Many real estate agents understand establishing an online presence is more important than ever. But not only an online presence…you want to generate some business! That’s why the social network(s) you choose for your real estate business should have strong referral tools built in. One such system is Zolve.com. Recently I cornered Brian Wilson, founder of Zolve, and asked him some questions. Read the interview below.
Q. In your words, what is Zolve?
A. Zolve is a business exchange platform for industry professionals built to simplify the inefficient, time consuming process of referral tracking, its paperwork and locating like minded professionals to work with. It is a marketplace of real estate professionals where people can objectively evaluate and select a local expert in their market.
Q. How do you see Zolve benefiting real estate professionals?
A. Several ways. First and foremost, Zolve’s platform completely systematizes the entire referral process so it can be executed and tracked online. Secondly, the Zolve network will be comprised of members with online profiles and consumer ratings that simplify the process of choosing referral partners. Of high importance, it helps real estate professional to “be found online” which is no small challenge. There needs to be some reasonable alternatives to every web-based real estate professional in a market all competing for the first 10 search results on the search engine. Zolve provides a technology economy of scales that allows members to be found in an objective marketplace.
Q. How do you see Zolve streamlining the referral process?
A. Zolve provides binding referral contracts in an easy to use “referral wizard.” I can send a digital referral agreement in a few minutes and the member on the other end will get an email alert which will allow him/her to accept, decline or discuss it. Once a referral in place, the receiving member is automatically prompted for regular progress reports and all communications between the cooperating members are stored in a permanent transaction log. Zolve also provides members with a host of exclusive online social and marketing tools to handle inbound and outbound referrals and interview requests.
Q. How will Zolve differ from ActiveRain and other social networks?
A. Zolve is a platform built to process referral transactions. That’s its primary function – to serve as a business tool. All of its social features are designed to support the business center within the platform. Active Rain and other social networks work completely the other way. Their business tools are designed to support the social network. We have designed this network so the time spent on it results in business and is thus productive time. Every decision we make in continuing to evolve Zolve and add features answers the question, “How can we directly help the agent on the street grow his/her business?”
Q. What social tools does Zolve provide real estate professionals?
A. They are considerable. To begin with, Zolve is also an online community – a group of like-minded professionals gathered for mutual benefit. Zolve members create a virtual sphere of influence comprised of other members with whom they have or would like to do business. Each receives a personal blog that allows them to leverage their expertise and local market knowledge. We have built this blog and are continuing to improve this blog so that it can be used as a truly consumer-facing tool. In fact, we are currently developing an option that members can have their profile look one way to non-logged in viewers and differently to fellow members. Thus, the agent who has a static website that is not producing business for them could use their Zolve profile both as a network profile page to interact with other professionals and as their consumer facing website/blog. This will enable them to focus their marketing investment and time into one online brand rather than managing several. Zolve also provides a rating and feedback system that will serve to police the activities as it does on eBay, creating an accountability system that helps ensure that the customer willg et the best possible service.
Q. How can a real estate professional expand their sphere through Zolve?
A. They very same way professionals expand their sphere through a network like LinkedIn. At its core, Zolve provides its members with a new source of business by granting members access to inbound referrals from across the country and globe and connecting them with a community of reliable practitioners to whom they can confidently refer business. A big difference in Zolve is that our members grow their sphere visually. We created a Google Map mashup for each of our members that shows visually where they are connected. With one click of a mouse, they can look beyond their own sphere of influence and view their “sphere network” which shows their network’s sphere of influence as well. Thus, a member with 15 members in his/her sphere can now be connected within one degree of association to thousands of people worldwide, graphically.
Q. Is Zolve only for Real Estate agents? Who else should join?
A. Zolve is absolutely not just for agents. We have members who practice in many real estate service areas and actively encourage them to participate in the platform.
If I am real estate professional like a lender or inspector and I generate most of my business by building relationships with REALTORS®, I want to be on a referral network where top professionals from markets across the country are building out their networks.
If I am selling vacation property in St. Thomas, I want to be on a network where real estate professionals who have clients with 1031 funds or 2nd home aspirations can find me as a trusted, proven professional off-shore.
If I am a real estate technology provider, I want to be on a network where real estate professionals who are willing to pay for an online service are actively trying to build their online brand. I could probably fill a need that they are experiencing.
I want Zolve to become the answer to this problem… if my mom in Bloomington, Indiana wants to refinance her home and asks me for help, I would love to be able to go to Zolve and screen the 5-6 lenders on the network for that market and be able to read 3-5 customer and real estate professional feedbacks on each of them to determine who would be the best fit and take the best care of my mom. I would like the fact that the person that we choose for the job would know that when the refinance closes, my mom as the customer and me as the referring member will both rate him/her on objective criteria that will “stick” to him forever. This is a layer of accountability that does not currently exist. As it is now, if this lender takes advantage of mom or does a terrible job, he has lost nothing in terms of future business since I am an out of state REALTOR® who never sends referrals to his market anyway. Zolve solves that problem.
Q. How should an interested party get started?
A. Go right to Zolve.com and sign up for a 30-day free trial. If you like it, then on day 31, you will be charged $34.95 for the whole year. At this membership you can do everything on Zolve to include sending referrals, except receiving referrals. To accept a referral on Zolve, you must upgrade to our regular membership rate of $40 per month or save 20% by prepaying the year.
Q. Why join now?
A. I think for those early adapters who understand the need to use systems to save time, save money, and expose themselves to new opportunities during a slow market, then Zolve can be an important component of their business. Zolve is a solution that enables its users to take part in a global real estate market that they would otherwise never get exposed to. For the cost of one business lunch, you can be found online by real estate professionals across the country looking to do business with someone in your market.
For those who tend to procrastinate, I say put off your procrastinations. Get started now. Build your profile and send some referrals whether they be customers across state lines or to the lender you are already using in your market. The advantage is that you and your network can begin earning valuable ratings & feedback that will translate into business you would have not otherwise have in the future. Take advantage of our offers to elevate your current network online and to build a new book of business.