Mobile Phone Buying Guide: July 2014

Since the smartphone market is dominated by the iPhone and Android devices, I’ve reorganized the buying guide a bit this month to provide recommendations depending on which device type you are looking for. I’ll start by providing recommendations for people looking to upgrade or buy an iPhone. To go straight to the Android recommendations, click here.


iPhone buying/upgrade recommendation: DON’T

Why DON’T?

Because the iPhone 6 will be available soon, really soon.

Here’s what we know, or should I say are projecting, at this time.

  1. The next iPhone will have a bigger screen. It’s pretty much set that we will at least see a 4.7″ screen size (compared to 4″ today). It’s possible that there could be a 5.5″ version, although rumors indicate that Apple is having quality issues producing the 5.5″ device (see here).
  2. According to Bloomberg’s sources, production has started this month in anticipation of a reported launch date at the end of September.
  3. The phone design is expected to be more iPod touch like, which means it will be thinner with more rounded edges.
  4. As you would expect, it will have a new processor meaning it will be even faster and more capable than the iPhone 5s.
  5. To improve durability, Apple is supposedly switching to sapphire glass technology. Rumors are that the new sapphire screens can resist scratches and all sorts of torture, except being run over by a car. Given how hard my teenage kids are on their phone, they (and I) will appreciate the improved durability.

I suspect that an announcement regarding the phone’s release date will be coming sometime during the second half of August, once most people are back from their summer vacations. I’m sure that lines outside the Apple stores will start shortly thereafter.

If you’re interested in seeing what the new device might look like, here is a video showing a comparison of an iPhone 6 mock-ups to existing devices. You can also check out this link for a lot more pictures and videos.

If, for some reason, you absolutely cannot wait until September because your iPhone decided to go for a swim or went MIA, then do the sensible thing and get an iPhone 5s. Do not buy the iPhone 5c, it’s based off of the iPhone 4s which is almost two years old at this point – an eternity in mobile time.


Android buying/upgrade recommendations

For Android devices, I’m going to break things down into on-contract and off-contract devices. My personal preference is to buy devices off-contract for the flexibility and freedom to choose the best available plan, but it does require more up front investment. If you like the discount and don’t mind the commitment a two-year contract requires, then on-contract may work better for you.

Best on-contract Android devices

Samsung Galaxy S5Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung’s latest Galaxy device has one of the best cameras out there, and it’s features are the most polished given they’ve had four prior generations to perfect them. If you’re currently using a Samsung Galaxy device, say an S2 or S3, then I would definitely recommend the S5 for the smoothest and easiest upgrade path.

HTC One M8

The HTC One is my personal favorite due to its superior build quality and construction. I’ve always been a fan of HTC’s devices. They just don’t have the same name recognition as Samsung due to inferior marketing. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the HTC One M8 or Samsung Galaxy S5.

Best off-contract Android devices

Nexus 5Nexus 5

Even though the device is about a year-old, it’s still a great device, and a virtual steal at $349 without a contract. In addition to a lightweight, thin design, Google is really good about getting all of the latest Android updates onto the Nexus 5 really fast since it uses a stock Android build. That alone is enough to highly recommend the device.

Moto X

I’ve been using the Moto X for my daily driver for the last 6 months, and I would highly recommend it. It is very close to a stock Android experience, and Motorola has been very good about updating the device quickly with the latest Android improvements. It also has a lot of design options, including wood covers, and it’s a good bargain at $349. It’s also not nearly as big as most Android devices, making it a little easier to carry around in your pockets.

Moto G - no contractMoto G

If you’re looking for a great budget device, get the Moto G. For $219, I’d even recommend keeping a Moto G around as a back-up or loaner device, especially if you use AT&T or T-mobile as your carrier. Its specs won’t match up with flagship devices from Samsung or HTC, but as a starter device for a first-time smartphone user or for kids, it’s a great bargain. I’d still contend it’s one of Android’s best kept secrets.

By the way, if you’d really like to go cheap, you can check out the Moto E, which is only $129 off contract. I’d only recommend it as a backup device in case you lose or break your primary phone as it compromises a few too many specs, including connection speed (no LTE) for it to be feasible as a daily device.


Windows Phone and BlackBerry

I would stay away from both of these devices, and if you’re currently using one, I would advise switching. There are too many gaps in available apps that will hurt your productivity and diminish your smartphone experience. In addition, the market share is too small to be a priority for developers. New apps are geared toward toward iPhone and Android devices due to shear volume, and because of that, some apps never make it to the Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms.

