Using Email Marketing to Build and Maintain Customer Loyalty in Real Estate.
Real Estate agents have a challenge in maintaining a relationship between purchases. The same applies for other large purchases such as yachts, jewelry, RVs, automobiles and travel. Email Marketing is the perfect tool to build and keep loyal customers.
In industries like residential real estate (or yacht/automobile/furniture/jewelry sales) , where even your best clients typically go years between purchases, how do you maintain the type of loyalty that ensures they really will come back to you?
The options are numerous, and growing. Two years ago, nobody had heard of Twitter – and yet it is already touted as a must-have in your personal marketing arsenal. The same goes for other social media such as Facebook (there are a dozen more and growing, but it seems pretty apparent that Twitter and Facebook have broken from the pack in terms of wide popularity).
Which again raises the essential question: how do you continue to add the value that will cement to your relationship with clients during the long periods between purchases?
With the advent of the trendy new social media outlets, there is one stalwart tool that seems to be frequently overlooked, and that’s email. I find this surprising, since the Direct Marketing Association has done research that shows that email marketing consistently delivers the best return on investment. Even with the new tactical tools, email can serve as the key foundation to your ongoing marketing program.
Of course, there is email, and then there’s email. A simple text broadcast to your client mailing list may generate a phone call or two, but real estate is about life, and your use of email must reflect an understanding of what’s happening in your clients’ lives when they aren’t in the market for a new home. Besides building and nurturing personal loyalty to your services, your email marketing program should also be:
Besides delivering “news you can use,” it’s critically important that these outreach efforts be personalized. An email message that begins, “Dear Customer” is an instant candidate for the delete button. Fortunately, there are some sophisticated email marketing programs that allow messages to be personalized relatively simply.
Consistency is another key. Your e-messages should go out about once a month. More often, and you run the risk of clients feeling bombarded against their will. Less often, and they forget about you. Consistency equals familiarity equals loyalty.
How does that work in the real world? Great example: I know of a resident in my hometown of Seattle who, over the years, purchased three homes from a very well-known local agent. Yet the client transferred his loyalty to another, less-established agent because he appreciated receiving regular emails that talked not just about real estate in his chosen community, but general market conditions, lifestyle tidbits and even humor. The next $30,000 commission will go to the upstart agent who used email to effectively establish a personal relationship with the client.
Of course, just as no two properties are alike, so too are there vast differences in approaches to email marketing. No matter at which level your marketing budget and commitment are, there are some basics to really making your message resonate with your clients. For example:
- Get personal. We’ve already touched on this, but it bears repeating. Your clients will ignore messages that begin, “Dear Customers.” Given the sophistication of some of the new email marketing tools, there is no excuse for this. The personalizing functions of a good program let you communicate seemingly one-on-one, and that is a big measure of its impact.
- Use pictures. Five years ago, 90 percent of all emails sent were text only. But so much of the home-buying decision is visceral that using well-chosen imagery enormously enhances its impact, and attracts them to a property they might otherwise have passed over.
- Customize. It is possible to tailor messages to a customer’s gender, age, purchase history, lifestyle interests and specific neighborhood. If your email marketing agency doesn’t provide this, keep looking.
- Be patient. It takes time to gain traction with a marketing initiative like this. We ask our clients for at least a year to really see results. Trust is the result of consistent behavior over time.
- Keep it short. When people are receiving 25, 50 or even 100 emails each day, they do not have time to linger over a long-winded message. Get to the point. They’ll appreciate it.
Speaking of multiple messages, this is probably a good place to talk about spam – or more specifically, how to avoid having your messages flagged by the ever-more-aggressive spam filters in use today. Internet experts estimates that 94 percent of all messages sent over the Internet today are spam.
Spam filters work by searching for and flagging specific words or phrases, obviously, but they also employ algorithms that examine suspicious word-to-images ratios (which can be read as porn). When composing emails, we hand-code our messages using W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) protocols and perform an “Inbox Preview” before they get sent, assuring proper delivery.
On each email, include an easy opt-out link to maintain credibility and to comply with the law. List your physical address and include accurate “subject” and “from” lines.
Finally, know your results. In the toolkit of the successful modern real estate professional, this is one of the biggest advantages that email has over the social media tools. My company, Email Broadcast, produces reports for my clients that the number of emails sent, opened and acted upon. With email marketing, you can find out what worked and what didn’t.
With all of the sophisticated technology available to us, it still bears remembering that the tools that are the most effective for us in generating leads and closing sales are those that make our clients feel special. Isn’t that what we all want?
Learn more about the author, Ken Mahar.
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