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Get Organized and Computerized

Jane Paquin and Shirley Bee
Too busy to learn how to use the technology you need to work smarter? Follow Randy Eagar’s advice for a couple of do-it-yourselfers.

Shirley Bee and Jane Paquin were friends for a dozen years before they formed a sales team at Realty Executives Tri-County in The Villages a year ago. So it’s no surprise that their work styles and abilities are compatible. And they’re seldom at a loss for listings—at any given time they’re working with sellers on properties ranging from $135,000 to $1.5 million.
 
The only thing holding this would-be “dynamic duo” back, they say, is their poor technology skills. “We’ve been using the hunt-and-peck method,” jokes Bee. “We still use 4 x 6 [index] cards as our follow-up system, our notes to market our listings are usually handwritten and we’re woefully inept at putting together a database. It’s a time-consuming chore!”

They recently subscribed to thecontact management program Top Producer 7i (it includes the option to set up a template Web site), but haven’t used it. “We did an hour-and-a-half training session by phone, then ran out to our next appointment and that was the end of that,” says Bee.

“We’re hard workers, and we love what we do, but does it have to be this difficult?” adds Paquin.

Bring in the Expert
For guidance on what to do next (technology-wise) Bee and Paquin consulted with real estate tech trainer Randy Eagar. “All you have to do to be successful is the things that successful people do,” he says. Here’s his advice:

1. Set Up Contact Management
“A good contact management program is indispensable to success in real estate, and you’ve purchased one of the best in Top Producer,” says Eagar.

He suggests that Bee and Paquin take 30 minutes a day to eventually enter all their contacts into the program. As they do this, he wants them to specify the contact type (i.e., past client or customer, friend, family, neighbor, sphere of influence, etc.). “Attach as many types of contacts to each individual as you can,” he says, explaining that this will help their marketing efforts.

2. Make Use of Campaigns
After Bee and Paquin key in and categorize their contacts, Eagar wants them to input their current listing data. “Top Producer will dramatically help with your listing effectiveness,” he says. “If you use it properly, you’ll find that you can start setting up listing campaigns where you’ll input information and the program will remind you what to do each day. For example, input the date you list a property, and one day later, it will remind you to call the seller. Two days later, it will tell you to put up the For Sale sign and so forth. Top Producer comes with set lists, though, so you’ll need to personalize them for your market.”

For example, if they were to need a marketing campaign for new homes, one for vacant resales and one for luxury homes, they would market them very differently. “Attach a specific marketing campaign to the listing, and then it will automatically remind you to do the things you need to do for that listing,” says Eagar.

3. Track Sales
Next, Eagar suggest that the duo track their sales in Top Producer. “It will work the same way as it does for listings, except that where you have sales and marketing campaigns, you’ll have reminders about when to call the appraiser and so forth.”

If the two women use Top Producer for these three tasks alone (i.e., storing and categorizing contacts; generating listing campaigns; and tracking sales), Eagar says, the program will have paid for itself. [For a list of contact management programs, see box at left.]

4. Pick a Domain
Eagar says it’s fine for Bee and Paquin to set up their Web site through Top Producer. They haven’t decided on a Web address, though, so he directs them to GoDaddy.com (an online domain name registrar that will let them search for and buy available domain names). [For a list of online domain name registrars, see box at left.]

“Search for anything available with ‘The Villages’ and ‘real estate’ and buy it for your main Web site,” he says. “Obviously, TheVillagesRealEstate.com is taken, but you ought to try variations of that name, such as TheVillagesRealEstateOnline.com and TheVillageRealEstateHomes.com—the reason being that you’ll get found faster on the search engines by prospects looking for real estate in The Villages. Just go to GoDaddy.com and type in whatever you’d like, and it will give you options.”

Eagar says a sales associate’s name used as a Web address is an ineffective marketing tool, but it’s OK to use namesake sites as long as they are redirected to a main site that identifies the associate’s market area. To do this, Bee and Paquin will need to call their Web master and request a “303 Redirector.” “What that tells the search engine is that this is a permanent redirection,” says Eagar. “People can type in one thing (e.g., JanePaquin.com or ShirleyBee.com) and actually get redirected over to your main Web site. You don’t even need an actual Web site [for namesake sites]; domain names will suffice.”

5. Use Drip Marketing
Next, Eagar wants the duo to contact RealSharp Systems, a company that produces letter writing tools that integrate with Top Producer, and ask about setting up a drip marketing campaign. This will direct prospects (who search their site for properties) to a page that asks for permission to notify them when listings meeting their criteria are available. “It will say something like ‘Allow me to notify you when listings come on the market that are within your parameters,’” says Eagar. “And it will automatically send them an e-mail that’s personalized by you.”

Some drip campaigns will require the pair to follow up with information, says Eagar. If a prospective seller clicks on an information tab, for example, that individual would be redirected to a page on their site that says something like “If you’d like more information on selling your home, let us know and we’ll send you our newsletter with tips on selling your home.”

“The ideas are already there for you in Top Producer,” says Eagar.

6. Position Your Web Site
“[Sales associates] focus on building the best-looking site, but if you build a mall in the desert where nobody lives, what good is it?” Eagar asks.

To draw prospects to their site, he suggests that Bee and Paquin go to Google.com or another search engine and type in “Web site positioning” to find someone who can set up search engine optimization (SEO). “You pay a monthly fee to have somebody rewrite the source code so that when [a consumer] types in ‘The Villages Real Estate’ on the search engines, your site will come up at least in the top three,” he says. “Let’s say you’d like to buy the keyword phrase ‘The Villages Real Estate.’ You’ll set a budget of $300 per month, for example, but as soon as $300 worth of people have clicked on your Web site, you’ll drop back down in the search engines.
 
“Keep in mind, though, that people who build Web sites don’t necessarily know how to get you found and people who know how to get you found don’t necessarily build good Web sites.”

This column, designed to provide advice from industry experts to real estate professionals who need help with technology, business or marketing issues, won the Bronze Award in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.

Before:
  • At a standstill, technology-wise.
After:
  • Contact management; Web site enhanced with drip marketing and search engine optimization.

Contact Management Software
  1. ACT! For Real Estate, Sage Software—$469.99, (866) 894-0006; www.act.com
  2. AgentOffice, Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions—$329, (800) 996-6547; www.realestate.fnf.com
  3. Top Producer 7i, Top Producer Systems Inc.—from $37.95 monthly, (800) 444-8570; www.topproducer.com
Online Domain Registrars
  1. 000Domains.com—from $13.50 yearly, (360) 449-5988; www.000domains.com
  2. GoDaddy—from $8.95 yearly, (480) 505-8877; www.godaddy.com
  3. Network Solutions—from $19.99 yearly, (888) 642-9675; www.networksolutions.com

Meet the Expert
Randy Eagar, Realtor® and CRS, is an active real estate practitioner and president of Computer Camp, a training center in Salt Lake City. Heis the author of multiple CRS technology courses and a senior instructor for the Residential Sales Council. Visit his Web site at www.computercamp.net.