Determining the Real Estate Contact or Customer Relationship Manager That's Right for You
There are many real estate software packages available on the market. And, all of these real estate software programs do something different.
How do you determine which one is right for you? How can you determine what it is that you really need? We hope to help steer you in the right
direction when selecting a real estate software program, and also share with you some creative ways of using software to promote your business.
This page is designed to provide some insight in establishing and building strong business relationships with your prospects and clients, and
how you can maximize your exposure to these prospects and clients.
Who Needs Contact and Customer Relationship Management Software?
Virtually every type of real estate business
needs to manage clients, prospects and other contacts in order to be
successful. What many real estate professionals don't realize is that a
general business contact manager simply won't do the trick. The nature of
the real estate industry includes tracking property details, not just
personal contact information. And that means more storage space, better
searching and sorting functions, and flexibility. What better way to do
this than with contact and customer relationship management software
that's specifically designed for the real estate industry? Now, that we
agree on that, the next step is finding the real estate contact or
customer relationship manager that's right for you.
While they may all appear the same on the
surface, every real estate contact or customer relationship manager is
different. And, while one may appear to excel over another, this may not
be true "under the hood". It may be better put by saying that each has
it's own philosophy when it comes to real estate contact and customer
Contact Manager vs. Personal Information Manager vs. Customer Relationship Managers
(CRM) - What's the Difference?
Many folks are confused by the phrases personal
information manager (PIM), contact manager, and customer relationship
manager (CRM). While personal information managers, contact and customer
relationship managers may indeed sound like the same thing, they are
completely different animals.
A personal information manager is similar to a
time-managing notebooks of youre, known as day planners, like a Day Runner or
Day-Timer. In a personal information manager, Day Runner, or Day-Timer,
you can store contact names, schedule activities and jot down notes. Isn't
that what a contact manager is, too? Well, not exactly. In a personal
information manager, Day Runner, or Day-Timer, typically each piece of
information, such as a name, activity, or note is stored in separate
sections of the notebook. They're not
"linked" together, and rightly so. A personal information manager is
specifically designed for you to manage yourself personally, thus each of
the items referenced have no need to be related to each other, they're
related to you. Examples of personal information managers are Lotus
Organizer, Microsoft Outlook and Sidekick. Often confused with contact
managers, both Lotus Organizer and Sidekick are used by folks who would be
better served by trading in their Lotus Organizer or Sidekick for a true
contact manager. Not to say that Lotus Organizer or Sidekick are not good
products, on the contrary, they are excellent personal information
managers, while Microsoft Outlook is an excellent e-mail program.
Still sounds like semantics, you say? Consider this.
A contact manager ties or relates various bits of information to contacts
to help make it easier for you to see what you've got scheduled for whom
and when you completed what for whom, thus enabling you to establish and
maintain fruitful relationships. A good contact manager also enables you
to write letters to your contacts, either through some type of letter
writer or via mail merge capabilities with standard word processors. Label and envelope printing should also
be included, as should contact history and note pads.
what is Customer Relationship Management (CRM)? Nothing more than a
high-falutin' term for contact management that someone came up with to try
to set their software apart from the rest because they were late to the
party when they came out with their product. After all, isn't managing
customer relationships what a contact manager is already designed to do? These
same folks also figured
the new term enabled them to charge you a heck of a lot more money for
something that had already been available for a well over a decade before
they coined the phrase "customer relationship management". So, do yourself
a favor, save yourself the headache of trying to wrap your head around the
concept, and don't let yourself be fooled by companies touting their
software as Customer Relationship Managers. Simply evaluate them for what
they really are, contact managers.
Should I Be Using a Personal Information
Manager, or a Contact Manager?
Admittedly, not everyone needs a contact
manager. Some folks, like students, or people who simply run many errands,
may not necessarily need to link activities, histories and notes with
particular contact names; they just need to keep themselves organized and
manage their own schedules. On the other hand, real estate professionals
need to keep all information related to contacts together; personal information, property
details, financial data, legal information, etc., - so they can quickly
and easily accomplish business essentials such as schedule phone calls and
meetings with contacts, maintain smooth transaction processes for their clients, as well
as keep track of everything they need to know about their
contacts and their contacts' properties, which in turn helps them
establish and preserve valuable business relationships. This justifies not only addressing the differences
between contact and customer relationship managers but also the differences between contact managers and real
estate contact managers.
Contact Management Software
All contact managers are different, and many
serve different functions. If you've shopped, you already know that there
are many contact managers available on the market to choose from, yet they
are all different. ACT! by Sage is much different from products such as LeadCommander, Goldmine, TeleMagic, and Sharkware. In fact, contact
managers themselves fall into several different categories. You might
prefer to think of it as different contact management philosophies.
