CRM for CRE: Just do it yourself...

How many times have you heard someone say, "I wish someone would build a killer CRM tool just for CRE!". There are already a dozen or so CRM tools built specifically for CRE folks. Immediate examples which come to mind include (in no specific order, other than alphabetical):

And I am sure I am forgetting some other big ones...

The real issue is not the lack of solutions, but instead, an unwillingness to pay for the product itself. An unspoken hurdle for a big CRM solution to successfully penetrate the brokerage segment of the CRE industry: most brokers are independent contractors.

In the simplest terms, brokerage houses are rarely in a position to force their agents to use a specific CRM tool. In a post titled The Price Per Agent Problem, CREOutsider noted:

Brokerages also have to deal with the independent contractor issue. You can’t make an IC use anything – just offer it. That’s why CRM applications don’t fare so well and in-house versus pay per agent systems make more sense to a brokerage that uses one.

And even if the brokerage company picks up the tab, many agents are still so protective of their contact list, their only copy remains an MS Excel worksheet saved in their "My Documents" folder....

Considering this, there is a decent DIY solution for independent brokers or brokerage teams who may be considering alternatives.

First, you're gonna need GMail; this means you're gonna have to kick the MS Outlook habit, which we all know is long over due. I can give you a million reasons why, but then I'd be going off on a tangent (if you are curious, check out  CREOutsider's Top 10 Email Problems - Solved, all 10 are effectively issues in Outlook, but are not issues in GMail, see comment #1 and #2)...

GMail is free to use and a breeze to set up. And the dinosaurs who want to still use Outlook, can do so. You just need to clean up that old MS Excel file and upload your list of contacts to your new GMail account.

After setting up GMail and uploading your contacts, install Insightly from the Google Apps Marketplace. Why Insightly? A couple reasons:

  1. Insightly allows teams to share contacts among its members.
  2. Insightly has a mobile app which allows users to access all their Google Contacts from their phone, without having to muck up their phone's contacts with 1000s of business contacts.
  3. Insightly integrates with MailChimp. This allows users the ability to send contact lists to MailChimp rather than uploading them.

But you don't need Insightly to do this. Using GMail allows you to use Google Contact's API to link to all sorts of other services you are going to use - like your email campaign management tool - whether it be MailChimp, Constant Contact or Campaign Monitor.

You don't know what an API is, or how to use one, you say? Well then, check out Zapier.com. Using your account credentials, you can link up your Google Contacts lists with MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, or just about any other service you can think of....

What is great about using an API is that you can use the service provider which serves your needs the best for each task. This way you don't have to bear using a bad email campaign manager tool, just because it is the only place you've got your list stored.

I shake my head when people say, "I wish there was an all encompassing solution." Name a service provider which does everything well. Rather than doing one or two things really well, all encompassing solutions usually do everything marginally, if not down right poorly. You can't be all things to all people.

Also, APIs keep your data, your data. If you're using an all-in-one service, could you ever leave that service if they started gouging you on price, or because their customer service started to suck? It's difficult to move all your information somewhere else. But it is easy to move your contacts from one email service to another, especially when you use an API.

APIs allow users to select service providers who serve their specific needs. Using GMail, Google Contacts and Zapier you have the ability to use APIs like a pro.

If Insightly doesn't work for you, it's easy to try another solution; perhaps Highrise, Capsule, or Batchbook does the trick. All of these providers are accessible through Zapier, too.

Give it a shot and shoot me an email if you have any questions - support [at] creconsole.com. We can get you in touch with someone who can help set something like this up, if you need an extra hand.