Automate Your E-marketing

Take the grind out of Internet client cultivation.

May 1, 2004

To many salespeople, e-mail drip marketing is the ultimate fantasy—a powerful way to stay in contact with previous clients and cultivate new prospects without having to pick up a phone or knock on a door. If you aren’t aware, these click-and-forget systems let you automatically send a series of timed e-mail messages to any group of people with a common interest—first-time buyers, move-up sellers, etc.

But today, with the increase in junk e-mail, drip marketing campaigns face hurdles—getting your message read, ensuring your messages will be perceived as valuable by customers jaded to spam, and staying within the bounds of the new anti-spam law.

The solution? Deliver value-added content at three specific points in the sales cycle to people you can legally contact.

  • Pre-transaction cultivation. Drip campaigns, such as regular e-mail newsletters and market updates, can help build rapport and trust with prospects from the time you’ve made initial contact to the time they’re ready to buy or sell, which can easily take several months for an online consumer. Topic options: home improvement ideas and tips for improving your credit.
  • Transaction support. A drip campaign is a great tool to help your clients stay current on their transaction’s progress. With regular e-mail updates, you’ll cut down on calls about whether the buyers have been approved for their mortgage or when the home inspection is due. Topic options: reminders to pay all utilities before closing.
  • Post-transaction marketing. After closing is an ideal time to use a drip marketing campaign to build referrals. Regular e-mail will keep you in the forefront of past clients’ minds and increase the likelihood of repeat and referral business. Topic options: a reminder to change the locks on the home after taking possession.

Can the Spam

Keep in mind that drip e-mail should never be used to generate new leads. It’ll only work with leads who’ve already given you permission to e-mail them. Otherwise, you’re spamming prospects and damaging your goodwill.

New federal commercial e-mail rules, the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act, now also require that you include a return e-mail and postal address on all e-mail, a functioning opt-out mechanism for recipients, and a clear notice if the e-mail message includes an advertisement or business solicitation.

Most importantly, each drip e-mail message you send must be perceived as highly valuable to recipients, or they’ll quickly become annoyed. For tips on developing effective e-mail campaigns, reread my May 2002 column on “ Automating e-mail contacts.”

Get Help

Several companies sell real estate-specific tools that do a good job of drip e-mail.

  • InterSend. One of the easiest drip e-mail systems to set up and use, this program can be run from your Web browser. It comes complete with prewritten campaign options, which may save you time, but which also may limit your marketing flexibility. Cost: $29.95 per month.
  • Sharper Agent. This more sophisticated system lets you divide your contact list into more subgroups than InterSend, so you can target your message more effectively, and offers a broader range of materials, including custom flyers and postcards. Web-based Sharper Agent, which offers both drip e-mail and snail mail, also does a great job of keeping track of all contacts made through the system. Cost: $29.95 per month.
  • Gooder Group. This Fairfax, Va.-based company’s RAINMAKER E-CENTRAL system has great prewritten campaigns, including newsletters and reports, for real estate and a suite of real estate lead-generation products for both print and Web. The program can have a steep learning curve, however, so it may be best run by an assistant familiar with the system. Cost: $78 per month,plus a one-time set-up fee of $199.

If used wisely and legally, drip e-mail marketing can help grow your leads into a fruitful bushel of new business and referrals. Misused, the technique can literally drive business away.

Mr. Internet’s Tip of the Month

During my speaking engagements, I often ask how many real estate practitioners in the audience have a formal, written “privacy policy” on their Web sites. Typically, less than 5 percent raise their hand. If you’re part of the 95 percent, you are missing an easy way to make your visitors feel more comfortable about revealing information about themselves and their needs to you.

A great place to get started on creating your own privacy policy is www.truste.org. This resource, which is maintained by the nonprofit privacy group TRUSTe, will walk you through the steps of creating your own privacy policy. Policies are customized based upon the type of business you do, the kinds of information you acquire from your visitors, and other criteria.

Once you have the policy posted to your site, make sure you provide a link to it on every page of your Web site. A good Web site privacy policy can make the difference between wary visitors and prospects who convert into clients.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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