Real Estate Agent Emails: Why Marketing and Nurturing Don’t Mix

database health, database marketing, domain, email, email domains, email filtering, enuturing, ESP, ISP, marketing, marketing messages, nurturing, real estate agent success, spam folder, subdomain

Think email is easy? You don't even know how little you know...

Oil and water. Fire and gasoline. Bathtubs and toasters. Orange juice and toothpaste. Real estate marketing and nurturing.

What do all of these things have in common? Well, if you read the title of the article, you already know (cheater!). They just don’t mix, not one bit. At least, not if you are doing it right. 

How Do You Capture a Lead and Turn Them into a Closed Sale? Carefully.

As a real estate agent, you focus on getting your client’s home sold, or helping them find the perfect house (ideally, both). In the meantime, you’ve got to market yourself, and your business—they are one and the same, after all. You’ve got to generate new leads, then you need to nurture those new leads into clients—it doesn’t stop there. Then, you need to nurture those clients through the process, and the funnel, and into the transaction. After the transaction is an important next step—you begin the post-closing nurturing campaign,  also known as the keep-in-touch program.

You have to build rapport, establish a relationship and obtain their trust to take them through the entire process, then you want to nurture to maintain the relationship so they will either use you again in the future or refer you to someone else who will use your help. You want to be a part of their “friends and family” group (if you remember the old MCI commercials).

What if I told you that the very first step in that process is KILLING your ability to complete the rest, to run the entire funnel? That’s right, the marketing of your business (and by default, you) is actually HURTING your business? It’s a simple rule of science, oil and water don’t mix, and neither do real estate marketing and nurturing. Bummer, right—what if I was able to show you the emulsifier to make it all combine beautifully?


Technical Warning:

This is a long, technical post, so if you prefer the TLDR (too long, didn't read) version: You don’t want to learn a bunch of techy stuff, so forget about doing it yourself. Don’t trust that your brokerage is doing it right either—based on what I’ve seen, they aren’t. It’s simple, outsource your real estate marketing and nurturing emails by hiring an expert to do it for you. Are we the best ones to hire? We think so, and so do our clients, we have the secret sauce that works. Hire us and increase your income and closed sales simply, quickly and painlessly. You’ll be doing your clients, yourself and your business an enormous, priceless, favor. 

For those who want to learn, and “do business better,” keep reading, the rest isn’t for the faint of heart or the casual real estate agent, this is for the “Get real and own this shit” agent you either are, or want to be. So let’s establish why what I am getting ready to lay down for you here is a HUGE deal for you, and your business. Ready to take this magical journey to success?

The Cost of Doing Business Right: Real Estate Marketing is Expensive

Let’s talk about the cost factor first, you are familiar with that, right? Studies have shown that it costs between 10 and 20 times more to generate a new lead and nurture it to client status, than it is to get a past client to transact with you again—that’s the cost factor. You’re marketing for new leads at a cost of 10-20x what it costs to nurture past clients. In doing so, you’re murdering your chances of nurturing those existing and established leads, and past clients into future transactions and closings. Wait for it, we’ll get to that, so put a pin in that “huh?” that just hit your brain.

Time is Money, Stop Wasting It.

The next consideration is the “time factor.” Creating a great real estate marketing message can be tricky and usually takes a LOT of time. Creating great nurturing messages is even more difficult, and just as time consuming, if not more. If you do it correctly, you’re creating a separate nurturing message for each category of your database (leads, current clients, past clients, sphere, etc.). 

Of course, add these tasks on top of everything else you must do to be a great agent and there’s not enough hours in the day to get it done, much less done correctly. Imagine how much of your time is wasted because your marketing efforts are actually driving down your nurturing efforts. We will explain why, don’t worry, but the fact is that you’re not doing it right, not any of it. 

Ready for the fun stuff? Let’s get to the technical side!  Sure, we can all copy and paste content into your favorite email program and hit send, where’s the technical in that? Well, think of it like this: your client, who you have shown countless houses, and wrote an offer for tells you, “You showed us a few houses and then filled out a contract, what’s so difficult about that? We’re gonna take it from here on the next one. Thanks.” 

We know your client didn’t see all the important details and nuances of the transaction that are required to buy a home. Your job is to make it seem easy, seamless and stress free right? Well it’s the same thing with sending emails to your database. Do you know what an MX Record is? DMARC? SPF? DKIM? Email domain or sub-domain? Email IP address? Yeah… that’s some of the technical stuff that you don’t see when it comes to email sending. I told you this was gonna be fun!  

