There is a simple but almost mystical law which governs promotion and marketing and their relationship to the amount of business generated: business will come in to the degree that you get your message out, promote, let people know you are there, advertise, write to people, call people, e-mail people and generally communicate to existing or potential clients.
It isn’t a fact that registers easily and it almost takes faith to follow this dictum until you have seen it work over and over in all sorts of different businesses and organizations (as I have).
This law transcends market conditions, the activities of your competition, acts of terrorism, time of year, the alignment of Mars with Jupiter and all the million and one explanations we frequently fall back on when business is slow. All these conditions may be present but there is still a way to rise above them: just promote more heavily and frequently and business will start to pick up again. It never fails.
It’s almost a natural instinct when times get a little tight or business is slow to cut down on expenditure. You hear people talking about tightening their belts. Too often the first expenditure companies seek to cut is their marketing and advertising dollar, and that is a serious error, a guarantee of contraction. You have to step up the promotion, not cut back. The trick is to find ways to get the maximum results with the minimum expenditure, but never to cut back and promote less. That’s suicide. Here’s one way to increase promotion while keeping costs down.
You don’t have to open a postcard!
We have found more and more brokers are turning to high quality, four-color postcards as the best form of direct mail. It’s time to pass on the information for those who haven’t yet discovered this cost-effective way of getting the word out and the business in.
This is especially timely advice as the national anthrax scare – whether you give credence to it or not – has resulted in a certain caution when it comes to opening envelopes from unknown sources. One great advantage of the postcard is that it doesn’t have to be opened – there is nothing hidden about it and nothing to be scared of.
Quite aside from the anthrax angle, the fact that a postcard doesn’t need to be opened has another advantage: it has a chance to get its message across before it is dropped into the garbage can as “junk mail.” An envelope can be tossed in the trash without even being opened, allowing the hard-hitting promotional material inside no chance at all to get its message across.
The chances are fairly high that if you have a brightly colored image on the front of your postcard it will attract enough attention to get an initial glance. If your headline is a good one and invites further interest, then your postcard will be read and you will have succeeded in delivering your message. If the reader is even vaguely interested in what you are trying to sell, you may well get a visit or a call.
Even though it is imperative to promote more than ever when the economy is sticky or business is slow, that doesn’t mean you can’t cut costs in the process.
Many brokers are convinced that a full-color postcard with the right message on it, mailed out to previous clients (for re-financing for example) or to prospective borrowers gets the most bang for the advertising buck of any form of promotion, even when they also advertise in print, on the radio and TV, sky-writing, you name it.
You can mail out a postcard up to 4 1/4 inches by 6 inches for between 17.5¢ and 19.5¢ first class pre-sorted. This is cheaper than the lowest letter rate which is 19¢ – 24¢ and that’s for standard, bulk rate, not first class. If you find the right company you can get 5,000 high quality, full-color, laminated postcards printed for under $400.
Warren Financial Corporation of Dunedin, Florida, is an example of a company who rely entirely on postcards (and referrals) for new business. “The strange thing about postcards is that I’ll have people who will call me 6 or 8 months after I mailed them out and say, ‘I got one of your postcards and kept it.’,” says Jim Warren, the company’s owner. He buys 6,000 postcards at a time and sends out 400 every month to highly targeted mailing lists. He leaves the back of the cards blank so that he can get a different message printed on them when he’s ready to send them. This allows for rate changes and other time-sensitive messages to be printed on at the time the postcards are going to be mailed.
He used to use very basic, black and white postcards run off by his local printer but has now gone to full-color, 4 1/4” x 6” cards (the largest size you can send at the lowest mail rate) which has improved his response rate. “I have a rifle rather than a shotgun approach to marketing,” he says. “For what I do the four-color postcards are perfect.”
A case in point…
Sun Pacific Mortgage of Santa Rosa, California have been in business for 14 years, specializing in giving loans to people who have been turned down elsewhere. Owner Forest Tardibuono came across some management technology in 1997 and since then their income has increased by 900% and is still on the rise. One of the principles that Forest learned and really put into practice was the fact that if you want more business or new business, you have to promote. “We’re one big marketing machine,” he says. “We promote heavily and it’s then an easy job for the loan reps to pick up the loans. The sale is easy.” The company spends 14% of its gross on promotion. With an annual income of close to $2 million, that’s a sizable budget for promotion. But it is also a major factor in their continued growth.
Sun Pacific order 50-60,000 postcards at a time with a selection of several different images on the cards. They have an arrangement with local title companies whereby these provide Sun Pacific with mailing lists already printed in mailing label form at no cost as an incentive for the mortgage company to use them for title work. They provide these labels as often as needed and targeted as narrowly and specifically as required. For example, Forest will ask for homeowners of a specific zip code (one that has proven profitable in the past) and will limit the search to specific categories to make sure that the mailing hits home. Getting the mailing labels free of a charge represents a considerable saving.
