the ultimate guide to direct mail for real estate agents

Whether you are an established realtor or new to real estate, there’s one thing that’s for sure: You’ve heard about direct mail and know someone that is crushing it with this tried and true marketing technique. So we’ve created the Ultimate Guide To Real Estate Direct Mail. Every time that we poll top real estate agents about their most effective marketing techniques, direct mail is always one of the top three on their list. Why? Because this method of marketing has been tested and consistently proven to work extremely well in the real estate industry.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t direct mail a little old fashioned?” or “Why would I spend money on direct mail when I can do it online?”

Well, according to the AMA/DMA Response Rate Report in 2018, the direct mail response rate was 4.9% for prospect lists. This is significantly higher than in 2017 and the highest since the report started in 2003!

In 2018, the direct mail response rate for house lists was an incredible 9%! This is also the highest number for house lists since the report started and is nearly double from the previous year.

Targeted correctly, these homeowners are much more likely to respond and are a higher quality lead, than any lead you will get from a facebook ad, for example.

However, there are a few things that you need to know before starting a direct mail campaign.

1. It’s About QUALITY Of Leads, Not QUANTITY

Direct mail isn’t something that is going to flood your phone with calls, but it will help you land leads that have the most profit potential in your market. That’s because direct mail doesn’t generate a huge list of leads that requires a ton of your time to sift through and weed out all of the unqualified prospects. Direct mail generates highly qualified leads who are usually motivated to sell.

2. Direct Mail For Real Estate Agents Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

The old adage in business is, the fortune is in the follow-up. For direct mail, the deal is in the later touches. We’ll get to that next.

3. Direct Mail Shouldn’t Be Your Only Lead Gen Channel

The more touchpoints you have with a prospect, the better. When marketing to home buyers and sellers, you should follow up with them through multiple channels. For example Facebook, Instagram and Google Display ads are great touchpoints.

Not many people know that you can upload your list using The Neighborhood Connection to target your actual direct mail list on Facebook, Instagram, and Google!

Okay. Now that I’ve explained why direct mail is important, let’s get into the anatomy of what it takes to have a successful direct mail campaign. I’m going to discuss the list, the creative, the frequency, the postage, the fulfillment, and the tracking & analytics.

Step 1: The List

mailing list

If you have fantastic creative but are mailing to the wrong people, you won’t get far with direct mail. Selecting the write mailing list is critical to the success of your campaign. There are a few different ways to go about acquiring your mailing list.

Counties

You can head down to the county recorder’s office and manually pull a list of leads.

Title Companies

Another source for prospect lists is a local title company that you routinely work with. An upside of using a title company is that often they will know what might work best or have some insight for you. A con is, if you haven’t used their service yet they might not be willing to help you or charge a fee to pull the list for you.

List Provider Companies

List providers are one of the most common ways to acquire a list of prospects. You can do a quick google search to find some reputable ones. However, you need to know what you’re looking for and will likely spend a lot of time filtering through lists and information. The biggest downside is that you will end up buying the list first and then realize it’s not the right list.

Step 2: The Creative

the creative

The next step is selecting the creative that you’re going to send to your list. There are two parts to the creative.

  1. The Message
  2. The Format

Every direct mail campaign needs to have one clear goal or marketing objective. This is what you are looking to achieve by sending your mailers. This could be anything from building general brand awareness to capturing the attention of potential clients, increasing referrals, or increasing attendance at an upcoming event. Determine your campaign goal by deciding what your ideal campaign outcome is.

The second part of the creative is the format or the type of direct mail you are going to send. There are many different types of mail, but for this article, we’re going to touch on the top 2.

Customized Magazines

Having your own branded community magazine has many advantages. Not only is it elegant, but it provides you with a lot of space to connect with just about any reader. Showcase your top listings, provide homeowner advice, give them an exclusive offer, offset your costs with ad space, provide an events calendar for the community… and the list goes on! With your own customized magazine, you’ll be sure to stand out above your competition and you’ll be the one piece of direct mail that homeowners really look forward to.

Postcards

Postcards are a cheap and simple way to get your message across to your target audience. However, it’s harder to stand out in the mail pile with a postcard and you run the chance of getting thrown in the recycling with the rest of the mailers.

Step 3: The Frequency

the frequency

The frequency in which you mail refers to how many touches you have with a prospect. The number of mailers sent and how often you send them to your list.

Like I mentioned before, the effectiveness of your direct mail for real estate agents is directly associated with the number of touches. More often than not, the response rate increases at the later touchpoints.

So what’s the magic number?

There’s no exact science, but most experts agree that the largest increase in response rates happens between the 4th and 6th touch.

Step 4: The Postage

the postage

The big question is, “What’s the difference between first-class and third class?” The latter is usually referred to as marketing mail. The former is significantly more expensive and guarantees the expedition of the mail piece.

If you’re local, usually you get it between one to two days. If you’re on the other side of the country, it can be up to three days. That’s first class. I wouldn’t want to say that it’s unreliable, but marketing mail you could get a day or three later. The post office prioritizes first class over the third class for marketing mail. However, you get significant savings on marketing mail. This is why we typically use and recommend it.

