Contact Management Quandary

By
Real Estate Sales Representative with RE/MAX of Wasaga Beach Inc., Brokerage

 

My nightmare of contact management is finally coming to an end. After using AgentOffice for the past 12 years (and outgrowing it about six years ago!) I felt it was finally time to investigate what's out there so I headed south in November to the 2008 NAR convention in Orlando to see firsthand. When Top Producer went internet a few years back I was envious yet reluctant to jump ship, knowing that AgentOffice would soon counter with their own version of an internet-based contact management system. Good thing I didn't hold my breath! Talk about a company dropping the ball on a loyal following...

So for the past few years I've been tucking contacts into:

1) AgentOffice (and doing back-ups and syncs and inventing new cuss words every time something went haywire and I had to sign up for their ridiculously expensive support services)

2) Outlook (my main email center) which never synced with my AgentOffice without great struggle

3) MobileMe (a handy though weak contact and email program from those wonderful Mac folks) which gave me the ability to access my contact info, emails and data from anywhere

I've now surrendered to the universe and, after a solid month of testing my top picks I decided (drum roll...), that I'm still torn between an internet-based system and a database system. Did I want to access my info from anywhere via web 2.0 enabled programs or maintain control over my data and have a beautifully clean sync between my emails and my database?  A huge thank you to all who have posted on this topic (and there are many posts in the Rain about this topic) and thank you to Gary David Hall for your patience with my questions. It's down to two for my needs: RealFuture CRM for the internet or Mark-it Advantage Xi for the database.

I have a PC at my office, two PCs at home (one for me and one for my wife who is also my client services manager), a Mac desktop for photo and video editing (trust me, once you've done any kind of graphics work on a Mac after a lifetime of using PCs there is no going back!) and a MacBook laptop. Sounds like too many computers, I know, but there are still many MLS-related programs in my area that aren't Mac friendly yet. If I had my druthers, there'd be nothing on our desks but a Mac desktop but the real estate community isn't there yet in my opinion (though I will be giving Parallels 4.0 a try which will allow Windows XP -- no VISTA in my world -- to operate on my Mac).

I need my phone (Treo 700) to sync easily to my data, I need my email (Outlook) to flawlessly integrate with my CRM, I need a good referral tree and the ability to set up drip marketing campaigns.  I want a company behind the product constantly updating the system and listening to its clients' needs. And I want to have complete control over my data and the ability to move it somewhere else should the need arise. 

So, I am leaning heavily toward Mark-it Advantage Xi based on my above needs and also by the fact that this is the program of choice for Gary David Hall (aforementioned Guru of all things CRM-related) to use for his day-to-day business. Consider this: Gary has studied CRMs for years and is assembling a matrix right now using hundreds of questions to determine which CRM will be right for your needs (go here for a sneak peek: http://garydavidhall.com/CRMMatrixSample.htm ). Good enough for Gary, good enough for me. And during my test of Mark-it Advantage Xi, I easily pulled far more data from my old AgentOffice database than any of the other companies told me I'd be able to... and it only took a minute or two.

This has been a steady progression of scouring the internet for CRM comparisons and comparing them to my list of needs. The only thing I'll be giving up will be the ability to easily access my data from anywhere, anytime via the internet but realistically, with my Smartphone, I'm never far from my data anyway. Good luck to those of you still searching for the perfect CRM. If anyone knows of a more complete solution, please let me know so I can see how it stacks up against Mark-it Advantage Xi. 

Happy Holidays!

Bruce

 

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Rainmaker
315,240
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Bruce,

Are you still using Advantage XI? If yes, are you happy with it? I am evaluating systems and would really appreciate observations from from an actual user like yourself.

Thanks, Dave

Feb 22, 2011 05:01 PM #41
Rainer
12,246
Bruce Johnson
RE/MAX of Wasaga Beach Inc., Brokerage - Wasaga Beach, ON
ABR CRS, GREEN, e-PRO

Hi Dave, 

yes, I'm still using Advantage Xi. As I said in some of the above posts, there is no perfect system so you have to take the time to figure out what your needs are and then pursue them by seeking the system that best suits your needs. Advantage Xi has made life much easier for me by allowing me to sync automatically to my other PC computers (assistant and office and home office). However, I'm a big fan of Mac computers (newsletters, market reports, etc. are light-years better with the Mac) so there is a great disconnect for me between my two computer systems. As well, there is still no useful Blackberry sync though it was promised when I first looked at this system a few years ago. i have to sync it to Google and then "push" the info down to my Blackberry. Not my favourite way to update my contact info and calendar...

