Ben Kinney just launched Brivity, a client collaboration tool that brings absolute transparency into the real estate transaction. If you want to dazzle your clients with everything you do for them, this is the tool for you.
Here’s why Ben Kinney built Brivity: He hates complaints.
“The number one complaint we hear from consumers is about the lack of communications about the [real estate] transaction,” Kinney explains. It’s just wrong when consumers “hire an agent to list a home and then they don’t hear anything back from them.”
That’s why Kinney poured hundreds of thousands of dollars and two years into Brivity. He wanted create a comprehensive task management and reporting platform would enable his team to actively engage with their clients, right down to the last detail.
Brivity • Client Collaboration and Management • $39.95/month • brivity.com
In essence, he wanted his clients to have complete and utter transparency, so that they would know exactly what Kinney and his team were doing to sell their homes at all times.
Making the Team Better
“We had an idea that every time that a task was completed that we wanted to communicate right back to the client what we did,” Kinney says of the logic behind Brivity. But while that may sound obvious, it’s actually a Herculean task to capture and systematize every aspect of a real estate transaction to make it actionable and accountable.
To do it, Kinney hired a team of developers and parked them in his real estate office for 18 months. They became an integral part of Kinney’s highly productive real estate team.
The development team learned the intricacies of real estate from the inside out, from the details of closing a transaction to which scripts were used at various points in the deal.
Kinney says that this insider knowledge is what makes Brivity different — and useful. But what’s surprising is that Kinney never really intended for Brivity to become a product he would sell to others.
“Our idea was just to make our team better,” Kinney explains. “What we wanted to do in my personal business was to ensure that when my team did a transaction that we were known as a company or team that had excellent communication.”
But there’s more to it. Kinney says Brivity was an investment in growing his business.
“I wanted to make sure that my team and my brokerage grew,” Kinney continues. “So I wanted to be sure that any time anyone worked with us, they got the same level of service. Brivity was designed to create transparency, increase communication, and organize my team so that I knew when someone was representing my brokerage that clients would be treated at the highest level possible.”
Built Inside the Business
“Brivity was built inside our business, literally,” Kinney says. “That’s a lot different than a technology person having a good idea because they had a bad experience in a real estate transaction, because this was built around the people who actually had to use it.“
That’s why the nuances of Brivity are steeped in the way Kinney does business. He’s a big believer in teams, systems and processes — and says that anyone with a proper system can quadruple their business just by systematizing what they do.
It’s hard to argue with Kinney’s success. At 35, he’s built one of the hottest brokerages in the country in just eight years, with more than 500 transactions per year, and more than $2.6 million in commissions. He is a proven entrepreneur, in-demand speaker and trainer, primarily because his systems and procedures are proven to work — if you follow them.
Kinney is committed to helping other real estate professionals improve their businesses. That’s why he conducts tours of his brokerage in exchange for a charity donation. The tours allow brokers and agents to get inside Kinney’s business and soak up why things work they way they do. And that’s why Brivity ultimately became a product, and not just an internal initiative for Kinney’s brokerage.
Kinney let a few mega agents who had toured his brokerage try what is today Brivity. It solved the same problems for his visitors that it did for his team. More visitors kept on asking to get access to the platform. Kinney soon realized that what he had was a product — and Brivity was born.
How Brivity Works
At its simplest, Brivity reports everything you do to your clients in an organized, friendly fashion via email updates and a client portal.
“Every time an action is completed, it gets rolled up to an email that goes to the client that says hey, here’s the 17 things Ben did today to get your property sold,” Kinney explains. Clients can also visit a comprehensive client portal, populated with updates and property marketing activity.
Yet the power of Brivity is that it is also a management tool, since it enables agents and brokers to create, manage and maintain listings, and manage the team members who interact with listing and clients. Since it creates single property pages and also has a basic CRM with social tools, it also enables brokers and agents to eliminate a variety of other on-demand services like virtual tours, CRM systems and social posting platforms.
The Secret Sauce of Brivity
Kinney says that in order to deliver consistent and quality service to one client, you must deliver a repeatable series of activities you deliver to every client. He calls these activities “action plans.”
That’s why Brivity associates every listing entered on the platform with an action plan.
An action plan can contain as many tasks as necessary based on the property type — but the point is to use similar action plans so that you can establish a cadence and consistency to the way you deliver service to clients.
The tasks in the action plans are timeframe-based, so that the tasks within are ordered by date from the date of the listing creation. You can set these dates to fall at any time, or have them fall just on weekdays.
“We do a lot of things that are strictly based on a timeframe,” Kinney explains. For example, things that happen within seven dates from a listing date might fall on a weekend. But the task might not be completed on a Saturday or Sunday.
