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Email: Part of a Complete Marketing Breakfast

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With the announcement that the United States Postal Service (USPS) may be reducing their delivery days, it appears as though direct mail is getting knocked down another rung in the marketing world.

Many of you blog and social network, but have you included email marketing into your arsenal?

Cost Advantages

Email has significant cost savings over direct mail. When looking at a database of 500 people, the most popular postcard size from the leading provider in my area would cost $315 per campaign.  Email marketing to a list of that size could cost you $8-$14 dollars and you’re able to email those 500 people multiple times per month for that price.

Effectiveness

Logic dictates that if the USPS is having to consider losing a delivery day, direct mail has fallen out of favor.  Ease of use and cost push more and more people into using email.  In the last two years, I have seen a majority of people I know move to checking their mailbox once a week or less frequently.  I personally only check my mailbox when I’m expecting a movie.  Furthermore, there is no effective method for tracking your return on investment for direct mail.  All of the popular email marketing companies provide in-depth statistical analysis packages so you can see what your consumers are most interested in to fine-tune future campaigns.

Environmental Impact

Every year, Americans receive 5.6 million tons of junk mail, enough to fill 450,000 garbage trucks.  Not to mention the emissions used to create the paper, deliver the product then recycle it at the end. The environment is also your key to growing your list. Many clients I have worked with have extensive direct mail databases. The least expensive way to convert those into email addresses is to call. The fastest way is to send one last direct mail campaign with a message similar to “Help me go green”.  Ask people to provide you with their email address over the phone, by email or by signing up on your web site. People I have helped do this have seen a better than 85% conversion rate in their first campaign.

Choice

The truth is, however, that some people prefer direct mail. It feels more personal. They like touching something. They don’t want more “stuff” in the inbox.  That’s the beauty of the marketing campaign I just suggested, it allows people to choose if they would rather get your communications via email.  If we take that same database of 500 people and get an 85% conversion rate, our direct mail budget is reduced by almost $270 dollars.  If you want to communicate monthly, that’s over $3,000 per year you could be saving.

Options

There are a lot of different providers out there, but the benefits of going with a real email distribution company include:

  • Templates that are tested to work in most, if not all, email programs
  • Tracking capabilities
  • Scheduling capabilities (write your email now, send it next month)
  • List management (if people unsubscribe or there are bounces, you don’t have to personally clean your database
  • Email personalization

Although these companies cost money, it is a far better alternative than trying to use Outlook.  Here is a short list of a few of the options I have tried. Each one has their advantages and disadvantages, but they all offer free trials, so find the one that suits you best.

Nick runs a new media marketing consulting company helping real estate professionals learn how to implement new media tools into their marketing arsenal. He frequently gives presentations on generational marketing, green marketing and advanced online promotion. Nick is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Paula Henry

    January 29, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Nick – Just had this converstaion online and in person. On Twitter another agent said, Realtors “please quit sending out recipe cards”, to which I wholeheartedly agreed. The other converstaion was with an agent determined to go back in time and start “farming”. Oh, the nonsense of it all.

    I check my mail about twice a week. As my contact list gets larger, I am looking at one of these email programs, just undecided which one.

    The only real reason to send snail mail is if it is personal and hand written. Just my opinion:)

  2. Missy Caulk

    January 30, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I stopped the post card mailings many years ago, it was just not cost effective. As you said 3-500.00 each time.

    I did do snail mail birthday cards, then went to email ones the last two years and now I am back to hard copy ones.

    Somehow it just seemed to mean more to everyone.

  3. Ruthmarie Hicks

    January 31, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Do we really NEED the post office?? I just discovered by accident how LITTLE I actually need them. The Northeast has had a lot of snow and severe cold this winter. A snow plow knocked over my mailbox after the first snow. With the ground frozen…I haven’t been able to put the mail box back in the ground. So for the last 6-7 weeks – no snail mail except when I pick it up. Since you have to wait about 1 hour at our P.O. I’ve only collected the mail ONCE. Obviously, I don’t see a burning need to get the mail because most of my business is conducted ON-LINE including bills etc. There were some Christmas cards at the end of Dec that I wouldn’t want to miss out on. The rest was nearly all redundant or pure junk. In fact, I have far less garbage to recycle. Talk about waste.

