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Starting A Real Estate Blog? Grab That Email Database, Let's Get You Read

Man-In-A-Canyon-AloneWhen I started the Real Estate Tomato, in June of 2006, I had one reader, me.

Before the first month was over, I was averaging 30 unique visitors a day.
Within 2 months it was 135 unique visitors a day.

How did we get out of the gates so quickly?

We did it in part, with an old friend: The Email Database.

To make a business blog a successful marketing strategy, you need to have an audience of potential clients. 

Having been a consultant for online real estate marketing for 6 years before starting the Tomato, I had a mighty database of real estate agents, lenders, industry professionals and friends.  If I was going to regularly write articles about leveraging the internet as a marketing tool for real estate, then this was the audience I would want to be paying attention.

So I shoved it down their throat.

Well, not exactly.

Email Marketing For Bloggers

My strategy was to comb through my list of about 1500 names and whittle it down to around 300 or so that would not mind that I started sending them articles I had recently written.  I chose friends, newer clients, and clients with whom I had worked very closely with.  I left out older clients (both in age and date acquired), acquaintances and those names I couldn’t put a memory to.

Once I had this list of choice contacts, I sent them an email announcing the launch of my brand new, curiously named, real estate marketing blog.  In that email I informed them that I had taken the liberty to subscribe them to a bi-weekly (2x a month) email blast of the articles that I publish each month.  I made it clear that they had been hand chosen based on our relationship, and my understanding that they would appreciate my efforts to educate them on the art of internet marketing.  I also explained that they could easily unsubscribe from this free service by either contacting me directly, or clicking an unsubscribe link at the bottom of this and all future email blasts.

Successful-blogging-takes-an-audience-of-potential-clientsNo one unsubscribed from the first email.

I scheduled the first email blast to go out after my first week of posting to the Tomato.  The email that went out was branded with the Real Estate Tomato logo and included 3 parts.

1. An Introduction to the Email Blast.  This reminded them of my good intentions with the blast, and described what followed.
2. Headlines and short Excerpts of the posts that has been published to the Tomato earlier that week.
3. A Reminder that this is a Free Service that they could either Unsubscribe from with one click, or actually Subscribe to the Instant Feed that would have them access to new articles as soon as I pressed ‘publish’.

I was able to track the effectiveness of these blasts and observed:

1. I was losing about 5 subscribers every 2 weeks.
2. 20–25% of the subscribers were clicking through to the articles mentioned in the email blast.
3. Many were coming back for visits between email blasts.

After 18 months, this database has been “readjusted” to 171 subscribers.  A little more than half are left from the original list.  No one has unsubscribed over the last 7 months, and the click-through rate is a steady 22%.  That works out to only about 75 visits a month from my original friends and clients email list…which may seem less than significant, but I know better. 

45 people from that original database chose to receive the Real Estate Tomato articles instantly by unsubscriubing from the bi-weekly blast and subscribing to the Instant Feed.

What originally started out as an effort to gain some readership, participation and feedback on my new blog has now had an entirely different, beneficial consequence: Branding.  Branding is the art of getting in front of eyeballs with the intention of making a lasting impression and establishing a connection to a product/service.  216 (171 + 45) of my friends and past clients (pre-Tomato) know exactly what I do for a living, who it affects, and how to take advantage of it.  This has lead to countless referrals, new clients, and even inspired some older clients to jump on the blogging train.

Today’s real estate agents are notorious for maintaining huge email databases.  I have clients that have lists into the several thousands.  Setting up, operating and analyzing the exact tools I have used to kick start my blog’s readership are not only easy, they are absolutely free.

ZookodaZookoda:  “Zookoda is an email marketing application designed specifically for bloggers.”

…and another option:

Feedblitz: “The Next Generation of Email Newsletter”

FeedblitzSo, if you are are just starting a blog, or you have yet to leverage your email database with a blog blast newsletter, I highly recommend using Zookoda and/or Feedblitz to build a target audience of established fans.

PLEASE NOTE: Abuse of this tool by spamming lists of unsuspecting recipients will cause both you and these services harm.  These applications are designed to be Permission Based Marketing Tools.  My efforts to notify a handpicked audience of my intentions, and their subscribing options may to some still seem like it toes the line of spamming.  I made a great effort to only include people that I knew would not consider my new marketing effort as unwanted or intrusive.  I advise you to be just as selective.  Being labeled a spammer can undo all your efforts, regardless of the intentions.

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Related Must Reads:
The Real Estate Blog Is The Ultimate Drip Marketing Campaign
Who Are You Blogging For?

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Comments

Jim,
If you build it and remind other people about it, they will come. Will try this and let you know what happens. Thanks a ton.

I think you need to change the title to "..your blog read."

Maybe... heck - I could always use some more mentions of "blog" :)

Jim:

Thanks a ton. This is the sort of blow-by-blow, here's-how-I-built-my-blog-readership story a newbie Tomato-in-training like me needs to hear. When I go into my sitemeter and see that I've had only 19 visitors in a day - and then realize that half of them were me - I feel, shall we say, humbled. But once I get into Tomato Class 4, I hope to start gaining some traction. Thanks again.

