smrtStudio organization. A self-professed numbers geek, he’s happiest when sitting in front of a big performance dashboard that shows all green.

REIvolution is a data-driven platform that empowers you to scale your real estate investment business. With REIvolution you get the best lead management system and make sure there are no leads left behind, to not just meet but exceed your goals.The entire investment process from the beginning to the end happens in the same place: lead generation, appointment creation, automatic text and email follow up, closing the contract, rehab the property and in the end sell it. On top of that, the dashboard offers you real time overview of your business and your team activity enabling you to make the quick, well-informed decisions, wherever you are.

Episode Summary

Jordan Fleming joins the founder of REIvolution (and smrtPhone CFO!) Alex Parge for a chat about CRMs, the importance of visualizing your data, and how to thoughtfully calculate marketing ROI. Alex’s passion for data led to the creation of REIvolution, the first all-in-one data-driven platform that empowers real estate investors to scale their business. Alex notes that REIvolution is “more than a CRM, it’s a way to bring all the data and communication into only one place.” 

Jordan and Alex discuss the magic of data, and how to use reverse engineering to go beyond how many leads you need to reach your goals to understand the hidden efficiency of a marketing channel and unlock true ROI. What may feel like guesswork to a new entrepreneur can actually be predictable equations if you have the right CRM and use data to your advantage. 

Alex explains how pre-set drip sequences can help you follow up with clients in a methodical way, without putting in a ton of effort. 

Don’t let the math and science of it all intimidate you – it’s clear throughout the episode that Alex has put in the work behind the scenes of REIvolution so that their customers don’t have to. Listen in for more info on ROI, Data Visualization and a shocking twist for a tech podcast: print is alive and well! Plus: Jordan’s Fast Five for quick tips on how to build your real estate biz.

Transcript (automatically generated)

Alex, welcome to the podcast, give a little introduction to yourself and the platform.

Hi Jordan, thanks for having me on the show. So I’m the co-founder and the CEO of a platform called REIvolution, it’s an all-in-one system built for real estate investors, based on Podio. It connects other systems from the market to enhance digital signatures, email marketing, phone communications, and others.

A lot of people say the word CRM, but I don’t think they really understand what it means. When you guys are working or focusing on real estate investors, what are the critical parts of your system that you want to get across to new users?

We consider ourselves to be more than a CRM. We consider it to be a business system that brings together, starting from the marketing efforts, lead management, the entire operational part of a business and ends up with the disposition side, where our customers organize and sell their properties. Normally, a CRM is only a customer relationship management system, and most people, they focus on that. But we are more than that. We bring all the data and the communication into only one place.

I’ve noticed with CRMs that the more things you connect and the more information flows, the more you’re potentially giving people too much information. Do you have any best practices that you’ve learned from dealing with so many different investors?

We always recommend to our new customers to complete the onboarding process. We have a special onboarding process that we split into stages. 

First, we talk about the marketing configuration, then about the lead management, and, step-by-step, we go through the operation process and afterwards the dispositions. What we always say to our customers is that whenever you start using the new system, there is a learning curve and you need to be prepared to invest the time, but it will definitely pay off in the end. 

As for using external resources or systems like electronic signatures or specialized email marketing platforms, they only make you improve productivity by reducing time on different tasks like creating contracts and others.

Visibility of data is critical across an REI CRM so you are able to see what needs to happen. Inside your platform, from a management level and a user level, what are the ways that people focus on what’s important and what’s at hand? 

Let’s start with the people inside the business. They are split among roles, like lead manager, acquisition representative, acquisition operation manager, disposition manager. Across the platform, we have special views created, and each user  receives a dashboard where they can see what they need to follow. There’s also a specialized tasks app where they have all the tasks organized so they can keep track of everything inside the platform. Besides that, the core system called Podio, on which REIvolution is built, has a notification system. So everybody can act fast whenever they receive a call or an email. 

As for the management, we offer the dashboard platform that takes the data from the entire system and computes the most important numbers for any manager. 

I will say the most important is the return on investment, but also the entire sales funnel. 

Everyone can see their performance on different levels. Let’s say from lead generation, to appointment setting, to closing the contract, and actually by buying the house after you close the contract, because sometimes, you know, deals get lost. And that particular cancellation ratio is very important in order to make a good forecast on future revenues and future deals that can be closed.

