Many are aware of email as a form of marketing - but very few understand how it works or why it can be successful.
At RealtyNinja, we believe in the power of our email list.
We use a web application called MailChimp to foster and monetize that list.
(We’re not the only ones.)
And we'd like to show you how to monetize your own.
So get ready.
Today’s article is your REALTOR® Roadmap towards a powerful, lead-generating email marketing plan.
All the important destinations are highlighted.
We will touch on a lot of the important factors with email marketing, but we will also dive into real estate specific information as it relates to email marketing.
Let’s start at the top.
What is email marketing, how does it work, and what is the exact process that must occur in order for you to promote your real estate business to a potential lead via email?
The Email Marketing Process
At its foundation, email marketing is every single email you send to a current or potential customer.
So technically, if you’ve ever reached out to a lead or congratulated a client on the purchase of their new home via email, then you have engaged in email marketing.
However, in this article we’re talking about an elevated version of this basic email contact. We’re talking about sending a commercially-relevant message to the personal email inboxes of a group of people who have opted in to hear from you.
“So do I bcc 200 people on an email? Is that email marketing?”
Sure, I guess.
But where do those 200 people’s email addresses exist? How do you know if they have read your email? How do you know if they have clicked any links in your email? How do you measure the success of emailing those 200 people, and improve upon those measurements?
You just can’t.
An app that will collect email addresses for you from subscription forms on your website and other methods (more on that further down the page). MailChimp will also let you know stats like how many people opened your emails, how many clicked your links, and more analytics about your mailing list over time.
Here’s a very general flow of the process:
- Set up your MailChimp account.
- Learn about CASL compliance.
- Create a list, or a few lists.
- Generate sign up forms for those lists.
- Promote those lists to earn subscribers.
- Earn subscribers.
- Send emails to subscribers regularly.
- Earn more subscribers.
- Analyze all your list and email data.
- Earn more subscribers. Lose some subscribers.
- Refine your marketing campaigns, test new campaigns, send better emails.
- Earn more subscribers. Lose less subscribers.
- Convert subscribers into sales.
- Do a dance.
“But why? This sounds like a lot of work. Nobody is going to buy or list a house through email…”
Well, you’re kind of right.
You can buy an iPhone or a pair of shoes through an email, but not a house. It’s just not that simple. Regardless of that small fact, there are undeniable reasons why REALTORS® need to be engaging current and potential customers via email.
For starters, the business you have chosen is one that is very personal and intimate.
As the popular saying goes, “Buying or selling a home is probably the biggest transaction a person will ever make.” They don’t want to make this transaction with someone they don’t know, someone they don’t trust. Well, what if I said that you could foster this trusting relationship online, through a series of emails sent to someone’s inbox (AKA the most intimate space in their whole online world)?
Well, I’m saying it.
Another reason why you should be using email to reach clients is simply because it’s scaleable.
Is there a better way to reach 1,000 people at one time than with an email directly to their inbox? Imagine trying to call 1,000 people every week to give them a piece of real estate advice, or to share an exclusive deal with them. If every phone call took you two minutes, you would be spending 33 hours calling people every week. But sending them an email every week will take you maybe an hour or two.
My favourite reason why REALTORS® should be using a powerful email marketing strategy is because there are not a lot of agents out there who are doing it well.
And who knows, email marketing might just naturally tie into your overall brand strategy.
1. List Building
This term refers to the activity of creatively promoting your email list to consumers in your target market who may be most likely to enjoy your content and to purchase from you in the near or distant future.
(Click here to read Matt Ragland's trick on how he captured 100 emails in only 2 days.)
2. CASL Compliance
Before you start building a list and sending promotional emails, do your homework.
CASL, or the Canada AntiSpam Law, went into effect on July 1st, 2014.
If you are in Canada or sending emails to people who are in Canada, you must comply with CASL. Rather than regurgitating information that is already so beautifully laid out, it’s best for us all if I just share this link with you: About Canada AntiSpam Laws.
Begin by creating a list in MailChimp.
Depending on your particular strategy, you may want to create two or more lists. For example, one list for people looking to receive market reports, another list for people interested in buying & selling tips. Maybe a third list for your monthly partner offer from local vendors. You can create different lists to capture different interest groups.
But beware, with many lists come many responsibilities. Be sure that you have the resources available to manage multiple lists. Starting with one robust list might be the best choice in the beginning.
Read this MailChimp Support Doc: Getting Started with Lists
4. Subscription Forms
After you’ve built your list, you need to give potential subscribers a way to subscribe.