I know Microsoft is trying hard to make Windows Phone relevant, but until there is a compelling reason to switch, I wouldn’t. As for BlackBerry, their best days are behind them. For loyal BlackBerry users this is a tough pill to swallow, but the sooner you accept it and move on, the better off you’ll be.


Carrier recommendations

Since carrier quality varies significantly by region, I generally stay away from specific carrier recommendations. That being said, if you are looking for a carrier or want to make a change, check out my article, Choosing a mobile carrier, for tips and guidelines.


If you have questions about any devices, feel as though I left one out, or have personal experience with any of devices, please share in the comments.

Mobile Phone Buying Guide: April 2014

As projected in the last installment of the Buying Guide, we’ve entered one of the prime buying/upgrade seasons for Android devices. Both Samsung and HTC have released their latest flagship device which are making their way into stores this month. There’s more on both devices below.

On the other hand, now is not the best time to buy an iPhone. Apple is preparing production for the next generation iPhone, which is expected to hit the market between June and September. As always, rumors are starting to build. Here’s what I think we can expect in the next generation iPhone:

  • Larger screen size
    Yes, I believe Apple will relent and produce a larger screen version. It’s unclear what size it will be, but I expect it to be around 5 inches, with most analysts predicting a size between 4.7 and 5.7 inches. Some have even suggested Apple will release two larger sized devices. To put things in perspective, the iPhone 5 has a 4 inch display, and the iPhone 4 has a 3.5 inch display, so the increase will be significant.
  • Glass
    Apple has been making significant investments in sapphire crystal glass technology, which has led to rumors that the iPhone 6 display will be made of it. It is supposedly more durable than today’s leading glass technology, termed Gorilla Glass. Anything that makes the phone more durable is a welcome addition.
  • Faster processor
    As happens with every generation, it is expected that the iPhone 6 will have even more processing power than its predecessor.
  • Design
    The look of the phone is Apple’s most closely guarded secret, so it’s hard to trust any rumors until Apple makes its formal announcement. However, that won’t stop me from speculating. The prevailing rumors are that the bezel around the screen will be thinner and that the overall device will be thinner and lighter. I’m a bit skeptical about the latter, since making the device thinner will come at the expense of battery life, which I don’t think any of us want Apple to compromise on.

There are all kinds of other rumors around camera improvement, bio-metric features, atmospheric sensors, and wi-fi radio support. If you’re interested in all of the details, I would suggest you take a look at MacRumors comprehensive review of all of the iPhone 6 rumors. In any case, if you must purchase a new iPhone now, because you’ve lost it, broken it, or dropped it in the toilet, just be aware that it could be out of date within the next three months.

And now, for this edition’s recommendations.


On Contract Devices

If you’re looking to buy a subsidized device on a two-year contract or to enter into a payment plan, here’s the recommended devices. These devices are available at all four major carriers.

Best all around Android device(s): Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8)

Samsung Galaxy S5I know, I should just step out and pick one, but these two devices are so closely matched in terms of specs, that it really comes down to a preference of which one you like better.

If you’re looking for the device with the best camera and most extra features, then you’ll want to go with the Samsung Galaxy S5. If you want a device that is more unique in terms of styling and made with higher build quality, then you’ll lean more toward the HTC One (M8). In terms of performance, app availability and display, both devices are nearly identical, so those shouldn’t make a difference in your selection.

If I had to choose one, I’d go with the HTC device. I’ve always liked their build quality, and I’m not particularly into all the extra gingerbread and don’t use the camera enough for it to matter to me.

Runner-up Android device: Moto X

If size matters to you, meaning you don’t like carrying around or holding up to your ear a 1970’s size cell phone, then take a look at the Moto X. I’ve been using one for the last six months and like it, a lot. It has a nice blend of features and styling, and it’s easy to carry around thanks to its smaller size. It also has the added feature of customization so you can order it in whatever colors you like, including wood grain backs and college colors with logos.

HTC One (M8)I would highly recommend buying the device outright directly from Motorola, which you can do here. It’s possible to buy it for as little as $350, which is a great price for a fully featured device without a contract. It will allow you to pair it with a more aggressively priced data plan on your favorite carrier.

