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The Crusaders... John Reilly, Saul Klein, Mike Barnett
Harnessing the Power of eMail

eMail, like any other application, is extremely powerful. Most of us probably use only about 25% of the total functionality embedded in the program. The other 75% contain features that may be deemed esoteric and unnecessary. However, a number of these features can actually be quite important to real estate professionals. By harnessing the power of these features, we can make our operations more efficient, and start to use eMail for more strategic purposes. To get the most out of eMail, you will want to set these features up to work particularly for you.


eMail Message Basics


Let us begin with the eMail message itself.

To start with the obvious, we all know that the To dialog box is where the intended recipient's eMail address goes.

The next box, Cc (carbon copy; interesting that we use the paradigm of carbon paper in the digital age) is used for inputting the addresses of additional people we want to receive the eMail, but only for information purposes. Bcc (blind carbon copy) is to be used when we want a certain person to receive the eMail, but we do not want anyone else to know that the individual has received it. It may sound sinister, but there are some excellent uses for this feature. For example, if you are sending eMail to a list of people (say, over five) and do not want to clog people's eMail with the names of all these other addressees (as well as disclose those eMail addresses to others on the list), it is preferable to throw all the names into the Bcc box, and just put one eMail address-it can even be your own-into the To box. This is what you will want to do if you choose to send out an eMail-based newsletter to a large group of people on a fairly regular basis.

Setting Up Your Mail Manager

Most software can be customized for the user, and eMail software is no exception. The functionality that you use most often should be right in front of you where it is easy to get to, without having to search. The look (or "view") should be one that lets you work most effectively with the software. Many users never realize that they have the ability to customize the interface and capabilities of the software, and they use the defaults configured by the manufacturer. (Default, in computer terms, is the way the computer will work or look if you do nothing to change it.)

It is important to note that much of the terminology and functionality is consistent in all Windows software, so you are well on your way to getting the most out of your eMail software if you are proficient in Windows. Some of the more important "look and feel" and functionality of a common free Mail Software, Outlook Express, are covered in this lesson. This same functionality (things like sorting, filtering, address books, distribution lists) is available in most other types of eMail software.

Preview Pane

The preview pane allows you to view the content of your eMail without actually opening each individual eMail message. This unique split-screen approach can be a great time saver if you receive lots of eMail. You can quickly scan a series of messages, deleting those of little interest and sorting others out for closer reading. Some eMail software does not have this viewing feature (for example, not available with AOL mail). To set up your mail software in the Preview Pane format, go to the View button on the Tool Bar and select Layout from the Menu. From here you will be able to select (and unselect) the Preview Pane format.

Preview Pane Header

While in the Preview Pane format, without opening the eMail, you can see whom the eMail is from, to, copy, date and attachments. The Preview Pane Header is set up by going to the View button, selecting Layout and checking Preview Pane Header.

Message Toolbars

The two tool bars available to you when creating an eMail message are Standard Buttons and Formatting Bar. Both are set as the default in Outlook Express and work fine unless you want to customize them.

The Text Size of the eMail You Receive

You have the ability to change the text size of the eMail you view from five different sizes-from smallest to largest. Simply open Outlook Express, go to the View button, select Text Size, and choose the appropriate size text for you.

Spell Check

To make sure that you do not leave a negative impression due to poor spelling, use the Spell Check provided by the eMail software. Set your software so that it checks spelling automatically before you send each piece of eMail. While it is not perfect (it cannot distinguish between "there" and "their"-both spelled properly and used differently), it will help you put your best foot forward on the Internet. Go to Tools/Options/Spelling.

Tools/Options

Significant functionality awaits you when you select the Tools button then Options. Once there, select the Compose tab at the top of the open Window. There you will be able to select:
  • Setting Font Style and Size-note that the recipients may have their computers configured to receive messages in a different font size and style.
  • Plain Text-viewable by most mail software.
  • Rich Text Format (RTF)-viewable by newer browsers, and the recommended setting to insure that your eMail can be seen by almost everyone.
  • HTML-to be used only when you know that your eMail recipients are capable of viewing eMail written in this format. It allows for more color and design than Plain Text and RTF.

