Periodically I receive promotional emails offering me hundreds of thousands of email addresses for marketing purposes for very little money. Around 10 years ago, naively, I purchased one of these lists. I then used one of the popular blast-email services to send out these emails. These companies have very strict rules about using valid email addresses. They ask you where you received the email addresses from and if you have permission to email these people.
Did they opt in? They want to make sure that you are not a spammer. Typically, they get annoyed if more than 2% of your list is invalid. Naturally, around 95% of that list was bogus. They suspended my account, blacklisted me, and my email address was labeled as spam. It took a while to get things back to normal. Lesson learned. If it sounds to good to be true, it is.
How Valuable Is Your Client List – Challenges in Obtaining a Valid Email List
It is tough for professional marketing people to get a valid email list. They know that if they don’t have proper addresses, they will be labeled as a spammer and possibly get suspended by their carrier. Not to mention the lost time in generating business. Getting proper data is costly. Some larger companies have sizable budgets to get proper email lists.
The Dangers of Professional Spammers
And then there are the professional spammers. Some of these are questionable companies that are either trying to capture your email address or steal your identity. They will go to extremes to get your data. You read about big companies or a bank’s system getting hacked. Millions of their client’s data is breached. What does the hacker do with that data? They want to contact these people to sell them goods or services. It’s all about the Benjamins!
Misconceptions about Computer Viruses
Some people think that a computer virus is trying to break your computer. Quite the opposite, they want your machine to work properly. They are trying to access your client list which resides on your hard drive. Once again, they are trying to get good data to sell their product or service.
The Importance of a Reliable CRM for Realtors
As a real estate agent, you work very hard to cultivate a book of business. If you stay in touch with a client, they will be yours for 20+ years. And the number of referrals is huge. A well-organized Realtor will store their client list in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program. The better CRMs will have automated functions that will keep in touch with clients regularly. This is how an agent grows their business.
Choosing the Right CRM: Simplicity and Ownership
The trick is using a proper CRM that is easy to use and that will not resell your customer database to marketers. Computer programmers are enamored with creating new features that people will either not use (or need) or can’t figure out how to use. It is as if they are creating a product for other computer programmers. They forget the end-user—the non-tech person. The policy with our company, DPI Showcase Web Sites, is to create simple-to-use software. Designed for the average person, we automate as much as possible so the non-techy doesn’t have to spend hours getting frustrated.
Considerations in CRM Ownership
The next thing to look out for is who owns the CRM. Who is behind the curtain? If a large company owns it, there is a possibility that they are selling your data to other marketing companies. I read one article about a large CRM company that is owned by a Chinese company. Once again, good data is worth a lot of money, and if they have millions of clients in their system, that can be sold for a large sum.
Independence and Protection of Client Data
Some real estate agents will use the CRM provided to them by their broker. They assume it is free when their broker is probably charging them a technology fee. Once again, there is the possibility that the broker has access to their client list. Or if the agent changes to another broker, what happens to their CRM and all the leads in it? Does it go to the broker? Likewise with your email address. Does that get forwarded to your broker too?
Realtors should always remember that they are an independent agent working under their broker. They have their own bank account and file their own taxes. Their client list should be treated no differently. It needs to be protected. A real estate agent should have their own cell phone number, email address, website, and CRM. This way if they change brokers, it all goes with them.
Remember, you work hard to grow your business. Your client list is your most valued asset. You must protect it and your clients. Make sure no one steals your clients or starts offering them other products or services.
Mark Weithorn is the Founder & CEO of DPI Showcase Web Sites, a 19-year-old tech company that provides websites and CRMs designed for brokers and real estate agents.