The Moto X is one of the best kept secrets in the Android device landscape. I’m surprised it isn’t more popular.

Best iPhone device: iPhone 5s

As mentioned above, I wouldn’t recommend buying the iPhone at this time, but if you must, get the iPhone 5s. Don’t fall for the allure of the iPhone 5c. It’s a repackage of the original iPhone 5, so most of it’s specs are approaching two years old. It’s very likely that certain apps and features of iOS may not get ported to the iPhone 5c beyond the middle of 2015. In other words, the iPhone 5s will last much longer and should survive at least two more iOS upgrade cycles.

There’s more detail about the difference between the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c in January’s buying guide.

Best “phablet”: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

For those looking for even more screen real estate on their phone, the 5.7 inch Galaxy Note 3 is the best choice. Samsung has put a lot of interesting features into their Note product line, including a stylus, called the S pen, for better input control and even handwriting recognition.


Pre-paid, Bring-your-own, Off-contract Devices

If you prefer the flexibility of owning your own device so you can choose between the best service or pricing among carriers, including prepaid options, here’s the devices you should consider.

Best phone: Nexus 5

Although it’s starting to show its age, the Nexus 5 is still a great deal at $349 outright. You read that right – you can purchase it directly from Google for $349. There’s isn’t a 2-year contract commitment and no early termination fees, meaning you can shop around to multiple carriers, including prepaid options, to find the best deal on a service plan.

The only reservation is that Google typically announces new Nexus devices during the summer, so keep that in mind if you device to pick up a Nexus 5.

Best budget phone: Moto G

Moto G by MotorolaIn addition to the Moto X, Motorola’s other best kept phone secret is the Moto G. For as little as $179 direct from Motorola, you can buy a fully featured Android phone that runs the latest Android OS. Given the low price, it’s a great phone to purchase as someone’s first device, particularly if you have kids. It makes it easy to add on to an existing plan, or to use with a prepaid service, without having to shell out a ton of cash for a top of the line device. I purchased one as a Christmas gift for a member of my household and haven’t received any complaints. By the way, if you do decide to purchase one, I would suggest spending the extra $20 for the 16GB option and purchasing a bumper case, as it can be a bit fragile when dropped.

Two additional points if you decide to buy one of these devices:

  • Do not purchase one of these devices if you’re under contract. You’ll want to pair one of these with an off contract plan at T-mobile, AT&T, Verizon, a prepaid service provider, or add it to an existing family/shared plan.
  • Get aggressive when looking for plans. There are a number of prepaid plans that offer unlimited voice, text and data for as little as $45/month. There are also plans available from T-mobile for as little as $30/month if you’re OK living with limits on number of minutes, number of texts, or amount of data you consume.

Windows Phone and BlackBerry

My recommendation from the last buying guide have not changed. I would stay away from both of these devices, for now.

BlackBerry has lost all momentum among consumers, businesses, carriers, and more importantly – developers. Outside of email, you’ll miss out on a lot by using BlackBerry, which means if you have one, switch to an iPhone or Android device, please!

Microsoft is trying hard with Windows Phone. They just released a new update – Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone is different, but in a good way. The problem is that developers have not fully embraced it yet, so there are a lot of holes when it comes to applications, or what I call the “app-gap”. Unless you like tinkering with your phone to figure out how to synchronize emails, contacts and calendar along with finding workarounds for missing apps, I’d stay away. I’m going to do another experiment with Windows Phone at some point over the next three months and will have an update for the July buying guide.


Carrier recommendations

Since carrier quality varies significantly by region, I generally stay away from specific carrier recommendations. That being said, if you are looking for a carrier or want to make a change, check out my article, Choosing a mobile carrier, for tips and guidelines.


If you have questions about any devices, feel as though I left one out, or have personal experience with any of devices, please share in the comments.

 

Choosing a mobile carrier

Since I spend a lot of time working with mobile devices, one of the questions I consistently get is “which mobile carrier should I choose?” It’s a good question, and one that you should answer before you decide which phone to buy. The best phone in the world is worthless if you can’t get service on it where you use it most.

