Whether you work at a boutique or national chain brokerage, you need to evaluate what you get for your money. I began my career as a broker 24 years ago with a luxury boutique firm that offered all the bells and whistles. I enthusiastically signed up for all the systems they threw at me. They provided a basic form of a “Client Relationship Management” system, and this was well before the acronym CRM was out there. When the brokerage was bought out, my database of clients got scattered into the abyss along with the email and contact info that they relied on to reach me, and POOF! Overnight I got cut off!
Protecting your contacts
Fortunately, I was able to recoup most, but not all, of my contacts, so it left me wary as I transitioned to a new firm. How could I protect my precious database going forward? I have wondered how many of my past clients tried to reach out and received bounced-back emails; the lost opportunities still haunt me to this day. The most important lesson learned was to create one’s own email domain so no matter what happens, you carry it with you.
Choosing what’s right for you
Getting started setting up my own CRM system, I didn’t expect the high costs. I learned quickly that it was a luxury to have these free systems provided by the brokerage. National chains have the means to offer top-shelf, customized systems that provide an easy stream for communication with your SOI and propagate lead gen. But smaller boutiques have all the capabilities of the big firms, as they often align with third-party tech companies that provide the same advantages — make sure you do your homework when choosing where to hang your license.
So the question is, should you rely solely on your firm’s designated CRM system? Their systems are typically free or offer minor a la carte upgrade services, but you will always be limited to its capabilities. However, it can be super convenient to have your database located in one place that will be aligned with their marketing systems, lead gen and follow-up systems with just a click of a button. If you go independent, it gets expensive and can be difficult to manage the potential of double data entry and migrating marketing materials, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive.
For me, I use a hybrid system in which I maintain my own CRM with a unique email domain and blend my system with my firm’s. This also helps me maintain my own branding. My firm has things that I cannot offer and I have things that they do not. Yes, it is not the most convenient, and yes, it is more time-consuming, but the combination of my firm’s system with my own provides me with all the tools I need to satisfy my clients and incoming leads while still maintaining my brand. This is what works for me, but it may be different for your needs, marketplace and budget.
CRM platforms to consider
There are multiple platforms out there to consider that are targeted for our real estate business and new ones in the works that are being pitched daily. They vary greatly in monthly fees from the basic database management to the full-blown systems that offer monthly mailers, automated drip campaigns and consumer-targeted ads with algorithms on performance to targeted lead gen. The sky’s the limit as to how much you want to invest. Your needs for your market and your budget will determine which one will work best for you. Here are some that are oldies but goodies and a few that are just growing their wings to consider: Back At You, IXACT Contact, Lion Desk, Moxi Works, Top Producer, Zillow Premier, Cloze, Copper CRM, Follow Up Boss, KvCore, Propertybase, Wise Agent, Realvolve and Elevate.
Protecting Your Client’s Info
As a note of caution, it’s important to read the fine print regarding who actually has ownership and rights of communication to the data on these platforms. You worked hard to build and invest in your database and it’s your obligation to make sure it stays protected. Clients hate nothing more than unsolicited communication that potentially came from a trusted source such as yourself.
Growing Your Business
CRMs are the roots of our trees that grow our business. Having an efficient and cost-effective platform that is protected for one to nurture is crucial to our success. Take the time to find the one that works for you and plant the seed, nurture it, maintain it and see how high you can make it grow. The sky’s the limit (however, according to Elon Musk, the sky is no longer the limit — let’s follow his lead and go there)!
Anne Ewasko is a veteran Realtor in the Chicago area and a longtime techie. Visit her at anne.luxhomechicago.com.