How will Google’s Latest Search Changes Affect You?

SO WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

As of April 21st 2015 Google changed its search algorithms to favour websites that are ‘mobile friendly’. This means that mobile optimised websites will begin to rank better in searches than those that are not.

WHY IS IT CHANGING?

This change by Google is a response to the changing way in which users are increasingly searching for content via smartphones and tablets. It is a move to improve the user experience and ensure users are directed to mobile-friendly sites as a preference when searching for content on Google.

WHAT ABOUT MY WEBSITE?

If your website doesn’t have a responsive design or mobile specific site it is likely that your search rankings will suffer. This can send your website tumbling down Google’s search results and potentially cost you deals.

BRIGHTFOX IS HERE TO HELP…

Although this change has already taken effect there is still time for businesses to act. Google can recognise newly optimised sites quickly and will revise your search ranking accordingly. Contact Brightfox now and ensure your website is ‘mobile friendly’ and you’re not losing sales as a result!

Why bother with video and what’s with all the fuss?

 

19-03-2015 2-36-03 PM

Videos have always been a powerful tool when marketing property as they allow us to get potential buyer’s attention and help share the ‘story’ of a project or individual property in a truly engaging way. One of the greatest limitations of email design has been the inability to incorporate embedded videos into your emails like you would in a website or other interactive media. But times are a changing and Video support in HTML email is quickly becoming the hottest topic in email marketing circles.

For those who have been working with direct email campaigns for a number of years you may recall that there was  a time many many many years ago that most desktop and web-based email software supported video in email. But with online security tightening and spam becoming a bigger problem, the belt was tightened and video support in email became a thing of the past. 

With the release of HTML5, it may all be possible again. One clever project has surfaced that uses the <video> tag for browsers that support it and for those don’t support it provides a fall back to the traditional option of a cleverly designed image linked to your video on a hosting platform such as YouTube or Vimeo.

So why should you consider incorporate video into your email content strategy?

According to a recent survey by the Web Video Marketing Council, a whopping 88% of marketers who included video in their email marketing reported a positive impact from recipients. With the rise in popularity of mobile devices, such as Apple iPhones & iPads, which provide the perfect platform for HTML5 and embedded video playback you have the opportunity to put your content rich visualisations directly into the hands of your customers. This direct compatibility is also true for Apple Mail, which is also excellent news for your desktop readers. Gmail and Hotmail users, can also view an inbox-playable preview if linked to a video hosted on YouTube.

Is there a downside to incorporating video into my emails and how do I overcome it?

The downside is that adding URLs as text can trip off phishing warnings in some email clients, so this should be applied with care. For browsers and desktop email software (such as Outlook) that does not support embedded video it is possible to include a fall back image, which will display if HTML5 is not supported. Being able to reliably provide a fall back image is absolutely imperative to ensure that all recipients are able to receive the most relevant content available to them

Our Recommendation?

Our recommendation is that you should do some market research and explore your options before deciding if it’s worthwhile incorporating video as a standard into your emails. Utilising a product like the foxMessenger platform provided  by Brightfox will allow you to run your tests and review the report statistics of your send(s) to determine if you’ve had a better uptake from your customer base.

Raine & Horne + QR Codes – An Evolution or A Revolution . . .

Some years ago on this very Blog we talked about QR codes and their possible use in real estate. Here in Australia they are finally starting to get a little traction (and I mean a little – the vast majority of Australian’s still don’t know what a QR Code is let along know how to use them).

Raine & Horne, a large real estate franchise group, have recently gone through a complete brand revamp, and as part of this have included the overhaul of all of Raine & Horne’s digital media platforms. An interesting inclusion in their new media platforms is the use of Quick Response (QR) Codes across their entire media.

What are QR Codes?

QR Codes were originally developed in Japan by Toyota to track vehicles through the manufacturing process. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background and were designed to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

Ver. 3 QR Code

QR Codes have seen wide usage across Japan, Europe and the U.S. with smartphone users able to take a photo of the barcode which is placed onto traditional static media such as flyers and billboards. Users are then typically directed to further interactive content such as a plain-text message, website url, video url, enquiry registration form or email address. Though not as popular in Australia at this time, many local media agencies are beginning to see the potential for the use of QR codes to not only interactively communicate from what was a traditionally static channel but to also effectively track these offline user interactions.

