Technology is advancing at warp speed, and what formerly seemed rather science-fiction-ish has worked its way into the mainstream. Artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, machine and deep learning – these technological advances may find their way into the real estate industry in a much bigger way in 2018.

However, if your basics aren’t covered, you won’t be ready for what comes next. So, as you complete your 2018 business plan, pencil in some time and budget some money to ensure that the workhorses of your real estate business are fine-tuned and automatic.

Websites in 2018

It seems strange to be reminding real estate agents in nearly-2018 that they need a website. It’s shocking, at least to us, when we learn of an agent who doesn’t have one but relies on his or her broker’s site (and, sadly, branding).

In fact, according to the most recent Member Profile, just over half of NAR members have had a website for more than five years, despite the fact that 86 percent of homebuyers said that agent websites were “a very useful information source,” they relied on when shopping for a home.

Then, there are those agents who do have websites, but they sit idle on the internet – akin to a virtual business card – with no new content and no efforts to drive potential clients to the site.

Your local real estate website offers a significant marketing opportunity – a way to set your brand apart from the others. An IDX on the site is a given, but it shouldn’t stop there. Ensure that your site is customized to fit your brand, designed to collect leads, capture search criteria and offers SEO-friendly features.

Fill the site with valuable information that local consumers won’t find anywhere else and with information about you and your business (a compelling bio, testimonials, and case studies) that humanizes your business.

Blog like a maniac, ensuring each post is share-worthy and then promote them on social media.

Yes, the competition for the elusive first-page ranking on Google is tough. As long as the search giant’s algorithm thinks that the big aggregate sites offer more value than the individual agents’ sites, competition for organic traffic will remain challenging.

But, it’s not impossible. In every market, a handful of agents show up on page one. You can be among them, with a professionally designed website that is consistently updated with professionally-crafted content.

Your CRM is even more important now

If your 2018 tech budget is limited, focus as much money as possible on your CRM.

The real estate industry moves quickly, thanks to the mobile-centric nature of the average real estate consumer. Their expectations are higher than ever and, in many instances, response times determine who gets the deal and who doesn’t.

It all boils down to how you’ll manage these expectations and the increased demands on your time and marketing budget. And there’s no better weapon to have in your arsenal than a robust, cloud-based CRM.

Cloud technology describes software that is hosted online and can be accessed from anywhere in the world, on demand, so long as you have an internet connection.

Cloud adoption in 2015 was “still in its early stages,” according to Forbes. Only three years later and cloud services are essentially the standard for digital products. By 2018, 62 percent of CRMs will be cloud-based.

Since universal access is a must in 2018 don’t waste your tech dollars on a CRM solution that isn’t cloud-based.

Then, spend some time with your CRM, customizing it to help streamline your business and lead generation efforts next year.

Complement your CRM

To get the maximum return on your CRM investment, consider ancillary technologies. Predictive analytics, for instance, can help you target only the homeowners in your CRM who are most likely to sell their home.

Artificial intelligence explodes every year and 2018 will see further growth, with amazing opportunities for the real estate industry.