Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

The Problem with Postcards

Recently, some readers of my blog have commented that I continue to take the mickey out of the REALTOR industry for its use of postcards. No mention that I’ve offered alternatives to the postcard marketing option for twenty years. Oh, let’s see. EMail. Blogs. Websites. Phone calls.

Maybe it’s just time for a collective postcard scream?

It’s been cited in many postings that I’m being ‘ageist’ because who use postcards tend to be older than not. I’ve been accused of being negative – as if it’s mandatory to be positive about an ineffective marketing method that isn’t helping the brokerage industry recover…

The problem with postcards isn’t it’s a generational-thing. It’s not even a cost-thing: Nobody needs me to tell them how cost in-effective the amount of postcards required to be profitable must be. Most REALTORS know, as a matter of common knowledge like that of the ineffective classified ad in the newspaper, that postcard responses rank less than 1% rate of return.

Any activity with a 99% failure rate is something I try to avoid right away.

Yet the postcard defense goes on. Just one card might lead to “a deal” worth “thousands!” I wonder just how accurate the post-card-sending REALTORS are at accounting for their hours spent building an address database, desktop-publishing postcards, printing, paper, labels, postage, ink, assistants, etc., etc., etc.

Nor does the defense care that most postcards violate the key principles of marketing. For example, the three most common things found on postcards are:

1. Just “Listed” announcements, sent to the same neighborhood. As if the neighbors of the listing needed “postal verification” that the leaning-over sign in the front yard means the home is for sale. It’s STATISTICALLY ZERO that the postcard will induce the neighbor to find the buyer for the REALTOR; because NOBODY wants their friends as neighbors! And it’s also NEAR ZERO that postcards lead to the selection of a listing agent. FACT: Sellers found their real esate agent in the following order:

  • Referred by friend 41%
  • Used agent previously 23%
  • Visited an open house 5%
  • Walked into office 4%
  • Personal contact by agent (telephone, email) 4%
  • Internet website 3%
  • Direct mail (newsletter, flyer, postcard ) 3%

I know. Those damned facts.

2. The second most common postcard: Just “Sold” announcements. See Just Listed above.

3. The third most common postcard: Personal Promotion featuring the Agent’s High School Photo. Just what is the purpose of this kind of marketing? For example, does it lead to LISTINGS? No, see above. Does it lead to BUYERS? No, because Buyers start their journey online looking for HOMES 32% of the time, and agents only 4% of the time. As for information BUYERS use to find homes:

  • Agent 84%
  • Internet  84%
  • Yard sign 59%
  • Newspaper 50%
  • Open House 48%
  • DIRECT MAIL – NOT EVEN ON THE LIST

Sorry. More facts.

Yet NONE of that is REALLY what’s wrong with sending postcards. Ok, here’s the problem:

“I’ve been sending them for years and it’s always worked great for me in the past.”

That’s the problem!

Sending postcards nowadays isn’t just a bad “activity” because it fails to consistently create new business (compared to other methods). It’s a terrible activity because it represents a MINDSET to “keep on doing what has worked in the past” (though evidence shows it really didn’t).

It’s a business planning problem that represents the challenges of business evolution. Postcards are the poster-child for practitioners who still believe that, like their forefathers, the sub-30-something first time buyers will take action from junk postal mail.

Yeah. Sorry about that text-message-YouTube-internet-social-networking thing…

The problem with postcards is that doing them TODAY is no different than making the following claims about :

  • The internet is a fad; it will go away.
  • The MLS Comparables book is going to make a comeback, I’m sure of it!
  • If I bury this statue upside down on the northeast side of the lot, I’ll get divine intervention to sell this listing.
  • The market is coming back. Just wait until 2010. Or 2012. Or 2020, darn it!

All of these represent irrational (might we say, stubborn) thinking. Nobody would be caught saying those things at a cocktail party, would they? They why, for goodness sake, do we hear so many REALTORS saying, “The Basics are Back! Let’s get out the POSTCARDS!”

Postcards represent stubborn thinking – the “do what we’ve always done and don’t THINK about it,” approach to marketing. Don’t measure it. Don’t believe the statistics. Keep chanting, “My market is different. My market is different. My market is different.” Pay no attention to the torches circling, circling, circling.

The basics may be back – but does that mean so is the abacus? How you prospect has changed – and it’s high time we stopped doing things that never worked! (Coming up: The Exceptions! But first…)

Email, blogging, social networking, text-messaging to cell phones and video conferencing are the prospecting TOOLS of today.I don’t make these rules – the consumer does. The research supports it; at the very least, it refutes the claim that direct mail worked. It made you busy – but not business.