Ken

Well Jim.. I don't know if the word blog is such a good thing anymore. The federal government (esp. the military) reported last week that they were blocking domains with the word blog in them.

Jim,

Thanks for the post. I was just about at the level where I wanted to shout out to all my clients here in Santa Barbara and beyond about my blog and what I have been doing over the last several months. I appreciate the kick in the butt and the recommendations.
Take care

Hi This is an interesting article. However you were lucky to have a database that was related to your blog.

We move to a new village in South Africa, called Simon's Town, and had to find subscribers to our real estate blog even before we moved. This is what we did:

# We got an address list of all the residents in Simon’s Town.
# Before we decided on the list we identified the niche we wanted to work in and we had three hundred properties that met our criteria.
# We used the white pages to locate their phone numbers.
# We wrote out a call script to use when we phone these residents.
# We made a list of all the possible objections and had answers ready for each.
# When then started phoning and invited homeowners to subscribe to our free bi-weekly newsletter.
# We investigated the Simon’s Town real estate market and started writing articles.

More than 95% agreed to the free newsletter and the others did not use email (Old People). (Today we don't have to intrude using the phone script).

Thanks for posting and I'll keep on reading your blog posts.

Johan
P.S. Although aweber.com is a paid option for an email newsletter, in my opinion Feedblitz is the best free alternative because you can add email addresses of people who gave you permission and their support is a lot better than Zookoda.

Johan,

I love the approach, very diligent and aggressive. Great job. Glad to have you as a reader.

Jim, Can help me with a simple question. I sent out my first email blast 6 weeks ago and about to send another one. I am using a simple email from outlook. Is it possible to put a link to each post title like we do on wordpress or blogjet, or do we simply tell them the post titles for the last it and tell them to go our general blog url. In other words what is the easiest way for them to click through on a post if they want to?

Another excellent post. If possible, could you tell me whether you used Zookoda or Feedblitz for your campaign? I signed into Feedblitz, and find that I will have to add each of my e-mail addresses (from my database) individually. Is there a better way?

I originally used Zookoda.
Now as I get them, I have them put to Feedblitz.
So, I am using both, still.
That original database is still in Zookoda. And all new email requests end up in Feedblitz.

You could simply copy and paste the titles from the front page (theoakvillebuzz.com) of your site. This makes it easy to maintain the URL coupled with the Title in the HTML automatically.
I do that when I am adding the Related Must Read lists at the end of my posts.

Or - Something like Zookoda above will do this automatically for you. All you need to do is set it up and then let it do its magic.

Hi Jim,
Feedblitz is OK but as I understand it, the emails "come from" feedblitz. Also, it's not free if you want the ad-free version. I used a so-so program, Constant Contact, which is reasonably cheap, to send out an email blast to my customer base announcing my new blog. The fun part is that I designed the email blast to look just like my blog. The click through rate has been great.

In the past I'd tried Mail Dog, another email program, but found it not very user friendly although they have some attractive templates. I also use My Emma and it's just so-so. I think the problem with all of that they don't use true HTML since they are designed for email. So you have to either get them to custom design a template but then you're stuck with that one format. Or you can use one of their canned templates, which aren't very creative. Or, if you know a tiny bit about html, you can do as I do and try to tweak their templates to look more custom. Since emails should probably be short and to the point, it's not to hard if you keep it simple.

Jim,
Thanks for the idea. My blog is only a few weeks in cyberspace and I did have the idea to send an email to everyone in my address book (past clients, friends and family). I didn't think to follow that up with a subscription though. One thing I'm finding is that they email me back and say, "great job!" but they don't seem to comment on the site or go back much (yet). I think that maybe they're too new to blogging to understand about comments, or even that the content is frequently updated. I guess I need to educate a bit.

Jim - thanks for the info - good and useful! Will make sure to do that once the my new Tomato blog is up and running!

Very helpful step-by-step advice - thank you. We launched a blog this week and feel a bit like we're standing on a soapbox shouting out from inside the Grand Canyon. Yesterday I blasted messages through my LinkedIn contacts and hope that captures a targeted audience (and one that's willing to participate). I'm hesitant to do the same through Faceboook or I'll find one and only one comment on my posts - from my mother....

Jim-

I tried signing up for Zookoda, but no email to me ever showed up allowing me to actually use the product. A little research on the web shows that they were bought out and now have a reputation of poor to non-existant service. Feedblitz it is!

I think there is an easy way to make the emails look like they come from you, not Feedblitz. It's under templates or something like that.

Constant Contact is a good service that delivers goo results in sending listings, I have never tried them for a newsletter, Thanks for the idea.

Great information, This can be very usefull....

good method, i am thinking of starting a blog soon, i will follow in your footsteps hopefully i get traffic, not as much as you but a few visitors a day i will be happy with...

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