What is the Cloud? As far as defining the Cloud is concerned, in simplest terms, it’s a means of storing and accessing data and programmes over the internet instead of locally on a computer hard drive or network server – with the ‘Cloud’ being a metaphor for the internet. Why is it the Cloud and not just called the internet? Because the Cloud is when a company like Microsoft or Salesforce use their own servers to provide a service. So, when you use Office 360 or Google Docs, you are actually accessing and storing your data on their servers via the internet. We all increasingly rely upon instant access to information; when we need it, wherever we are, and the Cloud enables this. So how is it relevant to property marketing?
From a marketing perspective, basing everything online brings a number of advantages. Firstly, businesses can utilise applications that are hosted online, bundling together application development, infrastructure, maintenance and support services, enabling them to lower their costs by paying only for what they use. Secondly the data used by applications is also stored online, obviating the need to manage the logistics of data storage or backup locally – especially useful as part of business continuity planning. In addition to easy storage, Cloud based service providers place a lot of emphasis on security and claim to have better protection against hackers and viruses than locally held data storage. Thirdly, the applications and data are both available from anywhere at any time without setting up complex networking facilities, negating the need to be physically present in the same building – enabling easy collaboration across today’s increasingly mobile workforce.
Meetings can be held online via Skype, reducing the need to be physically present, increasing productivity and speeding up the decision making process. Client Relationship Management (CRM) software or collaboration tools are very useful for many tasks and projects in property. Cloud based CRM systems like Salesforce brings previously unheard-of transparency and efficiency to sales and customer relationship management. Hubspot can bring a whole new level to marketing by leveraging online engagement and converting blogs and the like into leads via inbound marketing services.
And of course, the Cloud can also be used to store a secure online library of digital assets such as photos and videos, which are then immediately accessible and easily searchable when designing a campaign. Pixel Image’s Library ‘Cloud’ is a secure searchable repository of image content created by the company for its clients over the years. It allows the clients to search, sort, collect and distribute their content for any project without having to hunt down elusive email attachments and never being quite sure they are the most up-to-date versions.
The Cloud can even enhance the buyer experience. From updating sales systems with live information to seeing breaks in the buyer journey, the cloud gives you real-time data and analytics. Plus, CRM and ERP software can improve management of files, accounting, client communication and project financials, improving efficiency and thus keeping clients happy.
Chances are, you are probably already using the Cloud in your day-to-day life. By signing into internet services such as Google Docs, Office 360 or Netflix account, or a web-based email provider such as Gmail, you are using their Cloud services to do so. The Cloud is now widely accepted as a solution for businesses looking to streamline, centralise and add value to their operations. With this level of prevalence in daily life, it’s safe to say that the cloud is here to stay.