Kinney says that might result in having a few more overdue tasks on a Monday than normal. But Kinney says you just “work through it” because the point is to manage the process and the tasks as efficiently and as timely as possible — not to become a slave to Brivity.
Once a listing is in process, Brivity enables you to layer action plans on top of each other to ensure that everything that needs to be done gets done, all the way through the transaction. But with this power comes responsibility.
Since action plans can’t be deleted after they are added to a listing in Brivity, you’ll need to choose a plan with care. The only way to delete an action plan after it has been added is to delete each task individually, a tedious task in and of itself.
Impossible to Forget
You can create your own action plans in the settings section of Brivity. Or you can use one of Kinney’s plans as a basis (the platform ships with up to 10 of Kinney’s own plans), then customize it as you see fit. It’s also possible to create action plans from scratch if you like. The beauty of the pre-set action plans is that enables you to launch a listing quickly, and administer it identically.
You can add individual tasks to any action plan with a date, action and responsible user, and set them to be one-time or recurring. Tasks can be assigned to people or a property.
Action plans can also be used for people. For example, if you close a transaction you could have an action plan that details your follow-up plan for the next year, and places tasks on your timeline so that you don’t forget.
“We want to create action plans for people that ensure that the communication after the transaction is as good as the communication during the transaction,” Kinney explains. And, make it impossible to forget a task.
Creating a listing is a straightforward process. You give the listing a title, choose the property type (residential, business opportunity, etc.), put in the address, set the expiration date, assign the agent and select both an action and advertising plan.
The result of Brivity’s listing origination process and comprehensive action plans is that when used properly, the public-facing listing pages are fully populated with narrative copy, photography, a map and other details that are search-friendly.
Many Brivity users eliminate virtual single property websites and use Brivity pages in their place, according to Kinney. Since Brivity’s property URLs are static, you can point a custom domain (1234main.com) to a specific property URL.
The pages are lovely, and designed to appeal to consumers. And of course, listing pages exclusively feature the listing agent. No other advertising or agents is on the page.
Tasks and Clients
When an agent or administrator enters Brivity, the first page they see is the task screen. The task screen is a roll-up of every task assigned to each property in Brivity, and each task is associated with a person. In this view, it’s easy to roll over the various tasks to see a preview of the task, and identify who is working on what.
Prominent due dates accompany each task. In the left column, a counter is associated with tasks that are overdue, due today, upcoming, or completed.
You can also drill into an individual task to edit it, add to it, delete it or mark it as complete. Items that are marked as complete are consolidated into an email that presents completed tasks for the day to the buyer or seller.
If you’re a manager, this view makes it easy to see what’s outstanding or late. It’s a good way to follow-up with your team members.
Kinney’s goal is to ensure that anything his team does for a client is always captured in Brivity.
Status Emails and Client Pages
Brivity keeps clients informed via roll-up status emails and their own private transaction page.
You can set the frequency of the roll-up status email to daily or weekly. The status emails are sent under your name, and include the most recent completed tasks, notes and activities since the last email was sent. Each email includes your profile picture, contact information, social links and the address of the listing.
Completed tasks are organized by type and include the name of the person who completed the task. This can be useful when you have more than one person working on a transaction.
However, since the format of the email cannot be changed, it can seem a little weird if you’re the only agent working on a transaction, since every task will include your name. Nonetheless, that’s a small price to pay, since keeping the client automatically informed without having to do much more than checking off a box in Brivity is well worth it.
If the client clicks on their listing link, the email refers them to their dashboard page on Brivity that contains everything they need to know about the transaction at hand.
The client page includes a Facebook-esque timeline, a list of advertising venues, tasks, showing information, notes, photos and details. The timeline is the default view when a client enters their private Brivity page.
A link to the single-property marketing page is also displayed in the top left corner of the client’s page, and Kinney says this is to encourage the client to share this page with their friends and family.
“You never know when the seller might know someone who might buy the property,” Kinney explains.
Your contact details (whether that’s just you, or you and your assistant) live in the right column. Clients can use the page to send messages directly to the agent or team members working on their transaction.
Client Advertising Reporting
Kinney knows that sellers want to know where their property is advertised. But in today’s world of real estate syndication, you might want to show your clients a mere subset of advertising venues you think are most important — not a laundry list of all the websites to which your broker syndicates.
In essence, Brivity makes it possible to show as many or as few advertising channels as you want in your client-visible advertising plan.
Brivity ships with a basic advertising plan that is built on the list of advertising venues Kinney uses in his own business. You can add and delete advertising venues from this plan, or create your own.
In either case, the platform uses a unique search query to match the listing’s address to the venue. This means that when the client clicks on the link you set up in Brivity, they are taken directly to the listing as it appears on the external site.
Kinney advises Brivity users to include competitors’ sites within the advertising plan for a particular property.
“That takes away the ‘maybe I should list with the other company,’” Kinney explains. “It’s already there.”
