At Do Hard Money, one of the most common questions I get from new investors is: what CRM is best for real estate? Customer relationship management, or CRM, tools seem to be all the rage across the internet, but I want to emphasize here that new investors can track their prospects without spending tons of money on CRM for real estate software.
In this article, I’ll explain how new investors should approach tracking their customers using my own experiences breaking into the real estate industry. Specifically, I’ll cover each of the following topics:
- What Is CRM?
- Best CRM for Real Estate
- How I Started my “CRM” Strategy
- CRM Advice for New Investors
- Final Thoughts
What Is CRM?
When people refer to CRM, they’re typically referring to the actual software programs used to handle relations with customers. But, CRM as a process can be summed up how a company – or individual – uses technology to organize and manage all interactions with customers and potential customers.
In simple terms, CRM is essentially a database that reminds you about customer interactions while also automating those interactions. This automation is meant to take the thought out of these tasks, allowing businesses to focus their time and effort on other value-adding processes.
In addition to organizing customers in a database, a CRM tool will generate drip reminders to current and potential customers, which are basically a series of regular “nudges” via text, e-mail, call, or mail to take some sort of action (e.g. log-in to a website, buy a product, sign-up for a service, etc).
For companies of a certain size, CRM becomes critical to effectively and efficiently handling interactions with customers and leads.
Is There The Best CRM for Real Estate?
If CRM is so important, what’s the best CRM for real estate?
Well, Well, the short answer is: it depends. I need to unpack that question. First, the above explains why CRM is so important for companies with a lot of customers and leads – not everyone (more on that below).
Second, for real estate specifically, the best CRM is going to come down to your specific niche. In other words, outstanding CRM for real estate agents may not also be the best CRM for realtors of a certain size.
Additionally, for investors, you can find free CRM for real estate. But, as with any free tool, understand that you may not receive the quality or scope in those free tools to justify using them, even if they are free.
Ultimately, the best CRM for real estate is going to come down to A) the particular work you do in the industry, and B) your individual preferences. Two real estate agents in the exact same market with the exact same number of customers may just simply prefer different software.
If you decide you absolutely need a CRM tool, test a few to figure out which one best supports your needs and preferences (most large providers allow free trial periods), such as Do Hard Money’s Investor’s Edge tool.
How I Started my Free “CRM” Strategy
But, I want to bring it back to the point of this article – explaining why new investors don’t need to spend a ton of time and money setting up a CRM program. As such, I’ll tell you how I tracked customers and, more importantly, leads when starting out as a real estate investor.
Preferring the feel of paper, I tracked leads with a bunch of 3×5 cards. Every time I received a new lead, I’d create a card for him or her. On each card, I’d include A) lead name, B) contact info, C) brief background on how I received the lead, and D) a record of each interaction.
With each lead, I’d make three attempts plus one “bonus” attempt. In other words, I’d reach out to each lead three times to see if they were interested in selling their house. And then, after these three exchanges, I’d make one final “bonus” attempt to see if they wanted to sell.
If, after this final attempt, the leads still weren’t interested in selling, I’d toss their cards in the trash.
I gained two important outcomes from this approach:
- First: I’d formalized a process for tracking and following up with leads, ensuring that potential sellers didn’t fall through the cracks.
- Second: I accomplished the above for the cost of a few packs of 3×5 cards and a pen – far more cost effective than spending hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars on a fancy CRM tool.
CRM Advice for New Investors
As a new investor, I can’t emphasize enough – you just don’t need to spend a ton of time and money with CRM technology. Instead of CRM, real estate investors should be focused on how to track leads.
And, if you prefer the advantages of technology, tracking leads doesn’t need to be done on 3×5 cards like I did when starting. Here are a few free and effective tools for lead tracking:
- Google Sheets: This is a free spreadsheet program provided by Google (think Microsoft Excel, but free). For investors who like the structure of a spreadsheet, this is a great option for tracking leads. Each row can be a lead, and you can create columns for contact info, background info, and each interaction. To discard a lead, you simply need to delete the row or highlight it in red.
- Google Docs: This is another free Google-based program that’s essentially the same as Microsoft Word. Some investors prefer the narrative flow of a document for tracking leads, so this is a great option for those sorts of people. Create and track leads using bulleted lists and add as much or as little narrative information under each lead sub-bullet as desired.
- A smartphone “notes” app: The ultimate simple, on-the-go lead tracking tool for a new investor is the free “notes” app that comes pre-loaded in your smartphone. Create a bulleted list template for new leads, and copy and paste that template as many times as necessary to begin filling out information on new leads. It’s cheap, it’s effective, and it’s always in your pocket.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but the intent is to provide you a few different ideas. What matters at the end of the day for new investors is that they have some established system for tracking leads.
Once you’ve completed a few deals and have a marketing campaign in full-swing, you can begin looking at investing in CRM tools. But, it takes money and a fair amount of up-front set-up time, so you need customers and lead volume to justify these investments.
I know the internet makes it seem like new investors absolutely need real estate CRM software, but this just isn’t the case. While valuable to investors who cross a certain volume threshold, CRM just isn’t worth the time and money for investors getting their feet wet in the industry.
What’s important for new investors is getting started and finding motivated sellers, so go out and knock on some doors!