Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Agents, Are you Using Email Best Practices?

Email marketing is a must in today's real estate world.  But how do you know if you are doing it right?  These helpful tips from The Murray Group marketing department will allow you to see how you measure up.

Get Permission
This is, by far, the single most important measure to take in order to help ensure good deliverability -- the foundation of an effective email campaign.   In a broad sense, make sure that whether you are adding subscribers or they are adding themselves, it is quite clear to them that they're giving you permission to receive email messages.

More specifically:
  • Don't use purchased leads
  • Ask people if they want your email and don't simply assume that they do based on another transaction with you or your business
  • Use Confirmed Opt-In to protect your sender reputation
  • Read some examples of methods of obtaining email addresses that can or cannot be used with responsible email marketing services.
Stay Relevant
If you were asked to give a speech on golf tips at a conference, and you spent your time at the podium talking exclusively about your country club, what type of reception would you get from the crowd?

Your subscribers will give you that same type of reception (through complaints and unsubscribes) if you don't stick to meeting the expectations you've set for your email campaign. Start by focusing on maximizing the value of each message you send to your subscribers, and stick to it.

Promptly Remove Unsubscribes
Responsible email senders automatically remove subscribers who opt-out using the link at the bottom of any of the messages sent from your campaign. In some cases, however, subscribers will respond to your email messages asking to be removed from your list.

To avoid issues:
  • Use a reply address you check regularly
  • Manually remove people who ask to be unsubscribed
  • Send Frequently Enough ... But Don't Overwhelm
Sending too frequently can cause an increase in complaints and unsubscribes...while not sending often enough can lead to the same issues, plus more undeliverable email addresses on your list.

Set expectations for how frequently you're going to send messages to subscribers and stick with it. You probably don't want to send every day, but you certainly don't want to wait several months between each message you send.

Review Your Message Content
Once you're finished at the drawing board and have saved your message, review it and make sure:
  • It has a plain text version, even if you've written one in HTML
  • You've avoided using excessive punctuation within words and phrases - exclamations are the most overused punctuation in marketing...most times NO punctuation and incomplete sentences are the BEST way to do...
  • There is a sufficiently high text to HTML ratio -- messages should not consist of large images with little text
  • You haven't hyperlinked URLs in HTML messages
  • To check its SpamAssassin score for content filtering issues
Also, by sending a test of your message to a few of your own email accounts, you can help ensure that it appears consistently the same way to each of your subscribers.
 
Get Whitelisted
Encouraging your subscribers to add your email to their address books has benefits.  Email users add only certain chosen parties -- senders who they know, trust, and expect email from.

Because of this, senders who appear there sometimes get better email deliverability often with an added benefit of images appearing automatically.

Use an Effective Reply Address
Though it takes only a few moments to decide on, choosing the reply address that appears in the from line of your messages is important to the success of your campaign.

Along with the subject of your message, the first thing your subscribers see of your messages when they're browsing their inboxes will be the reply address and/or the "Name" you also set.

You reply address and name should be:
  • Recognizable
  • Hosted at the same or similar domain as the website subscribers signed up at

Avoid using free addresses (e.g. hosted at yahoo.com, gmail.com, hotmail.com, etc.) you use for personal communications.

Free addresses tend to stand out less to subscribers and when deciding whether to deliver your messages, some ISPs consider messages from free addresses to be slightly more risky since anyone (including spammers) can get their hands on them.

Keep Complaint Rates Low
More of something to understand than it is strictly a practice, keeping the rate at which subscribers report your messages as SPAM at an acceptable rate is crucial to email deliverability.

Don't Let Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
Starting off on the right foot is a virtue worth noting; however, obsessing to get it right the first time or trying to do it all can prevent you from starting to see the positive returns you're assured with an effective email marketing campaign.

Instead, get started with by:
  • Publishing a form to your website
  • Setting up your autoresponder and possibly one or two other messages
Once you have a basic set up, you can move onto optimizing your campaign including:
  • Considering HTML versions of your messages
  • Split Testing Web Forms and Broadcast Messages
  • Customizing the branding of your campaign
  • Targeting specific segments of your lists
But take a step-by-step approach and don't try to do it all at once. Start somewhere, then use the results you see to motivate your improvements!

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