eNewsletters – The Basics

It’s true – email newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your clients and to disseminate important information on a regular basis. They’re also very cost effective, and you’ll never wind up with a thousand of them sitting in the mail room waiting to be mailed out.

There’s just a few things to take into consideration to get the most out of them; and more importantly to avoid winding up in that dreaded virtual circular file – the spam folder.

It’s all about the list

In real estate it’s all about location, location, location. When it comes to eNews, it’s list, list, list. Resist the temptation to purchase a list; there’s no quicker way to get flagged as a spammer. Build your list from the ground up, starting with your clients. Signup forms on websites are golden, the thinking being that if they’ve requested something from your site they are least mildly interested in what you have to say. Other than the obvious “sign up for our newsletter” form, you can also collect addresses from:

  • contact forms
  • information requests
  • contest signups
  • discounts or coupon signups
  • document downloads
  • microsites

Ultimately, what you want is an “opt-in” list, which is a list full of folks who have actually indicated that they want to receive communications from you.

Use a third party service

One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is sending bulk emails from their personal email accounts. Most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) limit the number of emails you can send at one time, and will simply turn off your account if they suspect that you are sending “spam”. In addition, it’s very doubtful that these emails are CAN-SPAM compliant, which is a law passed in 2003 that sets guidelines for sending bulk emails. By using a third party service, you get lots of great tools and it will be compliant. There are quite a few services out there (Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, Emma) but our favorite is MailChimp, both in terms of price and features.

Another great thing you get from a third party is the ability to send emails as both HTML and plain text. HTML emails are those pretty ones you get with images and such (the ones that a lot of email clients will flag and ask if you want to download all the images). Plain text emails are just that – all images are removed and only the text is delivered. It’s important to send both as some recipients will not be able to receive those wonderfully pretty HTML emails, and will then miss all your hard work.

Lastly, all the reputable services have great tools to maintain your email database, generate reports (you ARE interested in whether or not people actually read your email, right?) and archiving messages.

Get them to your site

You only have so much space in an email. Sure, you could create a ridiculously long email, but that’s what your website is for, right? One of the powerful things about email newsletters is the site traffic they can generate (those of you that linked to this article from our newsletter can testify that it works! ). Google loves site traffic, so it can be a real boon for your SEO efforts, and once you get them to your site there is a real chance that visitors will poke around on other pages and see what else you have going on. Make sure your site is all gussied up (and what site couldn’t use a good gussying?) and ready for visitors.

Spam – it’s not just for breakfast anymore

Most people we know are pretty annoyed by spam and have implemented filters on their email accounts. Because of this, it’s entirely possible that your well-meaning message could get flagged and find its way into a spam folder. Sometimes it simply can’t be helped; some accounts are locked down so tight that they automatically treat any new email addresses as spam (another reason opt-in email lists are so important). But often emails get flagged because the text in the email is considered “spammy”. For example, a phrase as innocent as “call today” is considered spammy. Put that phrase and several other red flags in your message and off to the spam netherworld you go.

Last but not least…

So you’ve done all the items above but aren’t getting any kind of response? Well folks, welcome to what seems to be the most overlooked part of sending eNews – quality content. We don’t know anyone that doesn’t have an overflowing inbox, and you have just added to it. Better make it worth their while. Blatant sales pitches, self-aggrandizing messages, jargon-filled newsletters – all a waste of everyone’s time.

Here’s a quick test (painful as it might be). Before sending, take a look at your email and ask yourself how the recipients will benefit from your message.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did that?

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