When Realogy Corp.’s newest real estate franchisor, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, was preparing for launch four years ago, the company worked to build its website and intranet tools in-house and also hired Genex, a well-known Los Angeles firm, to work on the company’s website design.
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate’s intranet, dubbed "The Greenhouse," provides lead management and branded marketing tools for agents that help them make the most of Internet leads.
Considered state of the art at launch, "The Greenhouse" helped Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate get off to a fast start, said CEO Sherry Chris.
Now, as the franchisor continues to grow, it’s hired an outside firm — Kirkland, Wash.-based Market Leader Inc. — to provide next-generation agent tools that can scale with the company’s growth.
"Technology changes quickly," Chris said, and late last year Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate began looking at whether the company wanted to build enhanced tools for agents in house, or partner with an outside company. Instead of reinventing the wheel, she said, the franchisor decided its new agent intranet would be "built by people who specialize in these tools."
Market Leader recently landed a similar deal with another Realogy franchisor, Century 21 Real Estate LLC, that’s worth at least $2.55 million over two years. That agreement calls for Market Leader to provide a marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) platform to 60,000 agents affiliated with Century 21.
Market Leader also has a five-year agreement to provide lead management, contact management and marketing design components of Keller Williams Realty International’s eEdge platform, which became available to 80,000 agents affiliated with the franchise during second-quarter 2011.
According to a regulatory filing, Market Leader will provide a branded technology platform to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate’s 7,000 agents and 200 offices, which will include integrated components for agent collaboration, customer relationship management websites, and other functions.
Chris declined to reveal more details about the contract or the services Market Leader will provide. But she said Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate chose Market Leader after deciding it was the company that could provide the best tools for its agents and communicate with end users.
"We went through quite a process — we didn’t just pick a company out of the air," Chris said. "It’s about providing the best tools for our network, and we really believe we have achieved that in this partnership."
Jennifer Marchetti, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate’s vice president of marketing, said the new system will integrate with Realogy’s online lead management system, LeadRouter, which captures leads from 20,000 sources and forwards them to agents’ mobile devices. This month, Realogy announced that LeadRouter delivered 1.4 million leads in 2011, a 40 percent increase from a year ago.
Marchetti said the two guiding principals of the project with Market Leader will be to make the core technology available to agents at no cost, and to create a "better and easier" user experience.
In providing services to franchisors, Market Leader looks for opportunities to "upsell" premium software and services to agents.
Market Leader stands to receive a minimum of $10 million from Keller Williams during the initial five-year term of the eEdge agreement, with Keller Williams agents paying $15 a month for the base level eEdge product.
In its most recent annual report to investors, Market Leader said the majority of Keller Williams agents have activated the base level eEdge product, and that "strong sales of premium upgrades," combined with the contractual revenues from the eEdge deal, will exceed $10 million in 2012.
Market Leader said it also expects to generate additional revenue from premium upgrades and other technology and marketing services that will be made available to Century 21 agents and brokerage offices in the U.S.
Both the Century 21 and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate contracts are subject to a master "software as a service" agreement between Market Leader and Realogy Services Group LLC, Market Leader said. Terms of the agreement with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate were not disclosed.
In its most recent annual report to investors, Market Leader said revenue grew by 39 percent in 2011, to $34 million, as the company "significantly increased the number of real estate professionals" using its software platform, from 19,000 at the beginning of the year to more than 100,000 at year-end.
"Based upon our increased focus on and investment in customer acquisition, we expect similar revenue growth in 2012," the company said.