q2databaseconsulting

Archive for the ‘CRM’ Category

Starting and Building Your Database

In ACT!, CRM, CRM Best Practices, Database Management, Drip Marketing, drip marketing CRM Mortgage Mortgage marekting to clients mortgage markeitng to realtors, Loan Officer, Loan Origination Software, Marketing tools for loan officers, Mortgage, Uncategorized on August 12, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Across the mortgage industry, there is a fundamental truth that you may have heard of on more than one occasion.  This truth is build your business by design, not by accident. This is true for any business and is especially potent in the mortgage industry. This is because providing mortgages for people is almost more relationship driven than it is transactional.

As a mortgage professional you are privy to some of the most private information a person has, their financial status, their financial dreams, and since personal and financial is so closely interwoven you usually end up knowing a lot about their family, personal relationships etc. In order to provide the highest service levels, you must be able to keep track of not only the data on their loan transaction, but also all the related information about their life, their dreams etc., as it pertains to their financial needs. You also need to stay in touch with them between loan transactions. The only way to do this effectively is with a database tool.

If you have any fear about building your database or don’t consider yourself to be “good with systems”, you should stop thinking that way. It can be what stands between you and high sales volume, as well as a quality life/work balance. Most of today’s contact management tools are much easier to use and navigate than ever – and that’s great news. A contact management tool can be something as basic as an Excel spreadsheet or Outlook or something more robust like the ACT! contact relationship management (CRM) tool.

Below are 7 tips for building your database. Go at this task with confidence and get help when you need it!

Top 7 Tips for Building Your Database from Scratch:

  1. Start with the list of names and numbers in your phone and email system. Add them into your database.
  1. If you have any hard files or printed applications transfer those contacts into your database. Sound time consuming? Hire your kid, one of your friends’ kids, post the project on local college job boards, Craigslist, or any of the many job sites on the internet.  Depending on your comfort level, you can give them direct login access, have them enter data, and then change your password for security reasons afterwards.  A tip is that after you show them what you need, check the results after they enter about 10 names with contact information to make sure there is nothing missed or incorrect. You do not want to wait until the project is done to find out they were entering information incorrectly. Not comfortable with someone accessing your database directly? You can still scan and send your hard files over a secure online document center like www.Hightail.com , and have them manually enter the information to an Excel spreadsheet which you could then import into your database. There are many loan officers that have a variety of separate Excel files with contact information. Hire someone to compile them into 1 cohesive Excel worksheet for easier data import.
  1. Gather names, address, email and phone information from your family, friends, work out buddies from the gym, people from your church or place of worship, community groups, and more. Simply let them know what you do and ask for their permission to send them mortgage and financial strategies tips from time to time.
  2. Start with people you know, then network to get to the people they know! Ask your relatives and friends for the contact information for any of their friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances that they feel comfortable sharing with you.
  1. Utilize social media. Before you start, make sure you have social media pages you are happy with. Facebook and LinkedIn pages should be enticing, professional and clear. These sites need to highlight your skills in helping people realize their dreams of property ownership. If you are not a marketing or social media expert, good news! As mentioned in item 2, http://www.Fiverr.com is a great resource for projects. Use search keywords like “Improve” and “Consult” along with the social media site you need help with and see the long list of results that show up. For example “Improve my LinkedIn page”.  Again,most projects are only $5.00!

    Next, search social media sites for anyone you have crossed paths with, even if they do not live in your market area. Ask to be their friend in Facebook and ask to link to them in LinkedIn. Your contact may not be local but may know someone who is. While that contact may not be a great lead or referral source right now, they have the potential to become one.

    You would be surprised how getting the word out about the services you offer,without holding back, will help create new leads.

  1. Branch Out. Perhaps you have heard mixed reviews on getting involved with networking functions and groups. However, do not let the experiences of some people deter you from having your own. One of the most well-known networking groups is http://www.bni.com. Business Networking International (BNI) is one the largest worldwide companies that offers meetings and services to connect professionals and business owners in a particular community. Even better is to join groups that you are passionate about and then take opportunities to offer your services, such as veterans assistance groups, hospital volunteer groups, animal rescue groups, bike clubs, book clubs, the list is endless. Your passion for the cause or group comes first. Getting new business from the group is secondary. This will absolutely expose you to more opportunities to help others with the expertise you offer.

    Procure another mortgage originator’s or real estate agent’s database. Do you know of a mortgage professional or realtor that is about to move or retire? If so, they may be willing to sell you their database, along with a co-branded transition and introduction email to their entire database. This is a powerful way to get qualified leads that are usually immediately open to checking out you and your services.

