This article by Steve Bergsman was originally posted on Inman News on August 12, 2011.
An Enigma Wrapped in a Success
I’m the first to admit that I don’t understand how it works, but the real estate professionals who use Happy Grasshopper, an email messaging service, are, well, happy with it.
The Port Richey, Fla., startup uses emails to help brokers and agents keep in touch with their clients by creating the messages and managing the sending of those messages. In short, Happy Grasshopper takes all the work — for a modest fee — out of the hands of those generally too busy to keep up a constant flow of communication.
The part that confounds me is that Happy Grasshopper is seemingly effective although none of its messages are about real estate, data or market circumstances. They are, instead, obtuse and quirky, or as co-founder and CEO Dan Stewart likes to say, “fun and friendly.”
For example, at the onset of Mother’s Day, the message most clients received read something like this: “Hi Fred. I know you know Sunday is Mother’s Day, but did you know in Serbia they celebrate by tying mom’s feet together with string? Then she has to negotiate her release by giving her kids presents. There’s not much in it for mom, but at least she gets to lie down for awhile. I hope the mother in your life has a great day. If I can do anything for you let me know.”
“These messages are never about our users, never about market conditions and never about real estate,” said Stewart. “Each message is crafted to start a conversation.”
All messages are followed by a branded email signature, which can include a picture, logo or slogan. There is also a “need me” referral tool at the bottom of the email that allows for a one-click way to contact the sender.
Obviously, the concept is to make it easy for brokers and agents to keep in contact with clients and, if possible, generate a thoughtful reaction. If the client’s response includes a return email, that’s even better.
Take this message that went out to clients of agents in the days before the Super Bowl: “Hi Fred. Did you see this? There won’t be any cheerleaders at the Super Bowl this year. How crazy is that? The only question is, who is going to be more upset, the women or the men? Hope you are doing well. Let me know if I can do anything for you.”
Why was this a successful message? I don’t know and I’m not sure Stewart knows either.
“One guy got a $17,000 commission on a silly little email like that,” Stewart said. “It’s counterintuitive.”
Whatever that means!
Emails That Don’t Look Like Sales
Even tough-guy professionals have become enchanted.
Delaware-based Mike Selvaggio not only runs his own business, Delaware Homes, but is also one of six nationally certified Ninja Selling instructors and a certified instructor (and 2008 president) with the Council of Residential Specialists. He has signed up for Happy Grasshopper, recommended it to his agents and is going to use it as a model in Ninja Selling courses.
Before he encountered Happy Grasshopper, Selvaggio said, “I would never have recommended emails as an effective way to keep in touch. People look for ways not to open emails.”
Agents are busy, he said, and “they won’t even open emails from their own board or associations because they are inundated. But, if you can create an email in such a way that makes you say, ‘Hey, this is interesting, let me open it,’ then you are really doing something that makes a lot of sense.”
Ninja Selling and Happy Grasshopper are really not that far apart because the art of both is for the client to feel there is no selling involved.
“The fact that these messages are detached from real estate … or selling works to its advantage,” Selvaggio said.
Others would agree. Happy Grasshopper, which began life in October 2010, was finally incorporated in March 2011. By May, it had 1,000 customers; by June, 1,500 customers. (The cost is $9 a month for the Starter account of 100 contacts, and if that works out there’s the bigger Basic at $19 a month for 500 contacts and the Pro at $29 a month for up to 2,000 contacts.)
How is HG Different?
Similar keep-in-touch companies generally teach customers how to create or manage email campaigns, but as Stewart noted, when it came to writing the emails, people didn’t know what to say.
Stewart’s better idea was to take over the writing chores and then manage the transmission of the emails as well. The customer’s sole responsibility is to approve the messages or, if they prefer, make a few edits along the way.
“All our users have to do is load their contacts into the system, then every three weeks we prepare a new message for them,” he said.
One agent who uses Happy Grasshopper is Laurie Matthias of NextRE in Bryn Mawr, Pa.
“The cost was reasonable and it was an easy way to keep my name, yet again, in front of my clients,” said Matthias. “I liked it because it was one or two lines, short and sweet, because no one wants to read paragraph after paragraph. And all messages end with, ‘Let me know if I can be of help.’ ”
After a couple of months, Matthias reported she has yet to gain anything “monetarily” out of it, but people have sent emails back. “It just builds good will,” Matthias said.
Or in Happy Grasshopper-speak, “Did you see the article about the 107-year-old who has been retired for 41 years and is still paying his own bills?”
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, “Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis,” is now available for sale on Amazon.com.