Heat up your email marketing

I dread opening Gmail every morning. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Venture Capitalist Chris Dixon summed it up best when he said, “Your email inbox is a to-do list created by other people.”

Part of the issue is that much of what ends up in my inbox is real estate junk mail. Over the course of several years working in this industry, my email address unfortunately has made it onto a number of Realtor drip marketing programs. All those steady “drips” have flooded my inbox and threaten to drown it most days.

The good news (I guess) is that every month I see a cross-section of what Realtors send to their clients. They are, with very few exceptions, terrible and uninteresting.

In contrast stands the one email I look forward to every month: the Nest Home Report my thermostat sends me.

Yes, the email I get from my thermostat is more interesting than what most Realtors are sending out.

Here are a few things we can learn from the Nest email:

nest email

1. Design matters. I can’t emphasize this enough. A little design goes a long way. So much that’s sent out by real estate pros is just bad, bad, bad. Stop the bad habits and look at what others outside the industry are doing. Learn what works. Study resources like Campaign Monitor’s Top 100 Email Marketing Campaigns of 2014.

Good design isn’t just about making it look pretty, though. It’s thinking through the information design and content to make sure that…

2. It’s relevant. Nest mines my heating/cooling activity to surface interesting trends and report my performance. It also compares my performance to the larger Nest community, fueling my competitive fire.

In real estate, there’s so much good data to mine: market data, website activity data, public records data, pricing trends. There are tons of building blocks to play with, which is a good thing because it is OK if…

3. It’s dense. Nest packs a ton of data into the email. I spend much more time with it than any other email I receive. It may be counterintuitive. The going narrative is that “less is more”, but that’s not necessarily true – especially if you’ve paid close attention to the first two points.

The trick is to present all of the data in a way that is interesting, usefull and fun. I think this is because…

4. It’s alive. Nest’s email uses animated GIFs sparingly to create little movements in the email. The counter counts up when you open it. The illustration of the ski lift animates slowly up the hill as you read. It’s not overkill, but it’s definitely eye-catching and makes me want to dive into the content.

This is an area ripe for abuse, but I think if done with restraint it can add a new dimension to a previously flat medium. But it really only works here, since…

5. It’s simple. The Nest email is doing a lot. But upon closer examination, it’s evident they could be doing so much more. The cool hand of caution has been exercised here, and it shows.

There is a temptation just to dump everything into a recipient’s lap and let them sort through it. The harder, but much more valuable exercise, is choosing what to say no to and then focusing on displaying only those data points that matter.

Thankfully, there are a few companies out there that recognize the big opportunity to help Realtors up their email game. More will come. And at 1000WATT, we’re working with real estate brokers and brands that want to up their email game.

This gives me some hope that someday soon my inbox may be saved.