Today, data is the equivalent of small nuggets of gold. Ignore the importance of your contact data, and you’ll be scratching your head, wondering why your real estate competitors are better at prospecting and continually beat you to the listing.
Savvy real estate professionals understand the value of their contact lists and place great value on keeping their CRM data clean. You should be gathering homeowner contact details on a continual basis and mining your database for certain behaviours, i.e. those gold nuggets of information that tell you that someone is getting ready to transact. Notice that I say ‘getting ready’, as you need to contact a prospect months before they are ready to list their property for sale or lease.
Here’s how to grow and maintain a first-class contact list for your real estate business.
Give me your data or your life
When it comes to data, property professionals are amongst the luckiest. While many businesses struggle to get customers to hand over their personal details, most people are willing to give their phone and email addresses to real estate agents to inspect properties, receive price guides, download property market reports, book appraisals, and so forth.
Protecting your prospects
Make sure you hold a copy of your contacts in your own database, or else you could end up losing your data each time you join or leave a real estate agency. There are lots of great real estate CRMs that you can purchase on a paid subscription. But, if you are starting out and your contact list has less than 500 people on it, there are free contact relationship management databases that will allow you to email your lists twice a month at no cost, examples being Hubspot and Mailchimp.
The benefit of a CRM system
The beauty of contact and relationship management (CRM) software is it helps you personalise communications, target prospects at key stages in their selling or leasing cycle, forge trust and strong relationships, and generate leads.
TIP: For example, if you tracked when each rental property in your market was last leased, there’s a good chance you could guess when the tenant’s contract expires (such as one year later). You could set up email campaigns to target the landlord with reminders to have a rental market review (to understand better what rent they should be charging in the current market). Using your CRM, you can be more proactive than the landlord’s current property manager, which might sway the landlord across to your real estate agency.
Tips for refining and polishing your data
The most successful real estate agents know how to mine their data for gold and are using their contact lists and CRM to gain listings. However, like any gem, data needs to be refined and polished to truly shine, so here are my top tips on how to keep your data clean so it can generate revenue for your business.
1. Centralise your data
There are a plethora of software applications that collect or manage contact data within a real estate business which is fantastic, but unless you actively sync or port your data between your databases the information remains fragmented, and your ability to use it to generate new business can be hard.
Real estate businesses have spreadsheets, email marketing systems, text messaging systems, open house registrations, auto-response systems, and auto appraisal generators.
- Invest in a quality real estate CRM.
- Check your CRM integrates with and can sync data from the other software tools you’ll be using in your real estate business.
My team and I get to use many different CRMs whilst supporting our clients with marketing solutions. Popular choices with our clients seem to be Agentbox, Rex, ActivePipe and the CRMs from MRI (VaultRE, Eagle Software, Box+Dice and Property Suite).
TIP: If you are a larger real estate team or agency, you might want to appoint a member of staff as your database administrator and give them the responsibility for ensuring your data is synced to a central database, alongside regular housekeeping and data cleansing tasks to complete on a regular basis. You might also want to incentivise agents to keep their contacts in your database current.
2. Audit your data, regularly
Nothing is more off-putting to a prospect than continuously receiving messages with a typo in their name, so set up processes in your business that focus on data quality, identifying inaccuracies and incomplete entries.
If you haven’t done it for a while, data cleaning is probably going to take a bit of time. The best approach is to set aside some time each week to cast your eye over all the new contacts from the past seven days.
TIP: Give the task to a data specialist who can clean up your data for you. Your time is money, and many offshore staff can help in this regard. Be careful who you choose – a real estate specialist data agency may sell your data to the portals or other 3rd parties. An agnostic data cleansing agency or individual freelancer is less likely to do this.
- The perfect four: Regularly review the contact records you have to ensure at a baseline you have a person’s first name, surname, email and mobile number. Make it your mission to fill in missing fields so that you have the complete set. This information is extremely important to your email campaigns, social media connections and paid advertising, so make this data mandatory when updating records.
