Eddie Cetin, CEO of Agentbox, talks about how technology has changed the industry in the last five years, and how you can ensure you don’t get left behind.
Can you remember the days of real estate when mobile phones were a rarity, and the idea of having a corporate website was an outlandish dream, only necessary and affordable for the largest of brands?
Believe it or not, those days weren’t so long ago – a decade or so at best. In the past five years technology has again been a ‘game changer’ and shifted the manner in which estate agencies manage their daily practice. From the increasingly automated management of buyer communications, prospecting databases, vendor reporting and property management, technology is at the core of all efficient real estate businesses.
With AREC2012 just past, it’s likely that many of you will be bursting with inspiration and carrying a check-list of ‘improvements’ to be made to your business. Making sure that your technology is ‘keeping up to pace’ with your competitors and future industry trends should certainly be at the top of that list. To ignore the importance of the dual role technology plays in the real estate industry (that of communicating your brand powerfully to potential clients, and charting/managing the daily processes and activities of your business) is to risk the future success of your company. Contemporary customers have a high degree of education and access to resources when it comes to selecting an estate agency to deal with, and with this knowledge they have developed increasingly high expectations of what an agency will provide. At the most basic level, this means customers will expect you to have intuitive technology to help them search for property or apply for leases, segmented databases they can join easily and social media accountability used actively and transparently by your brand.Take time to think about ways you can future-proof your business by making the right choices about technology in your real estate practice.
In the past five years, sophisticated communications technology has become increasingly available (and affordable) to the consumer. Smart phones, tablets, Wi-Fi in public spaces – we’re always ‘contactable’ and as a result, expect the businesses we favour to be constantly accountable to our queries and demands. Whether such a trend is good or bad, it’s here to stay! How are you helping your brand and your team maintain accountability to their public, whilst simultaneously building the reputation of your business?
Of fundamental importance is to invest in a database, which takes advantage of the latest technologies. At a minimum, your website should be able to interface (that is, look impressive!) on conventional desktops PCs, laptops and tablets, and have a smart phone version too. Your database should neatly interact with your website, allowing easy subscription for your clients to an array of buyer/tenant/vendor categories. At the back end, your database should have the capacity for synchronicity between property management and sales departments, creating timely reminders with template letters for client management and prospecting processes, and providing detailed stats for the business owner on staff activity. Sounds like a lot to worry about? The best software available for agents today certainly covers all these ‘must haves’ and more – it’s simply a matter of taking the time to implement the technology and investing in the necessary training to start the ball rolling!
You’ll need the right tech equipment to make the most of your database investment. Decide whether staff members will bring in their own smart phones and tablets, or if you’ll provide them with company technology to use during their employment. Don’t skimp on technology – as an owner there’s many ways to bring new tech into the office on a ‘lease’ basis – and this investment can, in some circumstances, reduce your business tax obligations. Real estate agencies are essentially mobile sales forces, with both property management and sales departments requiring a depth and breadth of information at off-site client meetings, which can’t simply be carried around in a manila folder. With tablets, listing presentations for landlords or vendors are visually dynamic – and your agents will always have a full office suite of knowledge to hand, leaving no client queries unanswered – and improving the likelihood of a signed authority at meeting’s end!
The data painstakingly collected over years of servicing an area is the real ‘gold’ asset of any agency. Having this knowledge secure yet simultaneously accessible while your team is on the go is of concern to many. Cloud computing solves this issue, and removes the requirement of investing in large servers in-house. Quality software development companies will point you in the direction of knowledgeable ‘geeks’ who can provide an array of security and storage services for your valuable database. Unlike days of yore when a robbery or fire could destroy a server (and along with it the potential income of a brand for some time), cloud computing ensures that your valuable data is stored securely off-site, reducing your risk, freeing up capital you’d normally spend on a server and facilitating cloud computing for your whole business.
Scared of social media? You’ll need to get over that quick-smart. With an ever-increasing amount of consumers searching for businesses on Facebook and Twitter to get a ‘feel’ of the brand before exploring further on a corporate website, neglecting social media branding for your business is at your own peril. Some database brands can help implement and set up impeccable social media for your estate agency, minimising risk and ensuring that no matter where a new client looks for you, you’re there in lights, presenting as the market leader in your area. Whether done in-house or with the help of copywriting professionals, social media integrated into your online identity is a must.
A neat overview – but one sure to have increased the ‘to-dos’ on your weekly activity list. Although it sounds like an overwhelming change from the basics required just five years ago, making sure your technology stands up to the rigorous demands of the modern consumer and employee will put your company in good stead for years to come.