The Exciting Details of How Email Service Providers Work

Now you know why email creation is such a big deal, you should know a bit about how that email you are sending gets from your computer to your client’s computer, and more importantly—how it gets opened. When you hit “send”—all of that technical stuff we talked about above is attached to that email as it travels the interwebs to its final destination.

As you know, or should know, just because you hit send doesn’t mean that email is going to reach its target. Each email service provider (ESP) is a little bit different in how it handles your sent email message. Your message could end up in the recipients inbox, where you intend it to go, but it could end up in the “Promotions” tab on Gmail, or in the “Junk” or “Spam” folder, if you are fortunate. Then again, that ESP may decide you and your email aren’t even worthy of their customers inbox and block you completely, game over DOA.

POWER FACTOID: In 2019, nearly 20% of all emails went to the spam folder, and another 10% were completely rejected by the email provider. The ESP makes these decisions based on all the super techy (technical) data that accompanies your email, and you don’t see. Most ESP also have a history of every email they have ever received which they use to judge how worthy your email is of delivery to their user, and whether it thinks that user will engage with your email. 

The first things that any ESP checks are your DMARC, DKIM, and SPF information—these essentially tell the ESP that you are who you say you are, and that the email you’ve sent is coming from the domain that it says it’s coming from. Simple enough if you’re sending directly from your personal email, but difficult if you are sending through a third party provider. 

Once they know who you are, they search their records to find out everything about any email you’ve sent to them in the past, including how many you send on a regular basis, how many bad emails you’ve sent (hard and soft bounces), how many people who have reported you for spam, how many people who’ve actually opened your emails (open rate), how many who’ve clicked on links in your emails (CTR), and how many people have replied to your emails. The ISP/ESP also reviews the formatting of your email to determine what the content probably is (a plain text versus a heavily formatted HTML newsletter, for example).

Now, here’s the rub… the sender is not the person named in the “From” email address, it’s actually the domain (or subdomain) that the email originates from. The ESP takes all of that information for every email sent by the domain or subdomain you are using and keeps it. If you’re using an email such as @kwrealty, @sothebysrealty, @bhhs email address, it’s taking every single email sent from that domain into consideration when it determines if you get the precious inbox space, or end up in the spam folder. Every single real estate agent that has ever sent a real estate marketing email from the same domain you are using helps determine your reputation and the success of your email campaign. (here’s a hint: almost every single email that I receive from a brokerage email address ends up in my spam folder, automatically, unless it’s someone I’ve emailed before.)

Obviously, you don’t want to send your precious emails from a shared domain which may have been tainted by an agent ill-prepared to send emails who spammed thousands of people—you need to be in control of your email’s destiny, but just separating your email from the toxic domain won’t be enough. 

Real Estate Marketing Kills Your Nurturing

Question: How often do you receive e-flyers, newsletters, open house invites, or invitations to various webinar training, or continuing education classes? 
Answer: All the time. 

Question: How often do you open them, click them, or reply to them? 
Probable answer: Almost never. 

And those are just the emails that make it through the ESP decathlon and into your inbox. Now, let’s take a moment and look into your spam folder, go ahead, I’ll wait. Oh, you’re back, so how many of those same messages are in there that you would never have seen if I didn’t tell you to look in that dead zone? 

Real estate marketing emails have phenomenally low open and engagement rates. Nobody likes to be “sold” to, and your ESP is like your big brother, protecting you from seeing the evil in the world of email. This is why a disproportionate portion of marketing emails end up labeled “spam,” quarantined as suspicious, or completely rejected and lost in the void of the unknown. It’s the nature of the business (and the beast), every email marketer accepts that even the best marketing emails end up in spam a good percentage of the time and most will never be opened, they are just DOA—dead on arrival.

Those spam rates, open rates, and engagement rates from the domain you are using affect every email you send. Every marketing message that gets ignored is a black mark on your next email which may be a nurture email, or even a transactional email (side note, one of our writers regularly ends up in spam, even when sending personal letters because of her email signature with all those required real estate licenses and disclaimers about wire fraud -- and they aren’t even marketing messages). 

Can you imagine if the listing agent never received your offer because it went to their spam folder? Imagine if your clients never received the list of properties you sent them or a confirmation email for a showing (yup, that happened to that writer before MANY times, and they lost business!)? Every time you send a marketing message that doesn’t get opened, your chance of ending up in the spam folder increases, for every future email you send. This is how marketing emails kill nurturing emails and often end up killing a business (and like that writer again, costs you 10’s of thousands of dollars in lost commission, do you really want THAT?).

Why Bother Marketing? I Should Stop Completely, right?!

