If you listen to the hype, email has died a thousand deaths and social media is the most effective digital channel in business today. But the reality is quite the opposite.
While social media is (and should be) certainly in the mix with your other digital marketing channels, a vast majority of consumers want to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media.
Email marketing has become somewhat of a ‘forgotten cousin’ in real estate marketing – falling victim to the bright and shiny lights of social media. Most agents have some kind of email marketing set up, whether that be property alerts from their CRM or some third-party email software provider. But the reality is that very few are doing it well and in some cases, email marketing is hurting their reputation and the bottom line.
With some simple tweaks to your email marketing efforts, you can significantly improve your engagement, website traffic and leads. So here are our five most important email marketing tips for real estate agents.
1. Wash your list
If you send enough email campaigns, you’ll inevitably run into spam filter issues – meaning, your emails won’t reach the inbox of your clients and prospects. The most common cause for emails getting put into spam is because of a ‘dirty list’ – very old contacts who mark your emails as spam, invalid email addresses and a high bounce rate.
According to ReturnPath, about 21% of permission-based emails end up in junk folders and one of the main reasons for poor email deliverability is bounced emails.
What is a ‘bounced’ email exactly?
An email is declared as a ‘bounce’ when it cannot be delivered to the recipient and returns with an error message. Emails can bounce for several reasons: people change jobs, change ISPs, close or abandon their email accounts.
Bounced emails hurt your reputation and can even lead to your company being blacklisted, so it’s important to keep your bounce rate low (ideally as close to 0% as possible). A high bounce rate will also impact the reputation of your email service provider so if your bounce rate is too high (>4%), your account could be temporarily suspended as they move to protect themselves.
Popular email marketing platform MailChimp takes bounce rates very seriously:
If you’ve received a bounce warning, your bounce rate has exceeded industry thresholds established by ISPs (Internet Service Providers). MailChimp is required to enforce these thresholds, and excessive bounce rates can hurt your marketing outcomes, so we take bounce warnings seriously.
A healthy email list is vital to your marketing success and it’s critical that you regularly clean your email list, removing duplicates and invalid addresses. Luckily, there are many online tools available today that make this tiresome task a breeze.
The tool we use for ourselves and our clients is called NeverBounce.
NeverBounce can clean any sized list in three simple steps:
- Upload your existing list.
- Download your new, clean list.
- Deliver up to 99.9% of your emails. Guaranteed*
2. Don’t give everything away in the email
There is an old theory that if you give everything away on the signboard out the front of a property, then buyers don’t have any reason to call the agent. The same sort of logic applies to your email marketing. If you give everything away in the body of your email, people will have no reason to visit your website.
By providing an enticing preview to the listing, blog article or call-to-action, you will significantly increase your click-through rates, website traffic and engagement.
Important: If you are sending emails from your CRM provider or a third-party email software provider, make sure that the links within the body of your emails are sending people to YOUR website. Some providers will create their own ‘landing pages’ with a URL like yourbusiness.emailcompany.com.au. If this is the case, ask them to change the links in your emails to direct people back to your website and if they can’t or won’t, consider switching providers.
3. Don’t mix listing alert or market update emails with content emails
The days of cramming everything into an email newsletter are over (RIP cake recipes!).
Segmenting your email marketing lists is critical to keeping a high open, click through and engagement rate. Some email software providers make it easy to segment your listing alert emails to specific buyers so that your listing alerts emails are relevant to a person’s initial enquiry i.e. if they enquired on 3 bedroom units, only send me emails about listings that match my initial enquiry.
While this level of sophisticated segmentation is important to remain relevant, it’s not what we’re talking about here.
Instead, we’re talking about segmenting the two most basic audiences in your database:
a) People who are in the market
These people have recently inquired about a listing via your website, the portals, over the phone, SMS, walked into your office or they’ve visited an open home. You’ve captured their email address and put it in your database/CRM (I hope!).
These are the only people who should be receiving your listing alert emails. Market update posts, videos or reports are great to include in these emails as well as your real estate tips for buying and selling.
It’s critical to keep this list washed regularly (as mentioned above) to ensure that you’re only sending it to the valid addresses (more on inactive subscribers below). The size of your email list is not as important as the engagement within it.