    My conclusion: Postal workers need to start polishing their resumes. Although there will always be snail mail – Obama is on the right track. Get rid of the junk mail and you could cut the postal system to 1/4th its present size. Nationally, we might easily get away with 3-4 days of delivery.

    However, for introducing yourself to a neighborhood – particularly a condo complex with locked entries and a doorman standing between you and potential clients – bulk mail has been somewhat effective for establishing a presence. I have a listing appointment from a postcard mailing early next week – and our market is almost at a standstill. Do people want the mail? Probably not – but people do seem to remember my post cards (which are very unique.)

    The way I “touch” people I’ve met or those who have contacted me through my website etc. – EMAIL, PHONE, TEXT MESSAGE, FACEBOOK…not MAIL.

  4. Judy Peterson

    January 31, 2009 at 7:14 am

    And emails or blog posts last longer than the walk from the mail box to the circular file.

  5. Christina Ethridge - North Idaho Real Estate

    February 2, 2009 at 10:22 am

    “Logic dictates that if the USPS is having to consider losing a delivery day, direct mail has fallen out of favor.”

    Really? What logic? Perhaps it’s not so much that direct mail has fallen out of favor but that people pretty much no longer send personal notes, letters, cards. Perhaps UPS/Fedex have taken a dominate control of package shipping. Perhaps USPS has been so completely irresponsible with their budgeting and business methods that they simply can’t adapt and keep up with financial changes.

    Frankly, direct mail hasn’t fallen out of favor… to use it effectively, you have to know what to send, when to send and who to send it to. Recipe cards just don’t cut it.

  6. Nick Bostic

    February 3, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    @Paula – I completely agree with you, I will check personal handwritten mail, the problem is if it’s time sensitive odds are I won’t get it in time. Plus, even if it’s something nice, emails can be nice and are better on the environment.

    @Missy – Our title company used to send handwritten Christmas cards. This year, we did a cheesy video of all of our employees in Santa hats waving like dorks and emailed it out. Every one of our customers, except ONE, LOVED IT. One out of 4,000+ people makes sense and cents 🙂

    @Ruthmarie – I’ve been online and trying to stop the rest of my mail for years. Aside from my movies, I could really live without the post office. We’ve had a lot of problems in my area getting mass mail postcards to condo developments, but if that works in your area, I can see the value.

    @Judy – Very true, and are easier to share with more people.

    @Christina – I did those cheesy logic problem books as a kid, so logic comes pretty easy to me (it frustrates my lawyer sister). When a business cuts hours or goes out of business, logic very clearly dictates they weren’t successful. USPS is still far easier to send from home than UPS/Fedex. USPS accounts for 46% of the world’s card and letter deliveries, which is the direct mail most people in this industry send. But the overall volume of that type of mail has decreased, logically because people aren’t using it as much. For cards, letters and the like, UPS/Fedex are considerably more expensive and I’ve come to learn that REALTORs are very price sensitive. We’ll have to agree to disagree, the facts I’ve seen clearly show that direct mail is rapidly losing ground to other marketing methods.

  7. Ruthmarie Hicks

    February 4, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Here’s an update – I did just get a listing agreement from a post card. Nothing else – although I did a really nice listing presentation – I was surprised that the client was not interviewing extensively. I’m good at what I do – and very happy to do it, but these days I think this is pretty unusual.

    I do have the “less is more” approach to mailing. I only send things out about 5-6 times a year. What I send is expensive, but unique. NO ONE else does what I do – and most people will look twice at the type of post card I send. I don’t send things in envelopes that people have to open. Just unique cards – each with a unique message.

    Btw, I think its time for national email addresses! Wouldn’t that be a cool thing for Obama to add to his stimulus package? It would take the place of snail mail for everything save packages and things that require paper.

