Tips for SelectingReal Estate MarketingAutomation Software

Contents3 Introduction4 Determine Your Software Requirements Leads and marketing strategy Channels for marketing activities Other tools10 Comparing Vendors Creating short list Marketing software for real estate agents Other considerations16 Best Practices to Get a Return onInvestment19 ConclusionsTips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software2

IntroductionThe Internet and the wealth of information it offers is most buyer’s first step in gettingproperty information.The bad news is that there are often too many interested buyers (leads), many of whichare not sales-ready. To separate the wheat from the chaff many buyers purchase a crop ofleads from real estate websites, such as Zillow and Trulia. Others build an online presencethat captures home-buyers’ attention, creating their own, more targeted leads.That’s where marketing automation software comes in: These systems help trackprospect behavior, automate workflows and qualify leads.Given the valuable information marketing automation software can provide, it’s no surprisethat roughly one-third of those in the market for a new system are from real estate.“[Agents are] looking for ways toautomate what they do so they canactually spend more time with theirclients—not doing paperwork orfollow-ups that can, and should, beautomated at this point.”— Vinny LaBarbera, imFORZA.comThis e-book will help realtors simplify the process of finding the right marketing automationsystem. You’ll learn: How to build a list of software requirements based on your marketing goals How to create a short list of products How to compare vendors to see if they are the right fit Tips for using marketing automation software to maximize ROITips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software3

Determine Your SoftwareRequirementsBuyers often jump to marketing automation software before thinking about how they’llactually use it. Let’s back up a few steps: First, we’ll explore the ways you can marketyourself, which will help you uncover what functionality you need.“While there are a lot of otherthings to consider further down inthe decision-making process, firstconsider: What are you trying toachieve?”— Chris Mack, founder of SpokalThe capabilities you’ll need in a marketing automation platform will largely be defined byhow you get leads, the marketing strategy you want to employ, the channels you use toreach potential home-buyers and the other tools you’re already using.Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to build and refine a list of softwarecriteria.How do you get leads, and what marketingstrategy do you plan to use?Outbound marketing (also called “push marketing” or “interruption marketing”) is when areal estate agent contacts prospects, hoping for engagement. Tactics include advertising onsearch engines, paying publishers of websites to post your ads (known as “pay per click”) orsending emails to a list of leads. Many agents who purchase leads from a third party (e.g.,Zillow or Trulia) use this type of marketing.Inbound marketing (also called “pull advertising”) gets home buyers to find you, ratherthan you seeking them out. This is usually done by providing interesting, helpful content onwebsites, blogs or social media that engages home buyers, and/or by optimizing Web pagesto rank higher in search engine results so buyers are more likely to find them (called “searchengine optimization,” or SEO). Some agents have adopted this marketing strategy to moveaway from the time-consuming nature of purchasing, and trying to engage with, a largenumber of leads.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software4

“[Inbound] leads are self-selecting.Instead of pushing out and trying toidentify who you think might be inthe market to buy, the people whoare out to buy are basically comingand telling you that they are in themarket. In theory, at least, you areskipping a lot of the time-wasters.”— Chris Mack, founder of SpokalThe easiest way to understand how marketing automation functionality supports these twostrategies is to envision the marketing funnel associated with each.Outbound marketing funnel: A steady source of leads are nurtured through.Inbound marketing funnel: Content is generated and distributed, catches the interest ofhome buyers and allows realtors to build relationships with them.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software5

Outbound vs. Inbound MarketingSource: SpokalWho it’s for: Realtors who already have aWho it’s for: Realtors looking to acquiresource of leads or work with purchased lists.leads by creating interesting, relevantcontent.Valuable software features:Valuable software features: Send mass, drip and targeted emails Website/content management Landing page creation SEO tools Lead scoring/segmentation Landing page creation Track email opens and site visits Send drip and targeted emails Lead scoring/segmentation Track email opens and site visitsWhile many marketing automation systems support both outbound and inbound marketingstrategies, some focus primarily on outbound marketing. And not all vendors will usethe terms “outbound” or “inbound” to describe what their software does. If you intendto practice inbound marketing and want to be able to create content from within yourmarketing automation system, be sure to look for a system with the features listed above.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software6

What channels do you use for your marketingactivities?You’ll get the most benefit out of software that manages all of your marketing channels fromone place. However, different systems may support different channels.To help prioritize your list of software requirements, look for a system that supports thedigital marketing channels you use (or plan to use) and helps measure their effectiveness.Here’s what we found when we asked a group of real estate agents about the channels theyopt for:Digital Marketing Channels Used by Real Estate AgentsTips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software7

And here’s a look at how marketing automation functionality can help, no matter whatchannels you use:Marketing Channels and Associated Software FunctionalityTips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software8

