How to Choose CRM Software for the Property Industry

When it comes to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, there is
a multitude of products that you can choose from. There is the ‘off the
shelf’ CRM software, such as Goldmine and ACT, that you can purchase at
most computer stores and install yourself, the large CRM vendors such as
Salesforce and Microsoft CRM that you will need a dedicated IT consultant
to install and configure for you, and then you have the many software
packages written specifically for the property industry (such as we provide), all of which are
designed to meet the needs of a property business ‘out of the box’.

So with all of these choices, how do you choose the right CRM system for
you?

In this article we will look at how to ask the right questions, identify
your key requirements and, ultimately, how to choose the right CRM software
for you.

Step 1: Get a core team of people together

Implementing a CRM system is a company wide initiative. It will impact
everyone from senior management down to your receptionist, so it is
essential that you get a team of people together to not only run the
project, but also so that you have involvement in the decision making
process from each area of your business. This team will be responsible for
creating the original brief, reviewing all products and, ultimately,
selecting and implementing the CRM system.

By ensuring you have a team involved in this process, you also ensure that
you immediately have several key people in your business who have ‘buy in’
on the whole process. Change management is an issue whenever new software
is implemented in any business, and the implementation of a CRM system is
no different. These team members should represent your core agents for
change within the business and will assist with driving implementation from
the inside out.

Step 2: Identify and write down your CRM objectives

Generally the search for a CRM system starts due to an actual or perceived
failing in the business. It is essential that you clearly identify what
that failing(s) is and document it. You then need to look a little broader
within your own business to try and identify other opportunities for
improvement that can derive from the implementation of a CRM system. You
are, in effect, trying to derive the core objectives of this project. Here
are a few of the key objectives from CRM projects we have been involved
with in the past:

(a)   Improve customer service by tracking all interaction with our
customers

(b)   Capture all customer data into a central company owned database so
that it can be managed and protected (from staff change over).

(c)   Ensure every lead is captured (never lose another customer!)

(d)   Improve sales through implementing better sales management
processes.

(e)   Improve business decisions through capturing sales and marketing data
and being able to analyse this.

Step 3: Shortlist your preferred CRM vendors

The project team will probably already have a few CRM products in mind. It
is important to ensure that you genuinely consider at least 3 options. This
will ensure you are exposed to a range of features and also pricing and
support plans.

Creating your shortlist is one of the most important steps in the entire
process. So how do you know you are short listing the right products? Here
are a few questions you should consider that will take you in the right
direction:

(a) Do we have the resources to configure and extensively customise our own
CRM system?

If you elect to purchase one of the off the shelf or large US CRM vendors
products, you will need to heavily customise it to ensure it includes
property centric features. Generally this requires either having your own
IT staff inhouse or bringing together a team of external consultants to
manage this for you.

If the answer is yes, then shortlist the systems that have the ability to
be extensively customised. This will preclude many but not all ‘property
specific’ systems that generally do not have the ability to be customised
in any significant way.

If the answer is no, shortlist software systems that have been built
specifically for the property industry. They should ideally meet your needs
‘out of the box’ without any customisation.

(b) Does the software have the features to meet your identified
objectives?

You need to do a short initial review to bring down the number of systems
you will shortlist. This can be a simple analysis of the features promoted
on the CRM Vendors website or brochure and comparing this against your
objectives. Eliminate any products that clearly fall short.

Step 4: Product Reviews

In reviewing each of the shortlisted products, it is essential that you go
through the following process:

(a) Product Demonstration

Obviously you will want to get a demonstration of the software. Be careful
however that you drive at least some of the demonstration itself. Some of
the most successful CRM companies don’t necessarily provide the best CRM
software — but they certainly can sell it the best. The demonstration you
will get is probably the same as all of the preceeding demonstrations the
sales consultant will have supplied, so it should look slick and
professional. 

To ensure that you get a very good review of the product however, you need
to ensure that you are specifically shown how the software will address the
issues you have identified that are important for your business. For
example, if you run a commercial real estate business, ask to be shown how
you will manage lease reviews or perhaps how to generate reports that show
rate per sqm/sq ft returns, or if you are involved in project marketing,
ask to be shown reports that would be supplied to Developers or perhaps how
your would track project specific KPI’s.

When reviewing your shortlisted systems, try and rank each on a scale of 1
to 5 in being able to meet your identified objectives.

(b) Consider how user friendly the software is

The number 1 reason that your CRM project will fail will be because your
staff do not use it, and the number 1 reason they will not use it is
because it is not user friendly. It is essential therefore that you choose
a CRM system that is easy to use.