 

We can help you with any of your contact database management and marketing needs. Contact us today to learn more!

Donna Quisenberry is a Certified Consultant with Q2 Database Consulting Service. Q2 is a full service company providing complete solutions for your database and marketing management needs. Reach Donna at info@proassistmarketing.com, or (760) 434-3431.

Advertisements

Top 5 Habits of a Database Power User

In ACT!, CRM, CRM Best Practices, Database Management, LinkedIn, Loan Officer, Loan Origination Software, Mortgage, Power User, Synchronization on June 6, 2014 at 6:48 pm

GoodBetterBest


With all the time and effort required to close a loan, it is more imperative than ever to have a powerful and easy to use contact and marketing management database system with the most evolved and easy strategies in place. Below are the top 5 habits of database power users. A key measurement for determining a ‘database power user’ is an increase in business revenue in synergy with greater efficiencies and time savings.

1. Use a ‘Command Center’ type of database tool.
There are a multitude of systems available now claiming to be a ‘CRM’ aka Contact Relationship Management tool, however, most of them only provide part of an overall database and marketing strategy. Some are good marketing only tools, offering automated marketing as well as the ability to create and send your own marketing, but they do not have all the other components of a day-to-day contact management tracking and marketing tool. Power users use database tools that provide not only the ‘broad’ marketing components, but also modern day-to-day tracking components. Day to day tracking components include, but are not limited to: conversation tracking, central email history tracking, calendar and shared/team calendar capabilities, data mining and/or ‘lookup’ abilities, creating categories or groups, drip and targeted marketing (automated and/or manual) social media connections, mobile device access etc. There are tools available today that provide all your needs in what I like to call a ‘command center’ fashion. Whenever possible, it is the most effective and efficient to centralize your day to day tracking needs, as well as your marketing needs from one system. Not only do you not have duplicate data entry requirements for separate systems, you also have complete information visibility including individual contact information, follow up tools, calendaring, tracking, reporting, marketing etc from one central system.

2. Seek Expertise.
This is something you likely wish your own prospects would do more often. Would you recommend someone looking to refinance their house should get program and rate information from their dentist, a well-intended relative, or anyone who is not a professional mortgage planner ? Picking the right CRM /database tool with the right marketing automation solution is critical to increasing sales. Don’t get distracted with the ‘shiny database and marketing objects’ for mortgage professionals. Getting the right help from an expert is critical in making sure you do not get burdened with inefficient complex processes that can end up being incredibly expensive. These systems can not only be expensive ‘out the door’, but even more so because they do not work and/or are complex to manage, and then you have to start all over again with a different tool.

Two people at computer top 5 habits

Hand in hand with this is the willingness to get some training.   Top producing database power users include some level of training from an expert in their database management strategy. It does not take much, usually just one or two hours of training can provide you with a quantum leap in using your database tool to get new business, as well as effectively keep previous customers. An expert can be a professional consultant such as myself, or if you are lucky enough to have a database power user in your midst, they may be willing to show you the ropes as well.

Training videos and manuals are great as support to your abilities, but nothing replaces hands on training to bring together the mechanics (ie click here to create a template), but much more importantly, the strategies, for how to get the most from your database every single day.

3. Open Your Database and Use It All Day, Every Day.
Believe it or not, this is not stating the obvious. You should be opening and using your database tool every day. Here’s the power users morning regimen: coffee, open email tool, open database tool, open loan origination system. Some database tools, such as ACT!, interface seamlessly with your email system for even more synergy in your daily communications. Your database is your daily command center where ‘everything ‘ goes including new contacts, updates to current contacts, conversation logs, calendaring, marketing, tracking, reporting, follow up strategies etc.

4.  Be a “Grouper”.
Power users always have some type of database segmentation or grouping strategy. This not only provide a way for quick visibility to the various types of contacts, it also helps support smarter marketing efforts based on a customer’s profile. The only time an email blast to your entire database may be effective is if you are sending a major market update announcement, an announcement that you changed companies, etc. Please note that I did not mention newsletters. There is no market data to suggest a monthly mortgage newsletter is a business creating strategy in modern times. Newsletters via email used to be the new cool thing in about 2006 and for a few years afterwards. Statistics show that now they are tossed before reading in most cases, and actually can lead to an increase in opt outs. The information overload syndrome brought on by the Internet Age affects most of us and a newsletter is a more obsolete ‘mass consumption spoon feeding’ communication method. Consumers are much more sophisticated in how they get their information than even 3 years ago. Information sharing used to be all about publishing and pushing, now it is about publishing and delivering pertinent content to different groups, and/or consumers reaching out and seeking information that applies to them in a very specific way. If you feel certain sending newsletters are helping to drive in business, that’s great, but make sure you are monitoring results to see if it is still as effective as it used to be for you. The key is to keep the information flow from you to your contacts a positive experience overall. Consumers are just more apt to read about something you are sending them that is specific to their particular situation than a generic newsletter. With the right tools it is also a lot easier than ever before to segment your database so you can not only have visibility to contacts in your different categories, but also create or copy an email template and quickly send it to people in a particular group that will get the most from that particular content.