Another question we get is, ‘What’s the difference between ‘EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail)’ and just sending to a regular list?” Well, EDDM is about 16.01 cents and it’s full saturation to a carrier route. You also don’t print the name or the address on the actual mailing piece itself. You do get a great rate, but you lose the flexibility of targeting. The more saturated you get into a carrier route, the more value or savings the post office gives to you. It makes their jobs easier.

We recommend saturation mailing versus EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail). Saturation means, for as long as you reach certain thresholds, for example, 75% of the carrier route, you’re going to get significant savings.

It is close to EDDM pricing which is 17.5 cents versus the 16.01 cents. With the amount of waste you can cut out of your list versus EDDM, you really do save a lot of money.

We highly believe in saturation. Since you have the list, you can actually print the name of the homeowner, or the address. It’s a more personalized experience for not much more. Since you’re cutting out the waste of who you don’t want to send the mail to, you also don’t have the expense of the product that you’re actually printing to reach the home. Overall, we’re fans of saturation. You can read more about postage by clicking here.

Step 5: The Fullfillment

fulfillment production

It’s time to put it all together now that you know all of the elements associated with sending out a direct mail campaign.

Do It Yourself (DIY)

Many real estate agents start with doing their direct mail campaigns themselves. This can be a great way to conserve money and get accustomed to the process of how direct mail really works. To do this yourself, it requires you to pay for all of the supplies, print your own material, stuff & seal, stamp, and then drop off at the post office.

This may sound doable, but one thing that agents forget to calculate into their cost is their time investment in the whole process. As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to know what your time is worth and consider your ‘hourly wage’.

The other downside is that as your business expands and you start taking on more duties, you will soon lose the ability to continue this DIY process. Automation and time savings are huge once your business starts to grow.

Direct Mail Automation

Another option is to find a local or national direct mail company to handle all of your printing, shipping, and processing of your direct mail campaigns.

The important thing to consider is that you have to find the right company that produces *high quality* and unique mail pieces at an affordable price. Removing yourself from the process will solve the problem of you being the middle man and spending your valuable time on sending campaigns.

The Neighborhood Connection

The Neighborhood Connection is a team of experts providing a one of a kind direct mail for real estate agents solution. Their highly talented designers, digital and print marketing professionals, and production staff are changing the way real estate agents engage with their farming areas. They help real estate agents turn strangers into clients within their farming communities. TNC handles all the details from start to finish like list mapping, creative, printing and fulfillment to your exclusive farm regularly.

They offer marketing plans to fit just about anyone. TNC offers magazines and postcards, both wrapped in a digital component to help keep the agent top of mind.

Step 6: Tracking & Analytics

Tracking ROI is king in all business, as is true in direct mail. Direct mail can be slightly tricky to track out of the gate.

One piece of the puzzle to tracking the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns is by using unique phone numbers and website URLs. This way, any calls coming through that number or forms submitted from that tracking URL can be directly correlated with a certain campaign.

To track phone calls, you can use an online service like Google Voice, CallRail, Phone.com, etc. that allows you to set up tracking numbers and forward to an existing phone number that you use regularly such as your cell phone or office number. You’ll want to find a service that gives you the ability to see how many calls come in through that tracking number.

To track website visitors, you’ll need to make sure you have Google Analytics tracking set up on the backend of your website. This will allow you to track users. You can set up a unique URL specific to your direct mail marketing campaign and then direct that URL to your home page or landing page. You can track clicks as well as form fills by directly correlating it with your tracking URL.

Once you have set those up, do not reuse the tracking phone number or tracking URL on any other campaigns. This could cause your tracking to be polluted with calls and opt-ins from other campaigns, throwing off your ROI.

Automated Tracking

You can also hire a company that does the tracking for you. Ideally, you can choose a direct mail company that handles all of the unique tracking phone numbers and URLs for you, and gives you a reporting dashboard that you can use to determine ROI.

The Neighborhood Connection offers complete 360º marketing and analytics including customized magazines & postcards, list mapping, digital campaigns, account managers, and a dashboard to track and manage it all.

Analyze That

Once you have sent your direct mail campaign and tracked it, it’s essential to assess the success along the way.

You’ll be looking at the number of responses you got from the campaign and how many appointments and subsequent deals resulted from it. A low number of responses could be the outcome of any number of circumstances, including ineffective targeting or creative, or it could just mean you are in a highly competitive area.

Keep in mind that your earlier touches (i.e. touches 1-3), generally have lower response rates. Don’t discount them until you have finished the full set of touches for your campaign.

In Conclusion

When done correctly, direct mail for real estate agents can be one of the most powerful ways to produce profitable deals. There are many steps to follow, as you can see, to be successful. But as with anything, setting up a reliable system to drive leads to your business is key.

Get out there and get a campaign started today. It may seem costly at first, but after a small investment in direct mail, you could net yourself tens of thousands in dollars in profit within just a few months.

Danielle Repasky

Marketing Director

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