Realtors rely on direct mail more than any other business category, which is why it's critical to ensure your direct mail is positioning you in the best possible way. It's not enough anymore to just "get your name out there" when the competition is fierce. You need to get your name out in a way that builds your brand, rather than in a way that's missing key opportunities, or worse -- doing actual damage to your brand.
I collect every piece of direct mail that comes to my mailbox (and have been known to force area family members to save their mail for me). I've compiled a list of the top ten things I see realtors doing wrong (and tips for how you can do better):
1. Template postcards. I can't say enough about how damaging these [drop in a picture and insert your contact information] postcards are to your image (like the two in the graphic above). They are boring and uninspiring. If you don't have a compelling card to look at, people are not going to give it a second thought. If you care about your reputation and your brand, show that you value it enough to position yourself correctly in a way that highlights your unique strengths and personality. Template postcards don't cost less...but they do cost you in terms of your brand.
2. One hit wonder. You did a mailing once, but then I've never seen you again. With direct mail, repetition is KEY. If you are farming an area, you should be there on a monthly basis. You can send 100,000 postcards out in the Lake Norman area, but if you only do it once, you are not likely to generate a single lead. Not a one. Since we're concerned about having a solid strategy, we will be the first to tell you this -- even if it means lost business. Someone who sends out just 1,000 cards each month to a SINGLE neighborhood will see more leads come in over the year as a result. Think about that! 1/10th of the collateral is more effective when paired with the key ingredient of repetition.
3. Bad testimonials. Joe Smith from Cornelius saying nice things about you looks made up. However, if you can use something like, "Suzie and Vern Forsmyth from the Peninsula," it's golden. The first example makes you look like you're making up a testimonial, while the latter has real credibility.
4. Bad graphics. I keep getting generic template cards where the houses and images clearly aren't from this area. Last year I received another one from "Lake Norman's real estate experts," only the lake they used on the postcard wasn't our beloved Lake Norman (as evidenced by some mountains in the distant background). Choosing the right image boosts your credibility. Using the wrong ones can damage your image and make you look fake. If you don't have high resolution images, sites like 123rf.com or shutterstock.com have hundreds of thousands of images you can purchase -- 123rf.com even has some of Lake Norman.
5. Poor font choices.. I have postcard in particular where the type face is so small, it can't be read. The realtor is listing all the homes sold in the area (at least 50) with sale price and days on market. Useful information, but wasted opportunity if it can't be read. We do suggest sometimes taking a break from postcards to provide more relevant or useful information in the form of a 2-sided newsletter. This can be a great add-on to your direct mail program, but 1) it needs to be formatted properly so people can read it and 2) it should be branded with the same look and feel as your other marketing in order to capitalize on your brand recognition.
6. Who am I? I may get pieces from you on a regular basis, but each month they are completely different. Colors, fonts, placement of text and graphics -- all these elements combine together to establish a "brand." To depart from this with a completely different looking postcard detracts from your brand and you won't have the same "recognition" as you would with unified pieces. Does this mean you just send the same thing every month? No! We've done clever and unique campaigns that offer different postcards, yet still retain the same basic "brand" or look and feel.
7. No value. I know it's harder as a realtor to offer consumers something of value like a discount or coupon, since your industry simply doesn't lend itself to that option. This just means you need to work harder and be a little more creative with your direct mail. As a consumer, the typical just listed/just sold postcards don't do much for me. However, if you provide me with solid numbers on how many homes you've sold, a snapshot of the local real estate market, or advice on what home improvements increase resale potential, you'll have my ear.
8. Too much content and no real focus. Some postcards try to do far too much. When the space is small, use it wisely. I don't need to see all your listings, an out of focus picture of your website, a paragraph about who you are, your contact information and a handful of other images all at once. Keep your message and your intent simple. Overloaded postcards overwhelm your audience -- instead of looking at and reading everything on the card, the reader is overwhelmed and gives up.
9. You're not including your past clients in your marketing. Everyone's so focused on what neighborhoods they are farming, that they neglect their database of past clients. Come on, you see people hopping from house to house...(and even spouse to spouse), so why would past clients stay loyal to you? Repeat business and referrals from past clients is essential. It is a far cheaper for you to keep and hold this group tight, as opposed to the money it costs to attract a new client. If you are doing flyer box postcards, you can do a separate version that can be mailed -- at less than $1 piece to mail, it's worth it to keep your former clients loyal and in your fold.
10. There's no strategy. Again, we get it...you can plan with the goal of doing a mailing every month, but daily tasks get in the way. Designing...printing...mail or delivery...it's a pain to keep track of it all! When there's no schedule or strategy, it's easy to let a few months slip by with no direct mail. That haitus is costing you the recognition you're trying so hard to build. This is where we like to help the most. Outline your goals upfront. Develop a list of your best targets. Stick to a schedule where these targets are "touched" each and every month. Successful direct mail is just like being successful at dieting. You don't see success when you keep going off your schedule!
Not only will the top ten mistakes cost you in results, they will also waste your time and money. Direct mail doesn't need to be a painful process. It doesn't need to be haphazzard. Your direct mail should feel GREAT to send out. You should feel confident that your brand is 100% on target and that it's putting you ahead of your competition. I truly hope you can use this list as a checklist the next time you're putting together direct mail.
If you want to chat more, call me (Kary Gregor) directly at 704-883-6006. I'm always happy to meet with folks, even if it's just to share advice! Remember, friends don't let friends send junk mail.