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  • | 10:00 a.m. January 23, 2015
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Executive Summary
Company. Refindly Industry. Software services Key. Focus on what's important to your customers.

With 650 agents and $1.9 billion in closed transactions last year, Naples-based real estate brokerage firm Downing-Frye Realty is a vast enterprise.

But when its executives searched nationally for a software company to support its agents and track their performance, they didn't have to go far to find one: Refindly, based in Bonita Springs.

Lead generation is the lifeblood of the residential real estate business as agents seek to connect buyers and sellers to generate transactions. Software development firm Refindly's edge is that it provides a complete package, from website design to lead generation. It also offers a robust customer-relationship management system to track agents' performance and help them be more successful.

With customers turning to the Internet for real estate searches, speed is key. “One of the things we noticed is we were getting a lot of Internet leads, but at times agents weren't moving on them quickly enough,” says Michael Hughes, vice president of Downing-Frye and the newly elected president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

Refindly developed a sophisticated system that distributes leads to agents: If an agent doesn't respond immediately, the lead is automatically sent to another agent. “What we want is for people to move quickly,” says Hughes. “If you don't get them in 15 minutes, they're usually gone.”

Refindly has created hundreds of websites specific to a local area. When prospective buyers search for real estate and fill out a form requesting more information, Refindly sells those leads to agents in $100 increments. The number of leads per $100 varies by area, but in Naples, for example, agents can get 10 to 15 leads. What's more, agents can buy more or fewer leads depending on how busy they are.

The leads are just one extra part of a total package for real estate agents. Starting at $149 a month with a $499 setup fee, Refindly will provide an agent with a website, access to an area's multiple-listing service to list homes for sale online and a customer-relationship management system that helps agents manage leads and prospects.

The man behind Refindly is technology entrepreneur Ryan Tremblay, whose father was a real estate agent in Naples. Tremblay grew up helping his dad with open houses on the weekends. “I had to go to those when there was no one to look after me,” he chuckles.

After earning a degree in information systems, Tremblay made his way back to Naples, where he started RT Design Group in 2006 and grew it to more than 20 employees with $1 million to $2 million in annual sales. He sold the software company in 2014 to a Colorado firm for an undisclosed sum.

RT Design Group provides custom software programs for corporate clients of all stripes, from local television stations to boat builders. Tremblay sold the business because he saw an opportunity to create a sophisticated software platform for residential real estate agencies, so he used the proceeds of the sale to fund Refindly. “I wanted to focus on a specific niche,” he explains. “It's all self-funded.”

Bringing it together
Because the technology for residential real estate is so fragmented, Tremblay says he saw an opportunity to consolidate various services under one roof. “There are too many systems and they don't talk well together,” he says.

For example, agents might pay one vendor for a website and another for management software and yet another for leads. Domain Realty Group, part of Downing-Frye in Bonita Springs, agreed to help test the new system last year and word quickly spread. “We let them mold the product,” Tremblay says.

By the end of this year, Refindly hopes to have at least 1,000 agents and be profitable. “We're in seven states,” says Tremblay, whose staff has grown from three people to 15. “It's built for individuals and teams of Realtors.”

Michael Burke, who sold mainframe computers in the past and now leads Keller Williams Elite Realty in Bonita Springs, says Refindly's contact manager software is especially robust.

“I come from a technical background, and it caught my attention,” Burke says. “We looked under the hood and said, 'Wow, an agent built this contact manager.'”

Burke says he's working with Refindly to create a function that would allow it to manage marketing campaigns to more than 50,000 email addresses he has in his database. For example, a buyer would get a different marketing message than a seller. “I want to be able to turn on a campaign specific to them,” says Burke, who anticipates having as many as 100,000 email contacts in the next six months.

Fact is, agents are becoming sophisticated online marketing professionals. “There's still some people who do the old-school stuff,” says Tremblay. But even his father was impressed: “When he saw our lead generation product, he was blown away.”

At Downing-Frye, Hughes says Refindly has been especially responsive. “They're wonderful at acting on our suggestions,” he says. “Having the ability to sit down face to face and show that desire is so much better than shooting emails back and forth.”

For example, Hughes says Refindly was especially sensitive to the firm's request for websites that load quickly. “You want to make sure that things move very quickly,” Hughes says. “If they have to wait 20 seconds, you're aggravating them.”

Simple, clean Web pages work best. “In the old days, you would go to a home page and it was cluttered,” Hughes says. “What we've all figured out is that more often than not the consumer just wants to search for property. The easier you make that process, the more likely you're going to get a favorable result.”

Personalized by computer
One of the holy grails of residential real estate sales using the Internet is personalizing the agent's interaction with buyers and sellers with an automated system. The key is to find the right balance between providing useful, relevant information without appearing like spam. “The challenge is making it so the Realtor doesn't look bad,” Tremblay says.

One way to do that is to give agents the tools they need to control how they contact prospective customers. For example, an agent might be alerted if a potential customer views more than five homes on his website. “The agent will develop their own rules,” Tremblay explains.

Refindly allows agents to understand what their prospective customers are interested in by tracking what they've viewed on the agent's website. This information helps agents prepare their pitch. “It makes a better Realtor,” Tremblay says.

To help develop this sophisticated software, Tremblay has hired some top talent. For example, Refindly data scientist Matt Crowson earned a degree in predictive analytics, an area of research that consists of analyzing data to predict trends and behaviors.

This is particularly important for large organizations such as Downing-Frye. “You can monitor everything,” says Hughes. “You can track whether or not an agent has a good close rate with leads. When you're doing as much as we are, you need something that can help you keep the finger on the pulse.”


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