Follow Up Boss makes online lead generation measurable and manageable by making everyone accountable. But can it make you actually follow up on an online lead?
Here’s one of the biggest mysteries in real estate: Agents will pay hundreds — if not thousands of dollars — a year to buy leads from Zillow, Trulia, BoomTown or any number of other services. Then they ignore them.
“The average number of emails we see in a Realtor’s inbox is 10,000,” says Dan Corkill, founder of Follow Up Boss, a customer relationship management system built specifically for real estate. The service, founded in 2011, has just more than 1,000 and agents on its platform.
“Is it any wonder that leads are lost and money is wasted?” Corkill asks. “Who can possibly see leads when they’re mixed up with everything else?”
Could it really be this obvious?
Corkill thinks so. He says the problem with most CRM systems is that they rely on manual input that’s prone to errors and human failure.
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“No one wants to sit around and transfer leads from your email program to a CRM,” Corkill explains. “It’s boring. But if you’re getting lots of email every day, it’s probably impossible to keep up, too.”
Often, the agents I talk to will say that online leads are poor quality. I’ve heard lots of stories about leads that come in with the name “Eli Phant,” “Youra Fake,” or “Ima Noreal.” But maybe there’s another reason.
That’s exactly where Follow Up Boss shines. It automatically inserts your incoming leads into Follow Up Boss, tags them by source, notifies you that you have a new lead — and then closes the loop with your new prospect by sending an automatic drip email to thank them for their inquiry.
It’s slick, easy and genuinely useful, since you can automatically insert leads into Follow Up Boss from more than 100 sources.
It all happens through email. All Follow Up Boss clients are assigned unique email addresses on opening their accounts.
Pulling leads into the service from any online lead source is dead simple. Just change the email address the service has on file to your custom Follow Up Boss email. Presto — your leads will now be sucked into the system.
The application automatically extracts the key information from the lead source’s lead notification email, creates a client record, and notifies you of the lead.
The only hitch in this process is when Follow Up Boss is unable to read the lead source’s automatic email. This can happen when the lead vendor asks you to click on a link to see the lead.
If this happens, Follow Up boss routes the email to the agent as is, so that even though the lead’s contact information isn’t pulled into the system the agent can still follow up immediately.
Once the leads are in the system, they’re automatically tagged by source. This is especially handy if you’re running marketing campaigns on multiple sites, because it allows you to see which of your lead generation dollars are actually working.
Instant Follow Up via Phone
Follow Up Boss is all about getting agents in front of clients as soon as humanly possible — if not sooner.
You can configure the system to call you on your mobile phone the instant there is a new lead. This enables you to call a prospect while they’re still on the site where they submitted their information to you.
Once you enable and verify your phone number, Follow Up Boss will call you if it receives a lead that includes a phone number. All lead calls originate from the same telephone number, so Follow Up Boss suggests that you identify this number as “new lead” in your phone’s contact database.
When you receive a new lead call, you will hear the name of the prospect, and then be asked to “press 1” to speed dial the lead.
All outbound calls originate from your telephone number. Thus, if you leave a message or miss the prospect when you call, a return call will go directly to your phone.
One nicety is that you can easily set the hours for when you are willing to receive new lead calls. And if you do speak the client, Follow Up Boss inserts a note in the client record that you spoke, and the duration of the call. The system will also email you all of the lead’s details, and a link to their contact record.
If you’re on a team and using the round robin lead distribution method, the system will route the call through the tree until it finds a live agent willing to make the call. But if no one picks up, the lead will not be assigned — until someone in the round robin calls the lead back.
For brokers, Follow Up Boss can serve as an automatic lead routing system. If you want to automatically assign the lead to an agent, Follow Up Boss will do it. But if you want to qualify the lead first, the system will send the lead to whomever you designate so you can distribute the lead as you see fit.
It’s easy to set up Follow Up Boss to distribute leads automatically via round robin. Simply enter Follow Up Boss’ built in round robin email address into whatever lead source you’re working with, instead of your own. Then turn agents (or yourself) on or off the round robin in the agent performance dashboard.
The primary difference between the solo agent and broker dashboards is the lead routing functionality, as well as agent accountability features built for managers. But both the agent and broker dashboards are neatly designed, showing key notifications across the top (number of new leads, unactioned leads, tasks due, contact percentage and time to action).
There are two sections below the notifications. The first shows leads added in the last 30 days. Another section shows the most recent activities of individual leads. This is particularly useful when you’re trying to understand how leads have interacted with your agents or web properties.
In the future, Corkill says the activities section will contain as much information as possible about a client’s specific behavior. For example, the it could show when a client has viewed a particular property on a web site that Follow Up Boss can track. Placester will be the first integration partner to roll out this new functionality on their web sites.
Each lead in the “last 30 days” section of the dashboard is accompanied by a green (contacted) or red (not contacted) button that instantly helps you understand the status of leads in Follow Up Boss.
