Creative Ideas to Engage Leads with Real Estate Email Marketing
By Sandra Manzanares
About Inbound Marketing
Let’s talk about engaging leads: Leads convert to customers when they’re nurtured over a period of time. Most leads do not enter the pipeline ready to make a decision, so it’s your job as a real estate professional to get them to that point. Real estate email marketing, used to engage and nurture leads, can be an extremely effective tool for converting leads into clients and transactions.
Why is email so effective?
Email is one of the strongest marketing tools because it puts your messages directly in front of leads, the majority of whom prefer email as their method of communication with businesses. Furthermore, companies that use email marketing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. And, email has been proven to be 40 times more effective at getting customers than Facebook and Twitter.
However, the email inbox is precious and competitive territory: Your leads view it as their personal space, reserved for only relevant and helpful messages, and their inboxes are inundated with messages daily. The window for getting a lead to open, read, and click on your email is small, which means you must create content worth reading. Below we’ve outlined creative real estate email marketing ideas that will show you how to construct and write strong emails that will engage and nurture your leads.
Essential Elements of Engaging Emails
Before your emails can engage, you need to make sure you’re hitting all the necessary email marketing must-dos. Successful email marketers know that starting to write without goals and structure in mind makes the process much harder. Here are some focus areas for planning your emails to make sure you start communications off on the right foot:
Great Subject Lines
Subject lines are the most critical part of your email. No one will look at your wonderful email if your subject line doesn’t get them to open the message, and it’s proven that at least 35 percent of recipients open email based solely on your subject line. Spend extra time crafting a subject line that grabs readers’ attention and make it feel like opening will provide great benefits to the reader. Strong subjects lines can be:
- Timely: For special listings, open houses, and events that just can’t wait.
- Important: For high-value properties and the most essential stats your readers must know.
- Emotional: Highlighting clients you worked with whose moves changed their lives.
- Beneficial: Focusing on insider tips that make home decisions easier.
- Newsworthy: For recent community and market updates worth noting.
There are really many ways to engage with subject lines, and there are techniques for putting them together that can make your email more likely to get opened. For more information on the best content and length for your subject lines, click below.
Solid Email Structure
Every email is unique, but strong emails follow a common flow. Here are some effective email marketing elements you don’t want to miss:
Develop a Story Users Find compelling. Emotion plays a role in four of the five primary buying stages, making it a critical component of converting leads into customers. Emotion is typically evoked in consumers through storytelling. Storytelling is especially important for email marketing: Inbox competition is fierce, and consumers can easily ignore your email altogether, or unsubscribe at will. If you’re hoping to stand out, you must tell strong stories, from subject line all the way through to your body copy, calls to action, and links.
One great example is Mailchimp’s post about an email they drafted for an app announcement with very basic to-the-point language. They realized the tone wasn’t what they wanted and adjusted it with classic storytelling techniques (including “Once upon a time” and a personal tale about their CEO getting lost) that resulted in well above-average open rates, click through rates, and sales. While the goals of the email did not change, simple changes to the story made a huge difference in engagement.
Reuse this method with your real estate emails by writing out the goals of your email and the basic information you’d like to include. Reread your email and edit to make the tone, story, and pitch relatable and evocative — because if your own email wouldn’t capture your attention, it certainly won’t do that for your reader. Note that copy that produces feelings of happiness can increase sales, where humor and shock can capture leads’ attention, so play around with emotional triggers and see which works best for your brand. Read our Academy post on emotional storytelling and to learn how this can yield real business benefits.
Offer a value proposition (and actual deliver on it). At their core, your emails should provide value to your reader and you should explicitly tell them what the value is. This doesn’t necessarily have to go at the beginning, but it does have to appear somewhere — if not, why should your readers care? It’s wise to present some semblance of this in your subject line and then further explain it in your body copy.
Smartly use a call to action (CTA). The best way to get your reader to do what you want? Ask. This is a simple, but often forgotten element that can impact your clicks and conversions. Use a clear statement with an action verb, and use in conjunction with colorful buttons, prominent links, and images to attract clicks.
