Pot-Nets Communities has dominated the Long Neck, Delaware housing market almost since its inception more than 60 years ago. But even with that commanding position, Pot-Nets executive director Lincoln Davis saw room for improvement in 2015 — and an opportunity.
Pot-Nets employs a unique business model in selling homes and leasing land along the Delaware Inland Bays. There’s a lot of data to track and analyze, and Davis saw the chance to leverage technology to set Pot-Nets on a path for dramatic growth.
“We needed a custom application built for us,” he said. “We weren’t a straight out-of-the-box solution like for a realtor’s office.”
Pot-Nets decided the application it needed was a Salesforce-powered CRM. Salesforce recommended Aptaria to develop the CRM, based on our experience integrating Salesforce into real estate sales operations.
That was the beginning of Aptaria’s relationship with Pot-Nets. I’m pleased to say it continues to this day.
‘When the Phone Rings, Answer It’
When we started working together, it was clear that Pot-Nets had a singular business model. The company owns more than 2,500 waterfront lots, which it leases to residents.
The residents own their homes, which are often sold — and sometimes even built — by the company, while Pot-Nets owns the land under the houses.
We knew that lots, houses, and homeowners would have to be modeled distinctly as separate Salesforce objects in Pot-Nets’ CRM solution. It was not a cookie-cutter assignment.
So our engagement started with an intensive, iterative development process. We would plan, build, and share progress regularly, usually through video calls.
Four or five members of the Pot-Nets team would gather around a large-screen TV in their conference room, telling us what they liked and what they wanted to tweak.
That’s a vital part of our Agile software development process — taking that feedback and then incorporating it into the next phase of product development.
“Aptaria was able to ask all the right questions and understand our pretty unique business model here to make all that stuff work for us,” Davis said.
The Salesforce-powered CRM gave depth and nuance to sales information that had previously been flat. Using the tools Aptaria designed, Davis and his team were able to determine where their most promising leads were coming from, and how those potential customers had learned about Pot-Nets.
Ironically, the new technology led them to focus on incoming phone calls, which produced the most leads, and customer service, which delivered the strongest referrals.
“What that told us is the basics,” Davis recalled. “When the phone rings, answer it. And be nice to your existing customers, because they’re sending us buyers. That boiled it all down.”
Armed with the data their new CRM provided, Pot-Nets made major marketing decisions and boosted their bottom line in the process.
“We haven’t spent a dime on Google advertising of any sort in five years,” Davis said.
Beyond leads, the CRM’s database of tenants and lots allowed Pot-Nets to track lease payments, available lots, tenants, and sales history. In addition to stabilizing the revenue stream, the solution we created with Pot-Nets enabled them to better understand their assets and audience. The data made it clear that they should devote significant attention to their existing tenants.
“We have a lot of move-up buyers,” Davis said. “People will come to one of our neighborhoods and they’ll buy a smaller, less-expensive home. They’ll get to know us and like us, and then they’ll want to purchase a new, state-of-the-art home.”
Making ‘Every Shred of Data’ Available
Now, with seven full years of sales data in hand, Pot-Nets has asked Aptaria to help it understand the entirety of its market, not just its part of it. We have been tasked with helping the Pot-Nets sales group track sales by real estate brokerages on a transaction-by-transaction basis.
The goal is to increase the 60 to 70% of home sales that Pot-Nets controls in its communities and decrease the 30 to 40% of sellers choosing to go with an outside realtor.
The outside deals are no secret, as the seller and purchaser need to sign lease paperwork in the Pot-Nets office. With the outside sales data that our tools will provide, Davis plans to analyze that information to make his team even more competitive.
“I at least want to have every shred of data that I can on that and be able to compare those sales apples to apples with ours to make sure that we’re performing properly,” he said. “That their average sale price is lower than ours, that their transaction fees are higher.”
From its core business of ground lease, Pot-Nets has built a series of ancillary companies that support not only its own communities but also the larger area. Pot-Nets sells trash service, tree service, and water service, among other offerings. There is a lot to keep track of.
When the next phase of our work together is complete, Pot-Nets will be assigning a unique inventory number to every part of the operation’s infrastructure. This will enable Davis to crunch the numbers from the 2,500 (and growing) lots, 1,200 boat slips, and other assets that make up Pot-Nets Communities.
“What started off as a sales management platform is turning into a work order management system as well,” Davis said. “And later it may turn into a vehicle management database.”
And as Pot-Nets Communities refines and extends its use of Salesforce, Aptaria is proud to be a part of that evolution.