Can Direct Mail Help Create Brand Recognition?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Franklin Homes Realty LLC

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

Can Direct Mail Help Create Brand Recognition?

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?

Posted by
Tammie White, Managing Broker/Owner
Franklin Homes Realty LLC
Franklin, TN
(615) 495-0752 
This posting with the content written here and photographs displayed are the intellectual property and opinions of Tammie White of Franklin Homes Realty LLC. Any party who uses this material without the written permission of Tammie White is subject to copyright infringement and possible lawsuit.

Comments (45)

Athina Boukas
Virginia Capital Realty - Richmond, VA
Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)

Good to hear your marketing results so far.
Brand recognition builds up with this campaign. Even if it goes straight to the recycle bin, somehow their eyes will pick it up once they start thinking of selling.

Oct 05, 2017 05:44 AM
Tammie White, Broker

Fingers crossed

Oct 05, 2017 10:14 AM
Ron Tissier
Chapman Hall Premier Realtors (404) 580-9069 - Atlanta, GA
Defining Homes. Defining Lifestyles.

Great card and creative graphics for your first mailer Tammie.  Your message is loud and clear.


Oct 05, 2017 06:23 AM
Tammie White, Broker

I love my graphics guy. I didn't show the back but the messaging was very clever.

Oct 05, 2017 10:15 AM
Margaret Goss
@Properties - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

I have had success with direct mail marketing and have been doing it for 3 years straight. Twice a month is a huge commitment - good luck!  Please let us know in a few months how it's going.

Oct 05, 2017 06:24 AM
Tammie White, Broker

Margaret Goss I'll write a follow-up post. One of the things I wish agents who promote DM don't usually do is share costs. They all keep that a secret. I will share actual costs and sales as a result in a few months

Oct 05, 2017 10:17 AM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

This is a lot like prospecting for gold. Nugget finds are rare. Then, veins when found may run out or lead to the mother load. Won't know until we find and dig

Oct 05, 2017 06:38 AM
Tammie White, Broker

That's kind of how I feel. Hopefully the vein hasn't run dry

Oct 05, 2017 10:27 AM
Ralph Pritchard
Royal LePage Atlantic - Moncton, NB
helping people with their real estate needs.

Cut your costs of direct mail by co-op advertising.

We chose to link up with someone in the food business rather than anyone in a real estate supporting business (to stay out of trouble).  Hey everybody eats.  We went with a pizza shop, a grocery store and a steak house.  We paid for the postcards, I did the graphics and our advertising partner paid 50% of the Postage Fee and they put a $5.00 cut off coupon on the card.  It was like putting $5.00 in everybodies mail box because there were NO conditions on the card, just a 6 month expiry.  No minimum purchase, no buy one get one free, no must buy this or that.  Our advertising partners said that it was the best campaign that they have done.  We used a 3.5" by 8" postcard with a magnet at the top, a kitchen conversion chart in the middle and the $5.00 cut off coupon on the bottom as below.

Co-op advertising saves money

Oct 05, 2017 07:05 AM
Victoria CB Trees

Super! I love it!

Oct 16, 2017 04:50 PM
Ralph Pritchard

The beauty is that the homeowners clip the bottom coupon off immediately  and then put the rest of the card on the fridge with the attached magnet..

Oct 05, 2017 06:59 PM
Tammie White, Broker

This is all about brand recognition for me. I don't want to muddle the message by co-marketing.

Oct 05, 2017 05:06 PM

I'd say you're BIG TIME smart!  No way that wasn't going to be a winner. 

Oct 07, 2017 10:01 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I've always believed in postal prospecting, and the agents who buy my letter sets come back for more, so it must be working for them.

The key really is consistency - a one-time mailing might get a response, but probably won't.

A case in point - when my son's duplex expired last summer he heard from two agents. One sent one postcard and the other began mailing in earnest.

They were terrible letters and flyers - all full of "Me, me, me" and "I'm so wonderful." But - last week when I decided I should get a second opinion before re-listing after the renovations, I did call that agent.

My first instinct was right. After meeting with him, I know he's not someone I'd hire. But the consistency got me to make the call.

Just think - if his letters had impressed me I'd have called sooner. And if he'd impressed me, I'd have hired him.

