The past few weeks, the phones here at Tribus have been ringing off the hook. Brokerages and agents are calling to ask what we know about the newly announced program from Keller Williams. They are looking for a competitor for eEdge.
The Background Behind eEdge
According to KW, eEdge was pitched as “the first fully integrated front and back end platform for real estate professionals.” (An aside: Sorry KW it’s not a product that’s “never been developed by any company, anywhere.” We take a little bit of an issue with that statement since our system has been around since March of 2009 and offers an incredibly similar level of functionality, including a completely integrated system where everything works and talks together for single data entry.) A better, less hyperbole filled statement about the product would be that it’s the first integrated solution in use company wide by a top 5 franchise firm. (Actually, according to KW, they are now the number 2 real estate company in the world in terms of agent size with almost 80,000 agents.) Which, we’ll agree that alone is probably a big statement. Shockingly, as our blog has discussed before, it’s still amazing that CRM has been around since 1985 or so in computer format, and yet until this time no major company has taken it on. So first of all congratulations to Keller Williams for taking a first step here. (I wish Tribus would have been asked to be a part of the bidding process…) KWRI has made some great steps in the past and their growth in a bad market proves that. Keller Williams set out to fill in a hole they felt they had in their company. They wanted to offer what they believed was a competitive point for agents, a lower cost technology package. So they sought out to build what became eEdge. They asked their Agent Leadership Council for input and to vote on the product, and each market center voted unanimously to approve moving forward. They were explained there would be some development costs to begin with and therefore at least the first few months of the payments are going without a full fledged system and therefore being used for building out some of the other functionality of the product.
Overview of eEdge
So what are the main components behind the service:
- There is a $15 / month / agent fee yielding about $1.2million/month or $14,400,000 a year
- CRM (called myLeads and myContacts) – a customer relationship management system using a dumbed down version of MarketLeader’s GrowthLeader system.
- Front End Wesbite – a yourname.kwagent.com site that is now powered by Market Leader with their IDX.
- Transaction Management (called myTransactions) – DotLoop provides transaction / document management and a basic eSign functionality.
- Print Marketing (called myMarketing) – A system allowing agents to send print based marketing to their farms powered by Imprev.
The main idea is that everything will be fully integrated and therefore make an agents life easy. However there are some issues at play and some questions that we’ve yet to see answered.
First of all, it’s our understanding that Keller Williams is making the electronic document system a completely mandatory item for their agents in the coming days. Keller Williams uses what they call a green sheet (a document that tells staff how commissions are disbursed, who the relevant parties in the transaction are, etc) to turn in files currently. These will now HAVE to be done via a computer. At Tribus, we’re big proponents of moving to a digital world, (and we’re focusing a lot of our development time right now on our open transaction management system) however we’re also pragmatists. It’s unlikely that in even a 100 person, much less an 80,000 person, organization that everyone will feel comfortable using the product. I’ve seen many Realtors over the age of 65 who are technologically savvy, however I’ve seen many that aren’t and who do lots of business yet still have no interest in trying. What will happen with these folks? Forcing these individuals to use the product, I believe, will cause a huge headache.
Complaints About eEdge
I’ve also taken some extensive time in checking in on agents actually using the system, here are some of the main issues it seems like they are having with the first phase:
- The system does not connect to
anything elsemost of the other products that agents use. So if you use other vendors’ products they can’t push leads into eEdge. ( Except for WolfNet IDX. Congrats to Rich Bailey and his excellent team over there for securing the deal that allows leads from their system to push into eEdge! If it’s true that IDX is not included in eEdge basic, it seems like getting their system would be the first phone call I’d make tomorrow!)
- They can’t send HTML emails out from the system. So email marketing is text based only.
- There is no blog and community content can only be outbound links to other pages
- You can’t upload contacts into the system without them having email addresses.
- No Form Builder to their software
- A new email address that’s not forwardable
- The agent sites offer little customization, and numerous types of HTML are not allowed
- Very high costs for teams (KW really focuses on the team concept so this sounds like a big issue)
- KW can potentially see agent’s clients / leads/ prospects
- Feeling like people are being forced to upgrade to the Pro product
In conversations with individuals familiar with the details, it’s become clear to us that the basic product of eEdge is either a loss leader or a product that Market Leader and the other companies behind eEdge are using to upsell agents to eEdge Pro. Knowing the costs for providing agent websites, CRM, IDX, transaction management, and support is an expensive proposition. Even with a large volume of users, I believe that their costs are above $10 between all the different items they have to include not to mention future development. Therefore, they must sell individuals on the Pro version of the system. That system is what someone would get when they sign up with Market Leader for the full package of their Growth Leader system. There are however numerous complaints that people are paying $15 and will have to pay $99 next year to get the full version. Numerous people have also spoken with us about the fact they believe Market Leaders system to not be a full CRM and instead more of a lead management system.
Here’s some other items you’ll need to upgrade to eEdge Pro for:
- Your own URL (you’ll have to use yourname.kwrealty.com unless you upgrade)
- Change your website theme
- Post listings to Craigslist
- Send out property postcards via email
- Mobile version of the lead manager
- Track what properties clients are viewing, what properties they have saved, etc
- Get site reports and analytics
- Read more about eEdge Pro
Why Did Keller Williams Do This?
I think Rob Hahn at 7DS Consulting makes a very interesting point over on his blog about this being a dramatic SHIFT in Keller Williams’ history. A little back history, Keller Williams previously has always taken a very libertarian, laissez faire “spend your money like you want” approach with both their “team leaders” and their agents. In the past it’s always been that they had the power to make choices as long as it didn’t effect profit sharing dramatically. They recruited entirely a cost basis that the company would cut and trim costs as much as possible so it could share profits back with all the agents. The company as a whole has spent very little on anything for agents. They’ve really only paid fees to get items at a discount. This like personality tests for new agents or TopProducer at a discounted cost are examples. Now, having every agent in their company purchase a product is a real change in their business practice since they are now telling people what they should be using. The benefits to the company are clear however.
- Long term cost savings on transaction processing
- A roll up reporting system that allows them to keep tabs on all the leads that an agent is working on
- Build a nationwide system of 80,000 agent sites all focusing SEO and branding toward the main company page (notice all the sites are defaulted to using yourname.kwrealty.com)
- A differentiation strategy by using technology to recruit
So again let us reiterate that we applaud KW for choosing to take a differentiation approach by using technology. And there are probably numerous items that MarketLeader and Keller Williams will have to work out when it comes to the product. But at this time do you feel that eEdge is a pro or a con for the company as a whole?
Two glaring issues have been pointed out to me
- If you add a lead in the system to be referred to another KW agent, the system is not currently setup to only send it to another KW agent. Someone reported to me that their leads were sent to agents at other companies like Re/Max and Coldwell Banker.
- UPDATE: This appears to be fixed –
Someone else pointed out to me that in fact any agents who link incorrectly to their website themselves, or have someone link to them and misspell their name etc encounter an interesting issue. The incorrect page doesn’t go to KW.com instead it goes to ….. JustListed.com a sub company of Market Leader! Click misspelledname.kwrealty.com to try it out. This means any leads that could have gone to the agent they were supposed to or more importantly to ANY KW agent could potentially be lost to another client of Market Leader.