Editor’s note: This is the third of a five-part series.

Technology has produced changes in the real estate industry that no one could envision a decade ago. Who would have thought that an iPhone would have more computing power than your laptop from 2001, plus the ability to shoot videos and pictures as well?

Web marketing

In early 2003, search engines were just becoming popular in the real estate industry as a way to market your listings. In a December 2003 column, "The ABC’s of Web Marketing," these were the terms that you needed to know:

"A is for Alexa and autoresponder; B is for bidding and branding; and C is for clicks. D is for domain; E is for e-coupon and email newsletter; F is for friendly; G is for Google; H is for hosting; and I is for Inktomi, IDX and index.

"K is for keyword phrases; L is for Looksmart, links and link popularity; M is for metatag and MSN. N is for navigate, and O is for Overture, opt-in and optimize. P is for placement and permission marketing; Q is for quality; R is for ranking; and S is for site map.

"T is for traffic; V is for VOW; U is for URL; W is for web ring; and Y is for Yahoo."

Automating your lead follow-up

In January 2003, it seemed as if technology was on the verge of solving the lead follow-up and lead conversion issues for the real estate industry. As Allan Dalton once put it, "The real estate industry is great at generating leads — we’re just not very good at converting them."

The cool tools in 2003 were email newsletters and autoresponders. An early entry into this field was a company called Databack, whose tool allowed you to mass email all of your clients or to set up a customized program for each individual. This worked well because if you met a lead at a Sunday open house, you could send him the first item in your marketing program campaign while the people you met three weeks ago would automatically be receiving item No. 3 in the queue. Systems like Databack were the predecessor to today’s programs such as Constant Contact and MailChimp.

As Web marketers caught on, spam proliferated. That unfortunate trend is still with us in 2011. Exacerbating the issue, spammers are now using text messaging to spam our cell phones.

The paperless transaction

The idea of having a paperless transaction seems relatively new, yet my first column on this topic, "Paper Mess or Paperless?" dates back to 2003.

Back then, if you went paperless, you had to back up your files onto a hard drive. Cloud computing wasn’t really available. Nevertheless, the early adopters were reporting amazing benefits from using a paperless system:

"The biggest benefit of going paperless is the time savings. One broker reports that his company requires 93 different steps to close a transaction. Almost every step begins with someone writing the names, addresses and phone numbers of the principals. Eliminating 92 of those steps represents a huge savings of time and money.

"Second, the online system is available 24/7. Parties check in at their convenience rather than playing telephone tag.

"Third, tracking 93 different transaction steps using paper is a nightmare. In contrast, when each step is logged on the computer, tracking becomes simple.

"Fourth, in terms of risk management, there is a clear record of who completed what tasks and when the tasks were completed.

"Fifth, no paper means no lost documents, virtually no storage costs, and a clear digital trail showing all required steps in the transaction were completed prior to closing."

January 2005 saw the launch of the first real estate-specific tablet software with VREO’s Real Estate Dashboard loaded on a Motion Tablet PC. VREO’s innovative approach made the paperless transaction a reality. Although the industry didn’t start to make the shift until 2010 with the release of the iPad, VREO’s work laid the groundwork for the paperless transaction that will become the norm in the very near future.

Mobile devices

In 2001, people were already becoming addicted to having their cell phones with them everywhere. "Taming Your Beeper and Cell Phone" addressed the issues about letting your mobile devices control your life. Today, this is an even bigger issue than it was 10 years ago.

With the holidays coming in 2004, "Nifty Gifts to Give Your Real Estate Business" outlined a Realtor wish list of new technology. Here is what was at the top of that list:

"A PDA combined with a telephone? If you’re still carrying a separate telephone and PDA, now may be an excellent time to upgrade to a combination. The challenge with past versions of PDA telephones has been the small keyboard and display. For many adults, these are hard to read and hard to use. New versions sport larger screens. In fact, Nokia and Motorola are bringing out a new version where the keyboard and the screen will be horizontal rather than vertical. This will provide both a larger keyboard and screen for easier use. Software solutions to use with your combination phone/PDA include Palm, Blackberry, Sony TRIO and Microsoft’s Smartphone."

Another amazing innovation was an "air card" that would let you surf online through your telephone’s wireless connection.

As we head into the 2011 holiday season, I can’t help wondering what amazing new technology we’ll be wishing for in 2021.

Would you like more timeless tips? If so, don’t miss Part 4 of this series on Thursday.

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