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Return to: 2006 Feature Stories

CLIENT: SkyWire Media, Inc.

DEC. 1, 2006: Your Realty Insider

JUMPSTART YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Today's real estate industry is facing a number of challenges. While we haven't seen any housing 'bubbles,' many major markets are already experiencing what the pundits are calling 'slowdowns' or 'soft landings'- euphemisms for it's taking a lot longer to market and sell a house or condo.

So what can real estate professionals do to jump-start their business?

One solution is utilizing web-based mobile marketing tools that incorporate Short Message Service (SMS) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technologies.

In brief, SMS permits the sending of short messages between mobile phones, other handheld devices and even SMS-enabled landline phones. IVR allows a person, typically a telephone caller, to select an option from a voice menu and interact with a computer system that plays pre-recorded voice messages. These prompt the caller to press a number on a phone keypad to select an option.

According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), more than 9.8 billion mobile messages were sent over U.S. carrier networks during December 2005, more than double the 4.8 billion messages sent during December 2004. Revenue received in the U.S. during the first six months of 2005 from SMS traffic increased 154 percent to $1.24 billion. Analysts estimate that worldwide 878.3 billion mobile messages were sent in 2005, rising to 1.5 trillion in 2008.

SMS, in fact, is growing so fast that a recent real estate technology conference - Real Estate Connect - was fully SMS/text-message enabled. Every attendee, speaker, exhibitor, booth, event session and room associated with the San Francisco conference had a short numeric tag assigned to it. Attendees were able to use almost any cell phone or palm-held organizer to send a text or SMS message containing that tag, and instantly receive detailed information. A real estate agent waiting in line for a latte at a coffee shop could have used text messaging to download the day's schedule to a cell phone; an attendee listening to a speaker could download that speaker's bio and contact information for follow-up later.

So with that kind of traffic and innovative uses, and the fact that the public is becoming more accustomed to receiving all sorts of information to a mobile phone and/or a PDA device, real estate professionals are quickly realizing the value - and power -- of SMS-based tools that can help them increase profits and productivity.

One such service is known as Virtual Agent, which lets buyers choose the information they want - and how they want it delivered to them from a standard, automated telephone prompt.

When a consumer dials a toll free phone number they are prompted to enter a property code. The property code, in conjunction with the toll free phone number, can be used on Virtual Agent rider yard signs as well as in print and web advertisements. The Virtual Agent system delivers the property information, including up to six photographs to the potential homebuyer's mobile phone. The service eliminates paper flyers that are expensive and generally provide a low number of leads.

Key advantages for this type of mobile marketing tool include:
  • Receive email as well as text message notifications of new activity on properties
  • The notifications provide information on the potential homebuyer, which results in more credible leads
  • Users can log in to an online account to review leads, send property updates via SMS to prospects in the database, order new yard signs, archive sold properties and more.
There are also services that allow you to immediately create residential and commercial text listings. You simply choose your own keyword and are assigned a short code mobile number (common short codes are short strings of numbers that are used to address wireless messages).

The proverbial genie is out of the bottle now - technologies like SMS and IVR are helping real estate agents establish immediate contact with a prospective buyer. With so many homes on the market now, utilizing mobile marketing tools and services can make the difference in concluding that sale!

Return to: 2006 Feature Stories