Organized Contact Records
Drilling down into a lead enables you to see contact information and social profiles for the lead, as well as recent interactions. You can tag the lead with a phrase that’s meaningful to you, or change its status from “lead” to any one of nine pre-defined sales stages.
If you’re a broker or a member of a team, you easily can reassign the lead. It’s also simple to assign a follow-up timeframe to a record. These reminders are rolled up to the dashboard, so you can see at a glance whether you or your team are following up promptly with clients.
Just as with Nimble or Contactually, you can connect your email to Follow Up Boss. Doing so enables you to pair your sent emails (sent through your regular email client, such as Outlook or Gmail), with the contact history.
An “inquiries” tab will show client queries about individual properties, requests to show a house or general questions.
An “activities” tab shows what your lead has been doing on other sites. This could include a registration on your IDX website, a property search, or when a client has saved a property as a favorite.
You can also make notes about the client, and assign tasks to team members within the client record. All assigned tasks are rolled up into the dashboard. You can mark individual tasks as complete within the client record.
It’s also important to note that you can import your existing contacts into Follow Up Boss and use it as a regular CRM. When you upload your contacts, they will be placed in to the “sphere” category of contacts, unless you manually reassign them or tell Follow Up Boss to put them in a different category.
You can export your data at any time, although Corkill says that some fields may not transfer in your download. For example, parameters that are specific to Follow Up Boss, such as inquiries based on IDX property data, will not be included.
Every client record is automatically associated with one of more than 100 lead sources predefined within Follow Up Boss. If you’re using a lead source that doesn’t automatically integrate with Follow Up Boss, you can set up a link using Zapier or via Follow Up Boss’ API.
You can also create custom lead sources for your website if you wish. Follow Up Boss integrates with Gravity Forms, Jotforms and Contact Form 7 for Windows. It works seamlessly with WordPress.
All you have to do is follow Follow Up Boss’ simple email format when you’re collecting leads on your website so that the lead can be imported into the system. The format enables Follow Up Boss to parse the lead information contained in the email and import it automatically into the application.
It’s also worth noting that Follow Up Boss adds integrations on a regular basis. If, for example, 10 users request an integration to the same service, Follow Up Boss will develop it.
If you’re in a special situation and need a custom email parser, Corkill’s seven person team will write it for you, for $200 per email format.
While the list of integrations is impressive, there is one finicky service that only allows Follow Up Boss to import phone numbers, and not email: Market Leader.
Every other major online lead provider appears to furnish Follow Up Boss everything you need for a complete contact record.
Automatic Drip Campaigns via MailChip
Leads are best kept warm, and Follow Up Boss excels in helping agents and teams stay in touch with clients using integrated drip email campaigns.
For the moment, the campaigns are deployed through an integration with MailChimp. But Corkill says that Follow Up Boss will introduce a native drip campaign tool within the next month. An early screen shot is below.
In either case, the goal is to follow up with clients automatically. With the existing MailChimp integration, agents and brokers can set up an automatic sequence of emails that is triggered when the lead comes into Follow Up Boss.
All automatic emails are associated with the client record. Drip emails are identified by the MailChimp icon in the client record, and you can also see whether the email was opened or clicked.
Corkill says Follow Up Boss’ native autoresponders will work similarly to MailChimp, but offer greater flexibility in the kind of email that can be sent. He envisions longer-term email campaigns that agents and brokers can use to stay in touch with clients between transactions.
If you’re spending a good portion of your marketing budget on online lead generation, but don’t have a good way to track what’s working, Follow Up Boss could be a great solution for you.
Because Follow Up Boss shows you at a glance which lead sources are performing, as well as how your agents are performing by lead source, it’s an intuitive way to manage and refine your marketing spend to make it more effective.
It’s also a great way to keep yourself — and your agents — accountable. With Follow Up Boss, it’s simply not possible to hide marketing or agent performance issues. They’re patently obvious.
Yet Corkill cautions that Follow Up Boss isn’t for everyone. First of all, if you’re not really spending money on online leads, a good bit of its functionality will be wasted on you. If you’re getting less than 30 online leads a month, or don’t really follow up on online leads, another CRM platform could be a better fit for you.
What’s more, Follow Up Boss isn’t cheap. It’s twice the price of other social CRMs like Contactually or Nimble at the individual agent price of $49 a month. And both Nimble and Contactually offer similar contact management and email integration with stronger social integration than Follow Up Boss.
On the other hand, the fact that Follow Up Boss is purpose-built for real estate, and small teams and brokers in particular, is highly appealing. It is expensive, though, at nearly $6,000 per year for up to 25 agents.
However, if you can get just a few more leads to convert — just because prospects were actually called back — it will pay for itself in just a few transactions.
On the whole, I can recommend Follow Up Boss to anyone who is looking to manage online leads and their agents effectively.