(c) Consider implementation time

The less upfront customisation your system requires the more quickly the
implementation process can be completed. Ask your CRM vendor how long the
implementation will take and what factors may increase or decrease the
amount of time needed.

(d) Consider product development

You need to analyse and understand the CRM vendors vision for their own
product. How will they be developing it over time? Is it going to be
enhanced into the future or are they going to replace it with another
system? Can you have input into feature enhancements in the future?

When you purchase a CRM system you are not just purchasing a product you
implement today, but you are also selecting a CRM vendor that you hope to
do business with over the coming 3 to 5 years. Your investment needs to
grow over time, and the only way this is possible is if the CRM vendor
continues to improve the product. It is essential therefore that you select
a product with a clear upgrade path for the future.
 

(e) Evaluate technical support

You need to know that you will receive support for the ongoing use of your
CRM system. Here are a few questions to ask regarding support:

* Do you have a SLA (service level agreement) with customers?

* What hours does your support desk operate?

* Do you have user manuals, answers to frequently asked questions, online
training video’s and other self-help resources?

* What charges or service plans are involved?

(f) Cost Analysis

Last, but not least, you need to consider costs. Obviously you want the
very best CRM system for your business but costs are always an issue. Look
at the total cost of ownership for each CRM system. This should cover all
upfront and ongoing costs over the timeframe that you believe you will keep
your CRM system. Generally this would be a 3 to 5 year period.

Step 5: References

You should ask your preferred CRM vendor for some references. If they are
as good as they tell you they are, they should be able to point you towards
a number of similar businesses that are using their product that you can
talk to.

Step 6: Try and get a Fixed Price Quote

Unfortunately the IT industry doesn’t have a great reputation for being
able to deliver projects on time and on budget. Good CRM vendors have a lot
of experience in successfully delivering CRM projects, and the good ones
will have enough confidence in their product and skills to provide a fixed
price quote in most instances.

Summary

Choosing the right CRM system for your business is not an easy process. It
needs to be done methodically and with careful planning, as it is a
decision that will impact on your business for the next 3 to 5 years.

Brightfox Plug!

Did you know that Brightfox is one of the world's leading providers of CRM software and
online marketing solutions for the property industry. We have a suite of
software applications to suit individual agents, small, medium and large
agencies, multi-office agencies, property developers, investment networks
and retirement village developers and managers. We would welcome the
opportunity to show you how we can help your business, so please do not
hesitate to contact us.

Real Estate Agents warned against breaching Spam Act in Australia

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We have long advocated the use of opt in only databases used for email marketing. You simply can get far too much negative feedback, poor publicity and can even get blacklisted if your email marketing becomes SPAM.

Regardless of how you built your database, you simply must always include the ability to unsubscribe or instructions on how to unsubscribe. This is simply good business practice, and in some countries, a legal requirement. In Australia it has been law for some years now to include the ability to unsubscribe from any bulk marketing email and it is not starting to be rigorously enforced.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to an Australian Real Estate Agency for breaching the Spam Act. Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, breached the Spam Act by sending emails without an unsubscribe facility.

The full press release is provided below:

“Real estate agency breaches the Spam Act

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, following an investigation that found the real estate agency breached the Spam Act 2003 by sending commercial electronic messages without an unsubscribe facility.

‘This is the first enforcement measure taken against a real estate agent since an ACMA awareness campaign about unsolicited communications targeted at the real estate sector,’ said Chris Cheah, acting Chairman of the ACMA.

The campaign was held in response to the ACMA’s concerns about widespread non-compliance with marketing obligations by members of the real estate sector. The ACMA wrote to more than forty head offices of leading real estate franchisors and companies in 2009, informing them of key obligations and providing links to online training and resources to increase awareness of legal obligations and of the consequences of non-compliance.

‘It is disappointing that some real estate agents do not appear to have taken the opportunity to understand the requirements for complying with the Spam Act,’ Mr Cheah said.

The ACMA has a tiered approach to compliance and enforcement. While education is the first step, stronger enforcement action will be used if compliance is not achieved.

‘Real estate agents should consider themselves to be on notice,’ Mr Cheah added. ‘Members of the industry need to understand that, even when they are dealing with potential buyers on a one-to-one basis, these interactions are commercial and they need to comply with spam and telemarketing laws.’

Commercial electronic messages must be sent with the recipient’s consent and include a statement that the recipient can use an electronic address, provided in the message, to send an unsubscribe request. During the course of this investigation, the ACMA identified messages sent by Elders Real Estate Wollongong that did not contain unsubscribe wording to this effect.