I'd still like to see Advantage Xi embrace a cloud-based system so I can access everything from anywhere. I've also experienced a lot of problems using the built-in email when I'm travelling with my laptop. I bought this system primarily for the ability to save emails with my client's contact info so when I can't access my email via the program I have to use an external email program and then download them all again once I'm home and the email is working again. 

So my perfect system would be cloud-based and accessible from anywhere but this is working for me for the moment. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be using it, though. If a better alternative came out for my Mac computer and laptop I'd jump ship as this is now the only real estate-related program that I need a PC for. Everything else now works on my Mac.

Regards,

Bruce

Feb 22, 2011 05:23 PM #42
Rainmaker
315,240
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Bruce,

Thanks for your quick and insightful response.

It seems that so many systems try to be the answer to everything but specialize in none.  I'm hearing good things about Advantage Xi. More importantly, I'm not hearing/reading rants against Advantage Xi like the ones that pop up so often about Top Producer.

Feb 22, 2011 08:27 PM #43
Rainer
42,689
Judi Bryan
Executive Realty Group - Bloomingdale, IL
Your Chicagoland Connection

Dave,

I'm not Bruce, but I am an Xi user (for about 2.5 years now!) and still a HUGE fan!  I come from having used MANY different crms over the years (Top Producer, Act!, Agent Office, Prep, Goldmine as well as several of the Outlook addons) and, despite the fact that Xi is not yet "perfect", it's still, in my opinion, the most robust, most flexible, most powerful, most complete CRM product out there.  It does More things Better than anything else I've worked with....and I've been using CRMs since back in the DOS days with the original Top Producer and Howard & Friends (I've used 3 versions of TP...stopping when they went to online database).

I sync my Blackberry with Xi through my free google account which is generally fine...the flaw is not what Xi sends to google, but rather what google sends to my phone (because Xi gives us SO MANY ways to contact our contacts, not every phone number for the secondary contact winds up on my phone.  I've done a bit of a "work-around" to get them on my phone anyway.  It occurs to me that using a different type of phone...perhaps Droid...might offer more complete phone numbers.

What still impresses me about Xi is how it is constantly being improved...we get updates to the software frequently during the year...some are minor with little "tweaks"...while others are imprements to features and functionality....Often in response to user suggestions and requests!!!!  I think that's awesome!  It just makes a great program even better and we ALL benefit as a result.

Maybe I have an advantage because I HAVE seen so many other products up close and personal so I had a pretty good idea of what CRMs had the capability of doing.  Prior to making the switch to Xi I demoed many of the products on the market...each were big disappointments, either in how they did certain things, the limitations to how they did others, and how many things they didn't address at all.  I demoed Xi for 3 days and was blown away....I purchased the product right away not waiting until my 30 day trial was up...and I've never looked back!   Does it do every single thing it does at all perfectly? Not at all...but it does more of the vital "crm" functions better than anything else I've seen!  

My suggestion is always for prospective users to make a list of the things you WANT your CRM to do...then find the best product to accomplish THOSE things for you.  Xi was the clear winner for me!

Feb 23, 2011 07:28 AM #44
Rainmaker
315,240
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Judi,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a ringing testimonial. Gary David Hall recently told me about Advantage XI and since then all I hear is great things from users like yourself. I'm heading over to Gary's website to order it now.

Thanks again!

Feb 23, 2011 07:43 AM #45
Rainer
42,689
Judi Bryan
Executive Realty Group - Bloomingdale, IL
Your Chicagoland Connection

Dave...

Gary is a GREAT help and resourse about crm.  I hope you wind up as delighted with your decision as I am (and many others are as well!)   Their support team is excellent for technical issues...but for USER HELP be sure to join our Yahoo user group (Gary will direct you) for help with the "how to's".  We help each other and the group is very active!

JudiB

Feb 23, 2011 08:07 AM #46
Rainer
12,246
Bruce Johnson
RE/MAX of Wasaga Beach Inc., Brokerage - Wasaga Beach, ON
ABR CRS, GREEN, e-PRO

I agree with Judi... Gary is great! I don't know of anyone who has more knowledge in all of the CRM programs available to us as realtors.

Best of luck,

Bruce

Feb 23, 2011 08:23 AM #47
Rainmaker
315,240
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Bruce, Judi,

I just downloaded Advantage Xi through Gary's site. Hopefully it will be a game changer for me. Thanks for all the help!

Feb 27, 2011 09:46 PM #48
Rainer
42,689
Judi Bryan
Executive Realty Group - Bloomingdale, IL
Your Chicagoland Connection

Be sure to post any user questions to the yahoo user group.  We're happy to help in any way we can.


