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Your Email Program Is Not a CRM!

April 04 2012

First things first – CRM stands for “customer relationship management.” While the term can be used to refer to a general concept, we use it to describe software specifically. CRM software is used to organize all of the information related to customers (or other contacts) as well as automate many tasks related to marketing and customer service. It is a sales tool that will keep you well organized and support your ability to plan and track your success.

I was chatting with my friend, Brandon Wise of Wise Agent the other day and he said something that really caught my attention. “I can’t tell you how many people are using Microsoft Outlook and believe that it is a CRM,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by that my Wise Agent team doesn’t move someone over from the Outlook system because it has come back to bite them.”

Now, I’ve said it before, but clearly it’s not getting through so I’ll say it again: Outlook (or Mac Mail) is not a CRM! At the most basic level, this is because email programs like Outlook focus on just that – email! What happens when communication with that customer jumps out of the inbox and onto the phone, into the physical mailbox, or otherwise into the “real world?” I’ll tell you what – mail programs become blind to any non-email activity, prohibiting you from tracking important touch points. They also can’t help with marketing the way that a true CRM can.

But wait – there’s more! Let’s break this down list-style . . .

  1. Outlook is good for sending one email to one recipient. If you’re trying to send an email to multiple recipients, you’re forced to cc or bcc everyone – neither of which is an ideal solution.
  2. Outlook does not allow you to leave date and time-stamped notes about important customer interactions. So, when your communication occurs anywhere except via email, you have no record of it.
  3. You cannot attach documents to contacts in Outlook. Any documents sent to you through that program are saved to your computer and only accessible from that computer.
  4. Outlook provides zero support for marketing. These days, a true CRM provides a robust array of marketing tools and resources.
  5. Because Outlook is limited to email, most real estate professionals resort to purchasing a variety of other programs to “fill in the blanks.” This can lead to a very disorganized and time-draining process as none of these other products “talks” to the others.
  6. Outlook is, generally, industry-neutral. There are a few “plug-ins” for Outlook that are geared for real estate, but most experts consider these to be relatively weak. By choosing one of the CRM solutions that was created specifically with REALTORS® in mind, you’re guaranteeing better support and more advanced features.

If you’d like to learn more about your CRM options, visit our product directory. Wise Agent (mentioned above) is an excellent example of a CRM designed for REALTORS® - to find out more, we recommend our product review and Friday Freebie. Other examples include Top Producer, Growth Leader from Market Leader, MLS-Office, and Tribus.

A Note on “Internet-Based” CRMs
Unless you’re using Microsoft Exchange, Outlook is NOT Internet-based. (Don’t know what Microsoft Exchange is? Don’t worry; you don’t need to.) This means that you only have access to it when you’re on your own personal computer. This is one reason (of several) that it is not great for the team environment of most real estate offices.

Another reason an Internet-based CRM is a good idea: even though they know they need to, most people do not back-up the data on their computers. If Outlook lives solely on your computer, if it crashes and you haven’t backed-up, you may have just lost all your data. Many real estate CRMs (but not all) are Internet-based, so your data is stored off your hard drive and is safe (as well as accessible anywhere).