Worse (if possible) going back into the postcard-mailing-mode supports the idea that “you’re an exception” to the rules of business. That somehow, a few successes override the glaring inefficiencies. That somehow, a few deals from postcards suddenly make them NOT ineffective. That’s the kind of dangerous thinking that makes you think: The downturn won’t come to my area. My listings aren’t overpriced. I’m invincible. Just ask the postman!

Even if you don’t like email or don’t know how to blog, you should know how to pick up the phone. Making phone calls to your past clients is measurabley more effective than postcards. And it’s immediately more sustainable and FAR more personable than a stale postcard. Of course, the younger buyers don’t have home phone numbers, and the Baby Boomers invented the Do Not Call List. So, i guess that only leaves us with postcards, huh?

I wonder how many brokers out there – in modern America – are recruiting for “skilled postcard mailers” for their struggling companies.

Alas. Business operations by “historical reaction” – by bringing out the postcards because they worked in the past – without stepping back, to observe the world of , to research, to plan, and to obey the rules of marketing – is like putting rollerskates on an octapus. It may hit a few deals as it’s flailing about, but mostly, it’s a comedy of errors that ends up with red ink spilled all over the floor.

  • Matthew,
    While I agree with you, you do have a large battle looming with the “older -school” peeps.

    It’s ok though—the good thing for you is that they STILL don’t know what a blog is!

  • Matthew,
    While I agree with you, you do have a large battle looming with the “older -school” peeps.

    It’s ok though—the good thing for you is that they STILL don’t know what a blog is!

  • Matthew,
    While I agree with you, you do have a large battle looming with the “older -school” peeps.

    It’s ok though—the good thing for you is that they STILL don’t know what a blog is!

  • Come on, Matthew… stop using statistics and rational thought to support your wild-ass claims! Remind me again what the definition of insanity is…

    One of my favorite quotes for you:

    “In times of change, learners will have unlimited opportunity, and knowers will be marvelously well equipped to succeed in a world that no longer exists”…

    Thanks for always keeping it real, Matthew.

    BF

  • Come on, Matthew… stop using statistics and rational thought to support your wild-ass claims! Remind me again what the definition of insanity is…

    One of my favorite quotes for you:

    “In times of change, learners will have unlimited opportunity, and knowers will be marvelously well equipped to succeed in a world that no longer exists”…

    Thanks for always keeping it real, Matthew.

    BF

  • Come on, Matthew… stop using statistics and rational thought to support your wild-ass claims! Remind me again what the definition of insanity is…

    One of my favorite quotes for you:

    “In times of change, learners will have unlimited opportunity, and knowers will be marvelously well equipped to succeed in a world that no longer exists”…

    Thanks for always keeping it real, Matthew.

    BF

  • Matt – You are right about your facts, but I think we REALTORS still do postcards because the “other sales coaches” teach us to establish our personal brand, set up a template and to make sure we let everyone know we are still in the business of real estate. Postcards are sometimes the only way to reach our “out of town” owners to let them know we are the “experts” in our neighborhoods. I would hope that postcards are just “one spoke” in our marketing wheel. I use email and e-newsletters to stay in touch with my past and current clients. Since I live and work in a resort town with over 10,000 property owners I have to pick a niche of out of town owners in a specific section of my neighborhood as a way to stand out above the veteran agents who have the majority of the market share if I want to get listings from my Farm area. Yeah, I only get a 1% response on probably only one mailing per year, but it helps pay for other useless marketing efforts. I try to stay on top of the social networking sites like Facebook, Active Rain, LinkedIn and blog. I actually gave a referral to an out of town seller from my efforts on TruilaVoices. Now if only I could find a system that will give me the email addresses of those out of town owners, so I can SPAM them. (Only kidding!!) I love everything you and Amy do for Women’s Council and enjoy attending your classes. Keep up the good work, but be gentle sometimes, we might think you don’t like us.

    Sharon

  • Matt – You are right about your facts, but I think we REALTORS still do postcards because the “other sales coaches” teach us to establish our personal brand, set up a template and to make sure we let everyone know we are still in the business of real estate. Postcards are sometimes the only way to reach our “out of town” owners to let them know we are the “experts” in our neighborhoods. I would hope that postcards are just “one spoke” in our marketing wheel. I use email and e-newsletters to stay in touch with my past and current clients. Since I live and work in a resort town with over 10,000 property owners I have to pick a niche of out of town owners in a specific section of my neighborhood as a way to stand out above the veteran agents who have the majority of the market share if I want to get listings from my Farm area. Yeah, I only get a 1% response on probably only one mailing per year, but it helps pay for other useless marketing efforts. I try to stay on top of the social networking sites like Facebook, Active Rain, LinkedIn and blog. I actually gave a referral to an out of town seller from my efforts on TruilaVoices. Now if only I could find a system that will give me the email addresses of those out of town owners, so I can SPAM them. (Only kidding!!) I love everything you and Amy do for Women’s Council and enjoy attending your classes. Keep up the good work, but be gentle sometimes, we might think you don’t like us.