Automating Signature Files


Every piece of eMail should be considered a marketing vehicle and, as such, should contain relevant contact information. The beauty of effective eMail communication, however, is that much of proper eMail "hygiene" (that is, the stuff that should be done all the time) can be automated.

One of the easiest-and most important-examples of this is the automatic signature (otherwise known as the tagline). Chances are, you have come across this many times before. An automatic signature consists of several lines of text at the bottom left-hand corner of an eMail, sometimes separated from the bulk of the message by a line of asterisks. The signature contains the individual's name, often a title, address/phone number, and Web site address, and, increasingly, a slogan or tagline from the individual's firm. In short, a signature constitutes one of the basic building blocks of online marketing. If eMail is the foundation for online marketing, signatures represent the keystone brick.

Signature files should include your contact information, but they may also be used to express a bit of your personality. The key is to "pack 'em" with information but "keep 'em succinct". Signatures should not exceed six lines. The following items are key:

  • Name
  • eMail Address
  • Web site Address
  • Phone and Fax Number
  • Your business slogan
Four Examples

**********************
Joan H. Smith
Realtor, Weichert New Jersey
mailto:Joan@JoanSmith.com
201-326-7322

**********************
Joan H. Smith
201-326-7322
http://www.wichertnj.com
mailto:Joan@JoanSmith.com

**********************
Joan H. Smith, DREI, GRI, CBR, ABR
Office: 201-326-7322 / Cell: 201-562-3325
Check out my newest listing: http://www.xyzpdq.com
mailto:Joan@JoanSmith.com

**********************
Joan H. Smith, DREI, GRI, CBR, ABR
mailto:Joan@JoanSmith.com
Office: 201-326-7322 / Cell: 201-562-3325
Over 20 years of experience, selling some of the hottest properties in the northern New Jersey region.

You may want to consider setting up more than one signature for different groups of intended recipients. For instance, if you have two strong specialties, such as corporate relocations and first-time homebuyers, you may want to set up different signature files to customize your outgoing eMail accordingly. Remember to pay attention to which signature you are using with each outgoing mail message, especially if you have created a number of them. Some people find it too confusing and onerous to switch between multiple signatures. Bottom line: choose a strategy that is best for you. You will learn how to set up signature files in one of the assigned Web trips.

Another effective use of the signature file is to use it to send a boilerplate response. For example, say you send a standard first letter to someone asking for relocation information. Create that message as another signature file-with its own signature, of course-so that all you have to do when responding is click on the signature feature and select this one. It sure beats having to locate that standard message somewhere in your file system.

Managing your eMail


Managing your eMail involves effective setup, ongoing management, and monitoring of many aspects. These include:

Your File System

Over the next few years you will be receiving more and more business and personal eMail. Consequently, it will become increasingly important that you have a file system set up to manage and store the heavy traffic. The best way to organize your tsunami of eMail is to create individual folders based on certain subject categories. For instance, you may want to set up a separate folder for each individual property you have listed, or for each individual client. It is also possible to set up subfolders within folders. The example below illustrates how this would work:
  1. Personal eMail
    • Family
    • Friends
  2. Office Mail
    • Intra-office memos
    • Office marketing
  3. Real Estate Transactions
    • Open Transactions
      • 123 Crusade Drive
      • 462 Oak Road
    • Closed Transactions
      • 421 Williams Street
      • 89 Walnut Street

Setting up folders and subfolders using Outlook Express is as easy as right clicking on your existing Inbox or Archive folder and selecting New Folder or Add New Folder.