Recommendations for choosing a carrier

  1. Coverage
    Network CoverageAbove everything else, you need to choose the carrier that gives you the best coverage where you use your phone the most. Make sure that you get excellent coverage at your house, your office, and all of the places where you spend a lot of time – including coffee shops you frequent, relatives’ and friends’ homes, and favorite vacation spots. I don’t know of anything more frustrating than a phone that doesn’t get service in the places where you spend the most time.The first step is to check the coverage maps for the carrier, but don’t rely on these. While they are mostly accurate, these are an important factor in the carrier’s marketing and may be enhanced a bit. More importantly, take advantage of the phone return period, which is generally 14 days or longer. Be sure to try the phone in as many of the places you frequent as possible and verify service quality. If it doesn’t meet your needs, take it back and try another carrier.

    I can’t emphasize enough how important coverage is. In fact, it’s so important, that you should treat the next three points as secondary factors in making your carrier decision.

  2. Plans
    Carrier PlansSince we’re conditioned to shop on price, it seems counter-intuitive that plans would be a secondary factor. Sure, some carriers offer lower prices than others, but is saving $10 per month worth it if you can’t get service on your phone when you need it? Trust me on this one, you’ll regret that you saved that $10 per month when don’t close a deal because of a missed call or email.Plus, carriers are aware of their competition’s pricing. With only four major carriers in the market, all of them watch each other’s pricing and will quickly move to match pricing changes. In other words, if AT&T is $20 cheaper today, it’s likely Verizon will move quickly to match them.

    Finally, if you’re able to afford the up front cost for a device, I would strongly recommend looking into a “no-contract” plan, particularly on AT&T or T-mobile. It’s one of the best ways to save money and allows you the flexibility to easily switch carriers should better coverage or better pricing become available in your area. Check out this article I wrote earlier this year titled, Should you go “no-contract”?, for more information on the benefits of avoiding a two-year commitment.

  3. Speed
    Network SpeedAgain, you would think speed should be important, but who cares how fast the network is if you can’t access it due to poor coverage. The speed of the network is a don’t care if you can’t access it.Also, carriers are regularly working on upgrades to their networks, so differences in speed between them is usually temporary.

  4. Phones
    Carrier EquipmentIf you’re entering into a two-year contract with a carrier, you’ll want to make sure you get the phone you want. Luckily, the differences in devices between carriers are virtually non-existent. Gone are the days when you had to go to AT&T to get the iPhone or to Verizon to get the best Android (Droid) devices. Manufacturers, particularly Apple and Samsung, make their devices available to all carriers on the date of launch. There may still be a few minor differences in phone selection between carriers, but nothing significant enough to justify choosing a carrier because of a specific device. My advice on phone selection is simple – choose a device that you like and that you feel will make you the most productive.If you’re looking for phone suggestions, check out our latest phone buying guide which is available in the Mobile Hardware section of our blog.

Comparing carriers

Even after reviewing this list, I still get asked which carrier is best. It varies by region, but generally speaking, here is how they stack up:

  • Verizon – It is has a big, fast network with strong coverage in most areas. They’re plans tend to be more expensive, but it’s worth it in most cases.
  • AT&T – Overall, its network isn’t as good as Verizon’s, but there are areas where their coverage will be better. When choosing between AT&T and Verizon, it’s a personal decision based on where you use your phone.
  • T-mobile – It is very aggressive on pricing, especially for data plans, and offers great equipment. Its Achilles heel is its network. They’ve made a lot of improvements lately, but coverage can get spotty if you spend a lot of time outside of populated areas. If T-mobile’s coverage works for you, it’s a great way to save a few bucks. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had very good experience with T-mobile for the past seven years, but I don’t spend much time off the beaten path)
  • Sprint – It’s as aggressive as T-mobile on pricing, but its phone selection is limited and their network isn’t as robust as Verizon and AT&T. As with T-mobile, it’s a good way to save a few dollars if the coverage works for you.

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)

Finally, if you haven’t heard of Mobile Virtual Network Operators, better known as MVNOs, you may want to take a look. They rent network capacity from the major carriers and resell it. Popular MVNOs include Straight Talk Wireless, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Republic Wireless, Simple Mobile, GoSmart Mobile, and Net10. A few comments with regards to MVNOs should you decide to investigate one as an option:

  • They rarely have contracts, so service is month-to-month. This allows you to switch between carriers if you run into problems with network coverage, network quality or customer service.
  • Their prices are normally better than the major carriers since they do not operate brick and mortar stores or subsidize phone purchases. The downside is that you have to pay full price for your phone up front, or bring your own device, and get all of your setup and customer service questions answered online or over the phone.
  • Some MVNOs require phones specifically designed for their mobile service, such as Republic Wireless which relies heavily on Wi-Fi. The downside is that you cannot easily switch carriers since your phone will not be compatible with anyone else’s network.
  • Because many of these MVNOs lack storefronts as mentioned above, you can be on your own with regards to technical issues. Therefore, I usually do not recommend an MVNO for the technically faint of heart.
  • If you get really serious about switching to an MVNO, here’s a review of some of the top services from Android Headlines.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend an MVNO if you rely on your phone for business. As a personal phone, or for a teenager/child, an MVNO can be a great way to save some money. For business, it can be a bit risky, especially if you start to run into network quality issues or phone problems.


Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, and happy shopping!

 

Using QR codes for real estate

QR codes are another way to connect to clients and prospects through their mobile phones. Once you understand what one is, you’ll notice that they seem to be everywhere – product packaging, flyers, magazines, billboards, even t-shirts! In fact, on just about any print or display ad you’ll see a QR code. It’s a convenient way for people to get more information about something without having to do a lot of typing on their phone.

Before I describe what QR codes are and how to effectively use them in real estate, I want to emphasize that QR codes are not the end-all, be-all for mobile marketing, nor are they some silver bullet that will make your business take off. In fact, I consider QR codes to be a form of gimmick marketing as awareness among consumers remains low. However, if you can attract one additional client or close one more transaction this year by using them, they will be worth the investment.

To help you get the most out of QR codes, I will cover the following:

  • What is a QR code?
  • Tips and best practices
  • Use cases for real estate

What is a QR code?

QR code - Aumnia websiteQR codes (short for Quick Response codes) are two dimensional bar codes that look like the inkblot images you’d find in a psychiatrist’s office. They are an encoded representation of the text that is contained within them, so the number of possible codes is effectively endless. As I mentioned above, they’re a bit of a marketing gimmick, but when used properly, they can be an effective tool to engage consumers on their mobile phones.

In order to read a QR code with your phone, you have to have a QR code reader installed on your phone. Here are some of my favorite QR code readers for iPhone and Android devices:

Keep in mind that these are just my favorites. There are lots of other options out there. A Google search for “QR code readers” will turn up plenty – just make sure to select a free one. There’s no need to select a premium reader. Once you’ve installed a QR code reader, or if you already have one, try scanning the QR code to the right. It will take you to our website on your mobile phone.


Tips and best practices

QR codes are easy to generate and can be included on virtually any print or online medium. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy to misuse them. When implemented poorly, QR codes won’t generate results and, even worse, can frustrate and/or alienate your clients and prospects.

Here’s a list of tips and best practices to follow when including QR codes in your marketing to give yourself the best chance of success when using them:

1. Stick to standard formats

Microsoft Tag exampleWhile it may sound like a good idea, don’t use non-standard formats. Big companies like to create proprietary formats and claim their format is better than the standard. The fact of the matter is that they’re trying to lock you into their platform, software and/or ecosystem. Microsoft tried their own proprietary tag format a few years back that never really caught on and has been subsequently discontinued (see image right).

Whatever you do, don’t use proprietary formats. All QR code readers can read the standard, but it’s unlikely that a QR code reader will have support for proprietary, non-standard formats.

2. Make sure QR code destinations are mobile friendly

What do people use to scan a QR code – their mobile phone! While this may sound obvious, I’m amazed at the number of QR code destinations that are not mobile friendly.

Make sure the end result of your QR code works on a phone. For example, if you create a QR code with your contact information, make sure the information can be automatically entered into a phone’s address book. If the QR code takes someone to a website, make sure the website looks good and is usable on the small screen.

3. Minimize the characters contained in the QR code

A QR code is nothing more than a translation of information into a picture. The more information you try to put in a QR code, the denser it becomes. Why is this a problem? A QR code reader could struggle to read a dense QR code due to the quality of the mobile phone camera. In addition, a dense QR code could become corrupted during the printing and copying process. In general, the less you put into the QR code, the better off you are.

In the QR codes below, the one on the left contains a URL with tracking information, while the one on the right contains the same URL shortened using bit.ly. In other words, scanning either code will take the user to the same place. The one on the right will be easier for a QR code reader to scan and will be less susceptible to corruption through the printing and copying process.

