Real estate customer relationship management solutions are more advanced and plentiful than ever. When it comes time to choose your next CRM, hopefully this shortlist of baseline features can help make your due diligence a little easier.

There’s so much noise out there on how to navigate a challenging market. This April, let Inman help you cut through the clutter to make smart business decisions in real time. All month long, we’re taking it Back to Basics and finding out how real estate pros are evolving their systems and investing personally and professionally to drive growth.

This post was last updated April 28, 2023.

If you’re like so many other businesses in America these days, the current economic climate has you questioning the way you operate. What can be done better? How can I save money?

For real estate agents, the answers to those questions will likely involve either investing in new technology or doing away with what’s not earning its keep, and at the center of that debate should be your customer relationship management (CRM) solution.

Unfortunately, your options today are almost too many to mention, as we face an embarrassment of technological riches. The onslaught of options make it more difficult to shop.

When it comes time to choose your next CRM, hopefully this shortlist of baseline features can help make your due diligence a little easier. The following list is in alphabetical order rather than order of importance.

1. Action plans and automations

These include static descriptive tips, sales coaching on what to do with a new lead or current client, automated outgoing emails and texts, and in-app actions based on lead behavior.

This might include auto-editing the status of a contact or other productive, invisible actions. Marketing automations are not “artificial intelligence,” nor do they use “AI engines.” It’s just clever wording and programming — but some are better at it than others.

2. Activity tracking

This feature allows you to view, usually by timeline, every interaction with a contact, from initial meeting to buyer or listing agreement. It usually includes a record of all communications sent to a lead. It’s helpful for monitoring engagement and the quality of leads over time.

3. Buckets or groups

This function is a way to categorize similar leads or contacts according to sales viability, lead source, etc. They might be something like, “listing lead,” “cold lead,” “open house,” “do not call.” This type of grouping helps determine where to spend time prospecting.

4. Companion app

A stand-alone, mobile app that works in unison in a two-way sync with the web app. Expect it to be lighter and more alert-driven with connections to the device’s native messaging and phone tools, especially when a power dialer is in play. Should be quick-input and rapid response-motivated.

5. Concierge services

Essentially, account representatives. Some will handle all aspects of onboarding, and some simply manage the transition from one CRM to another. They offer training, one-on-one coaching, drip campaign setup and website launches, and they oversee early stages of use. The point here is for them to speed onboarding and, thus, nurture system adoption.

6. Contextual location tracking

This is not at all common, but it will prove important as the remote workforce solidifies. Connection and collaboration of saved search locations, travel habits, ZIP code preference, and use of tracking pixels can overlap lead data with physical places.

7. Lead generation

This will be executed through a broad range of tactics typically carried out through a provided website, as well as social media networks. A shortlist includes: seller or buyer predictably, free CMAs, property valuation calls to action, mortgage calculators, content marketing appeals using blog posts or long-form advice narratives, home-showing appeals, paid and organic social media content, SEO and SEM, saved home searches, and website pixel tracking (retargeting).

8. Lead nurture

Typically, this materializes as drip campaigns — a terrible term for keeping in touch with different categories of contacts over time. Some CRMs include ready-to-go campaigns with all included messaging, and others offer customized, “if this, then that” funnel setups.

Lead nurture tools often include alerts and recommendation engines for who and when, and some even include collateral to send. Advanced versions will tie together paid and organic social media content and retargeted display advertising.

9. Lead prioritization

A form of measuring who should be contacted each day based on a number of factors, typically activity-based, such as “Looked at five listings yesterday.” This is sometimes presented as lead scoring.

It’s best when given prominence in the user experience, such as the first thing presented upon login. Some CRMs base it solely on when last contacted, but that doesn’t equate to interest. The more effective CRMs integrate behavior-tracking algorithms to further justify contact.

10. Lead routing

In addition to, or in the absence of, lead generation, expect to find intricate systems for assigning leads from multiple paid lead source connections, such as Zillow, and other common sources.

Lead funneling can be configured for individual agents and teams and will use round-robin, time limits, “on-floor” availability, sales rankings, etc.

11. Power dialers

Exactly what they sound like. The more effective of these will include a lead priority algorithm that surfaces a shortlist of the most viable and immediate leads. They should automatically log call details in the contact’s record and make it efficient for users to input notes.

12. Retargeting

Retargeting deposits a tracking pixel on homeshoppers’ devices to serve them branding or listing content as they later browse news and entertainment websites.

13. Tagging

Tagging is a quick, effective way to assign labels and classify individual contacts, usually color-coded and customizable. It’s similar to buckets and groups, but it’s typically more flexible and able to leverage the language of the individual user. If used in a disciplined fashion, it can be very effective productivity aids.

14. Text campaigns

You know the numbers on text engagement, so text. Create campaigns and links to action plans, but ensure the texts are relevant, not random, and written professionally. In-app response tracking is common. Be very careful with daily timing of texts — use common sense guidelines.

15. Websites

Just about every CRM will offer you a website, and it’ll likely come from a box of templates. The more custom the solution, the better. The opportunities vary widely.

Some have:

  • Limited page counts
  • IDX-capability
  • Individual agent pages
  • Landing pages
  • Included copywriting and content management
  • The ability to pay for advanced development, high-end photography, and different levels of support

You’re likely to see a great deal more than this list is offering, which has become a problem these days. It’s become harder for CRM solutions to differentiate, for agents to adopt and for brokers to decide on what to provide.

Although most vendors you chat with will have these tools, not all of them are executed in the same way. User experience is crucial, as are technical support structures and brokers’ ability to facilitate adoption.

Look for efficiency in onboarding and practical-use cases for how you do business.

Don’t think about what you “could do” with the software based on what it offers — ask how it supports how you do business today.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

apps | CRM | websites
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