Becoming The Neighborhood Real Estate Expert: Part 4

Real Estate Direct Mail

Today we’re going old school. Well, not really. Although seen as a traditional way of generating business, real estate direct mail campaigns are still very relevant. Homeowners continue to respond to effective mailing campaigns. It definitely helps in positioning yourself as a neighborhood real estate expert. Especially when combined with the marketing system we talk about in our five part series. Let’s learn more about how you can use direct mail. And how it can position you as the neighborhood real estate expert in your area.

Marketing messages to send

Real estate direct mail is simply that. Sending real estate marketing pieces by mail to a targeted area. In this case, you are sending direct mail to your neighborhood area where you are working. The recipients are 500 to 1,000 homes to start which you’ve identified in the first part of this business building series.

Coming up with what kind of marketing messages to send is very crucial in this campaign. You wrote your introductory letter. You have your neighborhood website set up. Now it’s time to use the campaign calendar to plan out the type of marketing messages to send. Here are ideas for what kind of messages you can send to your neighborhood area.

Real estate market updates

What’s going on in the real estate market? In your city? In your neighborhood? Write about real estate market updates that are relevant to your area. Send a marketing piece in the form of a newsletter or a simple letter. Send this out at least once a month, usually at the beginning of the month. Highlight the relevant updates currently happening that will affect homeowners in your area.

Your performance highlights

Not to brag, but one of your marketing pieces should contain how you are performing in your area. This could be sent once a month in addition to real estate market updates, or once every two months if you are supplementing this with other marketing messages. Information to include on this piece are how many homes you’ve sold, your average days on market versus the local board’s average, your average selling price versus the local board’s average — anything that will shed light on how well you sell homes in the area.

New listings and recent sales

Homeowners like to know what’s happening in their neighborhood. What homes have been listed? What has sold? Depending on the rules and regulations of your real estate board and your city, check to see to what extent you can publish home listings and sales information including sold prices. You should definitely start with marketing your new listings and all the homes you’ve sold in the area. When homeowners see you listing and selling lots of homes, they perceive you as the neighborhood expert. Especially if you’re listing and selling more homes than your competitors.

Blog articles or commentary

You may want to repurpose some of the content you publish on your blog. This helps you with producing marketable messages while remaining consistent with the delivery of direct mail pieces. Take an article on your blog, whether a recent one or an older but still relevant one, and include your commentary on it. How will knowing this information help homeowners? Add it to your newsletter or send it out as a mailing piece on its own. We suggest sending it out in an envelope, with the front of the envelope either having an address label (if you’ve purchased a mailing list for your area) or an interesting headline that will entice the recipient to open the envelope.

useful newsletter

Some of the above content can be published in a newsletter which you can send monthly. You can combine market stats, articles, performance reports, just listed and just sold into one newsletter and send it out monthly. We say ‘useful’ here because that’s what your newsletter should be. Something that will benefit homeowners. Not just generic newsletters that any other real estate agent competing against you can send. Imagine if you send the same newsletter content as your competitor. How will homeowners in your area perceive you? If you plan to use a real estate newsletter format to send your marketing message, create your own or have a marketing company put one together for you. Make sure it is unique and customized.

How often should you send real estate direct mail?

Most real estate agents fail at establishing themselves as neighborhood experts because they don’t have proper execution and consistency. It takes time for the recipients of your marketing message to remember you and build an affinity and trust in you. If you only send out your introductory letter, and then just one more message afterwards, it’s just not enough. Some real estate coaches recommend sending one marketing message every week for the first six or eight weeks, and then two marketing pieces a month after that. Logically, it makes sense, so here’s what we recommend.

Your first two months

Here’s an eight week launch campaign we recommend. No, we won’t send out recipe cards, calendars, magnets, or drop by with stuff. Some programs promote that. We suggest you provide value and service. Position yourself as the neighborhood real estate expert using market knowledge and insight, not cheesy marketing materials. Homeowners will appreciate it more when you’re serving them with useful content and information than a fridge magnet calendar.

Read the entire eight week campaign we suggest in advance. You’ll have to prepare certain things weeks in advance (such as the event in week seven). Plan this out well ahead of time so that you’re not rushing to put pieces of your real estate direct mail campaign together just when you’ve hit the week you’re supposed to do it.

Week One

In the first week, you should send out your introductory letter. This will be the launch of your real estate direct mail campaign. And help build the momentum you need to gain exposure and traction in your area.

Week Two

If you have competitors already entrenched in the neighborhood, you’ll need to be consistent with the execution of this plan. In your second week, send out a useful article. Not about you. But about your neighborhood. It could be the current market statistics. A summary of what homes you’ve listed or sold. Or an article from your blog.