QR code - Aumnia website1nf0rVb

 

*** Note: Use URL shorteners such as bit.ly and goo.gl judiciously. Some users may be hesitant to go to a URL that is hidden behind a shortening service. Generally speaking, you should only use a URL shortener for a QR code if you are concerned that the QR code will be too dense for reading or printing, or for measurement (see #7 below).

4. Test before deploying

Install a QR code reader on your phone and test your QR code before deployment. Make sure that you get the desired result, such as redirection to a website or downloading of contact details. Nothing can be more frustrating for a user than taking the time to read a QR code that doesn’t work. Let’s just say that it doesn’t create a good first impression.

5. Tell users what to expect when scanning

QR codes should not be used to “hide” information. In other words, if your QR code has your contact information, say that scanning the QR code will provide them with your contact details. If your QR code takes people to a website, put the website URL above or below the code so people know where it will take them, and better yet, those people without a QR code reader can simply type the URL into their browser.

Revealing the intent of your QR code will increase the chances that people will scan it. Given the amount of malware out there, I am very hesitant to scan a QR code unless I know what will happen when I scan it. It’s a dangerous world out there – better safe than sorry!

6. Match the placement with the context

QR code business card implementation

click to enlarge

This tip is a bit more subtle, but make sure to put your QR code in a place that makes sense. In other words, if you’re putting a QR code on a yard sign, it should point to a place where people can get property details, not a generic website. A QR code on a property flyer should go to a place where more details, a virtual tour, or a digital brochure are available. A QR code on a business card should have your contact information. Hopefully, you’re getting the picture.

To the right is an example of a good QR code implementation. The card tells people what they can expect when they scan the code, and the website destination address is contained in the instructions.

7. Measure usage

Measurement is the key to any marketing campaign, which means you need to track your QR code marketing. One of the easiest ways to track QR code usage is through a URL shortener such as bit.ly or goo.gl. The shortened URL will not only yield a less dense QR code but also provide a way to measure the number of times it is used. I would recommend employing a different shortened URL for every medium where you place the QR code so you can see if the hits are coming from your business cards, print ads, display ads, etc.

For those who are more advanced in your website analytics, you can also add utm codes to your website links before you encode them into a QR code for better tracking. Here is a link to a short primer on utm codes and how to use them with Google Analytics to give you a few ideas. UTM codes are also a good alternative to URL shorteners since some people may be hesitant to download content through shortened URLs for security reasons (see #3 above).

8. Don’t pay for the QR code

There are plenty of free websites out there where you can generate QR codes at no cost. These codes can be saved to your computer and used in print mediums, display ads, or wherever you chose. My personal favorite is http://goqr.me, but a simple Google search for “QR code generators” will provide a long list of sites for you to explore.


Use cases for real estate

Using the tips and best practices, here are some ways you can include QR codes in your real estate business:

  • Business cards
    QR codes can be placed on business cards to automate entry of your contact details into someone’s address book or to direct them to your website. If you want to get really creative, link it to a YouTube video introduction of yourself.
  • Yard signs (or sign riders)
    Use QR codes on yard signs to direct people to property specific websites, virtual tours, or a mobile-optimized property description. Since QR codes can made into stickers, you don’t need a new yard sign or sign rider for each property. Just print a new sticker with the new QR code for the property and put it over the old one.
  • Property flyers
    Use QR codes on your property flyers to direct people to virtual tours, property videos, or more detailed property descriptions and brochures. You can also have a QR code link to videos of the area or market reports.
  • Property mailers
    When you send out a mailer for a new listing, include a QR code that links to a page with more details or a property video. If you’re feeling adventurous, create a QR code that will allow someone to text or email you directly for more details when they scan the code.
  • Print ads
    It can be tough to include all of the property details in a magazine or newpaper print ad, so use a QR code to direct people to a more detailed website, property description or virtual tour.

These are just five use cases that I’ve come up with, but these aren’t the only places that you could use a QR code. If you get creative, I’m sure you could come up with plenty of other use cases.


QR codes can be an effective marketing tool

Despite being considered a gimmick, QR codes can be an effective marketing tool when used properly. Just bear in mind that QR codes are only one part of a marketing plan and that I would not recommend building your strategy around them. In other words, QR codes should be one of many tools in your marketing toolbox, not the only one.

The bottom line: If you are able to complete one more transaction this year by using QR codes, it will be worth the investment given their low cost of implementation.


