Direct Mail vs. Email

Education & Training with The Lones Group, Inc.

The Lones Group, Inc.

Direct Mail vs. Email

There isn't a week that goes by that an agent tells me that they have decided to keep in touch with their past clients and sphere database primarily by an email newsletter. That email may be created by their company or it may be custom-created in MailChimp or Constant Contact, but the more important issue is that they have decided NOT to mail.

The reasons they give for making this change are predictable:

  1. It's cheap or free.
  2. It's easy. (Especially if their company puts it together or it is done automatically.)
  3. It may be "hands off."
  4. Some of the content is better-delivered and received in an e-format.
  5. They say that their clients prefer an enewsletter.

While I agree that some content is absolutely better-delivered and received in an e-format (more on that below), I will say that reasons 1-3 should be thrown out the window. Easy and generic is NOT a substitute for your voice. And unless you have taken a poll of all your clients and they all opted in to an enewsletter instead of print, then option #5 just doesn't hold water.

Now, I am not saying you need to get rid of your enewsletter. In fact, it can be a strong component of your client connection plan! Let's start by looking at different types of content that is great for an enewsletter format:

  • Commentary on online articles with links to those original articles
  • Videos
  • Listings with links to online info
  • Some action you want the recipient to take online such as filling out a survey or form
  • Invitations to events with RSVPs online
  • Information on online MLS information that requires the ability to browse in an online format (for example, some companies have a neighborhood market summary that is sent out monthly)

I like that when an email is sent out, it's effectiveness can be tracked. You can get a sense of what resonates with people and you can make adjustments.

While electronic newsletters are indeed good for sending certain types of content, there are a number of challenges with only sending out an email newsletter:

Here is a fact that might surprise you. According to Statista, billions of emails are sent every day and SPAM makes up 57% of all email. SPAM filters have to be robust in order to block nefarious emails from getting through and unfortunately marketing emails are mistaken for SPAM all the time. You may think that you are sending out 100 emails, but how many of those ACTUALLY wind up in the inbox?

Today's inbox is work. The average worker receives well over 100 emails a day, requiring us to prioritize our inboxes constantly. How many of you begin your day with deleting as many marketing emails as possible? Unfortunately, that is most of us. Unless you can make your email newsletter so compelling it makes it through the first round of deletion, you are spending a lot of time creating something that will actually be seen by fewer and fewer people.

Less Sticking Power
According to MailChimp, real estate industry emails have an average open rate of 19.67% and a click rate of only 1.8%. That means if you sent out 100 emails, only 1.8% of people will click on a link. Compare that to all the people who will open your mail.

Because of these facts I do have concerns about agents who are opting to only do an enewsletter. I am also concerned that these numbers may get even worse in the coming years as the number of emails generated worldwide every day is expected to rise.

Let's go back to print marketing. Here are some print marketing facts compiled by Accudata that should have you rethinking about the role physical mail in your marketing plan:

  • 56% of all consumers trust print more than any other ad they see (
  • 90% of Millennials think direct mail is reliable (yes folks, Millennials) (Pitney Bowes)
  • 98% of consumers open their mail daily – forming a kinesthetic relationship to the piece you are sending out. Compare that to the click that is required for deleting or opening an email.

Remember, mail is tangible. It has a shelf-life. Furthermore, when information taps into to multiple senses, it is more likely to be remembered.  With email, you only have visual (unless of course you have added video). But with print, you are adding at least another layer (touch) but you also have a different visual experience – one in which the paper can be turned over and viewed at different angles.

There are so many print marketing success stories I have heard over the years. Stories of agents arriving at a home to do a listing presentation and the seller pulls out a file folder full of past mailings. Stories of agents being able to find a very specific home for a buyer due to their mailing efforts. Three listing presentations that were a result of a single mailing to 100 people. I can go on and on about the power of mail!

"But Denise, I have 600 people in my database. I can't afford to mail to that many people."

OK, fair point. I agree that if you are concerned about your budget, you may want to take a look at the quality of your database. If I were selling real estate and I was concerned about a marketing budget, I might decide to only mail to certain folks, but then make sure I sent my email newsletter to my whole database. How do you determine quality? Here is how I would do it:

  • Past Clients Past clients always stay on the list unless you don't want to work with them again.
  • Potential Clients These are folks who have indicated they might do business with you in the next year or so. They stay on the list.
  • Referrers If you have received a referral from someone, keep them on the list.

Then it is just a matter of determining who else is worth the monthly investment to keep on your list. Community associates? People you met at an open house five years ago? Friends and family members? Lenders? I like to use this metric to determine whether they stay on your direct mail list or not: Are they worth spending $18 a year to market to? If not, convert them to your enewsletter list for now, but don't be cheap. You should be mailing to at least 100 people in your database every month.

Remember, $18 a year to market to say, an average of 250 people (I would say that is the average number of people in typical database of an agent we coach) is $4500. That isn't much when you consider the amount that agents are spending to market to people they don't know or generate online leads.

In my experience, the most effective communication plans are multi-faceted. Print mail combined with email marketing combined with social media – text, graphics, and video. The goal is to reach more people in the way they want to be reached with the information they want to read/hear/view. So don't limit yourself to one type of communicating. Instead, create a simple-to-follow system that incorporates physical information and online information!

Want to learn more? Sources:


By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI - The founding partner of The Lones Group, Denise Lones, brings nearly three decades of experience in the real estate industry. With agent/broker coaching, expertise in branding, lead generation, strategic marketing, business analysis, new home project planning, product development, Denise is nationally recognized as the source for all things real estate. With a passion for improvement, Denise has helped thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and managers build their business to unprecedented levels of success, while helping them maintain balance and quality of life.

