Everyone is touting “electronic offices” and “downloadable apps” and so forth and so on to help propel your realty business forward. You may embrace the electronic revolution, or you might feel like shaking your fist at the whole thing and telling it to get off your lawn. But many real estate agents aren’t really sure what apps, software and even platforms to use to help increase sales and client engagement. There are literally thousands of them out there, from individual apps to mobile devices to full-fledged PCs. Which ones are must-haves? Here’s a handy-dandy list to make sure that you’re not wasting your time with flashy computing goodies that really don’t help you improve your business, and to make sure you have the ones you really ought to have.
- Tablet computing: Whether you’re using an iPad, a Kindle Fire, a Samsung or a Windows tablet, tablet computing has revolutionized real estate. If you’re one of the tens of thousands of realtors still juggling smartphones, laptops, notebooks (real or electronic), and what have you, set aside a few hundred dollars and invest in a good tablet. They are eminently portable and easy to use, and the touch screen functionality gives them a wide variety of functions. Use them at open houses for showing photos or even letting clients sign in. Send those clients e-mails from your iPad before you even leave the property, and include pertinent follow-up information and links. They will appreciate the near-instantaneous feedback and follow-up, and you will appreciate not having to write yourself Post-It notes to help you remember to follow up with your prospective homebuyers. Your tablet can also be used to show your clients a listing presentation that shares your key marketing points with them. You can even e-mail them the presentation for their own perusal.
- Social media as communication tools: Seriously. If you’re not on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (to name just three), get on them, and use them every single day. Your clients are there for the approach. And your tablet is the perfect way to update your social media presence within minutes.
- Cloud computing: Many, many realtors still store everything on a laptop or notebook device. These agents live in mortal fear of a hard drive crash or computer malfunction which not only renders their data temporarily inaccessible, but destroys it entirely. No more. Store your data securely in the cloud. Google Drive is a favorite, and free, way to store enormous amounts of documentation, and you can share individual documents with clients and agents as you like. Google Calendar is an excellent way to map out your day or week, and sync it with your smartphone. Dropbox and Box.net are excellent and highly secure places to store data; they can make “mirror image” copies of your documents, and record changes as you make them.
- Mobile apps. More people access the Internet with mobile devices than with desktops and laptops. If your web site isn’t mobile-friendly, make it so – engage a web developer to help you do it. (It’s more complicated than you think, and the free sitebuilder apps such as Wix will not treat you well.)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. If you’re not using a CRM, start doing it. It’s almost impossible these days to keep up with the swirling myriad of clients, properties, datapoints, and everything else you have to track and use. A CRM does most of the tedious legwork for you. It can, among other things: track your current and former clients; create calendar tasks and to-do lists; organize follow-up campaigns for prospects; and coordinate your target marketing and “drip” campaigns.
- Automation. Your CRM and tablet apps can automate much of your outreach and follow-up communication, as well as some of your social media posts. Just remember, automated responses and contacts do not replace personal contacts.
Technology can be a huge hindrance or a huge boon. Make sure that you employ the right gadgets and gizmos to make 21st century technology work for you – and ensure that you’re not working for it!