Some examples of database groups or categories in the prospect pillar alone includes, but is not limited to: purchase shopping prospects, first time home buyer prospects, debt repair prospects, investor prospects, apartment dweller prospects, etc. You can see how within just the prospect category alone, there are many segments that each would benefit from a different approach with specific and targeted marketing and follow up strategies.   For example, it is much more powerful to send your debt repair prospects tips on how to improve your credit score or tips on creating a budget etc, than it would be to send that same content to your investor prospects.

5. Stay in Touch.
Staying in contact with prospects, current customers, and customers that you have completed transactions for, is a proven path to increased and recurring sales opportunities. The sales and business advisory firm giant, Forrester Research, has quantified this by stating that those who excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost than those who don’t. A lead includes any contact that you have not done business with yet, all of your contacts currently in a transaction, as well as all of your closed transaction contacts. It is faulty to think that once you have completed a satisfactory transaction for a contact, that they are no longer a lead. A lead is a lead before and after a transaction. The attention in courting them should never diminish. A lead that you have completed a transaction for should immediately be one of your advocates. These ‘post close leads’ are now a virtual member of your sales team, not only coming back to you for their future transactions, but also referring other leads to you. It is a mistake to either let a ‘post close lead’ fall off your radar, or to just throw a ‘closed’ contact into a generic marketing campaign like your newsletter list, thinking this is all that is needed to keep you on their radar for the next transaction. The transaction needs to be one they were pleased with of course, however, you also need to begin to re-court them as a new lead as soon as the transaction is over.

So how do you approach this sometimes daunting task of creating, improving, and most importantly implementing your power user database and marketing plan ? As usual, the best approach is bite size pieces. Below are some important building blocks in your overall database and marketing plan. Hopefully these ideas will help you begin or fine tune your database management and marketing processes. Please don’t be a ‘deer in the headlights’, if you are not sure how to start or how to expand your current stay in touch activities, please seriously consider getting help from a marketing and database management expert such as myself. The time and money you save by getting your database and marketing plan actually implemented will far exceed what you thought you were saving by ‘tinkering’ with putting the pieces together on your own, reinventing the wheel, or not doing anything. Just as I seek out a mortgage professional when I need help with a property transaction, it is prudent for you to leverage an expert in this critical part of your business strategy.

Stay in Touch Plan Building Blocks:

  1. Have a central master command center database and marketing tool
  2. Enter all contacts into your tool, and/or have an automated synchronization from your other applications (ie LOS, web sites, email systems, smartphones etc)
  3. Learn Best Practices for your particular tool from an expert and/or peer
  4. Segment your database into specific ID types or groups based on their profile
  5. Obtain, review and modify marketing templates.
  6. Set up a follow up system and/or utilize an automated marketing solution
  7. Be CAN-SPAM compliant. For ‘mass’ emails, make sure your database tool has a professional white label email service component. For example, ACT! has an E-marketing option for sending CAN-SPAM compliant emails directly from your ACT! database.

We can help you with all of these elements, please contact us today for more information !

Donna Quisenberry is a Certified Consultant with Q2 Database Consulting Service. Q2 is a full service company providing complete solutions for your database and marketing management needs. Please contact Donna at donnaquisenberry@sbcglobal.net, or (760) 434-3431.

 

Keeping Your Database Information Current so You Reach Your Customers

In ACT!, CRM, Database Management, Facebook, LinkedIn, Loan Officer, Loan Origination Software, Mortgage, Social Media, Synchronization, Uncategorized on November 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm

There are two main areas to address when putting together your strategy for keeping your contacts information up to date in your database:

1.   Upman mail delivery1dating your ‘old’ or legacy contact information

2.   Managing your new and on-going contact information

There are a number of ways to update your legacy data.  The areas to focus on include: current mailing address, phone numbers, email addresses and specific industry information when available (ie last loan data).

Based on USPS statistics*, about 17% of American move each year, that equates to about every  1 in 6 contacts. For a database of 2000 records that is about 340 people per year.

