How can real estate brokers and agents use direct mail to their advantage? first tuesday’s Carrie Reyes sat down with marketing expert, Rachel Tatum, to find out.

What is direct marketing?

Direct marketing is a means of bulk advertising sent to your consumer. Direct marketing can be accomplished via snail mail, email, YouTube, social media… etc. It’s marketing in bulk – a mass approach to selling instead of an individual approach that can take more time.

Direct mail marketing can actually be very similar to FARMing, as it’s a packaged piece of mail sent to a list of people, blasting out your message constantly. The main difference is that direct mail marketing focuses on the materials you send out and not so much the face-to-face, personal interactions that come with FARMing.

How is direct marketing through the mail different from email marketing?

Direct marketing through the mail – referred to as direct mail marketing – proves to have a lasting effect. Unlike an email, mail is persistent — it will sit on your desk or your counter for days. While email is definitely cheaper, it’s got a shorter shelf life. If it doesn’t work right away, it’s likely to get trashed without your customer even opening it.

I’ve had customers call years after receiving a piece of mail from a direct mail marketing campaign — that’s how long someone will hold onto a piece of paper! Email? Not so much.

Some might say that direct mail is outdated and not worth the cost or time. What do you think?

I disagree. When comparing the response from emails and mailings, customers respond more often to mailings. Direct mail has more value, simply because it lasts longer.

However, there are some limitations. It’s relatively expensive to start. You need to consider printing costs (whether you buy your own printer or send art out to printers), material costs, design costs and postage.

Direct mail can also be time-consuming if you decide to hand package and label your promotional materials.

How should an agent who is new to direct mail get started?

You’ll need to ask yourself three questions:

  1. Who is my customer base? (How will you acquire the addresses of potential clients? Will you purchase a list? Or go down to City Hall?)
  2. How is my material going to be created? (Will you make materials with your own machine, or use a third-party printer? Will your materials be original, or will you find them elsewhere?)
  3. What is my budget?

Knowing the answer to these three questions will help you outline your first campaign.

What kind of marketing materials should an agent send out?

It all depends on your budget. But — if you can afford it — colorful, heavyweight paper is best. Anything someone will use is good. This includes pens, notepads with magnets… I actually have a notepad a real estate agent sent me on my refrigerator right now!

Basically, the more expensive it appears, the longer it’ll be held onto and the more likely they will be to contact you.

How often should an agent send out materials?

Agents should send out materials as often as they can afford to without losing money. Your marketing strategy should be an almost constant reach — the more often you mail, the better.

You can do this in conjunction with your FARMing campaigns to increase awareness of your brand. Branding for a real estate agent is the opportunity to get one’s name out to potential clients so that they recognize and identify with that agent. Basically, it’s name recognition. You’d want an image (logo, face, name, etc.) to correlate to the service you provide (listing, selling, loans, etc.)

Take Coke, for example. They have excellent branding. Most people know what their product is by just associating their name to a product, an image and a way of life.


Who should the materials be sent to?

You should send materials to whoever is most likely to engage in your business. So, if you specialize in helping renters become first-time homebuyers, mail to renters in your area. Likewise, if you’re hoping to gain listings, you probably don’t need to send materials to someone who just purchased their house last month. So some research into public records will be helpful.

How much should an agent expect to spend on direct mail marketing each month?

Your cost will depend on:

  • the type of materials you send out;
  • volume; and
  • postage rates.

You may be able to qualify for a reduced, bulk postage rate if you send out enough materials (at least 200 pieces of mail) per mailing. As a ballpark, if you’re sending a regular envelope to 1,000 homes a month, you can expect to spend about:

  • $300 in postage with the bulk rate;
  • $200 for envelopes; and
  • $175 for 8 ½ x 11 letterhead.

If you’re trying to save, consider printing address labels with your own printer (just remember ink costs!). Or, if cost isn’t a big issue, shop around online for a business that will do everything for you, from printing your materials to addressing envelopes and sending them directly to your list.

How can an agent know if their direct mail strategy is bringing them new business?

You can find out if your marketing strategy is working by simply asking your new clients, “How did you hear about me?”

Or, if you want a more precise way to track your marketing, you can put referral codes on your materials for new customers to cite when they contact you.

However you do it, be sure to keep track of everything. This includes:

  • how much you’re spending on materials and postage;
  • who you’re mailing to; and
  • who responds to your marketing.

Keep in mind that one listing gained from direct mail can pay off the cost of sending out materials for an entire year. And if your client is satisfied, that listing will result in referrals, which are invaluable. So if you don’t get an immediate response, don’t give up!

Do you have any tips for an agent or broker who is just starting or wants to improve their direct mail marketing campaign?

Spend time on the envelope (or the packaging), because if someone doesn’t open the envelope, it’s all for nothing.

You don’t want it to look like junk mail, but it shouldn’t be boring. Generally, heavy envelopes work great. Or, skip the envelope altogether and go for a postcard to reduce costs.

Most of all, get to know your clients! It’s okay to start off small to experiment with what works and what doesn’t get any response. It’s a learning curve, but if you keep track of your marketing campaign, you’ll be able to make your marketing strategy work for you and your clients.

Rachel Tatum has been the Marketing Director at first tuesday for three years. Prior real estate marketing experience includes a marketing internship at Century 21. Her favorite aspect of direct mail marketing is analytics: knowing and understanding why people do the things they do.


FARM letters