#148 Mail-Right Show With Special Guest Ryan Cote
How You Can Combine Direct Mail With Your Online Marketing
Ryan is the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a third generation family-owned direct mail and digital marketing company based out of Fairfield, NJ. Ryan has been with Ballantine since 2003, a family-owned business started in 1966 by his grandfather and great-uncle. He currently manage the growing digital marketing division, primarily responsible for sales and strategy.
Ryan is offering some special deals connected to our Mail-Right listens HERE
Here’s a Full Transcription of Our Interview with Ryan
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the Mail-Right show. It’s episode 148. We got a great guest here, Ryan Coté. Ryan, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the audience?
Ryan: Yes, thanks Jonathan, happy to be here. Yeah. So, my name is Ryan Coté and my company is Ballantine. We’re based out of Fairfield, New Jersey. We are a family owned business, I’m third generation. My grandfather started the company in the mid-sixties and now myself, my two brothers and my uncle are partners in the business and in terms of what we do, we offer both Direct Mail Marketing services as well as Digital Marketing services.
Jonathan: It’s a great blend and some of the areas we’ll be discussing during the show folks is direct mail, how you can combine that with online marketing. We’re also going to be discussing paid advertising through Google AdWords. We’re going to have a little bit of sprinkling around SEO and a little bit about Facebook. So it’s going be a fantastic discussion. I’m really looking forward to this. So, Ryan and also I also forgot my co-host. I apologize Robert. Robert, would you like to introduce yourself?
Robert: Yeah. I’m the founder of InboundREM. I’m a Real Estate Marketing consultant. If anybody’s interested, they can always go to InboundREM, but I mostly do this show to expand my knowledge and I’m really, really looking forward to talking to a direct mail aficionado. That’s not actually something that we tackle too often so this is a treat for us.
Jonathan: That’s great and Robert’s got some great articles on his, some great reviews and articles on his website and I highly recommend that you go to Robert’s and have a feast about everything Real Estate on his website. So, Ryan, you know I’m a great believer in combining different marketing systems, services and I do not dismiss direct mail at all because I think, you know, your company you do service a little bit of Real Estate but it’s not your real market, but I thought we would have you on because, like you say, you’ve got three generations, you’ve mixed digital with traditional. Where do you see direct mail and also can you give some insights where you’ve seen it work recently?
Ryan: Yeah. The combination of print and digital, I think it’s important just because you have to think about multiple touch points. It’s very rare that you make the sale or generate the lead based on one touch-point. It requires multiple touch-points and I know that digital is very big and it’s growing but print is still a very important piece of the marketing pie. You think about the competition you have in your inbox for your email or your Facebook feed, for example, and you think about the competition you have in your mailbox.
There’s very little competition in the mailbox. So, the blend of the two, both print and digital, is important because you’re reaching people in their inbox with digital, in their feeds with social media advertising and then you’re reaching people in their mailbox with print marketing. So, it’s kind of covering all the bases, you’re increasing the touch-points and that’s what we find to be effective, is blending those two together. And yes, direct mail is more expensive when you consider the print and the mail and the postage, but the actual format that you use does not need to be expensive. You know postcards can be very efficient, very cost efficient you’re still getting that mail piece, that physical piece of mail in their hands. And then, one way you can also seamlessly blend the two, just using Facebook as an example, you’re sending out a postcard and you’re buying that mailing list of people in the geo that you’re servicing, what have you and then you’re taking that list to Facebook and you’re uploading it to Facebook. So the person’s getting your postcard and they’re also getting your Facebook ads in their feed and that’s kind of like a one-two punch. It can be very effective.
Jonathan: Yeah. I just want to quantify that to the listeners. What Ryan’s talking about is retargeting. So the only thing you’ve got to keep in mind folks is that the email address be on your list that you’re utilizing for your direct marketing. For the Facebook advert to show, it has to be the same email address that they signed up with Facebook.
Jonathan: But if the list is, you know, it will help and re-targeting keeps the costs down. Being that you should be multibly touching these people, they should become more receptive to what is called a totally cold audience. Have you got any recent clients that you thought that was doing direct marketing in a really effective way that you’ve worked with?
Ryan: Oh yeah. This is not a, it’s not a Realtor but the example still applies to your audience. I can’t give specific numbers but I just want to explain the strategy.
