The 10 email marketing blunders that every agent should avoid

In email marketing for real estate, there are some lessons you don't need to learn the hard way.

Email marketing is part science and part art. Although getting the formula right can be elusive there are a number of lessons you don’t need to learn from experience. Avoid the following 10 email marketing blunders and you’ll be well on your way to generating a steady stream of sales inquiries.

Using Outlook to send bulk emails

Sending bulk emails using Outlook is dangerous practice for a number of reasons.

First, if you send enough bulk emails your ISP could flag you as a spammer and you could find your domain name or server IP address on an email blacklist. If your domain is added to a blacklist then important transactional emails, such as monthly property management statements and follow-up emails, may never reach their destination.

Second, sending bulk emails by pasting the recipients email into the cc box effectively shares your database with everyone on your list. That’s both sloppy and unprofessional.

Third, Outlook doesn’t include any user tracking functionality so there’s no way to know the effectiveness of your email marketing. It’s a poor second cousin to specialist email marketing software.

Fourth, emails sent from Outlook rarely contain a functional unsubscribe link. That’s one of the key requirements of our Spam Act. Breach it at your peril.

Overuse of capitalisation and punctuation in the Subject line     

One of the fastest ways to get your email caught in a spam trap is to over use all caps and punctuation. Subject lines such as JUST LISTED – FIRST TIME OFFERED – BARGAIN!!!! increase the chances of your email being sent straight to the recipient’s spam folder. Worse still it makes you look like a spammer and that may cause people to disregard your message or report it as spam.

Not providing a clear way for people to unsubscribe

Australia’s Spam Act requires that all commercial emails “contain a functional ‘unsubscribe’ facility to allow the recipient to opt out from receiving messages from that source in the future.” For some agents, having a person unsubscribe seems like a disaster. It’s not! To the contrary, it’s far better to have people click the unsubscribe link in your email than report you as a spammer by clicking the Spam button that’s so prominent on Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail.

If enough people click the Spam button your IP address and/or domain name will be added to an email marketing blacklist. That means your emails will never arrive in your subscriber’s inbox, not even to a spam folder.

According to email marketing service provider Mailchimp it takes as little as 0.01% of people clicking the spam button to have an ISP or domain blacklisted. That’s a low number.

Not obtaining consent

Agents are some of the worst offenders when it comes to sending unsolicited emails. All too often they rely on implied consent when adding previous clients and people who’ve sent inquiries from one of the property portals.

Set yourself apart from the rest by only sending emails to people who have explicitly asked for them. Sure, you could rely on implied consent but the effectiveness of your email marketing will be significantly better if people want to read what you’re sending. The takeaway here is to ask people if they want to be receive your latest listings or newsletter. Do that by asking them in a one-on-one email or via a telephone call.

Using generic subject lines

Let’s face it, most people are time poor and your email will be one of hundreds fighting for your readers attention. That’s why so many marketing emails are deleted without ever being read and why it’s important to include a powerful subject line.

A good subject line should provide a succinct call to action that creates interest and motivates the reader to open the email. Avoid using generic terms such as April Newsletter. That tells the reader nothing. Instead make it relevant to the reader and address a question they want answered.

Harvesting emails from Facebook

I know agents who have built large databases by harvesting email addresses from their friends’ Facebook profiles. It’s a surefire way to upset people, look like a cowboy and get reported as a spammer! Your online communications policy should make it clear that this practice is off-limits.

Sending emails that tells the reader to click a link to read the contents

I subscribe to a few email newsletters that tell: Click here to read our latest newsletter. As a user experience it doesn’t come much worse. If you’re going to send an email newsletter send the content you want your readers to consume. With click-through rates in the real estate industry reported to be just 7.7 percent making people click to read your content means your valuable content will be seen by a tiny audience.

Leaving it too long before sending your first email

The longer you leave it to send your first email the more chance the subscriber will forget they asked to join your mailing list. That usually leads to higher unsubscribe rates, lower open rates and a greater likelihood of being having your email reported as spam.

To counteract this use the functionality built-in to your CRM software to send a thank you email as soon as someone subscribes. Let them know what to expect by sending links to previous email newsletters. Also let them know that they can unsubscribe at any time, no questions asked.

Mailing too infrequently

To maximise your open rate and minimise the number of unsubscribes it’s important that you send often enough so that people remember who you are and how and why they subscribed to your email newsletter. Leave it too long between emails and you’ll have people thinking you’re a spammer.

If the people on your list haven’t heard from you within the last 6 months consider sending an email asking them to reconfirm their subscription. Alternately, it’s time for your sales team to hit the phones to reconfirm their consent in person. It’s not a bad way to reconnect with prospects and previous clients.

Using images that add nothing to the story

Every part of your email should contribute to telling the right story. Clipart, photos of LOL cats and cartoon image rarely help convey a powerful message. Be ruthless here. If something contained in your email doesn’t make a significant contribution, get rid of it. Strip your email back to just that which will deliver your message.

How’s your email marketing going? If you have a success story you’d love to share, please leave a comment below.

Image by Elleneka102 via Flickr.

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About Peter Fletcher

Speaker, trainer, and consultant helping real estate agents sort out their online communication strategy.

@peterfletcher - Google+


  1. Hi Peter, great article.
    Exactly some of the things I try and convey to my clients.
    Well done!

    • Peter Fletcher says:

      Thanks for your response, Trevor. Are there any issues you find are particularly prevalent in real estate email marketing? For me it’s agents relying too heavily on implied consent rather than taking the more demanding route of obtaining explicit consent.

  2. Well said Peter. We are conveyancers by trade so obviously email many real estate agents in relation to sales/purchases by mutual clients. We constantly get added to mailing lists & receive unsolicited marketing material. This is unprofessional & annoying. My first step is to reply/unsubscribe. I also mark/report such messages as SPAM via Trend Micro Spam Filter. Repeat offenders get reported to ACMA –

    • Peter Fletcher says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Marcus. Email marketers – and agents in particular – would do well to heed your warning. Getting new subscribers is not worth a tarnished reputation.

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