Include striking visuals. Not every email needs to have visuals, but when considering ways to engage leads, you’re wise to include imagery, as it can drastically increase engagement with your content. Find images that support and further your messaging, whether through banners, large or small photos, blog post images you repurpose, or screenshots of infographics, social posts, checklists, and videos you’ve created.
Use a relatable brand voice. Brand voice is tricky because you have to fuse your authentic personal self with your professional self in a way that will be appealing to your target audience. If you’re a funny guy, but your clients tend to be serious luxury clients, or if you’re attempting to market to Millennials with super-professional jargon, you’re not going to find much success in your communication efforts. Successful agents are able to find a happy medium, where they can build a voice that’s comfortable, while also delivering something pleasing to their target audience. A great example of this is top producer Fast Agent, who mixes popular culture references and art with community insights.
Start by writing out 3–5 characteristics that define your personality and voice. Then, write out the defining characteristics of your target audience. Look at each side-by-side, and find out where they intersect; that’s your brand voice.
Once you understand who you’re speaking to, make sure you’re using language, references, and content they would find relevant and relatable. Your email voice should sound similar to how you’d talk to your clients in person (with the necessary grammatical fixes as necessary) and should resonate with them. Every email campaign should feel like the start of a conversation that your reader will want to respond to.
Personalize communications for leads. Personalizing email improves click-through rates by 14%, and that means going beyond just using a person’s name. Make emails feel extra personal by segmenting your list and customizing communications to focus on the things your lead has already shown interest in.
Use an eye-catching template. Don’t underestimate the ability of email design to increase engagement. Consumers prefer clean layouts, clearly readable fonts, and complementary color schemes. Additionally, over 53% of email opens happen on a mobile device, making mobile-friendly templates critical to sustaining users’ attention. Your email template design should be responsive so readers can view it on any device seamlessly. See some of the top newsletter templates you can use to build your email designs.
Include interactive elements. Bonus elements like links that allow users to easily forward emails to a friend can help spread your email marketing to a wider audience. Social share buttons that request users click to share email content on various social media have increased click through rates by 158%.
The great part of email is its ability to be of-the-moment. If a listing just went on the market, you don’t have to wait days for your email to be delivered to leads, so use immediacy to your advantage to get leads engaged. This means delivering listing information quickly, but it also applies to follow-ups, autoresponders, and drip campaigns that should come as soon as possible after your lead has engaged with you.
Part of engaging leads with email marketing is understanding the delicate balance of staying top-of-mind while not harassing your audience and getting the dreaded unsubscribe (use the same philosophy here as you would normally touch base with leads). Once you’ve hit a stride, try sending select messages out of your ordinary send routine to see if that helps to increase engagement.
Creative Content to Include in Real Estate Emails
Now that you have a great email structure, it’s time to engage your leads. Above we talked about the importance of storytelling, and now we introduce creative real estate marketing ideas for what to write about in your emails, whether they’re personal communications, transactional messages, or newsletter sends:
Developing Strong Personal Emails for Leads
There are many reasons you’d send a personal email to a lead, many of which will be based on the lead expressing a particular interest in your services or content. But, don’t assume that just because a person expressed interest that they’re automatically going to love everything you send. You’ll still have to deliver a compelling email that will make engaging worth their time. Use these email marketing ideas to create strong personal communications:
Every new lead will get one, and while the content will vary, the goal should not. If the lead is well qualified and an in-person meeting or phone meeting is in order, make a personal connection. Instead of saying “Nice to meet you” or attempting to cut to the chase with “Are you interested in buying?”, you should hit a personal chord by mentioning things your lead has expressed an interest in.
You’ll have clues around you, like the ebook they downloaded, or some things they mentioned at a local event. Play on that with, “Here’s 1 secret home buying tip I only share with my clients” or “Sarah, your kids might really enjoy these family friendly parks.” Build out the story in your email and connect it to your work. You might mention how you can help leads determine if now is the right time to buy or sell, and that you’d love to hear more about their needs. If they’re unresponsive, try direct but fun subject lines like “Coffee on me! What time works for you?”