Jonathan: The process, what you thought they were doing well.
Ryan: Exactly. So, we have a client. They’re a small business, a manufacturer and they’re using us for paid advertising, some search engine optimization and content and our job is to help them sell more of their products off their website and they have different sales channels but one of them is their website. And so, we’re doing paid advertising, SEO, and then the Content Marketing and then we also threw in direct mail into the mix but it wasn’t a one-shot campaign. We came up with a series of four mail pieces and they were different formats like one was a postcard, one was a self-mailer, just different formats. The messaging was pretty much the same, the presentation was a little bit different. And we sent those mail pieces out, I think it was 6 weeks apart, so there was some time in between. And while these were going out, digital was still running. And so, the digital was running and then they would get these mail pieces 6 weeks apart, varying the formats, and it was very effective. We saw an increase in sales. We were using a coupon code and tracking their sales and that was an effective campaign for them.
Robert: Give us an estimate on cost for that or any campaign. Just give us a ballpark. I don’t want to tie you down to anything. But if somebody was interested in, let’s say, pursuing that, what, because most of our clients are familiar with digital. You’ve got your PPC expense or your Facebook Marketing expense but I know of very few Real Estate people that are still familiar with what direct mail will cost.
Ryan: So, I will give you a very rough number and this is a very rough number because it depends on the format and the quantity and how much you’re paying for creative but you could figure on about a dollar per piece when you factor in all the different costs, creative and postage and print.
Robert: The average Real Estate professional services a city that has usually somewhere between 1 in 5,000 households and then obviously there are some that expand out to more than that. But you could like mass like total numbers, even though here in L.A., we get a very distorted view. But most of my clients don’t work in L.A. They work in Austin or other places and then they don’t even work all of Austin. They work a single neighborhood or they work a couple of cities inside that neighborhood. At max, you’re usually talking about 10 or 15,000 households max. Does that still play into direct mail? Can anybody use it or would you be constrained by the numbers if they were seeking a specific city that wasn’t, let’s say, a couple hundred thousand people big?
Ryan: No. I think the smaller numbers are fine. The more focus you can get the better. The blanket saturated mailings don’t work as well. It’s like Facebook advertising like Jonathan knows, the more focused you get with your targeting, generally the better results you’re going to get. So it’s the same thing with direct mail. If you’ve got your database, or if you’re buying a database, maybe a compiled list, you want to know exactly who you’re servicing best and then go real laser focus on that audience in 10 to 15,000, that’s perfectly acceptable. I would say, generally, when our clients are testing, they’re not testing anything less than like 5,000 pieces because it’s hard to measure a campaign on anything less than that. You don’t know if what you’re seeing is significantly relevant. So anything less than 5,000, it’s really hard to measure results.
Robert: All right. So, for our clients that might be sitting in a city that has less than 5,000 households, maybe direct mail might not be the best way to tackle. But anybody that is, they might be able to use direct mail on top of, which by the way, for the handful of people that tune in to me and actually pay attention to what I say, I am a big fan of, this is an old guy, there’s a sales guy, whose name will come to me but I was in sales 30 years ago and one of the sales trainers that I constantly read always said that there was a 5-touch mechanism in terms of the way that you work a prospect. They must see or be touched five different times. And this particular is Brian Tracy. Brian Tracy used to say that you’d have to touch them in various ways, so you can’t just call them five times. You could but his experience showed that five different touches would often times yield the best results. And what he meant by that was like a door knock or mailer because this were the days before the Internet when I was studying Brian Tracy or a phone call and these would each be a different touch. I still subscribe to that, whether it’s the digital realm or it’s the direct mail realm. My own experience is that a lot of these touches can be applied digitally but I don’t disagree with anything anybody said in terms of getting a piece of mail in the mailbox.
If you have a larger budget or you’re working with a small team inside of Real Estate, I wouldn’t discard digital or direct mail out of hand. And if you’re working with a highly focused market which some of our clients are like real specific, then I would strongly recommend direct mail on top of everything else that you’re doing because you’d probably be the only person sending it.
Ryan: Yeah. Can I, oh, sorry Jon.
