What are the effective direct mail marketing strategies for real estate agents?
Business address, street address, or PO Box—it doesn’t matter. If you have an address, then you know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of direct mail marketing . . . and you may not like it.
A recent compilation of statistics reports 58% of the mail American households receive is marketing mail. That amounts to about 41 pounds of “junk” a year.
No wonder you might be wary of those promoting direct mail marketing for real estate agents.
But direct mail marketing for real estate is not like any other type of direct mail.
The local nature of your audience, the innate social proof you have as a real estate agent, and a focus on mailing to the local area make direct mail marketing the perfect platform for real estate marketing campaigns.
Direct mail marketing is also a marketing strategy that is scalable. In most instances, direct mail can be automated. And it can be an affordable and profitable addition to your marketing plan either on its own or coupled with a digital campaign.
And there are ways to help ensure your direct mail advertising makes it past the trash can and into homes where it can stay for days or even weeks.
Direct mail is hot
We’ve always enjoyed receiving mail in our mailboxes, and the pandemic has fueled that appreciation.
In late April 2020, the marketing company Valassis reported: 
- 37% of consumers are more excited to receive their mail each day, compared to before the coronavirus pandemic.
- 30% of consumers are spending more time reading marketing or promotions that arrive in their home mailbox compared to before the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, the U.S. Post Office surveyed 1,004 adults and discovered that: 
- 65% agree that receiving mail lifts their spirits.
- 61% agree mail is extra special during this time of social distancing.
- 54% agree they feel more connected to people through the mail.
Below are five direct mail marketing ideas proven to get real estate agents the results they crave.
The handwritten letter
Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve received a handwritten letter.
The envelope looks unlike any of the others in that morning’s mail, and the address is written in real ink from a pen.
Your anticipation is already building.
You look at it, feel it, turn it over.
Perfectly placed in the top right corner is a real stamp.
You immediately sense this message is something special.
Someone, somewhere, has separated you from the crowd.
They’ve stopped whatever they were doing to take paper and pen in hand and dedicate their limited time and energy exclusively to you.
The words inside are only for you.
It’s rarity, exclusivity, and tangible uniqueness compel you to open it before anything else.
There, on real stationary, is the same ink you first noticed on the envelope.
You see your name in the greeting and begin to read . . .
In a world of spam folders filled with impersonal emails, a handwritten letter is considered and often treated like a rare and valuable gift.
And it clearly stands apart from the pounds of direct mail consumers receive each year.
It doesn’t even matter that it’s a handwritten marketing letter. As the writer, you’ve achieved the most difficult task facing all direct mail marketers: You got the recipient to open the envelope!
Tips for writing a handwritten direct mail letter
When writing a direct mail letter, remind yourself that you are a real estate agent and not a professional marketer. But don’t let that stop you from starting with something simple. Here are a few universal tips:
- Know your audience: Address their needs and values.
- Grab their attention: Start with something that will make them want to keep reading.
- Focus on benefits: Elaborate on what they get out of doing business with you.
As for the types of letters, you can try your hand at a short letter. As implied, these letters are short, direct, and to the point. In one paragraph, your goal is to have the seller call you—that’s it. If you’re new to real estate, they’re an effective way to get your business off the ground.
Use a long letter (one page) to let potential clients know about your desire to help, the services you offer, and why you’re the best agent to help solve their problem. Include the action you want them to take—call you, email you, set an appointment, etc.
A letter of introduction may include the same information as a flyer, but the impression has more lasting power.
Include your recipient’s name, be succinct, and include something personal about yourself that humanizes you and connects you to them. (I grew up here and would love to show you around.)
Don’t forget to let them know how to contact you.
At first, a thank you letter may not seem like it belongs in a blog about real estate marketing tools, but they’re a great way to stay top-of-mind. They flow organically when showing gratitude is expected and appropriate. And a thank you letter is always a win-win—people appreciate being appreciated, and it earns you some good will.