You’ve had a few discussions and confirmed that your lead is well qualified, and you’re eager to set up an appointment. Keep in mind that you may be amongst other agents in consideration, so a generic “Can we set up a time to chat?” may get lost in the shuffle. Think about why meeting in person is so important, and convey that eagerness explicitly to them, whether that’s giving them some newly printed materials in person, treating them to the best ice cream in town, or inviting them to a listing you’ll be photographing later in the week. If you’re excited to meet your lead, your email should convey that.
Open House Follow-ups
Following up after an open house is critical, as it allows you to continue conversations you started face to face. This can also lead to drip marketing campaigns, based on how hot or cold the lead is. Because you’ve already made a great first impression, change your approach to appeal to your leads’ story. Mention what you remember from your conversation, ask how they enjoyed the day and the materials you provided, and then see if they’d like to see more of that property or others. A great way to start the intro? Mention a quirky detail from your conversation right in the subject line.
Your leads’ communication has started to wane a bit, and you’re getting worried. This could happen for a variety of reasons, so try not to impose unnecessary guilt on a lead who may just be busy. Break the ice with fun “Still interested?” emails. Lots of e-commerce sites will use this technique to get consumers back to their carts or rouse users who haven’t signed into an app in a while. Those same principles can be used to re-engage your leads who are getting cold. Ask polite and light-hearted questions to follow-up on your last conversation (“Still dreaming about the modern bungalow?”), offer new free downloadable resources (“The best things in life are free”), or attempt to set up another in-person meeting to address any questions (“It’s been far too long. How are things?”).
As website visitors perform saved searches on your site, it’s a good practice to follow up via email with some targeted content that’s related to their interests, along with a personal message to see if any properties are particularly attractive. Be direct in these emails: Let your lead know you saw their recent saved search (e.g. “Saw your Saved Search: Which condos I expect to move quickly.). Then, provide a list of features and posts with information about these property types, and mention upcoming events, like open houses, tours, and informational talks you’ll be giving in the area.
Developing Creative Announcements and Special Marketing Emails
Announcements are less direct than personal emails, but more personal than newsletters. Fill these types of email blasts with lots of descriptive language that showcases your humor, knowledge, or access.
Your newly listed offerings deserve attention, but sending the same old “Just Listed + Week’s Date” subject line may start to get old and lose the engagement you’d hoped for. For each unique “just listed” blast, find phrases you can use to describe properties right in the subject line (think “Ready to Buy: Modern Stunner Overlooking the Skyline”), prominent street names or landmarks leads would immediately recognize, or lead with the listing’s amazing specifications. In the email, always include the shots of the most impressive angles and link to your listing assets, like the listing page on your real estate website, or Pinterest boards. Read our Academy post to learn more about how to market your real estate listings with email marketing.
Open Houses Invites
Open houses require a serious investment of both time and resources, making marketing for them critical. Luckily, your email list likely contains a host of leads who’d like to attend and who you can market to for free. First, while you should include CTAs, buttons, and links to your open house details in multiple places, your invites should get their own standalone emails. The subject line should drive home how special this event is: Phrases like “Special Event,” “Personal Invite,” and “First Open House for 123 Spring Street” (particularly striking if the listing is well-known) can grab leads’ attention. In your body copy, provide a mix of images, descriptions, and the details leads would need to attend. Don’t forget a prominent CTA button that sends users to a landing page where they can sign up.
While just sold listings may not seem like a direct generation tool, they’re an opportunity to showcase your ability as an agent. It’s best to mention clearly in both your subject line and body copy that you’ve just completed a sale. To engage leads and connect your just sold listing to a larger story, include quotes from the sellers. If marketing to seller leads, focus on getting them to view your services or about page. If marketing to buyers, outline area comps and develop a sense of urgency with a CTA like “How can I help you?”
