As a real estate agent, you know how important your sphere of influence is for your business. You work hard to keep your sphere growing and producing new leads. But how do you activate your sphere of influence and get it to work for you? The best, most efficient way to maintain those personal relationships while continually growing your sphere of influence might surprise you. It’s email.
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Why is Email the Solution?
In a perfect world, you’d be able to talk to everyone in your sphere of influence once a week, face-to-face. That’s not realistic, though. To maintain long-term relationships in your sphere of influence, you need something that’s efficient, yet still personal. A well-crafted email marketing strategy can be both personal and efficient.
Think about it. If you have 300 people in your database that you consistently keep in touch with, you’ll be the person they call when they have any real estate needs. They will send referrals your way when someone from their personal network needs an agent. What would it mean for your business if just 10% of those people listed with you, sold, or referred someone to you?
Is Your Sphere Growing Faster Than Your Business?
Consider these three important facts about your sphere of influence.
- Not everyone in your sphere is looking to buy a new home.
- Not everyone in your sphere is looking to sell their home.
- The contacts in your sphere are constantly meeting new people, so your sphere is always expanding.
Thus, the potential for your business to grow is always increasing.
That’s exciting news, but it also creates two challenges. The first is that in order to use email marketing in a scalable way, you need to create email content that effectively speaks to each person, no matter where they are in the buying cycle. The second challenge is that as your sphere grows, you still need to make your emails feel like a one-to-one relationship to build and strengthen that personal connection.
How to Use Email to Maximize Your Sphere of Influence
1: Build Your Sphere
You need to have a starting point before you can activate your sphere. The core members of your sphere of influence are people you already know. The easy initial targets include family members, friends, organizations, and club memberships. Anyone you write a check to and anyone who has done business with you is also a sphere candidate. Here are some additional ideas of people to include when building your sphere of influence:
- Extended family members
- College friends and organizations
- Your spouse’s friends, family, and connections
- Children’s coaches, teachers, and principal
- Healthcare providers (doctor, dentist, optometrist)
- Beauty providers (hair stylist, manicurist)
Make sure that you have good data on each member of your sphere. The critical points to have are first name, last name, email address, and phone number. Collect as much or as little as you would like, but each person must have those first four data points.
2: Organize Your Sphere
Once you start organizing your database, you might be surprised how big it is. You need keep your contact list in a single place. Email marketing thrives on clean, organized data. To use it in a scalable way to active your sphere, everyone needs to be in the same place.
The above screenshot is from the OutboundEngine App dashboard. Our clients connect their contact management system to their OutboundEngine account and their clients’ data imports automatically into the platform. We easily connect with a number of email services too.
There are a number of contact management tools out there that are free and very robust. Your email service will most likely have a built in contact management address book of sorts. Whatever you choose, make sure that you keep it updated and new contacts as you develop them. By organizing all your contacts in a single system, it’s easier for you to reach your audiences in in an efficient way while reducing human error.
3: Build a Marketing Calendar
With any marketing activity, you need to make sure that you set a schedule and stick to it. Finding the optimal frequency is key too. You don’t want to send an email every week (you’ll annoy them), but you also don’t want to send one just a few times a year (they’ll forget you). At OutboundEngine, we send emails for our real estate agents twice a month.
Your marketing calendar should include a few of things:
- Date and time of each email newsletter
- Topic & content of each newsletter
- Days set aside for you to work on your newsletter
By setting a calendar ahead of time, you can commit yourself to a consistent cadence that continually touches your sphere. Setting aside some time in the days before each campaign will remind you to take time to find good content, search for images, and put together your newsletter. There’s no sugar-coating it; email newsletters take a lot of time but the return on investment is quite high.
4: Define Your Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is a way of communicating with your audience through interesting, entertaining, and informative materials that are intended to help, not sell. This might be a departure from what your normal email “blasts” might include, but this approach has a measurable impact on your bottom line.
When we build out the content calendars for our real estate customers, we keep two things in mind: seasons and holidays. These are great starting points for helping you craft your newsletter content strategy. For example, in October, we did an email about planning for the holidays:
Content like this will keep your audience opening emails all year and looking to you as a trusted friend. Remember, you need to have an active sphere that trusts you to keep them engaged in growing your business. Content marketing takes many forms and email newsletters are the most effective way to touch all of your contacts at once and on a consistent basis.
5: Build Your Newsletter
Your newsletters need to have a consistent design to them. Your recipients will become familiar with the layout and respond well to it. The hardest part to designing a good email newsletter is maintaining a good balance of content marketing that doesn’t try to “sell” something, but also includes elements that will eventually get you business. This is one of the more sought out benefits that we provide for our real estate clients.
In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the 5 Elements of Good Real Estate Newsletters. Here is a recap of that list:
- Good content marketing makes your emails into something that people look forward to getting from you, keeping you top of mind.
- Strong subject lines that are short enough to be read on mobile phones, but long enough to peak interest.
- A visually appealing newsletter design helps to brand you as a professional outside of the real estate world and also sets you apart from the rest of the market.
- Calls to action are important to ensure that your sphere can immediately reach out to you. Use your personal information, social networks, and even referral buttons.
Here’s an example of a newsletter that we send out for our real estate agents. This combines all the elements of highly effective newsletters. The content is industry adjacent but not self-promotional, and is a great way to help our agents stay top-of-mind (and inbox) within their sphere of influence.
6: Activate Your Sphere
Every time you send a newsletter out to your sphere, you’re building up earned media. If your email newsletters are providing entertainment value for your readers, then you can capitalize on that down the road. You need to maintain a balance of content vs. self-promotion. A good guideline to follow is the 80/20 rule. 80% of your emails should be helpful/entertaining newsletters. The remaining 20% (your earned media) can be self-promotional or self-serving.
We maintain this balance for our agents and help them generate referrals from their spheres of influence through referral campaigns. A few times a year, we send out emails to their clients asking for friends that might need an agent. In exchange, they get entered into a contest for a prize. Using this approach or one similar to it is a great way to start getting a return from your sphere of influence.
You can also track the open and click rates of your emails in some programs. Find your gold star customers and make it a habit for you to reach out to them throughout the year. Maybe take them out to lunch, invite them to a special event, or something else. Just make sure they see you in some offline capacity. These are the people that will always be bringing you new leads, so treat them right and make them feel special.
7: Maintain Your Sphere
Once you’ve got your email marketing plan in place, don’t forget the little things. Always reply back to someone who sends you a reply. Keep great notes about your contacts so you can pick up conversations more easily. Continually add new people to your contact database to grow your sphere.
As your marketing engine takes off, you need to ensure that you’re continually monitoring and measuring its success. Take time to study the open rates of emails, what’s getting clicked in the emails, and what’s getting you responses. Maybe the email you sent with 8 images got sent to the spam folder. Perhaps every email you send on Friday performs poorly. Always be building on what you’ve done and improving upon what you’ve seen work best. We can help with that as well.
Your sphere of influence exists because of the relationships you’ve built with each person. Maintaining all of those relationships on a personal level could easily consume all of your time, which is why a personalized approach to email marketing is the strongest way to nurture them. Email marketing is the best way to keep you top of mind with your contacts so they continue to come back to you and refer their friends.
If this sounds like a lot of work, a done-for-you solution might be the way to go. Just make sure that you are doing something – you can’t afford not to.