Oct 05, 2017 09:22 AM
Tammie White, Broker

I looked long and hard at postcards from a variety of companies. They were terrible. As you said, the cards were all about the agents. The cards I have chosen are focused on the sellers and even buyers. They communicate a need then have a CTA on the back. I intentionally left that out of the post because I have local competition here. But it remains to be seen how effective this approach will be.

Oct 05, 2017 10:41 AM
Amanda S. Davidson
Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group Brokered By eXp Realty - Alexandria, VA
Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale

Tammie, thank you for going into detail about what this agent did and what you're doing. I really like the card you shared with us. We have been doing direct mail for a year to a neighborhood across the street from the office and so far haven't seen results but, many years back I gave up after a year and from what I read that's too soon so we're sticking with it. I hope you'll keep us posted on how things pan out with the buyer and your DM campaign.

Oct 05, 2017 09:29 AM
Tammie White, Broker

Amanda, I know agents who have said it took them 2 years before they saw results. That has me a little nervous. I'm not sure I could hang in there that long at 2 times a month. Because I'm sending so many postcards, it would be a major expense. Unfortunately, I'm a "go big or go home" kind of person so I jumped off the deep end of the pool. It probably would have been smarter to focus on a smaller neighborhood and wait to see if I got results before expanding.

Oct 05, 2017 10:51 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Great story & it's good that you backed all this up with figures for the naysayers on the planet. I have always had good luck but you have to be original in your mailings. Your 2 examples shows that you have that great imagination required. Sometimes for a market punch or for a chuckle from the receivers.

I wish you all the best & you do have to hang in there. 

I do share costs in some areas with a LO also.

Oct 05, 2017 03:32 PM
Tammie White, Broker

One of my complaints about agents who promote their DM success is that they don't share costs. If you're spending $100K a year in DM, but only getting $60K in GCI then you're an idiot. Tell us what your ROI is don't make us guess.

At this point, more interested in getting my brand out there. Don't want to confuse the message by co-marketing.

Oct 05, 2017 05:10 PM
Jerry Murphy, CRS, SRES
Long Realty West Valley - Anthem, AZ
Anthem, Phoenix, and Scottsdale AZ Real Estate

I haven't had much luck with Zillow over the years, so I won't go there.  But I do do direct mail marketing, albeit in a more measured sense, and I've had success with it over the years.   Thanks for the post Tammie.

Oct 05, 2017 04:31 PM
Tammie White, Broker

I'm not a Zillow person either. I get plenty of internet leads without having to buy then. We'll see if I have the same success with DM.

Oct 05, 2017 05:11 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Tammie White ,

Congratulations on a well deserved featured post! You bet postal marketing works but only is it's done consistently and offers a good message and something of value. Good luck anxious to hear about your success!!

Oct 05, 2017 04:55 PM
Tammie White, Broker

How long? Is the question. Can I wait that long? Is the other question.

Oct 05, 2017 05:12 PM
Jackie Goldsmith
DBJ-Media - Mesa, AZ
Custom Real Estate Branding and Marketing

I create a lot of marketing pieces for agents in metro Phoenix. 

Typically I create EDDM postcards in various sizes anywhere from 4.25 x 11 to 11 x 14. Then listing flyers (Digital and Print) with the same branding ( look / feel ), branded email blasts and maybe doorhangers for every listing. 


Some of  agents will send a EDDM mail campaign for certain events like just listed/just sold, Open house, or holiday.


Some split the cost with a lender or business they are partnered with.


To answer your question. Yes direct mail increases brand recognition. However everything and I mean everything has have the same look/feel to stand out against other agents. 

Oct 05, 2017 05:08 PM
Tammie White, Broker

I own this brokerage so we are using the logo on the front of every piece. The back is designed in such a way that our photo, logo and contact info appear in the same place on every piece. There's a clear CTA. At this point, not interested in splitting cost. Space is limited. We want to have an ample opportunity to communicate our message on the back.

Oct 05, 2017 07:35 PM
Brenda Whitman, Live in Laramie Real Estate
Live in Laramie Real Estate, Laramie, Wyoming - Laramie, WY
Broker/Co-Owner, Laramie, Wyoming

An intriguing idea.... and I also appreciate all the variations on the theme posted in the comments.  Maybe direct mail coud be do-able.  Hmmm.

Oct 05, 2017 06:45 PM
Tammie White, Broker

Do a lot of research. EDDM is an exceptional value. I think there's a 500 piece minimum.

