Most agents understand the benefits of sharing content on social media and having an engaging or ‘sticky’ website to attract and convert visitors. But for many firms, ‘push notifications’, delivered as text messages, email campaigns, e-newsletters and digital magazines, remain primary forms of engagement with prospective clients.
Companies must ensure that they use the appropriate channels to give the recipient what they want. Nobody likes a cold call so it shouldn’t be acceptable to do it digitally.
“The key is to first fully understand your client’s touch points, where they go for information in the property buying and selling process,” said Strutt & Parker’s Head of Digital, Kevin Powell. “This information can then be used to create a first class communications strategy which will deliver interesting and useful content to these points, whether mobile, desktop, social media or email.”
With the evolution of the managed email inbox and increasing control over incoming content via social media, “the days of omni-channel ‘spray and pray’ digital marketing are long gone” says Kevin. “Companies must ensure they are using the appropriate channels, whether email, SMS or social media, to give the recipient what they want. Nobody likes a cold call, so it shouldn’t be acceptable to do it digitally.”
While ‘oldies’ may bemoan the demise of traditional marketing techniques, the reality is that digital methods are quicker, streamlined and affordable, with results that can be easily tracked. Sophie Brooks, Marketing and Communications Manager at Waterfords, said, “Whether looking for a property to buy, or choosing an estate agent to sell their home, digital marketing allows us to not only reach a bigger buying audience for our vendors and investors but track the success of our campaigns and then tailor our messages to those that are of most interest to them.”
Digital marketing allows us to reach a bigger audience, track the campaign success and tailor our messages accordingly. Sophie Brooks, Waterfords.
The personal touch
Personalised marketing is the most effective way of showing your customers that you care about them and their requirements.
Househunters dislike generic texts or emails of properties available to rent or buy, but they do want to hear about homes that meet their specific search criteria – size, area/postcode and price range.
“This information can then be used to target them with relevant properties – making the experience very personal,” explained Clare Moorhouse, Marketing Manager at Property Frontiers.
“We use all the digital communication tools available to provide marketing that is more relevant to those who are looking to invest in property,” she added.
Using an appropriate IT system that can support this level of personal service in a variety of ways to suit different clients can be key to “building a relationship and communicating effectively” with them, according to Michelle Antoni of Paramount.
“Looking at how we communicate with existing applicants, we find that many of our people searching for property work at desks in large open plan offices and do not want to discuss personal finances or situations in front of their colleagues,” said Antoni. “Some make a point of telling us not to contact them by phone at all during the working day for this reason and opt to communicate with us via email and text.”
SMS communication platform
The widespread mobile phone ownership presents agents with plenty of marketing opportunities when it comes to mobile telecommunications. Research, on behalf of Nokia, found that the average person checks their mobile phone every six and a half minutes, or 150 times a day, proving that it is the gadget that we’d feel lost without.
In between, phones are used to check the internet and read emails, make calls and send and receive texts.
SMS in particular is now widely considered to be the most direct form of communicating on a one to one level, with BriefYourMarket reporting that text messages typically have an open rate of 97 to 98 per cent, with 75 per cent of these messages being read within four minutes of receiving them – trumping the open rates of all other channels.
Sophie Habgood, Residential Marketing Manager for Quintain, a major property developer, said, “Digital is highly trackable, enabling us to monitor success. We receive good responses from digital campaigns with spikes in enquiry levels clearly evident. It allows us to direct people through to the website where they can find more information on a certain development and crucially, digital platforms can be updated quickly which is essential as availability changes.”
Research by Ofcom shows that people now prefer to text than make a phone call, making text messaging more effective than social media to send out confirmation of a viewing, or a new property alert with a link to the house on the mobile website, as it will not get lost in a ‘social’ news feed packed with other posts.
Habgood added, “We find SMS marketing particularly effective due to its low cost, high click through rate when used with a pre-qualified and personalised contact list, giving the recipient a greater sense of immediacy.”
While SMS is limited in characters, emails are affordable and easy to send – the ideal medium to link to other content and simple to design using different fonts, styles and sizes to highlight particular sections of texts; with images, illustrations, videos, sound and floor plans.
Email subject lines are key – the first thing the reader sees and they play a large role in winning their further attention. Guy Hanson, Return Path
But despite the appearance of instantaneous simplicity, the actual process of having the message you intend to send land safely in a recipient’s inbox, rather than spam, is complex, according to Guy Hanson, Senior Director at Return Path. This complexity only increases when you consider the variables associated with distributing emails simultaneously to large groups.
However, a few simple steps will help improve your email deliverability, as Hanson explained, “Sending emails from a dedicated IP address, keeping track of your Sender Score, which works in much the same way as a credit score, though in this instance it’s email providers and spam filters rather than mortgage providers and money lenders considering how trustworthy you are, and designing your emails so that they can be easily viewed and read on a range of devices will all help with this.”
Hanson says subject lines, like newspaper headlines or property descriptions, are key; “They’re the first thing the reader sees and will play a large role in winning their further attention.”
A recent Return Path study of 9 million email messages found that a subject line featuring 91-100 characters in length were the best-performing emails, with a 15.1 per cent read rate, while the more common length of 40-49 characters corresponded with the lowest average read rates in the sample.
“What was most clear was that one size is not necessarily going to fit all and that email marketers should constantly test subject lines and review results, rather than depending on established ideas of best practice,” Hanson added. “It’s important to track the results of each campaign and to segment your recipient list based on subscriber engagement – learning about your subscriber activities can help you make smarter decisions and deliver a better customer experience.”
E-newsletters and digital magazines
Digital magazines and e-newsletters, often featuring articles on the local housing market conditions, forthcoming events, and local news, which can be sent by text or email among other channels, provide agents with a further means of enhancing their brand and effectively engaging with prospective customers and existing clients.
As people generally only move home every few years, e-newsletters are “an ideal way of staying relevant to a customer”, according to Suzanna Mavity of Brief Your Market, as it helps an agent find a way of ‘striking a balance’ and being a ‘part of their lives’ without being pushy.
“BriefYourMarket.com works well because you can see the interest levels for each article and track the number of individuals reading it,” she explained. “If they have clicked on an article called ‘Looking To Sell? Your Top 10 Tips’ – you have a good indication that they could be considering selling. This restarts communication.”
Mark Burgess, Founder of Iceberg Digital, which helps agents create their own property and lifestyle magazines in digital and printed format, agrees that winning instructions is the name of the game, believing that e-newsletters and digital magazines can help a company appear as “the most professional agent in the town.”
“The digital and indeed printed magazines that agents make through us help them in terms of their profile in much the same way as the ‘flashy office,’ he explained.
Good quality digital customer magazines are not done to create a ‘great read’, says Mark, “but instead as something that can be shown pre-valuation via email and on the valuation itself and then post valuation, all in very subtle ways that leave the vendor feeling that your company is a much more professional business having seen your own magazine with someone like David Beckham on the front cover.”
“Digital magazines are all about a wider marketing strategy as having a magazine is not going to transform your business on its own but it can help in a number of other marketing activities,” he concluded.
An opportunity not to be missed Today, most people regularly interact with digital, so whether opting for text messaging, emails, online magazines or e-newsletters, if not all of them, as part of a wider marketing mix, is an opportunity not to be missed!
Strutt & Parker www.struttandparker.com
Property Frontiers www.propertyfrontiers.com
Iceberg Digital www.iceberg-digital.co.uk
Return Path www.returnpath.com