If you have any questions or comments regarding QR codes, feel free to ask in the comments or contact us directly. Also, feel free to share any QR code marketing success stories that you may have!


 

App Review: Evernote

Evernote Android AppAn essential app that I highly recommend is Evernote. Evernote, as the name implies, is a note taking application that can be used on your mobile phone, tablet, and even your computer and laptop. Its power is that you can create a note, take a picture, perform voice recordings, or capture a web snippet, save it, and then access it from any device that you have Evernote installed on. In other words, Evernote synchronizes all of your notes for you in the cloud.

I’ve been using Evernote for a couple of years now, and it’s one of my daily, “go-to” apps that I use both on my computer and my phone. I use it for work and personally to maintain notes on projects, to-do lists, customer notes, blog ideas, books to read, favorite wines, and more. The best part about Evernote is that I can use it anywhere. For example, I can create a note while I am out and about on my phone, and then access it later on my computer to edit it.

What’s the best part? Evernote is free, and unlike a lot of other applications, the free version is very capable for the majority of users. Personally, I pay the $45/year for the upgrade to Premium. I’m not even sure what all of the premium features I get are (you can find them by clicking here), but I’ve become so dependent on it, and use it so much, that it’s a small price to pay for such an awesome application.

To get started, create an account at the Evernote website, evernote.com. Then download the client to you PC or Mac and the app to your phone and tablet. After that, you’re off and running. They’ve created a useful Getting Started guide that walks you through the setup, but the interface is pretty self-explanatory and easy-to-use.

Using Evernote in Real Estate

In addition to the generic items I listed above, here are some ideas on how you can use Evernote in your real estate business to present a more organized and professional image to your clients:

  • Client showings
    After showing buyers multiple properties on a Saturday, or any day for that matter, it an be hard to remember the details of everything you saw, at least it was for my wife and me. I could never remember which property had the great pool or the outdated kitchen in need of a remodel. Evernote is a great way to document the properties you show clients by taking notes, pictures, and even voice recordings of your (and your client’s) thoughts. Then during follow-up, you can remind them of the properties they saw and what they did, or didn’t, like about each one.
  • Listing presentations
    Evernote works for listings as well as buyers. When you go on a listing presentation, use Evernote as you walk around both the inside and outside of the property taking typed notes, voice notes, and pictures to help you remember key points. This way, you can provide your prospect with a more complete market analysis including ideas on how they can improve the presentation and value of their home.
  • Property notebooks
    Once you secure the listing, setup a notebook for the property and use it to track items related to it. Track all of the prospects and clients that have seen it, record their comments, what they did or didn’t like, and provide feedback to the seller without having to pull it from scattered notes or memory. Track open house dates and performance, marketing materials and leads. This way, when your client calls you, you can open your notebook (on your computer, phone  or tablet) and share with them all of the latest information related to the sale of their property.
  • Client notebooks
    As you get more advanced, you could create notebooks for each client you are working with on the buying side. You could track properties that you’ve shown them, neighborhoods they like and why, and items that are important to them. You could also track personal notes such as kids’ names and upcoming events, like birthdays. Again, just like with your property notebook, when your client calls you, all of the key information will be right at your fingertips whether you are in or out of the office.

For more information

In addition to these starter tips, Evernote amabassador Krisstina Wise, CEO and Founder of the GoodLife Team Real Estate Brokerage in Austin, TX, has published some more tips related to the use of Evernote for real estate. I would highly recommend checking out these articles over at the Evernote site. Whether you are a novice or advanced user, I am sure it will help you find a couple of additional ways to get more from the app:

Dean Ouellette has also written a comprehensive guide for using Evernote titled: Evernote for Real Estate: A Complete Guide. It’s $20 to purchase the book, but he also offers a newsletter and short eBook for free as well. If you’re serious about using Evernote, it’s not a bad investment.

There’s also another book about Evernote on the way co-authored by Evernote Ambassadors Stacey Harmon and Kristi Willis that is titled: Untethered with Evernote: Tips and Tricks for Independent Entrepreneurs. It isn’t specific to real estate, but I’ve been told there will be many applicable items for real estate agents in the book, which I would expect given Stacey’s experience in the industry. It is slated for availability in March, 2014, and you can check out the website for the book here to get updates on status and availability.

If there are any Evernote tips that you have, whether for real estate or in general, feel free to leave them comments. I’m always interested in learning about new ways to use the app!