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Ahhhh, the newsletter... one of my favorite topics. Tell ya what... here's an excerpt from my upcoming book - Prospect with Soul - on the subject... see what you think and if it's helpful... and we'll chat some more!
Mass Emails, Newsletters and Postal Mailings
My in-writing SOI stay-in-touch protocol is fairly straightforward. I send out three postal mailings a year and what I call a mass email once a month or so. I don’t do newsletters, although I did at one time.
Are you asking what the difference is between a mass email, a postal mailing and a newsletter?
I can help you with that!
A mass email is an email you send to your entire sphere of influence (or segments of it), but the “voice” of the email sounds as if it’s written to each person individually. In other words, it has more of a personal email feel than a newsletter or other obviously mass-generated promotional piece.
A postal mailing is a letter, postcard or doo-dad you send to your SOI through the mail.
A newsletter, compared to a mass email, is less personal and more obviously promotional. It might include a variety of articles or topics, and may link to outside websites. It can also be printed and mailed as a postal mailing.
Mass emails are intended primarily to start up conversations. Yes, they’ll get your contact information in front of your SOI and will remind them of your existence, but the goal of a mass email is to inspire your audience to respond to you, thus giving you a great opportunity to engage.
I’ll give you some ideas on how to do that shortly, but if you look at your mass emails as conversation-starters first and foremost, I think you’ll find them easier to write. Especially as you start to see conversations happening—it’s incredibly inspiring and motivating. When your mass emails are inspiring your audience to respond to you, you’ll actually look forward to doing them. And of course, having conversations—even emailed conversations—can lead to all kinds of wonderful things.
I lived and worked in Denver, so what might I write to my Denver SOI about? Well, once I did a mass email in late March about street-sweeping day which reminded my friends to walk outside and look at the sign on their street notifying them what day their street would be swept and they’d get a ticket if they parked in the street on that day. Street-sweeping starts in April every year and just about everyone can relate to getting that first ticket of the season.
I love fireworks shows, so I always did an email in July about where the local displays would be. If I listed a particularly interesting property, I might send out a notice of it with a fun description and a virtual tour, although I kept those sorts of things to a minimum—maybe one or two a year.
If you’re active in any local activities—maybe the City Council or the PTA or the Booster Club—you can provide information on what they’re up to, keeping in mind it needs to be interesting ;-]
If your family or a friend owns a trendy local store or restaurant, for example, that might be a good topic to write about or provide a gift certificate for.
Every once in a while, I’ll send out what I call a YAY-ME email to my SOI if I’ve had a particularly note-worthy event in my career—for example, in 2010 I was named among Inman’s Most Influential People in Real Estate, so I figured my SOI might be proud of me. I also did a YAY-ME when my book was featured in REALTOR® Magazine. You don’t want to YAY-ME all the time, but every once in a while is fine.
Ensuring Your Mass Emails Get Opened
Here are a few tips to ensure that your readers actually open your mass emails—and then we’ll move on to talk a little about newsletters and postal mailings.
Tip #1: Don’t try to make your mass emails works of art
The simpler, the better. You don’t need a fancy banner and you don’t need a 3-column newsletter design. In fact, the simpler the email is, the more likely it will be read and, even more importantly, the more likely it will be responded to. If someone responds to your email, you can start up a conversation with him that could lead to wonderful things. But people rarely respond to fancy eNewsletters because they feel impersonal. Impressive, perhaps, but impersonal.
I’d much rather see you use your custom email signature at the bottom of the email rather than a big splashy banner at the top. And as more and more people work from smart phones—these banners are harder to get past when you open the email in the device.
So, don’t agonize over making your emails works of art.
Tip #2: Related to Tip #1—Less is More
Your mass email should only cover one topic. Again, you are not trying to blow away your audience with your knowledge of everything under the sun—your goal is to remind them of your existence, inspire them to think of you fondly, and hopefully start up a conversation. You can do that in a couple of paragraphs. All the rest is distracting fluff.
Tip #3: Don’t make people click on a link or open an attachment to get to the meat of your note
Put whatever it is you’re saying IN the email itself. When you link or attach, you’ve added an unnecessary hurdle for your readers to jump over to experience whatever wonderfulness you’re sending them.
For example, I have a lender friend who sends me a Mortgage Update every Sunday. The cover page simply says “Here is your weekly mortgage update from Jon Smith.” Then I’m supposed to open the attachment to see a boilerplate spreadsheet that is, unfortunately, of no earthly interest to me. So, I’ll let you guess how many times I’ve clicked on that attachment after the first time.
On the other hand, I have another lender friend who writes every other Friday or so with a quick, friendly and clever commentary on the mortgage world. He writes it in his own voice and always makes me smile. And I almost always respond to him and start up a little conversation. Guess which lender is my go-to guy in Denver?
Newsletters (printed and emailed)
I see a lot of newsletters coming through the mail or inbox. Some are...well, let’s just say that some are better than others. Most are clearly purchased “as is” and distributed at the touch of a button (or click of a mouse). Some display a little bit of customization, such as a spot to write a “personal” note or feature a listing or two. A few appear to be 100% created from scratch.
