Let’s just call it what it is: Snail mail, a term invented to differentiate postal mail from electronic mail. Snail mail, obviously, is slower. It’s more expensive, as well. OK, it’s an “old school” lead generation technique, too. If it works as well or better than email, however, it may just be worth it to incorporate a direct mail campaign into your business marketing plan.
Think back to a time, if there is one, when you responded to a direct mail piece. Why did you respond? Most likely the piece was laser-focused and targeted to some aspect of your life. It might have been a postcard from a car dealership offering a maintenance special for the owner of a Nissan Sentra with over 125,000 miles, and you just happened to own that very car, with that many miles.
The answer, then, to the question of whether or not direct mail works is: “It depends.” It depends on what you are mailing to homeowners and whether it targets a need that they have.
Consider the various types of homeowners when determining the type of content to use in your direct mail campaign:
- Probate owners.
- Absentee owners.
- Expired and withdrawn listings.
To target the needs of each type of seller requires that the content you send is relevant to their situation. In other words, what you send to probate executors or administrators should be vastly different from what you’ll send to FSBOs. Yes, they both need to sell a home, but their reasons for selling is most likely vastly different.
Remember: The most successful direct mail campaign speaks to the homeowner’s problems and needs, and how you can solve the problems and fulfill the needs.
Let’s take a look at one way to craft a direct mail campaign to boost your listing inventory.
The most important aspect of planning a direct mail campaign is to determine who you’ll target. As mentioned above, each of the types of sellers requires a different approach, so even if you plan on including all of them in your campaign, you’ll need to start with just one.
Let’s assume you’ve decided to go after expired listings. Make a list of the problems and needs of this seller pool. Since they were at one time motivated to sell the home, what happened? Why did the listing expire, and why didn’t they try again?
The price was too high for the current market – Has the market changed? Can the seller get even more for the house in the current market?
The agent didn’t market the listing – The MLS and a sign in the yard are the bare minimum, and shame on agents who don’t go the extra mile for their clients. It’s easy to be complacent in a seller’s market, but a buyer’s market requires every marketing tool that listing agents have. You understand this, and the prospect should know that.
They’re tired and discouraged – These are the folks that might be encouraged by market changes, such as a decrease in days on the market.
The house has problems – If the problems are cosmetic, throw in some staging as an enticement.
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What to Mail
While your campaign can and should contain a variety of media, that first contact is the most important. Should you send a letter or a postcard?
Ask other marketers which works better and you’ll get different answers. Many agents swear by full-color postcards that grab the recipient’s attention, while others prefer a more personal letter.
If you opt for the letter format, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Mention, upfront, their problem. Remember the car dealership mentioned previously: The marketing department understood that the owner of a Nissan Sentra with over 125,000 miles on the odometer is most likely concerned with maintenance. What are some of the problems FSBOs face? Are absentee owners curious about the local real estate market and how their investment is doing? Choose something relevant to get them to read on.
- Let them know, without being pushy, that there’s a solution to the problem and you can provide it.
- Provide a call to action and your contact information. Entice them with a “no obligation” offer if they call you within a certain time limit. This can be a free market analysis, a probate report, or any other content that is relevant to the homeowner.
“The worst number in any business is one,” according to marketing guru, lecturer and author Dan Kennedy. One product, one customer, one type of marketing and one direct mail piece all get you nowhere. Yet, so many agents send one letter, postcard or other direct-mail piece and call it a campaign.
Remember, the money is in the follow up. So, why don’t you do it? Better yet, let’s find a way to help you do it.
While marketing is one of the most important aspects of a successful small business, as a real estate agent your time is better spent networking and pounding the pavement. This is why having an automated marketing campaign is a must.
Look for software that is powerful yet easy to use and a system that allows you to combine campaigns – such as integrating your drip email campaign with your direct mail campaign. Market Leader studies show that this combination increases response rates by up to 20 percent. It’s called multichannel marketing campaigns, and it definitely gives you more bang for the buck.
Direct mail of today isn’t the old school stuff of yesterday. It has evolved, becoming more targeted, personalized, and effective than ever before.