The ultra-targeted world of direct mail

by Kimberly Greene27 Nov 2019

In some ways, direct mail is still direct mail: a company sends printed material to prospective customers, in the hopes that people will accept the call to action and contact the company.

In other ways, however, direct mail has adapted remarkably well to today’s mortgage world. Today, direct mail is more about data than ever before.

The strategy used to be simple: mortgage companies would get a list with a certain number of homeowners and spend X amount of money on a direct mail campaign to the entire list. The campaign wouldn’t be applicable to every household, but would get enough calls to generate a decent ROI. Now that digital marketing has entered the picture, mortgage companies have to be a lot more committed to the effort, and a lot more strategic about the campaigns.

Jeff Bush is the founder and president of OverflowWorks.com, which specialized in both digital marketing and direct mail. Bush says that just because people aren’t mailing as much as they used to doesn’t mean that direct mail is less effective. He’s seen the opposite phenomenon.

“The quantities have gone down, but because you do a better job targeting on the data, the response rates are actually higher today than they were 10 years ago,” Bush said. “It’s all about the data, really, and you’re competing against email. You’re not just competing against television and radio and newspaper anymore. You’re competing against a hundred emails a day.”

Overflow works does all of their own printing and mailing, and the company has amassed in-house data on every homeowner with a mortgage in America, including the type of loan, the lender, the dates of origination and length of the term, the loan amount, the home value, and the borrower’s FICO score. They’re able to use this information to launch creative printing and mailing campaigns that generate a lot of inbound phone calls.

Any salesperson knows, however, that it’s not about the calls; it’s about the conversion. A company can run a great direct mail campaign that results in a lot of inbound calls, but the volume of calls is irrelevant if the people answering the phones aren’t properly prepared.

“We actually do some training for our mortgage companies on how to answer the calls better and try to improve their closing rate. We’re more than just a printer, we consult with our clients and help them increase their closing ratio,” he said. They record the phone calls and analyze them, pointing out where mistakes were made and make suggestions for improvement. “We almost act more as like a consultant to the mortgage companies and make sure that they have all the systems in place to answer the calls and close the loans, or they’re not going to get an ROI.”

Bush has been doing mortgage direct mail for 25 years. He started working for a direct mail company that serviced a lot of mortgage companies. He watched the companies make “a ton” of money through the inbound calls he was driving, and when the company was sold, Bush started his own mortgage company. When the wheels fell off in 2007, his non-compete had expired and he was able to revert back into direct mail.

As much as data helps to improve the ROI, there’s a thin line between a piece of direct mail being detailed and personalized enough to elicit a response from the consumer, but still be fully compliant. While data has allowed direct mail to be a lot more targeted, thereby boosting response rates, the introduction of data has also made the direct mail business more complicated.

“Instead of mailing one letter to 500,000 people, you might break 500,000 people into 50 different categories and mail 50 different letters. There’s just more versions, more personalization, more points on data where, to make it relevant and to get the response up, you really have to version out the creative and pull the right data,” Bush said.

Direct mail must also respond to the current market, and Bush said that a lot of homeowners right now are planning to stay in their homes because they have low first mortgage rates. They are using their cash out options for home improvements, and still using their credit cards to rack up debt, so need consolidation options.

 “Some of the opportunities with cash out for home improvement and cash out for credit card debt, and there’s a lot of equity. People’s houses are still going up in value, so if they took out a loan like a 90% first mortgage and they’re paying a higher rate because they didn’t put 20% down, I think there’s a lot of opportunity to refi them to a lower rate because they’ve got a little equity position now,” Bush said.

Today’s direct mail is incredibly data-driven, and with the right partner and the right people responding to those leads, it can be more effective than ever before.