Marc Davison has a bone to pick. He hates real estate email marketing.
You know the kind he’s talking about — the long, earnest treatise that arrives in your inbox, laden with charts, tables, long copy and complicated color schemes and pictures of smiling agents, all wrapped up in a market report.
The only thing he hates more than those long emails are short emails that contain non-real estate related trivia from services that send automatically — without the agent’s involvement.
“Agents are taught to send this stuff so that they can ‘touch’ the consumer,” Davison says. “But I could fill a bag of dirt and throw it at you, and I’d be ‘touching’ you too. How’s that a benefit?”
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Davison, a principal of 1000 Watt, a real estate marketing consultancy, says that most email marketing contains too much of the wrong type of information. It’s dense, hard to read and understand and of limited relevance to what the consumer is actually concerned about. Or it’s completely off-topic.
“It’s what I call ‘severe’ marketing,” he explains. “It’s overwhelming. Maybe there’s some good information in there, but it’s confusing and off-putting to consumers. It shouldn’t be in an email to begin with.”
Davison points to the charts often included in these long missives as particularly egregious examples of bad marketing.
“Look at this chart,” he says, referencing three line charts in an agent’s marketing email he recently received. “This one’s up and down, then up and down again. Scary if you don’t know what it means. Here’s one with a line pointing straight up, like it will never end. And what’s with this scatter chart? What the hell does it tell me?”
He looks at the long stretch of surrounding explanatory copy and pictures of the smiling agent in the footer of the email.
“Who will ever read it?” he asks, knowing the answer. “No one.”
Davison is a man on a mission. He wants to reinvent agent email marketing, by making it relevant, easy on the eyes and compelling to consumers.
That’s why he and 1000 Watt developed Nudge, an email marketing application for agents and brokers. It’s intentionally limited in its functionality — and that’s why Davison says it’s powerful.
“We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a lot of time in focus groups with consumers and agents, to find out what really works,” Davison says. “What consumers want is something that’s as easy to read as a tweet or a Facebook post and a pleasure to look at. What agents want is something that’s easy to use.”
1000 Watt, and their development partner, WR Studios, threw every complicated bit out of Nudge, so that they could make it easy on the eyes and simple to use.
Ugly graphics, complicated charts, long copy — they’re all gone. Instead, Nudge offers a limited number of simple templates that include five key items:
- The agent’s identity (logo)
- A big image
- A headline
- A space for simple details and copy
- A strong call to action
Each Nudge template features a large central graphic and bold headline. There’s a 450 character limit on the copy an agent can include in the template, which encourages a Nudge email to be just that — a focused nudge, designed to get a client to take action.
Although agents can connect their Instagram accounts to Nudge and use their own photography, the application is unique because of its interactive graphic visualizations of key market indicators.
For example, agents can select and customize the market balance graphic to tell their clients whether the market is favoring buyers or sellers. The graphic looks similar to an old-school speedometer, and is meaningful and comprehensible in a single glance.
“What you want people to do is to ‘get’ the concept without having to work for it,” Davison says. “You have less than five seconds to grab someone’s attention in an email. That’s why we spent so much time on the graphics.”
Nudge offers visualization graphics for market value, asking price, time on market, market balance (between buyers and sellers), market activity, inventory, buy now/sell later and short and long term interest rates.
Agents can customize all of them with a click or two to paint an up-to-the-minute picture of their market. All of the graphics are built in HTML5 and are designed so that they render faithfully on mobile devices as well as desktops.
The graphics are interactive, large, easy to read and instantly readable — even if you don’t read the agent’s copy that accompanies them. (Which is important, since in my tests on mobile devices, the copy was stripped out of the email, and only the graphic remained.)
Davison says that this makes the emails highly relevant when they’re sent to clients. They’re in the moment — meaning that the agent (who ostensibly knows the client best) is sending the right piece of information at the right time, instead of a long email or a piece of trivia that doesn’t match up with what the client needs.
“The whole point of marketing for an agent is to have a conversation with the client about buying or selling a house,” Davison explains. “You want the right message at the right moment.”
He believes Nudge delivers, by helping agents focus on the message and kicking any extraneous trivia to the curb.
“You can’t send out random crap about Star Wars to ‘touch’ someone,” Davison explains. “It’s a disservice to the client and to the agent. Sure, you might get a response the first couple of times, but then it’s just noise. That kind of silliness isn’t relevant, so ultimately, people tune it out.”
Davison is dumbfounded why some agents choose to send trivia to their clients, instead of real information. He says he can only imagine that it’s a lack of understanding about what makes marketing work.
“Good marketing should be kind, make people smile and always be relevant,” he says. “I can’t imagine getting a note about Chewbacca from my lawyer. Why is that okay coming from a real estate agent?”
Broker Program, MLS Partnerships
While Nudge targets individual real estate agents, it’s worth noting that 1000 Watt has designed a broker program designed to be as easy as the app. Brokers can license the app for a flat fee for all of their agents.
1000 Watt recently signed Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, as well as Prudential California Realty, Southern California, A Home Services Company in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara as well as Residential Properties (Rhode Island) Houlihan Lawrence in Westchester, Dutchess and Putnam Counties and John Greene Realtors, Naperville in the west suburbs of Chicago.
Davison estimates that there are 3,000 active users on the platform.
Nudge is easy to use, with few options and simple controls. Your profile includes the bare minimum for your contact details — your name, company, website and a single phone number. You can also add your designations and license number, and a company logo and your profile photo.
The only connection you’ll need to make is to Instagram, if you want to use your own photos.
When you’re ready to send your Nudge, you can tweet it out or post it to Facebook or LinkedIn. You can add a comment or post it as is.
Getting your email contacts into Nudge is straightforward. You can import your contacts via a CSV file, or add them individually. You can easily create groups to segment your contacts, so that you send Nudges to the right people at the right time.
If you’re inclined, you can even embed your Nudge on your web site using an HTML snippet Nudge automatically generates, or in an iFrame. Both are easy and work well.
It’s also possible to prompt your clients to sign up for Nudges by embedding a form to gather names for the application on your own website.
It’s important to note is that Nudge is not designed to be a full-service email service provider. 1000 Watt describes Nudge as a photo sharing app — although clearly, it’s more than that. However, there are no analytics. Nudge does not manage unsubscribes, so you need to be careful to manually remove recipients who wish to opt-out of your Nudges.
Davison says this is by design.
“We want people focused on communicating with their clients — not on whether this email or that one got a 30 percent open rate,” he says. He doesn’t believe that’s a meaningful measure of whether a Nudge actually moves a client to action.
Rather, Davison says Nudge clients know instantly if their emails are working by the in-person feedback they receive via replies or telephone.
“Good agents know where their clients are,” he explains. “They know if they’re sending relevant, thought-provoking stuff. They know when their clients respond. And Nudge delivers.”