Canvassing for Independent Estate Agents – Does it Still Work?

Canvassing is dead – long live direct mail”


What’s your definition of direct mail? Thousands of leaflets, door-to-door?

If so, it’s time for a rethink.

You see, sending out leaflets in your area to every household is canvassing. It’s what pizza parlours do, and Chinese take-aways.

It’s not what a professional services company should be doing.

Instead, you should be sending out direct mail. So what’s the difference?

Leaflets get shoved through every door: direct mail is targeted at selective households.

Leaflets are delivered as they are: direct mail comes in an envelope.

Leaflets are not addressed: direct mail has the house address and sometimes the homeowner by name on the envelope.


So, leaflets and direct mail are very different.

Let’s turn our attention away from leaflets, and towards direct mail. Because leaflets don’t work, but direct mail really does.

“But why would you send snail mail when you can send emails for free, Sam?” I hear you ask.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I get around 300 emails a day. Contrast that with the 3-4 letters and leaflets each day, and which do you think gets my attention?

Email is the new junk mail.  When was the last time you got excited when you saw that email inbox notification number climb to two and three figures?

In the time since we’ve launched AshdownJones, 70% of our instructions have come from our direct mail campaigns.  It’s been the single most effective type of marketing for us, but only because I’ve spent over a decade writing and re-writing the best letters possible for our target market.


Let’s talk about your target market.

Who you choose to send your letters to is the biggest success factor of your direct mail campaign. Wrong recipient = no response. You will literally be throwing your money away, sending your lovely letters to HMOs, student houses, empty homes, or to anyone who would have no intention whatsoever of using your services.


What kind of properties do you want to list?

Trying to be all things to all people is what the corporates do. But they have bigger pockets than you do, I’m guessing.

To make your marketing spend go further, you need to go deep, not wide. That means a series of well-written, nicely designed letters in quality envelopes, to only the properties you really want to list. For us, these are the F, G and H council tax banded properties. Which are yours?

Once you’ve pinpointed the properties, streets and areas you want to focus on, it’s time to turn your attention to the message you want to deliver.

As an independent estate agent, your message should be very different from the corporates and the onlines. You need to differentiate yourself, so how are you going to do that?

The corporates will talk about brand name, coverage, reputation and size.

The onlines will position themselves as the cheapest.


What are you going to say?

Here are some core messages that as an independent agency, we feel we can deliver with confidence. Perhaps you can too:

We understand

We care

We are like you

We like you

You need us

Whatever your core message, make sure every word of your letter carries that message with clarity and purpose.

Once you have your tone and message nailed, now for the 64,000 dollar question…


What do you want them to do?

At this point, most agency owners will say they want a phone call. In a perfect world, a direct mail campaign will get your phone ringing off the hook with market appraisals.

But it’s not a perfect world. And very very few people will call you to book a valuation appointment from a cold direct mail letter.

Can you ask them to take a baby step?

What’s the easiest thing you can ask them to do, that will still give you something of value in return?

Perhaps the easiest action they can take is to like your Facebook page. But what value will that really give to you?

If a phone call to book a market appraisal is too big a step for them to take, and a Facebook like is too low in value for you invest in a direct mail campaign, then what can you ask them to do?

Here are some of the actions we’ve invited our direct mail recipients to take:

1. Visit a landing page and request a checklist, in return for their email address

2. Go to our online valuation page and submit their property

3. Email us for a sample marketing pack to be sent to them

Remember though, that no one thing works totally. Every little thing works a little bit. So you have to have a mix of approaches, and test and measure constantly. Trial, and lots and lots of error, is the best strategy here.

Ok, you know who you are trying to attract with your direct mail campaign, and what you want them to do. Now it’s time to turn to the format for your letter.


What is it going to look like?

I know direct mail specialists who swear by coloured envelopes. We use white conqueror. Both could be right for you. You can only find out by testing.

When it comes to the address though, it’s very clear that a hand-written envelope will get a better response, hands down. Add a stamp, and your letter will look like it’s come from a friend.

Now let’s turn to what’s on the inside of your envelope. And here, the evidence is very strong: long copy beats short copy, every time. Don’t be scared to make your letter two or even three pages long. Why? Because you want to have as much ‘in hand’ time as you can possibly get.  The longer someone takes to read your letter, the more likely they are to take the action you’ve asked them to take. Compare this to 15 words printed in 72-point on a postcard that takes you three seconds to read. You need an investment of time from your ideal client, for them to spend time with your words and message.


Ready, fire, aim

Time to actually create your campaign – don’t delay, you could be generating new leads and enquiries sooner than you think. And now that you’ve read the last one thousand words, you are in much better shape to create your direct mail campaign.  You know who you want to target, what message you have for them, and what your letter is going to look like.  That’s more than most estate agents will ever get.

A final word of advice: you need to systemise your mail campaigns. Whether you’re targeting on-market properties, or those not on the market, you need a schedule for sending out your letters, and to allocate the responsibility to someone – preferably not you.



A practical, step-by-step video training programme to help you get your direct mail and canvassing working for you to bring in new, quality vendor and landlord leads every time you send out a campaign.

Delivered over 6 video modules, you can work through them at your own pace, with your team, and return to them as many times as you need to, enjoying lifetime access.

Just go to my DIY Marketing Courses page where you’ll find more details of Canvassing that Converts programme and you can decide if it’s right for you.

If you’d like to ask me any questions before you go ahead, just message me here and I’ll help you make your decision. And like with all my courses, you have the complete reassurance of a 90 day money back guarantee if you don’t love it.

Sam 🙂

Canvassing for Independent Estate Agents – Does it Still Work?

What to read next: Canvassing that Converts – Your 3 Steps to Success

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