In MailChimp, you can create a subscription form where you add all of the fields required before a user can subscribe to your list. The minimum requirement is their email address, but you can add Name, Phone Number, Extra Notes, and more. Fewer fields mean fewer barriers to entry for your subscribers. Maybe people don’t want to give you their phone number… maybe your offer is good enough that they do.
That’s all based on your strategy.
Once you have created your subscription forms for your various lists, you can now either embed that list right into your website using a code snippet, or you can receive a permanent link to a standalone form on MailChimp’s server, and you can also create a subscriber pop-up widget.
Read this MailChimp Support Doc: Create Signup Forms and Response Emails
5. Subscriber Popup
A subscriber popup is a fairly new addition to the MailChimp arsenal.
Launched in Dec 2014, these cool forms give you the power to create a form that popsup on specific pages of your site, at a certain time. In a matter of three seconds, a visitor to your site would be aware that you had an email marketing list, and may have subscribed.
You may want to be strategic though, that kind of quick request on a landing page could mean you lose that visitor. Maybe you tuck the subscriber popup form only on specific pages of your website, and not on the home page.
Again this is all a matter of strategy.
Read this MailChimp Blog Article: New Subscriber PopUp Forms
Read this MailChimp Blog Article: How to Make PopUp Subscription Forms that Work
Read this MailChimp Support Doc: Add a PopUp Signup Form to Your Website
6. Facebook CTA’s
There are ways to entice your social media fans to subscribe to your list, but a lot of them are obvious:
Share a link!
But Facebook Pages have a neat Call to Action feature that allows people to interact with you in a certain way.
I know a lot of REALTORS® have Facebook Pages, so look at the bottom right corner of your Page’s Cover Photo and you will see a little Call to Action button. Click that, then select “Edit call to action”. In the following box, you simply enter the link of your static subscription form or to a form embedded on your own website.
Check the two screenshots below.
7. Email Signature
How many business and real estate related emails do you send from your professional email every week?
Be sure to include a link for people to subscribe to your mailing list in your email signature. Depending on how active you are via email, this could be quite effective. People are more likely to subscribe to your list after they have had direct personal interaction with you (however digital that interaction may be).
8. Promo Materials
Although email marketing is a digital engagement tactic, that doesn’t mean it can’t cross over into the physical world.
If you are printing marketing materials and feature sheets for your listings, use a few inches of space to tell people how to subscribe to your mailing list, and why (important). No matter if you are placing ads in the local newspapers, using local transit and transit shelter ads, or sending some notepads via direct mail… always include a link to subscribe to your mailing list.
9. Open Houses
How many business cards have you wasted at open houses?
You hand them out like they were free, and barely ever get any return from them.
Why? Because they are sitting at the bottom of someone’s purse or ended up in the “business card box” in someone’s bottom drawer.
Next time, put out a spreadsheet and a pen, or if you want to get fancy, an iPad with your subscription form open where people can subscribe to your mailing list. Where you can personally talk them into opting in to receive communication from you. Later on, enter those emails into your MailChimp list manually.
[-_-]~~ Ninja Tip: Put the iPad next to the spread of fresh fruit and water bottles.
10. One-on-One Meetings
Finally, don’t forget about all those one-on-one meetings with your clients.
Explain to them the importance of joining your list and how it’s going to make effective real estate decisions, or how it’s going to grant them access to monthly deals from local vendors. Whatever your strategic approach may be, try to earn as many subscribers as you can simply by talking about it with the people you deal with in your real estate business every day.
11. Offers & Content
To earn subscribers, sweet, sweet subscribers, it is simply not enough to use the methods mentioned above.
We must do more!
The offers we put out to earn these subscribers must be rich, and the bounty of content we provide them in our emails must be grand. In other words, a good reason to subscribe paired with great emails upon subscription begets email marketing glory.
Sometimes a good reason to subscribe is a promise of great emails upon subscription. That can absolutely be true. Other times a good reason to subscribe may be for access to something exclusive immediately, followed by a series of great emails. This is also a great method.
Either way, simply telling someone on your site to “Subscribe to my mailing list” does not cut it.
Just the same as you asked why you should use email marketing, they are asking why they should join your list. Give them a good reason, and then don’t let them down.
With certain triggers or workflows in MailChimp, you can automate your email marketing process to some degree.
A trigger tells MailChimp to send an email whenever a specific action occurs.
For instance, you could set up an email to go out automatically whenever someone signs up, sending them a link. This link could send them to an exclusive deal or it could give them access to an exclusive home buyer's guide PDF. Either way the point is that you can automate the offer you’re promoting on your website.
