Why email marketing tools like autoresponders rarely work… and relationship-building emails do
Technology has provided amazing tools that enable real estate agents to reach out to leads. With a strong, well-organized database – in which new leads can easily be entered – email and automated follow up messaging can be targeted to leads so they are consistently contacted on a regular basis.
All the real estate agent need do is “touch go” every time a new contact or lead is added to the database, and they’re in business. Once that happens, their email drip campaigns can provide leads with data about average days on the market, market updates and tips to make a house more saleable. And (voila!), the agent just sits back and waits for the leads to breathlessly call.
This is where we take the leap from mythos to reality. In this blog, I’m going to bust the myth that, to convert leads, you need to continually market, market, market, and help you understand how to best use email effectively.
Let’s get real.
We are constantly bombarded with marketing messages. According to at least one source, people living in urban areas are exposed to up to 5,000 ads per day. Of course, it’s not just email. Think about all the pop-up or banner ads on websites. Think about the stream of ads every time we turn on the TV or radio, go to a movie, pick up a magazine, or drive down the highway. We constantly run into someone trying to market something to us. In the vast majority of cases, we ignore them. We even pay our hard-earned dollars to watch TV programming, listen to music or enjoy websites that promise no annoying ads.
And when it comes to our email accounts, thank goodness for email providers who block nuisance ads and send them to spam. Thank goodness, that is when we’re on the receiving end of those emails. When on the sending end, it’s not so good. How is your marketing email going to work if it’s deemed to be “naughty” and sent to your lead’s spam folder?
The fact is a lot of real estate email marketing autoresponders don’t work because the recipient considers them a nuisance. They jam up our inboxes and are quickly discarded. Why? Because…I don’t like to get them. You don’t like to get them. Your leads don’t like to get them. No one likes to get email and automated follow up messaging, ever.
So, what are we to do with this wonderful technology that enables us to send text and photos and links to our leads if our leads keep trashing our marketing emails as soon as they arrive? We need a real estate lead follow up system that provides value so the messages don’t go straight to trash or spam.
Stop thinking about marketing and start thinking about relationships. Yes, you can build them with autoresponder email messages.
First of all, let’s agree that email and automated follow up messaging has a huge advantage for real estate agents over pop-up or banner ads on websites, TV or radio commercials, ads in print media, out of home or any other kind of marketing medium. Your email is being sent to an individual. Email is not “mass” media. It’s a “personal” medium. When you send an email, you’re talking to one individual, and that person doesn’t want to feel as though they’re getting the same message a thousand other people are receiving. (Note: They may be getting the same message a thousand other people are receiving, but they don’t want to feel like it.)
If you’re going to connect with your lead, that has to be your mindset. You need to send content that makes the person feel as though they alone are receiving your message. When I say “your message,” it needs to be just that personal. What real estate agents need to adjust to is that instead of marketing your services, the best auto-reply messages and ways to use email, in the most powerful way possible, is to begin building relationships.
So, let’s start calling them “relationship” emails instead of marketing emails.
How to get relationship email drip campaigns up and running.
First, we’ll address where the email is coming from – your email account. Like it or not, your account has a history. It could be excellent. It could be a bit tarnished. That’s why, when Happy Grasshopper develops an email campaign for our clients, the first thing we do is create a new email account. It’s a blank slate. Granted, it doesn’t have anything good going for it. More importantly, however, there’s nothing bad. It’s never been tagged as spam.
Next, we send a warm-up email from that account to 20-25 people you know. These are people who aren’t going to send it to spam, but will read it because it’s coming from their friend or relative. The message says you’re starting a new email address and want to make sure it’s working. Then, we ask the recipients to reply so we know everything is copacetic. What does that do? It says to email servers that you’re legit. You’re human. You interact with people, and even if only a few respond, they interact with you. You’re “okay,” and your messages aren’t sent to spam. Now, because you’re email has a good record, it’s okay to send to people you’ve never met or only briefly met – your leads.
So, what should your first message be? At HG, we recommend a templated acknowledgment to new real estate leads from our clients. Wait-a-minute! Templated? Aren’t these messages supposed to be personal and relational?
I hate to start with an exception to the rule, but an acknowledgment email, especially when it appears in the lead’s inbox a millisecond after he or she clicks a button wanting more information on your website or Zillow, must be a template message. The lead knows you didn’t craft an email response in the last half-second. The purpose of the acknowledgment message is simply to acknowledge that the lead reached out to you or, in cases where you proactively sought out the lead, you reached out to them…and to tell them, you’ll be in touch soon.
Happy Grasshopper creates a package of acknowledgments for our Pro Account members. Our success coaches consult with each new client to determine where they get their leads from, then we create an “acknowledgment package” that we customize free for each Pro Account. If you want an idea of what these emails look like, we show several acknowledgment autoresponders on our website. They’re also free for you to use: https://happygrasshopper.com/automatic-responses-for-realtors/.
