News & Research Archive

To Mail or to Email? That is the Question

Oct 18, 2012

As salespeople we now have a variety of ways to market our product or services aside from mailing information. When I started in the commercial real estate business in 1984, each night I would religiously print out letters and envelopes on my ADAM computer, stamp each envelope then mail the letters and follow-up with phone calls three days later. Since I was new to the business I did not have any referrals to count on or any past business clients I could call I was green and along with cold calling this was my sole source of business. Today is a different world marketing strategies can be executed through web sites, email blasts and social media advertising. Comparing the results of these marketing tools to old fashioned mailing campaigns proves to be interesting.

Mail campaign results have not changed much since I started. The typical rate of a mailer being opened, read and leading to any interest was and is still is roughly half of one percent. That means that for every one hundred pieces of mail sent, expect half of one real lead to come out of it. What has changed is the cost of a mailer: In 1984 the cost to mail a postcard was 20 cents today it costs 32 cents. In comparison, the cost of an email blast campaign using a direct email provider averages around one cent per email. The most notable difference is the increased results and the ability to verify who opened the email. On average, 15 percent of emails are opened.

Taking the above into consideration, it makes sense to email rather than mail: It is faster to hit the marketplace, far cheaper and warrants better results than a mailer so why consider otherwise. Right?

Well, yes and no. Mail has become more about advertising and less about connecting as we communicate with nearly everyone by using email more often than not. My mail is made up almost exclusively of either bills I choose to receive by mail and advertisements. Still, mailers have their place, as their impact is stronger due to their rarity. Consider the number of emails received on a daily basis compared to the number of postcards: I average maybe two or three postcards versus hundreds of emails a day. A well-designed postcard or thoughtfully composed letter will catch the attention of the reader and are still effective forms of marketing.

A trick to increase the chance of a letter being opened is to hand-address envelopes the success rate of this type of mailer is at least 20 percent more effective than typed or labeled envelopes. Another trick is to mail letters in an envelope that is a color other than white this has also been shown to improve results.

As salespeople we are all short of time and depending on whether or not it is your direct responsibility to market yourself and your product or, if you have staff to handle that for you, will obviously impact your decision on how to approach marketing. However, for those who understand that a personal flourish or touch can go a long way in communicating to your potential clients that you do, in fact care, results will always be better.


Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 27 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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