34: Shannon McGee
A CRM is really the cornerstone to any good business. It's really a tool that will help agents excel in their business.
About This Episode
Shannon McGee is the Sales Director at IXACT Contact, a Customer Relationship Management tool built for real estate. On this episode, we dive into the key features of IXACT Contact, including marketing automation and custom websites. We also discuss where real estate technology is headed, and how a good suite of technology tools can take your business to the next level.
Shannon co-hosted a CRM webinar with us recently, which you can find here.
To learn more about IXACT Contact and to get started with a 60-day free trial, visit: IXACTContact.com/CEShopLM
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JON: Hello and welcome to shop talk the real estate show. I'm Jon Forisha and joining me on this episode is Shannon McGee, the Sales Director at IXACT Contact, which offers a customer relationship management tool made for working real estate agents. All right, Shannon, well thank you for joining me. Let's just start with your background.
SHANNON: Oh, thanks so much for having me, Jon. Um, my background has been in I guess my entire career of customer service sales, um, is quite a long stint in that an agency level recruitment, so always people focused and, and sort of corporate recruitment. Um, so I always dealing with people and I guess selling people, but selling the service of uh, finding good people.
JON: Yeah. Yeah. So how did you get involved with IXACT?
SHANNON: So after working in, in that, um, recruiting industry for quite a long period of time, um, I was looking for a change. I was looking for something in a different industry. Um, I had actually worked with IXACT Contact and helping them with some hires in the past and I reached out to them and ask, actually just ask for a reference, um, because I, I worked with them as a client and they happily agreed and then said, it sounds like you're looking for a job, we might have one for you. So kind of just sort of stumbled upon it. Um, but it's been a really, really great transition. Um, I have a strong background in using CRM, which is what exact contact product is in that everywhere I've worked has had some sort of database system and I don't know that I would have survived in any of my prior roles without that organizational and keep in touch tool.
JON: Yeah, definitely CRMs are inescapable but also super powerful nowadays. So, um, okay. So pretend I'm an alien and I just crashed, landed here. Uh, how would you describe what a CRM is?
SHANNON: I would first explain what CRM actually means. Because real estate, there's so many different acronyms, um, and abbreviations of, of what things are, CRM is your customer relationship management system. And it helps you do exactly that. It helps you manage your relationships with your customers. Prospects lead. It helps you manage when to follow up with them. It helps give you automatic reminders. Um, and even, uh, a good CRM will have tools to actually do the communication side. So things like mass emailing or even drip emailing, text messaging right through the system.
JON: Yeah. And there are a lot of CRMs out there. For anyone listening who may have looked up different CRMs, they all seem to sort of use same language to sell themselves. What, what sets IXACT apart?
SHANNON: What sets us apart is that, I mean there's, there's lots of CRMs. There are a few real estate specific CRMs or, or a few of the CRMs that have a real estate version of, so that's one thing that sets us apart. We also have worked really hard to create a system that is designed for average real estate agent, um, and that at age group that is somewhat techie but maybe not the most techie, it's easy to use. It has a friendly interface and we also provide more marketing content than most of the other real estate CRMs in the market today. So there's things like a monthly email newsletter that's written, pre-written and ready to go. Drip email campaigns, there's nine pre-written ready to go. We'll even include a fully written website with the package. There's a lot more content, um, and thought put into the key pieces that agents will need rather than just here's a system, do what you will with it. We've really tried to wrap it into something that's ready to ready to work with right out of the box.
JON: And was IXACT always focused on real estate?
SHANNON: Yeah. We've always been focused on real estate. Our sister company is actually a print marketing company and they're focused in real estate as well. So IXACT kind of spun out of what they saw as a growing need on the technology side for their existing clients.
JON: Wow. And do you know why real estate?
SHANNON: I don't know specifically why the way the company decided to stay in real estate. Um, like I said, our sister company already had, um, good insight, a strong sort of foothold in the industry and knew what agents were looking for and what they were asking for. But they started IXACT Contact 10 years ago when technology in this space was very new. And we've not that we've never looked at sort of expanding outside of real estate, but there's just so much to be done for real estate agents that we've, we've really stuck to, to our real estate product.
JON: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, there's definitely a lot of need for it. Real estate as an industry can be kind of averse to technology. And I think it's largely because agents don't always know where to start. Would you say a CRM is a good starting place?
