As I mentioned last week in Solving One Problem at a Time, I am in the process of creating a program that will help me track my probate leads, mailings and contacts. It’s going to be an interesting project to say the least. A ton of ideas are popping into my head all the time and my biggest challenge is going to be keeping it simple.
So far here are the items that I will be including in the first version in some way shape or form.
Probate File Information
This section will be where i store general information about the probate file/lead. I’ve only have seen probate files from my county so if anyone can suggest any other general information to include leave a comment.
- Date Filed
- Where Gotten
- Case Number
Pretty self explanatory. This area will include the deceased’s information. The address will be the one listed in the case file, which is not always your target property.
- Last Name
- First Name
- Date Deceased
This is the area where you will store the executor information. The executor is where you will most likely be mailing your letters/postcards to so the address is important. There is also other fields to fill in later when you get any phone numbers or email addresses.
- Contact Numbers (Main, Cell, Work)
The attorney information is not required, but could be a nice source of future leads if you can keep track of all the attorneys. I figure you will eventually notice names appearing multiple times which will give you a good idea who are the big probate attorneys in your area.
- Contact Number
You’ll be able to enter in multiple properties per lead if you want. Each property will have the following fields to fill in (if anyone has any other suggestions let me know). I tried to give only the basic information their own fields, but supplied a notes section for any other information you want to keep track of.
- After Repair Value (ARV)
- Max Allowable Offer (MAO)
- Asking Price
- Number of Bedrooms
- Number of Bathrooms
- Number of Rooms
- Estimated Repair Costs
- Year Roof Was Last Replaced
- Type of Heating
- Type of Cooling
- Year Built/Remodeled
- Square Footage
- Lot Size
- Street Type (Busy, Dead End, etc..)
- Water Source
- Overall Condition
- Notes about the Kitchen
- Notes about the Bathrooms
- General Notes
This is the area that you can schedule when you want to send out mailers to this property. The way I envision this feature is that when you upload/import a lead list into the system it will give you the ability to set your mailing schedule at that point. For example, On May 1st I upload a 80 leads. I set the schedule to send 1 mailing every month for the next 6 months. The system will then keep track of that schedule so when you log in, say on June 1st, that you have to send out the second mailing to the May 1st list. Make sense?
- Mailing Type (Letter, Postcard, etc.)
- Mailing Number (2nd mailing, 5th mailing, etc.)
- Mailing Date (date mail was sent or will be sent)
- Mailing Sent (Flag set if mailing has been sent)
- Recipient Responded
This will be a great section that will help you keep a log of your contacts with a seller. If they call in response to your letter, enter it into the system. If you meet up at their house, log it into the system. This way you can easily look back and recall each contact and what was discussed.
- Date of Contact
- Contact Method (called, sent letter)
- Motivation Level
- Offer Amount if made
- How did caller hear about you
- Schedule Next Contact
- Meeting Setup
I’ve just started putting this together this past weekend and have made some decent progress. At some point in the next couple weeks I’m going to need about 10 people who would like to be beta testers. When the time gets closer I will put up a form to fill out for people who want to beta test.
At this point the software will only be for people using Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Before I sign off I want to leave you with a screen shot or two of what I’ve come up with so far…
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As fellow programmer, I must ask, before you spend too much time on this, why are you not making this web-based and therefore eliminate the user OS environment problem. Also, if it takes off, you are going to be able to monetize it much easier as a web based SaaS solution.
That is a very valid observation Chris. I thought pretty hard about making it a web application for pretty much the same reasons you mentioned. For right now I decided against it because I would have to maintain the database of all the users as well as finding and paying for a host. By doing a desktop version each person will get their own database stored on their own computer. I also didn't want to worry about the host server being the bottle neck for the application.
I'm creating this in VB.Net which means if I decide to create a webversion in the future it will be relatively easy to transfer my already written code over.
My end goal is to have three pieces for this application. A Desktop version, an iPhone/iPad/Google App that can sync with the desktop version and finally a website that you can go to and enter in lead information and then email yourself the info in an xml file. This xml file will then be easily imported into your database.
If I can accomplish all of that, it would be a very useful application that you can use anywhere. Plus I wouldn't have to manage a server, database or user accounts.
I am also thinking of ways to monetize the program to offset the work I've put into it and I have some pretty good ideas.
Would you be willing to test it out when I get the first revision out there? Be good to get another programmers opinion and ideas.
If you need a guinea – er – tester, I'd be glad to sign up! I was thinking about buying the one from Ron Mead, but haven't decided yet, so… I'm available! 🙂
Scotty, sign me up as another test user if you need one! I haven't programmed in quite awhile (other than Lotus Notes application development) so I wouldn't be of much value there, but I'd certainly be a power user due to my direct marketing!
Ron's program inspired me to create one myself. It looked very simple, but like he said the key is a good how-to guide and making it easy to use. That will be my goal. I'll let you know when I'm about ready to release the beta version.
Was hoping you'd volunteer Shae. I don't think I'll have any trouble finding 10 beta testers. I am going to have to create an option so non-probate people could use it as well though.
What is your main web programming/database discipline?
