Craig C. Rowe

hikeclimbsurfcraig@inman.comDec 23, 2015

 

  • Here's the best in contact relationship management, website design, personal productivity, email marketing, transaction management, marketing and office management.

Have suggestions for products that you’d like to see reviewed by our real estate technology expert? Email Craig Rowe.

I’m going to call it: 2015 is over.

Well, it’s far enough along for a “Best of” column, anyway.

It’s been fun hearing reactions from readers since we started this Select offering in March.

I have to remind readers that this is an opinion column; some products I review positively, you may consider lumps of coal. And it goes the other way, too.

I’m happy to be of assistance and even happy to hear when I’m not — because at least something I wrote ignited a reaction. That’s all a columnist can ask for.

Anyway, I hope your 2015 was all you planned it to be and that 2016 will be double that.

So top off your eggnog, put on your couch pants, and unwrap my 2015 Best in Real Estate Tech.

Contact relationship management (CRM)

GoConnect is my favorite offering in this category.

Its developers eschewed the traditional spreadsheet-based, ram-gluttonous enterprise contact tools that describe so many in this category to build a tool around the way today’s agents work, not the way software works.

The mobile software for both iOS and Android is elegantly designed, intuitive and sharply integrates into its functionality much of what makes using either OS so easy.

Designed as a mobile platform, GoConnect is putting a powerful resource in a friendly form factor, something agents are interacting with 90 percent of their day. This eases adoption and encourages regular use.

Designed as a mobile platform, GoConnect is putting a powerful resource in a friendly form factor.

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I hope I surprised some with this pick.

When it comes to managing people and deals in the field, none of the big names can match mobile wits with GoConnect.

For more on why I’m a fan, just see this recent Inman Special Report on “How Mobile Technology Has Changed Real Estate.”

5/29/15 review

Personal productivity

I’ve made it no secret that I like to venture outside of the industry to find products to help you. Cloze is one such example.

This slick software combines your projects, calendar items, emails, contacts, deals and social media chores into a connected, highly visual interface.

Everything that’s related gets sewn together in Cloze’s sharp dashboard and icon-rich menu selections.

Cloze excels at keeping people and business relationship content joined at the browser.

It’s an ideal way to stay on top of what’s important today and what’s coming up tomorrow, especially for those of us using multiple email addresses and tracking disparate social media discussions as part of overseeing a stack of due dates.

In summary, Cloze excels at keeping people and business relationship content joined at the browser.

9/15/15 full review

Marketing

This one is hard to classify because so many CRMs bleed into this category when they start offering email and landing pages.

I believe Zurple does the best job of assembling a solid, proven marketing plan to seize leads and ensure you stay in front of the ones that matter. Plus, it doesn’t call itself something it shouldn’t. It’s a bonafide marketing tool.

Zurple pushes the use of paid online advertising, custom landing pages, listing outreach and unique contact capture tactics to automate responses and client notifications. It’s a big-data user.

I believe Zurple does the best job of assembling a solid, proven marketing plan.

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Company staff help you devise a pay-per-click (PPC) strategy and assemble the remaining parts of the message chain. Once up and running, everything is managed by a sharp backend that is easy to work within and shows what’s resonating with your leads.

9/14/15 full review

Office/broker management

RealtyAPX isn’t as heralded as I’d like it to be. It was developed by the hands of Matt McAlpin, a one-time regional franchise manager.

He built this system to be an end-to-end broker tool, offering everything from agent oversight to document creation via its proprietary paper automation tool, SignaShare.

RealtyAPX isn’t as heralded as I’d like it to be.

RealtyAPX can market and manage an open house, create flyers and ensure every facet of a sale has the appropriate consonants dotted and crossed.

Agents can communicate with one another, leads are tracked carefully and a task-based sales process keeps business processes motoring along.

I compare RealtyAPX to what’s offered by Lone Wolf Real Estate Technologies, which is also a great office oversight solution. However, the former, in my opinion, has it all buttoned up a tad tighter.

It flows from function to function with nary a speed bump, and it’s also fully featured for device mobility, resting on a Bootstrap foundation.

9/1/2015 full review

Transaction management

I’m a fan of dotloop. I have no idea why some corners of the industry chose to vilify the company’s leadership for becoming part of Zillow, like they were some cabal Brutus-like conspirators. It’s absurdly silly.

But Nekst wins in this category because of its inherent simplicity. It was the first (and remains the best) tool for using a task-by-task approach to tackling the disparate responsibilities that drive a home sale.

I like to think Nekst does for real estate transactions what an “exploded view” can do for engine mechanics: break down complicated processes into their root components.

Nekst wins in this category because of its inherent simplicity.

Nekst also incorporates the people that are part of your day, automates reminders, syncs with calendars and looks good at every step.

4/15/15 full review

Website development

This is a tough category because it technically includes every website design company in existence.

There are so many that target real estate agents directly, however, that I feel it deserves its own category.

And the company I believe to be most adept is one I haven’t reviewed:BlueRoof360.

The tech team behind this company developed the slick market reporting toolAreaPulse, and also has a transaction management app BlueQub that I hope to get a look at soon.

There is no doubt this is a technology crew that knows good design and user experience, which is essential to producing highly effective software.

Their websites reflect contemporary design, beautifully integrate IDX feeds and feature smart calls to action.

There is no doubt this is a technology crew that knows good design and user experience.

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Beyond the front-end, BlueRoof360 sites include broker oversight tools, social content creation, mobile search optimization and lead management.

Email marketing

There all kinds of options here, many of which are built into other systems, like your website CMS (content management system) and CRM.

For standalone email marketing tools, it was a close call between Emma andMailchimp. And BombBomb’s video capabilities are really unique.

Mailchimp offers users the easiest onboard and the most features before costs kick in. Let’s call it the winner.

I’ll refrain from going into too much detail here, as email vendors are largely differentiated by user experience and cost, not necessarily features.

In summary, Mailchimp’s A/B testing tools, integration of your lists to Snap (its companion app) and friendly support team are big reasons to create an account.