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Can You Trust Your Geek? 4 Tips to Successfully Choosing a Vendor to Power Your Mobile Solution

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By John Lim

RISMEDIA, April 5, 2011—First, let me start off by saying I am a hybrid geek and proud of it. And in this day and age, with computers, tablets and phones changing as fast as they do, who doesn’t want to be a geek? That said, I must admit, I am extremely ashamed of how some of my fellow geeks have been treating real estate professionals. Now, before I unleash “Revenge of the Nerds Part 4,” and my email gets hit with spam and my site gets hacked, I want to be clear: I do not believe your IT team or outside programmers are intentionally giving you bad information or trying to rip you off. They are just not giving you 100% correct information—and some might be trying to take advantage.

For example, you might have been told your website has been converted into a mobile website or that you have a “full mobile solution,” when that is actually far from the reality. Truth be told, you can’t blame them—with the copious requests we geeks receive on a weekly basis, sometimes it’s easier to just say, “Yes, of course we can do it! Heck, we can build you a spaceship if you want.”

In today’s world, there are very few things you use on a daily basis that operate without a computer chip. That’s why we entrust our business to our IT teams…our computer networks, mobile phones, printers and more are all working because an IT person or network administrator helped connect them together. Our websites exist due in large part to our Web team; for most of us, that consists of a developer or team of developers painstakingly coding up our visions. Our websites are hosted by an entirely different type of geek, one who can administer a server and keep it online despite traffic spikes, network outages, etc. We rely on our geeks to keep us ahead of the technology curve and ensure that our brand and online product work properly on the Web. That’s why, logically, many of you have turned to your Web team for direction on your mobile presence. It only makes sense—your mobile website is just a small version of your main website, right?

Wrong. You have to understand, just because a developer/programmer/geek can speak at a high level of technology, doesn’t automatically mean he or she can apply all of that technology the correct way. Programming is just like any other language; there are many different kinds, dialects, inflections, meanings and usage. With the state of technology today, it’s very difficult for any developer—or even any company—to speak all of these languages correctly. As such, geeks tend to specialize in one or more areas of technology, much like doctors. If your teeth hurt you go to a dentist, not a chiropractor, even though they’re both doctors.

This is why your Web team may not be offering you the mobile presence you require; they simply might not have the tools or the familiarity with the many intricacies of the mobile medium. The mobile medium is very different from the Web—different toolsets, different interfaces, different implementations and, most importantly, consumers in a different mindset. While mobile has some similarities to traditional Web programming, the reality is, they’re very different mediums and, as such, demand a different type of geek. You need a Web geek for Web help, and a mobile geek for mobile help.

Some of you out there know exactly what I’m saying. You have a mobile website, but it’s not what you expected. For example, maybe your brand/logo doesn’t look the same across all types of phones. Maybe it looks good on an iPhone or Android, but not so much on a BlackBerry (did you know that BlackBerry has 38% market share compared to iPhones at 26% and Androids at 24%?). Beyond looking good—and let’s not discount appearance, as most brands have more legal language surrounding the representation of their brand image than anything else, and rightfully so—what about features like Click to Call, Smart GPS and a Gateway App™ for branding?

Smart GPS is one of our most popular features; it doesn’t rely on your phone’s GPS to work, but rather allows you to look around the neighborhood without having to move. A full mobile solution relies on a multitude of features like these, including SMS, QR codes and Gateway Apps. Imagine hiring a Web developer to build your website, but they don’t offer e-mail capabilities. I am confident you would not. Any tech solution has to be complete to be worth it.

Let’s put aside the technology for a second and get back to business basics. Think about the method you are using to speak to potential buyers. The mobile device is inherently different from a PC as it relates to the user. A mobile user is much more aggressive—four minutes on mobile is like 40 minutes on a PC. What does that mean for your site/business? First, you need to ensure the content is rearranged to fit the mobile user experience. For example, on your mobile site, your property search should come first, not your picture. Second, your site should be one vertical column—no more zooming or scrolling from left to right. Third, make sure you have a Click to Call feature. Click to Call is the single largest advantage mobile has over a PC. This feature allows a user to push a button and instantly call you. This can also incorporate email or a lead-generation form as well.

Here are a few important guidelines for choosing a vendor to power your mobile solution:

1. Simple research: From your phone, go to the vendor’s website and see how it formats on your device. If you do not have a BlackBerry, grab a BlackBerry user and try it from theirs as well. The BlackBerry has one of the most difficult browsers to work with and this is a great litmus test for a mobile site. A key indicator is your logo and GPS. If your logo does not have the same branding power on a BlackBerry compared to an iPhone and Android, then stop; however, if your logo is close enough, go to the site’s GPS search. GPS search at the current level should not be used on a BlackBerry using mobile Web. The system is too slow for the potential buyer.

2. Features: Find a demo or example of one of the vendor’s clients and make sure you have the following features: Click to Call on all properties, not just your listings; and basic GPS and smart GPS. The mobile site should also have a way to directly connect the buyers to all your social media outlets. This one is a little tricky—are they connecting directly to Facebook or Facebook mobile? There is a big difference in the user experience.

3. Other solutions: What else does the vendor offer? QR codes, SMS, App branding? It’s one thing for you to have a mobile website; it’s another thing entirely to have a full mobile solution that will help drive traffic to your newly mobilized site.

4. Training: This is a huge one for me. For the last few years, all we have heard throughout the industry is, “This technology is cool and you have to use it in your business practice.” Well, that’s great, but do you have anyone in your company that can show me not only how to use it but, more importantly, how to use it to sell more homes? Make sure you ask this critical question.

Our team at Mobile Card Cast/Real Estate ID is comprised solely of mobile geeks. We understand the mobile paradigm, the vast interface differences, the user experience requirements, the coding requirements and even more advanced concepts. This is what we do, and it’s our job to not only understand and execute against present technology, but to maintain a firm understanding of where the new mobile technology is going to help you stay ahead of the curve.

Remember, if your sink is leaking, call a plumber. If you have a cavity, call a dentist. If you need a mobile solution, call a mobile solutions provider.

John Lim is the president and CEO of Mobile Card Cast. For more information, visit www.mobilerealestateid.com.

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