What other tools are you using?A final point to consider before you start comparing vendors: What other tools will yourmarketing automation system need to integrate with?“The last thing most agents wantor need is something that requiresthem to remember another login,application or workflow. Marketingautomation tools should seamlesslyintegrate into the most commonlyused real estate applications to makethe transition and implementationvery easy for the agent.”— Vinny LaBarbera, imFORZA.comFor example, if you’re already using a customer relationship management (CRM)system, you’ll want to know whether—and how well—a new marketing automationsystem will synchronize with that data. You may even want to look for systems thatoffer native integration with the CRM you use.If you get leads from a third-party provider and don’t already use a CRM system,look for software that offers an easy way for you to import those leads. Forinstance, the system should allow you to upload a list of leads rather than forcing you tomanually enter them all.Or perhaps you’re with the 90 percent of real estate agents who told us they conductbusiness on their mobile device on an hourly or daily basis. In this case, you may want toconsider a system with a mobile app so you can access your system while on thego.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software9

Other Tools Real Estate Agents UseComparing VendorsOnce you’ve narrowed down your list of criteria, you’re ready to start comparing vendors. Aswe’ve said before, there are a lot to choose from. To make the process more manageable,start by creating a short list of vendors with products that meet your requirements.Creating a short list of vendorsWe’ve compiled examples of vendors that offer at least some of the functionality discussedabove. We’ve included vendors that offer more comprehensive systems, as well asothers that offer less extensive options for smaller teams, independent realtorsand the budget-conscious buyer.(These tables do not represent a ranking of products, but rather a sampling of availableofferings on the market. All of the information is publically available online, drawn fromproduct brochures, data sheets, vendor websites, instructional manuals, case studies,knowledge bases and support forums.)Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software10

Marketing Automation Software arch EngineOptimizationxxxMass EmailsxxxxxxxDrip Emails(Scheduled)xxxxxxxTargeted/Triggered EmailsxxxxxxxLanding Page(s)/Web FormsxxxxxxxLead Scoring/SegmentationxxxxxxxTracks EmailOpens, Clicksand Site VisitsxxxxxxxOffers ContactDatabasexxNative CRMIntegrationMicrosoftDynamics,Netsuite rketing/SMSxSocial takes,polls, sharebuttons &videos, leadcapturevia teCRM, sionsoftxxProspecting,lead capturevia PublishingWith Grosocial:Promotions,contests,custom feeds,schedulingposts, contentmanagementNote: You can click on the names of products in tables to view descriptions and user reviews.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software11

Marketing Automation Software ComparisonSpokalLeadsiusSimply latformxxxSearch EngineOptimizationxAnalyticsonlyAnalyticsonlyMass EmailsDrip Emails(Scheduled)Targeted/Triggered Emailsvia nativeMailChimp a PluginxxOnline formsincluded,landingpages viaintegrationLead Scoring/SegmentationxxxxxxxTracks EmailOpens, Clicksand Site VisitsxxxxxxxxxxxxxNone*Informationnot availableMicrosoftDynamics,Netsuite CRM,Salesforce,SugarCRM,Vtiger, ZohoCRM and more.MicrosoftDynamics,NetsuiteCRM,Oracle CRM,Salesforce,SAP,SugarCRM*Informationnot availableSalesforce(via Genooapp)xxxxLanding Page(s)/Web FormsOffers ContactDatabaseNative SSocial ot available*Informationnot availablexxPublishing,scheduling postsNonePublishing,targetedmessages,lead capturevia forms,autoschedulingCapturessocialLead ndreportingNote: You can click on the names of products in tables to view descriptions and user reviews.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software12

What about marketing software designed for realestate agents?Many real estate agents (76 percent of the sample we surveyed) do use industry-specificsoftware to manage their marketing activities. But is this the right approach? To help answerthis question, we asked realtors how they feel about the software they use.Real Estate Agents’ Satisfaction LevelWith Marketing Automation SoftwareAs it turns out, while more realtors overall report using industry-specific software, thereisn’t a huge difference in levels of satisfaction. What’s more, in both cases, no one reportsbeing “extremely dissatisfied” with the system they’re using. This suggests that marketingsoftware designed for real estate agents isn’t necessarily better than software designed foreveryone.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software13

What’s more, many systems designed for realtors offer fully integrated direct mail andprint advertising services. Given how many real estate agents rely on print and directmail advertising (58 and 47 percent of our sample, respectively), this feature might seemappealing.However, whatever goals you’re trying to achieve, you don’t necessarily need a real estatefocused marketing automation platform to do it. For example, there are ways to add MLSproperty listings to websites using plug-ins for regular marketing automation platforms. Andthird-party services can be used for direct mail and print advertising.Internet marketing experts agree: You should look for software that best supports mostof your digital marketing goals, rather than sacrifice important functionality for a fewcapabilities that could be accomplished using other tools.“They need to be doing Internetmarketing, not ‘realtor marketing.’ Don’t try to buy something that doeseverything.”— Tara Jacobsen, owner of“I’m not sure I really see the benefit[of industry-specific software]. Tome, the quality of the site and thequality of the content is what needsto stand out.”— Chris Mack, founder of SpokalTips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software14