Where is the potential for the broader real estate industry?

The primary potential for this technology in the real estate industry is to provide prospects with the ability to interact online with property listings after reading a traditional mail-out, sign-board or window card. In this way multiple images or interactive tours can be viewed after seeing coming across a simple static advertising piece.

The typical usage scenario involves a potential purchaser driving through a suburb investigating different streets and neighbourhoods. After seeing a ‘For Sale’ or ‘For Rent’ sign the purchaser would normally have to remember the address (along with 10 others); visit an agency website and search for the listing from their phone (very time consuming); or call the agent for more information (which can be daunting). With a QR code printed onto or attached to the sign, the purchaser can simply take a photo of the barcode and be redirected directly to the property listing online or to an online enquiry form to submit their details or to ask more questions.

An underlying advantage to QR codes is in tracking consumer interactions with your static media. By utilising unique URL’s for the various static media types (eg. Flyers – estate.com/flyer; Window Cards – estate.com/wc) redirecting to the appropriate content, entry points can be tracked back to the offline media that directed the traffic. A much more accurate way of tracking user interaction compared to the classis, Where did you find out about us . . . ?

QR Codes; the next big thing?

Will QR codes be the next big thing in real estate? Probably not. But is there a fantastic potential for tracking offline marketing and greater consumer interaction – Definitely! Only time will tell . . .

Tips for sending a successful Email campaign

Email Client Logos
Emails are a critical tool for every online publisher. They should be used both in the sales process and to build loyalty. Therefore if you are finding that a lot of your emails are not being opened or delivered you need to take the time to understand why.

Tips when Designing your Email:

Let’s first look at the design element behind your HTML email. A well designed, easy to read email will always win hands down when compared to a cluttered maze of images, links and content. But what other design elements can you employ to ensure that your recipients are seeing and reading the same high quality email that you are?

Email Creative Size
Your email content and creative should be kept to a maximum of 600px wide. This is so that you can be sure that your email will display well in the myriad of different email applications your recipients may be using ie. Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook 2003/2007/2010. We also encourage you to maximise the content ‘above the fold’ and recommend limiting the length of the email to 800px.

Alt Tags
Ensure that all your images have an alt property that will provide descriptive and meaningful content even when images are not being displayed. With the advent of mobile and tablet email, many recipient are choosing not to download external content and you don’t want them to only see a series of broken images!

Broken Image Example

Declaring Image Heights and Widths
Always specify the width and height of images contained in the email to keep formatting consistent in case images do not load.

Background Images
Support for background images in email is very poor, notably in Outlook 2007. Try to design your email creatives without relying on background images and compensate by specifying a background colour which will appear if the images do not render.

Default Link
The Default link is the main link that you would like the list subscriber to click on when they receive your email. You can have as many links within your email as you like, but the Default link is the most important one so make sure you emphasise it!

Clean & Simple Layout
CSS positioning elements are not supported in most web-based email clients. For this reason we always recommend that you use tables to format your emails.

Inline Styles
Inline Styles are preferable to other style definitions as many email clients strip out all information not contained within the body of the email. Keep styles as simple as possible – many advanced CSS properties are unsupported by email clients.

Image File Sizes
Images should be kept to the lowest file size possible to improve email loading time. Make sure you resize your images before inserting them into your email so that you can be sure you have the smallest file size and aren’t carrying a small image with a large file size in your email


Tips to Avoiding SPAM filters:

The number one reason why emails don’t get delivered is because they are blocked by spam filters. Therefore it’s important that you know why this is and how you can reduce the chance that it happens.

Spam filters are like bingo cards. They have a checklist and if an email ticks enough boxes on the scorecard … bang … the door is slammed in its face.  Unfortunately every spam filter is slightly different.

However if you follow these guidelines your newsletter should slip past the gatekeeper every time.

Image to text ratio
The greater the text to image ratio the better chance you have of avoiding spam filters. i.e. use more text and less images. Most spam has a file size of less than 20k. Therefore newsletters with quite a lot of text are more likely to get through. The ideal file size is 20k – 50k.

