Proptech Innovators – Staying Relevant for Real Estate Agents

Mitch Robinson has worked for some of the most brilliant CEOs at Proptech innovators companies and innovators and disrupters such as Expedia, Zillow, EXP, T360, and now Real Estate News. He’s seen the journey of these companies.

He then went on to be an executive at T3 Sixty, one of the most prominent real estate consulting companies in the world and now he takes the helm as president of realestatenews.com. This is Mitch and his journey.

Mitch in Expedia

Mitch was originally like a TV guy. Believe it or not, like in the local market television. He worked his way out to the Northwest in an era where you still have to send a resume to somebody. Mitch found his way to Expedia after it spun off from Microsoft. Going back, Expedia was originally like a CDROM to look at travel sites. A guy named Rich Barton, the program manager, says that there’s this thing called the internet and that they can travel online and that’s how it started.

Mitch said that he was lucky to join Expedia just after it had spun of out Microsoft so he didn’t fit it because he wasn’t a travel person and wasn’t a tech person that came from Microsoft. He was some sort of in-between. Mitch met Rich when he joined Expedia. He was kind of finding his way doing marketing and PR. 

Today, Expedia has more than 10,000 employees and over 200+ websites in 70+ countries.

Traveling in the Today’s Time

If you go back in time and have to travel, you’ll have to call somebody and ask them to tell you what flights are available. The travel agent will then provides you with different airlines. Today, let’s kind of turn the screen around and let everybody see everything. You get to make your own choice, which Mitch believes is a good thing.

Travel agents that did more than just sell airline tickets remain to be super successful and are still today that people use and can put together great packages.

Leaving Expedia

Everyone had their own timeline. Rich and the other executives left before Mitch. He stayed there for a while and worked with a gentleman who now has Uber. There were always some heavy hitters around there. 

Mitch kept working until one day, he got a call about Zillow. During that time, real estate was not in a great place. He remembers that Spencer founded Hotwire, another travel website Expedia acquired.

Spencer was also a co-founder and he created the culture inside Zillow. Mitch was brought aboard to engage with agents, brokers, and the MLS then hired Jay Thompson. Mitch still believes today that real estate agents do best if you can have a face-to-face conversation with them.

Innovation and Zillow

Zillow is one of those things. I, myself, have become more of a Zillow convert. It used to be one of those things where you see something as a threat to your industry. What you realize is that it’s not just Zillow, it’s the entire industry changing. So you better embrace that change and be a part of it, or you can fight a losing battle, because just like, you know, people talk about disruptors, but disrupters can be interchangeable with innovation or innovators.

What Mitch used to say to agents when he was at Zillow, if you can get ROI buying bus benches, buy more bus benches. Zillow is not right for everybody, Realtor.com is not for everybody, the agents that are successful working with the vendors or partners, the one key is they can measure things, first of all, you know what success is like and you’ll also have to think of it in terms of a timeline.

You can’t measure it the first day or the first week, you have to set a timeline and be all in.

When agents work with companies like this, you can find smart people in your own brokerage, in your community, or in the MLS, but sometimes working with people that are out of your comfort zone, that’s a cool thing to do. You can learn things from these people and apply it to your own business.

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Zillow went from a consumer-facing site that shifted more into a brokerage model in some aspects. Zillow primarily makes its money from real estate agents being successful. Zillow does well when agents do well. Mitch is a big believer even more than real estate.

He loved local business people whether it’s a real estate agent or a local bookstore, that’s what charges him up. He still liked the idea that even companies like Zillow, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re making local agents successful.

Working in Zillow

Mitch worked in public relations and helped people like Greg Schwarts figure out how to talk about premiere agent, how to work with MLS, how to figure out how we’re going to talk about when they were acquiring Trulia. Mitch spent 30-40 weeks on road running events for agents running their internal events and figuring ways to introduce things to the agent community.

Having Your Own Brand Identity

Zillow is a big part of my business and it provides amazing data, they record every piece of data and they taught me to track the cycle of a lead and what part of it we’re trying or what part we may not be paying attention to. Zillow is part of my business, but it can’t be the only part of my business.

Mitch likes to think of it like a big soundboard and which levers you’re pulling up or down. Do you need a little more bass, need a little less drum to provide the perfect mix for you? It changes over time-based on the market dynamics, inflation coming on how big your team is.

In my own business, we’ve grown our company to 110 agents and Zillow has been a big part of that, but I’ve got a PR rep, an SEO consultant, and a YouTube consultant.

But also you want to have, you want to have your own brand identity and that’s a huge part, of becoming a successful business is having a brand it’s recognizable. Zillow is just a tool, same with OJO Labs, Realtor.com, and all these tools that help you, but you also have to stand on your own as a company. 

Mitch sometimes thinks we forget that the real estate business is a very personable local business. 

Moving to eXp Realty

Mitch found it fascinating moving to eXp because he was kind of on the Zillow side working with agents and brokers and suddenly, he was working for a national brokerage. He started in 2017 through 2020. They had about 1,800 agents. eXp started in a smaller community in Bellingham, Washington. Mitch came aboard and thought that it was super exciting and stressful at the same time. eXp became a bit of a rocketship and a lot of issues were because they were growing fast how do you manage that?

When Mitch came aboard as the Chief Marketing Officer in eXp, there was a great gentleman that was kind of a Swiss Army Knife trying to do marketing, customer service, and everything. Mitch quickly built out that team as they were putting on big events. He was a big believer in how to communicate with agents.

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In between our virtual world and workplace, that was a great way of having people be able to engage with each other. As a marketing leader, you know, one of my roles has always been let’s kind of lock down the message. We have a lot of it. 

How we talked about that company, how we talked about the benefits, some ways to engage with consumers, and you need a way to communicate that to agents because you’re all really busy. The emails not gonna come in, but new ways to communicate that you’re probably on the road.

Mitch in T3 Sixty

T3 Sixty is known as the primary consulting business in the real estate industry. They work with a lot of the top companies in terms of recruiting and advanced consulting and technology. Mitch says that he’s fortunate enough to know Stefan Swanepoel and Jack Miller for years going back to the beginning of his solo era.

Mitch thought it would be a horrible idea. Journalism is not a great field to be in right now and he’s mentioned that he’s usually wrong with his first thoughts on things like that. Stefan Swanepoel found a vein in him and we think that it’s a great choice. There are 2.5 million licensed agents in the country and there are 100,000 brokerages and there are not a lot of new sources out there.

There are some that do a pretty good job, but the choice is a good thing and he thinks that there’s definitely room for them to be in this space.

About T3-Sixty

There are a couple of real estate news outlets out there, and Mitch mentioned that it’s going to be different for them as they lead with good journalism. They are careful in terms of their headlines. Unfortunately, when you’re an online news site, it’s very easy to fall into this trap of let’s write something sensationalist. pageviews are not only for advertisers.

Hopefully, as people can see, they have seasoned reporters, and they have journalistic principles that we follow. They’re not doing events. They’re not going they’re not in this world of let’s kind of look at social media. T3 Sixty does it a little deeper.

T3 Sixty is known for being very analytic in terms of data and knowledge. They think a lot about agents, and how to make agents. Information for brokerages to help their agents.

Mitch’s Advice to Agents

We’re in a time in real estate where it appears that there are agents that are haves and have not. There are a lot of ways to be one of the haves. Mitch advised opening your ears a little bit. The good news is there is no sign that the real estate agents are going away. They’re the most important local business person you have in your community.

Have some confidence in what you do, but also don’t be like a travel agent of all and don’t make yourself a commodity. If you provide real value, you’re going to have a great career.

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