You’ll likely have many leads in your CRM who are not yet subscribed, and if you’re hoping to add them to your handy nurturing email newsletter, a dedicated campaign can do the job. The important thing here is leveraging social proof (how many subscribers you have, positive things folks have to say about it) and how subscribing will benefit them (weekly home buying advice, first-access to priority community listings, etc.). A simple email with “10 ways my newsletter helped former clients” can go a long way to getting users excited. A great selling point is also giving away a free download, like an ebook, and requesting they sign up for your newsletter in exchange for the resource. Another great tactic: Include a CTA in your regular email signature encouraging new leads to sign up for your newsletter.
Not every email marketing tactic has to be directly related to getting the sale. Holidays allow you to connect with leads and build a relationship beyond business. Take this time to get creative with your marketing — photoshopped images, personal family photos, fun GIFs — or simply a short note to say “happy holidays” can leave a lasting impression. If you want to keep leads engaged further, leverage your email marketing to showcase local holiday events, address issues facing families during holiday times, or offer infographics related to the holiday.
Making Transactional & Operational Emails Engaging
When someone takes an action on your website, transactional emails serve as an immediate response. Many marketers leave these fairly plain, thinking leads won’t care about them. By adding personality and humor to your transactional emails, you’ll be one step closer to impressing your reader and converting them into a client.
If a lead takes the effort to actively opt in to your newsletter, they definitely deserve immediate engagement. You have only a short time to turn someone from a subscriber into an engaged lead, so take this opportunity to craft a friendly welcome message that outlines who you are, how you can help them, and what your newsletter will offer them. Your goal should be to get them to your valuable content, so include some of your top helpful posts, or perhaps an interactive survey that lets your leads segment themselves by the types of communications they’d like to receive (e.g. buyer, seller, first-time buyer, second-property, etc.).
Users who fill out lead capture forms should get a personal touch from you within minutes, but in instances where you’re away from your email or phone, be sure to set up auto-response emails that deliver a friendly hello from you. Tell your lead you appreciate their getting in touch and that you’ll reach out as soon as you’re available. Start getting more information from them by asking questions about their interests, if they’d like to preview a specific listing, or what times they’re available (these can be customized based on the page where the lead capture form was filled out as well). Include a CTA to a free buyer’s or seller’s guide they can download so you’ll have something to discuss when you have a conversation.
Most download email notifications include a “thank you” and offer a link to the document. But great email notifications of this type go a step further by asking for feedback, a forward, a social share, or linking to additional resources on your real estate website. Use a humorous, friendly tone when delivering these emails to make them more interesting than generic delivery emails.
Open House Sign-Up Confirmations
Leads who sign up for an open house aren’t guaranteed to attend, so it’s important to walk them through the process. The main goal here is getting them to the property for an in-person viewing, so continue the sell by including details, directions, a map, your personal cell number in case they get lost, and any advance materials about the property. You should follow up with a reminder (personally) the day before the showing to confirm you’ll see them there.
Out of Office
Being away for an extended period can cause stress, and many agents struggle with being unavailable while still nurturing leads. Because many leads and clients will reach out via email, it’s important to use creative email marketing tactics to keep leads engaged even during these schedule gaps.
Thesa Chambers, Principal Broker of Alpine Real Estate sends out a great out of office reply that nurtures leads while still keeping her from being disturbed. She starts off by saying that she’s away, but draws the reader in by saying she’s, “recharging to better serve you.” This narrative turn makes leads think, “her vacation is beneficial to me” rather than seeing it as an inconvenience. She follows by vouching for her colleagues who will provide assistance in her absence, and delivers their contact information before saying “Thanks for understanding” and outlining when she’ll touch base.
Why does this work? Successful real estate agents and brokers understand that every touch point with a lead is another building block in your relationship, and messages that feel generic can be an immediate turn-off. This example is one that exemplifies how turning an automated response into a personal connection can further trust with a client.