Because you’re able to take all that data, and visualize it, you’re giving the business owner or the managers the ability to very easily see the things that are potentially impacting them. 

One of the things I always find with CRMs that people a lot of times don’t do, and it drives me nuts, is they don’t track which of the marketing lead sources that they’re investing in, or is returning the most money, right? They go out and invest in all these different lead sources, whether they’re buying lists, or they’re investing in ads, or PPC or SEO, bandit signs, but they’re not tracking that! 

So how does your system make it easy to get to that fundamental issue? 

In REIvolutions, with the creation of every lead, the lead is automatically tagged with the marketing information available. Let’s say it’s a tracking number from a direct mail sent or it’s a tracking number from their website, or it’s a web form, or, it’s a phone number from a bandit sign. You have that information inside the system when the lead is created.Then, we take that information through the entire process, and we tag, let’s say the appointment, the closing, everything… we tagged with that information. 

We are able to show our customers a table of marketing campaigns, number of leads for each marketing campaign, number of appointments, number of closings, profit obtained, marketing spent. Because they also have the ability to put in  the amounts they are spending on each marketing source, the system will automatically compute the return of investment.

There’s two things I really liked about that. Number one, just being able to actually monitor the lead sources and be like: I’ve paid X, I’m getting Y, where am I getting the best return? I think that’s critical for any investor. But the other thing I really like is if you’re tagging all these events with that same source, you’re not only going to get the high level but you’re going to be able to understand the efficiency of different lead sources, right? Obviously the bottom line of how much profit I’m making is an important thing to track. But sometimes it’s also about: this lead source is making us do 10 appointments, 10 conversations per qualified lead, and this other is only three appointments. It’s more than just the bottom line of cash. It’s about efficiency. What I’m hearing is, given that each of these events that happens in your system is tagged, you’re able to actually show that kind of detail as well, is that correct?

Yes, it’s 100% correct. And you can improve on specific levels of your business. Because the reverse engineering of the business that can be done: let’s say one investor who plans to make 100k in one month, he looks on the dashboard, he sees that, on average, he has like 10k per deal. So he knows that he needs 10 deals. Then, he knows he has a  cancellation ratio, and he will know that, applying the correct math, that he needs to sign 12 contracts. And for every contract he needs three appointments, and for every appointment he needs 10 leads. Put it altogether and he will get the total number of leads required. 

And because he also has the cost per lead, he will easily be able to compute the marketing budget required to obtain those results. He can decide to improve the markup on a specific transaction. Instead of 10 deals with 10k, on average, he can increase at 20k and only require five transactions. So that’s the magic of using the data.

I think that is such a good point. I think that’s a point that people miss. Once you go past the first baby steps of getting into a CRM ecosystem, ‘I just need to organize,’ the real power is in making those business decisions. If I have the data and a system,I  can start setting expectations and driving the team in the way I need to do it to achieve the results. 

Exactly. One more thing to consider is that a few years ago, everybody had a headquarters. So you could go to the headquarters and be with your team to see exactly what they are doing to discuss with them. By now most of the teams work remotely. How can someone track and know exactly what their team is doing without the system? There is no way.

A lot of people get into the CRM game when it comes to real estate investment, mainly to find a way of keeping their leads organized. But it’s not just about organization, it’s about the follow up. What is your system to assist investors on the follow up?

I totally agree that follow up is one of the key processes in lead management and it has to be very well organized so you don’t miss anything, because any lead means money that you have already spent and you need to maximize that. 

I remember one client having a task that was saying to the team, follow up until they tell you to stop following up. Essentially: go to the maximum. And I have also seen studies showing that teams that were following up more than four months were more efficient than the teams that were stopping very soon, because selling a house can be a process that can take months. And it may not be that easy to make a decision.That’s why it’s important to keep following up until you get that client specifically when he has the need of actually selling the house, and to make them sell it to you. 

For following up we have a drip sequence system. Basically, any customer of ours can pre-set drips of type, email, text, voicemail, test to call or even a letter that can be automatically sent to the customer. And that helps continue the conversation with a specific lead and create that relationship with the existing lead.

For the drip sequence, I get the SMS, I get the email, I even get the voicemail drops if you’re using a system that does voicemail drops. But in terms of letters, what you’re saying is in your system, you can actually automate the follow up where a postcard or a letter gets physically mailed? And nobody has to go through a system? 