Filtering Incoming eMail

It is possible to build folders and have incoming eMail directly deposited into the designated folders without having the eMail first go to your Inbox. The sorting is done in Outlook Express by Rules, where you select the Conditions and the Actions. It can save a great deal of time and prevent you from having to manually organize every piece of eMail sent to you. If you receive a great deal of low-priority mail from a particular source—say, a discussion forum or listserv you read occasionally—you might want to direct that mail so that it circumvents your Inbox, where you prefer to keep to business related messages. Unsolicited mail ("spam") from a common source is a perfect target for filtering into a Junk folder.

You can set up your rules in many ways. For example:

Condition

Action

Where the From Line contains personX@aol.com

Move it to a specific folder labeled Person X

Where the From line contains personY@isp.com

Automatically forward it to personZ@yahoo.com

Where the Subject line contains "35 Walden Street"

Copy it to the folder marked "35 Walden Street"

To set up these types of rules (rules filter your incoming mail into folders) in Outlook Express, go to Tools/Message Rules/Mail (or Tools/Organize in Outlook). From this point, select a Condition by checking the appropriate box. Then select an Action by checking the appropriate box. For example:

  • Step 1: Tools/Message Rules/Mail.
  • Step 2: Select Condition by checking the box: Where the From line contains Saul@InternetCrusade.com.
  • Step 3: Select Action by checking the box: Move it to specified folder labeled "Saul Klein". eMail filtering is one of those things that can become too complicated for your own good. However, on the simplest level, it can be very helpful.

Vacation Message

Setting up an auto-response message such as "I am on vacation until XYZ date" is crucial for real estate professionals whose clients expect them to be on call around the clock. If you are planning to be away from your eMail for any length of time (say, more than two days), you should absolutely learn how to set up your eMail so that it automatically notifies anyone who sends you an eMail during that time-but be careful to turn off the feature when you return from your trip.

Vacation message functionality is a service provided by your Internet Service Provider, which will give you instructions on its proper use. The ISP will give you a special Web address that you can access with your username and password. Then it is a simple matter of entering your message in the designated box and clicking a check box to activate the vacation message. You can configure the system so it sends only one message per sender no matter how often that sender sends you an eMail while you are out of the office.

Permanent eMail Address

Have you ever changed phone numbers? How about having your area code changed? These types of changes are more than minor inconveniences; they can disrupt your whole marketing program. Once you select an eMail service provider-whether it is AOL, an Internet-based eMail provider, an ISP, or your company's eMail-and start giving out that eMail address, you are locking yourself into a commitment. More and more people will be adding your eMail address to their eMail address books, and it will be very difficult for you to redirect them if you ever change providers. Think about it. If you have been using yourname@yourcompany.com eMail address for five years and you suddenly change firms, you will have to alert everyone who eMails you about the change. Chances are, you will be lucky to remember even half of those people. Any eMail that comes into your old address (say, from a former client who has a relocation lead) will be lost to you. The solution to this nightmare scenario is to set up a "permanent eMail address."

You can set up a permanent eMail address to use for the rest of your life. The beauty of a permanent eMail address is that you can configure it to automatically forward incoming mail to another eMail address that you happen to use on a daily basis. And, if you ever stop using that eMail address, you can reconfigure your permanent eMail address to forward incoming messages to a new address. You will avoid the risk of lost business, and you will eliminate the need to reprint business cards, stationery, signs, and marketing pieces with a new eMail address. While you are are at it, ask your eMail provider to set up your account with "unlimited eMail forwarding." You can also have multiple "alias" addresses set up for a given domain; for example, sales@you.com, 122MainStreet@you.com, and HotProperty@you.com. Messages sent to these eMail accounts would all go to you. Now you have a way of tracking your lead sources. For example, use one eMail address in one publication and a different eMail address in another publication to find out which one makes better use of your marketing dollars.

In a nutshell, the essentials of a permanent eMail address are twofold:

  • A domain—You.com
  • A domain host that will forward your eMail

To obtain a Permanent eMail Address, you must register your domain, such as You.com. Registration takes only a few minutes and can be handled entirely online. At the low end, domain prices are about $29 for one year. Once your domain is registered, you will need a domain host, which can be an ISP or an IPP (Internet Presence Provider). For about $5.00 per month, a host will forward all eMail sent to You@You.com to the account where you receive your eMail (even to AOL, if that is where you like to receive your eMail).