For mailing address clean up, the most potent approach is to use a service that will run your contacts address information against USPS certified tools such as CASS and NCOA.   CASS is address matching software that will bring back address syntax and ZIP+4 information for an address.   For example,  ‘7895 Lakeview Str    Canton, OH   55412’ will be updated to ‘ 7895 Lakeview Drive    Canton, OH   55412-8945’.

NCOA (National change of address) database will bring back any address updates based on a change of address card being filled out and provided to the post office. For example, ‘Frank Russell at 326 Julian Street  Canton, OH   54311’  will come back as ‘Frank Russell at 111 Partridge Place   Canton, OH   54455-8945’.

For phone numbers, there are services available that will run your contacts name against public phone company records and come back with current home and/or mobile phone numbers. The return rate of these types of services run between 30 and 50%.

Email addresses are a bit trickier due to email service providers policies protecting email addresses. There is not currently any publicly available national database  to run against to check email addresses. I think we would all agree that is a good thing !  There are services that can run your list of emails and report back any syntax updates (ie ‘ted@.gmail.cmm’   is corrected to ‘ted@gmail.com’), as well as any identification of a bad domain. For example for  ‘susan@rainmaker.com’, the report would indicate that the domain ‘rainmaker’ is no longer a valid domain.

The only complete assurance that you have the right email is that the customer responds to an email you send.   For wrong or missing emails, the only way to update your database at this time, is to send a note or letter asking for their email, or making a call to ask for the information.  Most people do not have time to call hundreds of people in their database to get email address information, so you could do a mailing that includes asking for email addresses, or hire a college student or temp to do this for you.  A friendly script that includes something like “What is the best email to use for you to receive my monthly newsletters and market updates ? I would like the opportunity to keep you informed with new information that can help you and your family save money etc”.    You could also ask for an email address verification whenever you make or receive a call from a contact that you have not emailed or spoken to recently.

In terms of managing your new and on-going contacts information, the most obvious is to get the contacts complete address, phone and email information when you initially speak to them. This is also the time you would ask permission to send them communications via email or mail etc.

Another approach is to have your Loan Software automatically synching to your contact database to avoid you having to do duplicate data entry, as well as getting highly valid contact information to your database.  The contact information on a loan application is usually very accurate due to the information validity required in this process.

Hopefully this information is helpful in putting together a strategy for your database ‘clean up’ and day to day management of contact information.  Stay in contact with as many of your contacts as possible over time !   Having accurate contact information is a must for you to effectively work this strategy.

USPS Move Statistics*: http://pe.usps.com/businessmail101/addressing/checkingaccuracy.htm

Donna Quisenberry of Q2 Database Consulting Services.  Donna has been a database and marketing consulting specialist for over 15 years.  Donna/Q2 provides database implementation, training, automated synchronization from separate applications to ACT!, as well as automated marketing solutions. Besides staying technically current for database/CRM solutions, Donna also attends business technology and strategy events every year to stay on top of the specific best winning ideas and concepts in order to bring those same winning strategies to her customers.

Data Centralization – Get it Together!

In ACT!, CRM, Database Management, Goldmine, Loan Officer, Loan Origination Software, Mortgage on February 25, 2013 at 11:44 pm

It is not uncommon to have data in multiple locations, this is especially true in the mortgage industry where your company may or not provide you with data/contact management tools beyond Loan Origination software. Regardless of the tools your company provides, if you wish to keep a record of your contacts over your career, and/or want to do all or some of your own data mining and marketing, your own central database is a must.

This article includes both a Concept and Implementation section. I wanted to provide you with both Best Practices guidelines as well instructional tips on how to implement. Sometimes further instruction or assistance is needed; however, I do my best to point you in the right directi I will be referring to ACT! as the database tool, however the same basic strategies apply regardless of the database system you are using.

CONCEPT:

Whether you are new to the mortgage industry, or are a veteran loan officer, it is very important to have a real and manageable strategy and everyday protocol for getting and keeping all your contacts and their information in one database.

You should look at your database as the central nervous system of your business. This means all your contact info in one spot from day 1 in the business until you retire and sell your database. It doesn’t matter where you work, it doesn’t matter how many times you change where you work, and it doesn’t matter where you think you may work in the future, you should always have your own database of contacts and information available. You may have a specific agreement with your company management about obtaining and recording information which may impact this, and I am not suggesting you circumvent this, however, in general, you should have a central database for your contacts and related information.

Everyone in the pool

All of your contacts, regardless of type (yes even personal) should go into 1 central database.

