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Product Review

A Question = Great Input on Contact Management Software

The other day, a client of mine asked this in an email: “Quick question: Which real-estate specific contact management software do you believe is best if the agent wants the “cadillac” of online marketing resource options?—or perhaps the top two programs?”

Instead of just answering my thoughts I posted this as a discussion on the National Association of REALTORS Group on Linkedin. What Ireceived was over 25 thoughtful answers which I have condensed and want to share here. Then I will give my two cents.

One of my most popular classes this past year was “Seven Tip to Maximize Microsoft Outlook.” I was really amazed that showing how to use Outlook as a contact manager would have so much appeal. I am an active user of Outlook, but also a certified Top Producer trainer, ACT trainer and test many contact management programs. (right now working with FavoriteAgent, Brokershelper and RealfutureCRM).

I am asked by many people during and after class – what contact management software do you recommend? Tom Lowy on Linkedin answered that question this way: “Experience has taught me the best contact manager is one you will use and use consistently. Use of the database is the key and filling it with pertinent information most important.”

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Rick Schwartz added this: You refer to the “Cadillac” of systems. I think back to my days selling automobiles (a thousand years ago). Many folks shop for cars by looking for the most features, or the coolest new look and design. Fact is a lot of people buy cars that have features that they don’t need. So, perhaps, the same rule applies here – the Cadillac may not be necessary for everyone’s needs. First figure out what your needs are then look for a system that meets those needs.

Out of 26 comments, 7 are Top Producer fans, another 4 have fallen off the Top Producer wagon and gone to Outlook with addons. A total of 11 are using Outlook in some form or another. Some are using ACT with Outlook, a few are using Sonoma Enterprises add-on for Outlook. More agents are using Outlook and another program for their drip marketing campaigns. A couple of products mentioned wiere Sharper Agent, RealPro Systems, LeadCommander.

And last but not least we had an enthusiastic Agent Office user.

Quite a few are using Outlook with a exchange server. This means you synch wirelessly with your laptop and your handheld and a server on the internet. Every change you make ends up on all the devices synched with you computer. You also have access to your data on the internet on the server. The great news is that there no more synching with a cord. We rent space with www.123together.com for $10  a month per person and allows us to share calendars and other data as well.

A couple pf other products to check out that were mentioned:

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Please share any other programs that are working for you. With all of us doing business planning, now is the time to make the change.

Written By

Amy is a national technology speaker who can inspire, train and help people implement technology strategies into their business. To find out about her training, coaching or webinars visit her website at www.amychorew.com

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Lisa Sanderson

    December 27, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Funny you bring this up…I was just thinking today that I should write a review of Wise Agent for AG. We used Agent Office for many years and switched to Wise Agent about a year ago. Easy to use, excellent customer support and more…maybe I will write that post.

  2. Amy Chorew

    December 27, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Lisa,

    I am very interested in that product. It is being mentioned more and more in my classes. Who is the “creator?”

  3. Sam Miller

    December 27, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    I am a big fan of Real Pro Systems as a lead generation and lead management system and my team and I have been using the desktop version of Top Producer 6i for years. It works great, no monthly costs, network setup was super easy, we log in remotely using an IP address on the server, can check the database in or out on a notebook if we want and it works with my Treo 700 just fine.
    Sometimes agents complicate software and systems just so they can say they have the latest and greatest before considering the features they truly require. Keeping systems simple has can have it’s advantages.

  4. Matt Wilkins

    December 27, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    I used Outlook 2003 with an addon called Respond for several years but the migration to Outlook 2007 required a software update when I felt was not worth the cost.

    At this point I use Outlook and find that having a specific category list is the key to effictively manaing my virtual “black book”. I also use hosted Microsoft Exchange via http://www.exchangemymail.com with high satisfaction.

  5. Jay Thompson

    December 27, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Amy – The Wise Agent is based out of Phoenix (Fountain Hills to be precise) and is the work of Brandon Wise and Michael Becker. They are great guys. More info can be found on their site (thewiseagent.com).

    Another *great* system is REST (Real Estate Success Tools) by Matthew Hardy, also based out of Phoenix. More info is at their site: realestatesuccesstools.com

  6. Jim Gatos

    December 28, 2008 at 12:18 am

    I use Mozilla Thunderbird with the Contacts Extension and Lightning, coupled with Birdiesync ($30 approx) to sync with my Moto Q.