An effective thank you letter requires some thought.
To get you started, How to Write a Thank You Letter to Clients for Their Business is a short but very useful article that accompanies an episode of ReminderMedia’s podcast, Stay Paid. In it you’ll find helpful advice, including some dos and don’ts, for crafting and using this highly effective marketing tool.
Tips to make handwritten letters a pragmatic option
There’s no denying that a handwritten letter can be effective, but few agents use them because they take time away from “more important” tasks.
Writing letters does take time, but it can be efficient if you use the right approach.
Depending on the size of your database, you could:
- Write a couple of letters a week and eventually send one to everyone.
- Select your core clients and write only to them.
- Consider a handwritten letter writing service.
Tips for testing
I highly recommend you test your letters to see what elements work best in helping you achieve your goal. Be sure you test only one element at a time.
Experiment with different size envelopes:
- #10 (standard) business envelopes
- A2 envelopes (like a party invitation)
- 6″ x 9″ envelopes (especially effective for people who have never done business with you)
It may seem counter intuitive since colored envelopes stand out but in at least one study about nonprofit mailings, anything other than a white envelope decreased open rates. This doesn’t mean, however, that different colored envelopes might not work for you and your target audience.
There are lots of tips available for how to write effective real estate direct mail letters. There are also direct mail letter examples you can find online to imitate. But if you want to outsource your letter writing, there is no shortage of direct mail marketing companies willing to do it for you.
Real estate postcards
Postcards are ideal tools for geographic farming.
First, they are relatively inexpensive.
Second, they are a sure-fire way to get in front of motivated prospects because your message is spelled out and literally staring them in the face. (Why play the odds with an envelope it if don’t have to, right?)
Real estate postcards need to convey sophisticated and confident authority. To ensure your message gets through:
- Start with your call to action. Decide what you want your prospects to do once they receive your card, and then design the other elements to support that action.
- Include your branding. Your postcard design should be consistent with your other branding, so include your logo, your photo, and contact information.
- Use professional images. Clear, beautiful, high-quality images are what will capture your audience’s attention. This is where a professional photographer experienced in real estate photography is a must.
- Use high-quality card stock. Don’t go cheap. A high-quality postcard will infer high-quality service. Select heavy cardstock and the appropriate finish. Matte works well if your card is message centric. Use gloss if it’s more about the images.
- Think about the season. Let your real estate postcards reflect real estate as it appears during different times of the year—snowy rooftops during the winter, beautiful gardens in spring and summer, colorful trees is autumn. Postcards are also great tools for keeping you top-of-mind when you’re in-between marketing campaigns.
When done right, postcards can be a lot of work with selecting the design, photos, card stock, etc. However, our postcard services simplify the process. We’ll customize a real estate postcard for you, or you can select from among our assorted themes:
- Holidays and seasonal
- Thank you’s and events
- Health (including COVID-19)
- Crafts and recipes
- Calendars and sports schedules
You can select one or join our 12 Direct program, where we automatically send a personally branded card to your list once a month.
I just have to tell you guys that I watched this webinar live and took advantage of the postcard offer. I have never farmed and have always worked by referral. Thanks to you, I mailed about 500 postcards and just signed a listing for $450,000 and the seller is also using us to buy for about $350,000. That $800,000 in volume from 1 postcard!! I hope these cards don’t make me have to start working for a living. (LOL) ~Jim Dorsey
I just started the 12 direct mail farming postcards. First postcard went out and I already have a listing appointment for a property that will more than pay for the entire year of postcards. Looking forward to increasing my production through farming my local communities! ~Jenna W.
The direct mail newsletter
Let’s be honest . . . there’s nothing sexy about a newsletter.
Likewise, bulletins, circulars, leaflets, and flyers hold no allure.
For me, the words conjure images of two stapled pages elementary school kids are supposed to take home every few weeks.
They were typed on a Smith Corona typewriter (now considered a vintage collectible) and printed from mimeo paper with its unique shade of purple-blue ink and distinctive odor you weren’t supposed to inhale.