My main suggestion, from a user experience perspective is:
I would concentrate just on lead management flow, categorization, and task management for now. I understand the probate-centric model, but I would start with super solid foundation that can be expended to any REI business model.
My reason is, I dont think most of the other REI lead management apps fall short because of specific missing data elements, for example missing data fields for probate investors. I believe they fall short because of the user flow and ease of use at the most basic level.
You will have a winner if you can solve this problem with an easy user experience.
– Quick, fast and easy data entry (if this is a pain with a bunch of fields, forget it, stop programming your app. It has to be so easy that the user does not perceive it is going to take a lot of time. You need to be able to get off the phone, enter basic info and move on. You can enter the detail elements to the lead record later if the user wishes.
– Easy lead categorization, customizable for each user
– An easy to use contact frequency module for records (I want to attach a contact frequency to a record. Lets call my contact frequency 'hot leads'. This would have a certain frequency, 'Mail every 3 weeks, call every 2 weeks' Attach the pre-defined contact frequency to the record. Duuuuuuude…. that is hotness right there.
– Easy to search records
– Easy to review record history (if a seller calls that has spoken to you before, if yuo can quickly search, bring up their record, and start speaking intelligently about what you have talked about, it makes you sound like you have your sh!t together and you can control the conversation very easily.)
Remember, REI is a volume business. Everything is volume. More leads come in, the more phone calls you make, the more phone calls you make, the more offers you write, the more offers you write, the more offers get accepted, the more offers get accepted the more deals actually go to contract, the more contracts you have the more deals that get to the closing table.
That is why I say, simple is better. The app is supposed to help you.
Here is a very basic top down approach to what kind of app I have been searching for:
– when I wake up in the morning I want to log in and see a dashboard. The dashboard will contain which leads I need to contact today. I also will see what tasks I need to perform to get my mailer ready that is supposed to go out 4 days from now. (if I know that 'mail merge' needs to occur 4 days before my mailer, today I am doing mail merge) I also want to be able to see what is on tap for tomorrow and the next day
– then when I am ready to call a contact search records, bring up info
lead management and task management are the killers of REI success and progress.
My last line should say 'Lack of lead management…….
I would love to try out for your Beta. I do a lot of NED list marketing. Am getting a trial version of Satori this week sometime. But I would love to try something geared more towards what I'm doing specifically.
I think it's great that you've made so much progress so far and it's super admirable of you to share this with folks.
I have no problem being one of your beta-testers as well. While I'm not actively doing probates, I am, however actively mailing to apartment owners.
Chris made some valid points, more specifically the dashboard examples. Of course, this is your baby, so do what you feel is best, but remember, easy is best! 🙂
Good luck Scott and again, let me know if you'd like me to be a beta-tester for you.
Those are some great suggestions Chris and I'm going to take them to heart when creating this app. I really like your basic summary of how you would want an app like this to work. Like you my main goal is simplicity and ease of use.
My main programming expertise is database applications. I create financial applications using VB6 and VB.NET with a SQL Server backend. I don't have a lot of experience creating webpages which is another reason I'm shying away from it at this point.
I'm just getting started with the development, so any suggestions on how you think a lead tracking app would should function would be of great help
Hi Scott – you have a GREAT idea going here! In the short time I've been doing marketing (esp. probate marketing), I find myself saying often “I need a REAL system!”. But I can't find a good solution. I look on the boards and websites, but haven't been happy.
I'd love to be a beta tester for you!
I'd like to offer some constructive criticism. What are your end goals? Buying and selling houses, or creating software. To me, this looks like you are confusing motion with momentum. I applaud the effort on organizing the names and would love to use your system down the road, but why use up valuable time on this right now? Concentrate on making offers.
When was the last offer you made?
This just seems like a form of procrastination to keep you from your end goals. Scott, your a very hard worker and great guy. I really want to see you succeed by putting your priorities first.
I've been saying that for months as well. Until now I've been trying all the simple methods like an excel spread sheet and all I do is create a mess and end up not having any clear direction on which mailings need to go out when.
I hear what you are saying Jason and I'm glad you are a friend enough to point this out. I haven't emphasized this in any of my posts, but by no means have I stopped my mailings, taking phone calls or being called crazy for making low offers to people. This is only something I'm doing on the side.
It is also something that will go a long way towards my end goal. Even giving this product out for free, I can still monetize it in a non-intrusive way and gain a passive income on the side. By the comments from many other people I feel that this is a great opportunity to fill a hole.
In the end, the reason I'm taking on such a task is because the time I'm spending on it is not time when I'm able to do any lead marketing or offer making if you know what I mean.
Thank you for looking out though Jason, you are a good friend.
Sounds good. I'm glad you clarified. I do think there is a hidden gem there. I'm very glad your sticking with the mailings.
I manange a 10 million dollar fund that purchases auction, nod and estate slaes in the salt lake valley. 4 months ago I started a probate campaign. We have been killing it to say the least(our target is 20% ROI or 50% annualized). I Need to develop or purchase a lead tracking system as we hope to branch out to all Utah counties and hopefully out of state. I’m a firm believer in networking and partnerships.. If you have a moment I would appreciate brainstorming and seeing how we are obtaining, managing and closing our seperate leads. Looking forward! Tim 801-651-3060