Judi

Feb 27, 2011 09:57 PM #49
Rainmaker
315,240
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Judi,

Thanks for directing me to the user group. I just posted a "hello, I'm a newbie" post. I imported 99 records from top producer and am excited about mastering Advantage Xi. I also "liked" their Facebook page. I'm going "all in" in a hurry.

Hopefully I'll master it and will be able to help the next generation of newbies, like you do.

Feb 27, 2011 10:04 PM #50
Rainer
42,689
Judi Bryan
Executive Realty Group - Bloomingdale, IL
Your Chicagoland Connection

That's awesome!  I'll tell you my own first hand experience with this....I jumped in with both feet quickly...  It was hard to know where to begin so as I thought of each "task" I needed done (classifications, making the most of notes, of the slider menus, of setting up email rules, or creating reports, of auto-populating contact records from web leads, etc.) one by one I would watch the appropriate videos until I got the hang of that task.  Don't try to devour the whole elephant (this one's a whopper!) all at once...pick a priority and get the hang of that first.  Day by day, week by week, you'll get the hang of it.  I'm STILL in awe of what this program can do and the great talent behind it!

Keep us posted!

Feb 27, 2011 10:18 PM #51
Rainmaker
65,815
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

In response to Bruce's post:

However, I'm a big fan of Mac computers (newsletters, market reports, etc. are light-years better with the Mac) so there is a great disconnect for me between my two computer systems. As well, there is still no useful Blackberry sync though it was promised when I first looked at this system a few years ago. i have to sync it to Google and then "push" the info down to my Blackberry. Not my favorite way to update my contact info and calendar...

Will Google not automatically synch to your Blackberry? It does with my Droid.

I'd still like to see Advantage Xi embrace a cloud-based system so I can access everything from anywhere. I've also experienced a lot of problems using the built-in email when I'm travelling with my laptop. I bought this system primarily for the ability to save emails with my client's contact info so when I can't access my email via the program I have to use an external email program and then download them all again once I'm home and the email is working again. 

I have it set up so that I can answer e-mail on my Droid. Advantage is POPping Gmail, and Gmail is POPping my host e-mail account. My Droid is synching with Gmail. I can reply to an e-mail from somone on my Droid, and then delete it from the inbox. That e-mail will in turn be deleted from my Gmail inbox as well as my Advantage inbox. However, BOTH the incoming e-mail and the reply are automatically stored with the contact in Advantage.

So my perfect system would be cloud-based and accessible from anywhere but this is working for me for the moment. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be using it, though. If a better alternative came out for my Mac computer and laptop I'd jump ship as this is now the only real estate-related program that I need a PC for. Everything else now works on my Mac.

There is a growing contingent of RE Agents using a Mac, but the vast majority of the the ones that take advantage of a lot of the applications available for Real Estate still use PC emulation software because there are, and I believe will continue to be, applications that we as agents use that are not available for a Mac. Mac has always been a better operating system, but the same problem still exists. Most business software developers, especially niche markets, can not afford to develop the application for Macs, because the return on investment is too small.

Feb 28, 2011 08:16 AM #52
Rainer
42,689
Judi Bryan
Executive Realty Group - Bloomingdale, IL
Your Chicagoland Connection

Bruce wrote "I have to use an external email program and then download them all again once I'm home and the email is working again."

Bruce...I find this very confusing.  My Xi is on my laptop...and I do run all of my email through my free Gmail account.  I've NEVER experienced a point where I've not been able to send or receive my email in Xi.  I don't travel outside the Chicago area much, but when I have (Wisconsin, Maine & Florida, for example), it's always worked fine.  And when I use my Blackberry to respond to an email, a copy of my sent message also goes through my gmail account and appears in Xi attached to my contact's record.  If I MUST "cloud" email, I just use my gmail account ... and when I do that, everything "appears" to my recipients to have come from my primary email account (not my gmail account) and all those sent messages, just like my received messages, are downloaded to Xi and attached to my contact records.

This all happens seemlessly....I don't have to take any special steps to MAKE it happen...it's just the way I have my gmail/Xi interaction set up.  Now, this is with the FREE gmail account.  One difference between it and the PAID version is that with the paid version, my SENT messages from Xi would ALSO appear in my Gmail (currently, gmail would only show any messages I sent from gmail or from my BB (Google Apps email, in that case), so I'd have a full "in the cloud" additional backup of incoming and outgoing email.