Nurturing Drip Campaigns
Staying top-of-mind with email marketing means being a valuable resource for your leads when it matters most. Automated drip campaigns allow you to respond to the needs of your leads consistently and keep them opening your emails and visiting your website, with the ultimate goal of getting them to move efficiently through the sales funnel. Here are some examples of creative real estate marketing ideas for your drip emails:
- Appeal to buyers’ needs for information. They likely want to know the basics of securing financing, the right amount to set aside for a down payment, and the benefits of working with you. A buyer’s guide can help start the education process, so use your email to offer a free one they can download.
- Use the “This is what you can afford” approach. Buyers have many wants and needs, so put things into a perspective they can understand. Give them the real deal about market offerings and how to negotiate on the things that matter (and stop focusing on things like paint colors).
- Let them see what your past clients think. Testimonials are one of the most powerful devices you can offer leads still in the consideration stage. Lead with the positive, using phrases like “10 nice things my clients say about me.”
- The check-in. A crucial piece of the drip campaign, that specifically asks your leads if they like the content you’re sending. This reminds your lead that your email communications are about the conversation and solving their problem, not just marketing yourself.
- Invite your lead to join your newsletter to receive the inside scoop on your market.
- Buyers want to know what the housing landscape is like where they’re looking. Offer a market analysis with the top 10 trends they should pay attention to, and link to the full report on your website.
- Many leads put an emphasis on local schools. Discuss the area’s best education opportunities and the listings in close proximity to schools.
- Take the lead teaching your recipients the ins and outs of negotiating, and explain to them some of your expert tips and tricks (and links to supporting data) so they’ll feel confident down the line trusting your expertise.
- Check in personally at the end of the drip campaign to see what your leads found most useful, how they’re feeling about the search, and what might be blocking their progress.
- A seller’s guide that outlines the benefits of working with an agent can help users see why your experience and knowledge would be an asset. Pitch a subject line like, “Before you embark on home selling, make sure you understand these rules.”
- Market reports and details are always important to seller leads, but adding in your own perspective can help them decipher what’s important. Highlight reports and use your email to itemize the most critical information that could impact them. Then, appeal to the issues that relate to their property (e.g. “[Stats] How Your Renovated Kitchen Translates to Dollars.”)
- Offer a sneak peek of past marketing plans (outlines, screenshots, and links included) that proved fruitful, and outline how it brought success by showing the final sales figures.
- Testimonials go a long way, so showcase great seller stories and highlight feedback from your best clients.
- Advise your seller to get on your weekly or bi-weekly newsletter. Offer your pitch with phrasing like, “Expert tips my past clients have used that sold their home quickly.”
- Use photography from previously staged homes, diagram what made the staging successful, and then pitch how your approach to staging can help increase the sale price.
- Don’t forget the check-in. Lose some of the marketing talk and ask your lead for feedback on your content, and what else they need assistance with.
You can also initiate subject-specific drips if a lead takes action on your real estate website. If, for instance, they download a staging document, you can continue nurturing that lead with home selling tips, staging solutions, and more they’d find valuable. If they’ve attended a talk you hosted on saving for your first home, you can follow with specific financial resources. Here, relevancy and timeliness are key to proving to your lead you’re listening and delivering on their needs.
Read Seal the Deal: Using Content to Nurture Real Estate Leads for more creative email marketing tips.
Every email list has quiet subscribers: folks who don’t open your emails for months at a time. Over time, this lack of participation can skew your email metrics, as well as leave a bunch of potential leads un-nurtured.
Segment folks who haven’t opened your email in recent months, and send them a series of drips, only this time focus on asking them if they’d still like to be subscribed. Perhaps message one says, “Are you still in the market?” while another may say, “Are you enjoying the content I’m sending you?” Then escalate messages to focus on how you’ve noticed they haven’t opened recent messages and ask if it’s because the content isn’t relevant or if they’ve changed their buying or selling plan. If you find that certain leads aren’t even opening these, it may be time to think about purging them from your list.