  8. Bruce Lemieux

    February 8, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Implementing an effective direct mail campaign is difficult and expensive. But, no doubt, it is a very powerful tool. It is the foundation of my marketing strategy. Here’s why I love direct mail:

    1. I have a geographical farm. I *know* that my audience gets my piece. No spam filter.

    2. I send big, very high-quality pieces that build and re-enforce my brand. So, even if it takes 5 seconds to pickup, glance and throw in the trash, the impression is “These guys sell a lot of real estate. These guys are professional”

    3. I can target my pieces directly to the audience making it more relevant.

    4. Direct mail + for sale signs + yard signs in a concentrated area tells my target audience that I’m the area expert. On listings, we often get “we see you everywhere”. Not so without direct mail.

    Implementing a cost-effective campaign is tough. If I were in a lower-priced market, it may not make since. For me, however, the high-cost is a good thing. It presents a barrier to entry for most other agents, so I’m competing with fewer other agents.

    I love direct mail!

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Tech News

This Zoom alternative offers a branded video meeting experience

(TECH NEWS) AirConnect is a conferencing portal that allows for company customization and automated onboarding so you can focus on other priorities.

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video portal airconnect

The concepts of company culture and branding are now more important than they’ve ever been. When we were first hearing these terms, they felt like buzzwords and ways to attract new talent and business without any actual execution.

Now that we have an understanding of what they are and how to use them, they are so much more practical and necessary – from big businesses to a one-person Etsy shop.

It’s been a little different in the last few months trying to figure out how to make company culture exude in the virtual world. For places that are hiring, it is also tricky to show how they differ from the rest over a video conference call.

The creators of AirConnect have taken this into account and have unleashed the virtual conference concept with an element of customization. As they say, “nothing beats a personal touch”.

Through use of this video conferencing tool, you can meet virtually with customers and clients in a brand video meeting portal. Customization options include headers, logo placement, and colors.

Additionally, the tool allows for customers to access their data via a customer portal, which allows for some automation when onboarding clients, assisting customers, or meeting with partners. AirConnect urges users to “say goodbye to Zoom links”.

“Let’s face it, nobody likes the where’s-the-link, what’s-the-password, can-you-hear-me-yet: and that includes your customers. Say hello to a single place where they can meet with you, as well as seeing all their account information, resources and anything else you like. Ah, that’s better, isn’t it?” explains the website.

The fully featured customer portal allows users to go beyond the simple zone of a place to talk. The ability to connect to sheets is where customers can access the aforementioned data.

The video call feature in the branded portal offers as many video touchpoints as the user would like; whether it’s used for on-boarding or standard consultations. The fact that customers can access their own data anytime allows users to put their time towards the high-value touchpoints.

On-boarding processes can also be automated by capturing customers’ information and documents in a single portal, making activation simple.

This certainly differentiates from Zoom or Skype as it has the customization option. What do you think – is it useful or flashy for the sake of flash?

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Google Messages adds features to catch up to iMessage

(TECH NEWS) Google Messages just added a bunch of features (including a web version) to make the chat service feel a lot more like iMessage. Better late than never!

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From the way people talk about iMessage, you’d think Apple has the market cornered on instant messaging–and, if you have an Android, you’re pretty much out of luck. With some new additions to Google Chat in the last week, this may no longer be the case.

According to CNET, Google added a slew of features to the RCS Messaging–typically referred to as Google Chat–app, all of which should now be available directly within your Android’s Messages app (technological limitations for older devices notwithstanding). Among these features are reactions to messages and the ability to text from your computer.

CNET notes that you’ll have to use the Google Messages app–not your phone’s built-in chat app if it’s different–in order to access these features, though they also point out that Samsung is in the process of adding the RCS Messaging suite to their proprietary messaging app as well.

You do have to jump through a couple of hoops to ensure that you’re able to use these features in Google Messages, starting with making sure you’ve updated your phone to the latest operating system version. That’s just good life advice anyway, so double-check your phone’s settings for updates before you proceed.

Obviously, you’ll also need Google Messages installed on your phone as well. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store, and it should be compatible with most devices.

Once your phone is updated and Google Messages is installed, you can set Messages as your default texting app from within settings. This process will differ slightly depending on the Android model you have, but the easiest way to do this is by opening Google Messages after installing it, and then following the on-screen prompts to set it as your default texting app.

