I get asked by REALTORS® on a weekly basis if Microsoft Outlook and a real estate customer relationship management (CRM) system are comparable. Without any hesitation, my answer is always a resounding “No.” At the end of the day, Outlook has many shortcomings as a true real estate CRM.
It’s simply missing key features agents need to maximize their success in running their business. At its core, a CRM is truly a relationship-building tool; a system that helps its users forge lasting relationships with their contacts and build a business based on referrals and repeat client transactions.
With Outlook, you can’t categorize, group, and filter contacts. You can’t pull up all of your new clients or everyone who’s interested in ABC Developments, for instance.
Not only is this very easy with a good real estate CRM, it’s also a breeze to search your real estate database based on the date someone was added to your contact list, when you’ve logged a call with them, the last time you’ve represented them in a transaction, and more. You can even search and filter your database based on how contacts heard about you (from an open house, Zillow or Trulia, or a print advertisement, for example). In the end, it’s much, much easier to organize your contacts with a CRM system.
Outlook doesn’t have a comprehensive library of real estate specific email and letter templates, including Just Listed/ Just Sold e-Cards and e-Flyers. In a matter of minutes, you can choose an email you like from a template library, customize it, and then send personalized mail merge emails to a select group of people (or your entire database). Remember, Outlook can’t handle distribution lists beyond 50-100 people.
If you want to get into email marketing but aren’t great at writing compelling marketing emails, the library of templates included with a real estate CRM system comes in extremely helpful.
You can also create drip campaigns with a CRM (either create your own or choose from pre-designed campaigns). To learn more, check out this article on drip marketing.
What’s great about email marketing is that you can track who’s opening, reading, and clicking on the links in the emails you send out. This capability can be found in the best CRM systems on the market. And in terms of email deliverability, Outlook isn’t nearly as reliable as a good CRM that utilizes a dedicated email service provider (ESP).
With a CRM, you can also send out a professionally designed and written monthly e-Newsletter. You can schedule this newsletter to be sent out automatically every month. It’s a great way to keep in touch with clients and prospects without a big time commitment on your end.
Unlike Microsoft Outlook, a CRM has powerful tools for you to manage your transactions. So if you’re looking for a system that’ll help you manage and organize your entire business, Outlook really isn’t the answer. And managing transactions is a very important part of staying organized, proactive, and on top of things.
With a real estate CRM you can manage your showings, third parties such as mortgage brokers and attorneys, commissions, transaction documents, run service reports, and more. One of the best features a CRM has are listing and closing Activity Plans. These are pre-designed plans that help you manage all the steps throughout the listing and closing process, making sure no detail falls through the cracks.
Whereas Outlook requires being at your computer in order to access it, a CRM can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection. Because Realtors are constantly on the road, this makes Outlook less than ideal. The best CRMs are compatible with tablets like the iPad. And, they’ll sync wirelessly and automatically with the built-in address book and calendar on your smartphone which means it’s a snap to pull up contact details and make appointments on the road.
Outlook is capable of perhaps 20 percent of what a CRM can do. So if you want to maximize your lead to client ratio, build lifelong relationships with your real estate database, and get as many referrals as you can, a CRM is a necessity. The bottom line is that Outlook just doesn’t cut it.
Want to read more insider-perspective posts on CRM best practices and platforms? Check out our CRM resource center for additional content such as product reviews and implementation tips. Or browse our entire archive of tips and advice from software industry experts by visiting the Industry Insights section of the Business-Software.com blog.