- Use the reports feature: To help with auditing your contacts, you will find the reports feature of a CRM invaluable. It will enable you to generate reports that filter your contacts by missing fields. For example, you can run a report that contains contacts that don’t have an email address or are missing a mobile number.
- Quick fixes: There may be some instances where you can easily work out a missing contact field, i.e. if you have an email address but no surname, often the email will include the name. For example, there is a pretty high chance that the surname of a person with this email address email@example.com is Smith. For other empty data fields, If you can’t work them out, then you can either proactively contact the person or leave a note for the next person who contacts them to ask the questions.
- Check for duplicates: Duplicate entries may mean that the same contact is receiving your marketing messages multiple times, which is not ideal. Delete or merge duplicate records. Pay attention to variations in the spelling of names to ensure that the correct information is kept.
TIP: The best CRMs don’t let you have duplicate email addresses or phone numbers in your system. They won’t allow you to create or upload duplicates in the first instance, and they encourage you to merge contact with multiple email addresses or phone numbers into a single record. This feature should be high on your wish list when choosing a CRM.
3. Train staff on data capture protocols
Consistency is the key to keeping your contact data up to date. Ensure that everyone on your team understands the importance of data and make it best practice in your business to check and update contact records regularly.
With everyone working toward the same end goal, you’ll be able to streamline your communications and send relevant messages and offers to contacts, which will ultimately lead to more successful interactions, leads and conversions.
- Clean data whilst doing callbacks: A great time to clean your data is when you do your open home callbacks or call homeowners about your recent sales. If you notice that a contact’s name is misspelled, fix it on the spot. You can also confirm the email address is correct whilst talking to the person on the phone (saving yourself email bounces). And, if a phone number doesn’t connect because a wrong number was given, you can delete that number straight away (saving yourself text message failures).
- Add a contacts’ properties: Make sure you capture the address and year they purchased the properties they own as well as whether that property is their place of residence or an investment (which could include residential, commercial or holiday homes). Property records should exist separately from the contact record. You can also work the other way, then, making sure you know the owner of each property in your neighbourhood. Over time you will become the expert in the property and have known all of its owners over the years.
- Add the property purchase date: The reason is that Australians hold their homes for around 10 years, and New Zealanders hold their homes for around 8 years. By storing the last sold date in your CRM, you can generate a report of homes that were, for example, purchased six and seven years ago and make it your mission to check in with the homeowners to see if they are contemplating selling in the next year or so.
- Keep conversation notes: Prospects will often pass on some information about current circumstances during calls. E.g. Mavis tells you her husband, John, recently passed away, so update the records so they have Mavis’s name alone. The same applies to divorced couples; there is nothing worse than receiving communications with a past partner’s name. You might also want to capture the names of their children, grandkids, pets, or their current vocation so that you can ask how everyone or everything is going, showing a genuine interest in the person.
- Know your data privacy obligations: Privacy laws are another challenge; knowing the law, what you can and can’t store, and how you can or can’t use someone’s data is important too. Ensure you get permission to add them to your mailing lists; at minimum, always send emails with an unsubscribe link.
Make time for your data and reap the rewards
Remember that keeping your contact data up-to-date is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. There are CRM systems that use a contact’s activities and behaviours to categorise them and identify when a prospect might be contemplating selling, leasing, buying or renting a home, and I will explore that in my next article.
It’s important to revisit my tips regularly. You could share this article with your staff or use this information in one of your weekly team meetings and discuss best practices with all staff. Ultimately, having everyone in your business help keep your CRM data up-to-date will ensure that your data remains a valuable asset for your business, helping you generate leads for years to come.
If you’d like professional help with your contact management and marketing communications, do not hesitate to book time for your free 1-hour review with me, Melanie Hoole, to discuss your business.
Other articles in this series include