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“Let’s keep in touch” is the kind of phrase we all say when we actually have no intention of keeping in touch. We say we’ll “keep in touch” to those we see at the high school reunion; we assure our most irritating relatives that we’ll “keep in touch” each holiday season, and then we somehow  lose their phone numbers.

One area in which we should say and mean “keep in touch” is in real estate sales. Communication is the lifeline through which we maintain the momentum of the sales process. It can mean the difference between an encouraging sales center visit that results in a signed contract, and a visit that goes nowhere fast. And in today’s digital age, email is a critical component of any savvy sales communication strategy.

Most of us have been using email so long as part of the real estate sales process that it’s almost become second nature. Let’s take a look at four common categories of email marketing, and in doing so, hopefully it will help us remember why email marketing is so critically important, and maybe help us discover a few new ways to try the same old tricks.

1. The pricing and/or features update: This is probably the most common email sent out to prospects – a simple update on new pricing offers or an announcement of new features/floorplans available in a community. The key with this category of email is to present enough information in a clear way as to drive some critical “call to action,” usually either a visit to the sales center to learn more, or a click-through to the community website for further details.  It’s also important to develop a strategy concerning what information is released, and when. Too many emails will earn your notes a spot on the spam filter list; too few and the buyer may have already sought out another community. The goal is balance.

2. The upcoming event notice: These emails are pretty straightforward, but don’t forget that events at your community aren’t the only events taking place in your area. A local art festival, a holiday parade, a block party-these and more are all good reasons to send out an email to prospects. Not only do they provide valuable information, but they also help sell the neighborhood and surrounding community to buyers along with the features and advantages of your homes.

3. The content reminder: Anytime new information is available on the community website, it’s an excuse to send an email and stay in touch. This should act as a key motivator for the marketing team to maintain an active and dynamic site that is frequently updated with new pictures and video. The rise of YouTube, Flickr and other video/photo sharing sites has helped place new emphasis on the value of user-generated visual content-instead of spending thousands of dollars on a video crew and editing team to produce a few minutes of content every couple months, a marketing team can spend a few hundred dollars on a small portable video camera and upload new home tours, buyer and sales team interviews, and video profiles of amenities and community features.

4. The personal note: This category of email is perhaps the most important – a salesperson should send a true personalized note from their email address to help cement the early stages of a relationship and to remain in contact throughout the course of the sales process. Many prospects actually prefer to communicate regularly via email rather than phone; respecting this boundary can help establish a strong relationship far better than ignoring the preference and relying on more typical and frequent phone calls. At the same time, after a few unreplied emails, a phone call is an appropriate way to attempt to reignite the buyer’s interest.

Making every effort to “keep in touch” with prospects is a critical component of the sales process, and email is a powerful tool. However, using it carefully and strategically is vital; otherwise, your communications become just as annoying as your Auntie Zelda or that classmate from your high school biology class.

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