    Sharon

  • Matt – You are right about your facts, but I think we REALTORS still do postcards because the “other sales coaches” teach us to establish our personal brand, set up a template and to make sure we let everyone know we are still in the business of real estate. Postcards are sometimes the only way to reach our “out of town” owners to let them know we are the “experts” in our neighborhoods. I would hope that postcards are just “one spoke” in our marketing wheel. I use email and e-newsletters to stay in touch with my past and current clients. Since I live and work in a resort town with over 10,000 property owners I have to pick a niche of out of town owners in a specific section of my neighborhood as a way to stand out above the veteran agents who have the majority of the market share if I want to get listings from my Farm area. Yeah, I only get a 1% response on probably only one mailing per year, but it helps pay for other useless marketing efforts. I try to stay on top of the social networking sites like Facebook, Active Rain, LinkedIn and blog. I actually gave a referral to an out of town seller from my efforts on TruilaVoices. Now if only I could find a system that will give me the email addresses of those out of town owners, so I can SPAM them. (Only kidding!!) I love everything you and Amy do for Women’s Council and enjoy attending your classes. Keep up the good work, but be gentle sometimes, we might think you don’t like us.

    Sharon

  • Hi Matthew,

    I have a different opinion about postcards. I am a 39-yr old agent and have been in the business for 5 years, so would be considered on the younger side as far as agents go. Postcards have been an integral part of farming activities I have been doing in a few neighborhoods. I also have local community websites and have used newsletters and postcards, as well as custom for sale signs (with our picture) to build a brand image in these communities. The investment took a while to produce results, but after the good-old marketing concept of “repetition, repetition, repetition” the postcards and other cross-marketing activities paid off handsomely. In 2008, my 3rd year of farming, I spent approx. $18,000 in flyers and postcards and the results are rather good. I have done 72 listings presentations, listed 30 homes, and did $228,000 in GCI from the farms alone. The monthly postcards and mailers are a *key* component in keeping “alive” and upfront in the community. We are now producing a 4-page piece with our current listings, some recent solds and client testimonials. They do nothing to sell the homes, but do everything to create a perception that we are the listing agents in the area.

    Just recently in a listing presentation one of my sellers actually questioned the effectiveness of the mailers we do in the area and I was rather upfront with them “they don’t really sell your home, they really are to promote my successes and experience in the area”. They laughed and thanked me for my honesty and signed the listing papers.

    I do agree that sending one lonely postcard is much like “pissing in the wind”. That is a complete waste of time and money. But as part of a consistent strategic marketing plan, they work quite effectively.

    Just thought, I’d share a perspective on this from a newbie in the industry.

    Dominique Allard
    Toronto, Canada

  • Hi Matthew,

    I have a different opinion about postcards. I am a 39-yr old agent and have been in the business for 5 years, so would be considered on the younger side as far as agents go. Postcards have been an integral part of farming activities I have been doing in a few neighborhoods. I also have local community websites and have used newsletters and postcards, as well as custom for sale signs (with our picture) to build a brand image in these communities. The investment took a while to produce results, but after the good-old marketing concept of “repetition, repetition, repetition” the postcards and other cross-marketing activities paid off handsomely. In 2008, my 3rd year of farming, I spent approx. $18,000 in flyers and postcards and the results are rather good. I have done 72 listings presentations, listed 30 homes, and did $228,000 in GCI from the farms alone. The monthly postcards and mailers are a *key* component in keeping “alive” and upfront in the community. We are now producing a 4-page piece with our current listings, some recent solds and client testimonials. They do nothing to sell the homes, but do everything to create a perception that we are the listing agents in the area.

    Just recently in a listing presentation one of my sellers actually questioned the effectiveness of the mailers we do in the area and I was rather upfront with them “they don’t really sell your home, they really are to promote my successes and experience in the area”. They laughed and thanked me for my honesty and signed the listing papers.

    I do agree that sending one lonely postcard is much like “pissing in the wind”. That is a complete waste of time and money. But as part of a consistent strategic marketing plan, they work quite effectively.

    Just thought, I’d share a perspective on this from a newbie in the industry.