Jonathan: No. I’m sorry to interrupt. It’s just that there’s two specific areas where I think agents should really look at direct mail. I think you should organize, you should really aim your marketing at specific communities and then organize community events if you can and get, instead of pushing out, you’re getting your client base coming to you at this event. This is a great way that you direct mail to advertise that event, an event that you might hold twice per year in a specific community, aimed at families, aimed at your target audience. Another circumstance is around needing to hire prized properties around open houses and really having an organized campaign of online and using direct mail to market that open house. The purpose is not to like, we have said in previous episodes, the purpose of this is the branding, marketing, and a database list building exercise. This is why you’re doing the two things that I mentioned. What do you reckon Ryan and what do you think of that?
Ryan: You mentioned branding. It actually made me think of something that, to tie back to also Robert’s comment before about less than 5,000, you know, a list of less than 5,000, what you can do, when you are dealing with smaller quantities like that, you can look at lumpy mail with a branding twist. So, just one thought that came to my mind is, and the reason why it’s not, it’s doable on 10 to 15,000 but just the cost becomes, it becomes a little bit cost prohibitive when you’re talking about larger quantities. But when you’ve got a smaller list, maybe 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, whatever it is, you can do lumpy mail. So, for example, you could send out an envelope with maybe a branded calendar of some sort or a magnet and so they get this envelope and it’s lumpy because there is something in it and the open rate on that kind of mail is typically very high because there’s something in it. They want to see what’s in it. And they open it and then they’ve got like your picture on there and some information with the local community, obviously your website and your phone number and hopefully they put it on their refrigerator and call you when the time is right.
Robert: Got you.
Jonathan: Yeah. There’s all sorts of creative ways you can do this. Another methodology is to actually send them an envelope and have the envelope handwritten.
Jonathan: So that increases rates of open. There’s all different twists. But it’s really important to go to a specialist that has a lot of experience in direct mail and they can advise you of this, can’t they?
Jonathan: We’re going to go for our break folks. When we come back, we’re going to delve into some other areas about how to market yourself and get some really quality leads. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back. We’ve had a feast about direct mail. On to another subject. Using Google and using Google AdWords to actually promote your business, your website and you said something that I thought was really important and it’s linked to this about why agents need their own website and not rely on something that the broker. Would you like to delve into a bit of that Ryan?
Ryan: Yeah. You want me to start with the website first? Or the Google AdWords?
Jonathan: Yeah, sure because I think it leads into the AdWords in a way, doesn’t it?
Ryan: It does. And Robert, I know you’re an SEO expert, so you know, jump in. But basically, what I’ll see often is realtors, they’ll get a website from their broker and it’s not on their own domain name which is, domain name meaning like xyz.com versus jonathan.remax.com or whatever. You want your own website. You want your own website because it’s going to be something that you control, it’s your asset, it’s much easier to rank in Google your own website because you can control the SEO on the site, the keywords and what have you and also it gives you the opportunity to create your own content for the website. So, for example, maybe you have a series of things about the local community and position yourselves as the local expert, you know, the local Real Estate expert, restaurants and information about schools and what have you. And when you have all that unique content and it’s your content and it’s going on your own website, your own domain, it’s your asset and it’s easier to rank in Google. Robert, is there anything you’d add to that?
Robert: Well, in the Real Estate space specifically, I wouldn’t necessarily say, I agree with everything you’re saying, let’s start there. So, you will never ever find somebody who’s more evangeletical about owning your own website in any business really but specifically and most especially for Real Estate because it is so rare that anybody does and all the marketing value in Real Estate is most of the time being transferred to the marketing companies as opposed to somebody gaining control of it. So, I agree with you.
The one thing I just want to throw out there is that there are some Real Estate Marketing companies that have gotten very good at creating template sites that rank better than a site that you’re just going build yourself and put on the Web. It’s pretty rare that the handful of custom Real Estate website developers that are out there build a website that does as well as some of these out of the box solutions. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own your own website because you should. You should just be aware of the fact that, like if anything, maybe look at some of the things that other people are doing, figure out how to measure success and then copy them. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel just because you own it. That would be my comment
Ryan: Okay. Yeah, I agree with that. And so, then tying that into Google AdWords. You need a good website. So, Google AdWords is pay-per-click. You’re bidding on keywords and then you’re driving traffic. So, homes for sale in San Diego or what have you. You’re bidding on keywords. When someone clicks on that ad, you pay and it’s gotten a lot more expensive. But what I like about Google AdWords and really any type of, you know, Bing advertising as well, you have a lot of control over the campaigns, you have a lot of flexibility.
