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Wouldn’t it be terrific if the latest gadget would actually make you more money with less effort? And wouldn’t it be even better if you could get all the money back you’ve already spent on products that still sit unwrapped in their original packaging under your desk right now?

You are not alone! Everybody wants the latest silver bullet. And every day there seems to be a newer better, whiter, brighter, quicker, and way-more-cool tool than the one you just bought that guarantees you will make more money…or will you?

Technology is a great tool, but just like that treadmill in your den, it won’t get you any results unless you actually use it with a plan and strategy in mind.

Tech platforms help us to offer that critical 24/7 real time information and automation that supports customer services. Many of these tools are “must have” investments, and others maybe not so much. But in any case, the objective is to incorporate those tools that can help you be a better service provider and provide a better customer experience for your investment.

Instead of looking at what we want in technology, let’s switch gears and ask this question instead, “What tools and services would best serve my customer’s needs?” This will help you narrow down the choices and give you a competitive edge by delivering the types of services your customers really want.

Here are a few guidelines to help you in the selection process:

• Have a strategy and an outcome for investing in a new tech tool. Whatever you choose to use, the rule is it must save you both time and money, make you more efficient and actually help you deliver a higher level of service to your prospects and customers.

• Do some research before buying. Just because it’s the latest, hottest thing on the market, doesn’t mean it is the right one for your business. Do a little search and get some consumer reviews. Check the blogs for positive or negative feedback to get the scoop on the good, the bad and the “you should have saved your money” advantage.

• Decide on the must haves. You must have certain types of equipment and tools, but think about investing in those that can multi-task and serve multiple purposes. As an example, you simply must have a phone. Investing in a smartphone that accommodates multiple apps will help you to provide real time, on the spot information should you be working with a buyer or seller. With data at your fingertips, you are sure to improve your service model and raise your expertise level by simply using a phone that works multiple ways for you.

• Old time faxes are out, scanners are in, and printing is still required. Invest in one piece of equipment that provides multiple services, like a printer that will perform wireless scanning, faxing and can print both in color and black and white. My personal favorite is my Kodak ESP Office 6150. Easy to use, wireless access from anywhere in my home office, it prints and scans effortlessly…and replacement cartridges are under $30.

• Do you specialize in those paper-laden transactions like short sales and foreclosures? Recent banking legislation mandates that many banks require scanning instead of faxing for the transference of financial documents. Check out the power of the Kodak i1120 scanner. This small but mighty scanner gets my vote. Easy-to-use, smart-touch scanning sends scanned documents to any of nine “scan-to” destinations, including e-mail, print, file, or desktop apps in a variety of formats, even accommodating legal sized documents. The best part of scanning is staying organized with less clutter, minimal paper files and easy “click to find” options.

• In a world where the consumer wants global access to information 24/7, smart agents know to add multiple options to their marketing materials. Virtual tours are still great options for showcasing a property, but think multiple options. There are now great tours available that offers an interface with Facebook, provide selection interaction and participation with the viewer, and can automatically generate a QR code on any downloadable brochure. QR codes may be new, but having the service included in the automation saves you time and money, while serving the customers preferences.

• Prospecting systems are critical to developing new business. You must incorporate some automated prospecting systems for specific marketing verticals. If you prospect expired listings, for-sale-by-owners or short sales, look into several of the online reporting and CRM systems available. Sign up for a trial and take advantage of that free time to actually use the system before you buy. Sometimes the system looks great, but turns out to be too clumsy to use in real life, or takes a huge learning curve before it can become useful to your business. Automated systems are the key to attracting, engaging and servicing new business leads while you are busy doing other business activities.

• Consider using an iPad to ramp up your presentations. Present a paperless CMA at your next listing appointment. Today’s consumers want participation and interaction. Pulling real-time data with them is the perfect solution. iPads allow multiple applications especially when working with buyers, so making an iPad investment might be the right tool for creating a better buyer and seller experience.

If you don’t have a plan or strategy to really use a tool or system, don’t buy it. It’s time to “get good or get gone.” Invest in only those technology products that will make you money, save you time and do a great job to serve your customers.