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Your 2019 tech budget: A guide to CRE tools beyond CRM

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59c9921faca4f_jobs_report_career_business_people_computer_laptop_technology_CRE_tech-320x218Whether it’s keeping track of contacts or using the latest sales tools to win more deals, there’s no question a strong CRM platform benefits every broker. It’s the tech foundation of your business and the first item to check off your CRE tech shopping list.

But once you have an effective CRM in place, what then?

The world of CRE tech is expanding every day, and from marketing tools to virtual reality, it’s easy to feel lost in the mix. To help guide your technology investments, we looked through the key contenders to separate the essential from the optional.

From critical technologies that help you make the most of your data to nice but currently optional technologies like virtual reality, here’s what you need to know to make the most of your technology budget.

Three areas you need technology

1. Big data

Commercial real estate is a relationships business, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking the importance of data. While you need strong relationships to finish deals, data is what lets you determine which deals are worth finishing in the first place.

Given the amount of data in the industry, the term “big data” is more applicable here than in most places. That’s why in Deloitte’s 2019 Commercial Real Estate Outlook, over 80% of respondents said CRE professionals should prioritize the use of predictive analytics and business intelligence.

That’s not surprising when you consider predictive analytics can streamline everything from lead generation to identifying relevant rent and sales comps. Brokers can use services like SmartZip and ProspectNow to pre-qualify leads, while other software uses machine learning algorithms to automate much of the underwriting process.

These technologies unlock the power of your data, boost efficiencies and help pinpoint opportunities you may miss. In other words, they are essential.

2. Research

Closely tied to data, you live or die by the quality of your research. After all, it doesn’t do you any good working in a market filled with opportunities if you don’t know how to find them or start a conversation that will get their attention.

And while smaller brokerages traditionally had to dedicate substantial time and resources towards collecting market research, or simply wait until a big firm published its quarterly reports and lose out on the best opportunities, technology is finally democratizing the process.

It’s true CoStar has been leveling the playing field for years, but today firms like Reonomy, CompStak and VTS are launching and expanding services that promise to give brokers new and largely automated ways to gather insights on their market. Considering the direct link between strong research and excellent deals, brokers shouldn’t ignore this area of technology.

3. Marketing

You need to effectively market your properties to close deals, and given the marketing tools available today, relying solely on the MLS just isn’t going to cut it.

From MailChimp’s user-friendly email marketing campaigns to sending texts by the thousands through Ez Texting, there are so many tools at your disposal to enhance and deepen your marketing efforts. Use services like Voicecasting to automate cold calling and send a prerecorded message directly to thousands of voicemails, and use Canva to build your own graphic designs for social media.

Marketing is often compared to storytelling, so whether you’re using drones to record videos of properties or finding creative ways to reconnect with past clients, use technology to tell your story and push your marketing efforts to the next level.

Two optional, but nice to have technologies

1. Virtual reality

When it comes to CRE, virtual reality (VR) is still in its infancy. Most brokers probably won’t find this technology essential, but there are good reasons to think it will become commonplace before long.

Some residential brokerages are already using VR to simulate open house tours, and the trend is moving to the commercial side of the industry. The technology is easily shareable and is a big draw for interested parties who aren’t in your area, since it saves time and money on travel expenses while still letting them see the property.

Right now, the key hurdles to widespread VR adoption are mainly its price and the development rate of content and applications. But if you have some cash left in the budget it couldn’t hurt to see what all the fuss is about — and if the technology does become commonplace, brokers who get in on the ground floor will be especially well positioned.

2. Drones

How useful drones are largely depends on what type of broker you are. If you work in a market where 360-degree tours and videos are important, then drones are a lifesaver. They offer one of the cheapest ways to make high quality videos, and their flyover videos have excellent marketing potential.

But before you rush out and buy a new toy, it’s important to realize drones operate in a regulatory grey zone. In many places regulations haven’t caught up with them yet, and federal, state and local rules don’t always line up. To use drones commercially, you need to pass a test from the Federal Aviation Administration and become certified. After that, as long as you respect others’ privacy and follow FAA rules, you should be good.

The world of CRE technology offers brokers new solutions everyday. CRM is a natural place to start, but it certainly isn’t the end of the road. From essential technologies revolutionizing market research to early stage solutions like virtual reality, brokers who make smart technology investments today will have a leg up on the competition tomorrow.