Recent research suggests that only 1 percent of all transactions originate from social media. If you’re not getting the results you want, it may be time to visit that old standby: e-mail.

If you want to achieve a maximum return from your marketing efforts, an integrated approach employing various media channels is the way to go. With all the emphasis on social media, many agents have forgotten how powerful a well-constructed e-mail marketing program can be.

In fact, most people over 40 still use e-mail as their primary means of business communication. Moreover, e-mail newsletters are still one of the best ways to stay in regular contact with your clients, as well being a tool for generating and converting more leads.

During the WordPress session at the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco last month, Steve O’Neill, director of consumer engagement for, described how he uses e-mail in his business. When someone signs up for his e-mail newsletter, he immediately sends a welcome e-mail. O’Neill says his open rates on his welcome e-mails are virtually 100 percent.

O’Neill also uses what he calls "alert campaigns" that include regular property-value updates and updates on new listings, price reductions, properties under contract, and closed properties. These alerts help keep his referral database engaged.

According to O’Neill, it’s important that you communicate regularly with your e-mail list and give recipients the type of information that matters to them. When starting to work with e-mail marketing, O’Neill outlined four key elements:

1. Personalization
The most effective e-mails are those that address the person you are e-mailing by name. There are numerous programs that let you do this, including the simple mail merge programs that come standard in programs such as Word.

2. Customization
Ideally, your e-mails are targeted to a specific audience. A 20-something downtown loft buyer may want to know about restaurants, nightlife and exercise facilities that are within walking distance of where he or she is purchasing. In contrast, an elderly widow may be more concerned about the proximity to health care and her family. These two different target markets will respond best when what you send addresses their specific lifestyle needs.

3. Localization
"Hyperlocalism" is one of the most important trends in real estate today. This term refers to specializing in a narrow market niche. Potential clients are searching for a complete picture of the lifestyle in the area where they will live. They’re not especially concerned about what happens elsewhere. Consequently, the e-mail messages that work best are those that help your readers understand what the lifestyle is like.

4. Collaboration
For Gen Y in particular, collaboration is key. Potential buyers and sellers want to feel that they have made a good decision about their sale price or their purchase. Smart agents work with their clients not so much as an expert but as a collaborative partner who is there to assist them in making the best possible decision about the property that they may be purchasing.

In terms of implementing your e-mail marketing campaign, O’Neill suggested the following rules of the road:

1. Create a goal
In terms of e-mail marketing, what do you hope to achieve? Is your goal to stay in contact with past clients? Do you want to attract additional business from referrals? Do you want to serve a geographical market niche or a specific type of lifestyle buyer such as single retirees? Having clarity about whom you want to work with is critical.

2. Telling it like it is
When you tell it like it is and you walk your talk, you build trust. Don’t be afraid to take a stand about something that you believe in. While you may irritate a few people, you will attract even more who share your values.

3. Commit to a schedule
While it may be challenging, "touch" your e-mail readers at least twice per month.

4. Don’t spam
Almost everyone despises spam. Avoid contributing to the sea of noise on the Web by sending concise, useful information your readers will value. Have them look forward to hearing from you because you always have something valuable to say. Also, it’s very important that you make it easy to sign up and equally easy to opt out.

5. When’s the best time to send your e-mail?
O’Neill said that in his experience Friday afternoons were the best time to send his e-mail because that’s when people are planning their weekends.

6. Don’t just focus on people who are moving right now
Most agents send out only transaction based e-mail information. Only 14 percent of all homeowners will buy or sell this year. To make your e-mail marketing effective, remember to provide great content for those who have no intention of moving right now.

7. Meet expectations
This is the old adage about "under promise and over deliver." When you work with any group, avoid overpromising. Instead, promise about 80 percent of what you think you can do and then deliver more than that 80 percent.

8. Stand out from the crowd
Whether it’s how you market your listings or the extra services you provide your buyers, always strive to be different. Look for ways to make what you do unique and notable.

If you are struggling to get results from your print and social media marketing activities, it’s probably worthwhile to revisit the wisdom of using e-mail.

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