For example, ACT!, the contact manager by
Sage, focuses its efforts on helping its user maintain one-on-one
relationships with clients. Although ACT! is used in a variety
of markets, many ACT! users might possibly benefit more from a product
like Goldmine. Unlike ACT!, Goldmine caters to companies who
employ what is known as workgroup or project contact management.
Goldmine's type of contact management is based upon several people at one
company working with one or more people at another company on the same
project. And, that involves multiple contact schedule coordination,
timelines, and other functions that ACT! doesn't provide. On the other
hand, someone who needs simple one-on-one contact management should
acquire ACT!, and not GoldMine.
Now, if you're in a large enterprise that does
a significant amount of telemarketing, utilizes multiple computer
platforms, such as Windows and Unix for example, and have the need and
resources to develop a customized application based on a generic contact
manager, TeleMagic is a product worth taking a look at. Designed to be an
open-architecture powerhouse, TeleMagic is great for add-on developers,
and those who require routine data exchange among various computer
Generic vs. Real Estate
Contact and Customer Relationship Managers
Generic contact managers typically include
provisions to track contact names, addresses, phone numbers, future and
past activities, and accommodations for maintaining miscellaneous data.
The most important piece of each record is the contact itself. Thus,
features and functions in the generic contact manager center around the
contact. Conversely, in the real estate market, a contact's property is as
important as the contact itself. For example, a generic contact manager
allows you to mail merge letters using the contact's name and addresses,
whereas a real estate contact manager should allow you to mail to the
occupant at an absentee owned property, perhaps to target the renter of
Searching and sorting is also an important
aspect to consider. Again, because the generic contact manager focuses on
the contact, typically searches and sorts can only be performed on key
contact fields. And, if the they do permit searching of extraneous fields,
it is often of a limited nature, and results are not returned as quickly.
On the other hand, a good real estate contact or customer relationship manager would enable you to
search and sort data virtually any way you want. For example, you could
find all owner occupied properties that have at least 3 bedrooms and 2
bathrooms, are at least 2000 sq. ft. in size, are priced between $200,000
and $300,000, and are within the 94086 zip code, but NOT on Main Street.
As a real estate professional, you need flexibility like this to be more
Data exchange in the real estate industry is
also very important. A good real estate contact manager should allow
importing and exporting of data so that cooperative businesses can perform in tandem.
For example, a Realtor could provide added value to a client by setting
the client up with a mortgage broker. Wouldn't it be even more beneficial to
all parties if the Realtor could simply "transfer" the client's data
directly to the mortgage broker? You bet!
What about interaction with other software
programs? Whether the other programs are real estate or
generic software programs, you must admit that it would be nice to be able
to blend property data from your contact or customer relationship manager with a listing flyer
created in a word processor or graphics program, wouldn't it? Or, how
about printing address information directly on pre-printed mailers,
eliminating the need for labels and envelopes?
Speaking of labels and envelopes...real estate
professionals are a group that typically employs heavy mailing campaigns, right? So
wouldn't it be nice if a contact or customer relationship manager took that in consideration? Maybe
even printed postal barcodes for accelerated delivery? Or even enabled the sorting
of mailers for bulk mailing discounts?
Ironically, while a generic contact manager just doesn't cut it when
used for real estate purposes, a contact manager designed for real estate
purposes can indeed be of great benefit to general business professionals.
Imagine if your business was a health club, catalog distributor, or
electronics store. Wouldn't it be nice to target-market homeowners with a
certain income level before you target others? After all, if they're
property owners, chances are high that they already passed a credit check,
have an income, and are stable. In fact, you could use the real estate
contact manager's enhanced searching capabilities to even drill down to
find contacts of a certain income bracket!
Real Estate Contact and Customer
Don't forget that their are several contact
and customer relationship managers for real estate available on the market to choose from, as well,
and each have their own focus. Products include LeadCommander, Top
Producer, Quantum Leap Power Prospecting, Professional Prospecting,
Powermate Agent Business Builder, Super Contact, Agent 2000, Agent Pro,
Realty 2000, Farm 2000, Howard & Friends, and Trans Act. It's easy to
see why users are often confused with such a variety of real estate
contact managers on the market. But things aren't always as they appear,
As a matter of fact, Top Producer, Quantum Leap
Power Prospecting, Professional Prospecting, Powermate Agent Business
Builder, Super Contact, Agent 2000, Agent Pro, Realty 2000, Howard &
Friends, and Farm 2000 aren't really contact managers at all! While each
package does include limited contact management tools, these products bill
themselves as all-in-one real estate software. On the other hand, Trans
Act bills itself as, and in fact is, a real estate contact manager.
