Mobile CRM for CRE

CREOutsider Mobile CRM for CREOn December 5, Ascendix is holding a webinar on mobile CRM for CRE.  The focus is on exploring how commercial agents and brokerages use mobile devices and specifically, what they want out of a mobile CRM app.  I suspect there will be as many responses as there are agents and brokerages.

There are basic differences between what agents and brokerages want in a CRM application. Some brokerages provide CRM applications for agents but plenty of agents – especially those that have been around before the company systems – still keep their own CRM apps. There is a lot of information that can be gleaned from keeping CRM data in one place, though – even if, in the end, it’s the agent who owns the relationship.  So brokerages want as much data as they can get.

As for what agents want, I came across a 3 year old post at Bigger Pockets begging for a decent CRM system.  It could have been written yesterday because the issues are still the same:

  • Smart capture technology fully integrated within your website and social media outlets whereby, if you get a lead from ANYWHERE, it automatically gets filed, categorized, and followed up with by the system.
  • Comprehensive usability on your desktop, laptop, and mobile phone… online or offline.
  • Reminders and task management send to agents through their preferred media.  Want your CRM to text message you about your next appointment?  Done.  Want it to sync with Gmail or Outlook?  Want an all-in-one system where you can go to one place and do all of your business, paperwork, prospecting, and marketing?  Done.
  • Complete brokerage solutions by managing showings and feedback, accounting and payables, and keeping close tabs on your Realtors’ ability to convert leads into sales.
  • Cool tools.  I want to be able to embed videos in my email marketing campaigns.  I want my clients to be able to login to my system and see all of our upcoming appointments, favorite listings, and be able to use it, on their phone.  I want a complete tracking system that tells me when my prospects read my email, what links they clicked on, and keep notes on when they responded.  I want to know intimate details of my clients’ lives and be able to recall them with one touch on my phone.

Whether its for an agent or a brokerage system, the CRM app has to simple to use, designed to minimize data entry errors and have just enough features and customization tools to make it worthwhile.

Even if there was a perfect CRM system, you have to deal with “legacy” issues.  Agents with archaic or self devised CRM systems are loathe to give up a process they’re familiar with.  There’s also real concern for what happens to their “old stuff.”  I can’t tell you how many agents won’t consider something more efficient because they’re afraid of losing data.  And what they have, they say, works.  But it doesn’t really, because they’re always complaining about it.

It doesn’t help that the two most commonly used CRM apps, Act! and Microsoft (Outlook) have totally botched the mobile/synching piece.  Or that they’ve locked user data up in a way that makes it very expensive if not impossible to migrate to another system.  Or, as in Outlook’s case, there’s no integration with email marketing.

But back to Ascendix’s webinar.  One of the things they’re interested in is what CRM features agents want to do with their mobile devices.  Is having contacts and calendars on a cell phone enough or do agents want access to documents or marketing tools?  Are tablets so pervasive that “fat finger” features only make sense on those platforms?  And since LoopNet and CoStar apps are only for Apple, is that the CRE operating system of choice?  (As an aside, most agents I know have Android phones…).

I know I am looking forward to hearing what agents, brokerages and CRE marketing people have to say.  And if you’d like to listen in or be part of the conversation, you can sign up here.


Photo by Yutaka Tsutano


  1. Joshua says

    The problem is a good, simple, lightweight CRM app isn’t that difficult to obtain or build. It’s all the CRE specific bullshit people want built on top of it. CRM needs to be simply CRM.

    RealHound & REA seem to be the best that have been around. But they are unweildy thanks to all the bs layers added on top year after year. If you look at it as the ability to store properties linked to investors and it can give you the reminders & notes you need to make your calls & be more effective that is all the system should be. If you want a module to handle your marketing continuum or the transaction lifecycle then that is not CRM. Those are project management applications.

    Also, offline & online are incongruous. Everything should be online at this point in time. Of course, google has done some great stuff with offline apps and changes syncing when you are online. That’s a great idea to solve the problem, but in reality your system should be in the cloud & exportable/importable.

    I know there are some other CRE specific CRM/transaction apps available, but I never remember the names of them since I have never used them. The reality is that you CRM should be CRM and transaction mgmt should be transaction mgmt. Smashing it all together with pipeline visualisations and a bunch of CRE specific beels & whistles just makes it unusable cause its bloat that no one uses.

    Lately, I have been thinking about how to logically setup and utilize asana as a task & project mgmt utility. I think they have a really simple, usable idea but it’s so clean & sparse you really have to put logic in to play before setting up your continuum so it’s reusable. I think it’s really hitting the nail on the head though once I get a better hang of it.

    • Chris Clark says

      I agree that marketing is not CRM per se, but it’s related. Not that they’d actually use it, but integrating marketing (not just email marketing but social and lead gen sites) would actually be useful – but the most helpful piece of that would be LoopNet leads which isn’t likely to happen.

      As an aside, people shouldn’t rely just on the cloud only – need to have a physical backup. This will probably sound paranoid (though that is part of my job…) but a recent case where a cloud provider was shut down by the government left all the users without access to their files. The government is arguing that once someone stores something in the cloud, then they lose their property rights. And, since they don’t have any rights, they don’t get their data! Let’s hope the courts don’t agree with them on that.

      Will have to look into Asana…

      • Joshua says

        Yeah, those cases are pretty ridiculous. I’m fairly certain that ToS of cloud providers located inside the US wouldn’t let that BS argument fly.

