Your customer contact list needs work? Here’s how to get it in shape.
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You’ve built up your contacts lists, but things seem in disarray. You’re getting more bounce backs on your email campaigns, and people aren’t responding.

“If real estate agents don’t clean up their list often, they are wasting marketing resources,” says Nia Pearson, founder of the consulting firm Marketing 4 Real Results, a Los Angeles–based marketing agency that provides coaching, consulting and implementation services to real estate professionals.

Customer relations management solutions, or CRMs, can be complicated and offer advanced tools. But you can take a few fairly basic steps to organize information and eliminate problems. These steps should lead to more effective communication with clients and better response rates, which can help your bottom line.

Why It's Necessary

Cleaning up outdated addresses helps prevent your marketing from ending up in people’s spam folders. “If you’re flagged for sending emails all the time to outdated addresses, at some point, your mailings are called spam,” says Andy Velkme, CIPS, senior vice president at Caton Commercial Real Estate Group in Naperville, Ill., and chair of the Global Business Council for the Illinois REALTORS®.

And updating your CRM isn’t just about deleting incorrect or nonresponsive contacts. It’s also about making sure the contact information you retain is accurate and complete. “If details are inaccurate, there is no way to add value for clients,” Pearson says.

With added detail, she says, you have the ability to quickly connect sellers and buyers based on specific needs outlined in your CRM notes. You also have the ability to create more meaningful relationships as you document such things as family milestones and career changes.

Beginning the Cleanup

Bee Gault, transaction coordinator at Due South Destination and Real Estate Services LLC in Chicago, recommends a best practice of collecting accurate client information and preferences at the time of an initial discussion or proposal.

But since information and circumstances are always changing, you need a systematic way to up- date your CRM database. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take it step-by-step, experts say.

Step 1

Download a full report of all contacts. Identify duplicate data and remove it, Pearson says. Be sure to confirm the last contact method to ensure you are deleting the older information. It’s not a bad practice to reach out via phone or text to confirm data details before getting rid of any information.

Step 2

Create subcategories, groups or tags to easily define sets of customers. Segmentation can be based on personas like buyer or seller, customer or client, buy or lease, first-home buyer or investor, homeowner or lessor, partner or vendor. Gault goes further, identifying contacts by category such as price point, ZIP code, hobby, neighbor, profession or trade, and more. The more detail, the better you’ll be at generating new business through niche marketing, she says, “ because you’ll have the ability to craft very specific marketing communications,” she says.

“By saving [inactive] contacts, you have an opportunity in the future to reengage.”

—Nia Pearson, Marketing 4 Real Results

Step 3

Check the performance of your emails. Note which are being opened and which aren’t. “If they aren’t being consistently opened, check those contacts,” Velkme says. “Is the address outdated or misspelled? Is the person or company not there anymore? Research and remove all bounce backs.”

Step 4

Set a task for yourself to call each contact in the near future. Pearson suggests setting a time limit of 30–60 days to check in on them and get updated information.

Step 5

Before deleting a contact, consider moving the contact to an inactive status. “Prospects in an inactive status require very minimal touch points per year,” Pearson says. “By saving the contact, you have an opportunity in the future to reengage. Be sure to add an inactive tag to prevent these contacts from receiving unwanted emails and unsubscribing altogether from further communication.”

Step 6

Set ongoing maintenance goals. Sample goals might be contacting everyone on your list at least once annually for updates or getting new contacts added within 24 hours. Gault recommends checking your list every 30 days against the National Do Not Call Registry.

The overall time needed to organize your contacts will vary depending on the number in your database. “The average time to clean up each contact should be about 3 minutes,” Pearson adds. That means about 25 hours for every 500 contacts. 

Not doing this leads to lost opportunities, Velkme says.

If you send emails to 100 prospects but only 70 get through because of outdated addresses or misspellings, “a lot of what you think you’re accomplishing isn’t getting done,” he says. “You are missing out on those 30.”

Holiday Task: Reengagement Time

The end of the calendar year is a good time to calls to each person in your CRM, Nia Pearson says. “This is a good time to ask contacts about their preferred communication method, wedding anniversaries and births of children or grandchildren.”

Pearson and Bee Gault agree that the old-school method of picking up a phone remains the best.

“If it’s a commercial client, stop by the place of business,” Gault says. “Real estate professionals are competing with platforms as a service. Our competitive advantage is our humanity.”