Slash Your Ad and Mailing Costs with E-Mail

April 1, 1996

Combine a highly personal, communication-based business like real estate with effective use of E-mail, and what do you get? More money in your pocket, plus a savings in time and effort.

That's the assessment of two REALTORS® who've made electronic mail—E-mail—an integral part of their business strategies.

"I'm not a technology guru," says John M. Peckham III, CCIM, president of The Peckham Boston Advisory Co., "but I know a good selling tool when I see it. And E-mail is one of the best."

The first time Peckham used E-mail in his business was about 18 months ago, when he sent a message to 92 commercial and investment real estate specialists about a property listing he'd recently received. Within three days, Peckham had closed a $2.6 million deal.

"All I could say was 'Wow!' I couldn't believe it could be so easy! What you can do with E-mail in a day would take three weeks without it," says Peckham, who originates his mail from CompuServe, where the Commercial Investment Real Estate Institute runs a forum for its members. CIREI is an affiliate of theNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Gary Carlson, a residential sales associate with Burnet Realty, Apple Valley, Minn., says E-mail is now his preferred method of getting information to prospects. "I can move information around so much faster on E-mail, and it's much less expensive than regular mail or telephoning." Having gone to E-mail in earnest in the last six months, Carlson—who uses America Online to send and receive mail—says, "Now one of the first things I ask people for is their E-mail address."

"Real estate is a communication-intensive business," observes Wally Bock of Oakland, Calif., an author, lecturer, and consultant on doing business in cyberspace. "And E-mail is a great tool for staying in touch with people and turning them into lifetime clients and customers."

Bock recommends E-mail as a cost-effective way to send follow-up notes to prospects and to share updates about local market conditions and tips for home maintenance, for example. "Just be sure you're sending people something of value, not an advertisement in the form of an E-mail," Bock advises. "Send people fluff, and you risk having them delete your future E-mails without reading them."

Peckham uses his E-mail primarily as a marketing tool. When he's looking to sell a particular property, he sends a note to other commercial and investment specialists he thinks might know of poten-tial buyers. "I start with a catchy headline, and I make it personal and conversational," says Peckham. A recent E-mail he sent began, "Good morning! My 95-year-old doctor, retired (thank God!), has asked me to help him sell four properties in Florida. . . ."

In addition, Peckham says, he conceals from people receiving a message that they're one in a large group of recipients. The doctor message went to more than 600 real estate practitioners, "but it looked to all those who received it as if I'd personally sent it to them. I find that really helps my response rate," Peckham says. Had he sent the information by regular mail, Peckham estimates it'd have cost about $1 per piece, factoring in postage, paper, printing, and staff time for stuffing envelopes. Cost of the same mailing by E-mail: $0, except for the time Peckham spent creating the message and the monthly fee for his on-line service.

By the way, when people respond to his E-mail, Peckham typically uses a fax to send them more information and photos of a property. "The idea is to make it easy for people to work with me," Peckham says. "I could send them back an E-mail with a file attached that they'd have to download, pull into a word processing program, and print, or they could just get a fax off a machine. Which is easier?"

Making E-Mail Work for You

How can you get the most out of your E-mail? Here are some tips from our experts:

  • Figure out how it fits with your business. E-mail shouldn't replace all other forms of communication. It's up to you to figure out what mix of E-mail, regular mail, fax, personal contact, and traditional advertising will work best for you. To get into the swing of using E-mail, consider whether any of the material you currently send by traditional mail could be better delivered by E-mail.
  • Collect E-mail addresses. Ask all your buyers, sellers, and prospects for their address. Then ask whether you can send them information on homebuying, home upkeep, and taxes from time to time. Collect other real estate practitioners' addresses, too. If your local and state associations aren't yet collecting members' E-mail addresses and including them in directories, ask them to start.
  • Create and use E-mail groups. Set up one each for sales associates you work with in your area, sales associates you share relocation work and mov-ing leads with, first-time buyers you're working with, your high-end clients, and your farming areas. You determine the categories on the basis of your business strategies.
  • Get the recipients' attention. What you say in the subject line and the start of your message is critical. It determines whether people read any further and how quickly. If it's not enticing in content and design, people won't scroll down to read the rest of it.
  • Have a message. Send meaningful information and keep the message focused. Junk mail is junk mailno matter how it's delivered.
  • Follow up. E-mail is an interactive medium that conveys information quickly. When people send you a message, always respond in a timely fashioneven if it's just to let them know you received their message and to thank them for staying in touch.

Pamela Geurds Kabati is the former publisher of REALTOR® Magazine and senior vice president of communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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