Oct 05, 2017 07:38 PM
Sham Reddy CRS
Howard Hanna RE Services, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Direct mail still works!!! And it works well for individuals or organizations!!!

Oct 06, 2017 03:40 PM
Tammie White, Broker

Here's hoping.

Oct 06, 2017 06:38 PM
Marta Stasik
Stasik Homes / Douglas Elliman - San Diego, CA
Broker Associate

Good Luck to you! I hope your business grows exponentially.

I just started my 1st Direct Mail campaign 3 weeks ago. I mailed 5,000 postcards. So far, I had one lady call me from an Apartment Complex and an email from a Lender marketing to me. When I asked him "Please unsubscribe me," he said, "I didn't ask to receive your Postcard." So I responded that it's not mailed directly but instead it's Every Day Direct Mail. He went to tell me that he receives 2-4 Postcards per month from Real Estate Agents. I don't know if this is really true or if this was his way of discouraging my postcard mailing. Anyhow, I'm going to continue mailing until I increase my goal to 20+ deals per year.  

Oct 06, 2017 03:45 PM
Tammie White, Broker

I have a friend who lives in a neighborhood that gets about 20 postcards a month. Can you imagine? As I said earlier, I'm nervous about this venture. Someone recently told me to only expect 1-2% response. At 5,000 postcards that would be 50-100 listings. I'd be thrilled if I had those kind of results.

Oct 06, 2017 06:42 PM
Marta Stasik

Yes. From my research I also found that the return is 1-2% so that's why I decided to try it.

The agent you tell a story about, what market was she in to go from 8 deals to 81 deals? I think the postcard mailing really depends on the market. I will be thrilled if I get at least 1 phone call per month to cover the cost of my mailing. Let's see what happens.

Oct 10, 2017 10:06 AM
Bill Cherry, Realtor - Dallas, TX
Broker & Wealth Coach

Direct mail worked well for me for decades.  It was worth every dime. However, following the same formula no longer works nearly as well.  One of the issues that has accrued over the years is the increased number of Realtors.  Everyone has a friend who's a Realtor.  It may be that a series of postcards from me isn't going to begin to extinguish that.

Oct 07, 2017 09:59 AM
Tammie White, Broker

Bill, that is a concern. In my tight circle of friends, there are three real estate agents. In some cases, it might be better to choose a stranger. Then all three can be mad instead of just two.

Oct 07, 2017 08:33 PM
David Wright
Benchmark Realty, LLC - Brentwood, TN
Real Estate Refined

Tammie, a great article and thanks for sharing. I have not done much direct mail and it is something I am pondering for 2018. Thankfully, you are not in my marketplace, Brentwood is competitive enough as it is! :)

Oct 31, 2017 08:34 PM
Tammie White, Broker

Direct mail can be expensive but EDDM helps defray costs

Nov 01, 2017 09:41 AM
Corey Vandenberg
Success Mortgage Partners - Lafayette, IN
More home mortgage loan options!

Thank you for the article, I believe that it does pay off in the end.
I personally receive several State Farm solicitations each month. Sometimes two a day, addressed the same way. While I haven’t switched, I know them all by name. I can’t say the same about any other brand...

Nov 03, 2017 04:42 AM
Tammie White, Broker

I already have an internet following. I'm looking to expand that reach. Hopefully postcards will do that for me.

Nov 03, 2017 09:38 PM
Joy Daniels
Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd. - Harrisburg, PA

I think branding is a combination of a lot of things:  print media, restaurant menus, coupons, radio, billboards, lender mailed postcards, blogs, videos -- you just need to be consistent with your logo, colors, information!

I got your request about our keychain and as soon as I get details I will share with you. Thanks!

Nov 06, 2017 02:57 PM
Tammie White, Broker

Joy Daniels  ordered the keychains and received them yesterday. Two closings scheduled tomorrow. Can't wait to give these to buyers. Thanks for your help.

Nov 16, 2017 12:16 PM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

That agent in your example is beholden to Zillow and all Zillow's fee changes unless that agent can create a working by referral business from those 250 sold.

Seems to me that agent would be able to dive into the solds and not need Zillow anymore. Good luck with your campaign! 

Nov 12, 2017 11:35 AM
Tammie White, Broker

I'm not a Zillow fan so I won't be using them

Nov 16, 2017 12:16 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Direct my only really helps if it’s like a publication or so thorough that you can get something out of it you do every single time.

Jan 20, 2018 11:02 PM