Pride in being an early adopter
I pride myself in being a trendsetter when it comes to use of technology in my real estate business. As an early adopter, I bought into online form software while the rest of my former company was still firmly entrenched in paper forms. Now as the broker of my own firm, we frequently test and buy into technology quickly after it hits the market. Most of the time, this is a smart move. Being an early adopter gives us an edge as we frequently are the first in our market to use new marketing channels and real estate software. However, this speed to try new things is not without its risks.
A few weeks ago, I received a marketing email from a company selling a new smartphone app targeted at real estate and mortgage professionals. The copy was exciting and promised that industry professionals who downloaded and purchased this new app would be able to share the app with their clients, and even sell “space” on the app to trusted vendors. It sounded great — and I clicked on the email link which took me to a splash page for the app. Before doing too much due diligence, I admit I sent the developer $149 through PayPal for my own customized smartphone app.
After logging in to customize my app, I quickly figured out this was probably not a smart move. I uploaded info on my trusted lender and home inspector, and invited them to try the app. Both declined. Not interested. Hmmm. So I guess I won’t be collecting part of the app fee from these guys, who normally do pay for sponsorship on my folders and on co-branded ads. Okay. No big deal. If it works, I can afford $149.
The three questions you must ask
One: Does it really solve a problem or is it just fancy bells and whistles?
I show the app to a few select clients of mine. Two of them work for computer firms, and between them probably own every piece of cool tech there is. Both just blinked when I showed them the app. “But you can click my realty app here to get my contact info at your fingertips!” They both gave me a blank stare, and a “Duh” moment. One guy said “But I already have that info in my contact database.” The other guy said “You’re my agent. I know how to find you.” Then I showed them my preferred vendors on the app. Again, both guys have trusted lenders at their disposal and don’t need mine. Okay, so the app is pretty on their phones, but not really necessary for current clients — and that’s who I am supposed to invite to download the app. See the catch 22?
Two: What is the company’s refund policy?
After discovering that I was not 100% thrilled with the purchase, I went online to see how to contact the company. There was no refund policy online, so I sent an email to the address on the web, with no reply. Three days later, I sent another email. No reply. Then I sent an email to the owner of the company (which I tracked down through the PayPal address I sent the money to). He replied that he would refund the money. That was six days ago. I just sent a second email to the owner. I did try to contact PayPal, but their dispute mechanism seems to not relate to software apps as none of the choices apply to my situation, and there is no “other” choice when disputing a charge.
Three: Will this give me an edge in business?
Finally, will buying this new technology give me an edge in my business? How does it read in an advertisement? Try to create a “benefit” statement out of it and see if it makes any sense. If I had done this, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so quick to send that company $149 for the app. “Hire me and I’ll give you a free app to download my contact info and the info of my trusted lender.” Really? Who cares!
I am still proud of being a trendsetter in my industry. My company is the “techy geeky firm” in our area, and I won’t change that. But hopefully next time I get an email urging me to send someone money to download the latest technology, I’ll pause and think this through a bit better. Oh, and I’m giving that app company three days to refund my money before I share the name of that app company. Just kidding, Mike. Or not. We’ll see.