Travis Saxton QuantumDigital the Real Estate Dish

The Real Estate Dish: 20 Minutes with Travis Saxton of T3 Sixty

Join QuantumDigital’s EVP and CMO Eric Cosway as he gets the latest dish on real estate trends and technology with Travis Saxton, SVP of Technology Consulting for T3 Sixty. T3 Sixty is a team of strategy, technical and managing consultants who help facilitate solutions for not only brokers and vendors, but real estate associations as well.

Eric: Travis, welcome to the podcast.

Travis: Sure. Thank you, Eric. Thanks for having me.

Eric: I wonder if you can tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your current role as SVP and head of technology for T3 Sixty.

Travis: First and foremost, I started in your world, believe it or not. Kind of the marketing world, digital marketing. I was a technology consultant for newspapers, and one of the things that newspapers needed help with, about 15 years ago, was how the heck do we navigate this digital space. So, I became one of the first certified Google advertising professionals when their program launched, and many of my clients were real estate firms. So, I was actually on the other end of the table, selling to real estate firms from the newspaper perspective—all things digital, Google’s advertising, and all kinds of banner ads and stuff like that. And then, when Craigslist came into the market, there was some major shakeups in newspaper, and I decided to make a move, geographically, to Denver, and that’s when I got into real estate. I ran the technology consulting at Real Trends for the better part of 8 years. And now, I’m here today. I took over a little over 2 years ago as the Senior Vice President of Technology Consulting for T3 Sixty. The best way to relate to what I do is I’m the matchmaker, the middleman, between the technology companies in the real estate space, and the large enterprise brokerage franchises, and associations, and MLS’s, and so we’re constantly working on big projects. Just to give you an example, we’re just days away from launching a 10,000 agent operation in Canada with all-new technology that crosses off 42 categories of real estate technology, which we’ll explain in a minute. But, that’s one of the things that I love to do. I’m passionate about real estate technology and the real estate industry as a whole. I believe it is an amazing industry, as do you I’m sure, Eric.

Eric: Geez, you know, having said that… having you say that… man. Makes me want to move back to my homeland, Canada, now. I have all that technology to tap into. I’d really move there for the summers, I don’t think I could take the winters anymore.

Travis: That’s right. And most of it would be spent inside at a hockey rink. So, that’s still the world I live in, and love me some Canada and hockey.

Eric: Well, let’s talk about it. So, you’ve seen digital marketing… wow 11, 12 years ago, I think… the timing, if my math is right. So, how’s digital marketing changed?

Travis: You know, it’s very interesting. Digital marketing, email marketing and most other technologies have gone through this evolution where—I’ll use the terms 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 as an example. So, both email marketing and digital marketing have gone through the phases of going from 1.0, which would be like the most basic form. When digital marketing started, it was “Oh, my gosh! There’s this thing called Google, and you can put ads while people are searching in an active style, and we can put ads right in front of them. We don’t know who those people are. We don’t know anything about them. But I know they’re looking for real estate in New York City.” You know, something like that. So, that was like the 1.0. And we got some big companies that blew up onto this space, from the Market Leaders, and the Boomtowns, and stuff like that. And not to say that 1.0 is obsolete. There’s still big companies that do a lot in digital marketing and search engine marketing, as it relates to real estate. And so they’re very successful. Many of them have diversified and added in what we would then call marketing 2.0, which would be “Oh, man! This amazing network called Facebook came onto the scene. Now we can behaviorally target and look at people, and we know the radius of who they are, we know what their profiles are, so we’ve got some more demographic and behavioral information on there. So, that was 2.0. And now, we’re into the world of 3.0—and you guys are at the epicenter of this as well, at QuantumDigital—is targeting personas and habits, and actual “if this, then that” type of dynamic marketing where not only are you being smart, intelligent about the ad creative and messaging, it’s also about who and when and what dollar amounts you’re putting in front of the right consumers, to the point where we’re seeing real-time technologies that are fine-tuning advertising down to the second, on the spot. And, if an ad’s not working, they’re pulling that ad out and they’re popping a different one in, in front of a different demographic in real-time. So, that real-time, more intelligent style of approach of marketing is what’s happening. And then we saw the same thing in email marketing. 1.0 was “Do you have an email marketing platform? Can you actually email your clients?” And 1.0 might have been your recipes, and your “Happy Halloween” stuff, and you know so on and so forth. Then 2.0 came along, and you’re starting to see the video emails. You’re starting to see more intelligent property search, and behavioral intelligence on property data, and stuff like that. And now we’re in the 3.0 world, where we actually have artificial intelligence, like what ActivePipe is doing and growing their prowess with behavioral intelligence on top of email marketing. So, now your emails actually morph and get stronger, and more relevant over time, based on consumer habits and engagement.

