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3 Must-Have Tools for 2016

There are plenty of general business tools out there that agents have been able to adapt to work for real estate. Social media app HootSuite, for example, works the same whether you're in our industry or any other; MightyText is just as useful to agents as it is to any other type of salesperson.

However, sometimes agents need tools that are specific to real estate, especially when it comes to generating and managing leads. After all, real estate has the longest sales cycle of any industry–buyers expect to stay in their home an average of 14 years, according to NARNAR–and this presents a host of challenges, including how to engage prospects long-term.

Today, we're eschewing the "general" apps and focusing on tools that are built specifically with needs of real estate professionals in mind. Each of these tools engages with prospects at a critical point in the home buying process, and all feature some level of automation so that agents can actively focus on what they do best–selling homes.

1. Social Media Management: CityBlast

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CityBlastCityBlast is the only tool on our list that generates leads from your entire sphere regardless of whether they're involved in a transaction, rather than focusing solely on consumers who are already searching for homes.

That's because CityBlast engages consumers right within the space they already inhabit every day–social media. The company's experts post to agents' Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts on their behalf, with fully customized updates and a tone that is relevant to their sphere's interests and not just promotional.

"Social media should be treated as though it were a social event," former top-producing Realtor and CityBlast co-founder Shaun Nilsson advises. "Act as you would at a party where you want everyone to like you. You wouldn't walk up to a stranger, hand them a business card and brag about being the top agent in your area, and that's not the way to generate leads in social media either."

That's the mindset that CityBlast's team of social media experts uses to build, improve, and maintain your social media presence. Consistent and relevant social media posts build trust, generate leads, and keep you top-of-mind for when consumers are ready to hire an agent.

What's even better? They're currently running a promotion offering a free, 2-week demo, and 30% lifetime discount on their service at www.cityblast.comwww.cityblast.com when you sign-up using promo code BIG2016.

2. Website Lead Management: ReadyChat

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Agent websites are notorious for their unimpressive lead generation rates. It's no wonder; to capture a lead, website visitors typically either have to either fill out a contact form or register for your IDX site–actions that only the most determined of customers are likely to take.

Enter ReadyChatReadyChat. ReadyChat is a live chat window that engages consumers within seconds of them visiting your website. The company's operators are trained to answer real estate questions and assist your visitors in searching for properties on your site. Because ReadyChat starts a conversation with prospects right from the get-go, consumers are more engaged and more likely to stick around. More importantly, they're also more likely to offer up their contact information–ReadyChat operators are trained to guide the conversation toward conversion.

Once a chat session is finished, the company sends the lead's contact information and the chat transcript to the agent so that you know what was talked about and the type of properties searched for. That means agents can go into that first follow-up already knowing that the lead is looking for, say, 3-bedroom houses around $300,000 in X neighborhood.

ReadyChat can be branded to any website and it integrates with most real estate CRMs so that you can easily add leads directly to your database. The solution also works with Google Analytics and the company sends detailed usage and lead metrics every week. You can learn more at www.readychat.comwww.readychat.com.

3. Curbside Lead Management: VoicePad

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So far, we've introduced you to solutions that engage online leads–but what about offline leads? Believe it or not, the stalwart yard sign is still a viable source of leads–with a few modern tweaks, courtesy of VoicePad.

VoicePad lets passersby learn more about a property by calling or texting an automated number displayed on a sign rider. Callers can listen to a recorded voice presentation about your listing, while texters are sent a link to a mobile property website with in-depth property information. If you'd prefer that callers speak with a live person on your team, VoicePad offers a simultaneous ring option. All communications are available in English and Spanish, a great option for agents who serve bilingual markets.

What makes VoicePad a potent lead generator is that the moment someone calls or texts, their phone number (and name, if available) is recorded in VoicePad's system so that agents can easily follow up. That information can also be used to track their activities on VoicePad's mobile website. As with ReadyChat, this means that agents can go into that first call already knowing what kind of properties the prospect is searching for. You can learn more at voicepad.com/agents/voicepad.com/agents/.

Wrapping Up

With any solution, you only get as much as you put in. While, yes, these are all automated solutions, once that lead comes in, the ball's in your court. If you're using CityBlast, that means responding to the comments their automated posts inspire. If you leverage ReadyChat or VoicePad, that means responding to those leads in a timely fashion. Remember, you can use all the right tools, but it's your commitment to customer service that truly seals the deal.