by Jeffery Li
Reading Time: 3 Minutes
You'd be forgiven for assuming that in the fast-paced digital world we're now living in, direct mail collateral like postcards and letters have lost a significant amount of their effectiveness. You'd be forgiven... but you also couldn’t be more wrong.
According to one recent study, the average lifespan of a piece of direct mail collateral is 17 days - as opposed to the 17 second lifespan of an email. Not only that, but 73% of American consumers say they actually prefer being contacted by businesses via direct mail because they can read it whenever they want. When you also consider that up to 90% of all direct mail actually gets opened - as opposed to just 20 to 30% of emails - and you're looking at a very exciting opportunity for real estate agents in particular to better connect with their target audiences.
One of the most important things to understand about direct mail marketing in the context of the real estate industry is that it can be done a few different ways depending on your goals and the message you want to get across. Letters and postcards are two such options, for example - and they're particularly helpful in situations where you're planning on "farming" a specific geographic area and establishing yourself as an authority.
Having said that, just because you're using direct mail doesn't mean you're doing it as effectively as possible. To truly convert these mailers into leads, there are a few things to bear in mind.
One of the best ways to really grab someone’s attention with a real estate postcard in particular is to inject as much geographic relevancy into your design as possible.
If you were advertising a specific condominium unit, for example, you would want to lead with as many high quality, color images as possible. Skip out on those massive blocks of text in favor of just the bare minimum amount of information they need – where it’s located, how many bedrooms it is, the total square footage, etc. Use this strategy to show your prospects EXACTLY what they would get with that particular unit, all in a way that avoids being misleading. This is a technique that truly lets the property in question do the talking – which can be invaluable if the property is particularly impressive in a visual sense.
But at the same time, maybe you don't necessarily have a "hot ticket" property to sell right now - that's perfectly okay and that DOESN'T mean you can't get working on a compelling post card design. Instead, you would want to use the opportunity to show off your knowledge of the local area - once again in a visual sense, of course.
One side of your postcard or flyer could outline all of the great points of interest that someone may have missed. The other side could include local community events taking place over the next several months. In addition to establishing yourself as an authority in the local market, this again deepens your sense of connection with this community in a way that can easily pay off in the long run. Including something like a calendar of upcoming events also increases the chances that someone will keep your flyer around even if they're not currently interested in real estate at all.
Really, what you're trying to do with your real estate postcard design involves building a relationship with as many of your prospects as possible, even if that relationship isn't necessarily going to "pay off" during the next few weeks or even months.
But when you send out a "Happy Holidays" mailer around the end of the year, complete with warm wishes and a friendly photo of you and your team, you're doing so much more than just sending someone another piece of marketing material. It's a timely and thematic way to remind someone that you're out there and that you care about this community just like they do. It's inviting, it's friendly and it likely goes above and beyond what other agents in the area will do - further cementing your competitive advantage as a "farm expert."
Indeed, simply using real estate collateral like postcards as a way to showcase your personality is the perfect opportunity to get people to convert. Even if you wanted to drop someone a simple letter explaining why you're a reputable person and why they should consider working with you could mean all of the difference in the world. Or you could just remind them that if they ever have any questions they'd like answered or topics they'd like to discuss in more detail, you're always available and are happy to chat.
In that example, you don't even necessarily have to use images at all because the message itself is every bit as important.
When people go looking for a real estate agent, they're looking for more than just another services provider. They want to know that they're not being taken advantage of and, above all else, they're looking for someone who is as "real" as possible. Creating that type of impression in someone isn't going to happen overnight. It takes time and effort - which is exactly why real estate postcard ideas like these are so effective.
Generally speaking, the answer to the question "should I be using letters or postcards as a part of my real estate direct mail campaign?" is a resounding "it depends." Both have their own unique strengths and both are viable enough to be effective when the situation is right.
If you're moving into a new area and are simply establishing yourself as a presence for the first time, postcards are a quick way to introduce yourself and give you an edge over competitors. You could send out direct mail postcards introducing you as an agent, for example, and quickly outline why you're different than everyone else operating in the area. Across the course of your campaign, you can continue to send out collateral to keep people informed on important community events, to give them updates on the current housing market and to provide other helpful, relevant and high value information.
As you get deeper into your campaign and you want to send out collateral with a bit more "meat on its bones," so to speak, a letter would absolutely be the way to go. If you're specifically targeting people in your farm who are going through a divorce, for example, a divorce prospecting letter would be a great way to answer a lot of questions that will be on the top of someone's mind. You could touch on topics like what happens to a home during a divorce, the state of someone's current mortgage, their credit rating and other essential ideas. All of this allows you to hyper-target the prospect while allowing you space to get your point across that you wouldn't have via a postcard alone.
The same logic would apply if you were trying to touch people who may have listed their home in the past only to end up an expired listing or for people who are thinking about selling their home but who aren't sure where to begin. This hyper-targeting could also be applied to people who may be going through the pre-foreclosure process - the examples are limitless.
As a rule of thumb, you'll always want to set aside enough money in your marketing budget to reach out to the prospects in your farm at least two times per month - although more often is preferable if your budget allows. The reason for this is that you're doing more than just selling your services in a literal sense - you're trying to build a relationship and establish a deep sense of trust and that is something that can take a fair amount of time.
Think about it this way: not everybody is ready to buy or sell a home today, but that won't necessarily be the case six months from now. By making an effort to stay at the top of someone's mind by sending out regular, informative and consistent direct mail collateral, you'll dramatically improve your chances that when they ARE ready to make that move, the first person they think of is you.
For the best results, try to pick a farm area that contains between 200 and 1,000 homes - giving you a small-yet-precise audience to slowly position yourself as an "area expert" over time. Remember that the size of the farm ultimately matters less than how well you know the area. The better you know the people you're speaking to and what their concerns and questions are, the better your chances at getting the right message in front of them at exactly the right time.
Try to select an area where you already know the neighborhood in question - especially if this means that you already have existing connections within the community. Update yourself on all current conditions like school districts, upcoming construction projects, the current most popular home styles and more - all while also making sure exactly who your competitors are and what gaps they've left for you to fill.
If you're able to accomplish that, you'll have the building blocks of a very successful farming operation on your hands - and that is an exciting position for any real estate agent to be in.
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