Communication drives nearly every part of every real estate transaction. Yet it seems like the more communication technologies you have available, the more difficult it becomes. Technology may set off the complexities, but handled correctly, it can also be the cure.
Following are three technologies that help realtors simplify and improve communications.
Virtual Phone Services
For many years, the gold standard for business phones has been a complex, equipment-based phone system. The advantages include a single number for the office, extensions for each individual, an auto-attendant to greet callers, a dial-by-name directory, voice mail and call forwarding to another extension.
The problem is that gaining these features with a traditional business phone system requires a lot of expensive back-office equipment, as well as a phone for everyone. It’s not very flexible either. These systems only work within the four walls of the office where they’re located, so if you have two or more offices in different locations you need two systems with two separate phone numbers. If you’re away from the office at a showing or meeting a client, when someone calls that phone the only way you’ll know is by checking voice mail. You can give out your mobile and home numbers too, but then reaching you becomes complicated.
A virtual phone service for a real estate office gives you all the advantages, plus more, without the drawbacks. First and foremost, there’s no equipment to purchase, install and store. Instead, you pay a small monthly fee. You don’t have to buy special phones either, a virtual phone service will work with the phones you already own.
A virtual phone service, like a Realtor’s daily routine, isn’t limited to the four walls of the office. You can have one incoming local or toll-free phone number for the business, and then create extensions for branch offices or telecommuters no matter where they happen to be. Your staff can take advantage of all the features.
Another benefit to a virtual phone service is the find me/follow me smart call forwarding feature. Rather than giving out several phone numbers then having callers guess which one to use, you can give them your office number, then have the call ring your mobile, home and/or any other phone – either in a sequence or all at once.
Internet Fax Services
Faxing is still a big part of the communications picture in many industries, especially in real estate. Each year, thousands of pages of contracts, forms and other documents are sent that require signatures or handwritten notes.
The problem is fax machines are always at the office, but the Realtors who need them are not. This requires faxers to go back to the office to review, have it read over the phone or find a store along the road that has a fax machine — usually for $3 to $4 a page.
An Internet fax service solves this issue. It allows you to send and receive faxes, such as contracts, on a laptop, smart phone or other device via your e-mail account or a secure online server, anywhere there is an Internet connection. Since it is a service, there’s no hardware to buy or maintain, and the better services don’t require you to download any software.
Of course, mobility is only one advantage. Because the documents come in electronically — usually as a PDF, although better services will give you a choice of format — you only print the documents you need. That alone saves money on paper and toner in these uncertain economic times, while helping you go greener as well. There’s no need to pay for an extra phone line either, and since an Internet fax is accessed using devices you already own, you’re not paying for electricity to power a fax machine 24/7.
The electronic format also makes important faxes portable and easier to store. You can carry all your files with you and look them up instantly, without having to bring a stack of paper to every client meeting or closing.
Individual numbers assure the privacy of confidential personal or financial records. Also, by eliminating the paper there is no chance that an important fax will be thrown out with yesterday’s newspaper or ruined by a coffee spill.
An Internet fax service is faster, cheaper, more portable and more secure than a fax machine. It’s also more environmentally-friendly.
E-mail Campaign Management Services
When it comes to e-mail campaigns, many companies will attempt to use the usual office suite tools, i.e. word processing and/or spreadsheets, to both build and manage their campaigns. The problem is those tools are not designed for the type of high-level campaigns that are required, and they are completely ineffective at tracking results to help refine future campaigns.
There are several software products that manage and track the job. But software still needs to be maintained, and the inevitable problems and crashes that occur must be dealt with.
A better choice is an e-mail campaign management service. These services allow the creation of highly targeted and timely newsletters and e-mail campaigns, manage opt-in lists and produce easy-to-read yet detailed graphical reports of the results of each campaign and your overall marketing effort. This can all be done from any location where there is an Internet connection.
Different service levels are available depending on budget and how sophisticated one’s marketing needs are. For example, you can choose between simple scheduling based on dates, and automated scheduling that is triggered by a date, time, event or action. The level of personalization also varies, from simple name personalization in the subject line and body, to features such as gender, geographic or other attribute-based list segmentation.
Ultimately, an e-mail campaign management service helps you target your prospects more effectively, move buyers and sellers through the cycle and close more home sales — all while allowing you to continually refine and improve your direct-marketing efforts.
To succeed, you have to communicate. Be sure the technology you’re using is helping rather than hindering that objective by taking advantage of services that give you greater flexibility and mobility. They’re your best bet for keeping in touch with all the people you need to reach, at all the times you need to reach them.