“[Realtors] want to focus on drivingtraffic, capturing leads and thennurturing and closing those leads.Anything that helps them do thesethings—preferably together—is goingto save them time and money in thelong run.”— Vinny LaBarbera, imFORZA.comOther considerationsChoosing software with the right capabilities is critical to achieving your marketing goals.However, there are some other things to consider when comparing vendors—especially onceyou’ve made a short list of products.For example, you’ll want to evaluate:Implementation and ramp-up. How easy is it to use the software, and how long will ittake to get it up and running? Again, it’s important to note that inbound marketing is usuallya slower process than outbound marketing. Since it takes more time up front to generatethe marketing content used to attract leads, it may also take longer to see a return oninvestment.Whichever strategy you use, you should evaluate the steps needed to get each systemoperating as well as the learning curve for using it.“Everything looks great in the demo,but nothing’s that easy when you setit up.”— Chris Smith, co-founder of Curaytorand author of Conversion CodeTips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software15

Service and support. See what resources vendors offer for learning how to use thesoftware. These may include anything from online knowledge bases and FAQs to in-person,instructor-led courses taught by the vendor. If cost is a concern, evaluate whether supportand training is included in the base price, or if it comes with an additional fee.You may also want to ask vendors if they have any third-party partners. These can serveas another resource for integrations and support. For instance, many partners offer tips onmarketing in general, and some even offer information specific to real estate (even if thevendor doesn’t provide industry-specific software).And while some marketing automation systems may not offer native CRM integration orout-of-the-box social media functionality, many partner with other vendors who do. Thesevendors often provide apps or plug-ins that can be added to the base software package.Many vendors even have an app marketplace where you can find tools to customize yoursystem.Here are some ways to learn more about a given vendor’s implementation, support andcustomization options: Demo a system Consult software reviews Speak to vendors Consult online forums Talk to others who currently use the softwareBest Practices to Get aReturn on InvestmentHaving the right system is only half the battle. The other half is using it successfully. Thegood news? There are some things you can do to start out on the right foot. Here are someof those best practices:Focus on content quality. If you’re pursuing an inbound marketing strategy, startgenerating content as early as possible—even before you implement your system. After all,you’ll need to have material to populate that system with.Tips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software16

Good content drives engagement. To establish yourself as a valuable, credible expert andstand out from the competition, you’ll want to provide information that home buyers careabout and want to engage with.Here are some ideas to help you get started: Identify home buyers’ pain points and talk about the solutions Share local or neighborhood-level trends, information and knowledge Speak about the unique needs of specific demographics Provide advice for those just starting to think about buyingStart small, and be patient. It takes time to learn new software, and even longer tobecome proficient in using it. Automated marketing campaigns can quickly become toocomplex to manage, especially for first-time software users. Before launching into anythingcomplicated, start small and try out simpler campaigns.For instance, you might test a campaign with just a small segment of users or only on onechannel. This will not only help you understand how to use the software, but can also shedlight on how often to contact prospects, which types of communication work and whataudiences respond well to outreach. Only once you’re comfortable with the software shouldyou ramp things up to larger audiences or undertake multi-channel campaigns.And remember, inbound marketing generally takes longer to show a return on investmentthan outbound marketing. Remain patient, and stick with it.“It generally takes six to 12 monthsbefore you start seeing a decentreturn [with inbound marketing].Once we’ve got the site up andrunning and it’s established and ithas traffic, we can stop putting workinto it for a month or two—and it’sstill going to deliver leads regularly.”— Chris Mack, founder of SpokalTips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software17

Use the capabilities you paid for. Many marketing software users don’t use the full rangeof capabilities. Instead, they fall back on only the basics, such as mass emailing tools. If youfail to use the very things you bought the software for, it won’t do much to help you withyour marketing goals—and may even make things harder.Here’s an example: Buying a home is an emotional process, and even Internet-savvyhome buyers want to feel like a real person is helping them through it. Leaning too heavilyon automation without offering a personal touch could drive potential buyers away. Toprevent this, use the full range of software functionality to create relevant and interestingmaterials—and distribute them at the right time, to the right people.Lead segmentation and lead scoring can help you decide what messages to send to certainprospects. Web behavior tracking can tell you what content they’re most likely to findinteresting, and when they’re most likely to engage. And social listening tools can help youunderstand what people are talking about, so you can send appropriate and timely followups.“Emails are meant to startconversations, because conversationsare going to be what leads toclosings. Certainly, you want dripemails for your new leads—but aftera certain point, it doesn’t really work.You have to have a [dialogue], not amonologue.”— Chris Smith, co-founder of Curaytorand author of Conversion CodeTips for Selecting Real EstateMarketing Automation Software18

ConclusionsAs you can see, there are many things for real estate agents to consider when selectingmarketing automation software, and it can be a confusing process. Because vendors offerdifferent functionality, it’s important to decide how you’re going to use the software beforecomparing specific vendors. To recap: Look for software with capabilities that align with your marketing strategy(outbound vs. inbound) Make sure your system supports the marketing channels (e.g., websites, email,social media) you intend to use to reach potenti