    I broke off the “Top Producer Real Estate Narcotics”, years ago..

    I also use OpenOffice 3.0 and I use the spreadsheet with database for mailing lists, however, I only send a mass mailing maybe 4 times tops a year, if even that.

  7. Missy Caulk

    December 28, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I am an Outlook lover but we just signed up for WiseAgent. We needed it to manage all the TEAMS transactions.

    I imported all my contacts so I can access it when I travel and my assistant can add to it.

    The buyer agents can use it for seeing what our assistant has done on the file.

    The support is amazing, I mean amazing.

    I’ll never give up Outlook until I get a MAC…but I can see that day coming.

  8. Jonathan Kauffmann

    December 28, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Thanks for the info. I’ve bounced b/t a few different content management programs and still haven’t found the perfect system. I’ll check these suggestions out.

  9. Sharon Simms

    December 28, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I’m still happy using ACT! for my team – without the real estate add-on.

  10. Mariana

    December 28, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I use TP8i, WiseAgent, the backend of 1Park Place and Outlook.

    I am a disaster … and I do not like ANY of my options enough to devote 100% of my attention to them.

  11. Amy Chorew

    December 28, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Mariana,

    Maybe we should do an extreme makeover on your CRM for 2009! I feel your pain, you are not alone.

  12. Thomas Johnson

    December 29, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Not a TP8i fan, but it is reliable, in the cloud, synchs to my Palm Treo. my Sony Clie and is too powerful for my brain.

    That said, the pain of a new learning curve for CRM while I am learning other web 2.0 apps exceeds any more elegant or less expensive solution.

    TP should be worried. At some point my focus will fall on the cost/benefit of my TP8i subscription. As long as I can pick up the phone and have tech support talk me through a sticky wicket, I am happy. If they go to a more bot software based tech support system, I am gone. I can get that service for far less money.

    One reason I stick with TP is that in my career, I have never been intimate with Outlook, so Outlook + add ons would have as steep a learning curve as TP8i. It would be different for me if I had grown up with corporate email and had the advantage of having learned Outlook on someone else’s dime.

  13. John Kalinowski

    December 30, 2008 at 8:30 am

    I am using Real Estate Success Tools, or REST as it is more commonly called. They are the only real estate-specific CRM provider I’ve found who truly “gets it”. They are not out to soak you with a monthly fee or to sell you web hosting subscriptions. They simply provide a powerful package that is customizable in ways you never imagined.

    I am running my copy on a GoDaddy.com server that will allow me to add team members or assistants who will be able to access and work from the same database, all from their home offices. The flexibility offered by this feature is truly amazing, and doesn’t require a monthly or annual subscription.

    Check out their site or contact Karen to hear REST’s advantages. No, I am not paid to push their product, just a very happy customer who was truly amazed at the personal support they provided in getting me started.

  14. Matt Thomson

    December 30, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Great post. After reading all the comments I looked at Wise Agent, and it isn’t much cheaper than TP8i (which I use and enjoy). RealEstateSuccessTools isn’t online, which is something that I really value about TP. I used Agent Office for a while, but not having access to my database anytime, anywhere was too hard for me.
    If there’s anything online that is significantly less than TP, I’d love to hear about it, or if anybody can give me a compelling argument that online isn’t all that great I’d love to hear that too!

  15. Matthew Collinge

    January 5, 2009 at 12:05 am

    I too am a mess, with Top Producer (which sucks for email and calender sync w Blackberry), Outlook (for Calender and Blackberry address book) and Google Apps for email.

    I need to get this all sorted out this year. I am leaning towards Outlook w add-ons.

  16. Karen Goodman

    February 4, 2009 at 12:10 am

    I would love your opinions on ACT. I know that there were a couple of versions that everyone hated, but it sounds like the latest version, 10, has solved the problems. As someone that only works on my laptop, I would rather have the contacts on my computer so that I have access to everything if I don’t have an internet connection. I also don’t want to worry about having to move all of my info if the web provider would sell or not keep up with the latest features.

    I’ve got Outlook, but don’t think I want to try to use it for a full CRM.

    Is anyone using the latest version of ACT, the generic one and not the real estate version?