Minimise the use of BCC:
If you put dozens of names in your BCC (blind copy) field in your email programme the newsletter could be marked as spam.

Subject
Spam filters look for certain words, phrases, layouts and email characteristics.

Length should be less than 50 characters. Ideally your subject should be between 4 – 8 words written in sentence case and refrain from exclamation marks. The best subject lines are descriptive of the content and capture the viewers interest.

The number one cause for spam filters blocking an email is the use of words that commonly appear in spam. Some are obvious like free, Viagra, and get rich, while some are not so obvious like opportunity, amazing and compare. Also make sure to avoid the following words (especially in ALL CAPS): free, offer, 50% off, click here, subscribe, earn, bonus, guaranteed, act now, while supplies last, why pay more, visit our web site, time limited, plus all the obvious pharmaceutical and sexual words.

Body text
Apply the same logic and guidelines to your body text as we have suggested for the Subject. Emphasis on using sentence cases and avoiding ALL CAPS.

Avoid using large font sizes and stick with only one or two different fonts and/or sizes. If you do use color text or color backgrounds in your newsletter be aware that some spam filters will wag their fingers and look for other questionable characteristics and reasons to block you.

Recommend Against:
Please do not use any of the following in your email campaigns:

Java, Javascript, VBScript, form elements, frames, ActiveX, animated GIFs, Flash, or embedded video.

As many email applications do not support these elements.


So You’re Ready To Send, What Next?

You’ve put together the greatest email known to man, following all the right guidelines and you’re sure that your recipients are going to find it both informative and useful; but you’re still worried about it not making it through the spam filters. What else can you do to help your chances?

Spam Checker Tools:
A spam checker tool is a piece of software that will put your email copy through a spam filter and create a report about how it was viewed. This will instantly tell you if you have a problem. Most good commercial email services have a spam filter built in. If yours doesn’t there are some free tools you can look at using:

  • Lyris Content Checker
  • Programmer’s Heaven Spam Checker

A Quick Brightfox Plug
For a professional bulk email and CRM solution, why not take a look at foxMessenger. As one of the most cost effective bulk email clients available, foxMessenger could be exactly what you need to execute your most important bulk email needs. With built in reporting and online support, you can analyse the results of your send and implement ways to improve your receiver response every time you send.

Understand your clients and communicate better!

In previous blogs we have talked about how you can keep track of all your past customers and the people you meet every day.

In this blog we will look at trying to understand what they want!

There’s no point in you having boxes and boxes of business cards from as far back as 1989 if you have no clue where you met the people they belong to, what you discussed with them and what they were looking for.

I hope after reading and taking action on our last few posts, you will no longer have boxes of business cards, or excel spreadsheets filled with people’s names and contact details. I am sure you will have pulled the plug and done some research and implemented a specific CRM system for your business.

Now let’s look at segmenting these people into manageable sections.

  • Some of these people might have talked to you about buying their first home.
  • Some of them may have said that they can only afford to buy for less than $450K.
  • Some of them might have said that they already have 3 properties and may be looking at buying some more or may even be selling 1 or 2, if the price is right.
  • Some of them might just be local business leaders you met at the Chamber of Commerce and they may even consider referring new business your way, etc.

Can you see where I am going with this? When you add a new person into your CRM system, you will need to have thought through which category or categories that person will fit into. This is going to be extremely effective when you send out targeted marketing materials.

Now why do you need to send out targeted emails as opposed to just sending the same emails to everyone?

Well, as the saying goes, even if you get the highest quality Grade A steak lovingly cooked by a world renowned chef, when you put it in front of a vegetarian he or she is still not going to eat it. Are they?

The same applies to your prospects as well.  If you keep sending email messages that are not targeted to what they want, they are going to see you and your marketing material to be more of a nuisance/spam rather than a helpful service provided for their benefit.

This simple point is extremely vital for your success (online or otherwise) and that’s why we take great care and spend hours working with our clients to see how they want to segregate/categorize their customers/prospects/etc, to effectively market and get more business.

For example, one of our client’s categorised their prospect list as follows:

  • Buyers under $350K.
  • Buyers between $350 – 500K, etc.
  • Buyers for apartments with ocean views.
  • Buyers for apartments close to ocean views, etc.

