Technology

John Studebaker: ‘Technology is one of those areas where the best doesn’t always win’

Inman is profiling real estate hackers. Here’s John Studebaker, Director of Information Technologies at ProspectsPlus!

What do you do? 

I am the lead programmer, database administrator and project manager for our organization. What that means is I wear a lot of hats. From building new systems, improving our platforms, integrating new technologies and data sources.

I am constantly problem-solving for our customers and team members or keeping an eye out for the next cutting-edge tool that can make our systems better so that our customers always have the best experience. All of that falls under my job description.

How’d you end up in real estate tech?

Family, really. My dad has been a real estate broker my entire life. My brother is also a broker. While I went through real estate school, I never did get my license because I was too busy working in the tech world for my former company.

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I did some moonlighting writing a MLS integration system for my brother’s company (this was back before people could search MLS data on the Web). Eventually, I met Jim Morton, the President of our organization. His passion for the industry, and commitment to bringing easy-to-implement technology together made ProspectsPLUS! an organization I wanted to be part of long-term. The company helps people work smarter and build stronger careers, and you can’t beat that for motivation!

What aspects of real estate are you trying to make better?

I’m excited to say that I get to work closely with our team to create products and services that will help our customers work smarter, close more transactions, find more prospects and even more balance.

Just recently, we’ve worked hard to integrate powerful new data-mining options for agents so that they can better match their marketing message to the people they most want to target. That’s great for them. It means finding hand-raisers in their area gets easier, and their return on investment is higher. That’s important to me, and to everyone on our team.

What’s your favorite part of what you do?

The sense of satisfaction I get realizing I’m making so many lives better, not just the tens of thousands of real estate agents who depend on my systems to be more successful, but also my wonderful co-workers that comprise the rest of the ProspectsPLUS! family. We have a wonderful team, and every member is a vital part of it. We work hard, but we know we’ve got each other’s backs as well, and that makes being part of a team really rewarding to me.

John Studebaker at work.

John Studebaker at work.

What products have you had a part in developing in the past?

The first product I was involved in with ProspectsPLUS! was our flagship desktop software program, titled (interestingly enough), ProspectsPLUS! It was a system the Realtor installed on his or her Windows computer, and after loading an image and typing in some basic contact information, it auto-populated that information into more than 100 ready made marketing pieces they could customize and print. That product grew many times over, with the last version including more than 700 marketing pieces, all click-to-print easy.

My next project was ePrintingPLUS!, which was a simple step-by-step website agents could use to create custom marketing materials that would be professionally printed and mailed to help get new listings. It wasn’t long after that when we realized most agents were too busy to dedicate the time they should to their own marketing.

That lead to MLSMailings.com, a website that included MLS integration from a wide spectrum of MLSs around the country. It made marketing set-and-forget simple for agents. They sign up, set their design template and marketing preferences and we do the rest.

Every time they would then get a listing or make a sale, we’d automate the process of sending out their “just listed” and “just sold” postcards to homeowners via a radial search of the listed property. Since the swift advance of technology and the need for agents to be more mobile and less tied to a desktop computer or one operating system, our focus in the last few years has been to bring all of our most popular products and pieces online with Web-to-print capacity.

With the help of our talented programming and design staff, we’ve customized a powerful Web interface program to best serve our customers in a way that makes sense to them. Our goal is to keep prospectsplus.com as streamlined and simple as possible, and provide tools, technology and support services for our customers so that they can check the marketing component of their jobs off their list quickly and cost-effectively.

What are you working on right now? What are the challenges? 

Right now, we’re working on bringing our marketing expertise and Web-to-print software to smart phones. Our current project is a system that allows agents to take a picture of a property with their cell phone, and send out “just listed” postcards to owners in the neighborhood with a few simple taps of the screen.

Some of our challenges are making sure it is compatible with all types of cell phones, and that we can correctly identify the property address based on the cell phone’s GPS and compass. Also, for increased customer security, we’re going to implement our credit card processor’s CIM along with PayPal. It’s wonderful new technology that allows our clients to place orders without having to transmit their credit card information over the Internet.

Favorite Twitter account?

@ProspectsPLUS

Favorite food?

Big, juicy steaks.

Favorite video game? (Or book, if you don’t have a favorite game).

My favorite books range from the Nero Wolfe series to the Iron Druid Chronicles.

Favorite city?

Bradenton, Florida.

Favorite band or singer?

“Weird Al” Yankovic.

What do you hate about technology?

Technology is one of those areas where the best doesn’t always win. Too many times great technology is created, and because of poor marketing, it is thrown to the side for something inferior.

What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?

It’s simply too hard and time-consuming to be a great agent. Most agents spend spend too much time and money marketing themselves instead of putting those resources to work for their clients, and then that means they have to increase the time and money for marketing, leading to a never-ending downward spiral of productivity. We’re actively trying to minimize the time and expense necessary for marketing, so agents can concentrate on their clients.

Do you think technology can change the industry?

It already has, and will continue to do so.

In or out of real estate, is there one problem, large or small, that you would like to solve?

World hunger, world peace, cancer, etc, etc. But the best I can realistically hope for is giving my kids a better life, and if they pay it forward to their kids, maybe in generations to come, we’ll begin to see real progress towards world hunger, world peace, etc.

What motivates you?

That’s simple: My family.

Describe what you do in one sentence: Our company “tagline” is “Making marketing work…” and my job is to make sure all our systems work so that at any given time, our customers can get exactly what they need to market themselves effectively and affordably.

Time at current company: 16 years

Age: 43

Degree: University of South Florida

Location: Bradenton, Florida

Social media: Google Plus

Are you a real estate hacker who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email amber@inman.com.