Though many MLSs offer a rich and diverse set of products and services to their subscribers, there is often a gap between what is offered and what subscribers know about. When MLSs spend money on providing value that subscribers don’t know about and take advantage of, those dollars are wasted. To judge communications effectiveness, it’s not enough to ask subscribers what they think. Last year, Clareity surveyed a medium size MLS and 72% of subscribers said that their MLS did “a good or excellent job of communicating.” Yet, 74% of those same agents did not know about the new MLS system, the rollout of which was impending!
The real problem is that, as the MLS offering grows, it would be overwhelming for subscribers if the MLS sent individual messages about each change to the service – each with its own benefit-oriented subject line designed to increase “opens” and click-throughs. Also, the more general multi-subject newsletters grow longer, and it’s hard to get subscribers to read through the whole thing to find something of interest to them. The answer to this problem is to target communications better, so that subscribers get individual messages most likely to be of greatest interest to them, see similarly targeted MLS system announcements, and receive personalized multi-subject newsletters, so that the most interesting and applicable subjects are at the top. Similar concepts apply to the MLS website and other communications channels. Not every MLS has such sophisticated tools; not every MLS has even considered looking for existing tools, creating them, or having a software partner create them. But the need is there, and that’s why I’m shining a light.
This idea isn’t new. In fact, most MLS executives use Facebook, and many of them use Facebook friend lists to restrict which friends see which status updates and photos – business or personal. Perhaps you go further, and have one group for your family, one group for friends, a subgroup of your friends called “close friends” with whom you feel comfortable sharing personal details, a group for business acquaintances, and a group of friends and acquaintances in your local area. When you group your friends lists in such a way, if you’re going out tonight, you might want to post asking the people in your area if any would like to meet up, but not your Facebook friends in other states or countries. You can apply the same concept to your other communications channels.
What are some of the lists you might want to create in order to target your messages more precisely?
- Sell-side agents
- Buy-side agents
- Non-productive (neither buy nor sell side)
- Affiliate members
- Those that use the MLS system or parts of the MLS system
- Those that use or license certain products
- Subscribers that have (or not) taken specific classes
- High ratio of CMAs to listings
- Political advocacy (useful for association functions)
Mining your MLS software, your AMS software, and your SSO software can give you more than enough data to create these lists. Think of all you could do if you could customize the display of your internal website to target messages to specific segments of your membership. Take your education pages. Has a person taken a class in the past? Don’t show it to her; show her classes she might want to take next. Or take your political action pages. Has a person donated? If not, can he be encouraged to donate? If he has donated, can he be encouraged to donate more? Has a person used a product? If so, could you display information on upcoming seminars to help him with it? If not, you might not want to display that information.
All this sounds good, but you have to identify sources of the data and either create or have a vendor build tools that will enable you to mine the data and turn the data into maintainable email lists, dynamic web pages, or other customized material. At the 2015 Clareity MLS Workshop, we discussed steps that MLSs are taking today to build these tools, to work with their vendors, and to make targeted subscriber communication a reality. MLSs are using commercial tools such as Salesforce, creating their own custom tools, and working with technology providers to create the tools they need.
The benefits of targeted communications are clear. The number of messages each participant has to read goes down, and the percentage of messages participants find interesting and useful goes way up. Open rates and page views go up. Participants are more engaged, and find communications more welcome. I encourage MLSs not to settle for the status quo, where too many communications go unread. As we discovered performing research for the Workshop, and as we heard from Workshop participants, this technology is attainable and usable; it is just a matter of setting your goals high and asking for what you want.
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