SOCIAL MEDIA and email certainly have their place in an agent’s marketing toolbox.
But as consumers’ inboxes fill up with spam, it’s easy to see why direct mail is beginning to reclaim a prominent place in many businesses’ marketing plans.
Zac McHardy of Raine & Horne Chermside in Queensland believes the power of the pen is something that people underestimate.
“As long as it isn’t a bill, then people love receiving mail,” he says, “but can you remember the last handwritten letter you received?”
According to the Macquarie Relationship Banking’s 2012 Residential Real Estate Benchmarking Report, 77 per cent of agencies surveyed used direct mail as an advertising tool. Another 78 per cent said they used specialist real estate internet sites, while 42 per cent used search engines like Google.
Mr McHardy, a real estate speaker and three times winner of Raine & Horne’s Best Sales Agent award for Queensland, says a significant amount of his success is due to his keeping in contact with clients in a “personalised” way.
“I don’t really use social media as a business tool; I have a profile on Facebook and LinkedIn, but I believe direct mail is the thing to do,” he says, although he is also shrewd in making decisions about what he sends out.
“If you are sending out junk mail to clients what does that say about your services?” he says.
First, Mr McHardy will only send out direct mail to contacts whom he has met in person.
“Once a month my contacts from my database get a direct letter from me,” he says. “I never do new home owner stuff or people that I haven’t had direct contact with before because it gives the wrong impression.”
And when it comes to the look of the envelope, Mr McHardy makes sure the letter has the best chance of being opened.
“When you receive a letter in the mail that has your printed name and address in a window you instantly think bill, or worse, real estate letter.
“I want my letters to be more personalised, so we handwrite the name of every person we send the mail out to,” he says.
TRADITIONAL BUT EFFECTIVE
For years, direct mailing was the only channel real estate agents had to communicate with potential buyers and sellers.
Now, with the uptake of social media, traditional mail can make a real impression, says Carl Quested, owner and managing director of AgentMail.
“I think in this day and age, with social media and email marketing, traditional mail is standing out more,” he says.
“It used to be mailboxes were bombarded with statements and your message could be lost. Now, a letter in the mail can actually get an agent in front of their farming area.”
According to Mr Quested, direct mail gives the sender more control over who they are speaking to.
“Often with emails, you don’t know who you are speaking to because people have so many different email addresses and spam filters,” he says.
“When you send mail, you know it is getting where you want it to be and I believe it gets a message across that much strongly.”
THE RIGHT BALANCE
According to social media specialist Greg Vincent, there is a place for direct mail in the modern real estate world.
“The main thing agents need to consider is making sure the letter gets opened by making it as enticing and interesting for the reader [as possible],” he says.
“The copy writing needs to be good, it must engage the reader and it must tell a story. It can’t just be short and sharp like a flyer because that is easily forgotten.”
“Finding the right balance between your various marketing channels is important to any real estate business,” Mr Vincent adds.
“An agent should be using a number of touch points to connect with clients and direct mail gives you the opportunity to speak with people who aren’t quite tech savvy.”
The main aim, however, according to Mr Vincent, should be to encourage clients and interested parties to interact with the agent online.
“Direct mail should have a goal and that goal should be to encourage clients and potential buyers to interact with you online, whether that be on your website, YouTube or Facebook,” he says.
“You can do that by including a QR Code within the letter to direct readers onto the mobile web.”
Mr Quested agrees that traditional marketing and online marketing can complement one another.
“Direct marketing, when done properly, should be a call to action online,” he says.
“Similarly, email has a place with existing contacts if they wish to receive emails from you.”
John Beal, a property consultant at Harcourts Redcliffe in Queensland, says he uses direct mail as a way to communicate with absentee neighbours in an area in which he has just listed or sold property.
“There is a button called Delete on your computer that is very easy to use, so that is why we use direct mail,” he says.
“It is a great way to communicate with people that may not have access to a computer or aren’t present when we door knock.”
Mr Beal, who is ranked as one of Harcourts’ top 10 agents, sends out a quarterly newsletter via direct mail as well. However, after recognising that a lot of the mail he sent out would end up in the bin he decided to incorporate recipes into his newsletter.
“We know people get bored with average real estate newsletters so we have started to add seasonal recipes in each mailout,” he says. “People love it, they keep it and stick it on their fridge.
“That means my face and brand is sitting on their fridge for months. I wouldn’t think they would do the same with an email.”
While Mr McHardy communicates with his clients in myriad ways, including making at least 32 phone calls a day, as well as through monthly letters and quarterly reports and newsletters by email.
But when he locates a ‘hot spot’ in his area he knows direct mail is the most personal way to communicate.
“If I notice there have been 10 sales in one area and I consider that area to be hot, I will always send the houses in those streets a personalised invitation letter, inviting them to an open home,” he says.
“We try to tweak and change it to make it more personalised as well.”
Mr McHardy believes there is a greater possibility that a personalised letter in the mail will be opened when compared to an email.
“I know personally that I come into the office of a morning and have 100 emails – I delete more than I look at,” he says.
“The letters are opened and that is half the battle. They may be thrown out later or tucked away for six months but when an email has something like a 30 per cent [chance] of being opened, I believe direct mail is a better option.”
And when it comes to justifying the cost of direct mail, Mr McHardy says it is “a no-brainer”.
“Basically when we send out the newsletter or monthly letter we send 1,000 out, but from that we could pick up four or five listings,” he says.
“All we have to do is sell one property and it’s paid for.
“So, in our prospecting, it is beneficial. We won’t stop doing it – it is an important part of our business.”