Eric: Yeah, that’s a nice way to think about it and break that out into levels of sophistication from 1 to 3. And, you know, it’s tough. I mean that jump, in our case 2 to 3, is really tough. I mean, dynamic ad creation is all there. Now working in behavioral profiles and extreme targeting. That’s the next big leap, so I agree with you. What’s kind of the number one lesson, or two or three things you’ve learned about that transition from 2 to 3?

Travis: Yeah, adoption is always a challenge when it comes to any technology. And education to the industry is a major challenge. I’m sure you’re seeing and experiencing it, too. Because, to the general consumer, they might not even understand what’s the difference between 1.0 and 2.0 versus 2.0 and 3.0. As you get into those weeds, everything starts to blend together. And I’ll give you an example. I might have a conversation with a broker, that I tell them about advanced digital marketing on Facebook, where you can get click-through rates that are astronomical, cost-per-leads that are lower, and they’ll be like “Oh, I already do Facebook advertising. Our company has a plan and we post stuff every month.” And I’m like “That is apples and oranges.” They’re just not quite understanding the evolution and the difference between 2.0 and 3.0. So, education is a big thing. And then, of course, adoption and making sure that they understand it’s a commitment. It’s a program, it’s not a silver bullet. But you still have to commit to it. And that’s a heavy lift for organizations that might not even understand it.

Eric: You know, gosh. I think about Facebook. And when I’m speaking at different broker events and conferences, I hear that. You know, “We have a Facebook lead ad product.” But I wonder if it’s because companies like Facebook have 10, 12 versions of an ad they can place for you—whether it’s an awareness ad, consideration ads, or conversion ads—and they’ve just got a really steep product, and good product depth, the different ad buys you can have. And it’s made it tougher for the general practitioner to understand all these options. What are your thoughts on that?

Travis: Yes, I think it has gotten much more complex, and things are starting to blend together. As you know, Eric, we track the technology landscape. It’s 75+ categories of real estate technology, where social advertising—as an example here—is just one of the 75 categories we track at T3 Sixty. Yet, there’s so much confusion around that one category. That’s the same with many of the other categories, too. And so, a lot of blending and confusion around what’s out there and what’s the next best thing. And then, the problem perpetuates as you get into things like Inman and Startup Alley, not to throw any shade there, but when you walk around the floor, you’re seeing technology in a bubble, in a silo. You’re not seeing the deep integrations and what you need to do to drive adoption and make that work. Like, what QuantumDigital does with MoxiWorks is a great example. The programs that you guys launch are so deeply integrated, and they just work, versus going out and buying this shiny penny that might do this one thing, that you now have to use resources, implementation, support, training, education, inside of a brokerage to get it to work. And nobody has that bandwidth to make that happen, yet they go and sign up for the next thing in startup alley. And so, that’s a problem that we have, chasing that shiny penny in our space, rather than dealing with the certainty of “This program works. It’s fully integrated with your tech stack” and having the wherewithal to commit to it to drive an ROI for a brokerage.

Eric: You know, it’s a tough transition. I think about it as a service provider, and I think about our advertising applications as kind of the “last mile” applications to the home. Really hyper-local targeted marketing. But, the real value of that is the integration into a bigger platform. You know, I love to say we stand alone, but really that’s not true anymore. The best value we can provide a broker and agent is to be part of an integrated, bench-tested, bigger platform where there’s a lot more data you can push and pull from it, and provide a lot better experience and insight into the actual broker and agent.

Travis: Yeah, I completely agree. And if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “Oh, we have the next end-to-end platform for real estate,” I’d be a pretty rich man right now. Because I hear it 50 times a month. It’s frustrating because the consumer hears that, and they think “end-to-end” when, in reality, there’s 75 categories of real estate technology. There is nobody, nobody on the record here, nobody that is end-to-end and can do everything.

Eric: You know, you’ve helped us understand too, we’re a point solution that’s got a couple of points on the funnel, your sales funnel. I mean, the top of the funnel, and the follow-up at the end of the funnel. That’s kind of where we live. And I think it would be unfair to say that we have a complete stack, all the way through that sales funnel you have.