Week Three

Sending something disrupting. Something homeowners won’t expect. It can be an article from your blog, but put a spin to it. Not to be misleading. But to stimulate the thinking of homeowners. And so you can educate them on what’s happening. For example, if home prices are jumping at alarming rates in your area, you can write an article with the following heading:

“Why real estate prices will keep soaring… until this happens…”

If home prices are declining, you can write an article with the following heading:

“Hang in there… prices will rise… but this has to happen first”

The idea is to get their interest but disrupt the normal thinking process using an article headline that gets them curious about what you have to say. Instead of just saying “prices are up 11% last month” (which every competitor of yours plus the news media will publish anyway), do something that makes homeowners in your area want to read your article, and not someone else’s.

Remember, the main thing about this strategy is not to mislead, it’s to educate. You want to create something interesting enough that recipients of your real estate direct mail message will want to open and read. Not just throw away.

At the end of the article, include a message to lead the homeowners to your website.

“I publish articles that will keep you informed about what’s happening in our neighborhood. Visit my website at www.johnswebsite.com to read more.”

That link should lead back to the neighborhood website you created. And now you’re linking the traditional real estate direct mail campaign with your online marketing to build connections with homeowners.

Week Four

You’ve gained a little bit of interest and trust at this point. Provided you’ve sent out three pieces consecutively without missing one. It’s time to talk a little bit about you. And how you can help homeowners in your neighborhood. Send out your market performance. How many homes you’ve sold in the area. What your average days on market and selling price is compared to competitors. If you don’t have any home sales, ask your broker or office manager if you can publish the office sales performance. Remember, you work for a real estate brokerage. And you may be allowed to market their performance at the start of your career before you go out and accomplish your own.

Week Five

If you have an open house, send out a direct mail campaign to promote it. If you don’t have one, ask somebody in your office if you can do theirs this weekend. It’s important to get your feet wet in the neighborhood. And allow homeowners to actually see you. Don’t miss this step. Do an open house in the neighborhood. Let homeowners see how active you are. Send out the open house invitations by mail. You can even door knock the neighborhood to promote the open house.

Week Six

You’re now a month-and-a-half into your real estate direct mail campaign. And if you reach this point, homeowners already know your brand. It’s time to continue delivering value. No, don’t send out a calendar at this point. Or a packet of seedlings for their gardens. (Yes, we’ve seem these gimmicks. And your competitors might be doing it.) This week, send out a simple message to a landing page. It could be a home value landing page, home sold report, or a simple email newsletter or email alert signup. The idea is to start connecting with homeowners and building a database of the ones who are ready to interact with you. And in the sixth week, they’ve seen enough of you that they may be ready to connect. If your competitors are not as active, and if nobody is sending direct mail at least twice a month, you’ve already sent out more marketing pieces than your competitors. Chances are, you will already be seen as the dominant real estate expert in the neighborhood.

Week Seven

Put together a small workshop, seminar or event. It could be a real estate investment seminar. Or a market update seminar. Even a small community event or charitable event. Prepare this well in advance — even in week one. You’ll need to organize the event, come up with a venue, and send invitations out. This week is when you’ll send the invitations out, and the event itself could be two weeks from now. The main point is you are sending out a campaign this week, and the homeowners in your area would have heard from you seven times by now. The live event will be a way for homeowners in your area to interact with you.

Week Eight

At last, you’ve made it. If you were consistent enough with executing this eight week launch, good for you. By now your neighbors know you. Some may be irritated. But others will definitely remember you. Especially if you’ve focused on delivering value and contributing to the wellbeing of homeowners in your area by producing useful content. And not just simply promoting your head shot in every marketing piece. In week eight, send out a blog article from your real estate blog. Add a note to the bottom, something along the lines of…

“If you have any questions about real estate, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to chat with you.”

Doesn’t sound aggressive enough? It’s not meant to be. Homeowners want an approachable real estate agent to work with. And remember, not everyone is ready to buy or sell at this time. You want to nurture the relationship so that when they are, they’ll remember you as the approachable agent, not the pushy one.

Third month and onwards

After you’ve completed the eight week launch campaign and positioned yourself as the neighborhood expert, it’s time to carry on with your real estate direct mail campaign with proper execution and consistency. Don’t miss a single mailing. Keep consistent. And in due time, when homeowners are ready to transact, you’ll be the real estate agent of choice. The expert in your neighborhood.

Beginning of the month

Send out the market statistics, updates and a useful article from your blog at the beginning of each month. Get homeowners in the habit of receiving their real estate news from you. When you are consistent with this, homeowners living in your neighborhood area will expect to receive your real estate direct mail piece every single month. If you show them this level of consistency, they will regard you as a professional and as an expert. Make sure what you are sending out is full of useful and relevant information, not just canned or generic articles that don’t give any value to your neighborhood area.

