San Francisco-based Software Advice has been generating leads for software makers since 2005. The company deploys industry-specific websites designed to help small and mid-sized businesses research and select software. Just recently, it launched its property management site, built to capitalize on an estimated 30,000 monthly searches for “property management software” in Google, Yahoo and MSN. Software Advice already operates sites for retailers, medical providers and construction professionals.

“Using our website, real estate and property management companies can review leading software systems and narrow down two or three that are best suited for their needs. Additionally, they can call our expert advisers for a free phone consultation and needs analysis,” explains Houston Neal, the company’s director of business development. “You might consider us a Consumer Reports for property management software. Others say we’re like an because we consider so many factors when matching buyers with the right program for their business.” asked Neal for more information about the company, its free services and ways its new site can help property managers find the right software for lease administration, facilities maintenance, budgeting and real estate accounting. After four years, why did the company decide to expand its service to property management firms?

Neal: The property management industry has always been on our radar, but we wanted to be prepared before entering it. It’s a diverse and challenging industry with a wide range of software applications. In a sense, we’ve spent the past few years refining our service so that we could enter an industry like this. How does the service decide which software is the best option for a specific firm?

Neal: Our customer advocates go through a detailed phone interview with each company. During the call, we learn about a company’s business–i.e. what types of properties they manage, how many units or square footage they manage, etc.–and then ask questions about the company’s software requirements–i.e. what functionality do they need, web-based versus on-premise, how many users on the system, what is your budget, etc. We have also developed our own technology that allows the customer advocate to narrow down software products as we take notes during the call. Based on our knowledge and this very intelligent tool, we can quickly narrow down one to three best fit software systems. What property management software vendors are participating? Does a company have to make a financial commitment to the site if it wants a chance of being recommended?

Neal: Buildium, Domin-8, Property Boulevard, Maxwell Systems and Deep Forest Systems to name a few. To be listed on our website, a vendor has to participate in our buyer referral program. After we identify a best fit software system for a buyer, as described above, the software vendor pays us for the referral. How can a property management professional feel secure that the recommendation is accurate–as opposed to a selection based on payment from a vendor?

Neal: First, it’s important to understand our goal for the buyer: help them narrow down a short list of around three systems, which saves them weeks of up-front research. We are not telling the buyer which system to buy. So we’re not “selling” them on any one vendor based on compensation we receive from a vendor. Moreover, all vendors in our program pay us the same referral fees, which mean there is no incentive to recommend one system over another.

Finally, we will often discuss non-participating vendors with the buyer, when we feel they will be a good fit for the buyer. We believe that if we put the buyer first and truly help them in their search, they will refer their friends and colleagues to us.

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