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Is Direct Mail Marketing Effective for Real Estate Professionals?

Let’s cut right to it—does direct mail marketing work for real estate agents and brokers? Yes. According to, direct mail marketing remains an effective way to reach customers and up your ROI.

Lead source

Your prospect list needs to be as targeted as possible. If you have been mailing to all names in particular zip codes or areas, you may find that targeting only those individuals that meet particular criteria (although typically a more expensive list per name), may generate better response (and actually be more cost-effective).

Direct mail volumes have been decreasing 1.9% year-over-year since 2005, but  direct mail marketing campaigns have continued to see success. The ability to profile customers on more than just a zip code contributed to this success. Lead generation sites can now track consumers through “behavior marketing” — and give you a list targeted by actions consumers have taken online.  While some services sell a list, other companies are now selling software you can use to generate your own lists based on your custom criteria. ListSource™ and Experian® are just two of many companies that offer real estate-focused mailing lists with the ability to target specific consumers by name.

Content and personalization

In addition to great lists, direct mail marketing has seen continued success due to better and more personalized content. If you can focus your message on potential needs of your prospects or problems you can solve,  your direct mailer will do a better job of grabbing the client’s attention — and prompting them to call you.

For example, if you’re mailing to a list of families with strong buying power in a bad school district, your direct mail marketing should highlight houses that are available in a better school district.

While the specific stats as to which type of direct mail marketing pieces work best for real estate do not yet exist, we do know the following:

  • Direct mail marketing out performs digital marketing response rates by more than 700%
  • The average ROI for direct mail is 15-17%
  • 67% of US adults feel that direct mail is more personal than email
  • Oversized envelopes have better response rate that regular-sized mail (although they cost more, so you’ll need to see if better response makes up for the added cost)

Direct mail options:

When it comes to direct mail marketing options in real estate, there are three main options:

  • Hand written letter: If you would like to go very old school, the “handwritten” letter can be a powerful direct mail marketing tool. Mailing houses can actually print your letter using a font that looks hand-written.  (Or you can test a small number of letters that you personally write yourself.)
  • Postcard: These are going to be the most cost-effective direct mail marketing pieces. Not only are they cheaper to print, you’ll also save on mailing house costs (no folding and envelope inserting), as well as postage costs.  And like any direct mail format you choose to use, the more postcards you order, the lower the per-piece price. For example, if you only order fifty postcards to be printed and mailed, your per piece price might be twenty-five cents a piece. Up that number to two hundred, and your price could drop to ten cents per piece depending on the printer you select.
  • Typed or designed letter: These can be a little pricier than a postcard due to the costs of folding and envelope stuffing. If you’re doing a letter and envelope format,  look into having the print/mail company do the folding, stuffing, and postal prep for you.

Track it and follow up

When generating your direct mail marketing, also invest in a way to track ROI and new leads to follow up. You can track with a dedicated URL or landing page that is specific to each mailer. This will allow you to track visits to the page through Google Analytics, and you can have a contact (or “lead”) capture form on the page to gather visitor contact information. Most email marketing platforms, such as Constant Contact, Cactus Mail, and MailChimp) offer forms that can be placed on a landing page and will automatically add the person’s email address to your email database.

You can also track with a PURL, or personalized URL using the recipient’s name, to track exactly who visits your landing page.  (Your mailing house can set this up for you and handle the tracking and reporting.)

Other tracking options include a specific phone number or an email address that are then manually counted and tracked each time contact is made by a direct mail recipient. There are outsourced call center services you can hire to manage and track incoming calls for you as well.

Partner up

The details of direct mail can be confusing and time consuming. Say you want to send out information on a property that is coming up for sale to at least one hundred people in the surrounding three zip codes. Who are those people? Do you know that they want to buy? What is their income? Do they have kids? This is where direct mail marketing partners come into play. Direct mail marketing companies can create custom  lists with criteria that best match your listing’s ideal buyer type, set up schedules for your mailings, write  and design your direct mailer, print everything needed, handle postal processing for you (to allow you to get the lowest postage rates)  handle folding and envelope inserting if needed, and deliver your mailers to the USPS.

Like all marketing, use direct mail as part of a cohesive strategy

While direct mail does work, it works best when used in conjunction with a cohesive marketing plan and strategy, and on a multi-touch basis. It can take two or three direct mail marketing pieces before a client will engage. The direct mail marketing you use should fit seamlessly with the rest of your marketing brand and messaging—it should all have the same look, feel, and voice.

What type of real estate direct mail have you tried? Tell us in the comments below.

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