Your CRM data, your names and interactions, is your inventory.
Without it, you’re back to re-stocking the shelves for years, trying to pick up the pieces. If you lose it, the best you can hope for is to add back what you can from your paper files and hope not too many things fall through the cracks. But they will. How safe is your CRM data? What steps can you take to prevent its loss? You’ll be happy to know that it’s no big mystery. There are a few simple steps to avoid any problems.
There was a time not too long ago that would have necessitated that this conversation include backing up your data from your desktop because the CRM was installed on it. To my knowledge, there are no real estate specific CRMs left that are like this that are still being sold. If you are aware of one, please reply here and let me know. That said, the primary reason that they no longer exist is because everything has gone online. They are referred to as SAAS (Software As A System). They have gone online because SAAS products are always a monthly or annual subscription. This model allows them to have enough of a revenue stream to afford staff to fix, improve and support it. If you have a desktop CRM, be aware that it may not be that for long. You might want to make inquiries and possibly prepare for that eventuality.
Let’s define some terms before we begin.
Using the words database, backup and export is a little abstract. In more meaningful terms, we are talking about your livelihood. We’re talking about your inventory. You’ve spent anywhere from a couple years to several decades creating an inventory of people in your CRM who have given, or may give you business. Without them, you have to start all over again. You can re-create some of it with many hours of aggravating effort, but you will never replace all of it. All that time you spend re-creating it is 100% needlessly wasted time that grates on your every nerve while you’re doing it. It’s one of the most miserable things that can happen in your business life. The most religious backer-uppers are the ones who have been there. They know they never want to go through that again. The irony is that it takes so little effort to do it. Do I have your attention now? How safe is your CRM data?
Following is a little known fact. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, but I had simply never thought about it. Everyone who likes Web CRMs always says, “I like Web based databases because I don’t have to worry about backing up.” Let’s think about this in some detail. Lets say your computer is stolen. With a Web based product, all you have to do is get another computer, log in, and everything is there like you left it. Very nice! And that’s the type of scenario people always think about when they think about what would happen if they had a desktop solution and their data is not backed up. They look at it in terms of a total one time loss. They think about losing their computer, or having a hard drive failure, or having a virus, etc., and losing everything.
But let’s say you were working on your database on a Web based product,
and you accidentally delete 200 of your contacts instead of putting them into a different category like you thought you were doing. More and more real estate CRMs now have a Trash or Recycle Bin. This means that if you delete a contact, it will be stored in the recycle bin. There also usually exists the ability to EMPTY that recycle bin. The main thing here is, DON’T DELETE what is in the recycle bin unless you are positive that you will never need them. Why? Because most if not all CRMs will tell you that if you delete it from the recycle bin, they can NOT recover it. If you delete them from trash, you are bleep out of luck. So what can you do to protect yourself? You can do periodic exports, say monthly. That way if need be, you have your own copy of the data you can then import back into the CRM. Just bear in mind that exports never contain all of your information. See “How much of your data can be exported?”
Another data issue to be mindful of is whether or not all of your data remains as it should.
When synchronizing to Google, Outlook, your phone or wherever, that can introduce problems. Different CRMs are better than others at syncing. Names can be lost, addresses can be changed in error, calendar items can shift times. How safe is your CRM data? Even if you do not sync with other programs, you want to monitor your data. One way to do it is to keep track of the number of contacts you have. This isn’t easy because you are always adding and deleting contacts, but it can be done if you just check once in a while. Unless you know every contact you and/or your team members added and deleted, it’s tough to keep track. One or two up and down from what you think it should be is probably not an issue. Just keep your eyes peeled for a larger number of discrepancies.
I would like to take a moment to ease some concerns about data loss that are either outright wrong, or simply overstated. They are that your data is not safe with a Web based solution.
Next week – Part 2 of 2!