As a principal broker and owner of Franklin Homes Realty LLC, I strive to be one step ahead of my competition. This can be a huge undertaking given that our company is a small, independent brokerage that services a geographic area with 200,000 residents; one of the reasons we primarily focus on Franklin, Tennessee real estate.
Larger brokerages have more money and man power, often employing expensive SEO people to help them in their marketing efforts. Even so, I have been able to maintain a page one ranking on Google for hundreds of keyword phrases related to Franklin TN real estate.
I have worked hard to market myself and my brokerage online. Given that I do all the SEO for my website, it's a constant battle to maintain internet dominance. I don't spend any money on PPC or internet ads. My goal is to rank organically and I've been able to successfully do that. However, I spend no money on direct mail or print advertising. As you would guess, the bulk of my business comes from potential buyers using the internet. It seems that buyers are more likely to use the internet than sellers.
I recently attended a webinar hosted by my website provider. These things aren't my cup of tea. I'm not interested in cold calling or harassing people who have registered on my site. I want potential clients to be drawn to me, rather than feeling pressured to use me because I call them 100 times in the first 10 days; one of the reasons I like internet marketing. We can do so much more here to promote our services 24/7.
The agent in the webinar didn't really have an internet presence, so she asked herself what would be the best way to get her name out there. She decided to do two things. Both were a huge financial commitment for her.
- Buy a zip code from Zillow: At $700 month, this was a significant investment for her. She'd only sold 8 houses in 2015. A six month commitment would cost $4,200. Her average sales price is $300,000. One sale would earn her money back. She decided to take the risk.
- Begin a direct mail campaign: Her Zillow investment was bringing her buyer leads but she wanted to target sellers as well. She thought direct mail would be the quickest way to do that. She committed to a 6 month trial of mailing 5,000 postcards two times a month. She used EDDM to keep her cost down. Between the cost of the postcards and the EDDM postage, she was spending $1,335 per mailing. At two mailings a month, that was $2,650 per month on direct mail.
Her total marketing budget went from $2,160 a year (the cost of her website) to $21,180 for six months (Zillow, direct mail, website). Wow!! That's a lot of DO-RE-MI.
Her results, she went from selling 8 houses in 2015 to selling 81 houses in 2016. She began this campaign in January. In July, she hired an assistant to help her. She re-upped her Zillow investment and continued two postcard mailings per month. Since that time she has added team members and is on track to sell 250 homes this year.
Now, I have no interest in selling 250 homes. This agent literally has buyers agents working all hours of the day to follow up with the leads generated through Zillow. I have no desire to call buyers at 2 a.m.
Here's what I found interesting about this marketing plan. She used direct mail to get her name out there. She was a total unknown in her community. Since she didn't rank organically, she wanted a way to create brand recognition. She felt the best way to do that was by using direct mail. She created a logo and used her photo and logo on every mail piece. Brand recognition was her primary goal.
I will have to admit, I am not a fan of direct mail. In my eyes, it's very expensive compared to the measly $2,820 I spend a year on my website. I get these postcards every day. They immediately go in my recycle bin.
Even so, this agent says in the last 12 months, 150 of her listings are a direct result of her mail campaign. At an average commission of $9,000 per sale, her income from direct mail alone is $1,350,000 GCI. That easily covers the $31,800 she paid for mailings. She hadn't expected to see any results for at least six months. Sixty days into her campaign she got her first listing.
By now, you've probably figured out where I'm going with this. While I feel sick to my stomach over this decision, I have committed to mailing 5,000 direct mail pieces two times a month. A huge increase to my marketing budget.
I'm only three weeks into this campaign but I've already had a buyer contact me. She recently relocated to the United States from Australia and is living in a rental. She received our relocation postcard and visited our website. She contacted me yesterday to schedule a showing. We have an appointment scheduled. Her budget...$1.5 to $2M.
Then last night while attending a bible study at my church, the instructor, who we only met 8 weeks ago, mentioned he had received our postcard. He did this in front of the entire class and suggested we were the agents to call for Franklin real estate.
In my eyes, these two small victories are enough to keep me committed to this process. Although, if this buyer pans out, it will easily cover the cost of this campaign.
I'll admit, I've tried this once before but didn't hang in there long enough to see results. Not this time. This is more about brand recognition. For those people who already know us from our internet presence, this reinforces what they already know about us. We are the agents to use when it comes to Franklin real estate.
Thoughts? Can direct mail help create brand recognition?