custom real estate publication
Direct mail has been around for ages, and when it’s done right it can be very effective. Today, many top agents are farming with “hyper-local” custom publications and reporting better results than farming with postcards alone.

Have you considered publishing a local paper or newsletter in your market? Here is a “how-to” guide that can help you get started.

Step One: Identify your Territory

When you begin a farming campaign, your best results will come out of any community where you already have an established presence. If you are just starting out, it may be best to begin with smaller-scale projects like postcards or door-to-door prospecting.

Choose geographic areas that fit your business best

If you are active in many markets, consider beginning your farming in your communities with the highest turnover. In these areas, by the time your prospects receive that third, fourth, or fifth touch-point, there will be more opportunities for listing appointments compared to lower turnover areas.

Counterintuitively, with farming it’s really best not to “hyper-segment” within a geographic area. Instead, choose entire areas that have the average home value or home type that you are focused on selling, or areas that are experiencing certain market conditions that you specialize in (such as downsizing, foreclosure, or investing). If you only mail to homes that have a higher likelihood of selling, you will not be building that long-run brand awareness that will get you sales one, two, or even three years down the road.

Direct mail isn’t just for old folks

Often agents wonder if the target for their direct mail should be senior communities, especially if using one of our 12-page newspaper-style publications.

The answer is: “yes, but no.”

Yes, mail to senior communities; but no, do not single out this demographic just because you think they’ll read your mail. In fact, data from the USPS and the Data & Marketing Institute has repeatedly shown, for over a decade, that millennials and Gen-Xers respond as well or better to direct mail than their baby-boomer counterparts. Mail is less intrusive than digital marketing, and its tactile medium is something of a novelty these days.

People of all ages will pick up, open, engage with, and respond to your direct mail efforts. Market to the geographies you want to dominate; not the age groups.

Lock up your territory if you can

Once you begin your farming, you’ll peak the interest (and envy) of local competing agents. Often, they will try to follow suit, which can have a detrimental effect on your results. It’s important to take any measures possible to protect your territory.

If you are self-publishing with local design, copywriting, print, and direct mail services, it’s worth inquiring about exclusivity. For example, you could ask your printer if they can guarantee that they will not print a similar product for another agent in your same market. It may require a bit of haggling, but it’s well worth the effort.

One advantage to creating a custom publication with a full-service publisher is that exclusivity may be built in to the service, enabling you to block copy-cat competitors from the beginning. Discover creates custom real estate publications on an exclusive basis (by the Zip Code or at the carrier route level), and maintains this exclusivity for any agent mailing at least every 60 days.

Step Two: Focus your Messaging

The success of your real estate publication farming is closely related to the relevance (and quality) of your content.

Match your message to your market

Before you start writing or designing your publication, you must get clear on two things:

  1. What types of real estate issues are most important to sellers in the local community?
  2. How YOU are an expert in these matters?

Synchronize your expertise with the information that will get the attention of local homeowners. For example, if you work in a younger community with a lot of first-time buyers, you might publish information for homeowners about how to appeal to this demographic.

In addition to matching your message to your market, consider the time of year for each edition of your publication. In July, you might publish topics related to selling before the Fall, and in December, you might discuss the specific benefits of selling in the off-season.

Keep it Local

When it comes to direct mail, local content gets more attention – and more leads. By knowing your audience and speaking directly to them about things that affect their daily lives, your content marketing sets you apart as a local expert. When it’s time for a homeowner in your farm to find an agent, you will be top of mind as an active leader getting tangible results for sellers in the neighborhood.
A custom publication is also a phenomenal opportunity to engage the community by promoting seminars, special events and even local charities or volunteer organizations in the community. Here are a few ideas to localize your paper:

  • Real Estate Q & A with agent
  • Local market statistics
  • Stories on a local youth sports teams
  • Local “Events Calendar”
  • Coverage of local school district events or accomplishments
  • Reporting on local charitable activities
  • Photos – snap pictures of a recent Appreciation Event or home closing

Many of the features listed above (including stats, “Ask the Agent,” and local events articles) are created by or provided by Discover, making it easy for agents to curate a custom, local paper month after month.

Brand and promote yourself

While most of your paper should be about the community and about real estate (punctuated by other engaging content), it’s important that your branding appears front and center, “above the fold,” on each and every edition of your publication. This should include your full name, headshot, and logo.

Although you want to avoid appearing “salesy,” without your branding on your paper, you will miss out on all those eyeballs that scan and throw out their direct mail. In that 1.5 seconds when a homeowner flips through their mail (often over the trash or recycle bin), they are processing your face and name, even if they do not open or engage with your paper. That’s similar to an “open rate” or a “click” in digital marketing – it’s not a lead, but it’s a very valuable touch. Don’t miss out on it.

In addition to branding yourself on the cover, utilize key spaces throughout your publication as “calls to action.” This can include your free home evaluation URL, a free “toolkit” for sellers, or a message about the results you get for your clients. If you mail a 12-page publication with Discover, these spaces are already laid out on the most engaging pages of the paper, and your designer will proactively create ads aligned with your brand and goals.

Step Three: Design your Layout & Create your Content

If you plan to publish a paper on your own, you’ll want to begin the process of vetting your writers and designers as soon as possible.
Be sure that you and your team understands your publication’s sizing restraints, paper type, page count, color limitations, and how it will be assembled and folded before you begin design. Your printer will provide these specifications to you. If you work with us here at Discover, your paper will be pre-formatted for the press.

Click here to see a sample

Keep it custom and clean

Look for writers who have experience writing about real estate trends and topics, and are willing to “ghost write” content in your name. It’s also important to find a designer who is not just artistically skilled, but skilled in marketing design principles.
Most agents don’t have the time (or the writing skill) to produce articles and features for a custom publication. Set yourself up for success by hiring a good team of professionals that will get to know you, your brand, your voice, and your message.
Design a clean, engaging layout, and keep in mind where the fold will go and where the postage information will be printed. It’s best to create a template of special sections which you will re-use month after month, updating it with fresh content as you go along.

