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Finding the Right Customer Relationship Management System

Feb 14, 2012

Posted by

Matthew Collis

Matthew Collis is part of the Sales and Marketing Team at IXACT Contact Solutions Inc., a leading North American real estate CRM firm. In addition to overseeing many of IXACT Contacts key sales and ma Read more

In the market for a real estate CRM (customer relationship management) system? There are so many options on the market right now that choosing the right real estate CRM (also referred to as real estate contact management system) can be downright confusing. In this article I’ll discuss key considerations to think about when evaluating a real estate CRM.

Learning curve and ease of use. If you’re not too technically savvy, ease of use should be a key consideration. If you are technically savvy (maybe you’re a computer whiz or were in IT in your previous career) this won’t be as chief of a concern for you. Many CRM systems require lengthy (and sometimes expensive) training courses in order to learn how to use the software. Others involve a much shorter learning curve – IXACT Contact’s CRM for REALTORS®, for example, has tutorial videos online and can be learned within a few hours.

Real estate specific.  Throughout this article, I use the term “real estate CRM.” By this, I mean a CRM that’s real estate specific –designed specifically for real estate sales professionals and their unique business needs. If you want to maximize your success with a CRM system and increase the chances that you’ll use it consistently, it needs to be designed for REALTORS®. Good real estate CRM’s have pre-designed email and letter templates, as well as drip marketing campaigns for real estate agents. It’ll also have an “active business” section where you can manage your listings and active buyers.

Web-based versus standalone.  When in the market for a real estate CRM, you’ll have to decide:  Do I want a web-based system or a software I purchase and download on my computer?  There are a number of points you’ll want to take into consideration here.  Many people believe that a system they download on their computer (versus one on the cloud) is less expensive since they pay for it once (to own it).  What these folks fail to take into consideration is product upgrade and technical support costs.  Many real estate contact management systems require you to pay for product upgrades and technical support every year.  With a web-based solution, product enhancements and technical support is usually free and included in the monthly subscription cost.  From my experience, standalone systems that you download to your computer are more expensive in the long-term.

Another thing to think about: how important is it for you to have access to your database anywhere?  Do you have a reliable connection to the internet?  With a web-based system, you can access your database through an internet connection no matter where you are.  This is a great benefit.  If you don’t have a reliable internet connection though or easy internet access, a standalone system may be the way to go.

The last point I want to make on this concerns data security.  Many people prefer web-based systems because their data is hosted on secure servers with advanced data protection technologies.  These servers are often backed up daily (if not multiple times per day).  If you’ve ever lost your laptop or have had a virus infect your computer, you know how easy it is for your data to disappear with the blink of an eye.

Wireless smartphone synchronization.  As a REALTOR®, you’re constantly on the road.  A system that allows you to wirelessly sync your data to your Smartphone is important for many people (I think it’s truly a must these days).  If the system you’re looking at does have a wireless sync capability, ask this question:  Is a smartphone app required or is the wireless sync direct to the native/ built-in applications (address book and calendar, for example) on my phone?  If quick and easy access of your contact info from you phone is a must, you’ll want to opt for a system that syncs to the native apps on your phone.

Mac and iPad compatibility.  Are you a Mac user?  Do you have an iPad?  If so, make sure the real estate CRM is Mac and iPad compatible.  A word of warning:  many real estate contact management solutions will claim that they work on the Mac and with Safari.  In reality, they’re not 100 percent compatible.  So, whichever system you chose, make sure it was designed with Apple users in mind.

Automatic prompts.  I believe that one of the key areas of value afforded by a real estate CRM is the ability to schedule automatic prompts to remind you when it’s time to get in touch.  You’ll want to know if the CRM system in question allows you to set up prompts when it’s time to send a newsletter, email, letter, or make a phone call.  A CRM for REALTORS® should make it easy for you to keep in touch with the right people, at the right time.  Multiple touch points with those in your contact database builds loyalty and strengthens relationships with your sphere of influence (SOI).  It’s also a way you can make sure you’re never missing an opportunity to get a listing or help a buyer find their next home.

Built-in business directory.  This consideration is a bit more uncommon than the other ones I’ve discussed. Many REALTORS® underestimate the value of a business directory.  But, in my opinion it’s extremely beneficial to use one and have it included in your real estate contact manager.  Why? A business directory is a great way you can add value to your relationships with clients over time.  You’ll want to position yourself as an expert on all things home related.  You want your clients to call you in between transactions for advice on home related matters and for recommendations on business professionals like painters, interior designers, landscapers, handymen, and electricians.  If this is to happen, you’ll need a robust and powerful business directory built-in to your real estate contact management software.  You’ll see that as your refer clients to other business professionals, the more referrals you’ll receive back to you.  People will reciprocate.

I hope these suggestions will provide some food for thought in your search for the right real estate CRM.  Don’t leave your choice to luck!