Turning Cheese into Soul - Newsletters - The Difference between "Meaningful" and "Interesting"

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

The other day I got a very timely question from my cyber-friend Ron, considering this week's Cheese-to-Soul series.cheese

Ron asked if I knew of a source for good real estate-related newsletter content that would be "meaningful" to his Sphere of Influence (his "SOI"). He's frustrated by the material available for purchase, most of which simply feels canned. Moreover, he's uncomfortable using much of it because it relates to topics he's NOT an expert in, such as tax planning, home staging and credit reports.

I agree. As I may have mentioned a time or two, I refuse to use canned, boilerplate material. I think it's cheesy and dorky. (My definition of Dorky is any written, self-promotional communication that is dull, dry, boring or corporate. Most content-for-purchase pretty much qualifies. )

But let's go back to Ron's quest for real estate information that would be "meaningful" to his SOI.  Here was my response to him:

"Here's the thing - your SOI doesn't have a lot of interest in real estate on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, there's not much in OUR world that would be generally meaningful to people outside of our world, with a few exceptions that come up from time to time.

You want your newsletters to be interesting to your audience, more so than "meaningful." And you know what's interesting to your SOI? Stuff from YOU.  From YOU, their friend, Ron. Maybe an observation about the real estate market, if it's interesting, or to pass on a funny story from your career. Or maybe not related to real estate at all.

I write to my SOI every month in email form, not newsletter form. I want my SOI communications to clearly come from me, not some canned product I bought off a virtual shelf. If newsletters/emails are going to be part of my marketing plan, I'm going to put some effort into them in the hopes of inspiring my friends and acquaintances to think fondly of me, rather than to just simply remember that I sell real estate (and promptly forget)."

So, to pick up from yesterday's blog post on this very topic, remember that the primary goal of your "newsletter" is not to impress, educate or overtly prospect. It's simply to remind the people you know that you exist and that you're a pretty cool guy or gal.

What topics might do that? Well, kinda like blogging, the list is endless... and once you're in the habit, it gets easier and easier to come up with ideas. Here are a few of mine:

Didja' See Me on the News?

Denver Dwellers, what's YOUR special day?

And I thought I was so smart...Mega Toolkit

I recommend that you always have a notebook with you to scribble down ideas for SOI newsletters - and I think you'll be pleased how quickly your list will grow once you get in the habit.

This seems like a good opportunity for a little SWS plug - I just released my SWS Mega-Toolkit which includes a section of several dozen real-life SOI letters and emails that might give you some ideas for your own 2010 newsletters.

Okay, so that's three blogs on the Art of the Non-Cheesy Newsletter. I think I'll move on now... next up - Greeting Cards! Or... maybe listing presentations... or maybe... heck, I dunno. Just stay tuned!

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Tanya Nouwens
RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. www.readysetsold.ca - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

So we want to write something that is interesting (today's message) and that will get people to respond (yesterday's message).  Okey dokey then, time to start thinking.  But when you say that you stay in touch with your SOI every month via an e-mail, does that mean a personal e-mail to every person?  Or a personal e-mail that you happen to send to everyone?

Also, if my SOI has not heard from me in months already...or has never really heard from me outside of the setting in which I know them (I've never sent an e-mail to my dentist for example), is it fromage to suddenly start writing to them? I think this has been a bit of a stumbling/mental block for me. -- A bit confused in Montreal.

Dec 03, 2009 11:44 PM #1
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Tanya - Sorry, I probably could have elaborated... my monthly "newsletters" - I actually call "mass-emails." So, no, they aren't personal to each person, but I write them as if they are. I use Constant  Contact to send them out.

It can be a bit awkward to get (back) in touch with people you've lost touch with (or never really communicated with at all). While we introverts tend to overthink such things, I do think it might seem odd to suddenly start being warm & cozy with your dentist, depending on the strength of your relationship. If your dentist would have no real idea of who you are if you weren't in his chair, I'd probably leave him off my list. However, that doesn't mean that a requirement for being on your distribution list is a tight friendship, but rather, does this person know who you are?

In my Savvy Prospector program, I ask agents to kick off their SOI campaign with a reconnection letter which, if done right, can open the door to future non-awkward communication. But whether or not you do that, the first attempt at communication really needs to be something you're excited about, not cringing about as you hit SEND.

And, really, what's the worst thing that can happen if you communicate with someone who doesn't appreciate it? The world won't stop turning and the fact is - you probably charmed 10 people for every person you didn't charm. Here's a blog I wrote about that issue!  http://activerain.com/blogsview/1121485/the-real-estate-numbers-game-in-reverse-did-you-impress-more-than-you-annoyed-

Dec 04, 2009 12:46 AM #2
Linda Jandura
Raleigh Cary Realty - Apex, NC
Realtor, North Carolina Buyer & Seller Specialist

Jen, now that I have the day to work on Real Estate- well after I finish putting up the Christmas decorations and while I'm doing laundry,  I'm going to try out a new template. I use IContact.  Looking forward to the next installment!.