    Dominique Allard
    Toronto, Canada

  • Hi Matthew,

    I have a different opinion about postcards. I am a 39-yr old agent and have been in the business for 5 years, so would be considered on the younger side as far as agents go. Postcards have been an integral part of farming activities I have been doing in a few neighborhoods. I also have local community websites and have used newsletters and postcards, as well as custom for sale signs (with our picture) to build a brand image in these communities. The investment took a while to produce results, but after the good-old marketing concept of “repetition, repetition, repetition” the postcards and other cross-marketing activities paid off handsomely. In 2008, my 3rd year of farming, I spent approx. $18,000 in flyers and postcards and the results are rather good. I have done 72 listings presentations, listed 30 homes, and did $228,000 in GCI from the farms alone. The monthly postcards and mailers are a *key* component in keeping “alive” and upfront in the community. We are now producing a 4-page piece with our current listings, some recent solds and client testimonials. They do nothing to sell the homes, but do everything to create a perception that we are the listing agents in the area.

    Just recently in a listing presentation one of my sellers actually questioned the effectiveness of the mailers we do in the area and I was rather upfront with them “they don’t really sell your home, they really are to promote my successes and experience in the area”. They laughed and thanked me for my honesty and signed the listing papers.

    I do agree that sending one lonely postcard is much like “pissing in the wind”. That is a complete waste of time and money. But as part of a consistent strategic marketing plan, they work quite effectively.

    Just thought, I’d share a perspective on this from a newbie in the industry.

    Dominique Allard
    Toronto, Canada

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Kevin:

    Isn’t that the truth! Well, maybe someone will “print” my blog and pass it around to them at the next office meeting…

    LOL!
    Matthew

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Kevin:

    Isn’t that the truth! Well, maybe someone will “print” my blog and pass it around to them at the next office meeting…

    LOL!
    Matthew

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Kevin:

    Isn’t that the truth! Well, maybe someone will “print” my blog and pass it around to them at the next office meeting…

    LOL!
    Matthew

  • I only send postcards to expired listings and fsbos. I have my own repetitive system set up and I’ve been told by sellers that mine were the best (at my listing presentations because of these post cards).

    In this market I’m taking less listings than in the past because sellers just don’t get it and think their properties are still appreciating, but sending postcards to this niche is the way I prefer to get these listing appointments.

    I get the postcards cheap through Vista Print (I think they look good and as mentioned, have been told they do) and my 6 yr. old granddaughter loves putting the labels and stamps on (she did ask for a raise the last time – she wanted another buck – LOL!).

    Yes, they’re still an expense, but I’ve gotten it down as much as possible and it works for me. As a 25 year veteran I will admit I still hate making cold calls and if that’s what I had to do to be successful I’d have been out of the biz many years ago.

    But I’m still not too old to learn new tricks and that’s why I’m on this website!

  • I only send postcards to expired listings and fsbos. I have my own repetitive system set up and I’ve been told by sellers that mine were the best (at my listing presentations because of these post cards).

    In this market I’m taking less listings than in the past because sellers just don’t get it and think their properties are still appreciating, but sending postcards to this niche is the way I prefer to get these listing appointments.

    I get the postcards cheap through Vista Print (I think they look good and as mentioned, have been told they do) and my 6 yr. old granddaughter loves putting the labels and stamps on (she did ask for a raise the last time – she wanted another buck – LOL!).

    Yes, they’re still an expense, but I’ve gotten it down as much as possible and it works for me. As a 25 year veteran I will admit I still hate making cold calls and if that’s what I had to do to be successful I’d have been out of the biz many years ago.

    But I’m still not too old to learn new tricks and that’s why I’m on this website!

  • I only send postcards to expired listings and fsbos. I have my own repetitive system set up and I’ve been told by sellers that mine were the best (at my listing presentations because of these post cards).

    In this market I’m taking less listings than in the past because sellers just don’t get it and think their properties are still appreciating, but sending postcards to this niche is the way I prefer to get these listing appointments.

    I get the postcards cheap through Vista Print (I think they look good and as mentioned, have been told they do) and my 6 yr. old granddaughter loves putting the labels and stamps on (she did ask for a raise the last time – she wanted another buck – LOL!).

    Yes, they’re still an expense, but I’ve gotten it down as much as possible and it works for me. As a 25 year veteran I will admit I still hate making cold calls and if that’s what I had to do to be successful I’d have been out of the biz many years ago.

    But I’m still not too old to learn new tricks and that’s why I’m on this website!

  • Wheessanony

    Very Interesting!
    Thank You!

  • Xavi Hernandez

    Hey this is a great page! Thanks A lot! also if you want some tips on expired listings & FSBO’s check out this short video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbTa50iz_IQ