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Master Direct Mail in Commercial Real Estate

In today's tech-driven world, there is a growing affinity for more genuine marketing. People are scrolling past ads in their social media feeds, instantly deleting emails and unsubscribing from lists, and seem to be getting better at identifying cold calls.

People are getting more defensive about who contacts them and why. How they got their contact information and why. And, their getting good at saying no. How can you get ahead in this kind of environment? Choose a method that has been proven to have the highest response rate. Choose a method that can act passively while you make individual connections. Choose personalized and targeted direct mail marketing.

Direct mail pairs your active and passive marketing strategies seamlessly. It makes your brand recognizable and increases your relevancy in the marketplace by establishing you as a consistent, knowledgeable resource.

ONE: Consistency and Frequency

The #1 Rule in direct mail marketing is consistency. You've heard (and are probably thinking) the most common objection: "I tried it once, it didn't work!" In this objection, you'll find your solution. You only tried it once. Direct mail marketing is about developing a presence over time in a given market. Some folks are lucky -- they get a call off the first mailer and think, "I did it!" But, others can go months without getting a single call.

How do you keep consistent? Plan. Develop your strategy based on how you do business. Do you want to focus on your production? Your knowledge of the market? Your positive impact on clients? Choose your angle, and hit your prospects with it every month.

Yes, the minimum amount of mailing you should be doing is once a month. Why? Because if you don't do it every month, someone else either will or already is, and they're getting your business.

Draft 12 letters - thats it, just 12 letters! Take a Monday, cancel all other "obligations" and write 12 letters, one for each month. Make sure they communicate your core message (production, knowledge, impact), and offer something of value in each one. If you can't think of 12 reasons you bring value to your clients...we have other things to discuss.

TWO: Less Is More

Keep it simple. Don't flood the page with too much data and jargon. Keep your core message present, offer them a way to contact you, give something of value, and leave it there.

Some data is relevant. For example, if you put the previous month's sales stats (DOM, Average Sales Price, $/Sqft, etc) -- this kind of data is consumable and relatable. If you put in 4 market trend charts, a section of contract copy, or anything else that would take more than one page to understand...you'll lose them almost immediately.

It's great that you know all the complexities of your market, but if you give that all away in the first interaction, what reason do they have to call you? Give them a taste of your expertise, reel them in, and then when they reach out, that's your time to shine.

Another great way to keep it simple is to keep your formatting of your letter the same each time. This is two-fold: it keeps your job simpler by using the same template every time, and it makes your brand/business more easily recognized by the prospect. If a prospect gets the same type of letter, logo in the same spot, same colors, and same basic length of information, they'll immediately recognize it - "Oh, this is another letter from The Smith Group!" Now, their reaction after that realization may vary...but at least they know who you are!

Imagine if McDonald's or Facebook changed their logos and colors, what would the public response be? The golden arches have been the same since the beginning for a reason: immediate recognition. That's what you want for your business too, immediate recognition from your prospects.

THREE: Tell the Story

Since the earliest days of humanity, humans have bonded, formed societies, and grown our intelligence exponentially by sharing stories. Stories are how we learn from each other, how we protect each other, and how we relate to each other. Tell your prospects your story. Tell them the story of their neighborhood. Make them feel connected to you and your business through story.

Connecting the sale of Mrs. Smith's home or your journey as a real estate professional to their own personal journey has much, much more value than a bunch of market data and jargon. Come from a place of empathy and humanity, and they will be more driven to do business with you.

The more you can make them feel like you know them and their situation personally, the more likely they are to do business. A "catch-all" letter will get less responses than a carefully crafted letter, every time.

A great way to add story is tell the true stories of you successes with the community. Client testimonials are effective, especially in today's data-centric society. Everyone wants to see 5 star, success stories, and recommendations in the past X years. And, here's a testimonial from Mrs. Smith herself!

FOUR: Follow Up

Well, before we get into this, it should be emphasized that each piece of mail you send should include every possible avenue of getting in contact with you. Phone number, email, website, address, social media, etc.

Every piece of direct mail should be followed up. Every piece. You should be door knocking, sending an email, or calling. The industry standard is that every property or owner you're prospecting should be door-knocked at least 4 times a year, if possible. Obviously, a bit challenging with absentees. Call each owner after a round of mailing so they hear your voice. Email as a last resort, just because its marginally different from mail in terms of "human-ness".

The point is that you need to present yourself as an actual human being, who can connect with them on a level beyond a piece of paper. Follow up with your prospects at least twice a month, once by mail and another by phone call, email, or door-knock. If a prospect seems especially interested, qualify them further by contacting them once a week, if not more often.

If you're only mailing passively, without any active outreach in stride, you'll see very little impact on your business. Waiting for people to call you has never worked. Follow up like you care...because you do!

FIVE: Respect the Market, Respect Your Prospect

Respecting the market -- this is pretty straightforward. Cater your letters to the type of market you're in. If you send a blanket, catch-all letter for the full year, you're not addressing the market changes. This ultimately makes you seem less knowledgeable about your neighborhood. Making your letters market-specific will draw in different types of leads -- leads that are better qualified to make moves in real estate during that type of market.

On a different level, as real estate professionals, you know that when markets are low and slow, your business should have an equal but opposite reaction. You should work to prospect even more fiercely. Work against what the market is telling you by sending mailers even when the market is in a downturn. When the market goes back up, all those people you've been marketing to will be waiting to call you.

Respecting your prospect -- this is less straightforward. Don't waste your efforts, time, and most importantly, your money on unqualified prospects. You may be thinking, "If I've never talked to them, how do I know if they're qualified?" By targeting your list. Target to specific industries, types of businesses, number of years of ownership, number of units, ranges of cap rates, etc. Use data to your advantage so you don't waste your resources on people that will never do business.

In the same way, don't let your prospects become victims of receiving mail that has nothing to do with them. Respect them, and simultaneously respect your resources. People don't want to get mail that doesn't apply to their needs, and you don't want to mail to people that won't use your services. Simple. Target your list, and you'll see the highest return on your investment.

SIX: Perspective

Think about your prospect beyond just dollar signs. These are people, just like you, with stress, worry, families, business that are growing, businesses that are shrinking... they don't want one more thing that devalues their time. Write the letter you would appreciate getting.

What kind of letter would you think is valuable? What would you want to know about? What kind of tone would you want the letter to be in? Write the letter like you're writing to a neighbor, because you are. Don't treat them like a prospect, treat them like someone you can do genuinely good things for. This attitude will come through to your prospects, and ultimately lead you to great success.


Direct mail is a great way to introduce yourself to your prospects, position yourself as the relevant, knowledgeable, genuine agent, and keep in constant contact with those you'd like to do business with. With consistency and follow up, direct mail will be the generator that keeps the lights on when your business goes dark. It will be the thing that saves you in bad times, and keeps your business buzzing in the good.

Choose the method that gets results, that people will appreciate and recognize, and the method that will bring your business to the next level.


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