Why letterbox dropping is the worst metaphor for email

Too many agents look at email through the metaphor of a letterbox drop.

I received another email from a real estate agent yesterday. Apart from one lead article, it was full of his latest listings. Unfortunately, the “lead” “article” was actually nothing more than a headline and a link to a website that wasn’t his.

What’s the problem here?

Well, the problem is I never asked to receive his emails. I suspect that he got my email address from LinkedIn or Facebook. Wherever it came from I didn’t give it to him.

Nor, for that matter, did I ask him to send me his latest listings. That was HIS decision, not mine. He was the one who decided that I’d be interested in his listings, not me.

About now you might be thinking: Peter, stop complaining. Just hit the unsubscribe button. Well, yes, I could do that – at least the email ticks that box. But that misses the point.

And the point is this. Too many agents look at email through the metaphor of a letterbox drop. If I stuff enough letter boxes with my flyers sooner or later someone will call me in to appraise their home. If it works with letterbox drops, it’ll work for emails.

And that thinking is right. It does work that way. Sadly, though, the letter box drop is the worst metaphor for email marketing.

Why?

For a starter, sending emails to people without their explicit permission makes you look like a spammer, and because most agents are doing it, it makes you look like most agents. When you look like everyone else you have no point of difference, nothing to distinguish you from the next guy.

In the end you end up competing on price. That’s a race to the bottom with no winners.

The other problem with the metaphor is that it robs the agent of the best that email has to offer. As Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

For agents that have only pamphlets, everything looks like a letterbox. That’s sad because it robs them of having cafe conversations, of having real relationships, ones that lead to repeat and referral business.

The opportunity here is for agents to redefine themselves as community reporters, as non-elected representatives, as concierges. Sure, there’ll still be people who want your latest listings. But for others not in the market to buy – and that’s me – being my concierge or reporter is far more valuable.

Your tips, your local knowledge, your advice about living well in your patch – my patch – would endear me to you, would make me want to get to know you more, and would give me a reason to tell all my friends about you.

Sound like better fun than doing letterbox drops?

Image by Mike Coghlan 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+

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