It’s a new year, you have a new budget, you’re ready to try new lead generation techniques, and you’ve decided on direct mail. Well, okay, so the concept of direct mail as a lead generation tool has been around forever, but maybe you tried one mailer in the past and got zip. Or maybe you paid your daughter to stuff envelopes and she tried to help by writing, “I can get you a great loan!” on the outside of the envelope, and guess what? Dismal results.
Countless mortgage companies have attempted and failed at direct mail campaigns because they didn’t know a few basic insider secrets, or they didn’t create professional-looking mail pieces, or they give gave up too soon. The good news is that just as many have had great success, and you can too. Sometimes the simplest details will help you gain the best results from any marketing effort, and direct mail is no exception. This article will walk you through the basics.
The benefits of direct mail
►Enhanced potential response: With mass advertising channels such as TV, print and radio, your message is wasted on consumers either not qualified or not in the market for a mortgage—yet you're paying for it. Direct mail recipients are targeted and more likely to respond to your offer. There is no wasted coverage.
►Super-targeted: Using credit-scored data, you select recipients, such as homeowners in a specific geographic area. With additional filters, you can determine their credit score range and current rate, weed out late or non-payments, send to specific groups such as borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), Veteran’s Affairs (VA) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, or filter for eligibility for a specific loan type, such as reverse mortgages.
►A more personal message: Direct mail pieces and processes allow you to address prospects by name and offer a message designed to impact your locality and the needs of homeowners and homebuyers in your market. You also have the ability to include a freebie or giveaway directly in your piece.
►Flexible and “testable:” You can change the message and test which headline, artwork and promotional offer pulls the best results, and you can try a variety of formats, from postcards to letters to brochures.
►Measurable response: With a little pre-planning, you have the ability to verify the success of every campaign and can more easily ascertain your return-on-investment (ROI) based on calls to a toll-free tracking number, returned postcards, or specific views of a webpage URL included in your offer.
Targeting your direct mail campaign
Past clients are the absolute first priority and a must as far as consistent contact. You’re losing money if you’re not keeping in touch and asking for referrals. Kick off your direct mail campaign with this group, and consider mailing to them a couple of times a year, complementing your email campaigns.
If you’re new to the business and you don’t have a significant closed client database, consider mailing a drip campaign targeting potential business partners such as real estate agents, financial planners and attorneys. Keep RESPA requirements top of mind, and don’t forget your own neighborhood and/or sphere of interest.
Using a mortgage-specific mailing house
If you have help or use a mailing house, you won’t have to stuff envelopes, and your volume can be larger. A number of printers/mail houses cater to the mortgage industry. These vendors will help you select credit-scored data from the three credit agencies, which can be sorted to create the right list for your offer. They will also help you create an impactful design that is customized to your company, your area, the format you choose, and the type of loan or borrower you want to attract. (Be sure to include all the required disclaimers in your mail piece that must accompany the use of credit-scored data.)
Mailing frequency will depend on your budget. Whatever your schedule may be, if you’re considering a direct mail campaign, research your options, project and budget your costs, implement the program and stick to a regular mailing schedule.
The content of your direct mail campaign
The primary objective of direct mail is to generate phone calls and e-mails. A clear, concise message can produce profitable responses. Remember to use a consistent theme, signature line and photo on all your marketing to build recognition. This applies equally to your Web site, direct mail, print advertising, billboards and e-mail campaigns.
Choice of content is individual and can run the gamut from holiday greetings, closing anniversary congratulatory letters, current rate information, localized market info, financial tips, home loan process tutorials and new loan products. Whatever you choose, your content must be of high value and appropriate to the targeted audience.
Remember that the goal of each direct mail piece you distribute is also to inform or remind folks that you’re in the home loan business, and pique recipients’ interest so they contact you. Always encourage responses by including a “call to action,” such as “Call or e-mail me today for more information!” Remember to print your phone number in a large font and prominent position it so it’s easy to locate.
Consider including include a “P.S.” at the bottom of the page with a call to action as an insurance policy to reinforce your message in case the reader skims to the end of the mailer. And don’t forget to include your Web site and e-mail address on all direct mail pieces.
Seven valuable direct mail tips
1. Have a plan. Direct mail marketing is a commitment that will pay off over time, and it works best to create a 12-month strategy before you send the first piece. Once you launch your program, consistency is everything. Keep in mind that one single mailer will probably not get results, and don’t falter in your commitment.
2. Craft your image carefully. Decide on a message and image you want to project long before your mail is distributed. Your direct mail piece will represent you, so make a great first impression and be sure every piece reflects your established company brand.
3. Mix it up. Try different ideas in design, content, packaging, offers, and calls to action. Your mail house or printer may be able to show you what has and has not worked for others. You can experiment with various approaches until you get the desired response. Keep in mind that offering to mail respondents free pertinent information and literature can encourage responses, so try it.
4. Don’t distribute generic letters. Make it personal by including the name of the occupant in the piece. Addressing a letter to “Resident” or “Homeowner” will probably earn your message a trip to the trash can. Use quality paper. Studies indicate that you’ll get the best response if envelopes are hand-addressed and stamped with a first-class stamp rather than metered mail or the bulk mail indicia.
5. Include a call to action. For your mailer to be most effective, you must provide the recipient with specific instructions about what you want them to do after they read your message. Examples: “Call me today!” “Visit my website and fill out an application!” or, “Return this completed postage-paid card and I will contact you.” Don’t forget to direct people to a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter, or other social media platform.
6. Use the headline to get the reader’s attention. There’s a fine line between generating excitement and using too much hype, so avoid scammy, junk mail-type copy and over-worked phrases that might put off the reader.
7. Say NO! to bad copywriting, poor grammar and shoddy proofing. Don’t allow your direct mail marketing to go out without a thorough review to catch any errors. This is without a doubt one of the most important elements of your entire campaign. Keep in mind that your name is on every piece that goes out and people will create a perception of you and your company when they see them, so present yourself as a professional with every mailer. They don’t need to be the slickest marketing collateral ever created, but they must look professional and reflect and enhance your company’s branding. Every piece you send must be grammatically correct and free of errors and typos–no exceptions!
The National Do-Not-Call Registry and stringent anti-spam legislation have had a significant impact on our industry’s opportunity to freely promote our services. The core methods available to cultivate new business have been reduced to a basic few. Fortunately, direct mail is still a viable lead-generation approach that provides access to a large number of contacts in a short amount of time, and can also be a cost-effective way to reach past, current and potential customers. If you thought direct mail went out of favor, think again!
Molly Greene is a marketing specialist at Guaranteed Home Mortgage Company Inc. Founded in 1992, Guaranteed is a licensed mortgage investment and banking firm comprised of more than 300 mortgage professionals lending in 23 states. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
or follow her blog at www.joinghmc.com/blog.