Social Marketing Tools
Since Brivity is a marketing platform as well as a team collaboration tool, Kinney integrated a social posting tool that permits you to advertise your listing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Craigslist or Active Rain. A counter shows the views for each type of post.
You can set the frequency of posting about individual listings by venue in the settings. For example, you may decide that it would be better to post every week on Facebook, but to post on Craigslist every three days. When you set your frequency, these tasks are automatically integrated into your action plans.
When you complete a post, you mark it as complete, which immediately rolls the task into the client report email that Brivity sends on your behalf.
Brivity creates plain text ads for Craigslist (which has cracked down on HTML posts deployed through third party platforms) you can cut and paste from your clipboard. For ActiveRain, simply click on a link on the timeline page to automatically create an HTML post.
Almost a CRM
Kinney says that even though Brivity was not designed as a full-featured CRM, many users use it that way. Enough, in fact, that Kinney plans to introduce more robust CRM features this summer. For now, you can create a “people” or “lead” page for individuals, message team members about people internally, and apply an action plan to an individual contact.
Later this summer and through the fall, Kinney will roll out customizable details, sources and statuses for people, and import and export capability from other systems. Later this fall, he will introduce mass emailing and drip campaigns.
“The goal is to be a high-functioning CRM by the fall,” Kinney explains. “We want Brivity to do everything every other CRM would do, including click-to-call, individual messages, mass email and setting up follow-up plans.”
Every person (client, team member or lead) in Brivity gets a unique profile. You can upload a profile picture, and fill in the details with contact information and softer information, like birthday, marital status and anniversary.
The platform is also socially savvy, in that it connects profiles on Brivity to social platforms including Facebook and Twitter. As long as you have a single point of contact with a client (e.g., an email, Twitter handle or Facebook ID), you can send messages to that person directly within Brivity.
Brivity enables you to assign an action plan to an individual that ensures that you don’t fall out of touch with your clients. For now, much of the work associated with these action plans is manual.
Given Kinney’s focus on systems, it comes as no surprise that Brivity will even provide a script for a telephone call if that’s part of the action plan for a client. The scripts are based on those that Kinney’s team uses as part of his business.
Kinney says that the goal is to automate these points of contact using Brivity’s capabilities and templated content based on Kinney’s real estate business, or via strategic partnerships with companies like Happy Grasshopper.
In Fall 2014, Kinney will also launch a more thorough integration with Happy Grasshopper. This partnership will permit users to seamlessly initiate a Happy Grasshopper campaign from within Brivity for an individual client for users who subscribe to both services.
Integrations with other Lead Platforms
Brivity’s API is open, so you can import leads from virtually any lead provider as long as they have an API to export their leads (and, of course, if the lead provider allows you to export leads to Brivity).
Yet Kinney is clear that Brivity is designed to manage sellers, first and foremost, followed by pending buyers. He says Brivity is more interested in managing clients once they’re clients, rather than importing leads from other platforms.
That’s why Kinney doesn’t plan to introduce an IDX-based lead system, to compete with the likes of Boomtown or Real Geeks.
“We want to be everything else, other than IDX,” Kinney declares, because he thinks those platforms are already providing a great service to their subscribers.
Instead, “we want to take in a lead from Boomtown or Real Geeks where you have a buyer that’s gone pending,” Kinney explains. “That lead will be transferred into Brivity, and managed from here. And then you’d take on the rest of the process in Brivity, to put them in your database, in your sphere and follow up with them over time.“
Brivity as Portal?
For consumers who happen by Brivity but are not clients of the platform’s users, the front end of Brivity looks a lot like a property portal.
Kinney says that this was a natural outgrowth (albeit unexpected) of the way subscribers were using Brivity. Because Brivity’s single property pages are designed to replace single property websites, consumers began to find them because Kinney had already optimized them for search. Showcasing the listings on Brivity’s public-facing home page was a no-brainer.
“Brivity is quickly gaining traffic and being a place that buyers search for property,” Kinney says. One reason may be that Brivity gets listings anywhere from a day to 30 days before they come onto the MLS.
That’s because agents have to create a single-property listing page when they start to create and complete the tasks necessary to getting a listing ready for sale. Kinney even foresees a day when Brivity’s information could be provided to the MLS. While Brivity users can choose to hide the listing from the public until they enter the listing in the MLS, most do not.
The unique byproduct is that Brivity listings may be found by the search engines before they’re on the MLS, on national portals via syndication. That’s a unique advantage for agents and brokers on the platform. It’s an obvious competitive advantage.
It makes sense, then, that Kinney intends to invest in more SEO and SEM to boost traffic to Brivity listings. Ostensibly, the more listings that are on the site will also boost the authority of Brivity’s portal, which can only add to its potential as a consumer destination.