Starting any new marketing strategy as a real estate agent can be daunting, and although it’s one of the most successful ways to reach out to and stay in touch with clients, email marketing can appear to be one of the most challenging. It’s almost infinitely easier to just set up a Facebook business profile, invite all your friends to like it, and start posting left and right on it — even if you never get any viable sales that way. It’s unfortunate because email remains one of the most popular ways to communicate today (well above the telephone, and agents still cold-call leads). And if you can write a compelling email, you can generate a lot of business through email marketing.
Every solid email marketing program had to start somewhere, and if you don’t start yours today, then you’ll never know how successful it could have been in five years. Here’s what you have to do to get it all off the ground.
Get a CRM and an email marketing platform
Do you really need a CRM and an email marketing platform to be able to market to clients via email? Well, no — but your efforts are going to be so much more lucrative and effective if you’re tracking what you’re sending, who’s receiving it, and who’s opening it. You’re not going to get very far just using your email host account and a spreadsheet or contacts list.
A CRM will help you organize all of your clients and prospects, whether or not you plan to communicate with them via email, and an email marketing platform will give you the ability to set up drip campaigns for certain types of clients, to determine how many of your recipients opened the email you sent, how many clicked on the links embedded in the email, and who’s unsubscribed from the future email. Ideally, your CRM and email marketing platform will interact seamlessly with each other; you want to be able to look at contact in your CRM and see which emails they’ve been sent, what they’ve opened, and what they’ve clicked, for example. There are tons of options out there in the marketplace, so talking to your broker and trusted real estate agents whom you know to be tech-savvy is a good place to start.
Track down email addresses for your clients and any leads in your pipeline
If you’re a new agent or if you simply haven’t been keeping track of client and lead email addresses, then you will likely have some work ahead of you to get your database set up to where you can even send an email.
If you can delegate this task to an assistant, an intern, or a niece or nephew you’re paying by the hour, that’s great; if you’re going to have to do this lifting yourself, set aside 15 minutes or half an hour every day to go through and fill in your CRM with all your clients’ information until you’re finished. It might take several weeks of half-hour sessions, but if you’re also documenting new clients in your CRM as you go, then this work can’t last forever; sooner or later, you’ll be finished and your database will be pristine and shiny.
Create a way to capture email addresses
Perhaps you’re looking at your list of clients and email addresses in your CRM and feeling a little sad about it. Don’t worry — one big component of email marketing is email capture, which is just another way of saying that you’ll need to come up with some ways to get email addresses into your database. This might sound utterly daunting, but really it’s as simple as figuring out a document or two that prospective clients might find valuable, putting that document together, then offering it to any takers on your website in exchange for an email address. This strategy is known as creating a lead magnet.
Your lead magnet is going to depend heavily on your own niche and the types of clients you’re hoping to pull in. Let’s say that you’d like to land some more listing clients, for example. That’s a good start, but if you can also determine the price range of the homes you’d like to be listing and the neighborhoods where you want to operate, that’s even better. It won’t be very useful for you to create an incredibly popular lead magnet for listing clients all over the country, after all, when what you really want are clients in one very specific market.
For example, instead of creating a guide for how to sell a house fast, create a guide for selling a house fast in your specific market. Or selling a vacation home fast, or an entry-level home, or a condo — you get the idea. Make the guide as valuable as you possibly can. (In fact, for this particular example, making a “how to sell” guide as comprehensive as possible can actually work strongly in your favor … if a would-be FSBO is looking at the guide and thinking that it seems like a ton of work, that’s a good thing for you.)
Place the guide on your website and offer to send it to anybody who provides a valid email address. You can assess whether the address is valid by delivering the guide to the recipient via an emailed link.
If you don’t want to or don’t have the time to go to the trouble of creating a lead magnet, a simple pop-up on your site offering email updates for clients can serve a similar purpose.