SHANNON: Absolutely. A CRM is really the cornerstone to any good business. It's really a tool that will help agents excel in their business. I'll say this. We often hear from, from brand new agents that say, well I was told I should get a CRM but I don't know if I'm ready to start cause I don't have that many contacts. Perfect time to start because two, three years in with huge list of prospects, a huge list of clients, um, or even a, you know, moderately sized list, it becomes much more challenging to implement something when you're already busy working your business. So especially those at the beginning of their career. But really, you know, implementing a CRM to help manage key pieces of the business, help systematize key pieces of the business. Like again, automated reminders, fault beats to follow up on like moving anniversaries. It can be so hard to manage that by just putting them into frequently your Google calendar, but with a good CRM system, it will remind you automatically of those key dates.
JON: Awesome. Yeah. So beyond just being able to keep track of everyone and your system, marketing automation is a huge part. Marketing automation I know is kind of a buzz word, especially in the CRM world. Um, so how do you guys do it differently? You just explained a little bit of it, but what, how else do you automate the process of marketing?
SHANNON: Yeah, so I mean marketing automation can be a number of different things. It can be email, it can be text, it can be social media marketing. Um, what IXACT Contact is trying to do, is systematize some of some of that marketing on the back end so that agents again have more free time. Um, the average real estate agent, actually the arch sales person in general is no matter what industry, they're typically not also a writer, some are but most aren't. So we're helping with providing that content. So a personal message, three articles send out automatically agents can customize it. The majority don't because it's strong content and it's content positioning them as an expert in all things home ownership. So it's more than just sending listings. It's about sending all of your key contacts, a communication that represents you as just an expert in, in owning a home so that these people start to think of that, of that real estate agent when they think of buying or selling drip emails. Also a great piece to be able to automate. Um, for those that aren't familiar with that term, drip email is scheduled campaign of emails that automatically send out. They are typically strategic in who they're trying to contact. So for example, in IXACT Contact, some of our preloaded campaigns are things like a two year long campaign specifically for first time home buyers or a four month high touch campaign. It's a biweekly email for um, for a hot prospect that's a seller. So all of the communication throughout that campaign has something relevant to the person you're sending it to. Current scenario. So it's targeted marketing that somewhat personalized. Um, we're not meaning for this, for any automation. However, take over agents having that personal connection. Um, email campaigns can also have things like phone call reminders built in. So agents are still then actively following up at intervals throughout the time that they're emailing, ensuring that they also still have that personal connection, not just an electronic one.
JON: That's great. Yeah, that was going to be my next question is, uh, I've heard some agents that are averse to marketing automation because they think it takes out the, the human touch aspect. But you're saying, I mean this is more of a reminder system like reach out now.
SHANNON: Yeah. I mean it's a little opposed, right? Um, agents still should be contacting people periodically live, whether it's on the phone, whether it's a handwritten note, it's a little more personal. Whether it's a pop by, but the email marketing piece in the background when they're too busy to do those things or they're, you know, they're not, you know, actively building their pipeline. Those little touches will help people remember who the agent is. When they do make the phone call, when they do pop by, there is their home and knock on their door. So it's helping not just communicate and remind, but also build the agent's brand. So they're recognizable when they do have that active connection. Um, and we're just, we're trying to, to help free agents up to have more time to do their prospecting calls, to go out and do networking, to actually be on site at an open house or at a listing presentation while these key little touches are going out either by email or on social media.
JON: That's great. And the marketing content that you guys provide to your subscribers, do you create that all in house?
SHANNON: We do, yeah. We've got a team of writers that are constantly providing articles and then we build those into the three article e-newsletter. So three articles every month and agents can exclude them or add to them or, or had their own, if they'd like to change the content. They're typically a little bit seasonal, right? Like something about new year's might have, you know, something about planning for planning for your year or something like that. Um, you won't find anything that's region specific. So, our general interest is enough that you can go out to all of our customers.
JON: So if somebody just signed up for a CRM, what is the first step, uh, for, for anyone listening who is, uh, sort of still having a hard time grasping how a CRM could fit into their business? Uh, say a brand new agent decides that they want to go with a CRM, where do they start?
SHANNON: Yeah, absolutely. So with IXACT Contact you actually get started with what we call a free trial. This more defined as a free setup period, you have access to all of the features. Um, you don't necessarily have to take advantage of all features right away. The key things to get set up and establish are obviously getting your contact list into the system. And we can do that a number of ways, whether it's thinking with Google contacts or helping you export from phone contacts or outlook, we'll upload that file for you. Um, and then from there it's really sort of looking at that list and prioritizing it appropriately so that say hot prospects are being followed up with an appropriate interval to ensure that you're the top agents that they think of when they're ready to move, which is going to be sooner rather than later versus longterm prospects who over time you'll continue to nurture and the system will help you do that, um, versus clients or past clients. So being able to categorize even at that sort of high level will really help you manage your list and manage your listing to deficient way. So that's really the, the key thing. And then the second thing we recommend everyone gets started with is art monthly email newsletter. You've got this great piece of content. It's three articles about home ownership, not just about buying and selling real estate. Then go out to your entire list or pieces of it if you wish and let them know that you're in real estate, you know that you're an expert in home ownership so that you're getting communicating across your entire database while you're out busy making new relationships, getting listings, getting those, getting the closings and doing all the things you have to do day to day. The system can be helping you nurture that database. But really the key thing is getting your contact data in, categorizing it at some level and then getting some key piece of marketing going out to them.
