E-mail marketing: Are you using or abusing it?

Real Estate Agent with Na Pali Properties, Inc.

Last week, I decided to do a little experiment. I started watching my inbox more closely. Actually, I should say I started watching my "spam" folder. It started when I opened my inbox first thing in the morning and noticed that messages were pouring in repeatedly from the same company.

I randomly picked three of the senders and tracked how often they contacted me. Keep in mind, these were e-mail lists I have never opted in to. So, right off the bat these marketers were contacting me blindly and hoping that I'd "bite at their bait." Needless to say, they weren't successful.

Too many too often.

The first company I watched, starting sending messages at 2:10am. Then, they sent a message every 25 - 40 minutes for the next two hours. After that, a few more arrived about an hour apart until 8:25am. For approximately six hours, I received messages asking me to sign up for their credit card and that was just on Monday. On Tuesday, they started up again. This time they started a little later, 3:25am. Again every 25 minutes another message came through until approximately 5:30am.

Remember, this was a credit card I never inquired or cared about. Every day that followed throughout the week, there were inevitably more messages from them. While they were fewer in number, they were still coming. Didn't they get the idea that I wasn't interested?

Basically the same scenario happened with the other 2 companies I targeted. One insisted my "candidacy had been approved" for their prestigious business directory. However, I never applied for their directory, never filled out a form, never asked to hear from them. Each day, they sent me 1/2 dozen messages between 4:30 and 11:00am. A few more would make their way into my spam folder throughout the day and the process repeated daily.

Messages Targeted to the Wrong Audience at the Wrong Time

Finally, the third company started out with a bang like the others. But get this, they sent me messages 1) about coffee (and I don't drink coffee) and 2) they talked about "turning up the holiday cheer this holiday season." Excuse me, but last I checked, the holidays were over or didn't anyone tell them that?

Not included among the three companies I watched, were the ongoing messages about gym memberships, LASIK, Viagara, auto insurance, home warranties, electronic cigarettes, credit checks and an endless list of others. I'm sure, much to your chagrin, you've seen them in your inbox as well.

What's the best practice for sending e-mail? During a recent Facebook event, branding specialist Annemarie Cross asked me a similar question. My reply was that it depends on not only who you're e-mailing, but what you're sending them. I send out my real estate marketing newsletter every quarter. That's right - every quarter, not every week or even every month. I have discovered that these days everyone is feeling barraged with e-mails - even the ones they've asked for. Therefore, they're not only more selective about which lists they opt in to, but just how often they receive messages. The guideline I use is to send messages when you have something of value to share - value being the keyword here.

You definitely don't want to abuse e-mail like the culprits I outlined above. I mean really, is there any reason to send an e-mail out every 25 minutes to the same person - especially when they didn't opt in? Even when they have opted in, you risk a high opt out rate when your messages show up ad nauseum.

There's a delicate balance between using and abusing e-mail as a marketing tool. Don't be like the marketers I highlighted above (i.e. sending not only unsolicited e-mails, but far too many of them). Instead, show integrity in your marketing. Provide your readers with information that's beneficial to them. When you or your copywriter are writing your messages, include content that piques readers' interest and makes them feel your message was worth receiving.

Not only will you build credibility, you'll gain a reputation as an expert they admire and trust. And, they'll continue to welcome your e-mail messages when they arrive in their inbox.


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Chirag Shah
Gateway Realty Corp of N.Y. - Mamaroneck, NY
Chirag Shah

Useful information, many thanks to the author. It is puzzling to me now, but in general, the usefulness and importance is overwhelming. Very much thanks again and best of luck!

Jan 25, 2011 05:10 AM #1
Gary & Melynda Wolter (CRS) 480-269-1164
Revelation Real Estate - Mesa, AZ
Reliable, Premier Personal Service since 2001

Very right. It's too easy to delete messages if they get too annoying/too often/not useful. Strive for less often & highly informative material.

Have a great week!

Jan 25, 2011 05:13 AM #2
Betty Knowles
Southwest Missouri Realty - www.teamknowles.com - Springfield, MO
TeamKnowles REALTORS® - Springfield MO Real Estate

Debra, unfortunately one man's drip campaign is another man's spam... I agree it should be targeted and not too frequent.

Jan 25, 2011 05:14 AM #3
Chris Smith
Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage - New Tecumseth, ON
South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta

Debra, I learned a lesson while programming entry screens.  If people are inundated with a message, it becomes background haze and ignored.

Jan 25, 2011 05:16 AM #4
Myhang Gibson
Myhang Gibson (Premiere Mortgage Centre) - Oakville, ON
Oakville Mortgage Broker

Great points Debra! Some of the courses I've taken had stressed the importance of staying on top of mind, and therefore, encouraged weekly newsletters. I agree that unsolicited emails are often annoying, that is why I only send my newsletters to my own database to people I know and have had contact with. While I feel that there is a fine line to "over-emailing," I have tested out different options and for me, weekly newsletters have generated many opportunities so I will continue with that for now.

Jan 25, 2011 05:19 AM #5
Chris Mayr
D3 Interactive Marketing - Orlando, FL


Unfortunately, these campaigns work or these guys would quit doing it.  But a good rule of thumb is if you are buying lists, make them highly targeted, send during normal business hours for your product and stop sending the message after it has gone out 3 times.

Chris Mayr

Jan 25, 2011 05:20 AM #6
Susanne Brown
RE/MAX Realty 9 - Howell, NJ
I work hard to make real estate dreams come true!

Drip campaigns do work...but it looks like you were "poured" on!  Everyone is busy and receiving too many emails from one sender with little pertinent content is a waste of time for everyone.

Thanks for the reminder to make sure what we send is timely and worth reading!

Jan 25, 2011 05:32 AM #8
Debra A. Jason
Na Pali Properties, Inc. - Hanalei, HI
Kauai Realtor - Kauai Homes For Sale, Kapaa to Haena

Wow, thank you all for your great comments.

@Gary & Melynda, I think we all know when to hit that delete button on many of these messages. Don't even need to open the message.

@Myhang, yes it is important to stay top of mind. And, when your clients/prospects have opted in and know in advance that they're getting a weekly communication from you then it works really well. I have a weekly scoop I send clients, but they only get it when they sign up for it. They all tell me they love receiving those weekly updates. Other folks sign up for the quarterly newsletter and they really appreciate the info. I include in that publication. If I send an email more often than that, there's usually a good reason for it and it's well-accepted.

@Chris I think what you're saying might be only too true. If it didn't work, those companies wouldn't do it, but they do it way TOO often. Used to be we were inundated with direct mail in our "snail" mail boxes, but now we're getting it in our e-mail inboxes.

Look forward to your continued comments everyone. Have a great day.

Debra Jason, Na Pali Properties, Inc

P.S. I'm also a professional copywriter. The Write Direction can be found at http://writedirection.com

Jan 25, 2011 05:33 AM #9
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Debra A. Jason

Kauai Realtor - Kauai Homes For Sale, Kapaa to Haena
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