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RISMEDIA, April 6, 2010—While the philosophers debate the metaphysical and the physics of whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound when no one is around to hear it, real estate agents and brokers are more concerned about the realities of email marketing programs. If no one’s reading the email campaign, no matter how great it is, it’s not going to make any noise for your sales.

The start of a great list is one that is filled with clients and prospects who have said “yes” to receiving information from you and who will be moved to action when the time is right. But your list needs to grow if you want your business to grow. Asking for an email address at the end of your phone call with a potential buyer or seller is a great start and there are several other ways to gather new additions to your list. Follow these 10 tips and you’ll soon find you have an email list that helps win business–and is the envy of your competition.

1. Ask for email addresses at the open house. If visitors are walking through your open houses, there’s a high likelihood they’re looking to buy. Tell them they will be notified about new listings, price reductions and neighborhood events and information.

2. Promote (or start) an engagement program. An engagement program makes customers feel special with the promise of timely information, and they’re more likely to remember you when making decisions about a new home. You can share local discounts and deals around town, school news and schedules for farmer’s markets and baseball leagues.

3. Offer free information. By sharing a little bit of that knowledge for free you can entice customers and prospects to give you their email information. For example, if you’re a photographer, you can offer simple tips on how to take better, more interesting photos at family events. If you love to garden, offer tips on preparing garden beds in the spring and winter, how to care for plants in a draught, etc. And all anyone needs to do to get that information is give you an email address to send it to. Simple!

4. Conduct a poll or survey. Place a poll about something relevant to your business on your website, or use cards and a box in your office. Offer a free gift or discount as a thank-you for participating, which will be sent to the respondent’s email address.

5. Hold a contest. Similar to the survey, you can offer a prize (or series of prizes) to anyone who signs up for your mailing list. A real estate agent can offer a free home valuation or tips on adding curb appeal.

6. Use social media to encourage sign-ups. If you already have Twitter followers or a Facebook fan page, ask your followers and fans to sign up for your email alerts. Explain that the emails will include information and offers not available anywhere else. You can make it part of your engagement program.

7. Make your ad work double time. Make your local advertisement or direct mail piece go farther by promoting your e-newsletter in the copy. Let your readers know they can get more information on your website by completing a simple online form. Keep your questions simple. No one likes to give out too much information all at once.

8. Capture friends of friends. Every email you send has the potential for a ripple effect–if you encourage the people who are already on your list to pass your emails along to their friends. You can ask people to do it out of the goodness of their hearts, or you can give them an incentive with the offer of a gift or other reward if the friend signs up and mentions them. It definitely helps to offer great content that’s worth passing along.

9. Incent your staff. If you have employees, give them reasons to collect email addresses on your behalf. Offer a small reward for each name collected, to be given out after the first email is received to make sure they don’t ask to be taken off the list right away. Or offer a larger cash reward or other prize for the person who provides the most verifiable email addresses at the end of each month.

10. Get out and mingle. If there are events in town, such as “Your Town Days” or a chili cook-off or a classic cars weekend, sign up to exhibit and be a part of them. Join the Rotary Club or other organization and become an active participant. For business-to-business owners, attend meetings of special interest groups or networking events where customers and prospects might be–get their business cards and ask if it’s ok to email information to them.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started. There are plenty of others out there as well. The key is to do something.

Get your list-building mechanism going and you’ll soon find you have lots of people to whom you can send your incredibly creative emails. You still may not know whether that tree in the forest makes a noise; but at least you’ll have plenty of customers (clients?) and prospects listening.

Wendy Lowe is director of product marketing for Campaigner, the email marketing solution that enables organizations to have highly personalized one-to-one email dialogues with their customers, measure how they respond, and analyze those responses to interact in a more intelligent, automated way – resulting in more profitable relationships. Campaigner is provided by Protus, provider of the highest quality Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) communication tools for small-to-medium businesses (SMB) and enterprise organizations, including my1voice, the cost-effective, feature-rich virtual phone service, and award-winning MyFax, the fastest growing Internet fax service. Wendy can be reached at