The Lones Group, Inc.

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Pat Champion
Coldwell Banker Camelot Realty - Mount Dora, FL
Call the "CHAMPION" for all your real estate needs

I totally agree with you touching base by mail produces results. Thank for sharing, i hope you have a great weekend.

Jun 07, 2019 09:39 AM #2
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Denise - your list is both comprehensive and thoughtful.  Good information.  Just because something/anything is easy(or easier) it's not necessarily the right decision to modify.  

Jun 07, 2019 09:41 AM #3
Jeff Masich-Scottsdale AZ Associate Broker,MBA,GRI
HomeSmart Real Estate - Scottsdale, AZ
Arizona Homes and Land Group/ Buy or Sell

Very good add informative article Denise Lones. That statistic from Mail Chimps that only 19% get opened and 1.8% of email newsletters get clicked on after opening was revealing. Jeff 

Jun 07, 2019 09:44 AM #4
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

I do a mixture and so when I get the call and hear "I see you everywhere" ... I know I am reaching those that want and need my services.

Jun 07, 2019 07:49 PM #5
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

A very excellent marketing strategy. I use DM to market my brand, email to inform my market about useful news and information and exude fun and humor delivering my marketing campaigns.

Selecting your market area is essential, so, I concentrate on  desirable or adjacent neighborhoods alternating my DM activities to both target markets.  

Jun 07, 2019 08:02 PM #6
Robert Buys Houses DFW
Robert Buys Houses DFW - Dallas, TX
We Buy Houses Fast in Dallas-Fort Worth

Hello All,

I have used Direct Mail for many years. Lately we find we need to mail out 3000 to 4000 letters or post cards to get that one or two contracts signed. With the invesment -vs- roi, it is just not working.

Yes, we have tried different mail pieces to attract attention, and we know it can take at least 7 to 10 views to may be, finally get that call.

We have not tried email marketing and prefer not to. 


Our Google, Facebook, Yahoo & Bing Ads have been consistant and dependable for us for the last 5 or 6 years and we will probably only use the those platforms for foreseeable future.

We do get many calls and emails from referrals of past house sellers who have told family and friends about us. As always, some work out some do not.

We recently receievd a call from a Landlord Seller who said he is too old to continue working his rentals and no kin-folk to leave them to. We purchased all 14 houses. 


Hope everybody else out there has had better luck with Direct Mail and / or Email Marketing. As in any business, you must market your services or your have no business.


Much Appreciated


Robert Hernandez

Jun 08, 2019 01:37 PM #7
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Denise- your post details why just relying on E-Newsletters may not be a good thing. There are advantages as well to direct mail. Doing both makes it even better. I'm more likely to look at direct mail, than I am at E-Newsletters. 

Jun 08, 2019 06:13 PM #8
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


                       Thank you, Denise. 

Jun 08, 2019 07:27 PM #9
Thomas J. Nelson, Realtor, ePRO, CRS, RCS-D
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
& Host of Postcards From Success Podcast

I send 600 direct mail pieces per month to my sphere and 1800+ e-reports per month because I agree that these days direct mail is more effective than ever; no one is doing it. Great post 😎👍

Jun 09, 2019 06:30 AM #10
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

We are sending out direct mail too, farming. We also send out direct mail quarterly to our data base. I will consider upping that... a variety multi-faceted approach makes sense.  Our email open rate is pretty good, but we do it every other month and usually include a short video. 

Jun 09, 2019 07:20 AM #11
Dan Hopper
Keller Williams Realty Downtown LLC - Denver, CO
Denver Realtor / Author / Advocate/Short Sale

A mix of both are beneficial ... and I agree with those that the email process should include a short video to address a topic in the email, give them a reason to review it... keep it short 30-45 seconds.

Jun 09, 2019 09:14 AM #12
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Denise Lones - people who opt for email alone are not really working the business.  You need to have a mix of all of the things you discussed.

Jun 09, 2019 11:50 AM #13
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Thanks for the breakdown Denise.  I think email marketing is not as well received as direct mail.  But I have not had a single inquiry made after a Florida campaign recently.  Sending flyers out constantly seems to work best but the costs can add up.

Jun 09, 2019 12:59 PM #14
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Yes interesting statistics and as to email, I delete close to 400 a day it is work indeed....Endre

Jun 09, 2019 10:25 PM #15
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Denise Lones,

I'm so glad that Kathy Streib featured your ost in her "Ah-ha" moments for the week! Excellent breakdown and good comparisons. I have to admit the direct mail works best for me..tangible proof..listings generated!!

Jun 10, 2019 04:54 AM #16
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Great post!  I can see why Kathy included it in her list this week!

Jun 10, 2019 06:24 AM #17
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Even though I do both mail and e-mail, I was very interested to pick up on the statistics you mentioned, which reinforce that a combination is best.   Thanks!

Jun 10, 2019 08:01 AM #18
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I gave up direct mail many years ago. The only mail outs I do anymore is handwritten thank you notes.

Jun 15, 2019 12:08 PM #19
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

Very good information. A multi-faceted approach is the way to go. I appreciate your encouragement regarding direct mail, which I haven't been using lately. I wasn't consistent and as such, didn't get a return and probably gave up too soon.

Jun 16, 2019 02:51 AM #20
Matthew Klinowski, PA
Downing-Frye - Naples, FL
Golf Community Real Estate Specialist

Good morning Denise, thank you for the detailed post. The statistics are very informative. I've cut back on print due to lack of results and I've invested more in email and online marketing including blog posts. I still think there is value in print.

Jun 16, 2019 06:32 AM #21
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Denise Lones

CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding
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