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 How I Built This: Howard Tager of Ylopo  

We're starting a new series on this podcast for interviewing stellar leaders in the real estate industry. Today we have Howard Tager, Co-founder and CEO at Ylopo LLC. Howard is the co-founder and CEO of Ylopo, a “next generation” digital marketing technology company in the real estate and mortgage lending industries. Recently named to the Real Estate Almanac’s 2021 “Power 200” which ranks the most influential leaders in the residential real estate industry as well as listed by RISMedia as one of 2020’s top real estate Futurists, Howard helps lead Ylopo which is now one of the fastest growing tech companies in the real estate industry.

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CONTENTS

About Howard


Howard spent most of his adult life being a serial entrepreneur and starting companies from usually his dining room table then incubating them growing them. It's something that he’s very passionate about. Howard comes from a family of artists and he can't really draw a stick figure. So he thought his art is on the more of the business side and taking this piece of clay and this idea, and then just molding it and growing it.

He feels very fortunate to have found that niche in life. Two of Howard’s companies have been in property technology. The first one was called TigerLead Solutions. The new one is called Ylopo, which is the last five letters of the word monopoly spelled backward, the symbolism being turning the ultimate game of real estate on its head.

Everyone is zigging, and they zag and try to catch up and then they zag again and then they try to catch up and they're just chasing them around the board as they win with their clients the game. Howard states that their job is very simple. 

They are here to empower real estate agents, small, medium, and large teams and independent brokerages or team ridges and empower them with really state-of-the-art bad-ass multimillion-dollar marketing technology that they could not build on their own to enable them to compete with the multi-billion dollar companies that we read about all the time on Inman, who are trying to take market share. 

Along with that mission, they sort of becoming the outsourced digital marketing department for many, many teams. Today, they are now close to working with almost 3000 teams.

Howard grew up in the suburbs of New York City on Long Island. He went to public school and then spent four years in Connecticut and went to Yale after public high school. He then spent four years up in New Haven, Connecticut eating the world's best pizza at Sally's, where Frank Sinatra used to eat pizza.

Howard’s first job in college was in California, 18 years in New York and the rest of his life in California. Now, Howard says he is blessed enough to go back to the east coast and spend his summers at the remote part of upper Western New York on a Lake where he also got addicted to wake surfing.

 

Starting TigerLeads Solutions


When Howard started TigerLeads, he began with company prioritizing which was in the education space. He had a LAR that started a test prep like SAT, prep and tutoring company, the largest tutoring company in all of California. He hired a software engineer because at some point they had so many instructors and they had so many clients that someone will call in and his customer support people didn't have an idea who they're talking to and had they paid their bills and was the kid score going up and have they taken practice test like it was a mess and they spend so much time. They created a technology to make it very, very efficient. And this was way before the explosion of SAAS technology. They had a rockstar engineer, software engineer. Then he came back to him later in life and said hat he had gone to work for his brother in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his brother was a real estate broker.

This brilliant kid did what he always does and he looked at this business, the inefficiencies and the marketing, and efficiencies and all that. He created this system and they didn't really know what to do. So he came to Howard and said, I'd love for you to see this system. 

Howard wasn't in real estate technology, but he always loved real estate. He was doing real estate stuff including flipping homes and such. Then his love for technology and digital marketing especially. This is sort of first iteration of this system, it's all of his interests coming together. Howard did a lot of research and spoke to a lot of people in the real estate industry and thought that there’s really a need for this so he didn’t just jump in, this is an important lesson. 

He did a lot of good research and most things he would do research and there’d be some reason why it looked good at first but no, he feels like a lot of people just jump into this stuff now, lots of ideas. They don't do the proper due diligence. That's why he kind of went down this little rabbit hole, but he did a lot of due diligence and the due diligence for the first time at that time in my life was coming up. 

They then put together a team and that was the launch of TigerLead Solutions and it was like you got to do the painstaking stuff of an entrepreneur, like not paying yourself and not be able to afford a fancy office. They didn't really raise money they just kind of put all of their own dough and time into it.

At some point, they hit this inflection point, this magical place where it all kind of comes together and looks really working for the few clients they had. It became very viral where people started telling other people and then we'll just kind of add hockey stick growth.