Middle of the month

In between mailings of your ‘newsletter’ or market updates, send out performance reports and branding pieces. What homes have you listed and sold recently? How is your performance versus your competitors? What events are you planning to have in your neighborhood? If you don’t have enough of this material to send out, you can send another useful article from your blog. But make sure you send something mid-month that is a bit different from your beginning of the month mailing.

Measuring the success of your campaign

How do you know if your real estate direct mail campaign is working? By tracking the response rates. If you only send out a few pieces erratically, and if you don’t stick with the suggested campaign consistency, you won’t gain enough traction to make this worthwhile. Yes, you may get the odd listing and sale here and there. But you won’t dominate your neighborhood. Be consistent and track numbers. Here’s how to do it.

It takes time, consistency and repetition

An effective real estate direct mail campaign takes time, consistency and repetition to become successful. After the first few pieces, homeowners receiving your message are only starting to get to know you. Get them into the habit of consistently receiving information from you. The message has to be repeated in order for it to be immersed in the homeowner’s minds.

Response rates and lead generation

Track the responses you receive from your real estate direct mail campaigns. Numbers vary, but the very minimum should be a 1% response rate for a consistently sent message. If you’re sending out to an area of 1,000 homes, a 1% response (you get a listing from it) should be 10. If you close all listing appointments, that means you’ve got 10 listings to work with. If you sell 6-8, or all 10, then your real estate direct mail campaign has yielded the very minimum and given you enough sales to sustain it.

If you want to generate a lot of leads, you’ll appreciate that a real estate direct mail campaign to an area of 1,000 homes is intended as a starting point. Successful real estate agents who dominate their neighborhoods can send upwards of 20,000 or more marketing pieces. These are million dollar GCI producers who practically own the areas they work in.

Conversion rates

Keep track of conversion rates using the following simple system:

  1. How many recipients do you have in your real estate direct mail campaign
  2. How many inquiries did you receive
  3. How many inquiries turned into appointments
  4. How many appointments turned into listings
  5. How many listings turned into sales

For example, let’s say you are consistently sending out 1,000 direct mail pieces.  Last month you received four inquiries. Out of those four, two turned into appointments. And out of those two, one turned into a listing. And that listing sold. Here’s what your numbers look like:

  • 4 inquiries out of 1,000 direct mail pieces is a 0.4% response rate
  • 2 appointments from 4 inquiries is a 50% inquiry-to-appointment conversion
  • 1 listing out of 2 appointments is a 50% appointment-to-listing conversion
  • 1 sale from 1 listing is a 100% listing-to-sale conversion

Additionally:

  • 1 listing from 4 inquiries is a 25% inquiry-to-listing conversion
  • 1 sale from 4 inquiries is a 25% sale-to-inquiry listing conversion
  • 1 sale from 1,000 direct mail pieces is a 0.1% overall conversion rate

If you know you can get one sale every month for every 1,000 direct mail pieces you send, you can scale up your real estate direct mail campaign depending on how many sales you want to achieve per month. If your numbers prove consistent, and you know for a fact that you can generate one sale a month in a 1,000 home area, if you want to scale to five sales per month, you need to reach out to 5,000 homes.

The numbers above are based on a real example, not just something we made up. But numbers vary depending on consistency, strength of marketing message, your branding effectiveness versus your competitors, and a lot of other factors. It takes time to build a successful real estate direct mail campaign. But you must track your numbers in order to figure out how to make it work for you.

Nurturing leads

As important as it is to figure out your conversion rates, the most important thing you need to do is nurture your leads. Leads turn into prospects, prospects turn into clients, and clients give you sales. An inquiry today might be a lead that doesn’t convert until six months or a year from now. Your system, which includes your real estate blog, your direct mail pieces and your real estate database, should be constructed in a way that allows you to nurture leads. (Here’s a hint, we’re going to cover database marketing tomorrow as a way of dominating your neighborhood.)

Engagement

Part of getting conversions with your real estate direct mail campaigns is the level of engagement you get from homeowners who receive your marketing messages. Be yourself, use your voice, make sure your branding and value proposition are present. But most importantly, engage your audience. Engage the homeowners in your neighborhood. Express your passion for the community and for real estate in every marketing message you send. Don’t just copy your competitors. Don’t be bland and boring. Pour your passion into your marketing campaigns and engage homeowners so that they will want to do business with you.

Are you ready to dominate?

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about how you can use all of the strategies in the first four parts of our series to become the dominant real estate agent in your neighborhood.

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