If you’ve ignored these prompts in the past and you don’t want to redownload the app, you can search your Android’s settings for “chat” or “text” to narrow down the possibilities for where the default texting app setting is hiding.

There is one last step you’ll need to accomplish before you can actually use Google Messages’ chat features, and that’s enabling the features themselves. Google Messages will usually prompt you to upgrade to these features once you start a conversation (this typically takes the form of a message asking if you want to see when your friends are typing), but you can also navigate to Google Message settings, elect to “turn Chat on”, and follow the ensuing prompts.

From here, you’re free to use Messages, much like you would iMessage; you can react to messages by long-pressing them, check and respond to messages from Google Messages on your computer, organize and view message history, and so on. If you’re someone who feels like you missed out on the iMessage craze–or you’ve recently switched from an iPhone to an Android–Google Messages should feel right at home on your phone.

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“Mine” helps you find your digital footprint and DELETE it

(TECH NEWS) Most people value their online security, but don’t know to manage their data without abandoning the apps and websites that they love. Mine is trying to change that.

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I’m pretty concerned with keeping my personal data safe these days: I recently got a VPN and I try to use a privacy browser for everything I do on the internet. But it’s impossible to completely avoid sharing my personal information, especially if I want to watch, buy, say, or do anything at all online.

So when I first heard about Mine, a new machine-learning tool which claims to be “the future of data ownership”, it really piqued my interest. 

Using your email history, Mine identifies companies that are most likely to be storing your information based on the headers of the messages in your inbox. Its AI then independently locates the privacy policies for these companies to determine what kinds of information they’re storing, rather than looking through the actual contents of your emails.

Mine seems very mindful of the fact that they must be trustworthy in order to be successful. It’s free right now while they’re still new; Mine only got started in January. But they have plans to introduce a subscription service in the future.

To quote their FAQ: “Tech companies that are not interested in your money are interested in your data, your online behavior, or other personal assets they can monetize. In other words, if an app is free, they’re probably getting their money from somewhere else 🙂 Our goal is the opposite – we want to make data ownership accessible for all without monetizing our users’ data.”

Of course, when I saw the smiley face, I figured I’d give it a shot. Hey, if they help me get my information out of the hands of a less smiley entity, everything evens out, right?

After sifting through my emails, Mine spat out a list of the places that were allegedly storing my information. I was pretty shocked to see around 100 different companies pop up. Some of them were there for obvious reasons. Google, for example, was self-explanatory… but there were also names that I could swear I’ve never heard of.

I ended up submitting over 50 data deletion requests. The tool made it really easy to see who had my information, and streamlined the process of sending requests to these companies. With two taps, it was bombs away.

My inbox was suddenly buried in automated messages, mostly about how “support” would get back to me “as soon as possible.” I spent the next few days virtually waist deep in what was, for all intents and purposes, spam mail.

The select few that promptly, and properly, addressed my request produced mixed results: only three companies immediately confirmed that they had erased the data they were storing about me. The rest were going to make me do a bit more legwork, with each having their own rabbit holes for me to jump through before they would delete a dang thing. I won’t lie, this frustrated me, but the reasons for these extra steps are not necessarily sinister.

When I spoke to Gal Ringel, co-founder and CEO of Mine, he shared that often, companies do this because they need to be provided with more information than an email address in order to fully complete the request. He says that Mine will soon be incorporating “enriched” data erasure requests that should cut back on the need to inconvenience users with these outside processes.

In the meantime, he and his team have been working with businesses to develop policies that facilitate the process of data erasure. The majority of businesses, he says, consider it a good investment in building trust with the public. It’s also a prudent move to prevent identity theft, should others gain access to their records.

So, what’s my verdict on Mine? It really simplified the process of asking companies to delete my personal information. It is an important step on a long journey towards redefining the relationships that we have with our data, since the majority of people simply don’t have an accessible way to exercise control over it.

Mine is still in development, and I really look forward to seeing what it becomes in the future. (Hopefully, something that involves fewer emails!)

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