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How Do Real Estate Photographers Use Email Marketing?

Published: 17/05/2016
By: larry

EmailMarketing Charlotte in MA asks:

I was wondering if you were aware of any email vehicle (email list I can buy) that has Realtor emails addresses suitable for a photographer to use to communicate and market with.  Or if you have any suggestions about how to best begin an email marketing campaign to local Realtors.

Here is a much better way to build an email list to of Realtors that are good candidates for likely customers:

  1. Decide on your target area. Say it's YourTown.
  2. Make a list of the real estate offices in YourTown. To get a started just google "YourTown real estate"
  3. There will be sites like say Coldwellbanker.com that will list all the ColdwellBanker agents in YourTown.
  4. Make a spreadsheet that has the names, office, phone #, email and the number of listings and what type of listings (upper-end, land etc.). During this process, you will notice that many Realtors don't even have any listings. These are buyers agents that rarely need real estate photography. No need to even put them on your list.
  5. During this process, you can even see from the photos on their listings if they already use professional real estate photography or not. Put this on your list too.

At first, this process may seem like a lot of work but this list is like gold. It will allow you to make a list of agents that are likely to need real estate photography services. Email by itself is typically not as effective as personal marketing like going to listing agents open houses and meeting them personally. Many use email as a follow up to personal marketing but some real estate photographers say they get started with just email marketing.

If you use email marketing to get started or to send a periodic newsletter to your clients there are services like MailChimp and many others that allow you to track your email campaigns in detail and comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

10 comments on “How Do Real Estate Photographers Use Email Marketing?”

  1. Larry has given us a great start for creating a target market. When you create a target market - your marketing efforts become stronger and therefore most successful. The list you are building can be used for several things. Check and see if the agents on the list have a Facebook page and a Linked In page - if so, be sure to friend/follow and/or connect. Also, if you decide to do an email campaign, coordinate the campaign with your social media posts so that a single topic that would be important to that agent is covered for the week or month. Remember the 80-20 rule. 80% of your emails and posts should be information that is useful to the agent and 20% should be about you and your business. What is nice about MailChimp there is a free and a paid version for adding features as you grow. We use Aweber for our email campaigns because Aweber has telephone support and we all know how nice it is to speak to a real person when frustration sets in. Remember ESP's (email service providers) are for getting out automated, clearly designed marketing materials and regular email is for business communication such as confirming times for showing up at a house or conveying specific information about a job.

  2. An even easier way to get emails is to find a website that has a directory of all of the agents in your area. Then use a service like http://www.freelancer.com and get people to bid for a job of email "scraping". I had people from all over the world bid for the job. I did this when I first started and got over 5,000 email addresses all delivered to me in a neatly typed out spreadsheet and it cost me a total of $50. I then sent out a targeted email with a "special intro rate discount" (about half price) to all of the people on the list. Within 3 months I had a full client list of over 150 agents. Make sure you put an "opt out" or "unsubscribe" on the email.
    That is the only form of advertising I have ever had to do to get business and it cost me $50 to get someone to compile the list for me.

  3. This is great information! Does anyone have any insights on content that would be helpful to include? Any specific websites you suggest to get content from? I am trying to organize a newsletter content calendar but just do not know where to find a reliable source to get content...thoughts or suggestions?

  4. We went to our local Board of Realtors for a list of names and email addresses. We are affiliate members so they had no problem giving us the list. This is definitely something you should look into. It usually only requires a small membership fee and is a great way to get connected with the realtors.

  5. Great question. Sending is one thing, but for data collection (scraping) I've used Fiverr.com for this exact task. In fact I've pulled data from ColdwellBanker.com which included name, email address, phone number and (as Larry mentioned) number of active listings. Then I sorted by active listings and sent targeted campaigns based on groups of how many listings each realtor currently had on the market. Here's the actual gig I've ordered several times (yes it's only $5): https://www.fiverr.com/gaddas/scrape-any-data-from-a-website.

