So you’ve just set up your fancy new email marketing system. Maybe Constant Contact or MailChimp, and you are excited about all the beautifully formatted, HTML, newsletter-style email layouts you can send to your new buyer and seller leads.

I’m sure they look great, and they’d probably be a great way to invite your friends to come to your fundraiser or housewarming party.

But they’re no way to start a relationship with a complete stranger, which is what those new leads are — strangers.

Why don’t they work well with strangers? Because they look like you’re trying to sell someone something. And we all know, everyone wants to buy, but no one wants to be sold. Think of it more like dating, start slow and work your way up to meeting the parents. That means you have to take an entirely different, more personal approach.

I see so many real estate agents, as well as salespeople in other industries, making what I think is an enormous mistake. They send emails that are clearly automated and contain prewritten, untargeted and spammy content.

If you’re a real estate agent, your recipe for success in connecting with someone you’ve never met is to use the plainest emails you can write. Make it look like a quick, simple, original thought or share, like the emails you send your friends when you run across something you think they will find interesting. From the first email to a new lead all the way through your buyer or seller email campaign, keep it simple and personal.

Think for a minute. What do you do when you run across some funny cat picture or an article you think your friend would want to read? You probably punch in a quick sentence or two, add the link and send it off.

You want your emails to leads to function in just the same way. When you write the email, think to yourself, “What would I say if I were just saying hello to this person?” The whole point is to make the message look like a natural email between two people who like and care about each other.

You can still make the email work to sell your services, as well as the relationship, by choosing appropriate material. For instance, you could add a YouTube video about a neighborhood you like. This addition also paves the way for a follow-up question at the end, such as “So what do you think about this?” or “Is this helpful for you?” People often can’t resist answering a simple, non-salesy question.

Other items that make good early shares include blog posts — especially to your blog — reports on market conditions, reviews of local businesses and amenities, or paraphrasing advice from a vendor or strategic partner and linking to their website for more information.

Communicating with your lead as though you already know and like one another will make you stick in their minds. Win the mindshare battle. So often, buyer and seller leads just pop out of the woodwork, as they respond to one of the simple, friendly emails we have written or answer a simple question at the end of one of our drip emails. Their reply usually leads to a conversation, and the lead conversion flows from there.

Take the time to craft simple, personal, more thoughtful emails instead of using the canned generic, off-the-shelf stuff most people sell out there. Your leads will think you’re so thoughtful for keeping them in mind personally that they will often thank you for staying in touch rather than unsubscribing. If they only knew.

Dale Archdekin is the director of marketing for the #2 team in Philadelphia. He loves helping their brands, Philly Living and Jersey Living, turning strangers into clients and clients into friends. They work hard at blending the best ideas and techniques from across different industries into innovative business building strategies.

Email Dale Archdekin.

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