What we have seen and learnt from the best agent’s is that they have a system that they follow without fail, especially when it comes to adding new prospects to their database, segmenting them and marketing to them on a regular basis.

All we are recommending is for you to refine your system or create a new system that will help you convert this routine task into a habit, just like you have converted the activity of driving a car into a habit.

One of the additional benefits of categorising your database is that it will be a fantastic marketing tool for you to get more listings.

Imagine this, you get a call from a prospective vendor and they say, “I am looking to list a property with ocean views”. Now, even before you start talking about anything else, all you need to do is jump into your categories and check the number of people who are in your database specifically looking for this kind of property. And you tell the vendor, I have just over 175 people looking for your property.

Will that make them want to list with you or walk down to your competitor who says, “we have a database, but we don’t really know exactly how many are looking at something similar to your property”?

When the vendor lists with you (which invariably happens to quite a few of our customers, as they have the right data at their finger tips) the first thing, even before advertising or putting it on realestate.com.au, is to select everyone in this category and send out hundreds or even a thousand emails to your database of buyer’s who are looking for that exact property. Just imagine how fast the property will be sold!

Action Plan:

  • Go through your last 12 month’s sales and see what kind of categories/segments you can create
  • Implement these into your CRM and go through the list of people in your CRM and categorise them. If you don’t know which category a prospect/client falls into, then it’s a good time for you to give them a call to chat and understand what they are looking for. If the number of calls you need to make is huge, get your assistant or hire temporary staff to call and update this information as this will be extremely valuable in the current market.
  • Develop a Customer Registration Form and carry them in your folders and give them to your entire team so that they can get as much information they can from a prospective buyers anytime.

If you haven’t looked at our CRM systems as yet, I urge you to contact us for an obligation free online demo.

As always, please let us know your feedback on this or any other idea, as your feedback helps us to continuously improve these strategies.

 

Brightfox Plug!
Did you know that Brightfox not only develops some of the leading CRM solutions for the property industry, but also has their own award winning web design team that can help you market yourself and your business more effectively online.

If you are targeting Asia, you need Brightfox!

A recent article in Real Estate Business (see it here) interestingly talks about the amount of business Victorian agencies are doing with Chinese buyers at present.

Brightfox has been doing business in Asia for over 9 years, and we can successfully market properties and projects to Asia.

One of the suprising facts that most people wouldn’t appreciate until they start marketing to Asia is the fact that most languages require the PC to be Unicode  compliant. This requires the CRM software and the website to be similarly Unicode compliant.

Both foxAdvantage and foxEnterprise meet these requirements and can market your properties and projects in the native language of your target audience – a key requirement to successfully penetrate these markets.

 

What is Viral Marketing and how to use it in property marketing?

Week two of our 50 Bright Ideas emails featured Viral Marketing. Here is a short excerpt:

Last week, we talked about the importance of keeping in touch with your prospects and clients on a regular basis. We hope that you carried out the action list and sent at least 1 newsletter to your list. Thank you for all those who included us in your mailing list and sent us a copy of your emails. Well done to those who did the actions!
 
This week, we are covering Viral Marketing.
 
As you already know the Number 1 method of increasing your business, cost effectively and easily, is via referral.

So the question is, what are you currently using to cultivate referrals in your business?
 
In this email, we have created an interesting way to improve your opportunities to get more referrals from your satisfied buyers without even asking for it!
 
Saying that, it is important that you should always ask the following question, at every opportunity:

“Who do you know that is looking to buy a home or an investment property in the next 3 – 6 months?”
 
If you click on the link given below you will be taken to another download page where you can download 2 more templates that we have developed for you which will improve your referral pipeline via a method called “Viral Marketing”. …..

To read this article in full, sign up for the 50 Bright Ideas free weekly email. Each week we showcases some of the best ideas from around the world on property marketing, and we also give you the steps required to implement these ideas into your business. So what have you go to loose – register today.

http://50ideas.brightfox.com.au/

How to run effective email marketing campaigns?

Email marketing can be such an effective marketing medium, but all to often customers emails end up as SPAM. So what do you need to do to make sure you next email is one of the effective ones, and not one of those marked as SPAM! Below we have a few simple but essential tips on how to make your next email campaign a success.

