The Crusaders... John Reilly, Saul Klein, Mike Barnett
|eMail Tactics and Tools|
Staying in front of your sphere of influence year after year is the secret of successful real estate professionals. eMail, properly utilized, will insure a steady return of repeat and referral business. Since most of your clients will only need your services on average every 5-to-8 years, it is important to maintain contact over long periods of time. eMail marketing allows you to provide valuable information in a non-intrusive, cost-effective manner. Homeowners like to be kept up-to-date on what is taking place in their neighborhood and community, and eMail is a great way for you to stay in touch.
Items of Interest
- What's for sale and what just sold
- Businesses moving to or contemplating moving into the area
- Garage sales
- New zoning or proposed zoning and/or political agendas
- Interest rate changes
- Favorable tax law changes
Now that so much information is available online, it is quite simple to find the information and convey it in a basic format to your clients. For instance, at www.homegain.com, you can find information about the current market value of any local home. You can use this piece of information as a focal point for an annual holiday greeting (particularly if the value has gone up substantially). You might subscribe to an online discussion forum (listserv) where you learn about breaking news concerning a new tax deduction for homeowners then summarize this hot info in the online e-newsletter that you send to your sphere of influence database. At the push of a button, hundreds of your contacts will instantly receive this news in an eMail broadcast-thanks to you, and your eMail efficiency.
The following tools each constitute excellent ways of using eMail for marketing purposes. By putting them together in unique ways, you can formulate an eMail marketing campaign that is totally tailored to your personality, time constraints, and client base.
All eMail software allows users to attach files such as Word documents, PowerPoint slides, and digital images to eMail messages. When attaching files, it is important to consider their size. Anything over 500K is considered large and will take added computer time to send and to download (about seven minutes to download 1MB at a 56K modem). You can find out file size by going to Windows Explorer, clicking on the file, and checking the stats bar at the bottom of the screen. With the limited bandwidth of digital phone lines available to many using the Internet, a large file may create problems and delays in both sending and receiving the file. (A real advantage with cable modems is the expanded capacity-bandwidth- to transport large files and Web sites.) The receiver may also lack the proper software version to open and read an attachment or view a graphic. And, if you are sending an attachment to AOL users, they may not be able to download and read it.
Auto-Responder-21st Century Fax on Demand
What is an auto-responder? Think of it as the Internet's answer to fax-on-demand. When someone sends an eMail to the special auto-responder address you purchase from your Internet hosting company, an automatic prewritten eMail reply message is sent to that person's computer instantly. Unlike fax-on-demand, your auto-responder can transmit a 75-page report in a few seconds and can respond to thousands of requests from anywhere in the world daily-you pay no long distance, printing, or postage charges. The exercises at the end of this lesson will send you to several auto-responders so you can experience the power of this Internet tool.
A ten-page report may be a little too much for faxing, but eMail is another story. An auto-responder can send property information to interested parties automatically-at the push of a button, at the speed of light. It certainly is a less expensive way to send relocation material, and it can help in the prospect qualification process as well. In order to receive a report, the prospect must provide his or her eMail address and other information you may want to require. (Remember, however, that the more information you require, the less likely the consumer will be to complete the request). This form of capturing eMail addresses constitutes the essence of what is known as "permission marketing"-people are willing to give you their eMail addresses for future communication if there is something of value in it for them.
Other Uses for Auto-Responders
Auto-responders can be used for:
- Free reports sent from your Web site to a requesting visitor. This instantly gives them the information they are seeking, and provides you with an eMail address for future marketing.
- Providing any information that you might fax to someone. Let's say you take a listing and put together a five-page report on the property. You can enter this report, in digital format, into your auto-responder and then include the eMail address of your auto-responder on your marketing pieces for the listing. You can also include the auto-responder address in your automatic signature-remember to include the mailto: prefix so it becomes a hot link. If someone wants detailed information on the listing, they send a blank eMail to the eMail address of the auto-responder and will immediately receive the information-the system is set up so you receive a copy of their request containing their valuable eMail address.
Listservs and eMail Discussion Groups
A listserv, also called a mail list, is a group of people who have joined together (subscribed to a particular listserv) to discuss a particular subject via eMail. Group size can range from a few dozen to tens of thousands of people. Anytime a member of the listserv "posts" (writes) a message to the group, the message is automatically routed via eMail to everyone in the group. One increasingly popular variation on this is the "moderated" listserv, where the coordinators of the listserv cull through the messages sent to them and organize them into one eMail before sending them out to the group.
Listservs are usually focused on very specific subjects. There are thousands of different listservs on every subject imaginable. In real estate, there are two main types of listservs: (1) listservs where real estate professionals swap sales leads, particularly for relocating clients, and (2) listservs where real estate professionals trade ideas and thoughts about their profession. The first example clearly has more direct potential for marketing leads, but the second example is a great vehicle for staying on the cutting edge and enhancing your marketing savvy in general. Listservs are an excellent resource for material to adapt to your local market and use in your newsletters and marketing pieces.
