AnIntegrated Campaign Pays Off for PropertyFirst.com

Congratulations. You’ve gotten over a big hurdle: getting visitors to your Web site and enticing them to register. But you know your work isn’t done. A large, clean opt-in list won’t do you much good if the registered users don’t return to your site — regularly.

So if you find yourself in this situation, look to PropertyFirst.com for guidance. PropertyFirst.com is an online e-marketplace for commercial real-estate professionals. Clients include commercial real-estate owners, brokers, investors, and service providers who visit the site to post and search listings, identify real-estate opportunities, and network across the United States. Simply put, the site matches up people with something to sell with people who want to buy.

One of the company’s main challenges was to get repeat visits. When it first began to integrate its e-marketing program back in July 2000, it had a fairly healthy database of about 15,000 registered users. But even with all those users, it’s not every day that someone wants to post a listing or search for information. And as many marketers I’ve talked to have discovered, it can be tough to get return visits if you aren’t part of a customer’s daily routine. Only around 17 percent actually visited the site each month.

So PropertyFirst.com needed to keep the site on top of its clients’ minds. And thanks to an intense, integrated campaign of direct mail, telemarketing, and email marketing, the company was able to nearly double its database and up the usage rate to almost 25 percent.

Here’s how the company did it.

One piece involved using that traditional means of communication: the telephone. PropertyFirst.com found that commercial real-estate brokers love to do business by phone. (Having been on the line with some very friendly, chatty brokers, I’m not surprised.) The company contacted these brokers, told them about the site, and asked them if they wanted to register. About 20 percent did. And those who weren’t interested right then were asked if they wanted to receive email about future product releases, more information on PropertyFirst.com, and so on. That tactic also helped to build up the opt-in list.

Another prong involved an email marketing campaign targeted at inactive users. A few months ago, PropertyFirst.com looked at all of the registered brokers (and in case I need to point this out, notice I said “registered” — this was not spam) who had not logged on in the previous 90 days. They accounted for 7,596 registered users. With the help of interactive marketing firm Responsys Inc. and its Responsys Interact tool, PropertyFirst.com then contacted these brokers.

The company sent out a message that thanked the users for their business and reminded them of the marketing tools that it offers. As an incentive, PropertyFirst.com offered users a sweepstakes entry to win a nice set of golf clubs for each listing they entered or updated.

Plus the messages included a short survey. The survey asked why brokers had not logged on to PropertyFirst.com recently, how the site could improve its products and services, and whether the broker used other commercial real-estate Web sites. For answering the survey, the participant received an additional sweepstakes entry.

The company was pleased with the immediate results:

  • Of the 7,596 messages sent, 2,954 were opened. That’s about a 39 percent open rate.

  • Of the brokers who opened the messages, a large majority (2,582) did one or more activities. These activities included searching, adding listings, visiting the home page, and adding information to a listing. This translates to a reactivation rate of about 34 percent of people who were sent the message and about 87 percent of people who were sent and opened the message.
  • Of those who opened the message, about 12.9 percent (383 people) took the survey.
  • The cost per open was $0.43, and the cost per click was $3.23.

There’s more to measure than just immediate numbers, of course. You’re probably wondering about long-term effects. Did this really help to encourage repeat visitors?

It sure did. PropertyFirst.com studied behavior one month after the program, and the data revealed a sustained impact. Nearly 50 percent of the brokers who were activated by the program remained active. So the program will be repeated quarterly.

And the survey captured some valuable feedback. PropertyFirst.com had thought that site navigation was part of the inactivity problem. But it learned that users felt that the site navigation was OK; the issue lay in the number of listings. Users wanted more content. So PropertyFirst.com got some valuable qualitative feedback in a short amount of time, without investing in expensive focus groups.

This is just one part of PropertyFirst.com’s e-marketing strategy. Next time, we’ll take a look at how it used multiple rules-based engines to adapt and change its messages based on its customers’ behavior in real time.

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