Make a connection: How to get people to read your marketing

If you’re continually hitting the delete key or scrolling past marketing content on social media, you know you don’t want others doing the same with your content. Ellen Bathgate shares some tips on how to get people to read your marketing and enjoy it.

Nobody reads ads.

Advertising innovator Howard Luck Gossage once said, “Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad”.

Here’s the truth. If you’re advertising your property management services and your ads look like advertising, that’s not enough to get people to read it.

As Gossage wisely said, “People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad”.

This is good and bad news for you.

The bad news is: You have to stop creating marketing that looks like advertising.

The good news is: You get to stop creating marketing that looks like advertising.

So how does this play out? Where do you start? And how do you create stuff that people are genuinely interested in reading, that also happens to be an ad?

There are three areas in marketing you need to work on to spark interest. Three areas to focus on to be the type of content that people want to read. Three areas that you need to focus on to ensure that your advertising doesn’t feel like advertising. 

1. Social media posts

If you’re using social media to grow your brand and your rent roll (and let’s face it, you probably are), you want to create content that interests people. Content that doesn’t look like an advertisement.

How do you do this?

Use the photos you took on your phone

People aren’t on social media to look at your professional headshots. Sure, snazzy headshots have a place (usually on your business card), but they’re not for social media. Social media is for being social, and that means candid, casual photos, and sometimes even selfies.

Write your captions the same way you speak

Think about the posts you read on social media. These posts are mostly from your friends and family, right?

This means that your followers are likely the same. Your followers are on social media to engage with people who feel like their friends and family. So write your posts in a way that make your followers feel like you’re one of their friends.

Show your personality

Of course, you’re going to post properties on social media. But you also need to show your personality.

Here’s a test for you to run on social media: Create one post about a property you’ve leased, use your professional photos and your traditional advertising text.

Then, create another post showing you at your favourite local coffee shop, use a selfie as the picture, tag the local coffee shop and ask your followers for their coffee shop recommendations.

Now, sit back and see which post gets the best engagement.

There’s a good chance the post that shows your face and your personality will get better engagement. But try it for yourself.

2. Video ads

Think about the types of videos you watch.

Are they Instagram stories? YouTube videos? Facebook videos? And what types of videos genuinely interest you?

Are they highly scripted? Do you like watching videos where people are obviously reading from a teleprompter?

Or do you like casual videos where it feels like a friend is talking to you?

I’m going to guess that you prefer casual, conversational videos, even when the video topic is serious and educational.

Maybe you’re a little like me, and you love seeing behind the scenes videos, candid off-the-cuff stories and live videos that are happening in real time.

To be honest, I enjoy professionally edited videos too, but I want them to feel genuine and relatable.

Even when they’re beautifully edited, if it looks like an ad, I’ll lose interest.

If it looks like advertising, it’s not going to appeal to as many people.

If it’s genuinely interesting and engaging (even if it’s not super polished and perfect), people are going to watch it.

3. Email marketing

I have a friend, who has been in my life for almost 20 years, and we email each other every other day.

Receiving her emails is the highlight of my week. I love how connected we feel because of our regular emails.

I also get a lot of marketing emails too. Some from real estate agents.

But you know what the difference is? Personal connection.

The marketing emails feel like advertising. The emails from my friend feel like we’re connected.

Here’s your opportunity.

Your marketing emails, even your landlord newsletter, can create connection too. If your emails create connection, your database will be genuinely interested in reading them.

Here are a couple of ways to make your marketing emails connect with your database.

Nail your subject line

If your email subject line is boring, your database won’t even open your emails.

So it doesn’t matter how good the email is; your subject line is the thing that will ‘make or break’ your email marketing.

Let’s imagine you’re sending out a landlord newsletter at the end of the month, and you’re including an article about depreciation schedules for investment properties.

You could highlight the benefits of having a quantity surveyor prepare a depreciation schedule for an investment property, explain the approximate costs, the time it takes to arrange this report and how long the report lasts (according to the ATO).

Here’s an average subject line for this landlord newsletter: Landlord newsletter Spring 2021

And here’s a better subject line for this same landlord newsletter: one hour + 400 bucks = 40 years

Now tell me, which subject line are you going to open?

Your subject line needs to pique the interest of your audience, and if you don’t do that, your emails are never going to be opened.

Use their name

If you’re using customer relationship management (CRM) software, you’ll be able to insert merge fields into your emails to address your readers by their first name.

You’re going to use their first name in the opening line of your email (Dear <<First Name>>), but you should also test using their name in the subject line on the email and throughout the email to remind them that you’re talking to them.

Try plain formatting

There’s a good chance your CRM software has some beautiful email templates.

However, you should test sending much plainer emails.

Think about the emails you read. Are they emails that feel like they’ve come from a friend? Or are they emails that feel like advertising?

Format your marketing emails in a way that makes them feel like they’re coming from a friend.

The more conversational, relatable and readable they are, the more likely your database will read them.

The key to your email marketing (and landlord newsletters) is to create exciting content.

So the next time you’re creating advertising or marketing content, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Will people be interested in reading this?
  2. Why will people be interested in this?
  3. How can I make it more engaging and personal?

Remember: “Nobody reads advertising”, so it’s your job to make sure that your marketing never looks like an ad.

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Ellen Bathgate

Ellen Bathgate is the founder of Rent Roll Starter, and helps rent roll owners to start and grow their own rent rolls using affordable growth strategies. For more information visit