I’m on a soapbox and I’m very feisty. What am I feisty about? Email! Well actually, I’m feisty about real estate agents killing their opportunity to leverage email marketing because they keep doing this one thing. The reality is that this has been going on for years, nearly two decades in fact, and I don’t know if it’s ever going to stop.

  • Emailing your entire contact list should never be done -- ever.
  • Claiming ignorance of the CAN-SPAM act doesn’t absolve us of the consequences.
  • Building a list of people who want to be on your list is your top priority.

I’m on a soapbox, and I’m very feisty. What am I feisty about? Email!

Well, actually, I’m feisty about real estate agents killing their opportunity to leverage email marketing because they keep doing this one thing. The reality is that this has been going on for years — nearly two decades, in fact — and I don’t know if it’s ever going to stop.

Real estate agents are constantly emailing me their crap, unsolicited

For whatever reason, I’m in their contacts list. I am there for any number of reasons, but the fact is I’m in their list of contacts, and no matter where they are in the world, they send me their email crap. Their open house announcements. Their holiday emails. Their monthly email newsletter. Their solicitations.

Why do I call it crap, and why is it a problem?

It’s a problem because I didn’t ask them to email me. I didn’t opt-in to receive commercial emails from them. I didn’t sign up for their email list, and yet, I get their emails.

Someone is telling these agents to send emails to everyone in their contact list — which is a big fat “uh-oh.”

For every single unasked for email I get, I report it as spam.

I used to reply and let the agent know what he or she was doing is illegal, not to mention unwanted and ineffective. But after the umpteenth response of basically “I don’t care,” I stopped being generous with my time and knowledge and just simply started reporting them as spam.

This was many years ago that I stopped. Agents simply don’t want to know.

Now I’m stepping it up a notch and forwarding all spam right to the Federal Trade Commission (spam@uce.gov), which, by the way, you can do too — just make sure you are forwarding actual spam, not something you opted into.

Spam or not spam?

Here’s what spam is not: it is not spam if you opted into someone’s list and they send you more email than you want. That is not spam.

Spam is unsolicited. Frequency is not spam.

Here’s the reality: Sending an email to everyone in your contacts list is illegal. It’s spam. Did I mention it’s illegal? Not to mention it’s just plain stupid. It ruins your reputation and the reputation of the industry.

You might be wondering why it’s spam. Well, it’s unsolicited email. Simply having an email address in your contacts list or having had an email exchange with someone in the past does not give you permission to email commercial email.

Don’t let someone tell you that it does — it doesn’t.

And even though it’s already spam (because they didn’t opt-in to receive it), I’ll bet you don’t have an opt-out link and haven’t included your postal address (both are required by you, the sender of commercial email).

Even if you are adding email addresses to your email marketing system, it’s still spam because they didn’t opt-in. You added them in, without asking them if they wanted in.

If they gave you permission by signing up at an open house, keep those records. That’s your proof that you have permission.

Here’s the deal: when you do send spam, and you get reported (which you will), it basically ends up putting your email deliverability out of commission.

What does this mean? It means that when your email address is reported as spam, you get blacklisted, and your ability to get into people’s mailboxes reduces to exactly zero. Zero chance you’ll be able to get an email from you to another person.

This kind of stinks, especially if you use your email address for say, business transactions.

The other issue is that if you are using your business email (and not being lame using an @gmail, @yahoo, @msn, @hotmail, @aol email for your business), your entire domain gets blacklisted — meaning every single email that ends in @yourdomain will suffer because of your irresponsibility.

Side note: if you are sending business email using an @gmail, @yahoo, @msn, @hotmail, @aol or any other free email provider, then you need to stop. This isn’t about branding. This is about deliverability.

Google, among many, is reducing to elimination the ability for your business emails to get in the inboxes of people. It is working on reducing spam and recently made the announcement that commercial email sent via a free email provider will be punished.

And that blacklisting doesn’t just extend to email. It will extend to your website ranking in search engines.