The ACMA has taken a wide range of enforcement action against non-compliant ‘spammers’ in the last twelve months, including recent action in the Federal Court which resulted in significant penalties being imposed on both individuals and companies.

Under the Spam Act, potential penalties of up to $1.1 million per day may be imposed by the Federal Court for repeat offenders”

The simple rule is always include the following text or something to this effect:

Important Information: If you are not the intended recipient, please ignore this email. This communication has been prepared by . To unsubscribe from this email please reply with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line.

A suit the provides protection to Swine Flu! Just what every busy real estate agent needs.

Not the usual content that I blog about, but I thought this was great (in a funny way). A Japanese company has produced a suit that supposedly protects against the HIN1 (swine flu).

A lot of agents might think that they need some form of protection from difficult customers, well now they have it! In the form of a swine flu resistant suit! Well at least protection from the customers sick children.

All they need to do now is build in an I-Phone with a microphone and ear piece on the collar and maybe your own QR Code on the sleeve so anyone can quickly scan and get your details – then you have the complete mobile package!

Visit here for the full story

Interesting Report Showing Green Rated Buildings Rent for More

This is an interesting report that has just come out that is probably the first detailed analysis of the commercial benefits of a Green Rated building from a Developers or Owners perspective.

The report analysed 694 Green Rated buildings and compared them to around 8000 non- green rated buildings to determined the comparative difference in rental returns. The report finds that a Green Rated building on average will lease for 2% per sq.ft higher than non-green rated buildings, with the difference in effective rent being around 6% (by virtue of less incentives as well as tenants in Green Buildings paying higher outgoings).

The one issue not addressed is the difference in build cost, and therefore whether these increased rents are enough to compensate for the increased build costs.

A 2007 report by David Langdon in Australia reported that initial constructions costs on (above comparable none Green projects) was likely to be in the order of 3 – 5% for a 5 star solution, with an impact of a further 5% plus for a 6 star non iconic design solution.

So in my mind this poses the underlying problem as to why more building are not being built to the various Green Star ratings. The economics are not compelling at this time. They are however very close as we can now see and all we would need is strong shove in the right direction to make building Green buildings compelling.

Government subsidies can of course make all of the difference. Attractive tax benefits alone would make the decision to build Green buildings compelling.

This is of course only one side of the energy issue as far as it concerns construction. What we are looking at here is the level of emissions and overall sustainability of the building once constructed. The major emissions however occur in the construction stage, primarily by virtue of the material used. For example a house made from wood, involves cutting down trees, processing the timber and then the physical construction itself, all of which have a negative emissions effect.

For those interested in the amount of carbon embodied in the construction of a new building, here is a calculator that helps you arrive at a estimate: http://buildcarbonneutral.org/

Here is the link to the Doing Well by Doing Good paper – http://urbanpolicy.berkeley.edu/pdf/EKQ_Green_Buildings_040808.pdf

Here is the link to the David Langdon report on “The cost and benefit of achieving green buildings” – https://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=2583

 

 

 

You can find the full report here – http://urbanpolicy.berkeley.edu/pdf/EKQ_Green_Buildings_040808.pdf

Buyers Flocking back to property markets. It’s been a while since I have seen a headline like this!

This is an article I read today in the Illawarra Mercury. It made me smile as it has been a while since we have seen these types of articles.

Excuse me for being a pessimist, but I might just wait until I start celebrating the start of the next property cycle (when property prices will start rising again). I think the best that we can hope for at the moment is that the market has stabilised. If so then buyers will come back. I believe that we are getting close to that point now. With interest rate falls and a stabilisation in the stock market, with overall economic conditions are far less erratic than last year, I can see buyers entering the market with enough confidence to take action (purchase).

The real risk in our economy now are further macro-economic events from the world economy. Another Leahman Brothers or , more likely in my view, a geo-political event in any of the developing world, must still be rated as being of significant risk. I have not seen any recent surveys on business confidence, but I would be guessing that it would only have slight improvements so far. I think we need a few more solid month’s under our belt before business confidence can start to rebuild. In the property context, this means less supply of new land, houses and apartments.

I can really see a unique environment developing in the property sector. The low interest rates and first-buyer grants will continue to produce demand for property in this sector. The very poor economic environment world wide, with the resulting poor confidence and lack of readily available finance, will result is significantly reduced supply of new properties. The two obviously don’t sit well together. So the great irony will be that at this stage those developers who do have suitable stock available or in the pipeline, and who have managed to sort their finances, there is probably the potential for price increases in the near future.

http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/buyers-flocking-back-to-property-markets/1427851.aspx?src=rss

The global internet audience surpasses 1 billion

According to Comscore, a company that measures pretty much anything digital, the world now has over 1 billion internet users, with China being the country with the most users. as you can see in the below stat’s, the largest number of users are in the Asia Pacific region (which includes Australia).