This includes; Borrower prospects,in process, and closed, referral partners both prospect and current ( ie Real Estate Agents, CPAs, Financial Planners etc), your vendors (ieAppraisers, Title Reps, Builders etc) ,as well as your personal contacts. Anyone that you may potentially be in contact with, regardless of their role, should be in your database. In terms of personal contacts , in ACT! you can mark these private so if you are working with a team or have an assistant, you are the only one with visibility to these contacts and their information.

Wait ! What if you have different pivots to your business ? For example, what if you are a Loan Officer but also have a separate business tangent such as being a Financial Planning Advisor ? Same answer, in almost every case, regardless of the different tangents of the business you are running, all contacts and database management should be done from 1 central database.

With everyone in the same database, how do I find what I need ?

Managing all your contacts in one central database is step one. A close second is database organization which I address in my next article for Database Organization.

IMPLEMENTATION:

Getting your Data into your Database – Does it have to feel like herding cats ?

Herding Cats

If you are just starting out in gathering your data, the answer is yes. At least initially, gathering all your data can feel like herding cats. If you have contact information, and any loan information pertinent to those contacts in a variety of places, you usually end up working in a disjointed manner until you get them all into 1 place. You may have information in one or more of these places: Outlook, XLS Spreadsheets, Encompass, Point, or virtually any other loan origination software, Word documents, PDF, or even hard copy (cringe )

As I mentioned earlier, for the purposes of this article I will be referring to the ACT! database solution when outlining specific instructions. If you use another type of database system, I may be able to provide you some specific guidelines, or you can contact your own database tool support staff for assistance. The most common places you may have your contact and any related loan information are listed below.

Outlook. You can import contacts and your calendar from Outlook to ACT!. There is a wizard that assists you in doing this one time. In newer ACT! versions, you can also set this up to auto synch. I strongly recommend only synching one way (ie from Outlook to ACT!), as with a 2 way synch, you will likely end up with duplicate records. The instructional article(s) that address these can be found at:

Synch Outlook contacts to ACT!:
http://kb.sagesoftwareonline.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/13907

Synch Outlook contacts and calendar to ACT!: http://kb.sagesoftwareonline.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/27076/kw/outlook%20synchronization/related/1

These links are subject to change. If a link does not work, try Googling something like “How to Import Outlook contacts and calendar into Sage ACT!”

Looking ahead. Best practices for keeping the link between your Phone,Outlook, and ACT! smooth is to have a direct auto synch between ACT! and your phone so adding contacts and working with the calendar is consistently synergized in a clean manner between the two. You would still use Outlook for email management since your emails can be auto linked to your ACT! database from Outlook,and then use your phone and ACT! only for your contact management and calendar.

ACT Import Wizard New
ACT! Import Wizard Figure. Find in ACT! by going to File – Import and then select Next

Loan Origination Software. Unless your LOS is proprietary, and/or your management team will not authorize exports, you can usually create a report or export from your LOS that includes borrower info for import into your database. You would need the file in CSV format, or with newer versions of ACT!, you can import directly from Excel. It is important to format the information before importing to get the results you want. For example, in ACT!, contact name is one field which contains both first and last name. If your export file has first and last name in two separate fields, they would need to be combined before importing. Also, turn off duplicate checking in ACT! as it would potentially merge contacts with the same first and last name.

Automatic LOS to ACT! synch. We offer a service to set up an auto synch from your LOS to your ACT! database. This provides an auto synch of your loan file to ACT! as the file is updated through the loan process. The auto synch provides the most consistency and is a significant time saver. It is also a very flexible solution which means that if your company changes LOS, and/or you move to a different company that uses a different LOS, your synch can usually just be updated and the auto synch continued.

Excel or CSV. The import wizard in ACT! , mentioned in the Outlook section above, will allow you to import data from these file types into ACT!.As noted in the Loan Origination Software section,you will need to format the data first to make sure it matches the field types etc in ACT! before importing. You would also want to turn off duplicate checking in ACT! before the import.

The instructional article(s) that address this can be found at :
http://kb.sagesoftwareonline.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/26828/kw/IMPORT%20EXCEL%20ACT!%202013
These links are subject to change. If a link does not work, try Googling something like “How to Import Contact Data from an Excel®, Comma Delimited (CSV), or Text Delimited (TXT) File into Sage ACT!”

Hard Copy. Gulp…right, no fun really. There are two basic approaches here:
One is manual data entry. Some LOs will do this in the evenings while in front of the T.V. Others will hire a temp to get it done. A college job board is a great way to find a resource to help you with this type of project. If you have someone other than yourself do it, I recommend checking their work frequently, at least at first. I have had LO’s hand over the reins to a temp or assistant without much guidance or quality control and find themselves having to not only re-enter information, but also unravel updates and mistakes the person did to other areas of their database.