In other words, we need to stop being lazy, stop making excuses, and start understanding what we are using and how to do it properly (and legally).

Why do we do it?

We know we are supposed to “stay in contact” with people. Email is free and easy. We refuse to use any time and money in developing an actual email list, so we get a listing and decide that we need to email out to people; so we just “select all” for our entire email contacts and then hit the send button.

Or we are told to stay in contact with our email list, and we translate email list to mean every email in our contact list.

We do not have permission to send that email, and there is no context for it.

Heck, it’s free; so let’s just treat everyone’s email address as disrespectfully as possible. Let’s play innocent in all of this. Who cares if we should know something about what we are doing, we’ll just play dumb.

After all, we live the phrase “It’s better to ask forgiveness later, than to ask permission now, and be told no.”

7 reasons ‘sending all’ is a bad thing

  1. It’s spam
  2. It’s illegal
  3. It ruins your reputation
  4. It ruins the industry reputation
  5. It ruins your deliverability
  6. It ruins your search engine ranking
  7. It can cost you $11,000 per occurrence (per email)

You will lose business

You might not know you’re losing business because maybe you haven’t really converted any through email marketing, but I guarantee, you are losing business.

When you spam people, it pisses them off, and they remember it.

Why don’t we take the time to understand what we are using?

We hang our mindset on the excuse that “I’m too busy real estating” and believe that is a legitimate reason not to understand email marketing (or anything else we refuse to understand).

In fact, we are told to leave the tech stuff and the marketing stuff in the hands of assistants and vendors — who, for the record, don’t know what in the heck they are doing either.

Be that as it may, it is up to you to understand what you are using in your business. It’s your business. It’s your reputation.

Understand the strategy, and then outsource the tasks. We have got to stop making excuses for our lack of knowledge.

Guess what: I’m here to help you get that knowledge, understand that strategy and implement email marketing so that it works for you — and you are staying in compliance!

So what do you do if you want to leverage email marketing? What are you suppose to do so that you can stay in contact with people and actually stay top-of-mind with them?

3 email tips for real estate agents

1. Do not email your full contact list, ever

Don’t even think about it. Your contact list is composed of every single person you’ve ever received emails from or sent emails to. And, if you’re like most real estate agents, you’ve mixed your personal email with your business email, which means that if you ever sent an inquiry on a Craigslist item, you’ve got that person’s email address in your contact list.

If you’ve ever emailed a family member, their email address is on your contact list. Get it?

Every single email that has ever crossed your path, whether coming or going, is on your contact list. This is not permission or license to email them spam.

Don’t even try to pretend it’s OK. It’s not.

2. Use an EMS, not your contact list (and not a CRM)

What? An EMS is an email marketing service/system. This is not the same thing as your email contact list, and it’s definitely not the same thing as your CRM database.

You must have an EMS (and MailChimp is a viable option for most agents as it’s very inexpensive and extremely simple to set up). You need an EMS that focuses on deliverability (getting into people’s in boxes) and one that will keep you legally compliant. You do not want to mess with the CAN-SPAM act. It’s expensive.

You also want an EMS because it keeps you organized. You can set it up to let you know how someone came into your list, what interested them and why they are there.

3. Do not add everyone you know (and don’t know) to your list

You need to get permission. You want people on your list who want to be on your list. Remember that Cheap Trick song “I want you to want me”?

“I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging you to beg me”

This is what you want. You want people to want to be a part of your email community — and yes, it’s a community, not a list.

To start building your list, you’ll want to have a reason they’ll want to join it. What are you going to send them? How often? What’s in it for them?

Then, you need to drive traffic to your opt-in page for your email list, and make it easy for them to subscribe.

Use these tips, and you’ll be in compliance — plus you’ll be annoying fewer people via email.

Christina Ethridge is the founder of LeadsAndLeverage.com, helping real estate agents capture, convert, and close Facebook leads.

Email Christina Ethridge.

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