Comment on: Putting the Puzzle together – CRM with Tina
Thank you Amy and Tina for your kind invitation!
Question: "Changing habits is a hard thing to do.. do something at least 21 times before it becomes a habit... Tina wanted to understand how the whole product worked right out of the box"
Answer: "21 times" was driven into my head when I travelled with Tom Hopkins as a youngster. I mention this because that experience, as well as developing custom research and clinical trials software for Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, contributed to my understanding of software interfaces in the context of sales and medicine. Both are intensely human while benefiting greatly from a software tool. For me, it comes down to: how much is the tool facilitating the central human component of the interaction versus it being a distraction. The concept of "quick response" might be one way to understand it.
Answer: Medicine also taught me about human protocols. Not unlike Gary Keller's, or Michael Gerber's methods, human protocols are answering the "how we do things here" question; fundamental to a successful real estate business. The inimitable Russell Shaw has a system. The inimitable Russell Shaw also is successful at the business of real estate.
Developing (and adhering to) important business protocols is a matter of bending or adapting yourself to a system (rather than the impossible converse). Certainly worthwhile and necessary and I'm glad you brought it up because I agree with you. I might find, however, some disagreement with you on your characterization of Tina's desire to "understand how the whole product worked right out of the box" because good software should strive for that. I know, the complexity of the task at hand is a factor, but please tell Tina I'm with her.
Question: A product needs to be intuitive... training is required...
We have DLRM Syndrome! (Don’t Like Reading Manual)
Answer: A good interface should be simple, predictable and employ forgiveness to be intuitive. Of course, standards of intuitiveness are typically higher for consumer software than for high-level commercial/industrial software so extensive training can be de rigueur.
If one considers the professional/non-professional background mix for real estate practitioners, real estate software seems more consumer in nature to the larger industry population. That's why you see so many attempt to run and grow a real estate business using the free tools that come with their computer. These simple address book and calendar apps are designed for hair appointments, soccer practices and grocery lists, not a business. There is simply too much mass customization requirements in conducting a successful real estate business for consumer software to accommodate. Now, there are conduits and syncing mechanisms available to interoperate with consumer apps, but in my judgement, it's a cost/benefit analysis to the specific practitioner/team.
The better approach is ours. One holistic system that is multi-platform accessible. It means you make a decision determining a permanent location for your business data then access it (using established interoperability standards, i.e XML, PHP, ODBC) from any of the devices and platforms you adopt.
Let me de-geekify that for you: you serve your database from your home and access it remotely. Cool because it cuts out a middle man and a middle step. You don't need to pay for an additional monthly service to store your data on a vendor's servers and you don't need to perform any syncing - you're accessing your data live and in real-time. And, it's no more difficult that logging into a commercial web site.
Assuming you have internet access, real-time access beats syncing hands-down. Moving data around between multiple devices through syncing is inherently complex and is typically restricted to simple, personal data-sets and not larger-scale business data-sets. Syncing is an answer to slow, non-existent or too-expensive connectivity. Real-time access is simpler and facilitated by fast, ubiquitous connectivity.
Our take on training and documentation/manuals? We provide documentation in written, step-by-step and video formats. We offer free training because learning a little bit of REST means you can do just about anything in REST because it is intuitive.
Question: Works with Outlook would be better... if you use a hosted Exchange account your Outlook is now web based
Answer: Loren Nason is smart and right. This is exactly the kind of architecture I'm referring to, although, as stated, without the syncing part. While investing in a private Exchange server has always been an option (and better from a control standpoint), vendor-hosted exchange accounts do afford ubiquitous access. The down side of using Exchange is lack of industry customization. Another reason some seek to use the free apps that come with computers for their real estate business arises from having a background working at a corporation that has an IT department. Full-time company-specific customization capability is something all large companies have. If someone provides real estate specific hosted Exchange accounts that could be an interesting option.
That being said, there are many easy ways to get data in and out of Outlook and some REST customers do this all the time. Most however, find that the ease and certainty of having their entire, primary data-set housed in REST affords them the most, actual, business leverage from their work, proprietary knowledge and data assets.
Now to your list, I will give REST's capability on the item:
▪ Customizable check lists
We call them Action Templates. Create an unlimited number of plans with unlimited numbers of items. Items are automatically related to appropriate people, properties and transactions, and, in a multi-user context, team members.
▪ Drip Marketing options
REST has extensive capabilities for printed and email marketing. Because the core purpose is CRM, REST mailings are performed by the user rather than being automatic. We adopted Keller's x-touch thinking for relationship-based marketing and as such, these communications are intended to offer high personalization at a mass scale. For entirely automated institutional marketing, REST customers export data for import to web-based drip systems. REST's "Campaign Execution" works by applying Marketing Action Templates that are later (periodically) aggregated on mail days.
▪ Recurring appointments
REST does this through Action Templates.
▪ Transaction management capability
Our extensive transaction management capability allows you to track important dates, vendors, activities, attachments (digital document management), disbursements, notes, showings and legal/contract language. System-wide, shortcut access to all active listing and open sales with real-time commissions calculations. Very detailed reporting and client communications.
▪ Works with Outlook
Email sent from REST uses your default email client software, in your case Outlook. Working with Outlook ranges from periodic REST exports imported to Outlook to plug-ins that sync. What's cool is what's coming: Microsoft has adopted the same standards Apple has adopted for both calendar and address book interoperability. REST users will be able to "subscribe" live to REST from Windows 7 Calendar and Apple's iCal.
▪ Syncs with mobile device
Our phone syncing capability is built on the excellent "FM Touch" which offers complex relational database functionality for the iPhone and soon, the Blackberry and Android. Our iPhone and iPod Touch customers love this.
▪ Can also be web based
While you've always been able to access REST remotely from anywhere over standard internet connections, soon, we will also offer browser access to REST. This means that any mobile device that has a browser can access your private REST database live. No syncing; team members see changes instantly.
▪ Intuitive, easy to learn
REST is that... deceptively simple to use.
▪ Training available
Live, free screen-sharing available on a regular schedule. Private one-on-one available too. Even big-shot, high-end consulting available for outrageous fees. ;-)
▪ Cost reasonable
As Jeff Brown has written: "Way affordable." Don't get me started on paying never-ending subscription payments for a capability you should own. Everything with a monthly payment is more expensive than REST. With us, you pay once then we keep working to earn your referrals.