Keep it simple

Discover can make content and design easy, by being creating, writing, assembling, and designing your paper from start to finish. Discover writes custom articles in the agent’s name for every edition. Every page of content can be curated or created by Discover, and is then handled by a team of experienced designers who work one-on-one with each publishing client.

Step Four: Print & Mail your Publication

Once your publication is laid out according to your printer’s specifications, you’re almost done. The next step is to get your mailing list ready, and then send your design and address information to your printer. If you work with Discover, these steps are built in to the process and handled for you.

Mailing: EDDM, permit-based bulk mail, or first class

There are three options for mailing your publication.

  1. The easiest but most expensive route is First Class. This involves putting about $1.20 in postage stamps on each printed paper, in addition to an address label that must printed and applied. If you are mailing to more than 200 homes, this option can get very costly, very fast.
  2. The next best option is EDDM, which is the post office’s “retail” version of bulk mail. With EDDM, you must mail a publication to every residence in a carrier route, and are limited to no more than 5,000 units per mailing. Each mailer will have “occupant” or “resident” printing on instead of the resident’s name, and there is no flexibility permitted when it comes to removing certain homes or streets. EDDM is very cheap and does not require a permit, but involves quite a bit of sorting and very strict size and addressing codes must be adhered to. For this reason, many small businesses use a service provider for their EDDM mailings (most printers, for example, will provide EDDM service for a fee), or they instead choose the bulk mail route.
  3. The most efficient, flexible, and custom option is to do a permit-based bulk mailing. You must mail to at least 200 homes in order to qualify for bulk mail, and the amount of postage you pay will be related to how you sort the mail, where the mail is being delivered, and whether you take it to the post office or a Bulk Mail Center. You will need a permit, but the postage will be one half to one fourth the cost of first class, so it’s well worth it. Once you have your permit, you will need to buy a mailing list through a USPS-verified list provider. You can modify the list if you wish, unlike with EDDM mailings (although bear in mind, the cost of postage can go up if you remove too many homes). You would then provide that list to your printer or your mailing service provider, and have them address and deliver your publications accordingly.

Print, address, and deliver

Once you have your mailing list (or you have your EDDM routes selected), your publication is ready to roll. Your printer will request the design files for your publication (unless your layout was designed in-house by your printer), and if they are handling the addressing and mailing they will also need your mailing list.
Some printers offer addressing and mailing services, and some do not. Be sure to ask what services are included, and get a break-down on all the elements involved. If your printer does not handle mailing, you will need to engage with a Direct Mail service or work directly with the post office.
If you publish with Discover, we will print your publication, purchase a mailing list, handle all the addressing and sorting, and mail it through our own in-house bulk permit. All of these costs are worked in to Discover’s “all inclusive” per-unit pricing.
Farming with a publication is a big investment, so many of Discover’s clients choose to subsidize their cost by selling ads. This also helps forge and develop stronger partnerships with vendors. Discover’s advertising program can assist with this, if you choose.

Have a sales system in place

Train your staff to ask callers if they received your publication, because often leads might be marked as a “referral” or “repeat client,” when in fact your publication is what prompted them to call.

Many agents also incorporate their publication in their listing appointment sales presentation. They show potential sellers a copy, and explain that in addition to all the online exposure, their home will be listed on the back of your print publication that reaches thousands of homes in the area.

Track every lead you get from your marketing, and be sure to ask for feedback on your publication. What content did they appreciate seeing? What would they like to see more of? Your publication will always be a work in progress, and should evolve over time and with your market.

Step Five: Repeat… and be Patient

While it’s true that most direct mail ends up in the recycle bin, the advantage of a custom publication is that once in a while your marketing will make its way to the kitchen counter. This can’t be said of postcards, door hangers, brochures, flyers, or hard-selling mailers. So be patient, and be reassured that your direct mail investment goes a lot farther when your method is “show rather than tell” and “hyper-local.”

As the months go by, some homeowners will begin to read your paper. Soon, many will begin looking forward to the next edition. When it comes time to move, homeowners who have received 6 or more mailings (on average) will recognize you, remember you, and associate you with local leadership and success.

Most agents report a break-even after about six mailings. After one year of consistent mailing (bimonthly or more frequently), agents report 150% ROI. After two years, this average jumps to 200% and has been reported as high as 400%, because by that point in your market’s turnover cycle, prospects will have seen enough touch-points to recognize and trust your brand.

Direct mail is a long-range strategy. But with consistent mailing, your custom publication will become a cornerstone of your lead generation and account for a good percentage of your business.

Mailing a custom paper with Discover Publications

Discover Publications has been streamlining its custom publication process for over 25 years, to produce a finished product that appears complex to create, but with all the work done by us and for you.

The power of a full-service custom publication is in reaching a wide market consistently, without all the time-consuming work normally involved in publishing.
Our professional and detail-oriented staff is equipped to do it all, from providing exclusive content to designing the layout, and from printing, sorting, bundling, and mailing all the way to servicing and billing your advertising partners.

Over the decades, we’ve learned how important is to make direct mail farming straightforward and simple. We want our top-producing clients to be freed up to focus on working the leads our marketing generates for them, rather than working on the marketing itself.

When it comes to farming, return on investment is what matters most. Every article and piece of content that goes into your publication is created with engagement in mind, to drive leads and listings to your office. Generating leads, building a “local leader” brand, and ultimately, listing more homes is what Discover’s custom papers are all about.

Contact us today!

Your Brand Amplified. More Leads, More Listings.

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