Then Sun Pacific will send out mailings of a couple of thousand postcards once or twice a month to current or past clients, and another 3-4,000 to prospective borrowers every week, handling all the mailing in house. They use large (4 1/4” by 6”) full-color, laminated postcards which look very attractive.
“We went to postcards a few years ago because I got sick of doing the bulk mailings using envelopes,” Forest admits. Folding letters and sealing envelopes is pretty labor intensive. Postcards cost less and the mail costs are lower.
Forest attributes a full 20% of his business to the postcard mailings which account for the majority of their spending on print advertising/promotion for the year. “Because of the magic formula that business comes in in proportion to the postcards and other forms of promotion that go out, we get results from all quarters,” he says.
The above example includes networking with title companies and handling large mailings in house but this is something to work up to if you want to go that route. Few mortgage brokers have an in-house marketing department and it can be time-consuming and overwhelming to take on all of these aspects of getting postcards mailed out using existing personnel who are already busy dealing with loans and paperwork.
A good postcard company can handle the entire mailing and save you money in the process. They make their money from printing postcards, not from consulting, selling mailing lists, mailing and so on. So they can give you better deals on these other services where needed.
Having the postcard company do the mailing from you has an additional benefit of saving on shipping. Printed matter is quite heavy and shipping 10,000 postcards across country is not that cheap. If it is mailed from the postcard company direct these shipping charges are avoided.
Sharp Mortgages Inc. of Jacksonville started using postcards in 2001, having used every other form of advertising and promotion. They sent out two initial mailings of 10,000 postcards each and have ordered another 50,000 so it must be working. “We let the postcard company handle the mailing,” says Bill Sharp Snr. who handles their advertising. “With all the other things we have to do, we find that it’s easier to let them handle the mailing than to tie up our time in here.”
Don’t be put off by the thought of all the extra work involved for your already too busy personnel. In the long run it might save you a lot of money to pay a little extra for the postcard company to take the entire process off your hands from design and print through to mailing.
How to get going with postcards.
So, assuming postcards are the way to go, where do you start?
A. Find a postcard company to help you.
This company must:
1. SPECIALIZE IN POSTCARDS, not just do postcards among other printing jobs. You will get better service and a better product. It will cost much less because they are printing your postcard along with many other customers’ postcards and can “gang print” them which means they print many different postcards on one large sheet of card and it’s only one press run.
2. Have some MARKETING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE. They should be able to advise you on mailing lists, design, quantities and so on. The better ones offer a full range of services from advice through design, assistance with photography, printing and mailing.
3. Postcards they produce should be UV COATED (laminated), FULL COLOR, 4 1/4” x 6” so you get the biggest size card you can for the lowest mail rate and they really look good. The UV coating is essential for a very high gloss finish that really makes the postcard stand out and attract attention.
4. Above all you need to know that you are going to get RESULTS. Percentage of response is not the real measure of success as this varies from industry to industry and area to area. What you want to determine is return on investment. If you spend $2,500 all inclusive to send out a 10,000 postcard mailing and get 200 calls as a result, and convert even 10 of those into mortgage purchases, then the mailing was a terrific investment. So you need to look at the big picture and check for results in terms of return on investment.
When choosing a postcard company to handle your mailing, it’s a good idea to get some names and phone numbers of their customers and call them up to get some first hand information on how good the company is: do they deliver good service and value for money?
Once you have found the right provider (it doesn’t have to be local – the better ones work on a national basis and do business with companies all over the USA) get their advice on producing the postcard. They will help you with all the steps.
B. Decide whether you want them to handle the mailing for you (see section above on outsourcing).
C. Decide whether you are going to mail to your existing customers or to mailing lists of potential customers or both.
Procurement of mailing lists an important point. Sending out postcards to 10,000 random homeowners by zip code is not going to get the same response as sending 10,000 postcards to qualified homeowners of the type that you specialize in (conventional, subprime, refinances, etc.). You can buy mailing lists that are quite specific. Your biggest expense is going to be postage. It’s worth spending a little extra money to make sure your message gets to qualified potential mortgage purchasers in the category that you want to deal with.
The postcard company should be able to help you with the choice and purchase of mailing lists.
D. Decide on the content of the card. Again, a good postcard company will have experience with this and can offer valuable advice. They’ve probably worked with other mortgage brokers and know what works and what doesn’t.
E. Get the card produced. They will send you proofs. Get any needed corrections made so that you are happy with them.
F. Get them mailed out.
G. Sit back and make the most of the response.
H. Plan your next mailing and repeat the steps.
After you’ve done a few mailings you will get a better idea of what works and you can refine your campaign.
This is a proven, tried and tested, workable approach to increasing sales through direct mail using color postcards.