3 tech certifications to set you apart from the competition

When consumers are looking for an agent to represent them, certifications can make you stand out from the competition. They want to find an agent who is tech-savvy and certified for their specific needs. Use these tips to grab their attention and win their business.

Keep it clear

Certifications can be confusing. Here is just a short list of the alphabet soup of acronyms that is often seen in email signatures and self-promoting marketing materials:


If we as agents can’t figure out what all of these are, then how could we ever expect a consumer to know? If you have already done the rigorous work of getting one or more of these certifications, it is important to show those off to the public in a clear way.

One simple way is to write out the full name of the acronym. If you have the “ABR,” for example, the consumer will now know that you are an “Accredited Buyer’s Representative,” and if they are a buyer, they will be more drawn to you. Yes, it can make your email signature much longer, but it’s worth the trade-off. But be careful — adding logos to email signatures can get clogged in transmission, so it’s best to keep those out, but they work well in digital bios.

Choose the right certification(s) for you

I’m a big fan of certifications, and the more you have, the better you become as an agent and the more desirable you become to a consumer. Getting a certification is a big investment of your time, and some can be costly. Prioritizing the ones most beneficial to you and the business you are cultivating is key.

First, focus on the certifications where you are weakest so you can become a more well-rounded agent. As examples, if you need help with pricing properties, then study to get the PSA (Pricing Strategy Advisor), or if you want to become an expert in negotiations, then the RENE (Real Estate Negotiation Expert) will get you there.

Simultaneously, think about areas of the business that you would like to target. If you want to be a listing specialist, then the SRS (Seller Representative Specialist) would be the way to go. If you want to focus on buyers, then the ABR® (Accredited Buyer’s Representative). Perhaps you want to work with investors, seniors, military personnel, etc. — there are certifications to acquire and make you the specialized agent of choice for those consumers.

Get the most tech-savvy certifications

Today, consumers demand that their agents be tech-savvy, so which designations are best?

Hands down, e-PRO® is the best place to start. Even if you have no knowledge of technology or consider yourself an expert, you will acquire the skills and learn best practices across a variety of platforms, including social media and mobile applications. It’s been around a long time, with ongoing refresher courses to stay on top of market trends and new technologies. Your profile will be added to their website, where consumers can find you and you can build your referral business by connecting with other e-PRO®-certified professionals — they even have their own Facebook community.

As social media has become such an integral part of our business and the promotion of the properties we represent, getting the Digital Marketing: Social Media certification has become more important. You will learn how to brand your business and become proficient with the social media platforms to build followers and have a wider audience to promote your listings. Sellers want to see that in your marketing plan, and buyers will be attracted to your content, which, in turn, means more business for you.

With 25 billion smart home devices out there, this is a niche that is growing and in need of real estate professionals to understand and capitalize on. Getting the Smart Home certification can do that for you. It is one of the newer certifications. You will stand out among sellers looking for agents who understand what a smart home is from knowing the technologies available and how they impact the value of a home, which may ultimately win you the listing. You will become an expert in learning how to leverage these Smart Home features with unique marketing strategies to attract a pool of buyers who are seeking the benefits of Smart Home ownership.

Put a plan in place

Decide which ones are needed first, and then put a plan in place for how and when to attain them. Look at the course schedule, and include this in your annual business plan so you can budget the time needed. Be realistic with your goals; even if you accomplish one per year, you are moving yourself forward professionally and will begin to appear on the consumer’s radar.

Promote it!

Once the hard work of getting certified is completed, do not let it just sit there as some mysterious letters at the end of your name, thinking consumers will come running to you. They will not, and you will need to promote the heck out of it! Create a landing page on your website that goes into greater depth about what the certification means and how it can benefit the consumer. Create content for your social media platforms so the word gets out — most provide marketing resources and materials to make it easier for you. Hot links are always beneficial for the curious who want to understand more, so put them in wherever you can with catchy phrases so that they will click through and learn why you are the best agent for them. Include it in your e-blasts and newsletters, and not just once. Shake it up a bit so the message is consistently being heard.