And they always felt slightly damp.
But I digress . . .
The point is a properly titled newsletter (tips to follow) is among the most effective real estate marketing ideas because your audience will find them useful—and useful is valuable.
With today’s technology and software like Canva, PicMonkey, Stencil, FotoJet, and more, you can create a professional looking newsletter with ease using different font types, layouts, colors, and images.
However, while creating a professional looking newsletter has been made easier, the task of writing the content remains a challenge for many.
Tips for writing direct mail newsletters
The tips that follow will help you write newsletters that will be read and kept for future reference:
Tip #1: Provide value to your intended audience.
The easiest way to ensure you are providing value to your intended audience is to give them information that will help them solve their problems.
Consider your ideal client. Who are they? What do you know about them that goes beyond basic demographics and characteristics?
Start with what you know or can find out about your ideal client, including:
- what they are already interested in;
- what problems they need to solve;
- what goals they want to reach.
Once you have a picture of your ideal client (visualizing a real person helps), you’ll be able to confidently select the type of content they’ll find useful and valuable.
Tip #2: Create a title based on a problem.
Don’t call your newsletter a “newsletter.” There’s no suggestion of inherent value in a newsletter.
Instead, think about the problems you are solving for your ideal client. Incorporate some version of those problem into the name of your newsletter and you’ll get attention.
For example, Jane Doe’s Local Real Estate Review for Homeowners and Homebuyers is a title that would catch the eye of a specific type of client.
Equally good would be, John Smith’s Guide to Oceanview Properties in the Northwest.
These titles provide your name to keep you top-of-mind; specify a location (make sure the location includes the zip codes to which you are mailing); and define who you are best equipped to help.
Tip #3: Make it visually appealing and easy to read.
The easiest way to turn off a reader is to give them something that looks like one large block of text.
People are busy and will scan a document to decide quickly whether it’s worth reading, so make it easy for them:
- Use lots of white space. Insert blank lines between paragraphs and sections.
- Use bullets, especially if you’re writing a list.
- Use headings. Consider using bold, underline, italics, capitalization, and a different or larger font to distinguish them from the text and each sub-level. Just don’t overdo it.
- Use short sentences and paragraphs.
If you include images, ensure they add to the meaning of the content. Images that don’t add value are either annoying or overlooked.
Keepsakes and gifts
Businesses continue to send clients gifts because they work. And because a gift is tangible, it’s something that clients can keep and will encourage them to remember you—especially if it includes your branding.
The results of a study on corporate gift giving suggests that a gift can strengthen relationships with key customers, create goodwill, foster new relationships, and promote business. In fact, “A properly timed and appropriate gift is one of the best ways of conveying the important message that a relationship matters.” 
And the good news is your gift doesn’t need to be expensive to be appreciated. A study by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business reports it really is the thought that matters.
There are tons of affordable gifts that can be given to clients at events, but not all gifts are appropriate for direct mail. Some items may be too fragile while others may be too heavy to mail in a cost-effective way. Items like those in the list below, when branded to you, are a good starting point:
- playing cards
- refrigerator magnets
Since 2012, magazine readership has steadily grown. In 2019, the number of magazine readers totaled 228.7 million, up 4 million from the previous year.
Early reports indicate an even bigger jump in the popularity of magazines during quarantine.
Once again, the pandemic has created an unexpected boon in direct mail.
In a 98-page study published in 2020 by The Association of Magazine Media, researchers wrote one-third of those under 35 report reading magazines more because of the pandemic. Additionally, one-third of millennial women reporting they spend more time reading magazines now than prior to the pandemic.
Real estate agents can take profitable advantage of this growing interest in magazines by mailing them to their sphere. Some of the most popular magazines, whether print or digital, include articles about lifestyle, gardening, health, travel, and especially since quarantine, recipes.
And while you probably already know this, it can’t be any old magazine. It’s got to be one that your audience wants to receive and will find valuable.
