Mailing it in

by Kimberly Greene22 Apr 2019

For everyone who has written off direct mail as a thing of the past, they might be surprised to realize that it’s still thriving. Even in the digital age, there’s a lot of value to a tangible, physical piece of material that is personally touched by the exact person for whom it’s intended.

Direct mail isn’t for everyone in every situation, however, and that’s where many marketers get stuck, particularly when it comes to mortgage origination.

Proper messaging is the difference between direct mail campaigns that deliver results and those that don’t. Chris Cammack, sales and operations executive at Camber Marketing Group, says that before even committing to a campaign, the first step is to decide on an ultimate goal. Is it for branding purposes, or is it to elicit a response?

“A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they’re going to do a lot of selling in the letter. The philosophy that we have is the letter’s intent is to make the introduction, not the sale. And if you keep that in mind, that changes all the aspects of what the letter conveys,” Carmack said. “Every letter has these components: why they’re being contacted, what’s in it for them, and how to take advantage of it. And you try to convey that very quickly. Regardless of the strategy or regardless of the type of loan you’re trying to close or sell, those three components are the only important components of the letter.”

If the goal is branding and awareness, the message is a different one. It’s a soft message, Cammack said, all around being likable and memorable. When trying to drive the consumer to action, however, it’s okay to take a more direct approach. The goal there is strictly to get people to call and it is very easy to determine the return for those marketing dollars as opposed to a branding campaign.

Direct mail pieces work best when they are tailored to and customized for individual recipients. Not only does that mean addressing each recipient by name, but it also means going deeper and including information such as their current mortgage balance and how they can benefit from contacting the lender. The originator should also have all of that unique information on hand quickly when someone responds.

That means, Cammack said, that originators who are interested in direct mail need to think about how many lead channels they’re currently managing. An originator can’t be everywhere at once, and if they can’t have specific information in front of them when they’re out and about, or if someone on their team can’t handle the calls that come in and properly engage that person, it might not be the right time for a campaign.

“If they are someone that is out of the office and in front of people a good majority of the day, they’re going to have a very hard time with the direct mail campaign because it is so important to answer that call when they call instead of trying to call them back. You might get them back a third of the time if you’re not there to answer that phone. So you do need to judge on what your work style is. If you’re trying mail for the first time, know in advance, that first week when the letters are hitting, you want to be at your desk, and you want to be able to answer them,” Cammack said.

This isn’t to say that branding isn’t important as well, and direct mail does play a role in the marketing campaigns of many originators. But, Cammack said, it won’t be the only role.

When originators aren’t driving a particular response, then doing things outside of mail should be given equal weight, such as joining a community organization, sponsoring a local initiative, hosting an event for other professionals or community members. Branding is about finding ways to be remembered when someone is ready for a mortgage.

“When I say branding, then I think a postcard becomes applicable, it’s something warm: ‘Hey, just a reminder, set your clock back!’ Something keeping your face and number in front of them when they are ready for the transaction. So yes, it’s important, but it’s just a part of a larger branding pie,” Cammack said.

Cammack said that a lot of lender campaigns shifted toward non-rate sensitive strategies in 2018, and that’s still a money-maker. There are also new opportunities for straight rate and term refinances again, although its effectiveness will probably be short-lived. Whatever messaging an originator may think that they want, a company with mortgage industry experience will be able to provide an expert opinion. Trust that experience, because even when an originator has a great idea, it’s probably not a new one.

“We either know if it works or not. Of course, they can come with all their ideas, they can make any modifications they want, because at the end of the day, it’s their name and NMLS number on the letter. It’s their responsibility to be comfortable with what is being sent and understand what is being sent, and to approve what’s being sent. But I would always advise, trust the judgement of the company you’re hiring.”

Being savvy and strategic about a direct mail campaign can pay off just as much as any other marketing strategy.