Your Future is in Bits & Pixels You aren’t a technophobe, or you would not be reading this. However, do you have some concern about Internet threats to our business model? You should. The problem is not the Internet, rather it is our business model. This isn’t a prediction of the demise of full service brokerage, nor an endorsement of any particular alternative way of conducting a real estate practice. Nevertheless, we need to adapt in order to survive. The Internet is the catalyst as well as the solution. Now that all the threatening talk is out of the way, you can not only adapt and survive, you can have a blast doing it. Technology is fun, productive, inexpensive, and powerful. Embrace it. Have fun with all the tools out there. I’ve always been in love with new gadgets and software. As an early adopter, I’ve been burned by over-pricing and poor quality. But, through it all, technology has always been a lot of fun. I hope to bring a little of my excitement and love of the Web and tech tools to you here at Agent Direct News. What’s most fun about the new sites and online tools is that a lot of it is absolutely FREE. There is no risk in trying something when no cost is involved. When is the last time you were able to place a test ad in the homes magazine on a 30 day free trial? After the ad ran, were you able to see precisely how many people viewed it? What about the number of people who called you from that ad, or walked in to see you? Even better, where were these people located? There are a huge number of totally free marketing tools on the Internet. Many of these tools can give you detailed reporting of the number of viewers of an advertising piece. They can tell you how many of the viewers came to your website, and how long they stayed. You can even see where in the country, or world, they were located. If “knowledge is power”, there has never been a more powerful marketing medium. But it isn’t just marketing. Too many real estate agents and brokers focus solely on the marketing functions of the Web. They don’t take notice of the many technology tools that can be used to make a business more efficient. There are online resources for liability reduction, better communications, and all phases of business management. Online intranets can be used to manage a brokerage at a tiny fraction of what hardware and custom software cost in the past. For not one penny in cost, you can have your cell phone take a message, email you a text conversion of the voice message and text you as well. Another free service allows you to set up a custom greeting for every one of your contacts or special groups. Records of calls, length of discussions, date and time are all retained online until you delete them. You can forward a cell voice message to someone else. What’s not to like about these great efficiency and client service tools? Hardware is getting smaller, and software is moving online. Get your email online, instead of on your own computer. Check it from anywhere or any computer. Send yourself email notes and reminders with voice from your cell phone. Today I even found an online expense recording solution that lets me post an expense immediately from anywhere on my cell phone! I mean like this: “Lunch, $39.50 at Sam’s Restaurant with Jim Jones.” And that expense will post in text on my private expense site with all information in the correct fields. It just gets better. I’m using a sophisticated noise-cancelling cell headset to send myself a meeting note while with a client on the road. It posts directly into my online calendar, with correct date and time, as well as reminders via text and email. I have my phone on vibrate while showing property. A text message lets me know that I have a voicemail. The text of the voicemail is in my message. I can hit reply and send a text back to the caller letting them know that I’ll get back to them shortly. Today, while running errands, I received a cell text message that a visitor to my website had left a phone number and message. I immediately called them right back and we had a great discussion. Part of that discussion was his impression of excellent customer service. He was quite happy to know that I could get my website inquiries, even if I wasn’t near a computer. No, he wasn’t ready to buy. Let’s get back to the marketing function of the Internet. Real estate is a people and relationship business. Far from suffering on the Web, the relationship side of the business is flourishing even in its infancy. Social networking through sites like Facebook and LinkedIn is growing exponentially. How many people can you meet at a local town meeting? How many contacts can you make at a Kiwanis meeting? Add up all of your physical meetings this year and they’ll be a tiny fraction of the potential contacts you can make on one of these sites. I am excited to be a new member of the Agent Direct News team of experts. The tools and resources mentioned in this article are only a tiny portion of available technology resources. I hope to bring you specifics on these and many others in the future. And I promise that most of it will be fun to learn and use in your business. You can increase your business and spend less time doing more with technology.