The other is to try and take advantage of some technologies that will convert scanned documents to Excel or CSV. You would scan your hard copy files and then use a convertor to get the data into an importable format. I recommend you Google something like “Convert scanned document to excel” to find one of these products. Make sure you just try to scan one or two documents and then converting to see how it comes out before importing to your database.

Rock Your Database!

Q2 Database Consulting Services can assist you with veritably every need you have around your Contact Management and Marketing needs. Please call or email today, we would be honored to assist you !

Author: Donna Quisenberry
Q2 Database Consulting Services
donnaquisenberry@sbcglobal.net
http://www.q2dbconsulting.com/
760 434 3431

Donna has been providing expert database consulting services, specializing in solutions and implementation for mortgage professionals, since 2001. She serves teams ranging in size from 1 Loan Officer to teams with over 1000 Loan Officers. Q2 Database Consulting provides ACT! Hosting as well as ACT! Strategies, Licensing, Implementation, Customization, Automated Data Synchronization, Data Imports, Upgrades, ,Marketing Strategies, Turn Key Automated Marketing, Training, Troubleshooting and Support

Which CRM is The Best ?

In ACT!, CRM, Database Management, Goldmine on May 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I am often asked ‘Which Database System / CRM is the Best ?’.

I have been a contact management and marketing database consultant for over 12 years and serve my clients best by being agnostic about database solutions. In other words,although I have certifications and experience with specific CRM solutions,I am always assessing new solutions that are released,as well as re-visiting solutions that were not up to snuff previously but may have improved over time. I consider it a key value to my clients to be able to objectively assess and compare solutions in order to recommend the best fit for a client at any given time. There are so many solutions, and so many important elements within each solution, that it can be extremely intimidating and confusing to navigate the sea of database applications and tools. In addition, any tool of real value must continually evolve to remain relevant from both a business and technology standpoint. Many times, a user or an entire organization will ‘flip’ their existing system for something new because they feel their current application is too hard to use and / or does not have the feature set they require. Approximately 80% of the time, the system in place is completely sufficient to meet and exceed their business needs and a ‘flip’ into another system is unnecessary and usually costly.

The first key is ‘What database solution is currently in place and how much training have you completed for that system ?.’ Proper setup and training requires a short-term but notable time commitment from each user in order to execute a successful database management launch. This element is often overlooked because users want to save money and /or feel they are too busy to spend a lot of time on training. The reality is that no matter what system you use, it will often be an almost complete waste of money if you do not execute a formal training plan. The training plan does not have to be expensive or require a long term commitment; however, it cannot be overlooked or minimized. In many cases, with focused training and sometimes minor customization to an existing system, database management needs are completely resolved.

Outlined below is a high level summary of some of the most popular database management solutions available.
Windows Solutions:

ACT! – ACT! by Sage Software remains one the most popular and widely used database solutions. At this time, there are over 2.8 million ACT! users. ACT!’s reputation for being one of the easiest systems to learn is well earned. It is a highly customizable system with a pleasing user interface aka ‘pleasant curb appeal’. With millions of users worldwide, this is a solution with staying power. Beyond having a full feature set that provides for contact tracking, historical documentation, calendaring, email , marketing and reporting, ACT! has a strong development company behind it that will keep it relevant for the long term. It is critical that the software you use not only meets your needs from a feature set standpoint, but also offers extensive support options. In addition you should have a solution that is developed and supported by a company with enough resources to keep it compatible with major operating systems (ie Microsoft) over the long haul. On-going relevance as well as long-term development and support strength is a critical element when considering solutions. This is why I do not recommend ‘boutique’ solutions developed by smaller companies until perhaps that solution has a very wide and satisfied install base and has proven itself over a significant amount of time.

