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Are Email Campaigns Still Effective? [Dear Ginny, WTH?]

“Dear Ginny, WTH?” which is like a “Dear Abby” column for real estate objections. If you have a tough client or a marketing problem, “Dear Ginny, WTH?” is for you. Questions can be funny, they can be serious, it doesn’t matter, just ask!

Dear Ginny,

What are your thoughts on email blasts and email campaigns?  I delete just about everyone I get, but I’ve been using the internet since Al Gore invented it, so I’m a bit jaded.  Do people really want listings advertised to them?  Do they care if you send them the newest info on the market?  Are we just creating a new kind of waste (all the electricity used to send and receive emails instead of all the dead trees)?  What’s effective and what’s a waste of time?

The irony is not lost on me that I just emailed this to you.

Matt Stigliano, The Real Estate Rock Star

Dear Matt,

I understand that emails can get monotonous, not unlike the great inventor of the internet himself, but they do still serve as an effective way to communicate. Yes, you may get dozens and dozens of emails per day, most of which you’ve probably opted into that you delete before opening. But what do you see before you delete it? You see the sender and you see the subject line, and sometimes even a preview of the message depending on your email viewer.

With email messages and marketing campaigns there are layers of engagement and multiple opportunities for brand impressions. You should put strategy and thought into each layer and opportunity.

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First is your email address and the subject line. Hopefully your email address represents you as a brand, that is to say it has your broker web site extension, your name or your branded name attached to it. Just say no to the Hotmail, AOL, Comcast, Yahoo, Gmail, and all the rest for your professional life.

Second, what are you putting in the subject line? If it’s a listing alert does it say the number of new listings? Does it show some sort of real time status in the subject, like price reduced or new pictures added? You’ll get a better open rate with that type of provocative copy. It also makes the communication more relevant to the recipient. The higher the relevancy the deeper the engagement.

If it’s a newsletter or some other opt-in drip campaign, the subject line should be relevant to the subject matter, obviously, but you don’t have to get overly clever. A newsletter can have a subject line that says “Ginny’s 3/09 Real Estate Update”. As the recipient, this type of consistency breeds confidence. Subject lines are very important and can be the difference in an open or not open.

What are your open rates? Do you monitor them? Do you try different subject lines or content to see if it swings your open rate? Do you measure click throughs? What are your success metrics? You do want recipients to open your emails, but at what rate? And, do you want them to click to a web page, download your latest, greatest to-do list for preparing your home for sale or call you for a checklist of hidden defects to look for when buying a home?  What’s in it for the recipient to open your email? Content matters.
And know that successful open rates will differ for listing alerts and monthly emails.

I guess I would say that you should have a plan (target audience, content and frequency) and then set the metrics of success for each email campaign, measure and test the heck out of them and adjust accordingly.

Yes, Algore-ithm invented of the internet which has put us on our computers 24/7 which has created more global warming. Oops.

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Algore tribute:

Have a question you want answered in “Dear Ginny, WTH?” Email Ginny now!

Ginny is a 360 degree marketing specialist with over a decade of experience in real estate-related fields. She’s held senior level marketing positions at Alain Pinel Realtors and Prudential California, Nevada and Texas Realty. She left the corporate world in 2007 to start her own marketing communications company, Cain Communications. She markets to segments that matter using media that matters. Follow her on Twitter @ginnycain.



  1. Andrew Olson

    March 18, 2009 at 11:56 am

    That’s an interesting take on email marketing. Many people automatically say “they don’t work, they’re a waste of time and money” without ever giving them a shot, and that’s what I was expecting here. But I like how you explored the different levels of engagement, (i.e. building brand through just the subject line) which is something I’d never really thought about. Thanks for the ideas!

    The SNL video was hilarious!

  2. Matt Stigliano

    March 18, 2009 at 6:57 pm


    First off, how cool that I got in here to get my questions answered!? He shoots, he scores. Thanks for the opportunity.

    There’s a few things that I caught in this that were exactly what I was hoping to hear or needed to hear.

    Subject lines have always been a weakness of mine. I’m almost as bad at them as I am at writing blog post titles. Even in my daily personal email, I face this struggle.

    This bit:

    Just say no to the Hotmail, AOL, Comcast, Yahoo, Gmail, and all the rest for your professional life.

    Well, you deserve a reward for saying it. Nothing drives me crazier. It doesn’t take much to get a “real” address these days. Get one and use it. I used gmail before I got my domain name, but I still used my Exit Realty North-San Antonio email address as my address. As for the companies that advertise on your email (Yahoo bugs me the most), I think that just looks terribly sloppy.

    The use of “Algore-ithm” also caused a chuckle. Thanks for answering my question and making me laugh.

    As a bit of follow-up I’m curious to see what you think of agents advertising listings to other agents? I for one despise the practice. If you put it in the MLS and my client is looking within those criteria, I will find it. I don’t care what the bonus is either.

    Okay, maybe “despise” is a tough word, but I don’t like it much.

    Thanks again!

  3. Anna Ruotolo

    March 18, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    G –
    As you know, we send out over 800,000 impressions per month. They work! And they work due to the fact that the content is relevant and interesting. The fact is, we are remaining top of mind…
    Love your article – you are always spot on!

  4. Anni Hagfeldt

    March 19, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Ginny, I agree with making sure that the subject line grabs the attention of the receiver. If it meets what I am currently looking for or interested in, I open it, if not, junk…


  5. JF Ratthé

    March 19, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I agree with Anna on this one…if the content is relevant and interesting, your target audience will be happy to receive it. In fact, they should be eager to receive your email as long as they asked for it. Which is where permission based marketing comes in. Check out Seth Godin’s blog for more info on that.

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