Whether you currently have an abundance of certifications under your belt or are just getting started, having the right certifications will make you a more well-rounded agent to be the best that you can be. Most importantly, consumers will choose you!

Anne Ewasko is a veteran Realtor in the Chicago area and a longtime techie. Visit her at anne.luxhomechicago.com.

Is your brokerage’s CRM sufficient? When should agents go it alone?

Whether you work at a boutique or national chain brokerage, you need to evaluate what you get for your money. I began my career as a broker 24 years ago with a luxury boutique firm that offered all the bells and whistles. I enthusiastically signed up for all the systems they threw at me. They provided a basic form of a “Client Relationship Management” system, and this was well before the acronym CRM was out there. When the brokerage was bought out, my database of clients got scattered into the abyss along with the email and contact info that they relied on to reach me, and POOF! Overnight I got cut off!

Protecting your contacts

Fortunately, I was able to recoup most, but not all, of my contacts, so it left me wary as I transitioned to a new firm. How could I protect my precious database going forward? I have wondered how many of my past clients tried to reach out and received bounced-back emails; the lost opportunities still haunt me to this day. The most important lesson learned was to create one’s own email domain so no matter what happens, you carry it with you.

Choosing what’s right for you

Getting started setting up my own CRM system, I didn’t expect the high costs. I learned quickly that it was a luxury to have these free systems provided by the brokerage. National chains have the means to offer top-shelf, customized systems that provide an easy stream for communication with your SOI and propagate lead gen. But smaller boutiques have all the capabilities of the big firms, as they often align with third-party tech companies that provide the same advantages — make sure you do your homework when choosing where to hang your license.

So the question is, should you rely solely on your firm’s designated CRM system? Their systems are typically free or offer minor a la carte upgrade services, but you will always be limited to its capabilities. However, it can be super convenient to have your database located in one place that will be aligned with their marketing systems, lead gen and follow-up systems with just a click of a button. If you go independent, it gets expensive and can be difficult to manage the potential of double data entry and migrating marketing materials, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

For me, I use a hybrid system in which I maintain my own CRM with a unique email domain and blend my system with my firm’s. This also helps me maintain my own branding. My firm has things that I cannot offer and I have things that they do not. Yes, it is not the most convenient, and yes, it is more time-consuming, but the combination of my firm’s system with my own provides me with all the tools I need to satisfy my clients and incoming leads while still maintaining my brand. This is what works for me, but it may be different for your needs, marketplace and budget.

CRM platforms to consider

There are multiple platforms out there to consider that are targeted for our real estate business and new ones in the works that are being pitched daily. They vary greatly in monthly fees from the basic database management to the full-blown systems that offer monthly mailers, automated drip campaigns and consumer-targeted ads with algorithms on performance to targeted lead gen. The sky’s the limit as to how much you want to invest. Your needs for your market and your budget will determine which one will work best for you. Here are some that are oldies but goodies and a few that are just growing their wings to consider: Back At You, IXACT Contact, Lion Desk, Moxi Works, Top Producer, Zillow Premier, Cloze, Copper CRM, Follow Up Boss, KvCore, Propertybase, Wise Agent, Realvolve and Elevate.

Protecting Your Client’s Info

As a note of caution, it’s important to read the fine print regarding who actually has ownership and rights of communication to the data on these platforms. You worked hard to build and invest in your database and it’s your obligation to make sure it stays protected. Clients hate nothing more than unsolicited communication that potentially came from a trusted source such as yourself.

Growing Your Business

CRMs are the roots of our trees that grow our business. Having an efficient and cost-effective platform that is protected for one to nurture is crucial to our success. Take the time to find the one that works for you and plant the seed, nurture it, maintain it and see how high you can make it grow. The sky’s the limit (however, according to Elon Musk, the sky is no longer the limit — let’s follow his lead and go there)!

Anne Ewasko is a veteran Realtor in the Chicago area and a longtime techie. Visit her at anne.luxhomechicago.com.