The Dirt Cheap Real Estate Business Success Kit: CRM

Let's get one thing out of the way immediately.  If you have the money and want to learn a complex platform dedicated to CRM, then go for it.  Remember though that it can change or even go away and you have no control.  That's not to say that the three tools we'll talk about here can't go away, but they've been around for years and have grown very large because they work and people want them.  This is also a reason to pay for a resource, even if it's cheap, as it makes it more certain that it will stay around.

What we're going to talk about here is the combination of Gmail and Evernote for a CRM, Customer Relationship Management, solution.  There are other ways I could have approached this, but I use Evernote for many other things, both personal and business, so it is simply easier and more efficient to use it for just about everything.  When we get to transaction management in this series, you'll see that it all comes together quite well for your business.

CRM, Customer Relationship Management, for real estate.

CRM for Real Estate Funnel
We're going to see how to pull together all of our information and communications with our contacts, prospects and clients. CanStockPhoto licensed.

What we want from CRM, Customer Relationship Management

Let's first think about what a good CRM system does for the real estate professional.  These are the basics that we absolutely should have, and some of the more expensive ones may add bells and whistles.

However, my goal is to have the basic information about my contacts, prospects and clients readily accessible.  I also want a record of all of my interactions with these people that is easily accessed when I need it.  So, here are the basics we want to accomplish with a CRM tool:

  • Basic contact information like name, address, phone(s), email, etc.  If you want to keep track of birthdays and anniversaries, OK, but I don't do that.
  • A record of all phone calls and conversations by date and time with my notes.
  • A place to access any notes I've made about the contact with date and time of the note.
  • All emails going both ways with this contact.

I want to be able to pull up a contact/client/prospect by name or email address and see all of this information in some sort of order.  In this article, I'm sorting it going backward in time so that the newest stuff is on top.  I modify the sort order to display them in reverse time order by when they were updated or modified.  You'll see why when I show how phone calls and meetings are recorded.

View the next step to see how we're going to get the job done.

What we want from a real estate CRM system.

Evernote screen shot
We will create a system in Evernote to bring together all communications with a contact, prospect or client.

With Evernote, Gmail and one other tool, we can create a complete CRM system to capture all of our information about a contact, all of our emails back and forth, all of our phone conversation and meeting notes, and even all of documents and details of a transaction in which the contact is involved.

The image shows a basic view of a contact's records going backward in time with the newest on top.  Emails go in from Gmail, notes are entered when we talk on the phone or have meetings.  Photos from properties can be added simply with a smartphone camera.  Scanned floor plans, documents, surveys, etc. can be easily added with a smartphone camera as well.

See the next slide for our data entry sheet for the basic contact information, as well as how we can enter phone and meeting notes for easy access later.

The Contact Info: Table entry and record of phone calls and meetings.

Contact Info Form for Evernote
Create a simple table as a base note in Evernote with the information fields you want. Jim Kimmons

In the image you see a simple table I created with the tools at the top of the note screen in Evernote.  You can build this in just a few minutes and save the blank form.  I suggest creating a notebook for Blank Forms and saving it there.  When you want to enter a new contact, Evernote has a right-click option to make a copy so that you save the blank and start with a new blank for the new contact.  Enter the information, and enter their name next to the note title Contact Info:  This will make searches easier.

We'll see how emails get into the system next, but for now let's talk about phone call and meeting notes.  You could just create a new separate note for every phone call and meeting with a contact.  It will work, and as long as you use their name properly spelled, you'll get them in the proper time order in future searches.  However, I like this method better because we're usually initiating the conversation and need to find their phone number or info anyway.

Just look up the Contact Info: <their name> note with a search.  It will pop up and you can then go to the bottom of the note and enter the new information about a phone call or meeting, always putting the new one on the top.  Now all of these personal contact notes will be in one place and easily found.  I'm a Windows guy, so use the Shift + Alt + D key sequence to have the date and time automatically entered.  For Mac users, I think you have some kind of text entry device as well.

Nest let's look at getting emails into Evernote. 

Gmail, Evernote and PowerBot for email filing and retrieval in CRM

PowerBot for Gmail
Two ways to capture an email into Evernote. Jim Kimmons

 Gmail has an awesome search function so that it's really no problem to look up all of your email conversations with a person with the newest on the top.  And, you may want to use it a lot of the time when your current desire is just to find a previous email.  However, we're building an entire relationship record in Evernote, with not just emails but also phone calls, meetings, and even transaction tasks and documents in some cases.

Evernote lets us create this structure easily and locate any information related to communications with a person, as well as documents, notes and other details related to transactions and closings in which the contact is involved.  Everything will end up in one place, searchable, and even printable to a permanent hard copy record when you close out a deal.  Let's look at the image above to see how we send emails into Evernote from Gmail and have them show up with the right contact/prospect/client.

When you receive an email in Gmail from someone in your CRM system, you will have a PowerBot icon at the top right of the email text window.  When you click it, you get the input window you see in the image above.  You select a notebook where you want to have it saved, and send it along.  I don't really worry about notebooks for CRM, so just dump them all into a CRM notebook.  The reason is that the email address for the contact is in these, and that's how I'll pull them all up for display when I go to Evernote to see them all.

When you're sending an email to a contact/prospect/client, there is another PowerBot option, a checkbox at the bottom right of the email.  It is to send the outgoing email to Evernote right after it is sent.  So, you have methods to get outgoing and incoming emails to Evernote and have them filed away by the email address of the contact.

Evernote does supply you with a special email address to send email into your Evernote account.  I used it before getting PowerBot.  However, the only way to get these two tasks automated required having EVERY incoming email automatically sent, as well as having to Bcc Evernote with outgoing emails.  Even with the Premium Evernote account $45/year, I used up my generous allotment of email forwarding quickly.

Using Powerbot ($14.99/year) makes it really easy, plus gives me the option for other emails to select a notebook.  An example we'll talk about next is in Transaction Management.  I build a notebook for each transaction, Such as "Jones to Buyer Smith."  This tells me that it's my buyer and who the seller is.  I can then use PowerBot to send along emails about the transaction, no matter who they're from or to, such as an email with a survey attached.  They all end up in the transaction folder.

That's it for this article in the series.  What I'm building out is the tool set a new real estate agent or one who wants efficiency at low cost can use to market and manage their business.  The overall cost if you use the premium level of everything I'll tell you about is less than $0.35/day.