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The Truth About Direct Mail: Still Effective for the Mortgage Industry or a Dying Strategy?

Dec 23, 2010

As a mortgage professional, you may wonder “Is direct mail dead?” It’s a common conversation going on amongst mortgage marketing experts today. Actually, the debate rages in every industry, but you deserve to know the truth about direct mail and how it personally affects your business. So here it is: Is sending postcards, letters and snail mail a dying strategy? The simple answer is no. Direct mail isn’t taking its last breath any time soon, but it is evolving. Business marketing strategies are different than four or five years ago. Now, it’s common and necessary to integrate a marketing campaign with your Web site, social media pages and e-mail marketing. The bottom line … direct mail still yields results, is effective for mortgage professionals today and is still one of the only mediums that can specifically target your ideal clients. So what does this mean for you as a mortgage professional? Only when you allow direct mail to work with e-mail marketing, your Web site and online mediums like Pay-Per-Click (PPC) will you maximize the return on investment (ROI) for your marketing dollars. With marketing today, there isn’t a solo action that will bring a stampede of clients through your door or make the phone ring. When you plan to market, you must think with an integrated approach. You’ll see a big difference in your responses. Let me explain. Your job as a marketer is to isolate identities of individuals likely to need what you have to offer. Once those identities are isolated, it is your job to warm them up over the course of time until they reach for your services. You don’t know where these identities are exactly in the sales process. They could be ice cold, lukewarm or ready to close. I’ll break it down further for you. You buy a list, you mail to it. Those recipients even highly interested probably will not call. They might go to your Web site. On your site, you must have a way to capture their identity so you can now send them a campaign. That campaign consists of e-mails, letters, connecting with them on social media sites and staying in front of them until they are ready to buy. For all of the skeptics who continue to argue against the effectiveness of print advertising, specifically direct mail in today’s world, here is some hard evidence that clears up a few common myths. Myth #1: “Nobody reads junk mail anymore” This is one of the most misguided beliefs out there right now. According to the 2010 DMA Statistical Fact Book, 79 percent of households read or skim direct mail pieces. Also, an International Communications Research study found people were 31 percent less likely to ditch unopened mail than delete unopened emails, and 45 percent said they found direct mail less intrusive than e-mail. You are not limited to the traditional “letter and envelope” method of direct mail. More and more mortgage brokers are turning to direct mail postcards to reach their clients. Postcards are eye-catching, easy to read and, best of all, don’t have to be opened. The biggest strength in postcards lies in their ability to generate responses. If you can get your prospect to call (either right away or after visiting your Web site), you have a much higher chance of closing the loan. Myth #2 “You can’t track the effectiveness of direct mail” Whether you are sending letters or postcards, there is just no way to tell exactly how many people read your ad. This is true, but what is it you really want to track? How many pieces get opened, or how many responses you receive? It really doesn’t matter how many people read them if nobody calls. However, tracking is important and direct mail offers a variety of ways to measure effectiveness. One tactic available is placing a customized landing page on each postcard or letter. You can tell exactly how many people visit the site, collect new lead contact info and track the effectiveness of your mailings. You can also set up a separate 1-800 number for your mailings, or print a promotional code on the piece to track which offers are pulling a response. In reality, direct mail is one of the easiest mediums to track! Myth #3 “Direct mail is more expensive than e-mail” This myth is true. E-mail is an extremely affordable way to advertise, and postage rates seem to always be on the rise. However, there is more to the story. Direct mail is far more effective than e-mail marketing. Unsolicited e-mails have an unimpressive open rate and if your e-mail is opened, very few are read by the recipient, especially if they have no connection with you. An open rate indicates nothing about how many people actually read the contents. And another thing to consider is how you feel when you get an unsolicited e-mail from a strange business you’ve never heard of. Think for a moment. Do you like it? Do you have a good impression of that company or bad? If you become the “spammer,” how will 99 percent of the recipients feel about your company? With that said, the best option is to integrate both e-mail and direct mail. The main problem with e-mail marketing is the scarcity of high quality lists. To save money, use direct mail to drive traffic to a custom landing page, collect e-mail addresses on that page and send follow-up e-mails to those