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Dismissing direct mail as old-fashioned? Think again

By Simon Rose
07 November 2019 | 1 minute read
Simon Rose

With such a huge focus on online marketing strategies these days, it is easy to overlook the tried and tested methods we used before the internet became part of our lives.

One of those is direct mail — yet the “old-fashioned” way of marketing is showing a re-emergence across all industries as research points to it proving increasingly effective to reach those key target markets. 

Direct mail response rates are on the rise around the world, with some countries showing the highest since research into the area began. About 80 per cent of corporations planned to maintain or boost their usage of direct mail, according to the most recent survey by the Data and Marketing Association, headquartered in the US and with members from almost 50 countries, and the Association of National Advertisers. 

There are specific ways in which direct mail can be employed by those in commercial real estate to maximise its success. But first, it may help to understand why direct mail is enjoying renewed popularity. 

Among the most significant reasons is the simple fact that not only do 80 per cent of consumers trust direct mail, the majority of us still trust advertising that arrives via traditional channels (such as the letterbox) far more than via digital methods, according to purchasing surveys by research institute MarketingSherpa. Despite the explosion in iPads, smartphones, tablets and multiple websites, not to mention apps allowing the targeting of numerous niche markets, we still trust a marketing message more when it arrives in a tangible form.

Direct mail is easier for us too. We both understand and remember messages contained in direct mail far better than those received via digital means because they are easier for our brains to process. Something we read on hard copy and hold in our hands takes 21 per cent less cognitive effort as opposed to a digital message, research shows. Direct mail also elicits higher brand recall than when the intended message is flashed up on the screen via email or a pop-up ad. 

What’s more, that item in the letterbox is 20 per cent more persuasive, leaving a “deeper footprint in the brain”, a university study found, which would help explain why the most recent widespread surveys into the field found direct mail still generates a higher response rate than any digital direct marketing medium, with a success rate five to nine times higher than social media, email or paid search. 

Here are a few tips and tricks to boost effectiveness when using direct mail for commercial real estate marketing.

  • Choose your target audience: Define the niche market you’re aiming at and then craft your marketing message whether in the form of a letter, brochure or other with this front of mind. Identify what resonates with this niche market and could encourage them to connect. Anecdotes relating relevant sales statistics and examples of previous achievements are ideal. Gaining the attention of a target market means steering clear of generic advertising. Aim at certain businesses, properties, people, developments and locations. 
  • Quality over quantity: Select the best of the bunch. Choose high-quality businesses, properties, regions and the like from a comprehensive list of your top prospects. 
  • Mailing frequency and strategy: Direct marketing experts advise sending six to nine letters in a year and following a strategy whereby each adds something to the last. This second step is critical — without it, you risk your mail going in the bin after your recipient discards it like that “same old rubbish” as they have seen it before. Following a strategy of differentiating each piece of direct mail while sending the same message makes it more memorable, builds momentum and likely to foster the level of curiosity required for engagement. 
  • Boost your brand: Consistency in the way you present either yourself or your brand is imperative. This makes you or your company and the professional skills you provide easier to remember. 
  • Keep it simple: A golden rule when it comes to marketing correspondence. Sure, be clever and descriptive, but not at the expense of losing your message. A few punchy paragraphs on a single postcard, piece of paper, or other form are sufficient for capturing attention. Also include a means of following up with a website and/or phone number or email address, and/or images or photographs. 
  • Following up: Make follow-up phone calls to those who’ve received your direct mail and track the feedback judiciously. This feedback facilitates future conversations with greater relevance to your target market. Above all, be patient. The average conversion to inquiry rate is after the third letter, though, of course, may take longer depending on circumstances. 

By Simon Rose, Commercial Property Guide

Dismissing direct mail as old-fashioned? Think again
Simon Rose reb
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Simon Rose

Simon Rose

Simon Rose is chief executive of Commercial Property Guide, an independent commercial property portal.

Rose and his father, Stephen, originally acquired Commercial Property Guide as a CRM system, rebuilding it and marketing this to the Victorian commercial real estate industry. With a significant amount of listings acquired through their work with CRM agents, the Roses identified a gap in the market and launched Commercial Property Guide the portal.

Rose is also CEO of Rose Technology, a group of companies delivering digital communications solutions, whether it be online media, email marketing, catalogue management, call centre technology or software. Rose began in the dot-com industry in 1999 with carsales.com.au as the national dealer of sales.

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