Do we look good in this phone?

This is the time of year when most companies begin to plan and budget for next year. Since this is 2013, a line item on most everyone’s hot list is mobile.

As you think through how to reach the rising number of consumers on mobile devices and ponder questions like native app vs. website, consider this:

Email marketing is a big piece of the mobile experience.

In 2013, you can no longer tout “mobile” as a market differentiator. Consumers expect your website to work on a mobile device, just like they expect electricity in your office. And they expect your emails to work as they open them while waiting for the elevator, a cup of coffee, or between meetings throughout the day.

Email marketing never really died as many have predicted over the years. In fact, with the rise of mobile devices, it’s actually become even more relevant. But here’s a scary fact:

Most people will delete an email they open on a mobile device that doesn’t look good. Some will even unsubscribe on the spot. And almost no one is going back to their computer to read that same email.

And despite all the Mary Meeker presentations that show us how fast mobile usage is overtaking desktop, and the finding that 41% of all emails are opened on mobile devices, only 2% of companies have an advanced mobile email marketing strategy.

Time to raise a big red flag to stop and think about how you’re communicating via the inbox.

Email remains one of the greatest untapped and abused forms of marketing in real estate. Much of what we see from brokers and agents is either impersonal or lacks context. Most people don’t need a canned “newsletter” that contains random housing market stats that mean nothing to them – especially one that isn’t designed for the handset.

What buyers and sellers do need is timely, local information that either helps them understand that you know the local market, helps them make a decision or educates them at the right time about the right things. In other words, more context – and in the proper format for a smaller screen.


If there’s one marketing trend that’s grown even stronger because of mobile it’s the importance of context. If I’m standing in front of a house for sale in Oakland, Calif., and I click on your website, I expect to see local homes for sale. That same expectation carries over to email.

Fortunately, most every real estate site on the web is already set up to distribute triggered emails, which at least hit the user with relevance. Saved searches and saved properties make this possible.

But have you taken a good look at how these emails look and feel from the mobile consumer’s point of view? Are you dumping too much information onto their small screens? Are you measuring the click-through rate and gathering data about what’s working and what’s not?

This is the science of engagement and conversion. Taking a microscope to these communications, examining and tweaking is the type of stuff that will directly impact your business, today. In many ways, this is just as critical to the mobile experience you offer consumers as the listing detail page they’ll eventually land on. You have to get them there first.

I realize that many of these emails are out-of-the-box from a website vendor. But that doesn’t preclude you from customizing. In fact, customizing would give you a strong advantage as it would lend you some differentiation. Plus, when it comes to conversion, the details of design and copy matter. A lot.

Aside from this, there’s also opportunity to build more decision support content emails around these same triggers.

For instance, I may want to know a bit more about a few agents who specialize in the neighborhoods in which I’ve set up email alerts on your website. Not a hard sell. Not a glam photo. Just facts about a few agents that would help me understand their experience in my area.

Or, I may want to know more of the context around the neighborhood.

I’m not advocating spamming your email lists, but why not at least take the opportunity to see if these people might want to receive some related information via email?

Simplicity and details

The less is more approach has always been a solid rule to live by. Humans can only process so much information at once. That includes images and words.

Take a close look at your emails in the context of mobile and you’ll quickly see how essential an attention to detail is for succeeding. In fact, if this is only one of two items on your mobile strategy list for 2014, you’ll benefit. (The other item would be have to be optimizing your listing detail pages for mobile.)

Don’t be afraid to remove things or to obsess over A/B testing button placement, subject lines, graphics, copy. That’s the beauty of email. The data is yours to collect, analyze and act upon.