If you are saying “Subscribe to my mailing list and receive an instant $25 coupon to Red Robin.”, you can automate that coupon to go out to every new email address who subscribes to your mailing list. From then on it’s up to you to keep in touch with the list with regular emails.
Further to triggers, you can create a workflow that automates your emails.
Using activity-based workflows, you can send an email to a new subscriber one day after they sign up. Then three days later they can automatically receive your second email. A week later your third, a week later your fourth, and so on. Each of these emails is already prewritten and fulfills the promise you laid out in your subscriber offer.
It could be that you’re sending a series of 10 interviews with local celebrities, or could be that you’re sending out 10 short home staging videos.
This can be done in advance and set up in a MailChimp workflow.
[-_-]~~ Ninja Tip: The best emails are the ones that are relevant and current. Find out what the people in your target market want, and give that to them fresh and hot off the presses consistently. Automation is good, but you can’t automate genuineness.
Read this MailChimp Support Doc: About Automation
13. Be Unique, Create a Relationship
I work in marketing for one of the best real estate agent website SaaS companies in Canada.
This means I get to talk to a lot of REALTORS® every day.
One thing I see a lot of is agents sending Market Statistics reports to their mailing list. Let me be super frank, and I am not here to offend, I just need as many real estate agents as possible to know these two things:
- YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY REALTOR® WHO EMAILS MARKET STATISTICS
- NOBODY CARES ABOUT MARKET STATISTICS
Market Statistics are even more boring than they sound.
I spend all day at work responding to emails, reading and inputting into a digital screen. When I finally get to check my personal emails I don’t want to look at a bunch of numbers in a graph and try to make sense of it. And I know, there may be some people who really do want to know what’s happening on the market. But that’s what they want right now, that’s not something they want to receive in their inbox for as long as you are in the real estate business.
People can find local market statistics online any time they want to.
What makes your market statistics email so unique that people should subscribe?
Put yourself in the shoes of the subscriber. Don’t think about what a REALTOR® might find interesting, think from the perspective of your audience.
Are these people first time buyers? Are you speaking to condo buyers? Home buyers? Are they older? Younger? Where do they eat? Do they have pets? Do they have kids? What are their hobbies? Are they involved in the community? What do these people care about, and how can you provide that to them in a unique, creative, engaging way and in an email?
14. Listings via Email
By all means, send out your listings via email.
But try to not make this the main focus of each of your emails.
More people care about your real estate listings than they do about market statistics. But the fact remains: unless you are targeting people who like to ogle at real estate photos all day, real estate listings are only important to people who are in the market.
Your goal is to make your emails so good that they are interesting to a broader group of individuals.
My personal thought on the subject is that you should include one or maybe a few of your featured listings in your emails, but don’t let that be your focus. Let the focus be something interesting that the reader cares about, oh and then look, some cool listings to check out here at the bottom. Sweet email!
Another tactic is to send emails with links to check out some glorious, or ugly, or small, or exotic, or luxury, or odd and otherwise unique listings in and around your community. And somewhere in there, squeeze one or two of your own listings.
This categorizes the email as “cool listings” and not just “my agent listings”.
15. Optimize for Mobile
When designing an email in MailChimp, you can preview it and test it in many formats.
They provide you with an onscreen mobile view, and you can also send a test email to yourself and check it on multiple devices.
If you are sending the email from your computer or laptop, it is very important to test the way it will appear on various mobile devices, since most people are opening emails on their smartphones.
All it takes is one ugly email that doesn’t function or has broken links to lead someone to unsubscribe.
And they will.
So I stress again, test your emails on as many mobile devices as you can before you send them or schedule them to send.
Email marketing is an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with potential customers in the real estate industry.
But much like you learned about social media some years ago, it’s not easy to achieve success. Especially if you’re setting the bar really high for yourself. Try to blend email marketing into the biology of your brand and to have a good time with it. It shouldn’t feel forced when it’s working well, it should feel fun and effective.
Even if you have 200 subscribers, that’s a huge win in the beginning.
Imagine 200 people in a room… that’s a big party!
Now imagine when you get to 5,000… 10,000… 15,000… that’s like an entire stadium full of people who care about what you have to say. It is seriously possible to achieve, and it can be one of the most powerful assets, if not the single most powerful asset in your real estate marketing toolkit.
It’s been a pleasure writing for you all.
If you’re interested in reading more from us, and ultimately becoming a real estate marketing ninja, check out The Dojo, by RealtyNinja.
Sepy Bazzazi is the Marketing Ninja at RealtyNinja, a company that creates awesome websites for busy real estate agents. You can get in touch with him directly via email: sepyatrealtyninjadotcom.