JON: Yeah, definitely. So you said that IXACT has been around for 10 years.
SHANNON: Yes. Yeah. We just celebrate our 10 year anniversary.
JON: Hey, congratulations.
SHANNON: Thanks. It's an exciting time to be in real estate technology. Um, you mentioned earlier that, you know, people, real estate is kind of an industry that has historically been a bit adverse to technology and we're seeing a big shift in that, um, in, in the time that I've been with exact contact. And even just, I think the key place we've seen this is when we go to, um, conferences and events and we're speaking one-on-one with, uh, with real estate agents. And three, four years ago, we would go to those events and people would go, what's a CRM and how does that help me and what's IXACT Contact? And now when people approach us to learn more about IXACT Context, I go, yeah, I have one. They know what it is. So there's definitely been a big shift in the last three, four years. Um, in real estate there's, there's buzz words like tech stack and agents as well as brokerages are starting to build in different pieces of technology to help them run their business. As everything becomes more and more online. CRM however, has still remains that cornerstone thing that will help manage and run your business. There's lots of bells and whistles you can add, but really having your database and a system that works for you rather than you working for it or what's going to help need you to be more efficient and just have more time freed up to be able to run their business better.
JON: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. We, we've seen the same thing. I mean The CE Shop offers online real estate education. We've been around since 2005 and um, we used to get a lot of the same questions of like, where do I go for my classes? When are they? And the answer was always there online and now I've noticed it's less and less of a question. People are just like, Oh, okay, it's online. I get that. So yeah, the industry is definitely becoming more, um, online focused. The newer agents realize it's just a wave of the future. Right. You just have to get on board and learn how to use these tools.
SHANNON: Yeah, absolutely. And we have, like I said, we built the idea of IXACT Contact with the average real estate agent in mind and the average age is about 55. So the average real estate agent, so they're again, they're in that sort of, in between a kind of have technology. Some are sort of on the higher side of technology and some are still sort of getting into it. And that's really who we build this for. It's an easy to use interface and you can use as many or as few features as work for you. So you're not sort of stuck with this system that's way over your head. You can really get into just the things that you need for your business.
JON: You mentioned mobile. Is there an app for IXACT?
SHANNON: There is, there is. There's a mobile app. Um, if they didn't access to their contact data, um, any of their reminders, task list, calendar all on their mobile device. Cause we understand it. Real estate agents are not often at an office or sitting in front of the computer.
JON: Yeah, definitely. Well, if you guys haven't been around for 10 years, um, what do you think the future of real estate is? What do you think the next big transformative thing will be?
SHANNON: Um, in terms of technology or just in general?
JON: I mean technology.
SHANNON: Yeah. I mean it's been growing, I would say over even just the last couple of years, we're seeing more and more. Um, we're more agents implementing technology to help run their business. We're also seeing brokerages provide their agents with technology. So I think that's going to continue to grow. Uh, I actually heard, um, one of, uh, one of the speakers on a tech panel, I was, I was on in New York, who said, Oh, who is he with? Really one group in San Diego. And you see, he said it in a great way. He said it would, and we're talking about like buyers and it'll all be to online brokerages. He said real estate agents are not going to be obsolete. Technology is not going to wipe out real estate agents. Real estate agents using technology will.
SHANNON: I thought that was just, it was a great way to put it because more and more agents are taking up technology and helping it be more, helping them be more efficient in their business. You can easily build a pipeline that sort of filters down and continues to remind you as salespeople, we tend to be really good at getting tunnel vision and focusing on the deal that's right in front of us. And then when that deal closes and we've got the money in our hand, we go, Oh, where does my next, where does my next deal come from? Where does my next paycheck come from? Because we haven't necessarily been really good at funneling things in. And that's what these tools will help, will help agents to do, is nurture along the way so that there is always a next deal.
JON: That's a great quote. Yeah, I liked that a lot. So, okay, so lead capture. How can CRMs help with lead capture?