Dec 04, 2009 01:08 AM #3
Lori Cain
eXp Realty - Tulsa, OK
Midtown Tulsa Real Estate Top Producer


I started an electronic newsletter in February 2007 when a good friend told me she didn't want to receive crap from me in the mail - she would prefer that I communicate with her electronically. What began as a 2-article newsletter has GROWN. The last person that printed it out said it was 28 pages. It really only takes me about 8 hours total to put together. I include a pretty exhaustive calendar of events (favorite part for most).

Each day as I receive e-mails about upcoming events, community information, recycling info -- whatever seems like good information to share, I save it in a folder to use at a later date. When I'm ready to put together the next month's newsletter, I open that folder and usually have plenty of info. One month, I decided to include an article about different TYPES of tomatoes instead of the usual two recipes - I had several people e-mail me or mention to me when they saw me how disappointed they were that my recent newsletter didn't have any recipes. So, now they always include recipes.

Yes, I mix in real estate info throughout - sprinkle, actually. It's more of a community newsletter - but I fear if it's too real estate heavy, people will unsubscribe.

I use Constant Contact.

Dec 04, 2009 02:02 AM #4
Tanya Nouwens
RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. www.readysetsold.ca - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

From your previous blog (link above):

I'd rather impress 10 people and risk annoying one than take the chance of some other agent getting my SOI's business because I was worried about the one...

Brilliant!  You're so right; I do tend to overthink things.  Have a great weekend. -- Tanya in Montreal


Dec 04, 2009 03:07 AM #5
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

I think he could do a local calendar of events, especially for the holiday season.  That would potentially a good piece of info many clients could sink their teeth into, rather than talking about IRS crap or the typical RE 101 canned stuff.

Dec 04, 2009 03:15 AM #6
William James Walton Sr.
WEICHERT, REALTORS® - Briotti Group - Waterbury, CT
Greater Waterbury Real Estate

I've got some good iders now, Jenn. Thanks. However, I still am not sure about how to produce it...I can write one with some interesting stuff for this time of year, but I don't want to spend alot of money (in any at all) on a template..oh, wait...I can use Microsoft Publisher, save as a pdf, and e-mail the newsletter as an attachmment, right?

Dec 04, 2009 03:45 AM #7
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

I use Constant Contact - but one of their very basic templates. I don't want it to look like a bad newsletter, but rather a fairly nicely formatted email...

Tanya - that WAS rather brilliant, wasn't it? Thanks for noticing.

Dec 04, 2009 03:48 AM #8
Alan Brown
Coldwell Banker Montrose Colorado - Montrose, CO
29 Years of Real Estate Experience .

For me my newsletter is 2 pages. The articles should be short and to the point. The second page is a list of the Sold homes in my town for the preceeding month address sold price, basic quick info, followed by a list of the current foreclosed homes for sale. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes to read it.

Some receive my newsletter by e-mail some by regular mail based on me asking them from time to time which format they would like to receive it in. I would rather they all received it in the mail it is way to easy to delete an e-mail before you even open it. The object of the game is your the person seeing your face every month and being reminded you are still selling.

I figure 3 different things happen to my newsletter. 1.There are those that delete it or trash it without ever opening it. 2.there are those that study it and look at every sold home, I even have had one guy tell me he drives by some of them every month to compare them to the houses he owns. 3. Those that look at part of it while eating a snack and take 3 minutes to scan it.

Down through the years I have had at least 10 people contact me to tell me they love receiving it in the mail every month. My goal is to have them out in the mail by the 10th of the month even if I have to work evenings or weekends to get it done. Being Consistent is key.

Dec 04, 2009 08:13 AM #9
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Hi Jennifer, I really like the pictures you have on your header. Consistency with this theme is great..I can tell a lot about you by your pictures!

Dec 04, 2009 11:57 PM #10
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Thanks, Jennifer, for helping to distinguish the difference between meaningful and interesting! Kind of helps with idea generating.

Dec 05, 2009 10:42 AM #11
Lois Kubota
Keller Williams, Walnut Creek, California, DRE#01865028 - Walnut Creek, CA

Jen, loved the whole series.  I have to get all the email addresses for my SOI.  Just a great way to contact people.  I hate sending out snail mail.  Using all the paper and postage is such a waste.

Dec 06, 2009 01:38 PM #12
Maria Marriott
Executive Properties - Roseville, CA
Realtor - DBRealEstateTeam.com

Thanks for the post...I've been thinking about having a newsletter. Not sure yet but this was helpful. All the Best ~

Dec 28, 2009 12:38 AM #13
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