 

 

Total Worldwide Internet Audience: Regional Breakdown

Ranked by Total Unique Visitors (000)*

December 2008

Age 15+, Home & Work Locations

Source: comScore World Metrix

Region

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Share of Total Worldwide Internet Audience (%)

Worldwide

1,007,730

100.0%

Asia Pacific

416,281

41.3%

Europe

282,651

28.0%

North America

185,109

18.4%

Latin America

74,906

7.4%

Middle East & Africa

48,783

4.8%

China represents the vast majority of these users, and will continue to do so into the future as the % of internet users in that country continue to increase. Japan, India and South Korea also feature in the top countries.

You can find the full article here – http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2698

What does this mean for property companies around the world? Well most do not currently focus at all on any market other than their immeidate local market. Many do not even look at the entire domestic market let alone the international market. However as capital continues to flow from the western economies to the developing world, it will be essential for leading property firms to establish a solid understanding of these markets, and mechanisms for penetrating them. This means have multi-lingual skills, networks and systems that support international property transactions.

Brightfox is one of the few genuinely international technology firms in the world that focus exclusively on the property industry. With offices in Australia and the UAE, and customers in many countries around the world, we have developed significant experience in assisting our clients open up and do business in a wide diversity of markets. We have also spent many years now customising our software and systems to ensure they meet these specific requirements, which is also very unique.

I suppose the best example of the international focus of our business is the range of languages we speak. They include Arabic, English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Portugese, Spanish, Farsi and Sinhala.

Buying homes in the US for $1000 (or less)

I read an interesting article on CNN about purchasing homes for as little as $500 in many cities in the US due to the dire financial circumstances the US is in. You can see the article here – http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/08/real_estate/thousand_dollar_homes/index.htm

So I went to www.realtor.com to check out some of these places for myself. Here is a list of some of the more presentable  $1000 homes I could quickly find in Detroit.

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/3936-Beniteau-St_Detroit_MI_48214_1105870011

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/3464-Edison-St_Detroit_MI_48206_1105998133

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/18368-Bentler-St_Detroit_MI_48219_1105325462

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/19173-Dresden-St_Detroit_MI_48205_1105799515

Sounds like great value – but there is one catch!

You need to sign an affidavit that you will fix the home up to a habitable state. So you will need to add a little to the prices, however still great value I suppose.

In the past property has always fared some much better than shares in recessions. The basic reasons for this is the fundamental characteristics of the property market – namely it is rather illiquid (homes can not be sold easily such as shares – it takes time and money) and the majority of residential property are people’s homes and not investments, which as a result is one of the last things sold even when times are tough.

The big difference in the US now is that when times are so tough that hanging on to a home is not possible, this impediment to significant price reduction is removed. So whilst property is still illiquid as compared to shares, in markets such as the US it is suffering price depreciation at least as significant as the share market.

In Australia and the UAE (where we have offices), the drop in the share price has still superseded property price falls, at least for the time being, and given that both economies are genuinely sound, this should continue to be the case in my view.

domain.com.au secure deal with ninemsn.com.au

In a pretty significant annoucement domain.com.au has done a deal with ninemsn.com.au to run the property section of the ninemsn.com.au website.

Going to property on the site will take you to this site – http://ninemsn.domain.com.au/ which is similar to how realestate.com.au was integrated with ninemsn.com.au. It brings domain.com.au content into the site but displays in a separate site to the normal www.domain.com.au. The reason for this is no doubt to give ninemsn.com.au control over advertising on this site, which Domain can not do on its own site for obvious reasons.

This will no doubt significantly increase traffic to domain.com.au, and I think is a very wise move. For many years now I have felt that domain.com.au has not been aggressive enough in competing against realestate.com.au. This and the ebay deal mark a significant change in strategy and indicates that they are getting serious about trying to take realestate.com.au on and not simply remain the distant 2nd portal in Australia.

To catch up to realestate.com.au is a big task and it is going to take a lot more than just this deal, but I think it is a real positive and is certainly making me look at domain.com.au in a different light (a more favourable one).

Cityscape Dubai Oct 2008

Every year we exhibit at Cityscape Dubai, with this years exhibition due to start shortly.

As the largest property exhibition in the world for property professionals it is a huge show. This year they are expecting over 60,000 people!

For any of our clients that will be attending Cityscape Dubai, please let us know that you will be coming as we would be more than happy to help show you around and give you some ‘inside’ knoweldge on the UAE market.