Today’s clients could be tomorrow’s leads and referrals, which is why engagement shouldn’t end after you’ve helped a client buy or sell. Consider ways to keep the conversation going, albeit at longer intervals than your lead drips, so you can remain relevant to them over time and secure business with them or their network in the future. Topics may include:
- Housing maintenance tips so they can take steps to protect their investment
- Renovations that can help increase their home’s value and a list of trusted vendors in the area
- Notes or cards to celebrate move anniversaries at 1-month, 6-month, and yearly intervals
- Asking for feedback on your services, or if they’d write a review or do a testimonial for your website
Writing Great Newsletters
Newsletters can be effective marketing tools for connecting with leads, but work best when you thoughtfully approach the topics. When thinking about constructing newsletters, your approach matters in both format and content:
There are many creative formats that work for newsletter emails, including long paragraph letter styles, a series of short descriptive paragraphs highlighting included topics, simple title lists with links, images used as the primary focus and images used as thumbnail previews, or short descriptions with CTA buttons. To determine the style that is best for you, try a few different formats that work well for your content and writing style, and then listen to what your audience tells you with their engagement behavior. Your real estate website analytics can also provide hints: Readers who spend a long time on your site viewing your 1,000+ word articles will likely also enjoy long paragraphs and introductions to articles, while low time-on-site stats and high bounce rates mean you should probably keep your email content short and sweet.
Newsletters are nothing without great content, so make sure your real estate website and emails are packed with content that’s relevant to your leads’ needs. Here are some email marketing tips for topics that will help keep leads interested:
- Content from your real estate website. Blog posts that appear on your real estate website, like how-to posts, educational guides, business updates, market discussions, and community business reviews are all fair game. The important thing here will be highlighting the greatest takeaway or benefit the reader will gain.
- Curated content. Not all content has to be original: Repurpose stories and articles from other sites, including housing and market reports, financial advice from reputable sources, and use your email body to put your own spin on it. Better yet, ask your leads their opinions on the topic.
- Local content. Make your new buyer lead feel like a local by sharing interesting community news, business reviews, properties, great local events, and niche group meet-ups.
- Insider tips for buyers and sellers. Everyone loves to feel “in the know.” You likely know the perennial dos and don’ts, and sending emails with this must-know information will start building that trust early.
- Case studies. While testimonials can work well for hot leads who are working their way through the sales funnel, case studies are great pieces of content for newsletters. Instead of putting the focus on your business, focus on your client’s needs, how they approached home search challenges, and their notable takeaways for making it less stressful.
Measure the Business Benefits of Your Creative Email Marketing
A look at your analytics will help you measure whether your email marketing is engaging leads into clients and fueling your bottom line. It’s important to monitor this data at the end of each month and compare it to your real estate goals.
Test Specific Elements
You won’t know if one idea works better than another unless you test different formats. Break your list in half and send one email format to one group and another to the second group and measure engagement, or scale changes over time (like adding in new features) and see if your open and click rates increase or decline.
Particularly when you’re experimenting with a more casual personality in your email language, it’s important you use your email marketing host to determine how your emails are performing. If you notice a sharp decline in opens or clicks with certain emails, it’s time to adjust.
Additionally, your emails have goals, like getting feedback from a client, getting someone to sign up for an open house, or to visit an article on your website, etc. If your email doesn’t assist in these conversions, you’ll need to test different types of emails to see which might work better to achieve your goals.
Determine Email Marketing ROI
Your real estate email marketing analytics can be broken down into two main categories you should monitor:
- Open rates
- Click-through rates
- Visits to your real estate website from emails
- Average time on site of those sessions
- Unsubscribe rates from your list
- Lead volume
- Ratio of active, hot leads to cold leads
- Cost per lead
- Lead-to-client conversion rate
- Time to close
- Transactions Closed
Review the data in each of these categories to see if you’re at pace to reach your goals for the year, and adjust your email marketing with new creative ideas accordingly.
What strategies do you find successful for nurturing and engaging leads with your real estate email marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Published on June 5, 2015
Written by Sandra Manzanares
Writer, editor, and marketing manager with a passion for helping brands enhance their content marketing strategy. I'm a firm believer that creative storytelling is an essential part of the way we communicate. Constantly striving to fill my head with as much creative and analytical information as possible.