Howard has been in the industry since then because he loves it. He says that he loves working with Realtors and real estate teams. He loves the technology and digital marketing aspect. It's just when they came back into it as Ylopo, they didn't want to just be another TigerLeads, BoomTown scene.

 

The First All-in-One Platform


They really broke the mold. It was a complete 360 all-in-one manager, digital marketing, creative, a place on the backend CRM to see what's going on with the leads, create the home search websites, optimized it for bait performance. 

He was the first sales guy since he couldn't afford salespeople. He couldn't just explain what we're doing. He first had to even explain what was Google pay-per-click early on. People didn't even know what that was. 

When they were promoting TigerLeads, they didn’t do much digital marketing themselves. They weren't really sort of walking the walk at that time, it was super loud yelling on the ground guerrilla marketing. In late 2012, they sold the company to Realtor.com.

 

Starting Ylopo


With Ylopo, Howard said they kind of zigged and zagged and had some different ideas. He always says that he takes comfort in the fact that when Google started, they really hadn't thought about pay-per-click advertisement. It's something that kind of evolved as they went on their journey. The industry was changing and now they're as opposed to when we started Tiger. And there was really no competition and now there was a lot of competition. There were a lot of companies that were trying to do digital marketing and brokerage was getting into it.

They thought maybe we would be more like a wholesale with the marketing and not really work directly with real estate agents and just work with other companies and then work with real estate agents. They also thought of creating TigerLead but for the Mortgage industry as they found it fun and new but different and challenging.

It holds good both of those things for a while. In 2016, they had to keep the lights on where they’re working with the folks and customers, we know how to work with and they had learned it enough in this last sort of two years prior to 2016 where they thought they could do a bunch of things that were sort of new and different and that was really focusing entirely on social media marketing versus search marketing because everyone was kind of doing search marketing.

 

Developing Ylopo


At first, they were really just focused on building hardcore technology that they built themselves. They didn't do a great job of promoting ourselves and creating this big buzz and having big influencers. They really just obsessed about sort of Ylopo, zigging versus zagging and doing a lot of things differently and developing a lot of marketing technology that no one else had.

They learned from some others and tapped into their past, the Tiger, about that next step of what they need to do. They didn't really want to do that because that takes a lot of sort of getting people riled up and trumpeting success and all kind of stuff.

Taking a look at their journey from like 2016 to 17 to 18 and 19 to 2021, Howard always kid around and say, well, each year we just sucked less. Like you're not great out of the gate, you're just you just experimenting and you're building and you're experimenting and you're building.

At this point where, they started seeing this massive customer, real estate agent and team success. They thought that now is the time to really build the community and put these people on stage then we started creating like Ylopo professors where they'll get on stage at their next success summit and talk about how they use Ylopo both for recruiting.

They didn't feel comfortable doing that then and they had Realtors and residents. They had team leaders who run really big successful teams who also work full-time with us on helping us develop the product.

It then hit on these things where they had a culture of listening to their clients. What's working, what's not working. What other tech would you like to see us build? How do we take it to the next level? And then they learn from them too. They're using it in a certain way. Sometimes it's interesting, sometimes it's not tech, sometimes it's other things that they promote in their community, which help people actualize your tech.

Howard added about team structure and how to properly recruit, hire, train ISAs, and keep them, or outsource them because you can give everyone all the greatest leads in the world and all the tech but you have to have systems and processes and coaching and people structure it, they get really into all of this other stuff.

If you're using their system correctly, you're not only getting great lead gen and lead nurture, and lead communication and all, and branded, advertising all this technology and getting a lot of coaching without having to shell up 5,000 bucks a month for coaching.

They are very competitive and very resilient. You fail forward, but you don't feel backwards. You learn from your challenges and some people are like, failure doesn't exist, failure exists. He states that he failed multiple times, but learned. From every one of those experiences is to then become successful. It's okay to fail if you're learning from it and then failing forward and then becoming successful. That's the notion of resilience. There's so many times where they could have lost Ylopo, just throw it in the towel and like just hit with stuff that just could have crushed the company, especially early on and said they are not quitting. There's no way. You zig and use zag and you invest. You have a lot of sleepless nights to get to where you need to go. It's not just easy out of the gate. 

Howard stated that you really have to recognize what you're good at you’ve really got to know what you're not good at and go partner with those people who are great at what you're not good at. He has always been blessed to work with people who are infinitely better and smarter than in a lot of areas. 

