I am trying SO HARD to be a grown-up, and the world just keeps socking me in the face.

For one, I decide that 2009 would be the year that I start advertising. Since I’ve been making minimal money, I’ve been spending minimal money — and what I’ve been doing so far is buying nice gifts and meals for my most intimate circle. That is appreciated but I want to do more, and I’m finally at the point where I’ll be able to afford a little more spending.

So here’s the plan for the month:

This month, I do nothing but come up with some CRM solutions and begin an ad campaign. CRM stands for "customer relations management," which is grown-up talk for "stop losing business cards and forgetting people’s birthdays." If I put addresses in the computer all during November, fine. If my ads run in January, fine. But it really is time to stop running everything off the Post-its stuck on my computer (today, four) and doing things either instantly or never.

I actually started with the idea of the ad campaign first. I frankly was not prepared for the magnitude of spending involved in being an adult businessperson, though. I already get some Los Angeles to New York traffic, so one idea that I had was to advertise on a popular Hollywood blog. What does that cost? Well … $5,000. That gets you seen for about a week — a price, frankly, that is comparable to print.

Now, coming from print, where I ran a real estate section that was touted as a great ad environment, I’m not so sure that it always works either, but those nice Internet folks don’t even promise you a certain placement on the page.

No, in the Web world — or at least the world of the site that I want to advertise on — you pay for "impressions," or how many times people load the page. So you can’t even tell if your target audience is reading your ads or not.

Let me say that I am talking here about image advertising for my own brand. My sponsoring broker pays for advertising tied to specific listings but is less interested in promoting the general glory of me. If done correctly, however, I think it would be a good lead generator — or at least a lead reinforcer — since many of my current clients read the blog that I am targeting.

Once I heard the $5,000 quote I thought, "$5,000 is a lot of dough. Maybe I need to rethink this. You know that I won’t even be able to do a good job of tracking the leads if they do come in. I know that I need a database management program. Well, I just interviewed an agent about Top Producer — let’s look into that."

First it seems they want to charge $35 for me to learn how to use the durned thing, but then I find topproducercampus.com and I find I can watch the setup videos for free. Not that I’m happy with this, because the narration is in that lulling voice that reminds me what’s going to happen when the airplane goes down — but at least I’m semi-paying attention till I hit the word "Pentium."

Seems Top Producer doesn’t run on a Mac. (A little more investigating turns up that most CRM systems don’t. Once you buy a Mac you’re clearly declaring yourself a barefoot hippie type who doesn’t have a lot of friends to keep track of, let alone business associates.)

So I can set up on a PC in my brokerage office, which would be OK for a year maybe, but it certainly won’t be further out than that, because I can see ahead to 12 months from now, when my BlackBerry is no longer cool enough for me to use in front of my clients, and I need an iPhone. (Did I mention that I have particularly artsy clients?)

I read the real estate tech blogs (thank you http://texasrealestate.blogs.com/) and I get directed to NorthStar, which is some sort of system that will let the evil PC applications sit on a server somewhere but let me access them from my Mac. It sounds snobby and perfect, and it sells snobby and perfect by promising that my computer won’t get hit with all those weird Windows bugs. The only problem is that hitting "Buy Now" on the TrueNorth.com site brings up a security certificate that expired in April 2007.

Suddenly, paying a computer guy $80 or $100 an hour to fix me doesn’t seem so bad after all, but you heard it here first. There’s a deadline, and it’s Nov. 1, to go beyond Post-its.

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."


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