addresses. Your open (and read) rates will be off the charts and you’ll save the money on follow-up mail pieces! These myths are busted Clearly, due to developments in the direct mail industry, these concerns don’t hold water. Direct mail is still effective and will be around for a long time to come. But is it still an effective venue for mortgage professionals? With changing technology and a volatile marketplace, should direct mail be a part of your marketing plan? Yes, it absolutely should. But remember, it has to be part of an integrated approach. Let’s look at some of the benefits you get with a direct mail campaign. An attentive audience As mentioned earlier, 79 percent of people read or skim their mail. This means a prospect is intentionally setting aside time to hear what you have to say. They may not give you a lot of time to capture their interest, but they are giving you the chance—and that’s a big advantage! A well-written letter will draw the reader in and present your case in a conversational, to-the-point style. Be sure it is absolutely clear why they should read your letter, or it won’t pass the skim test. Postcards have an even better chance. State “why they should use your services” simply and quickly, provide a few important benefits on the back, and include a compelling offer and emphasize your contact info with a strong call to action. This method has been working for mortgage brokers and other industries alike. Take a look at what’s in your mailbox—how many times have you called a business because you received an ad in the mail? An emotional connection In a marketing e-mail, people aren’t looking for emotion. They want the facts, and they want them quickly. That is, if they bother reading it in the first place. With a direct mail piece, you have the opportunity to make an emotional connection with your prospect. You can inspire excitement, fear, curiosity, etc. You must capture attention and mail to a list of people interested in your services, but your chances of being remembered by the prospect increase every time you make an emotional connection with them. I have a mortgage client who used one of our sample designs for his postcard. The headline reads, “Wait any longer and you may MISS THE BOAT!” On the card is a picture of a group sailing on a small sailboat over beautiful clear blue water. Then it reads, “Refinance While Rates Are Still Low!” The emotion evoked by this postcard would never translate in an e-mail, because it just isn’t the appropriate venue. My mortgage customer had a 2,500 percent ROI from that piece, and the emotion it conveyed to the reader had a lot to do with it. Greater visibility Especially after the housing crisis, many mortgage brokers cut back on advertising. This isn’t a smart move, but it’s what happened, and you can use it to your benefit. While others drag their feet, you have the opportunity to saturate your local market with targeted direct mail postcards. Stand out from the competition and capture the market share simply because your competitors stopped marketing! Consider the example of Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens ‘n Things. When the recession hit, one cut back on their marketing and the other ramped up their direct mail campaign driving home their well-known 20 percent off coupon. Today, one company is going strong while the other closed all of its physical locations. Can you guess which one kept marketing? Right! Bed Bath & Beyond weathered the storm because they kept mailing! They got great visibility because their competitor bailed out of the market. The best way to reach seniors Do you offer reverse mortgages? If you do, direct mail is essential for you! The evidence showing older generations prefer receiving offers through the mail is overwhelming. Whether it is inherent distrust of the Internet or force of habit, it doesn’t matter, it just works. A well-crafted letter or well-designed postcard will go a long way to increase the number of reverse mortgage loans you close. Now that you know direct mail is very alive … what do you do with this information? Use it to boost the results of your marketing plan! If you have relied solely on direct mail in the past, branch out into e-mail marketing. Get a professional Web site, track your campaigns with custom landing pages, market online with Pay-Per-Click—integrate your marketing! If you have never tried direct mail or have believed the “dying” myth, get back in the water! Know the benefits you get with direct mail and apply them to your advantage. Use direct mail to drive traffic to your Web site and collect e-mail addresses, then follow up with more e-mails! It’s a proven formula that does work for mortgage professionals, even in today’s market. Remember, direct mail isn’t dying, it’s evolving. Evolve with it, integrate your marketing and dominate your competition. Joy Gendusa is chief executive officer and founder of PostcardMania. She began PostcardMania in 1998 with nothing but a phone and a computer and zero investment capital. By 2008, revenues reached nearly $19 million and the company now employs more than 150 people, prints four million and mails two million postcards each week representing more than 40,000 customers in over 350 industries. For more information, call (800) 628-1804, ext. 342 or visit
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