• Formulate a solid strategy before you begin an email marketing campaign.
  • Make sure your emails are personal and provide value.
  • Use a system to track your successes and failures so you can continually improve your process.

opacity / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

MySpace still had more traffic than Facebook; Steve Jobs was alive and nobody had heard of Kickstarter. The Internet has changed a lot since 2009, so why is your email marketing strategy still the same?

Too many agents and brokers are doing one of two things wrong: they haven’t changed their email marketing plan since 2009 — or even worse — they’re using the same plan they had then: none at all.

Of course, plenty has changed since 2009. The housing market has largely rebounded, but competition is also just as fierce. That means you need to be innovative about how you run your business.

So today, if you’re not taking advantage of email marketing as a tool to develop leads and grow your brokerage, you’ll fall behind. Don’t let yourself be without a plan. It’s almost 2016, and it’s time to start doing email marketing right. Here’s how to do it.

1. Don’t skimp on the strategy

This might sound obvious to many, but it’s the step with the most potential repercussions down the line.

Start by listing your objectives; these should be measurable and clearly defined. Additionally, they should line up with your business’ overall goals. Your emails should serve as a call to action (CTA) targeting these goals.

For example, provide an offer for a free consultation. You can find a more complete guide to CTAs here.

Your strategy needs to be built upon a firm understanding of your audience. The perpetual danger in email marketing is being labeled as spam. This is an outcome you need to avoid at all costs.

Although there are lots of ways to ensure this doesn’t happen (more on that later), all of them come down to knowing your audience.

A side note: also ask yourself where you got the email addresses you’ll be targeting and if there’s a better way. You can always purchase lists, though it’s far from the best strategy, but wherever you get your addresses from, you want to ensure they’re healthy. That’s where data validation tools come in. They can help you whittle down your email list to something worth using.

How? By checking bounce-back rates to determine which emails are invalid, which ones have spambots, which will grab your emails before they reach an inbox and which ones are simply low-quality and unlikely to respond.

All of these numbers will look much better if your emails have been obtained voluntarily and not purchased, though you should still use these tools to filter your purchase lists.

2. Get personal

Often, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful email marketing campaign comes down to personalization. It’s not enough to throw the name of the potential customer into the subject line and assume you’ve checked this box. You need to really break your customers down into small segments you can individually target.

Think about who these people are and how they would like to be addressed (more casually or more formally?). Speak directly to them as individuals and not email addresses on a list.

Also, bear in mind that you can subdivide groups of customers in many ways, not only based on the existing information you have on them, but based on their responses to your emails. These tactics have huge impacts on success rates.

Personalization is also about building trust. Besides ensuring that your emails sound like they’re coming from a human being and not a computer, keep your customers informed about how you’re growing your business and protecting your clients.

And once you’ve got these small segments, you need to craft content for them.

3. Provide value, provide value, provide value.

This one is crucial enough that it warrants being said three times. Without any value to offer, an email marketing campaign is just thinly disguised spam. Add value to a good strategy plus personalization, and we’re talking about a campaign you can be proud of.

Luckily, because you’ve already thought a lot about who your potential customers are, you’re a step ahead when it comes to putting together top-quality content to show them in your email marketing campaign.

Depending on your target market, this can be done by providing content right in the emails or using them to push your potential clients toward a page with this content.

Finally, try not to include too many links in your emails. Two to three is ideal; any more, and you’ll distract from your main CTA. Once you’ve put together a great campaign, you need to track and optimize it.

4. Track and optimize

Without good data, you might as well be sending your emails straight into 2009. Start by making sure you tag all the links in your emails for your analytics software.

Once that data starts coming in, be sure to modify your campaign in response to what you’re learning. A big part of this is A/B testing.

Try out different subject lines, visuals, copy and so on, to see what gets the best response. Often the best technique is to perform some small experiments — like on a segment of your email list — before taking the fully optimized campaign to the rest.

Bear in mind, there’s a whole world of email marketing techniques to experiment with, but these are the fundamentals you’ll need to master before you get to the advanced stuff.

In the meantime, give email marketing a try, and see how much potential there is for your business.

Eric Halsey is a historian by training and disposition who’s been interested in US small businesses since working at the House Committee on Small Business in 2006. He has a particular interest in the Surety Bonding and Real Estate, and Professional Certification; and he loves sharing his knowledge of the industry for JW Surety Bonds.

Email Eric Halsey.

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