Keller Williams Realty will provide its agents with what the real estate franchisor says will be the first system capable of handling lead management, contact management, marketing and transaction management on a single, integrated platform.

The Austin, Texas-based franchise is partnering with Market Leader and DotLoop to provide components of the eEdge platform, which Keller Williams’ 80,000 agents will pay $15 a month for.

Market Leader will provide the lead management, contact management and marketing design components, with DotLoop providing transaction management services including online documents and signing.

Keller Williams Realty is providing the central platform that allows each component to share information. The eEdge platform can be expanded to handle additional tasks from other vendors, said Cary Sylvester, director of information technology for Keller Williams.

"We built the glue that ties them together — it gives us ability to add additional vendors and services in the future," Sylvester said. The system is currently a collaboration between four vendors, Sylvester said, and "whatever we want to add, we can pull in top software vendors."

Once all of the components of the platform are up and running — full implementation of all components isn’t expected until the end of September — agents will be able to use eEdge to funnel leads into a single database, create custom marketing materials, manage their websites and their listings, and complete paperless transactions using an online portal for clients and co-op agents.

One Keller Williams region is launching eEdge today with only the transaction management component. The rest of the company will launch eEdge in February with contact management and marketing materials components, Sylvester said.

Lead routing and and management capabilities will be phased in throughout the summer, followed by the rollout of transaction management services.

Combining all of the services agents use into a single platform will allow them to work more efficiently, Sylvester said.

"We’ve all read about agents not following up on leads" because they were too busy, Sylvester said. "This will allow them to get back into the business of selling real estate."

Although other franchises could conceivably follow Keller Williams’ lead and integrate services provided by multiple vendors into a single platform, they won’t be able offer a system that’s identical to eEdge, since Keller Williams is the developer of the central platform.

"The concept isn’t new, but … nobody else can come in and do exactly what we do," Sylvester said.

There’s no "opt in" to the system — every Keller Williams agent will pay the $15 monthly fee — so the franchise sought buy-in from agents before pushing forward.

Franchise executives met with "agent leadership councils" around the country, built a Facebook page and produced videos that were posted on YouTube to build support for eEdge. The platform was also featured in the November-December edition of Outfront magazine, a publication for Keller Williams agents.

The company said the eEdge platform was approved by 98 percent of agent leadership councils in a Dec. 14, 2010, vote.

Bob Lane, a Keller Williams agent based in Cupertino — in California’s Silicon Valley — said he voted against eEdge because he saw no details on implementation, "just a rah-rah marketing pitch."

"Are there any ALCs (agent leadership councils) voting against eEdge?" Lane said in a comment on the eEdge Facebook page. "Or is this just a rubber stamp exercise?"

Lane told Inman News that as a former software developer, he is skeptical about real estate franchisors venturing outside of their "core competency" areas.

"I was previously at Coldwell Banker, and they tried to implement a lot of technology things, and they found out they were not a technology company, they were a real estate company," Lane said.

Lane added that if Keller Williams is hiring software companies to develop eEdge, "I think it’s a sign they can do it right." The platform, he said, "certainly has the potential to add value, I just would have liked to have seen more details."

Formerly known as HouseValues Inc., Market Leader changed its name in 2008 and has transitioned from a being primarily a lead-generation company into a provider of personalized websites for real estate agents and brokers that offer integrated contact management tools.

Cincinnati-based DotLoop was founded in 2008, and provides an online platform for preparing, sharing and signing documents with various parties in a real estate transaction.

Other Keller Williams agents commenting on the eEdge Facebook page said they hoped it would perform as advertised when launched, and that they hoped it would be as good or better than another popular contact management and marketing system for real estate agents, Move Inc.’s Top Producer.

Sylvester said Keller Williams did listen to agents’ concerns in researching eEdge, one of which was the ownership and transferability of each agent’s contact and client database.

"It was important for us to partner with an outside company (Market Leader) to make sure it’s the agent’s database," Sylvester said. "Keller Williams doesn’t own it, and we can’t access it. They can export it, take it with them, and transfer it to (another contact management system). That was a very strong cultural decision for us."

She said agents who have a contact management system that they want to stick with will be able to tie it to eEdge and use the rest of the platform.

As for the $15 monthly fee, Sylvester said the economy of scale Keller Williams can achieve by providing it to all of its agents results in savings that the franchise can pass along. She said agents would probably have to spend as much as $300 a month to get a comparable level of services on an individual, non-integrated basis, and estimated the average agent is currently spending $70 to $100 a month for services with fewer capabilities than eEdge.

"It was a no-brainer," she said. When Keller Williams ALCs attended eEdge presentations, the most common reaction was "Thank God it’s mine" — and not a competing franchisor’s system — Sylvester said.

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