Do More With Your E-mail

Effective tools for boosting e-mail efficiency.

March 1, 2010

If you're like most real estate professionals, you're relying on e-mail more than ever to communicate; 93 percent of REALTORS® say they use E-mail daily or nearly every day—outpacing even cell phone usage, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®' 2009 Member Profile.

The same percentage of respondents say that e-mail is their preferred method of getting in touch with clients, past customers, and prospects. But if you're simply reading, writing, and sending, it may be time to step it up a notch. Many free or low-cost services can help you increase productivity and make a bigger splash with every message you send.

Here's a look at some of the other things you can be doing, thanks to the breadth of dynamic new tools available. 

Design a New E-mail Campaign

Send targeted marketing messages to narrow segments of your clients and prospects to show you understand their specific needs. MailChimp provides easy-to-use HTML templates, e-mail signup forms you can put on your Web site, and tracking tools. The service is free for users that have up to 500 subscribers, with a sending limit of 3,000 e-mails per month. Plans with no sending limits and larger subscriber bases start at $30 per month.

Collaborate Better

"E-mail as we know it is on its way out the door," says Mike Conner, co-owner of City Realty Inc. in Olympia, Wash. He's excited about the potential of Google Wave, the emerging e-mail tool "for real-time communication and collaboration," according to Google. It can function as a traditional e-mail account, but it has a more collaborative nature; all parties to an e-mail conversation access a single document to view responses, add photos and videos, and easily view the history of a correspondence chain. Google Wave is still in limited preview. 

Get Proof

When it comes to important business e-mails—especially large files and sensitive messages—it's smart to keep a reliable record of the transmission. RPost is a registered e-mail service that provides proof that messages were delivered and the content was not tampered with. It also protects against the common recipient excuse of "I never got it." Monthly plans for individuals are $14.75, while monthly plans for businesses start at $79. Lower-cost prepaid plans are also available. 

Save Time

If you're an Outlook user, this free application will help you quickly find what you're looking for. Xobni (inbox spelled backwards) lets you enter keywords to find attachments, contacts, and conversation threads. It also brings the social Web into your inbox. "For each sender that you highlight, you get a visual list of the attachments they've sent, their e-mail conversations with you, and their networks," including Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, says Cheryl Ritchie, ABR®, CRS®, with RE/MAX 100 in Dunkirk, Md.

Spice Up Your Signature

E-mail signatures have become the business card of the 21st century, says Donna Harris with RE/MAX Austin Skyline, who recently gave her e-signature a more dynamic look with a service called Bojo. It allows you to create a virtual business card that includes a photo, company information, and links to your Web site and blog. Install the signature into your e-mail client and it will show up on outgoing messages. The free, basic service includes statistics on clicks and views. For $100, you can create a custom design. 

Make Eye Contact

Forget emoticons—use real facial expressions and gestures to help customers get a more complete understanding of what you're saying. EyeJot is a free service that allows you to upload and send video messages. Recipients get an e-mail telling them they have a new message awaiting them at, and they can watch it in a single click (no registration is required on their part)."With video I can more easily cement a bond with my customers, because I bring my personality with knowledge," says Bryan Forrester, a real estate technology blogger in Palm Harbor, Fla., who started using the service last year. "This technology is ideal to convey financial concepts with eye contact and a smile."

Katherine Tarbox is a former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Previously, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.