Segment your clients
When you have the email addresses, it’s time to figure out which clients are. Your buyer clients aren’t going to appreciate content that you’re sending to homeowners or sellers, and vice versa, so it’s up to you to figure out who’s who and keep track of everybody in your segments. A buyer who successfully purchases a home with you as their agent is going to be a homeowner, so you’ll need to be able to move clients from one segment to another.
It’s quite possible that as your career grows, you may have multiple segments beyond the basics. Single buyers, family homeowners, empty-nester sellers, and so on — you’ll know better than anyone who your clients are and how to craft and deploy solid, useful information that will keep them connected to you.
Research, research, research
Another reason why many agents hesitate to implement an email marketing strategy is that it seems like a lot of work. Someone has to write those emails, and they have to actually be good if you want people to continue subscribing to your missives. Who has time for that?
One of the most successful email formats is an aggregate newsletter, where the sender is pulling together all of the best information on a given topic and delivering it directly to the people who want it most. This means that you don’t necessarily have to be the best, most creative writer or email wizard in the history of the universe — you simply have to be able to read, to research, and to identify stories that would be interested in the different people in your segment groups.
And to be able to do this well, you have to know what’s out there. So spend some time poking around online to see what resources and assets are available for you to share with your clients (with attribution, of course). Don’t forget about social media and platforms like YouTube, which can have a ton of valuable information on them.
This is another task that can be delegated, although many agents who have successful email marketing programs often want to curate the stories they’re sending themselves. You may have a better eye for the types of stories and details that will be the most interesting to your clients, and if the personal touch really helps set your emails aside, it can be well worth the time spent.
Decide what you’re sending to whom — and when
Now that you’ve got a good sense of what’s out there and what might be a good fit for your clients, it’s time to start figuring out the details in your strategy. What do you have to send to buyers? In what order would it make the most sense for them to receive that information? In some ways, the buyer’s journey can be one of the easiest to map out because the stages tend to be fairly similar, and you can adjust and tweak your email campaign to fit what each buyer or group of buyers is doing now or has already done.
Sellers can be a bit trickier, and many agents keep them in the loop by providing up-to-date market statistics and details, guides for cleaning and staging, emailing case studies about pricing and marketing strategies as they pertain to sellers, and more. And homeowners will almost always be interested in new and useful information about the community in which they live, whether it’s a piece about the new park planning happening down at the city council or a rundown of all the summer events happening while the kids are out of school.
Craft your first campaign
You’ve got all the pieces together to create your first email campaign — now all that’s left is to do it! Figure out which campaign you’re going to create first, and then get to work. Remember, this is a process; nobody expects your emails to look exactly the same in three years as they do today. The important thing is to get them out the door so you can start assessing what’s working and what isn’t, then iterating on what works best.
As far as the actual writing goes, be as engaging and conversational as possible, but remember that you’re talking to clients, not your friends on Facebook. A subject line that tells your buyer, seller, or owner clients what’s in it for them if they open the email, a warm greeting, and diving right into the topic can almost never hurt. Don’t forget to sign your name and give your recipients the option to unsubscribe if they’d prefer.
Look at the numbers
Some marketers like to look at email open rate and click-through numbers almost as soon as the email is sent, while others prefer to wait a day or two before giving those numbers their attention. There is no single wrong answer, but if you’re in the group that likes to look immediately, make sure you’re taking time to come back at least 12 to 24 hours later to see how those numbers play out over time.
Tweak and redeploy
The biggest gains in email marketing often come from small tweaks that you can make, and once you’ve got your feet under you in terms of the logistics of curating and sending these emails, you can start to pay attention to those nuances, too. What happens if you send an email in the morning instead of in the afternoon? How about at 10 a.m. or 11 instead of 9 a.m.? Most email marketing platforms will also allow you to A/B test subject lines, which means you can send out the same email with two different subject lines and see which ones get the best open rate. Over time, A/B testing can give you insights into what your clients like and don’t like, so you can align your efforts with their preferences.