A few years ago we made the switch from spreadsheet to a customizable CRM. It was a game changer. I tested 10 different CRM systems and what I found was that there is a balance between visual effect, customization, automation and price. Below I lay out the criteria I considered when choosing my CRM.
At the end of the day I landed on Podio. It’s a perfect fit for a newer investor because it’s extremely affordable and fully customizable. We have been using it for about 4 years and I still love it. There are a couple things I would change, like allowing you to change data in line instead of needing to go into the item to edit, but the small things I don’t like about Podio are far outweighed by the full customization and ease of use.
For the first year after I chose Podio, I pretty much only used the LEADS app for acquisitions. When people called in to sell their house or submitted a property on our website it would create a lead in my Lead App. I had around 10 fields that I used: Property Address, Owner Name, Phone, Email, Notes, Asking Price and maybe a few others. It was all I needed at the time and it worked great for what I needed it for back then… Fast forward to today and We use our CRM for EVERYTHING…
Here is a list just to give you some of the things we use our CRM for:
- All of our off-market leads coming in
- Company Status Reports
- This holds every property we own and it’s status
- Rental Leads: Feeds in from our rental ads for properties
- Rental inspections - We track and save pics of every quarterly inspection
- Utility Setup and Turn off: We keep all our account numbers and notes here
- Contacts: We submit every contact we get, tag them and make notes
- Make Offer app: I’ve coded an App that sends an offer by email and uses a service to mail an actual letter with our offer by the click of a button (pretty slick!)
- Hiring: We use a survey in Podio that we have potential employees fill out during the application process.
- Calendar: Our Podio calendar syncs with Ical or Google Calendar so all of our tasks in the CRM don’t get forgotten.
As you can see, Podio is really at the center of our company and we use it in just about every aspect. Take a look at these 4 steps to choose the best CRM for you and your company. Remember, nothing is forever, every CRM will allow you to export the info out and import it in. If you do choose a CRM that ends up not being your favorite, you can always cancel and try a new one.
a. When we’re getting starting and bootstrapping the whole business, price might be the most important factor. If you don’t have $100/month then you don’t have it and need to find another solution. I started out using one of the cheaper platforms and still use it today. Decide on your budget before you start looking and it should help you narrow down what will work best for you.
a. I am the type of person who wants things my way. I quickly eliminated about half of my options because they were not customizable and I would have had to fit my leads into their model. Not something I was interested in. Some CRM’s are great for certain types of sales but not real estate. For instance, I found that most CRM’s are built around clients or companies, and not necessarily leads, like we use in real estate. Find a solution that fits the level of customization you need. And remember, as you grow your company, you will want the option to build in additional features. If the system is not customizable, you may need to switch systems a couple years in, which is way more difficult than picking the right one up front.
a. Even if you don’t plan on it at first, make sure to find a system that you can essentially “Program” code into such as “if-then” statements. In the beginning I didn’t use any of these features, but as we grew they became even more essential to our business. Examples would be as follows: Every time a lead comes in, the system automatically creates a task for my sales guy to call the lead and get info, and adds follow up reminders on his calendar to follow up at specified dates. Another example would be when a property closes and we code it as CLOSED, it sends tasks and reminders for my bookkeeper to code the closing documents, my admin to shut off water and cancel insurance, and my property manager to reach out to the tenants, and my insurance agent to add/cancel coverage.
a. This may seem trivial, but if the CRM is easy to look at, organize, sort, etc, it makes it much easier to work with everyday. I remember at least one of the CRM’s I tested was too blah for me to work with, nothing stood out and it felt like the equivalent of staring at an excel spreadsheet all day (which I was trying to get away from).
Choosing the perfect CRM is not an easy task, ESPECIALLY when you are a small company. When you’re small or growing quickly you just don’t know what you’ll need when you get bigger. This is one of the big reasons I ended up choosing a fully customizable CRM, because I wanted something that had everything we needed now, but also something that we could grow into and use in bigger and better ways.
Hope this helps you find the best CRM for you and please comment below on which CRM you use!