Direct mail got you down?
If you’re like many real estate agents, you aren’t alone.
Back in 1993, our first customer for our 12-page custom publications was a real estate agent. During those early years, we dabbled in other industries, too. But we quickly learned that our only clients seeming to get consistent results were real estate agents.
Indeed, as our experience taught us, real estate is the perfect business for direct mail marketing. Real estate agents can simply target an entire geography (minus apartments), keeping postage rock-bottom and waste low. And because a single listing meant thousands in commission, agents didn’t need hundreds of calls for the investment to pay off.
Yet, there are many agents out there who have tried direct mail and get little to no new business from it. Over the last 25 years, we’ve learned why.
4 Reasons your Direct Mail isn’t working
1. Your community presence is lacking
Real estate is such a great industry for direct mail because you only need a few good leads to cover the cost of several mailings. This isn’t true for many other industries. But on the other hand, real estate is fiercely competitive, sometimes listings (opportunities) are low, and homeowners tend to be loyal to the last agent they used. So while you don’t need a ton of leads for a good direct mail ROI, those couple listings are tough to get if you aren’t already a familiar face in town.
Of course, direct mail is also a powerful branding tool that amplifies and reinforces your community presence. But if you don’t already have a few yard signs in the neighborhood and the occasional banner at community events, your direct mail marketing will be an uphill battle.
This doesn’t mean that if you’re a new agent you shouldn’t use direct mail (we think you should); it just means new or lesser known agents are unlikely to get leads and listings early on in their direct mail campaigns. Instead, agents new to a community should use direct mail – along with community events and online marketing – as a way to build awareness. After trust and expertise are established, the mailings will switch into lead generation gear.
We’ve found that agents who conduct at least 25 transactions per year in their farm tend to see more immediate results from direct mail. Newer agents or agents with a poor community presence will benefit tremendously from the brand-building of direct mail, but are looking at a minimum of one year before the listings start to roll in. Here at Discover, we have a Newsletter product for agents eager to build a presence, and in need of an affordable farming option.
2. Your form of mail is wrong
Ah, postcards. They’re great, but they have a place. The same goes for magnets, form letters, one-page “newsletters,” et cetera.
These short-form, inexpensive mailers are the perfect tools for showcasing a recently sold home or announcing a special event, but they don’t perform well as an agent’s sole form of direct mail. Today’s consumers are highly distrustful of almost anything promotional, and it’s really tough to fit non-promotional content on a postcard. But the biggest reason they shouldn’t be relied upon for leads is that every other major agent in town uses them. And almost every major business – and during election season – political candidate. Mailboxes are overflowing with postcards; people have become conditioned to throw them out upon arrival.
You’re go-to direct mail piece should not only physically stand out and look different from all the postcards and junk letters, it should speak to the homeowners in your community about what interests and concerns them. It should make an immediate impression, and also have enough staying power to avoid an immediate trip to the recycle bin. When the homeowner takes time to give it a good look, it should show, not tell, how you are a neighbor and leader in the community and an expert in the real estate business.
This realization was the genesis of our custom publication, which can show how an agent is a knowledgeable, charitable, active participant in the community they serve.
3. Direct Mail Marketing is all you do
Some agents rely solely on direct mail (or any type of marketing, for that matter), only to be disappointed by the results. A seasoned real estate agent knows that marketing and prospecting needs to be a coordinated strategy, not a single tool. This should include prospecting efforts like phone calls, emails, and door knocks, as well as a range of marketing tools such as direct mail, social media, and online content marketing. It’s not as intimidating or difficult as it sounds (nor does it need to be time consuming or costly), it just requires a little planning.
Direct mail is also one of the least threatening forms of marketing because it is so easy. But with your websites, social media, videos, and emails, you’re taught to follow rules, cross-connect multiple channels, and then analyze all of the metrics. Unless you run a big office, odds are that’s not practical.
Here are some easy and effective ways to expand your marketing reach and get the most out of your direct mail investment:
- Spend time on your website. At a minimum, it should link to all your social media and other online profiles (like your Facebook page, broker website profile page, and Zillow profile), showcase your listings, and contain at least one lead capture form (like a free home evaluation when they enter in their email and home address).
- Blog! It doesn’t generate leads per se, but it does wonders for SEO. This means you’ll appear higher up in Google searches when folks type things like “Best Real Estate Agent Applewood.” If you mail one of our 12-page papers, you’ll instantly have at least three hyper-local features to post each month.
- Update social media. Upload a frequent but manageable number of posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (maybe), and if you make videos, YouTube. And whenever you post a new blog, be sure to blast it to all these sites. Tools like Hootsuite can accomplish this in one click.
- Email. Build and maintain a clean email list of past clients and future prospects. You should email them at least twice a month with interesting content that is non-promotional, like links to your blog posts.
- Canvass and Connect. Think of creative and easy ways to connect with your neighbors. Open houses can double as networking events. Some agents host seminars at their office. And once a month, pick a few streets to walk and introduce yourself with a plate of cookies. When they see your face on your publication a few weeks later, they won’t forget the warm impression you made.
We know it takes a lot of inertia to do all of this, but we have found that agents who take advantage of multiple marketing channels get more calls from the direct mail they send out. If a short period of time is set aside for marketing every day, it won’t seem overwhelming.
4. You aren’t mailing consistently
Just like with prospecting and email marketing, consistency is key. We’ve found that mailing a good, core piece at least every other month will pay off within 6-8 months (for an agent with some name recognition and a good supplementary marketing program).
What’s interesting is that once the agent hits this “break-even” point, the leads tend to come in faster and faster. It’s as though that first market cycle was the “getting to know you” phase, and now, when homeowners are ready to sell, they’re comfortable calling. At that point it’s exciting because lead generation becomes more a matter of housing turnover than anything else.
Keep it simple
A final word of wisdom: keep it simple. If your direct mail (or any marketing you undertake) takes hours and hours to complete, it’s likely to sidetrack you from converting prospects and selling homes. If what you’re doing isn’t easy, odds are there’s another agent out there who’s found a better way. Network with agents who seem to have it down to a science, and soon enough you’ll have your marketing in check.
For more information on our super-easy, super-effective turnkey publications, inquire below. If your territory isn’t available (agents get exclusive rights), we’ll help you find one that is.