Goldmine – Goldmine by FrontRange is also a widely used solution. Compared to ACT!, Goldmine tends to have a longer learning curve. This is partially due to the fact that Goldmine offers a bit of a richer feature set than ACT! so there is just more available to learn. However, these additional features are usually not mission-critical to getting the results desired. A distinct difference between these top 2 rivals, ACT! and Goldmine, is the fact that Goldmine comes with an automation feature that allows for the set up of automated marketing (ie auto letter printing, auto email and task scheduling), ACT! does not come with this feature. However, automated marketing can be attained very successfully with ACT! using 3rd party automation or campaign products. There are also some areas in Goldmine that are a bit more cumbersome than ACT!. For example, more navigation routes and mouse clicks are required to manage email and letter templates in Goldmine than in ACT!. In addition, doing lookups or filtering is much more intuitive in ACT! vs Goldmine. The newer pricing and maintenance policies has been difficult for Goldmine users, especially single users and small teams, when compared to ACT!. Goldmine licenses are more expensive that ACT! licenses. This is true both historically and at the time this article was written. In addition, FrontRange has a mandatory annual maintenance payment policy that is considered extreme by many users and consultants alike. If the annual maintenance payment lapses, you have to pay not only for that given year, but for every year you have not paid maintenance, as well as a penalty fee. In other words, maintenance fees are forced on the user even if the user never contacts FrontRange for support.

Microsoft BCM (Business Contact Manager) – Admittedly I have not deployed this myself for any client to date and my knowledge is based on product documentation and/or actual users that provided me direct feedback about their experiences with the product. The compelling reason that I have not recommended this product is that it is just not as feature rich as ACT! or Goldmine…yet. Knowing Microsoft, I have faith that the BCM product will continue to evolve and give ACT! and Goldmine a run for their money, however, it is not in the cards today. A couple of examples is that BCM is installed with your local Outlook on the C drive. This means it does not serve as a collaboration tool for multi-user situations. In other words, an entire team cannot see one master database on a server and have the type of visibility and synergy a team can have with ACT! or Goldmine. Another example is that History details are not as accessible, if you want to see details of a meeting, call etc you must print a separate Journal or report.

SageCRM/SalesLogix – A beautiful solution, very feature rich with everything ACT! or Goldmine offers and more. The workflow /automation feature is state of the art. Proven interface with accounting and other business unit type software allows for a true end-to-end solution. The issue is cost. You will spend approximately 4 times as much just to get out of the gate with this product vs. ACT! or Goldmine. Notwithstanding the interface capabilities with other types of software (ie accounting etc), you can get database management results very close to SalesLogix with an ACT! or Goldmine solution.

Web Based Solutions:

ACT! for Web – This solution is a winner for users who need anytime/anywhere access to their contact management system. This is also a very efficient deployment scenario for larger teams since the setup time and deployment per user is very fast and efficient. This is because the CRM software does not need to be installed on the users local machine. There are 2 electronically provided connectors that are very easy for any user to download in order to interface with MS Outlook and Word. One difference to be aware of when using this, or any other Web based solution, is that fact that due to pages needing to load when you navigate etc, you will not get the same speed as you would with a Windows based product. This is normally not something that is a roadblock, we are talking seconds and 1/2 seconds here, but it is important to note from a user expectation. In addition,because it is a web user interface, some tasks may take more clicks than in the Windows version. One example is that you cannot drag calendar items around to reschedule. You must click the edit button and then make the change. One other consideration with any Web based product is whether or not you want to invest in any new hardware or hardware upgrades to host,backup, and maintain the database yourself,or if you would prefer to have the database and all the daily maintenance tasks taken care of by a hosting company. I have a partnership with a Class IV server facility that allows me to provide this hosted database service. Class IV is currently the highest rating for a hosting facility in terms of security. More and more users and teams are going this route because it removes all the responsibilities of managing hardware and the database off of the user and /or the IT organization.

SalesForce.com – Salesforce does look very attractive in the beginning with its seemingly low, upfront cost. But over the lifetime of the solution, the add on charges for additional subscriptions, access, and basic services really start to add up. This is one of the most significant and frustrating downfalls based on customer feedback. Salesforce charges you heavily as your requirements grow. For example, Group Edition does not accommodate more than 5 users, and if you want to add a 6th, you are forced to jump subscription levels and go from $8.25 per user per month for Group Edition to the $65.00 per user per month for Professional Edition—that’s over a 750% increase. Offline access is not available for Salesforce Group Edition and is an extra cost option for Professional Edition, increasing the cost to $90 per user per month. Data storage is limited to only 20MB for each user. After that, you will have to pay $1,500 per year for 500MB. Salesforce limits you to only one access method to your critical customer data—on-demand over the Internet. Imagine your team at a complete stand-still while Salesforce is down due to service disruptions, upgrades, and Internet outages.

Some single user and small team companies have gotten around the issue of database access anytime/anywhere by using a remote access service such as gotomypc.com or logmein.com

Automated Synchronization Solutions – Linking Disparate Systems – Automated Synchronization with other systems including but not limited to Loan Origination Software, Accounting software etc.