  17. scott schmitz

    March 4, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Another contact management solution for real estate agents is RealtyJuggler. It works with Microsoft Outlook, yet is an online system – so you can use it at home and work, with teams and the like. It’s also easy on the wallet at $99 a year.

  18. SteveBeam

    October 12, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I must have missed this post earlier. I use MobileMe with Apple since I did switch to the “other side” and it syncs everything immediately with my phone, mac, Outlook & gmail. But… I still use Outlook, Agent Office and 1 ParkPlace back end as well. Big damn mess if you ask me. I even keep a spreadsheet for all my leads. Freaking disaster. Wish someone would come up with the golden egg of CRM for real estate. I just realized typing this I seriously need help.

  19. Robert Bruckner

    November 9, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    This was one of the most unbiased articles on contact managers that I have ever read. I am a former Top Producer user. I loved the contact management portion of the program but found that Microsoft Office and Outlook do a better job for routine business communication. The exchange server is an excellent idea. A few products that I thought might be good to mention are: eNeighborhoods for CMA and presentations or Toolkit CMA for market analysis work. These programs when used with Outlook and Microsoft Office make really great presentations, keep appointments and email in order. What they don’t do well is keep your listings an sales transactions in order, and that is what Top Producer does extremely well. What I found is that one can manage listings and sales with Outlook and possibly using Excel or other MS Office products. Although there may be more of a learning curve, it may not be the solution for everyone. And, that is one reason why Top Producer shines in the real estate world.

  20. Christoph Schweiger

    January 25, 2010 at 1:03 am

    In my real-estate-days I have tried many things including Top Producer, Outlook, ACT, REST, The Wise Agent and Allclients.com to name a few. Unfortunately I did not discover salesforce.com until I got into the mortgage business. After trying almost everything I have to say that I really really like Saleforce.com. Not cheap, however I prefer to have everything in the cloud and being able to easily customize my workflows.

    If I am not mistaken there are a couple of real estate specific custom apps on the AppExchange. You might want to check out the free trial offered by mpc-co.com.

  21. Daryl Tumbleson

    March 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    My wife and I are trying to implement David Allen’s Getting Thngs Done Ideas in managing our workflow. Outlook functions well in this regard however we are not allowed access to the company’s Exchange Server so using any of the Outlook Add ins for Real Estate doesnt work well for us. We have used all of the Top Producers solutions from 6 to 8i and even though we were power users we think the interface to be totally inefficient and too expensive. We have tried a couple of others but have avoided REST due to it being very pricey. We started using Wise Agent a while back and find it reliable and powerful for marketing and followup. It can be synced with Outlook but any appointments booked in our Blackberries then synced to Outlook will not be in the contacts history once Outlooked is synced to Wise Agent. We really like using our Blackberries with( Agendus) with Outlook for managing the main part of our business but are trying to work out issues with getting BB/Outlook info over to Wise Agent and still keep everything in the contacts history. If we are in the field and book an appointment on the BB then later sync that with Outlook then when Outlook files are uploaded to WA the appointments is not in the clients history. The most valuable part of all of this is workflow management using GTD principles with Outlook and Blackberries. If anyone else is trying GTD principles by integrating Outlook with Wise Agent then let me know what you come up with. Now that I have confused all of the readers I think I will continue to look for a good GTD Real Estate solution. If Wise Agent would sync 100% with Outloook it would be the perfect solution. That being said I think Wise Agent is the best bargain out there in a real estate CRM.

  22. Andrew Mooers

    March 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    These are the kind of posts that your hear the REALTORS in the trenches sharing what works and why. No spin, no smoke and mirrors to sell something that is not needed or that is new and state of the art time saving. Wise Agent gets high marks and worth studying to see how it would implement into current drip.

  23. Ingrid Sullivan

    July 3, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I use TP8i becase it has all of the tools that I need to run my business. When you think of it how many other programs do you have to add on to have Contacts Management, Activity notes and emails at your fingertips, Scheduling, Drip Campaigns, Market Analysis, Pre Listing Packages, Marketing Templates Galore, Facebook and Twitter Connections, Realtor.com sale and for sale activity etc. The list goes on and on,not to mention I can access it from anywhere any computer, even a Mac with a windows partition and the iPhone is in the future. One less thing to think about in my business. Like everyone I think about the cost too but you can write that off as a business expense.

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