Travis: Yet, there’s people that do that all the time. And I have to educate them when they call me for advice on penetrating the enterprise market. And I’m like “You are not end-to-end. Please stop using that.” But, that actually probably dovetails into some great advice for brokers. First of all, if you hear that, just have your radar go off because there’s nobody that is end-to-end. And second of all, the problem that we run into from the enterprise perspective, or brokerages and franchises in this day and age, is you get these vendors together, and you might pick vendor A, B and C, and think “Oh, this is going to be awesome! Now, together, I can have an end-to-end solution.” But vendor B and C don’t talk to each other. And so, you end up with a silo or a data gap. And so, there’s a lot of due diligence that’s needed in this day and age to make sure that you’ve talked about the requirements—“What are the requirements needed for this project?”—and you’ve shared those up front with your technology partners. Because, if you don’t do that, what happens is vendor A says, “Yeah, we have an API.” And vendor B says, “Yes, we have an API.” And then, a brokerage gets caught in the middle holding the ball going “Well, who’s going to do this work? Vendor A or vendor B?” And then, all of a sudden, they end up getting a large charge incurred. It’s usually a minimum viable product between the two integrations. So then the broker ends up going “Well, this thing barely works.” And yet, nobody takes responsibility for it. And so, having that level of diligence and detail when you’re putting together your technology stack is so important. And making sure you’re working with the QuantumDigitals and MoxiWorks that have deeply tied integrations, and data flows back and forth. That’s totally underestimated.

Eric: And I think how we try and approach that is we want to be absolutely honest with our brokers and agents, and let them know we have a bench-tested process flow that’s been QA’d, that works, there’s not big setup or startup fees for, all that investment has been done. I think that’s pretty important because broker’s, obviously, margins are much lower than they used to be, they’re working with scarcity, trying to afford all these investments. That’s just the way we work here and that’s our style.

Travis: Yeah, I think that’s very important. And I don’t think enough diligence is put towards that level of integration and data flow and stuff like that. So, kudos to you guys. Because you have proven that you have been able to do that time and time again.

Eric: Part of your process, though… let’s go into it for a broker. I think part of your strength is—if I’m correct here—you bring problem-solving methodology to a broker to help them understand the tech stack that’s out there, and help them understand what their gaps are. Is that part of the consulting services that you guys provide?

Travis: We do. It’s a very systematic process, and it starts with a holistic approach to… your problem might be over here, like your left arm hurts. But, we’re going to go through the full check-up, we’re going to talk about the 75 categories, what integrates with what, educate you along the process. You’ll leave that meeting with us with your head spinning, because there’s so much that you’ll learn. But your initial problems or symptoms might actually be something else. And if you kill these two birds with one stone, you can come out much more efficient in the end. And so, that’s the approach we take. We never look at anything in a silo. Even though someone could call us up today, and be like “Hey, we have this problem. Our CRM doesn’t work.” Well, we can of course diagnose that and work with that. But, in the end, the perfect result is when you sit down and you go through the process so that you can get the most value and most ROI out of your technology stack. And, frankly, that’s only half the battle—as you’re probably aware, Eric—is 50% of the battle is kind of putting it all together, making sure that it works. The other 50% is the leadership committing to it, then we’ve got adoption, do we use it in recruiting and retention. And so, that’s the Kool-Aid that needs to be drank after you’ve put all that hard work, and energy, and financial resources in. You’ve just done half the battle, and now you’ve got to the other half. And that’s the thing that’s usually forgotten about.

Eric: Well, that’s the hardest half, too. The adoption, the understanding of all these practitioners that have either close or loose affiliations with the brokerage. Getting all those folks on board. That’s a really tough dilemma. Is anyone doing that well these days? I mean, have you seen great examples of brokerages that really are working on adoption, and you’re going “Ah, wow. That's pretty interesting. These guys have that nailed.”

Travis: Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of different examples. Obviously, I’m close to this situation, but what we’ve launched with Century21 Canada is a huge project and we’re seeing really good adoption. It’s still in the internal beta phase and goes live next week. And so, it’s been years in the making of a massive operation. And, if you think about it, there’s been hundreds of millions of dollars spent on large technology acquisitions that have failed in the last couple of years. And what we’re doing with a fraction of that money in Canada—for the same size or similar size organization—is pretty impressive. And so, we’re at the finish line there, and everything’s going very smoothly at this point. But the thing is, these types of launches are never perfect. No matter how diligent you are in the upfront work, there’s always something that will happen. And so, it’s your ability to be able to adjust and work with your technology partners, to make sure that you can take those challenges on. Sometimes if you buy an out-of-the-box, or I should say “Inside-the-box” solution, you’re very rigid, you’re very stuck. And then you’re left with the challenges of you can’t innovate fast enough because the system is what it is, and doesn’t go much further. And so, that’s where having that level of ambiguity and being able to move on the fly is so important. And having great partners and great technology vendors that can grow with you is an equal part of that innovation strategy. And we just don’t see that enough. Too many times, it’s sign a contract, roll out a product, talk to you in 3 years. And it’s a perpetual cycle that’s, then 3 years later, I’m unhappy. I’m not too unhappy, I’m not happy enough just to change it, and rinse and repeat and do it again. And it’s frustrating for us, too.