A potential downfall of listservs, particularly the large ones, is that you may receive many eMail messages from the group every day. One way to avoid this is to subscribe to the "digest" version of the listserv if one is available. Do not feel guilty if you cannot read it all; there will be more posts tomorrow. Receiving the individual posts allows immediate response that is often preferred by experienced listserv participants. A common practice is to set up a filter in your eMail manager so that all postings sent from the named listserv will be directed into a special folder rather than into your Inbox. Later, when you have time to catch up on the listserv readings, you can go right to the folder and scroll through the material-whether you are online or offline.
Keep in mind that listservs are usually "communities" and not places for blatant advertising. Certain lists are set up for the express purpose of marketing real estate. Still, there are established rules to make sure no one abuses the system. Unless otherwise permitted, do not post commercial messages in these groups or you risk being "flamed" (chastised publicly) by other members of the list. However, this is where your signature line can be useful as a way of telling other members of the list just what you do and how to get in touch with you. Post a message with helpful information you want to share with the group, and then use a signature of a few lines that includes your contact information and perhaps a slogan ("We make sense of the Internet") and a hot link to your Web site or to an auto-responder (mailto:E-mailInfo@InternetCrusade.com).
How Do Listservs Work?
Posting to the List
- One eMail "posted" to the Mail List is sent to each subscriber of the List.
Reply to the List
- Open a blank eMail message and address it to the Mail List. Make sure you enter the appropriate subject in the subject line that describes your post.
Benefits of Listservs
- Hit Reply to a message posted to the listserv. Your Mail Manager will automatically address a blank eMail to the listserv.
- Check the subject line to make sure it correctly reflects the topic on which you are commenting.
- They are great information resources-just knowing you have a place to start when you have a question. Have you ever purchased a piece of software and then wished you had purchased something else? What if, before you made the purchase, you could have asked a group of other professionals, some of whom may have experience with the software you are thinking of purchasing? Would that have been helpful? Being on a listserv is like having a personal think tank at your immediate disposal. The experience of others often saves you the pain of making your own mistakes.
- They keep you informed-News often appears first on listservs as the members tend to be well connected.
- They create a "presence" for those that post and share-This presence can bring you respect and possibly referral business.
- They teach you how to use eMail and how to express yourself in writing. Let's face it-writing is a skill and, like any skill, it takes practice to get better at it. Participating in a listserv will give you ample opportunity to not only enhance your eMail skills, but your writing skills as well.
- They build online professional relationships. Much communication takes place "off list" as well. You will build a whole new circle of professional acquaintances when you become a listserv participant. In a way, it is like networking at a professional group's national convention 365 days a year.
Listservs can be set up for one-way communication in which the listserv owner is the only one who can post to the list. This is common with e-newsletters; basically, the owner uses the framework of the listserv to subscribe and unsubscribe members. The owner periodically posts a message to the list-with a database of several thousands, this can be a very efficient and inexpensive way of sending out text newsletters.
Similar to listservs, commercial eMail newsletters can be terrific resources for professionals. Two of the best for real estate information can be requested at Realty Times and at Inman News Features (instructions in the Web Field Trips below). Inman News Features is a real estate news service and syndicate that provides independent real estate editorial content for consumers and real estate professionals. Realty Times provides daily news and advice on all aspects of the real estate industry, using a team of professional reporters and columnists. Both provide a free subscription service that sends out a daily eMail summary of key stories with hot links to the full articles on the Web site. This is a good example of using eMail to drive visitors to your Web site. People do not surf the Web as much as Web owners like to think-an eMail alert or summary is the perfect tool to get them to your site.
One of the best ways to use eMail for marketing purposes is in conjunction with your word processor's MailMerge function. MailMerge is a way to customize a standard word processing document with specific terms (such as names) that you identify beforehand. You can create documents in MailMerge and then simply copy and paste them into the body of an eMail. This is a great technique for an eMail newsletter, where you want to have each individual recipient believe that the lengthy, information-rich eMail was intended for them and them alone. A popular software program is WorldMerge at www.coloradosoft.com/worldmrg/help.htm.
Integrate eMail into Your Marketing Plan
Sometimes in your excitement to fully utilize the many options eMail offers to enrich the services you provide your prospects and clients, you may forget about the traditional marketing strategies you have used successfully over the years. This is a mistake. The key word here is "integrate." Continue to use your print and TV ads, but this time insert your eMail and Web addresses-likewise with your business cards, property flyers, and For Sale signs. Change your voice mail message to say "You can reach me any time by eMailing me at You@You.com." And, finally, the best marketing tip of all-as discovered by hundreds of happy agents who find that their competitors have not yet mastered this-respond to your eMail within hours of receiving a message. Make sure that you check your eMail three or four times a day, every day. The biggest complaint from Web savvy buyers and sellers is that the majority of agents take too long to respond to eMail requests for information.
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