JudiB

Feb 28, 2011 09:21 AM #53
Rainer
333,112
Paul Gapski
Berkshire Hathaway / Prudential Ca Realty - El Cajon, CA
619-504-8999,#1 Resource SD Relo

Does anyone know if XI will be eventually web based? Will it synch up with my Yahoo email account.

also its 315 bucks with one year support and updates. do i have to or should i pay every year for support or skipa few years and update then?

If i have a 3 computer license can i get my partner to have one and she had here own contacts to split up the costs?

Mar 05, 2011 01:12 AM #54
Rainer
42,689
Judi Bryan
Executive Realty Group - Bloomingdale, IL
Your Chicagoland Connection

I do not believe Xi will ever be web-based (though, since I'm not the manufacturer, I cannot be absolute about that)...and I certainly hope it doesn't.  As far as synching with your yahoo account...not sure what you mean by that.  But I think when you set up Xi, you'd just be able to have Xi retrieve any email you have in your yahoo account and bring that email into the database.  Likely you can choose to leave messages on the server as well...and there may also be some settings in Xi you might need to adjust if you need to retrieve THOUSANDS of email from your yahoo account.  Support could probably help you with that.

The HUGE benefit to processing all email in Xi is that you can attach your email to the appropriate contact record.  For example, if you were in my Xi database, anything you and I would email back and forth to one another would be saved to YOUR contact record...along with any transactions we had with on another, referrals sent and received, phone call records, documents, etc.  Not only that, if you were my seller or buyer and some of that correspondence related to your TRANSACTION, I could attach it to your property record as well.

I rather doubt that you would want to skip a year of support and updates.  Unlike most vendors, updates in Xi are frequent...and while some updates are "perfomance and reliability" related, MANY of them are in response to user requests....we've had several of those kinds of updates already this year, and we're only 2 months into the year. In other words, THIS IS A VENDOR WHO LISTENS AND RESPONDS to the needs of the user, and that response makes this an increasingly better product for all of us.

Since I'm just a single user, I may be awkward in my response to your last question....but what I do know is that you can assign different "priviledges" to different users...and you can control who is an individual "record owner"...and can see, modify, etc., specific records.  In our Yahoo user group at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Mark-It-AdvantageXi we have a number of "multi-user" members who might be able to give you a more thorough response to that.  I'd also recommend visiting Gary at www.GaryDavidHall.com and asking him.  He's both a user of Xi and a reseller, and has much more knowledge about how multi-users might be able to set up their services.  He can also give you info about how teams and partners can network their systems...either locally or through an online server.  Several of our users are partners or teams, and don't necessarily work from the same location.

HTH

Mar 05, 2011 01:10 PM #55
Rainmaker
315,240
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Judi,

I put myself to be notified of any comments on this thread, so I'm benefiting from questions and your responses. Your response to Paul was extremely beneficial to me, also. Thanks for the all the time you dedicate to helping others.

Mar 05, 2011 01:54 PM #56
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Well said, Judi. Regarding Paul's question about the multiple users option, my wife and I work together but we share the same data base. I'm not sure if you can each have your own data base. That may be a great question for Gary.

Regards,

Bruce

Mar 05, 2011 01:59 PM #57
Rainer
42,689
Judi Bryan
Executive Realty Group - Bloomingdale, IL
Your Chicagoland Connection

And I'm not sure whether you'd really want "separate" databases...since you have the option of "privatizing" contacts.  With one database, you have all the letters, all the task series for followup and transaction management that can be shared, a "record owner" that you can assign and modify priviledges for, reports, etc.  All of that can be used by everyone on the "team", but used for their "own" people.

Yes, I'm curious to see how Gary weighs in on this as well.

 

Mar 05, 2011 11:05 PM #58
Rainmaker
65,815
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

I agree with Judi that separate databases are rarely necessary as Advantage's ability to separate contacts based on the 'record owner' is sufficient the vast majority of the time. If you could describe why you feel you need two different databases, maybe I can field that question better.

With regards to buying one primary license and having 2 people share it, that can be done easily if you are on a team, and sharing essentially everything but the contacts. If you mean 2 people running two entirely different businesses on one license then the answer is no. You would be sharing most of the CRM other than the contacts. The purpose of the license is to restrict usage to those who pay to use it on their computer. It's analogous to buying a car. You can let anyone drive it, but there is only one car.

How it can be shared is detailed on my site at http://garydavidhall.com/advantagexiSynching.htm

Hope this helps!

Mar 07, 2011 11:15 AM #59
Rainmaker
65,815
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS
Jul 08, 2011 05:30 PM #60
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Rainer
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Bruce Johnson

ABR CRS, GREEN, e-PRO
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