Sending listing alert emails to this next audience is a quick way to burn your contacts, who will be less likely to open anything from you in future and, worse, you may also end up on an email blacklist if your bounce rate is too high.
b) People who have no interest or need for your listings or service right now
Your latest blog articles and videos are perfect to send to this list BUT the content in your email must be hyper-local.
The occasional market update related post or video is fine to send to this list, but don’t make your emails to this list all about real estate. And refrain from the usual real estate topics like ‘how to style your home to sell’, ‘what is the best time of year to sell your home’ or ‘the top 5 questions every seller should ask their agent’. Sending this content to people who have no interest or need for your listings or service right now will only increase your disengagement rate.
The people in this audience are going about their lives in your community so become a trusted news source of what’s happening in that community. Tell great local stories and you may just be stopped in the street by locals who want to tell you how great your email newsletter is.
4. Stop sending to inactive subscribers
Gmail, Yahoo and other email providers will treat your emails like spam if your subscribers don’t open your emails in the long run. Subscriber engagement is not equal across your list. Consider this: a quarter of subscribers account for over 80% of opens, according to Return Path research.
You might be thinking, isn’t it counterintuitive to reduce your list and remove subscribers after working so hard to grow your list in the first place? The answer is no.
What are inactive subscribers?
Inactive subscribers are those who are no longer opening your emails after a year, or even after a month. Think about how many people you send marketing-related emails to each week, month or year. Now consider the last time each of your contacts opened an email from you. Chances are, based on email benchmarking studies, is that the majority of your list is classified as inactive.
Why are inactive subscribers a problem?
Repeatedly sending emails to disengaged subscribers can damage your deliverability, even when engaged subscribers are opening your emails.
Yes, you read that right — sending to disengaged subscribers can potentially prevent your emails from being delivered to the inbox of everyone on your list, not just the people who are not opening.
Reputable email software providers will closely observe subscriber engagement, starting with the first email you send to your subscribers and they monitor each and every one of the emails that passes through their servers, ensuring they reach their destination, leaving no email behind. These software providers must do this to protect their own reputation, not just yours.
Just like in real life, once your credibility is damaged, it’s a lot more work to get back to where you were in the first place. ESPs — the companies that provide you with an email account — give you a “reputation” based on how you act towards your subscribers to ensure that you don’t start acting like a spammer.
With email marketing, quantity is great, yes. But if the quality of your emails is poor, you’re fighting a losing battle in terms of inbox delivery – there’s no point sending email to people who don’t open them.
How to stop sending to inactive subscribers
Some email platforms will provide this service as a standard option – automatically keeping your list clean and tidy. We use MailPoet on all of our client websites for sending e-newsletters. It’s a native WordPress plugin that allows you to easily and quickly ‘pull’ in content from your website to your email templates and automate regular emails when new content is published – thus bringing all of the traffic back to your site.
Luckily, MailPoet has a setting to handle inactive subscribers automatically:
Check with your chosen email provider if they have a system to handle inactive subscribers automatically. If they don’t, check if you can sort your contacts based on their engagement and consider removing/unsubscribing them.
Every 6 months or so, it can’t hurt to send a ‘re-engagement’ campaign to your inactive subscribers asking if they’d like to re-subscribe – perhaps sharing a recent article you’ve published that would be of interest to them and what they can expect by re-subscribing.
5. If someone unsubscribes, make sure it happens
Under the Australian spam act, you need to make it easy for people to unsubscribe from your electronic mailing lists. But you also need to have a system in place if someone contacts you directly and asks to be removed from your list. You need to take this seriously and make sure it gets done.
Legal ramifications aside, there is no shortage of people who have taken to Google or social media to leave a public review about real estate agents who don’t stop sending ‘spam’ when they’re asked to stop.
Email marketing can be highly profitable when it’s done right. Each $1 spent on email marketing can generate $38 in profits. But you have to keep your newsletters relevant and your lists clean if you want your subscribers to keep opening your emails and turning a profit.
You have the tools – and now the knowledge – to do it so I certainly hope you are or that you will.