In a ‘perfect’ world, everyone would all be able to work from one system on a daily basis to run an entire business. There are some ‘mega system’ solutions that are Oracle based for example that can do the true end to end management,however, the price points are so high that these solutions are only realistic for mega sized companies. At this point there is nothing available,at least at a price point that is reasonable for small to large businesses, that will handle every single business aspect under the umbrella of one system.
For example, many mortgage teams need an automated synchronization between their Loan Software (ie Point, Encompass etc) and their contact management database. This is a significant solution from not only a time-savings and ROI standpoint, but also from a data integrity perspective. The marketing (automated or manual) and reporting strategies that reap significant ROI impact for your business are reliant on data integrity in your contact management system. Duplicate data entry either just does not happen at all, or opens the door to inconsistent or erroneous data. We have solutions for these automated synchronization and marketing needs. By the way, whether you have a locally installed database or a hosted Web solution (ACT! or iGoldmine)there is a way to set up an automated synchronization bridge with your Loan Software and/or set up automated marketing.

The Best Database Management Solution is the one with a proven track record that you will use to complete key contact management strategies (ie contact tracking, historical documentation, calendaring, email , marketing, reporting, etc). The key is that whatever system you chose,you must take the time and effort to be properly trained with Best Practice standard to get the most benefit from the system. I have had hundreds of users over the years lament that they have had their database around for while but they know they are not using it to its full tracking and marketing potential. In fact many were just using it to print labels for their holiday cards in December and maybe some light history tracking. The key is to take your database seriously enough to get some expert help if you are not using it to its full potential. Being proficient with your database in terms of tracking information and using it as a marketing tool is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘need to have’.

If you are at a crossroads, either you have no database management system, or you are unhappy with your current system or your lack of knowledge with your system, you should leverage the expertise of an experienced database consultant expert. This should be someone who has long term experience in more than one solution to help analyze your needs and arm you with accurate ‘real world’ information so you can make the best decision.

Note: The observations provided herein are the opinions of Donna Quisenberry and are not to be construed otherwise. These observations are subject to change as the solutions noted herein change. This article is confidential to Donna Quisenberry and is not to be copied or distributed without express written consent..

Donna Quisenberry
Q2 Database Consulting Services
donnaquisenberry@sbcglobal.net
P  760 434 3431

Synching CRM and Loan Origination Software

In ACT!, CRM, Database Management, Goldmine, Loan Officer, Loan Origination Software, Mortgage, Synchronization on May 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm

“Can I synch my Loan Origination software (LOS) to my contact database ?”

Whether you use ACT!, Goldmine , Outlook, or many other types of Contact Managers, the answer is Yes. Unless your LOS or Contact Manager database is proprietary to your company, there is a solution that will provide for an automated synch.

The solution we provide is a closed loop, automated synchronization system. I have implemented this solution for many individual Loan Officers, as well as many multi-user teams all over the United States.

The Best Practices process works as outlined below using ACT! And Encompass as an example :
1. Loan Officer enters a new Prospect into ACT!
2. Whenever the Loan Officer is ready to create a new 1003, a click of a button from ACT! Sends the contact’s information to Encompass which creates a new 1003 that is linked to the ACT! Record
3. An automated synchronization engine synchs all new files and field updates back to ACT!.

The automated synch is controlled by a scheduler which I typically set to run every hour.

There is an immediate and significant benefit to automating the connection between your LOS and your Contact Manager database(s).

If you do not synch these 2 key elements of your business, you have to take the manual approach using manual export/import maps, manual duplicate data entry, or in the worst scenario, not updating your database with key loan information at all.

There are thousands of dollars in opportunity left on the table if you do not have robust and timely updates to key loan information fields in your ACT!, Goldmine or other contact database. Data search results are greatly impaired which results in a broken connection with your customers needs and loss of revenue for you.

Controlling capital expenses is critical to your business success. Many users are reluctant to spend money to streamline these 2 systems. In the big picture however, it is more costly to have no plan for a streamlined data flow between your LOS and your ACT!, Goldmine etc. If you plan to be in the business for more than one more year, it is always a sound investment to get these 2 critical elements of your business seamlessly synchronized.

The automated synch solutions works with ACT!,Goldmine and many other CRM’s. Virtually any loan origination software can be set up to auto synch to your CRM including but not limited to: Calyx Point, Encompass, LoanSoft,Agile/Avista,SQL types, Byte etc.

I would be happy to provide assistance for automated LOS synchronization or any of your database needs.

Donna Quisenberry
Q2 Database Consulting Services
Donnaquisenberry@sbcglobal.net
(760) 434-3431

Bringing database and marketing expertise and solutions to Mortgage Professionals since 2001