If you’re a real estate agent or small home services business owner, there is no better ROI in marketing than email newsletters, because the cost is so low compared to the return you get. But just like other kinds of marketing, the real value comes from how you use them. Here are four tips for making your email newsletters do the job of getting client referrals for you.
Send the Right Newsletter Content for a Small Business Owner
If you are a small, local business, and you’re focusing mainly on generating referrals from your newsletters, then your audience is likely going to be your sphere of influence—which can include just about anyone you’ve ever met, including current and past clients, networking connections, family, people who visited an open house, someone who got a bid from you, etc.
That should tell you something about the kind of content you need to be sending. In this case, the right newsletter to send is called a relationship newsletter. It can contain some industry data, facts, figures, changes in the law, etc. But it’s less about those things and more about intelligent entertainment. The purpose is to keep relationships alive and active, not necessarily to inform.
You want to go for the reaction: “Oh, I like scanning John’s newsletter. He sometimes has some fun stuff in there.” Rather than “Oh, no. John’s newsletter has all this technical stuff that I don’t have time to focus on right now.” So make your content useful for your broader readership, but also include enough authority-related information to build credibility. Just keep the authority stuff short, sweet, and relevant. In fact, for most newsletters “short, sweet, and relevant” is the rule. You can always add longer authority articles as links or PDF downloads.
(Go here to explore how to measure the ROI of relationship newsletters: The Best Content for Real Estate Newsletters.)
Lay a Foundation for Receiving the Newsletter
Nobody likes getting unsolicited email, even if it’s from someone they know. Just because I had a good experience with my dog groomer, doesn’t mean I want to start reading her newsletters when they start arriving in my inbox. But, if she took a few minutes after Fido was happily running around our feet to explain that she has a newsletter, and here’s the kind of content I can find in it—and she makes it sound enticing, THEN I’m OK with getting her newsletters. I’ll open them out of a sense of loyalty, and I’ll read them because they’re kind of fun, and there are even some tips that I can use to keep my dog clean and healthy.
So before you add someone to your mailing list, tell them about your newsletter. Sell the sizzle, rather than just getting permission. Make them want to open it, and then make it fun enough that they want to open it again next time.
By the way, this isn’t the same a getting permission by sending them an opt-in link. Opt-in tells the email marketing platform not to bounce that email, because the recipient gave permission. That can be important, but not absolutely necessary if you already have a local, personal business relationship with the person. (If you have customers in Europe, you should be aware of GDPR regulations, and always strive for an opt-in email, even if you have a personal relationship and have received spoken permission.)
I can’t see a reason not to include an opt-in message as part of your welcome message, anyway. A welcome message is a first email, before you start sending your newsletter. It reminds them that you talked about sending them the newsletter, and asks them to click the link to be added to your newsletter mailing list. If you did a good job selling the sizzle, most people will click the link.
You also may be able to use a welcome message as a substitute for an in-person conversation. For instance, suppose I met a room full of people at a networking event. Supposed I collected ten business cards from people I liked, and now I want to send them my newsletter. But I didn’t have time to tell them about it. So now what I do is send a message saying that I enjoyed our conversation, and that I have a fun email newsletter as a way of keeping in touch. If they want to be part of it, they can subscribe here.
Ask for Referrals in Your Newsletters
Many businesses give exceptional service, but don’t get a huge number of referrals. Other businesses seem to be swimming in referrals. There is one major difference between these two kinds of exceptional businesses: One is constantly reminding people to give referrals, and the other isn’t.
In a newsletter, a nice way to ask for referrals directly is by adding a comment to the end of an article: “If you know someone in this situation, have them give me a call.” You can also ask directly in stand-alone call to action (not as part of an article): “I’ve got time to do kitchen remodeling bids. My bids are always free to anyone you refer to me. Please tell your friends about me, so I can help them get a kitchen they’ll love at a budget they can afford.” You can also imply that you want referrals by thanking people by name for their referrals, or by adding testimonials in which someone raves about your service, or mentions they got referred to you by another friend.
Also, when getting permission to send your newsletters to someone, let them know you would appreciate them sharing the newsletter with a friend whenever they see something interesting. Tell them you won’t send them the newsletter without the friend’s permission, but let them know it’s a nice way to meet new people and expand your circle of friends. Tell them your business relies on referrals. “If you think I’m good at what I do, then maybe others will think so, too. My newsletter is a way for them to get to know me.”
Always include share links in your newsletters, especially the “forward to a friend” link. (Please read this post from MailChimp about their Forward to a Friend form, and how it prevents accidental unsubscribes.)
Most people do not share other people’s newsletters to their own Facebook, Twitter, etc., so adding those share links to your newsletter may not have much effect. However, you can post your own newsletters to Facebook and Twitter, and friends can share it that way to their social media, if they want.
Consider a Referral Rewards Program
This post from the Referral Candy blog has a nice summary of different kinds of referral reward programs you could consider as a small service business owner or real estate agent. But keep in mind that a referral rewards program may not be right for you. It can sometimes actually interfere with the success of your referrals, especially if your goal is to have people extol your virtues, not simply send a link to a friend so they can get a reward. Sending a home services or real estate newsletter is different than building an email list, so be aware of how a reward program might distract people from your purpose in sending an email newsletter.