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Ellen Muraskin

Senior Editor Ellen Muraskin has been writing about telecom and IT since 1993. Most recently, she served as editor of Restaurant Technology Magazine, a technology supplement to Nation's Restaurant News.

Apps for Real Estate Agents ... or an SMB Near You: Online Advertising and Deflecting Robocalls

- Blog

Ellen MuraskinTwo SaaS offerings announced themselves last week, both aimed specifically at real estate, historically an early adopter of tech. It's easy, though, to picture how both services could easily be applied to SMBs in other industries. 

The first, YouMail, brings a worthwhile new twist to a very mature app: incoming call handling/voice mail. It's especially useful to workers who spend a lot of time out and about but need to harvest sales leads or satisfy customers with every phone inquiry. The second, AdWerx, shrinks the price and the complexity of online advertising down to SOHO scale.YouMail Smart Blocking

YouMail's new piece is robocall detection and deflection, a feature they call Smart Blocking. This not only detects those increasingly lifelike robocalls, but responds with a recording that tells the robot that your number is no longer in service.  According to YouMail, this succeeds in getting your number off auto-dialer lists.

The other pieces aren't new but do make a nice package, for $10 a month retail, and all work within a smartphone interface. Just transcribing voice mail and delivering via email (or text) is a great timesaver compared with sequential, real-time listening. YouMail also collects the caller's contact information and comes with a bottomless mailbox. It can greet specified callers by name and, if you like, play a different prepared message for each; it can offer one-button rerouting to a human assistant, or in the case of real estate, to loan offers or title reps as well.

YouMail is in hot pursuit of real-estate companies as a sales channel; last week's release concerned a partnership with RE/MAX to market the app to its agents in North America. While the company is taking a logical route in approaching such firms directly, it's also in beta for a distribution program with individual channel partners who have real estate or other suitable concentrations. CEO Alex Quilici says that they work out bounty deals and revenue-share deals, "depending on the partner's needs and scales."  

The second app, AdWerx, helps solo businesses and SMBs – like realtors – advertise themselves on websites and smartphones. You, as a valued IT advisor, may earn client gratitude and a few bucks by bringing it to their attention, or by using the interface yourself as a service.

The service makes real-estate agents' ads, with or without specific listings, appear when prospects browse over to Zillow, or other listing sites. Or, as often happens, the ads can follow targeted prospects to sites that have nothing at all to do with real estate, or to games or sponsored applications.

Online advertising plugs the right ad into the right online space through a process of automated, split-second bidding and behavioral profiling. It takes place in such a bewildering and complicated ecosystem that only large businesses and professional digital marketers dare go there. By building a simplified front end to these ad exchanges, AdWerx takes all that pain away. It enables real-estate agents to simply plug their names, faces, URLs, and listings (straight from the Multiple Listing Service) into a customizable template. Once they become subscribers, most of that is already in the database. The advertiser just specifies zip codes and term of campaign, and the system pulls out all of their listings and shows them to people within that zip code.

Not all people, of course. That's the beauty of online advertising; it appears only to people whose online behavior – say, searching for moving companies or using mortgage calculators – shows an interest in buying a home. AdWerx also automatically formats and reformats the ad to fit mobile, desktop, and Facebook formats.

AdWerx also automatically formats and reformats the ad to fit mobile, desktop, and Facebook formats.

Each spot is guaranteed 7,000 to 10,000 views per month; users get daily emailed reports of viewership and clicks.

Nick Sehn, VP of Product, says that the strategy to date has been to work with real-estate companies and directly with tech-savvy real estate agents — the self-service types who buy their own Facebook and search advertising. While channel isn't an active focus for AdWerx, as a startup, they're interested in speaking with anyone who works in the real estate space. They also have customers outside real estate; just think of other solo practices that might differentiate themselves (and show technical fluency) by joining the Zappos and Amazons of the world.  

Follow Senior Editor Ellen Muraskin on Twitter.



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