What comes next is critical to real estate email marketing success.
There’s a classic ad, produced in 1958, that almost every copywriter, who has sweated over his or her keyboard, is (or should be) familiar with. It’s McGraw-Hill’s “The Man in the Chair” ad:
Your potential lead may not be as gruff as the old man in the chair. However, we must assume the premise holds true for your leads. They know nothing about you. You can’t build a business relationship with anyone – lenders, professional photographers, property lawyers, other real estate agents…or leads – until they know something about you.
You already know at least one thing about each lead:
- They’re looking for a home to buy on Zillow or your website…in the $400k range.
- Or…they’re a FSBO.
- Or…their contract with another agent has expired and their home hasn’t sold.
- Or…they’ve been on your Facebook page.
- Or…someone referred them to you.
- Or…they attended an open house and were interested enough to provide information.
Even if you only know the bare minimum, you know more about them than they do about you. They know you’re a real estate agent. That’s about it. They don’t know if they can trust you. They don’t know if you’ll return their calls. They don’t know if you’re a good negotiator or know how to properly value a home. They don’t know if you will put them first or try to only sell them homes you list. They don’t know if your marketing effort goes beyond the 3 P’s.
Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?
An hour after our Pro Account member’s acknowledgment message is sent to a lead, the first Positioning message is sent. A Positioning message tells the lead why they should select you to help them reach their real estate goals. Not your average email and automated follow up messaging system, a much better method – what’s that – positioning.
So, what’s the difference between a Positioning message and an ad? Well, for one thing it doesn’t look like an ad. It looks like an email that you personally wrote to an individual, not something that’s being sent to thousands of people. More importantly, it doesn’t read like an ad. It addresses the recipient by his or her first name. Its content resembles the kind of email you would write to a friend. It’s in your voice. It’s authentic. It is the antithesis of an ad.
Here are three examples of how a Positioning message might read for different agents, according to each agent’s individual voice:
Of course, you have much more information to tell why someone should hire you to be their agent than what can be contained in a single email. (We recommend relatively short emails so leads don’t simply look at long paragraphs of text in an email and, without reading it, say: Nope!)
That’s why we send three Positioning emails in the first week of your drip campaign. The first one goes out 1 hour after they receive their acknowledgment email. The second on day 3. The third on day 7. And that’s it. Any more Positioning emails and the lead is likely to say, “Enough already!”
A call to conversation can include email and automated follow up messaging.
So, what follows day 7? On day 14, our Pro Accounts send their first Nurturing email. What’s that? As the name implies, a Nurturing email “nurtures” the lead until the lead is ready to move forward with their real estate plans. Happy Grasshopper defines Nurturing email content a bit differently than you might expect, if you’re familiar with retail nurture campaigns such as those HubSpot endorses and offers.
The reason we define “nurturing” differently is because leads for real estate agents, and some other people-service industry providers, differ from those of businesses that make and sell products or services people might purchase with their disposable incomes. When your leads are considering what may be the largest financial and emotional decision of their lives, a coupon or special offer (if you act in the next 10 days) is neither appropriate nor useful.
HG recommends Nurture emails be sent once every 3 weeks. Our research on our own drip email autoresponder messages has shown that’s the best timing so leads are never annoyed by your emails.
Here are some content ideas that might be found in a Nurturing autoresponder drip email campaign:
- Inform the lead about a restaurant you particularly enjoy and what makes it so appealing to you.
- Describe a hobby or passion you have that many people may not know about.
- Discuss why you’re involved with a particular charity or civic organization.
- Let the lead know about an upcoming annual event that you’ve found enjoyable.
- Talk about a lesson you learned on your first job that affects how you treat clients today.
At the conclusion of each email, instead of a “call to action,” these nurturing emails require a “call to conversation.” Examples of calls to conversation are: What’s your favorite restaurant? What hobbies are you into that people don’t know about? What charity do you feel is worthy of involvement? What local events do you look forward to each year? What lesson did you learn from your first job?
Is every lead going to respond to every call to conversation? I can almost guarantee that some will and others won’t. Either way, your relationship autoresponder drip email campaign (also known as email and automated follow up messaging) gives you tremendous advantages over every other competitor.
- You acknowledge the lead.
- You position yourself so the lead knows who you are and what you offer.
- You build a relationship with the lead so he or she is likely to turn to you when they are ready to move forward.
Unless they’re an HG member, your competitors aren’t doing that. If they’re doing anything, they’re constantly “marketing” by not sending effective email and automated follow up messaging.
Once leads select you as their real estate agent, we recommend they be tagged as “sphere” in your database, and you continue to stay in touch with them through a different autoresponder email drip campaign. But that’s a subject for a different blog post.