Configuring Your Return Address

When you set up your mail manager, make sure the Return Address indicates your permanent domain and not the domain of your Internet Service Provider (that is, use your permanent eMail address and not your "user name" with your ISP). This is one of the most important and, unfortunately, most misunderstood features of eMail software. When a mail recipient adds your eMail address to his or her eMail address book, you want to make sure they enter your permanent eMail address, which is based on your domain (your marketing brand), and not the domain of your ISP. For example, you want it to show Janie@JanieKlein.com and not JanieK@PrudentialRealty.com—even if you are sending your messages from your Prudential office account. Changing your return address is an easy process.

Web-based Mail

What if you are traveling and do not have your computer with you, but want to check your eMail for an important message you are expecting? Wouldn't it be great if you could go to anyone's computer, surf to a specific Web site, enter your username and password, and suddenly have access to all your eMail? Well, that's what I-mail is all about—the ability to access your mail on the Web from any computer. It is the ability to utilize a computer at an airport kiosk to access your eMail, recognizing that, when you get home and download your eMail, it will contain all the messages you have accessed while on the road.

Sounds great, but are there any downsides? One big one is the fact you need to be connected to the Internet to handle your mail and, the fact is, many people read and compose their eMail messages offline using their eMail manager software. The bottom line is that I-mail is a great supplemental service to your existing eMail software. It serves a good purpose-easy access while on the road or away from your computer. However, it should not be your only eMail service. There are Web-based eMail services that are free-the kicker is that each message usually contains an ad or promotional tagline.

Building Distribution Lists for Every Transaction


Have you ever stopped to notice how often you send virtually the same eMail message to a variety of individuals? There is an easier way to do this than copying, pasting, and retyping the names of all the intended recipients. By creating a distribution list, you can maintain this collection of eMail addresses and use it for all future correspondence. This will allow for easy communication to all the players in a transaction. As an example, to notify everyone in a particular transaction that there will be a walk-through inspection on a specific date, address a single eMail to the specific distribution list and it will be sent to all participants. In most software, you would go to your Address Book and click on New Entry, then click on Distribution List. An example of a Transaction Distribution List would be:

Transaction: 123 Crusade Drive

  • Buyer
  • Seller
  • Lender
  • Attorney
  • Escrow Company
  • Title Insurance Company
  • Pest Control Company
  • Appraiser
  • Buyer's Agent
  • Seller's Agent

Using Your eMail Address Book


If you have not yet used your eMail address book, it is an absolute must. Keeping names and eMail addresses in your address book means that you will not have to remember or type in the address each time you want to use it. In effect, your address book remembers all the details for you. It is well worth your time to review the Help section that comes with your eMail software and have it walk you through the process of storing your contacts' key information so that it is available at the push of a button.

The following table shows you the actions required to automatically add an eMail address directly from an eMail message sent to you. It is very important to collect these valuable eMail addresses the minute you receive a message; otherwise, you might forget.

If a Message Is...

Go Through These Steps...

For This...

In the Inbox

Go to pull-down menu.
Click on Tools.
Click on Add Sender to Address Book.
or
Right-click on Message....
On the bottom of the menu, select Add Sender to Address Book.

Note: In both of these methods:
If the eMail address is already in the Address Book, you will be notified.
You can only add the Sender from the Inbox.

Sender will be added to Address Book.


or
You will see a menu of Options.
Sender will be added to the Address Book.

Open

Go to pull-down menu.
Click on Tools
Click on Add to Address Book.
or
Right-click on the Contact you want to add to the Address Book.

Note:
In both of these methods:
If the eMail address is already in the Address Book, you will be notified.
When you add a Contact to the Address Book from an Open message, you have the ability to add other contact information.

You will be prompted with choices of:
Sender
Everyone on the To List
Individual Listings



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