    As for sending, be careful when sending large batches of emails from gmail or other free, web-based email services to avoid getting flagged or banned as a spammer. When I was doing more email marketing I sent no more than 300 per day (last I checked the gmail threshold was more like 500 per day but that could have changed). For mailchimp, I do not recommend dumping a bunch of harvested email addresses into your database and sending of a mass email. You will be banned quickly and your account canceled. This practice is against their policy, as every email address must be opt-in.

    And definitely read about the can-spam act before you do anything. The maximum penalty for violating the can-spam act is $16,000 PER EMAIL! So make sure you understand and follow the rules whenever doing email marketing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN-SPAM_Act_of_2003

  6. Mark: Although hard to prove unless your computer is confiscated, scraping violates CAN-SPAM. Manually collecting emails is allowed. Also you can use LinkedIn to create connections and then use the LinkedIn utility to download the emails. That results in a pretty clean opt-in list, but takes some work. Also you can also contact your connections through LinkedIn which all but eliminates the feeling that they're being spammed.

  7. David: Mailgun, Mandrill and Sendgrid are free up to 12,000 emails and aren't as picky in practice as Mailchimp. Amazon SES is super cheap too. Since your IP address is shared you just need to have a low complaint and bounce rate or you're eventually going to be history (unless you buy your own IP address or virtual server. Then your reputation for better or worse will only effect your own deliverability). BTW, Elastic Email gives you 25k emails a month free!

  8. I have Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com send me an email of new listings. I set a filter for the areas I service and to exclude vacant land, foreclosure and default notices. I also set the filter for homes over around $300K. I can then look through the listings and add to my marketing spreadsheet. Some offices publish contact information for their agents and some agents have created their own websites where you can find their email addresses and direct phone numbers. Sometimes you will need to search online to find contact information on agents. There are a couple of offices in my area (with a lousy in-house photographer) that seem to go out of their way to hide direct contact information to their agents. I tend to bias my open house visits to these agents so I can pick up business cards or get their information from the sign in front of the house (or a flyer).

    By filtering for homes over a certain dollar amount, I'm more likely to get agents that will have the marketing budget for photos and also where sellers may demand professional photos.

    Sending email marketing is Spam (UCE, Unsolicited Commercial Email). If you keep your messages short and to the point with an opt-out notice (in mice type at the bottom) and only send out your marketing letter 3-4 times a year, you are not likely to get in trouble. I move the email address of an agent in my spreadsheet to another cell if they opt-out. If I just delete them, I might add them back in again later. My merge routine kicks out people that don't have an email in a certain cell. You may also need to have a bulk email application that sends out email in limited batches each hour to keep from tripping your ISP's anti-spammer software. Bulk email services that you might contract with often get black listed keeping your campaign from reaching all of your intended recipients. Using a VPN might work, but I haven't looked into it. It is polite to ask the agents you meet in person if they would mind if you sent them email reminders from time to time. Since it would be nearly impossible to get permission from everybody that you want to market to, adhering to anti-spam regulations is not possible. In practice, we all get spam everyday and nobody takes the time to complain unless it gets obnoxious like the time I bought one item from a vendor and started receiving daily emails from them with no way to opt-out.

    A marketing list is something that you have to keep up-to-date. Any bounced emails you get back should be checked for proper spelling of the recipients email and any other problems noted on your spreadsheet. People that opt out should be taken care of as soon as you get a notice from them. Obviously, if somebody on your list becomes a customer, you can stop sending them blind marketing letters and move them to a customer list.

    No one marketing technique will have a very large return. Don't expect that if you send out 1,000 emails that you are going to get 10 new customers. You may only get one and you shouldn't be surprised if you don't get any right away. I get replies from emails I sent out over a year ago. Use your email campaign along side post cards and going out to meet agents in person at open houses and social functions. It's hard to start a RE photo business if you are shy and introverted, but some people have pushed themselves up to the job and done well. About the only marketing tip I would advise against is putting signage on your car. It's a bad idea to advertise that the car could be loaded with professional photo gear.

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