SHANNON: So with a system like IXACT Contact, you can have your leads. Um, I mentioned earlier is that IXACT Contact includes a website that's directly integrated to the CRM. There's contact forms on every page of that website. So you can have your leads automatically coming into the CRM. When a lead enters the CRM, you can automatically have things like the monthly newsletter assigned to those contacts. You can even choose to have an autoresponder go out or a drip email campaign automatically get a headline and then continued to nurture. So while agents are actively trying to get this person on the phone, or at least respond to a text message in the background over time, there's also a little tidbits going out via email, like their great monthly newsletter, um, like little followup messages saying, Hey, this is what I can help you do if you're trying to by yourself. We can capture leads from virtually any online source, whether it be social media, leads, other, you know, an external website, landing pages. We're also directly integrated with Zillow. And a couple of other lead providers like Zillow.
JON: Awesome. And I see on the IXACT website you've got text marketing, social media marketing. I mean you really do try to encompass the entire marketing ecosystem into your tool.
SHANNON: We do, we do, um, text marketing and the social media marketing are both optional add-ons. Um, as I said a few minutes ago, they're sort of the bells and whistles. They're not the necessity. The CRM really is sort of that cornerstone piece. And then you've got um, produce, it is a cornerstone piece and then you've got these, these extra add on pieces. Um, text marketing, you add it to the system and it means you can then send a mass text to any group of people within your, within your database. As long as you've got their, their mobile number, it means that those texts are stored on the contact history record. When someone replies back, you can even be sitting in your office at your CRM and reply from the CRM via text message. You also received them on your mobile device. So it creates a really cool interaction via text, a text messages. We all know that the email marketing is, is, you know, the, the open rates are, are steady, but they're not, you know, they're not an extravagant number. Um, text marketing today is virtually 100% open rate. Does that make sense? That makes a huge difference in, in communicating with people. Um, a lot of agents will look at text marketing and some think it's a great idea and, and others are sort of hesitant to intrude. Because we still see text messaging as something that sits very personal. Um, you may turn off the notification setting on your email, but very few people have turned off notification setting on their text messages because you're expecting those friends and family. Um, not necessarily from a marketing standpoint. So we're seeing more and more agents taking up text marketing and then just being very strategic with it, sending it out to say a specific group of buyer prospects that they've already communicated with to invite them to come to an open house at a specific address. So using it in that way seems to be how most agents are doing it rather than just sending out a mass text blast. Yeah. And then social, social media marketing, um, social stream is the service that exact contact provides and it can post articles from top to your publications automatically to an agent, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And when someone clicks on that article, there's actually a landing page, sort of an interim between the Facebook and a house and home magazine website at landing page has a pop up asking for someone's name and email address. So again, it's creating that connection of lead gen back to the CRM can be so difficult for agents to get actual contact information from, say their Facebook contacts. They end up stuck in a messenger cycle of messaging this person and they're never getting into their database. Social stream is a way to engage them with content that they're interested in and then politely ask for for contact information to continue to follow up.
JON: Wow, that's a great tool. Well, are there any new features coming to IXACT that you're excited about? A we near the new year?
SHANNON: A lot of our new features have already rolled out. So things like text marketing was only about a month ago. Um, the text rolled out social streams been around for about a year and a half. We're always updating and changing, um, either existing features or functions within the system based on our customer feedback. Um, and obviously the more times we get asked for something specific, the more likely to is to get pushed to the top of the, uh, of the development and change list. Um, we recently made changes to how our business pipeline works and functions within the system. We had a lot of customers asking us, you know, you've got five hard loaded statuses for my clients or like for my contacts, but I want to make my own as well. And so we've actually opened up the ability for people to, to add and change that previously static list, always making updates to the system. The next big launch will actually be updated website templates.
JON: Great. All right, well I think we covered some of the core features of the tool. If somebody wanted to learn more about exact or sign up with you guys, do you have any kind of free trial or anything?
SHANNON: Yeah, we do. Um, with the, with The CE shop, you're actually going to be getting an extended free trial. Our typical free trial is five weeks, so just over a month with The CE shop, we're actually offering a 60 day free trial for rookies, always six months free. So if you've been licensed less than a year and you're on day three 64, we'll still honor it. If you realize it's less than a year, you get six months free with exact contacts so that you're starting your business off on the right foot. Um, and to learn more, you can go to IXACTContact.com/CEShopLM for learn more. So slash CE Shop, LM, all one word. And there's a free trial button there. If you do want to get started.
JON: Perfect. And we'll put that link in the show notes for this episode. Um, okay, well, thank you very much, Shannon.
SHANNON: Thank you, Jon, again for having me. Much appreciated. I'm the podcast newbie here, so happy to, uh, to be able to chat with you today.
JON: That's it for this episode of Shop Talk. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the episode, you can leave us a review or subscribe on your podcast player of choice. Shop talk is a production of the The CE Shop.