First of all lets talk about SPAM. There are some pretty scary statistics about the level of SPAM email in the world today. In fact in a report published in mid 2008 by one of the world’s largest anti-spam firms (Sophos) they reported that only 1 in 28 emails are legitimate (the rest are Spam). Given the rate at which email and spam is increasing, we can assume it is even worse by now. Interestingly the worst two countries for spam origination were the US and Russia. Australia, New Zealand and all GCC countries were not in the top ten.

So what are the steps to ensuring your next campaign is not marked as SPAM.

Rule 1. Ensure you email to a targeted list of recipients only.

There are two ways your email can be marked as SPAM. The first occurs automatically. Ant-spam software scans your email and if it thinks it is SPAM, it will either delete it completely or at least mark it as SPAM. The second is that someones receives your email and then reports you and your email to an ISP or Anti-Spam firm, which can also result in not only the single email campaign, but also all email from you domain name being marked as SPAM.

So the first rule is only send your bulk emails to people who have requested it. If you send bulk emails to unsolicited lists, you email will be marked as SPAM and you may even get Blacklisted (all email from your domain name will be marked as SPAM automatically). 

Rule 2. Personalise your email.

If you reach the recipients Inbox, the next key is to ensure that they read it. The best way to do this is to personalise the content of the email. Now you may immediately think that this means addressing the email to them personally. Yes this is valuable, but the single most important thing is to ensure that the content they receive is relevant to them. A personalised email promoting a new car will not be relevant nor appreciated by someone who contact you enquiring about property for sale.

In terms of property, this means sending relevant property content. If someone has enquired on 2 bedroom apartments for investment, don’t send them luxury waterfront villa’s. No matter how you address the email, this is bad for business. It won’t get you enquiries, but it will get you unsubscribes.

Emailing non-relevant content and offers to your database can be one of the fastest ways to kill your valuable database.

We recommend recording prospects buyer matching criteria and sending only relevant information to each prospect. Our two CRM products, foxEnterprise and foxAdvantage, can do both with ease so this shouldn’t be too hard to implement.

Rule 3. Always use a relevant but still catchy Subject Line.

In my view this can be the hardest rule to follow. As we all know, we scan our email often quickly, scanning the subject line and making a decision then and there as to whether to read or delete. That split second is often the determining factor in a successful campaign or otherwise.

The hard part is making your Subject Line cut through all of the other emails your recipients get, but not going over the top so that your email gets marked or is viewed as SPAM.

Here is a small sample of words you should NOT use in your subject line:

  • Free
  • Discount
  • Opportunity
  • Click here
  • Call Now
  • Amazing
  • Make Money
  • Eliminate Debt
  • Winning
  • Credit
  • Loans
  • Order Now
  • Special Offer
  • Cash Offer
  • Going fast
  • etc

Pretty much any derivatives of the above are going to also be highly dubious. Also don’t add in explanation marks, question marks and any punctuation, as this will also affect your SPAM rating.

So what is a good subject line?

As with the email itself, it needs to be relevant. So ideally your subject line will immediately identify to the recipient why your email is relevant to them, and hence why they should open it.

So in the example above where we have a prospect wanting a 2 bedroom apartment for investment. The ideal subject line may be: – New 2 bed apartment ideal for investors.

This hits all of the hot points the prospect needs, namely ‘new’ (something they have not seen and also creates the opportunity to get in first), ‘2 bed apartment’ (the right product – so they are not wasting time looking at non-relevant properties) and ‘investment’ (once again relevant product).

So if your prospect got this email, and providing the email itself was sent to a targeted and relevant list, I would think that you would get a high % of opens (the emails are read).

This is an easy example but unfortunately writing subject lines is pretty hard work. So the best idea if you have time to to run trial campaigns. Come up with 2 or 3 different subject lines and use them to different sample groups and measure their effectiveness. There is no metric better than the number of email responses or phone calls that you get from each one to tel you what is working and what isn’t.

Rule 4. Update your CRM software religiously.

Once your mailing lists are out of date, then your emails will start loosing relevancy and their effectiveness will drop rapidly. If you are serious about email marketing you need to ensure your house in always in order – which in this case means your CRM is always up to date.