        Yes, you should have the hard drive, local NAS, and cloud for security purposes. I agree there. My point is more to syncing/editing of CRM data. I can edit a contact in Apple Contacts, it syncs to google apps, which syncs to my phone. My physical drive is synced to a local nas backup. Multiple locations for the data and ways to edit it. That’s ideal. But with CRM access “anywhere” it needs to be thought of as living in the cloud, even if you edit it on your phone or desktop. That is the primary location/data set. It’s propogated elsewhere.

        • says

          Joshua, I agree with you that CRM data should be accessible anywhere. In ClientLook we accomplished that by implementing Google Sync. It does exactly as you described by keeping mobile devices and the cloud-based contacts and calendar in sync. One of the big advantages of the cloud is the capability for this sort of architecture. The great thing is that it’s so simple. Set it up once and forget about it.

        • Chris Clark says

          The syncing is really painful for most agents. Depending on what you use, you can only sync some things but not others with Google. I always recommend CompanionLink which syncs anything/everything. And now they have an over the air service – pretty cheap, too. I use it myself for Outlook between my Kindle, iPhone and iPad. Handheld Contacts is also good alternative for Act! users. But most agents don’t want to pay! So they fumble around with Google Sync and can’t get it to work!! Pay the $$ – or use something like ClientLook!

          That case involved a US provider…with standard agreements. The government was lazy/messed up and they’re trying to cover their tracks/liability now. But sneaking in the giving up property rights was low. That’s the real issue if the courts agree.

          • says

            I used/marketed all the desktop syncing tools for years when I sold an ACT-based solution. From what I hear, the problems we had back then (dupes, corruption, hassle, etc) are still evident today. It’s the same old thing.

            To me, the problem what that whole scenario is simply that these tools are trying to sync a desktop program to the cloud. That’s strewn with problems. In my experience moving to the cloud makes syncing a breeze. Google Sync works flawlessly for us, for example, since we’re syncing a cloud database to a cloud database. Plus, it’s free.

            Want to solve your desktop sync problems? It’s easy. Get off the desktop.

          • Joshua says

            The real solution to the issue, which is why Google works so well now, is that instead of going from proprietary databases (or data files) that some company tried to sync from Palm to Outlook to …, etc, etc is that we now have standardized protocols.

            Google utilizes calDav and cardDav now to make syncing much less painless than it was even 24 months ago. Even 24 months ago Google sync was a necessary evil to sync Outlook or Apple Mac’s contact apps. Now, the standardized protocol is used by Google and the desktop programs have/are updated/updating to utilize it and make everything native & painless.

  2. says

    I agree with Joshua, that most CRMs have the basics. But, life gets complicated when you want to layer in custom real estate functionality. A lot of our advisors are using ClientLook. Some do use it as a project management tool (using listings, i.e. properties, as projects where they can add their team and create real time reports to send to clients). Others like its new virtual admin feature. Call in and leave a message from the road and it create tasks, adds short project reports, and even syncs with your calendar, etc. (if you use google apps like we do). I think this is a good balance.

    However, going forward, the one thing CRM tools have to do is interconnect with various platforms. An all-in-one solution is never going to work as it’ll be outdated and expensive to maintain before you know it. Internally for corporate data, because we have so much legal compliance as a franchise, we use ZOHO CRM because it is customizable, connects with google apps and we can even integrate other software we’ll be using on our new website like formstack (via a 3rd party app like itDuzzit).

    • Chris Clark says

      I like that idea – a la carte CRM. And ZOHO is as close at it gets. I always wondered why they don’t get the exposure that Google Docs does…

    • says

      Diane- It’s a delicate balance. When we built Apto originally it was for our own brokerage business…and for a variety of reasons- mobility, flexibility (lacking with REA and Realhound), and the a la carte piece that Chris mentioned. The challenge as it continues to evolve is making it robust and comprehensive while also easy to use.

      We decided on partnering with salesforce because of it’s enterprise level ability if it’s needed and the ability to scale down if it’s not. We can make the CRM that Joshua described in the initial response with about five minutes of customization or turn it into a all-in-one platform too. And the cool thing when you’re going for the a la carte/all-in-one CRE CRM is leveraging apto and salesforce’s appexchange. We’ve got customers using mapping and analytics, packaging, advanced duplication prevention, mass email, and other apps all developed by industry specialists. There are recognizable apps like docusign, constant contact, mailchimp, linkedin, dropbox, to name a few.

      Truth of it is we would have had a very difficult time providing a fraction of the technology that we now leverage. Early on in our design we had grand visions for developing mapping analytics as an example. Why? Geopointe has already done it. It integrates easily and is a dynamite product. They’re industry specialists and are focused on making the best mapping platform out there. We’re focused on CRE. Ultimately, nearly half our customers use it because of those reasons.

      Kinda like an iphone…install what you need and avoid the bloat. But again, the balance of providing both a simple and enterprise-level product is a daily challenge.

  3. says

    I’ve been involved with CRM in the CRE industry for more than 15 years. I really like where things are headed. In my opinion it’s all about simplicity, which is our guiding design philosophy at ClientLook. SVN is a great example of a company that’s doing it right technology-wise.

    By the way we gave a webinar a couple of weeks ago that focused on running your business from an iPad. Mobile CRM was one of the discussion points, and it reinforces a lot of Chris’ points above. See