Spam, canned messages, and irrelevant or annoying email content are a source of aggravation for almost everyone. What can you do to market your listings and your business in a way that capitalizes on the strength of email while making sure that your recipients actually enjoy what you are sending?

Calls to conversation, not calls to action

What is the difference between a “call to action” and a “call to conversation”? According to Dan Stewart, the co-founder of Happy Grasshopper, a call to action focuses on capturing your contact information in exchange for a product, report or other service.

In contrast, a “call to conversation” is a customized email that is personal, that treats the recipient as a friend rather than a target, and that provides the recipient with an interesting article, a timely news story or an engaging video.

As Stewart puts it: “If salespeople would just stop for a moment and treat their leads and customers like friends, they’ll deepen their relationships and get far more referrals.”

Moreover, he added, “Nobody likes to be sold, (but) nearly everyone likes to make new friends.”

The challenge for most agents is that “they are playing the wrong game.” They’re either focused on the technology or on the listing and price updates. While these may be interesting, they are not conversation starters.

The secret to waging a successful drip campaign: emails that start conversations

Stewart’s single best piece of advice is to make sure that your email content is something that will actually engage the recipient. The first step is to stop using templates.

“Make the message personal,” Stewart said. “Don’t make it look like marketing, and don’t use templates. Write short messages and ask leading questions. This will greatly increase the number of replies you get.”

Video is another great way to motivate your email recipients to engage in a conversation.

For both Google search as well as regular email, posts that have a video thumbnail are much more likely to be opened. (The open rates can be 17 times as high as compared to traditional emails.)

Personalized content

Stewart also recommends that you stop using messages that are mass-produced, canned sales pitches.

“First, there is no way you can know how many other agents are sending the same information and how many times a single recipient may see that same information,” Stewart said. “Do your best to send original content. It’ll be more meaningful to the person getting it.

“One of the things we’ve done at Happy Grasshopper is to make sure that the same email address never gets the same message more than once. So, even if another agent is using our service and sends a message to your customer, they can’t send the same message as you.”

Consistency matters

The reason most people fail with email marketing or just about anything else is that they lack consistency. Setting up an automated marketing program can help you to achieve this goal.

Be sure to follow up

NAR numbers show that 50 percent of Web leads go unanswered. In fact, even among agents who pay for leads, up to 70 percent of those leads go answered. Stewart says, “That’s like giving business away. If you get a lead, you should be following up within a few minutes or that lead is gone.”

Specifically, a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that when Web visitors received a response to a Web inquiry within five minutes, the conversion rate was 79 percent. When the response time was 30 minutes, the conversion rates dropped to 34 percent.

Drip marketing can work — you just need to do it differently

If you are unable to respond to a lead immediately, set up a system that can do it for you. There are plenty of auto-responder programs out there. Happy Grasshopper’s patent-pending technology employs a unique strategy for meeting this challenge. The “Position Me” tool can actually respond according to the time of day a lead comes in. This means that a person who registers on your IDX at 2 a.m. would get a different message than someone who registers at 10 a.m.

To illustrate this point, a recipient who logs on to your site at 2 a.m. might receive a quick note thanking them for visiting your site. Later that morning at 7 a.m., another auto-responder may go out that says, “I’m at my desk and would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.” Again, the goal is to treat new leads as friends.

Ultimately, all email and Web marketing has one single goal: to generate a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. The probability of this happening is much higher when you approach your email marketing by being unique, treating your leads as friends rather than targets, and consistently sending out engaging content that starts conversations.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.

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