At ReminderMedia, we offer two magazines that meet these criteria . . . and they have resulted in a 58% referral rate. More than 80,000 clients use them to connect frequently, deliver impact, and build trust with their sphere.
I have been a long-time subscriber to this wonderful magazine, at least 15 years and love the quality and content of this publication. I have gotten nothing but positive feedback from my clients that have been very pleased with American Lifestyle. I’ve even had one say how they look forward to the recipes in every issue. Also customer service has been outstanding. Nicole has always been very helpful and responsive and I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with her on the phone today for the first time! Very engaging. professional, helpful and considerate. Really appreciated the time she spent with me to meet my needs. Reminder Media is awesome! ~Leo Riordan
I’ve been a customer for at least 10 years & it’s a fantastic value. It’s a quality product that is easy for me to manage & just helped me to close a lead from 9 years ago. When they were ready to list & buy, they called me because I was on their coffee table! People feel special when they receive the magazine & those emotions lead to action! ~Ivette Rodriguez Anderson, Keller Williams Success Realty
American Lifestyle magazine and Start Healthy magazine include useful, engaging, and timely articles; are visually engaging with beautiful images; and are printed on high-quality paper stock. We automatically send an issue six times a year to your exclusive list of recipients.
If you’d like us to send you a sample, click here.
Start using direct mail today
Adding any one of these five direct mail real estate marketing ideas to your existing marketing plan will help you to keep in contact with your sphere. As a real estate agent, you want to stay top-of-mind with your clients so that they’ll provide you with referrals.
However, staying top-of-mind requires a commitment to consistency.
For any type of marketing to work, you must be consistent:
- You need to consistently nurture clients so that when they are ready to buy or sell, they call you.
- You need to follow up.
- You need to offer consistent value.
And because consistency is so important, an automated solution may be best if you are too busy or if you prefer a “set it and forget it” approach.
Whatever you decide to do, direct mail can be profitable. Be patient, track what works, pivot when appropriate, and above all—be consistent.
 “25 Direct Marketing Statistics for 2020,” Compu-Mail, February 12, 2020, https://www.compu-mail.com/statistics/25-direct-marketing-statistics-for-2020.
 “A Look at Consumer Behaviors in a COVID-19 World,” [Infographic], Valassis, Accessed November 30, 2020, https://www.valassis.com/infographics/a-look-at-consumer-behaviors-in-a-covid-19-world/.
 Doug Wiggins, “COVID Mail Attitudes: Understanding & Impact,” USPS Market Research & Insights, April 2020, https://postalpro.usps.com/mnt/glusterfs/2020-05/COVID%20Mail%20Attitudes.pdf.
 Ian Brodie, Email Persuasion (United Kingdom: Rainmaker Publishing, 2013), 20.
 Ying Fan, “Promoting Business with Corporate Gifts: Major Issues and Empirical Evidence,” Corporate Communication: An International Journal, 11, No.1, (January 1, 2006): 43. https://doi.org/10.1108/13563280610643543.
 Marguerite Rigoglioso, “Research Confirms: It’s the Thought That Counts,” Stanford Graduate School of Business, December 1, 2008, https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/research-confirms-its-thought-counts?zd_source=hrt&zd
 “Number of magazine readers in the United States from 2012 to 2019,” [Chart] Statista, accessed December 8, 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/207850/total-gross-magazine-audience-in-the-united-states/.
 “Magazine Media Factbook,” [PDF], The Association of Magazine Media, 2020, https://fipp.s3.amazonaws.com/media
 “Magazine Media Factbook,” [PDF], The Association of Magazine Media, 2020, https://fipp.s3.amazonaws.com/media
 2019 ReminderMedia Reader Study; conducted by GfK MRI. Full results can be found at https://remindermedia.com/webinar/the-science-behind-the-roi-the-effectiveness-of-american-lifestyle-and-start-healthy-magazines/.