No! Of course not! How on earth will you ever grow your business without marketing? Real estate marketing is the core of your business, you can’t stop that. You just have to do it better, smarter, and in conjunction with all your other marketing efforts. An essential part of being smart about business is knowing your numbers. Do you have a way to know if your emails are effective? Do you know what your deliverability is? Your open rates? Your click through rates? Your Click to Open rates? Bounce rates? Do you even know what this stuff is, or what it means? 

According to a 2019 research study, the industry averages for real estate (which includes real estate as well as construction and contracting) are as follows:
  • Open Rate: 19.9%
  • Click Through Rate: 3.6% 
  • Click to Open Rate: 17.7%
  • Bounce Rate: 1.4%

For our curiosity, and this article, we ran a test. With our marketing and IT teams, we split a list of users in half and then sent them the exact same email—one of them using our marketing email sub-domain (more on this in the next section) and one using our nurturing/transactional email sub-domain.

Happy Grasshopper Email Deliverability Test Results April 2020

We sent the identical email, identical in every way including subject line and send time, to each half of that single list. The ONLY differentiation we made between these two emails was the intentional difference in the sub-domain they were sent from. The resulting open rate was 63% higher and the click through rate was 77% higher when sending from our nurture sub-domain as compared to the marketing sub-domain. You see how marketing killed the nurture? It’s real. 

See, it’s all about deliverability, and hitting the target inbox—that’s what we do each and every day, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. How much better would your business be if suddenly you had 63% more people, seeing and opening your emails? What about if 77% more people were clicking those emails (they’re finally seeing) to get to your website, or wherever you want them to land? That growth would be game changing for you, it could change your business, and your life, right? So what are you waiting for? 

Ready for the Secret to Keep Marketing AND Nurturing, Effectively at the Same Time?

Ready for the truth, and the proof, we’ve got it for you. You have a choice, there are two ways that you can do this effectively:

The Technical Way (AKA The Hard Way)

If you own your own website, domain hosting, and handle your own email hosting, you can create sub-domains—i.e. if you own, you will create sub-domains such as: and You will create separate emails for each sub-domain that you use for only THAT specific purpose, none other. 

Then, you would use for all your nurturing and transactional emails, and for all your real estate marketing you would use Don’t forget to set up your DMARK, SPF, DKIM, and MX settings. You will also need to warm-up each sub-domain -- this is non-negotiable -- before you begin sending your emails. A solid warm-up can take 6 weeks or more, so it takes dedication and discipline. I told you it was technical… 

Real estate marketing is killing your nurturing efforts
The Easy Way (The Right Way)

Use a third party email provider (a suggestion, use us, it’s our bailiwick, Happy Grasshopper) to send your most important emails—the nurturing ones, the ones that MUST get delivered to keep your business healthy and growing. 

We care about our deliverability and monitor it every single day, making adjustments as necessary - that’s our job and our expertise, and no one does it better (in our completely unbiased and humble opinion). Our open rates exceed the industry's average open rate, hands down. 

What you need to know, and ask, before selecting a third party email service:

Do you get your own email subdomain or are you on a shared subdomain? At Happy Grasshopper, you get your own.

What is their average open rate? Happy Grasshopper’s average open rate is 38.6% (industry average is 19.9%, insert a mic drop here if you wish).

What is their average click through rate? Happy Grasshopper’s average click through rate is 6.9% (industry average is 3.6%).

What is their average Click to Open rate? Happy Grasshopper’s average Click to Open rate is 30.3% (industry average is 17.7%)

Are their emails formatted with heavy HTML or mostly text? HTML is how you format an email and the more HTML you have in your email, the more likely it is to get flagged as spam. Why? Because the ESPs know that if there is a lot of HTML in an email, it's most likely a marketing email. When looking at an email marketing service, if it uses a drag and drop editor of any kind, it’s likely got heavy HTML formatting. Happy Grasshopper’s email builder is mostly text, although you can add things like photos and links of course. Our goal is to encourage conversations and you don’t need a fancy e-flyer or heavily formatted newsletter to do that (remember, even you don’t open those things. Why would your clients, leads, or sphere open them?)

You may now know way more about email marketing for real estate than you ever wanted to know - and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully you now have a better understanding and appreciation for the technology and science that goes into each email you send, every time you hit that send button. Ensuring optimal email deliverability is a lot more complex than “send it and forget it.” 

You always advise your clients to use a professional when buying or selling a home, so why wouldn’t you use a professional to send your emails, whether nurturing current and past clients or marketing your real estate business?

Got questions? Please feel free to leave a comment below and either myself, or a member of our team, will be glad to answer that question here or via email (which has a great chance of landing in your main inbox).

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