Using the cloud, or software as a service (SaaS), is an easy and cost-effective way to give your real estate agency the agility it needs to remain competitive.
By moving operations off site you not only improve the security of your data, you can also save money, improve your agency's innovation and have the added bonus of an agile service to keep your competitors on their toes.
What is cloud computing?
Many business and real estate agencies across Australia already use cloud computing in some respect, but are often unaware of its full benefits.
Almost any service can be held in the cloud, from web hosting and document storage to accounting, marketing and CRM services.
“Cloud services offer premium protection and round-the-clock service.”
The biggest lure of the cloud is how much money it can save a company.
For many real estate agencies, where services, departments and technologies are held in-house, there can be huge expenses attached. They may run this way because of tradition or simply because they're worried about what SaaS entails.
In reality, the cloud is safer in many respects. While some businesses may store their data on their premises (and have their own staff manage and look after it), they can’t offer what cloud based services can, which is premium round-the-clock service and premium security protection.
Savings are ongoing, when you take into consideration all the maintenance fees and much of the staffing costs included in your SaaS monthly fees, these are at a much lower rate than the costs of supporting your IT infrastructure in house.
By forgoing the major costs associated with in-house servers and expert IT staff, you will find that you have more flexibility managing your real estate business to focus elsewhere.
Many cloud services give you the best features automatically: cloud accounting software will include changes to tax laws, marketing software will install the latest design features and online document storage will automatically backup your files. This is without the need for expensive or time-consuming upgrades. By being on the cusp of what's happening, your agency can try new things and get the best results, such as using the latest online trends for the best exposure.
Reduction in staff headcount
By using the cloud for your technical needs, you can save money on IT staffing - instead trust the computing powerhouses to look after this for you. Stay focused on sales and bringing in high calibre sales agents to push your company to the next level.
New features & functions
You'll also be technologically better off, being able to afford a better long-term service, with systems brimming with cutting-edge features, real time data and ease of integration with other cloud-based systems. Real estate marketing offerings like CAMPAIGNxpress, finance and HR tools like MYOB or Xero, and CRM software like Salesforce can easily work with one another to streamline your service.
Updates to software are often included in monthly fees, meaning you get automatic upgrades that allow you to compete with agencies of all sizes, without feeling the pinch.
Whether you're thinking about major tech breakdowns or planning to quickly – even temporarily – expand your service, working in the cloud makes your agency more agile and quick-footed.
Flexibility to upscale or downscale as needed
With tech services managed by a larger company, you can call on their resources to put you in a better place. With less down time, you'll be able to reliably offer your services around the clock. Remote access from mobile apps means you can make updates while you're out of the office and, when you're having a busy month, you can quickly and easily upscale your capacity needs.
“Tracking leads and sales can also be done on the cloud, meaning multiple members of staff can have access at the same time.”
The quality of cloud services is comparable with what any of the biggest companies have access to in-house but at just a fraction of the cost, giving smaller agencies and franchises the chance to compete on a level playing field.
For some services, you can automate or schedule certain tasks, easing the workload of your staff. Whether that's sending recurring invoices or making sure your newsletters and tweets go out at the right time, cloud software can be configured to work in the best way for your agency.
Where to start
If you want to move your operations – or at least some of them – to the cloud, it can be tricky to work out where to begin. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
While marketing is a nuanced art in many respects, there are several features of it that can easily be automated and handled by SaaS.
CAMPAIGNxpress is the perfect place to start for real estate marketing, offering integration into advertising platforms and CRM systems, helping you streamline your property marketing campaigns. It enables business owners and brand managers the ability to maintain brand consistency through online design, automates artwork delivery to both national and local media companies, as well as provide task reminders for admin staff.
Other services to add on, in addition to managing property campaigns are your social media and inbound marketing tactics, using tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite, which helps you pre-plan and schedule social media activities in an easy manner.
Tracking leads and sales can also be done on the cloud, meaning multiple members of staff can have access at the same time, no matter if they're in the office, showing people round a property or working from home.
While Salesforce is the leading CRM, globally, PropertyIQ (a venture between CoreLogic and Macquarie Bank) is one of the best CRM implementations using Salesforce, specifically designed for real estate in Australia. Alternatively, other cloud based CRMs, that are both Australian built and real estate focused, include LockedOn and MyDesktop.
One of the first steps many companies make to the cloud is in the finance field. In recent years, several accounting companies have moved their solutions to be cloud-based software-as-a-service tools – with the likes of Xero, Quickbooks and Zoho among the most popular.
Moving your agency to the cloud – or even just part of its workings – can help in a number of ways. These can help boost your current operations and free you up to provide a more customer focused service offering. Plus happy customers mean more referrals, so outdo your rivals and close the gap on the bigger companies out there by harnessing the cloud.