Here we are again … another new year and another fresh start. For professionals in the mortgage industry there is even a bit of optimism in the air. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that existing home sales rose in December for the fifth time in the past six months, and the Mortgage Brokers Association’s (MBA) Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, and its Refinance Index, both saw an uptick.
While I wouldn’t recommend betting your house on a fast recovery, there is good reason to start smart with a 2011 e-mail marketing plan. There really is no downside: It’s inexpensive, strategic and with a bit of prep work, and doesn’t need to take much time at all. But don’t just take my word for it. Campaigner recently surveyed its users about e-mail marketing. Thirty-three percent responded that they were going to continue with their e-mail programs in 2011, and 61 percent responded that plans were underway to increase the use of e-mail in their marketing programs.
There are two things that came to mind immediately when I read the results of the survey. First, whether it’s used for branding, lead generation or networking, businesses that use e-mail in their marketing programs give it a thumbs up. Second, the majority surveyed sees the value of e-mail marketing and intends to increase its use as part of their marketing programs because of its return-on-investment (ROI).
The message here is that if you’re not using e-mail marketing, try it out. Almost 100 percent say they are going to continue or expand their e-mail marketing programs. That’s a pretty good recommendation. For those of you already using e-mail marketing periodically, ramp it up with regular e-newsletters with information that will be of interest to prospects looking for a mortgage now, considering a home purchase in the future, and even those who may think buying is out of the question because they’re not well-informed. For mortgage professionals already sending out newsletters regularly, consider incorporating some of the fun new social media and high-tech options that are making a buzz on smartphones.
Lock-in your terms with a plan
It doesn’t matter if you are new to e-mail marketing or a seasoned veteran, set or re-evaluate your objectives to make sure they are still clear and realistic. Know the purpose of your e-mail marketing program. You are setting yourself up for frustration if you don’t have goals because, there are no milestones to work against and the analytics that come with each e-mail send will mean little unless you know what you’re looking for. It’s also a good idea to create a timeline. Working to a plan is much easier than realizing that it’s been a while or worse—someone on your prospect list is working with another mortgage broker because they are more connected.
I recommend using the months as your guide. Twelve e-newsletters evenly spaced out across the calendar delivers consistency without being overwhelming for you or your prospects. NAR releases national and regional existing home sales price and volume statistics on or about the 25th of each month, and the MBA comes out weekly with a comparison and four-week comparison. Use these as a hook to reach out to your audience with an easy-to-understand analysis of what is going on in the market, nationally and locally. It’s a great way to show your knowledge and experience in the industry and your community.
You want to keep your e-newsletters topical so your prospects continue opening your messages and find a reason to forward it on to their friends. Let’s say the top third of your e-newsletter template holds your logo, contact information and your photo (consider an action photo within your region, for instance, lugging a sled in the winter or showing off your fishing trophy in the summer, but I digress). The first column underneath is your update on the industry. What can you do with the rest of the space? Here are several ideas to get you started:
►Take some of the e-newsletter real estate to highlight a new listing that matches with your audience, whether it be first-time buyers, specific to a school district, empty-nesters or those looking to downsize. If you have an ongoing relationship with real estate agents, suggest promoting their listings in return for assistance in building your opt-in e-mail list.
►People enjoy reading about where they live and the history behind buildings, parks, street names and people of interest. Share just enough to pique their interest and link to a page on your Web site with more information, photos and additional links.
►In the same vein, reach out to local service providers, vendors, retailers and small businesses within your community. People will sign up for your e-newsletter if you provide deals, discounts and specials and you will build a larger network for new leads and prospects.
►In another section, you may want to offer tips on growing the nest egg. Offer recipes like a skinny decaf caramel mochachino (you will find it several places online). Making it at home saves money, not to mention, calories.
►People love reviews and mobile is hot. Invest a little time in one new app each month and report the good, the bad or your indifference. For that matter, you can make any hobby a recurring column. If you have love for the subject, the words should come naturally.
►Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget about the holidays. When you lay out your email timeline, pencil in the public and local holidays, anniversaries and festivals. Instead of searching for the perfect graphic in the last minute, pull them all at once or at least make sure your e-mail marketing service offers good options that you can drop in when needed. You can also tie several of the ideas above into the holiday theme: Jewelry tips in February from a local merchant, parade routes in July and a turkey raffle in November. Think outside the box in December with a re-gift exchange. Someone out there must want to swap a holiday fruitcake in return for the world’s ugliest Christmas sweater!
Accrue interest on your plan
Now that you have your plan for 2011 on paper, put it up on your bulletin board or enter it into your calendar on your smartphone. Make sure you set up reminders so you’re not scurrying around at the last minute trying to keep up with the work you did. It’s also a good idea to keep a folder on your computer with links to online articles that you can share or review when putting together your own entries for your e-newsletter.
Take a few minutes each month to subscribe to newsletters from other businesses with similar customers. Great ideas for topics and graphics come from listening to others and it helps keep the pulse of your prospects.
And don’t forget to keep building and growing your opt-in e-mail lists. Set up a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account for your business and use bits of your e-newsletter to regularly update and link to your Web site. When you add your Facebook fan page, be sure to include a sign-up form that allows people to become part of your e-mail marketing subscriber list. Use any data you collect here (location, birthday, etc.) to segment your e-mail list. Keep the engagement going by sending personalized messages that may be more social in nature or have ties to relevant conversation on your fan page.
You can also use the segmented list by the date of sign up to resurrect successful e-mail marketing campaigns that have already been sent to other lists earlier this season. For a local option, set up your business on Yelp and ask friends and fans to review your service. Keep an eye on other location-based social networks. Some may come and go but most have their 15 min. of fame. So long as you’re sharing information, not just selling, these are all great places to build your brand, share your expertise and find new people who want to opt-in to your e-mail list.
As your list grows, consider adding a few of these suggestions to keep your e-newsletter fresh and inviting:
►Ask your subscribers if they want to read your e-newsletter on their computer or a mobile device. Then segment your list accordingly. Use a single column layout if sending to a mobile device. It’s easier to read.
►Give your subscribers the ability to click through on a link from their mobile device and make sure the page they are directed to is also mobile-friendly. Many content management systems offer mobile displays that turn on automatically when they detect a smartphone browser.
►Have a link at the very top of your e-newsletter that allows subscribers to "view online" if their phone doesn’t display your e-mail correctly.
►Analyze how subscribers interact with your campaigns. Check what e-newsletters each contact received, whether they opened it, and any further actions (i.e. what links they clicked on etc.). This unparalleled level of detail for each contact can help you refine topics of interest and how to segment your lists to better target based on preferences.
►It’s not for everyone but the small two-dimensional barcodes are a hot trend for 2011 and they don’t cost a penny, so why not try it and then analyze the results? Mobile users with a camera-enabled smart phone can scan the QR Code, which can be coded to do things such as display text, provide contact data or even open your Web page in the browser on a smartphone. Link it to your Facebook page, a video embedded on your site or a special free offer for using the QR Code and signing up for the e-newsletter.
Ideas for your e-newsletter are endless. But to keep the program from becoming a behemoth, periodically refer back to your objectives. If the QR Codes aren’t being used, move on with something that your e-mail reports tell you do work. With a bit of planning and review, e-mail marketing is sure to share rewards.
Melanie Attia is product marketing manager for Campaigner E-mail Marketing and is focused on managing the Campaigner marketing programs and product messaging. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]