It's interesting how we remember historical events. As we are within a month of one of the most polarizing presidential elections of all time, it seems that we are being forced to recall and fact check history, events and commentary on an almost daily basis, sometimes with surprising or alarming results. So, it may in fact be news to you that one of the most celebrated and impactful pieces of American history was also one of the most short lived. The Pony Express operated between St. Joseph, MO and Sacramento, CA for just 19 months. During that time, riders carrying posts, that today might be described as postcards, provided the most direct and expeditious means of east-west communications before it was usurped by the emerging technology of the day, the telegraph.
In an era of super high-speed communications defined by email marketing, social media and the web, the use of hard mail for marketing seems just about as ancient as the Pony Express. In fact, Forbes suggests that three of the Four Trends That Are Reshaping The Commercial Real Estate Industry are attributed to technological advancement – real time data access, dedicated mobile support and consumerization of technology. So, it seems almost ridiculous today that we would entrust our real estate marketing communications, which carry information about investment opportunities for smart buildings and the like, to a paper-based, analog instrument like a postcard. Or, is it?
According to the United States Postal Service, on a daily basis, that organization processes and delivers 265.1 million pieces of advertising mail. If we average that across all small businesses in the country, that's enough hard mail for every small and mid-size business to send 50 pieces of mail each business week. That's huge despite the seeming contrast to this hight-tech age we live in.
The simple fact about direct mail (meaning paper-based hard mail) is that it works. However, the really interesting fact is that among all mail piece types, postcards work the best. A standard 4” x 6” real estate post card is more likely to be read by the recipient. In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association which publishes the definitive guide on industry statistics, postcards are read 51% of the time – almost double the next closest mail form.
Postcards are effective and efficient in a number of ways. They are relatively inexpensive to produce and working with a real estate marketing firm to do this will give you lots of alternatives in terms of style, layout and messaging approach. Real estate postcards are also relatively cost effective. With an average response rate from a high quality list of just under 4%, that means every 100 postcards should yield up to 4 investors that are interested in at least learning more about your offering.
As with any well done piece of marketing, real estate postcards should incorporate solid design, excellent photography and clear messaging. With those elements, and the fact that they are delivered right to your intended audience, you stand a better than average chance of getting your offering noticed.
Despite its brief operation, Pony Express riders delivered more than 35,000 pieces of mail and rode more than half a million miles. While the service is gone, the types of materials they carried live on, further attesting that postcard marketing is still relevant - even in the 21st century.