Eric: Oh, no kidding. Let’s get to know you a little bit better on the personal side. So, my assumption is you’re going to be working again at The Masters this year. Correct?

Travis: That is correct. As of right now, I still think that’s the plan. I’m a huge, huge golfer. I’m addicted to golf. If you can have an addiction, that’s not a bad one to have. I love the game. I am a volunteer at The Masters. I’ve been fortunate enough to play Augusta National now 5 or 6 times. Boy, is it an amazing experience. And, I’m a pretty good golfer, too. And we’re going to have our first ever Real Estate Golf Tournament at the T3 Summit next year in May. So I’m excited about that.

Eric: So, are you going to have a T3 green jacket?

Travis: That’s not a bad idea. I actually really like that idea. We are going to do some fun stuff, but that was one I had not thought of. So, I think we might...

Eric: But for real estate, and guys like me, you have to give it to someone who doesn’t play well. We have to have an opportunity to get that jacket.

Travis: Yeah, that’s funny. I like that. I might have to inject that. But yeah, besides golf, I’m a new father. I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old right now, about to turn 2. Boy, they keep me busy. My 3 princesses, my wife and the 2 girls are just amazing. My girls have been into figure skating, so that’s fun. And I’m trying to get them into golf, without being a pushy dad. We have a lot of fun together. Fatherhood is amazing. I’m so blessed and lucky.

Eric: So, are you finding as your girls—obviously, they’re still young—but, at this stage, is it tougher and tougher to get out there to play golf? Or is it just you and your wife can work that flexibility in?

Travis: You know, I’m very thankful for what I’ve been able to do in my career. And that’s been my saving grace. Because you’re right, taking time away in the afternoons or on the weekends. But I’ve been able to blend it with my professional career. I have a lot of really good golfer friends, and so any chance I can to get a meeting out on the golf course, I absolutely would do that. And luckily in Denver, there’s a lot of technology companies—there’s about 55 of them, last I counted—and I host a group that gets them all together once a quarter. And so, I try to find ways to get those friends and clients out on the golf course. And I’ve been very successful in making that happen, so...

Eric: So, are you finding as your girls—obviously, they’re still young—but, at this stage, is it tougher and tougher to get out there to play golf? Or is it just you and your wife can work that flexibility in?

Travis: You know, I’m very thankful for what I’ve been able to do in my career. And that’s been my saving grace. Because you’re right, taking time away in the afternoons or on the weekends. But I’ve been able to blend it with my professional career. I have a lot of really good golfer friends, and so any chance I can to get a meeting out on the golf course, I absolutely would do that. And luckily in Denver, there’s a lot of technology companies—there’s about 55 of them, last I counted—and I host a group that gets them all together once a quarter. And so, I try to find ways to get those friends and clients out on the golf course. And I’ve been very successful in making that happen, so...

Eric: Gosh, are you able to host anything at the Sanctuary?

Travis: Yeah, I’ve been there numerous times. Haven’t hosted anything there. But, yeah, I’ve definitely been there numerous times. It’s an amazing retreat, obviously, owned by Dave Liniger of RE/MAX. He puts on a great experience out there. Any time I have a chance to get out there, I do.

Eric: Yeah, it’s one of the courses that I’ve been able to play once. But, having played there, I had to bring 2 boxes of balls.

Travis: You do lose a lot of balls, yeah.

Eric: Well, Travis, this has been a lot of fun. Thank you very much for your time today. We got to know you a little better, and some of the family side as well. And good luck with T3 Sixty. You guys are growing and doing some amazing things. And I’m really looking forward to the Tech Landscape. That’s going to be a great body of work that you guys are going to put out later this year, I think. Correct?

Travis: That’s correct, yes. We just saw the first working model of it yesterday. And I was very impressed and excited to see the evolution of this. That’s the back end, so we built the backbone data layer where we’re going to be loading in… I don’t know if you know this, Eric, but up to almost 2,500 real estate technology companies. And it’s amazing. We’re going to try to track every single one of them in this database, and then we’re going to publish it online in the near future here. So, that’s a huge project that we’re doing, and we have some more announcements coming right behind that, too, in 2020. We’ve got a lot of momentum brewing from our technology team, which is myself, Michele Conn, who runs our mergers & acquisitions, Jack Miller, who is the president, we just brought on Jonathan Petersen and Mark Lesswing as well. So, big names in the space all teaming up and growing this budding technology practice.

Eric: Very good, my friend. Well, again, thank you for the time and best of luck in the future.

Travis: Thank you, guys.



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