Robert, as you know, SEO takes time and we’re at the mercy of Google and all their algorithm updates, still very effective, very, very effective with Google and it’s amazing when you’re paying them, you have a lot more flexibility and the traffic is immediate and you can set up campaigns. Like, let’s say you wanted to focus on just homes for sale in Los Angeles but you have a campaign for homes for sale in San Diego, you could turn off and on the campaigns based on what you’re looking to push. But for Google AdWords, a lot of it’s based on quality scores.
So you need to have a strong quality score to get a good cost per click. And quality scores, that’s Google’s measurement of how good your website is, like, where you’re sending that traffic to. They assign that page a quality score and you want that quality score to be high. And so, you have to have, I mean could send traffic to a branded broker page, but typically you’re sending it to a landing page or a page on your site that’s highly relevant for the keywords that you’re bidding on. And so, it comes back to, so, Google AdWords, you need to have a strong website for it to be the most effective, to be most effective. And so, that’s why they’re kind of tied together. But Google AdWords, yeah, the traffic is immediate, you have a lot of control over what keywords you’re bidding on and we love using it. We do a lot of it here.
Jonathan: Yeah. The way, oh, sorry, go on.
Robert: I was just going ask, so, what do you feel like the most dramatic or impressive Marketing lesson that you’ve learned Ryan in terms of AdWords? We all have those aha moments. Did you have any for PPC or anything that even comes close to it that you could share?
Ryan: Yeah, I do, actually. It’s for an insurance client of ours. I’m trying to think of how I could tie this back to your audience and I think I can.
Robert: You’ve done it. Just an insurance client, but what was the aha moment?
Ryan: So, the aha moment is they have a lot of personal lines, business lines and they have specialty lines. We started off broad with them with doing pay-per-click for all the different personal lines and business lines and specialty lines. And it became very clear to us that one specialty line, in particular, for whatever reason, the pay-per-click was converting like crazy.
And so, what we did was we just shut off every other campaign except for a couple of other ones that were sort of, had potential and focused on that one particular specialty. And for the last 2 years now, it’s consistently driven leads for this client for that particular specialty. So maybe, with Real Estate Agents, it’s focused on like what communities are you doing best in and then you’re bidding on keywords that are targeting that community or just running ads. With Google AdWords, you can specify what geo you want to advertise in. So, if someone’s always searching from within a certain mile or radius of a zip code, they only see your ads. Maybe you only specify that geo for that community that you service best. So that’s how I think, you know, based on that insurance client, how your audience can use that.
Robert: And I’m just going paraphrase and then Jon, I’m going to kick it over to you because I know that you had something you wanted to share. But I’m just going to say that what I heard you say and what I agree with, in terms of PPC, is that it does allow you to do multivariate testing in the immediacy. In other words, you’re absolutely right. Organic is painfully slow, like painfully, like SEO and I am, everybody who goes to my blog understands I’m evangelical about it. But it confuses people because you would think that I don’t think there’s a place for other stuff and there very much is and you just brought up a big one. If you want to get a result and understand what keywords might be viable, you don’t want to wait a year or 6 months?
You want to find that out right now and you just described a case study very beautifully. The case study is we had four different verticals, I’m just guessing, I’m making it up, but we had a number of different things that we were just testing. We discovered one that was working very well and then we pursued it. If I was the organic guy on the Marketing team, I would then say, “Well, it’s great that we did all the testing. Let’s do the organic for the thing that is really working and leave the rest alone.” And we wouldn’t have known that without the PPC being in place and getting those results.
Ryan: Yeah. I agree with that. You’re right. You can run the pay-per-click campaigns, find out which keywords are the most effective and then roll that over to an SEO plan, whether it’s content or pages that you need to create on your site to rank organically. They’re very yin and yang.