What are the typical topics covered in a real estate agent’s newsletter? Lessee...home improvement tips, gardening ideas, recipes, market stats, Just Listed and Just Sold announcements, mortgage news...sorry...but YAWWWWWWWN. Not only does every real estate newsletter seem to follow the same pattern, but half the time, the information is so boilerplate as to not even apply to the local market!
So let’s step back a bit.
What’s the Real Purpose of Your Newsletter?
Is it to...
• educate your audience on the average Days on Market or Price per Square Foot in your area?
• impress the reader by displaying your new listings or bragging about your recent closings?
• ensure your friends know how important it is to winterize their sprinkler systems?
• share your gardening expertise?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, I’ll encourage you to re-read the first part of this chapter and think about your answer.
Isn’t the ultimate goal of a newsletter simply to inspire your audience to like you and remember you?
We can debate all day about what exactly “like” means but, in general, by sending a newsletter, you’re hoping that the person who receives it thinks a little more highly of you than they did before it was sent. Which naturally leads to them being just a little more likely to remember you (fondly) than they were the day before.
So, what, in a newsletter, might inspire that reaction? Or conversely, what might be the kiss of death?
Inspiring a newsletter recipient to smile is best accomplished not with gardening tips, Just Sold notices or descriptions of your listings, but rather with interesting content that reflects YOU—your voice, your personality. And the best way to do that is to write the content yourself.
Now, don’t panic. Writing interesting content yourself is not all that hard, especially if you work under the principle that less is more. Don’t feel your newsletter has to be formally formatted with a Volume Number, Table of Contents and a three-column layout. Nope. In fact, a simple email or letter-style newsletter may work much better. No sidebars, graphics or sales-pitches required.
Professionally designed newsletters may be impressive but, frankly, they’re a dime a dozen these days. Many readers will assume that the fancy newsletter is either boilerplate or sales-pitchy, and, if pressed for time, are likely to hit DELETE (or toss it in the trash) without reading it. (However, if you’re going to include fancy graphics or custom designs, please please, please ensure that it’s done well. Amateur-ish newsletters send the wrong message to your audience!)
Make sure your newsletter goes out from YOU—as in, from Your Name. Not from some professional-sounding company or even your fancy tagline. YOUR NAME. Period. If your readers don’t immediately recognize the sender, again, they’re likely to hit DELETE (or toss it) before investigating further.
Better than Nothing?
Okay, Jennifer, I agree in principle but I don’t: want to/have time to/have the skill to/have the patience to create my own content. Isn’t it Better than Nothing to at least send SOMETHING?
Nice try, but no. It’s not. Especially when you’re sending out that SOMETHING to your Sphere of Influence—aka your friends and acquaintances. If you must, go ahead and send out SOMETHING (defined here as a cheesy, dorky, boilerplate yawn-er) to strangers, but please don’t do it to your sphere.
Your sphere of influence contact database is precious and should be treated as such. In fact, it may be the most valuable tool in your prospecting arsenal for getting good business and bringing in juicy paychecks. Treat it with the respect it deserves. Let me rephrase that. Treat the people who make up your contact database with the respect they deserve.
As I’ve mentioned once or twice, every single person in your sphere of influence has the potential to bring a $10,000 check your way. More than one, even. That’s a fact. So, it’s well worth the effort to MAKE an effort to inspire those special people to smile and think fondly of you every time they hear from you. Don’t do anything that sends a message that the person is simply a name on your list, someone worthy of your prospecting efforts, but not your personal attention. And that’s exactly what canned, boilerplate, cheesy marketing material does. It sends the message that the recipient is just a name on your list.
Frankly, I’d rather take the chance that my sphere of influence forgets I sell real estate rather than take the chance that they roll their eyes every time they hear from me. If I’m not willing to take the time to create interesting, relevant, non-cheesy promotional material to send to my precious sphere of influence, then a sphere of influence business model may not be the right model for me.
My postal mailings are done primarily to physically get my business card or whatever my doo-dad of the year is in my SOI’s hands so that they have my contact information.
I do two or three a year. That’s plenty to get my business card out there, it doesn’t cost me a fortune and I don’t abuse my privilege in someone’s mail box.
One postal mailing is always a personal letter that takes the form of an annual family newsletter. What I’ve been up to, what’s new and exciting in my life—stuff like that.
I also usually do a holiday card, usually with a little doo-dad. One year I did Denver Sushi Bar magnets and the year before I sent out my Referral Directory magnet. I used to do full-size calendars this time of year.
Then I’ll do one other mailing, if I can think of something I’m excited about. I can live with this third mailing being something more boilerplate or non-custom, as long as it’s of value, not cheesy, and represents who I am.
If you will be addressing your envelopes, follow these Four Golden Rules of Envelope-Addressing.
1. Hand-write the envelopes. It won’t take that long. Just do it.
2. Make sure for sure for sure that you spell the addressee’s name right.
3. Don’t use your corporate or franchise’s logo’d envelopes.
4. Always use a real stamp. No postage meters.