LeadCommander is a lead-generation contact and customer relationship manager, and incorporates
farming, prospecting, marketing and follow-up tools into its design. Of course, the
all-in-one products like Top Producer, Quantum Leap Power Prospecting,
Professional Prospecting, Powermate Agent Business Builder, Super Contact,
Agent 2000, Agent Pro, Realty 2000, Howard & Friends and Farm 2000 may
cost more and will generally have a steeper learning curve. Potential
users might also want to consider whether or not they really need all the
features offered in these products, or if those features are just going to
be confusing. That's not to say that Top Producer, Quantum Leap Power
Prospecting, Professional Prospecting, Powermate Agent Business Builder,
Super Contact, Agent 2000, Agent Pro, Realty 2000, Howard & Freinds
and Farm 2000 are bad real estate software products, either. We're merely
stating that you should try to evaluate your needs carefully before
selecting a product.
For example, do you already have other programs
that include many of the same features offered in the product you're
considering? In other words, did Microsoft Office or a similar suite come
with your computer? If so, then you already have a great presentation
software, word processor, financial calculator, quote generator and flyer
creation program. All you need is a good real estate contact manager that
is flexible enough to work in conjunction with your existing programs.
Also consider that if you still decide to acquire an all-encompassing
program, you may find yourself in the position of also having to learn their
word processors, presentation software, etc. because their data may be
proprietary, and may not work with your Microsoft
Office, which you may already know how to use.
Now, if you're looking for a product to help
teach you the ropes as a Realtor, Top Producer might be a good choice.
However, if you've already established your own method of doing business,
but need a good real estate contact and customer relationship manager with marketing functions that
can help you build your client and prospect base, your dollar would be
better spent on LeadCommander. In fact, LeadCommander is designed to be
flexible, so you can use your LeadCommander data with other programs as
well, like spreadsheets, word processors, graphics programs, and even
other databases. If you already have all the business you need, and truly
need only contact management, then Trans Act will probably meet your
and Customer Relationship Managers
Web-based contact managers typically require that your contact data be
housed on a third-party's specially designed remote access server for a
monthly fee, and access to your data is gained through an internet web
browser on your computer. While the concept of a web-based contact manager
initially sounds exciting, you might want to consider practical
limitations. For example, from time to time, routers on the world wide web go down
for a number of reasons,
and you have no control if the router is maintained by your internet
service provider, telephone, or cable company. Or, the company that hosts
your database can experience a
problem or be performing maintenance on their servers at a time when you
need access to your data. You won't be able to access
your system or your data until issues like these have been
resolved. This can also be devastating if connectivity is interrupted at a
crucial point, for example, if you require access to contact information
during the closing of a deal, or when trying to put a critical issue to
bed. It is at times like these that the web-based database concept becomes
similar to the wonderful-sounding theory of the "paperless office".
If being able to access your database remotely is an attractive
feature, you might want to instead consider a contact or customer
relationship management system that enables you to easily host your
database yourself at your home or office. In this type of configuration, you
experience the benefits of remote access when you need it, but in the
event of a connectivity issue you can at least call and ask someone at home or the
office to look something up for you, or you can go back home or to the
office and access your data yourself. And, since a third-party
company with special equipment is not required, monthly hosting fees are
If, on the other hand, money is not a limiting factor, you can maintain
your own hosting server and obtain access to a solid internet connection
the likes of a T-1 line through a service provider able to provide
alternate connectivity methods should your main conduit to the internet go
down, then a web-based contact manager could be a viable option.
Other Contact Manager Considerations
To help you further determine what you need in
a contact manager for real estate purposes, here are other things you
might want to consider.
Where will your contacts come from? Do you
actively market your wares? If so, how? Do you advertise in the media, or
is your marketing done via targeted mailings, or telemarketing? What do
you do to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns? And,
once you do establish contacts, how do you cultivate those relationships?
Could your business benefit from referrals? Do you need a contact manager
for real estate that can interface or share data with other software
The Bottom Line
Along with the standard contact management
features like activity scheduling, history and note pads, and mail merge
functions, a good real estate contact manager should include
lead-generation, prospecting and marketing tools, the ability to search,
sort and group contacts any way you want, and be flexible enough to
interface with external programs like word processors, spreadsheets, and
even other databases. If you settle for less now, you'll be sorry later.
After all, many of these functions are what most users need and use most,
whether they realize it or not.
DataBasix Technologies' Philosophy
Here at DataBasix Technologies, we believe that
lead generation, effective contact management and close customer relationships are
the keys to success for any company. After all, without bona fide leads,
where are you going to get the contacts to manage? And, once you have the
contacts, how can you expect to achieve success if you can't establish and
build upon mutually beneficial relationships?
The all-new DataBasix Technologies
product line will not only provide you with the solutions to all of these
needs, but will enable you to be accessible to your contacts whenever you
want to be, wherever you happen to be. In fact, DataBasix Technologies has
combined technologies that no one has ever combined before, to bring you
the most effective real estate contact management available today. Additionally, we
believe so highly in our products that we actually use them internally in
our own day-to-day business. How many companies do you know that can
demonstrate a commitment like that?