Jonathan: Yeah. I’ve just got a quick observation and then a follow-through question. I think folks what you’ve also got to realize with Google AdWords, it’s the intent, it’s intent specific. And what I mean by that, is there a big difference between Google and Facebook. Like I say, the people that go in to use Google, they’ve got a need, a want, they’re looking something, a specific. Where, with Facebook, it’s disruptive advertising. You don’t go to Facebook with a need or want. You go there to find out cute pictures about cats or what your neighbors are doing, what’s going on in your local community or nationally. And they’re advertisement is disruptive. It’s basically fuel their knowledge of people on Facebook. They show advertisement, if it’s been set up correctly, that has shown online signals that they would be interested in your disruptive advertisement. They’re very two different animals, very similar, but you’ve got to be aware of that fundamental difference. The other thing is, the question I was going to ask you Ryan is, did you have any knowledge around using YouTube paid advertisement? Have you delved into the world of YouTube and paid advertisement as well?
Ryan: We have. Yeah. Predominantly we’re doing Google AdWords, keyword searches and remarketing or retargeting, whatever you want to call it. We have run some YouTube advertising. Obviously, if you have good videos, it could be very effective. For the type of clients that we service now, we do less of it. In the past, we’ve had some big brands, toy brands that we’ve worked with where it was a big part of their Marketing strategy because they were just looking for that brand awareness, just saturating their videos all over YouTube. But for the small businesses that we service now, we do less of it.
Jonathan: Because I think that’s probably the key problem, isn’t it, is that, you know, brand awareness. But to actually getting to actually click on something and then go off YouTube, I haven’t seen the reason, but to me, people on YouTube are there, or am I incorrect? Do you think that getting them to click on a link in YouTube and then go off is difficult?
Ryan: We were not as successful with, when we were running the video ads on YouTube and even on Facebook as well, as you know, running video ads on Facebook can be very effective. But like our objective was just to get the views. The client just wanted, it was like a commercial essentially. They wanted the views. We weren’t seeing as much traffic to their website. It also wasn’t a goal of theirs. But even when we run Facebook ads, video ads, we get a lot of views. We see less clicks over to the website, but it’s also not really the objective. The objective is to get the view. So that’s what we were seeing.
Jonathan: Right. Got a question, Robert?
Robert: No. Just agreeing. Just nodding. I have never actually, I think I’ve spent $100 on YouTube advertising and it was for myself, it was not for a client.
Robert: So, I have an unbelievably, low threshold of knowledge when it comes to YouTube. Now, if you were talking about organic or creating YouTube videos, obviously, that is one of the cornerstones of my marketplace in terms of how I promote my own business. So, I’m a huge fan and believer in video. Don’t get me on my soapbox for this particular call because we all haven’t agreed to talk about it. But I’m just going to say video, yay. Okay.
Ryan: I agree with that 100%.
Johnathan: Right. I think we’re going to wrap it up for the podcast part of the show. Ryan’s agreed to stay on for a little while, which will be bonus content folks, which you’ll be able to see on the Mail-Right website and YouTube channel. So, Ryan, how can people find out more about you and your company and what you’re up to?
Ryan: Thanks, Jonathan and Robert. So, we’ve created a special page for your audience. They can view it at, it’s ballantine.com/mailright and Ballantine is spelled B as in Bob, A – L -L – A – N – T – I – N – E.com/mailright. And on there, there’s a couple of offers, one being a free digital analysis via video. So, we actually do a screencast and kind of give you a walk-through of just some advice around your website and Marketing, Digital Marketing.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. Thanks. And Robert, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to, Robert?
Robert: I love this part of the show. As always, just go to, if you’re watching the brim of my hat, inboundrem.com. And if you’re not watching, if you’re just listening and you’re feeling wild and crazy, you can go to inboundrem.com. You can actually download some of the podcasts. I have gotten proactive about uploading our old episodes. I’m very excited about it.
Jonathan: Oh, thanks for that. And like I say, like Robert just said, you can also go to the Mail-Right website. There’s a library, almost 140 interviews with show notes and links. It’s literally a course in its own right. If you want to learn how to market your Real Estate business effectively in 2018, I think you should look at some of those past episodes, watch the guests. We’ve had some fantastic guests, like Ryan, that’s given great tips and insights about the possibility of Marketing your Real Estate business and getting the kind of quality leads that you’re looking for. Like I say, we’re going to close the audio part of the show now, and like I say, you’ll be able to watch the continuance of our interview with Ryan on the website and on our YouTube channel. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.