 

What Real Estate Companies and Teams Overlook


When it comes to what real estate companies and teams overlook, Howard starts with mindset because it really starts with mindset and you have to go to it. It's not going to come to you like a lot of real estate agents, they want ups, they want appointments. Where minutes are easy.

Everyone’s like a contractor, it's not like working for a big publicly-traded company. There's that challenge of, there's a little bit of freedom when someone's an independent contractor and they're not an employee, you can't really set their hours. He thought that's just an inherent challenge in the industry.

Howards adds that you've got to have the right mindset, got to hire people or bring on people to your team who have that right mindset. You've got to help them with the mindset drive and work ethic. The mindset encompasses a lot of things, but one of those things, which is that you have to have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly measurable goals.

And you've got to be accountable like daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. And to do that, you have to have systems and processes. So it starts with this mindset of making everybody accountable, including yourself to do that. You’ve got to have systems and processes. He has got to get that in place. Howard got to leverage technology, not just people. Start with hiring the people, having the right people who have a similar mindset, same drive, and then you got the systems and processes, which allow you to have measurement accountability, visibility.

If you put all of this together and then it was part of mindset which I think you have in spades, which is learning from others and networking and going to conferences and learning from people going to a place to hang out with people who do 50 transactions a year. I know you're trying to get in the room with people doing 1200 transactions. It's that mindset of constantly learning and bring those learnings back to your organization implementing change. That lacks in the industry again, because of the traditional structure of the industry. 

When you have a hundred potential buyers and sellers in your CRM, you’re gonna have a few,  for example, Raiya conversations, Raiya Real Estate AI. It's a digital texting chatbot, but, but if your denominator is a hundred people, like you're not going to have that many of those conversations that are going on, you're not going to have that many people coming back through remarketing budgets, coming back to visit your site and looking for homes or engaging in there, you know, the, the financial DNA of their home. 

But if you have a hundred thousand people in your CRM, Howard says that he can tell you, statistically, you're gonna just absurd number of Raiya conversations that are happening every month, you're going to have an absurd number of people that are coming back to your branded website and engaging either in the buyer or the seller funnel. But if you don't have measurement accountability, visibility, and follow-up systems, well, great, you have all the tech and all the automation in the world, it doesn't mean anything. 

Howard had a client where they thought it's just not working, they were not getting conversations, not getting showings, not taking buyers out. Finally, one of his realtors and residents has gotten really frustrated and said, okay, give me all your leads, put his internal ISA team on it that he had took him years to develop.

They look for the right conversations. They looked for the Ylopo priority alerts of the people who had looked at homes for three or four times who had sent homes to their significant others who had just really been they're very active on the website and they called email, text, call, email, not everyone because they knew what to look for to go after the low hanging fruit. And guess what they got this client who probably would have failed out, appointments, showings. They're going to do deals. It got Howard thinking that maybe that’s a whole another division they need to launch.

Psychologically, they might come there and say I don't know if this really works. But then when they see all these folks on their system who are killing it, they themselves change their whole business and went from 50 deals to a hundred, to 200 to 600, right by learning and absorbing and doing, then they do it.

   

What’s Next for Ylopo?


Howard stated that they’re creating this cool thing called Seller Mode which is pretty awesome because 50% of all buyers actually have to sell. They’re gonna have this cool marketing mode called Seller Mode, where you can really get more insights, where you get more into predictive analytics.

They are also going big into mortgage lead generation. Digital marketing for mortgage companies. He thinks that one of the future trends he is seeing with mortgage companies is opening up real estate companies. He is also seeing real estate companies opening up mortgage companies. You can now double monetize the marketing so we can be providing marketing on the real estate side.

Howard says that’s one of the future trends that they’re going to really lean into and it allows us to not have to oversell the real estate side because now they can go from zero to 60 on the mortgage side.

That's great for real estate clients because there's nothing better than a pre-qualified buyer lead who's not yet attached to a real estate agent or vice versa. That's gold. They’re just looking to be at the forefront.

There's also some really hard, heavy lifting stuff that they have to do from a compliance standpoint, a security standpoint, technology standpoint, so it’s a really heavy, heavy lift that with really prevent a lot of others from doing it. and then that's the stuff they love.

You can find Howard on Facebook or go to Ylopo.com to view his videos and explore the treasure trove of valuable information in their media center.