FloorPop  - Interactive Marketing Best Practices, September 7, 2005

Vol. 5, Issue 7: Copyright (C) 2005 Blair Kuhnen.  All rights reserved.

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Kicking E-mail Marketing into High Gear

There are plenty of sources for email best practices information, but builders are different. First, most builders don't rent lists or send email to people who have not specifically opt-ed in for the communications being sent. Second, many builders have real people ready to interact with leads and someone specifically designated for lead follow-up. This month we talk about email strategies that work for homebuilders.

You may be handling hundreds or even thousands of leads each month. With a dedicated person, you may be able to personally respond to each lead in an individualized manner. However, extending this process or expanding your efforts requires tools to help get the job done. Invest in tools that can help you respond effectively. Your automation should not replace human interaction, but enhance it. Use it to free your people up to respond more personally to your best leads.

Think of the opportunity and value of your leads. First, consumers find your product in a portal or on our own website. They were interested enough that they chose to request a brochure, ask for additional information, responded to a specific promotional offer, or asked to be included in an interest list. So, what are you going to do with this gold?

Let's start with your goals. You have just received some level of permission and you want to take that permission to the next level. To get there, you need to get your leads to take some sort of action. For many builders it starts with extending the dialogue. You emails need to be opened, read, and acted upon. Assuming your #1 goal is to start a dialogue with the lead that results in driving physical traffic, consider these suggestions:

    First, you have to get them to open and read your email.

  1. Use plain English in your "from name" and make subject lines short. You may have an automated response, but don't send it from "Mailer." Also, include your brand name in the subject line since it is recognizable to your leads. In a study by emaillabs.com, short subject lines had open rates 12.5% higher than emails with longer subject lines.
  2. Respond quickly. Auto-responders are a must, but you can not stop with just an auto-response. Face it, if they asked you for information, they probably asked for information from several builders. So, your response needs to be fast and to stand out. Use your first email to welcome them and set expectations for how you will respond, with what, and how often.

    Next, you have to get a response.

    Some of these are mutually exclusive or dependant upon how your company manages leads. Try these:

  3. Put a person behind your message. People truly interested in your product like to talk to people. Even though you may need to automate your responses, they need to come from a real person who can respond.
  4. Send a short email. People respond best when they are responding to a specific person in a personal way. The very short email comes across as a personal note. Even if you are sending automated emails, you may want to try a plain text, simple message to test the response. Only try this if you have an online sales counselor who will quickly follow-up.
  5. Get personal. An individualized response will gain more responses that a general message. If you know what communities they are interested in, talk about those communities specifically.
  6. Include your 800 number. Try putting at the top of your note. Ask them to call you with some benefit attached.
  7. Ask a question. Try asking a qualification question. One good question will probably draw more responses than a survey.
  8. Include a clear call to action. If you want them to call you, tell them how you can help and ask them to call you. If you want them to visit on-site, ask them to visit and include an incentive.
  9. Don't give up after one message. Leads may not respond to the first or second message you send. Your tool should allow you to schedule messages based on age of lead, status of lead, and your own ranking.
  10. Consider implementing a higher level of permission. Include a link back to registration pages for those leads who want to give more permission and be treated in a more personal way. These leads become your "A" list.
  11. Include links back to your website. Just because it was a website lead does not mean they saw everything of value on your website.
  12. Measure your response. Look at the ratio messages to responses and ratio of leads to those opting in for additional dialogue. Shoot for a 100% or 200% improvement in your key conversion ratios.
  13. Don't assume. Test! This is the only absolute rule in this list. There are all kinds of ideas for email marketing that have proved effective for someone. That does not mean it will work for you, in your market, for your product, or for your customers. Testing is easy with just a little planning.

Are considering a new process and tools for handling your leads? If so, I would be glad to show you The Focus Marketing System. You may be shocked by how easy it is to get results with the right tools. Please call me at 817-658-7698 or email me at kuhnen@earthlink.net for a personal discussion and/or demonstration.

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FloorPop is published on the first Wednesday of each month. We welcome your comments, thoughts, and questions. Please write or call anytime. kuhnen@earthlink.net.

Blair Kuhnen is the publisher of FloorPop and can be reached at 817-658-7698 or via email at kuhnen@earthlink.net.