Correct. Voicemails go through an integration is live broadcast, the text messages, we use smrtPhone. For the letters, we use a service called Lob, where you have predefined templates and our system will connect with that system and allow them to send letters. 

I think a lot of people don’t realize that there’s still power in print. There’s a tactile element of something, and B, a lot of people don’t realize that you can automate a tremendous amount of that and the costs are pretty average. Last time I looked into it, it was like 85 cents to send a really big postcard in the post automatically. I never have to do anything.

Yeah, and if you consider that someone may already spend 100 bucks to acquire a lead? What’s an extra dollar to be spent to build that relationship?

And what’s the extra dollar compared to having someone in your office print a label? I think people don’t realize that there is that power that you can do a lot of print material based off of what we would give our API. They think, do I send a handwritten letter of thanks? Oh, god, that’s gonna take me too much time. It doesn’t have to take too much time. And it can be quite impactful if you use it sensitively, if you don’t overuse it.

Yeah, and that goes together with increasing productivity. I will always recommend to our customers to use a power dialer for the follow up process. Most of the people out there in the market only use a power dialer to make calls on a cold calling call list. But let’s say you’re an agent, you have 50 follow ups to make in one day, comparatively if you make manual calls and you upload that list into a power dialer, your productivity will increase by at least 50%. 

People think so much that the power dialer is only about cold calling. But I have seen a tremendous amount of our smrtPhone customers use it for the follow up, where instead of having to go to a lead click to call, you load ’em up into a single line dialer, and you go through them incredibly efficiently. 

I have actually built a hack around on smrtPhone with a date field inside there on the questionnaire when the agents call, and they can choose the next follow up date. And that will update in the system, and will remove the lead from the list. And on that particular day, it will be automatically included again.

So you’ve got a Podio view set up for today’s follow up, whatever it is, and you’re dynamically dropping people in and out?

Yeah, exactly, the only thing agents need to do is to resynchronize the contacts when they start working.

I know that your system has dashboards. So you’re visualizing the data into charts and graphs and tables and things. Can you just explain a bit about that? 

For visualizing data, we use an external extension called Overview that transfers the data from Podio into nice graphics. The system comes automatically with the basic KPI dashboard that goes from the beginning to the end. But, we can also customize other reports for customers for bigger teams and for other needs. Our dashboards can be placed on a TV inside the headquarters or can be automatically sent via email on a daily, weekly or monthly frequency. 

Along the way we’ve also built specialized dashboards for meetings, so let’s say you have an acquisition meeting each week, and you would like to look at only that portion of acquisition. We have built a special dashboard only for that so the team can meet and discuss those specific KPIs. Of course, the CEO dashboard has the 10,000 foot view of the business and it contains the most important indicators.

That Real Estate Tech Guy Fast Five 

  1. What feature of your technology of REIvolution has the biggest impact on your customer’s business in your opinion?

I would say the fact that it’s a communication hub, along with the data for your leads, you also have the entire communication history. We are talking about phone calls, text messages, voicemails, emails, everything is inside there. At any given point you can see the entire history you had with a specific lead.

  1. What’s the biggest mistake that you see people make when it comes to CRMs in real estate?

They don’t allocate enough time for the onboarding process so they can understand the system and to actually see the benefits. Some of them get scared or some of them consider it too complicated to handle.

  1. What’s your best advice on how you start integrating CRM into your business, if you’re just getting started out?

Hire an expert. Hire an expert, someone that knows. Take advice, don’t try to solve everything by yourself. As I said, participate in the onboarding process, look at the videos and be open minded in order to have success with technology.

  1. What is the one thing you wish everyone knew about REIvolution?

I wish anyone would know about the existence of the software, and how useful it can be if it’s used properly. 

  1. If someone’s just starting out in their real estate investment career, what three bits of technology would you recommend that they start with? 

So definitely, they need the CRM, I would recommend a phone system, and the dashboard platform, you will want to look at the data from the beginning.

Listen, Alex, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Now, tell everybody they can find you. What’s going on with REIvolution? Are there any offers going on? Now’s your time to plug.

So everyone can find us on our website, REIvolution.io. They can reach out to me directly at Alex@REIvolution.io. We have a free trial and we offer a super onboarding process. That’s our gift to any new customer, we will be there for you to have a successful onboarding.