Facebook and Direct Mail

6 Reasons Facebook Hasn’t Yet Killed Direct Mail

I got a big surprise in the mailbox yesterday. The cover of Auctioneer, the auction industry’s international trade journal, teased a story about the Auction Technology Specialist (ATS) program. Since I was on the panel that rewrote the curriculum for ATS and have been one of the instructors of the course since last summer, I was excited to see the coverage.

The surprise, though, came in the opening paragraphs of the article, when it was declared that the instructors had ditched all print media and used print advertising only to prove to sellers that it was a waste of advertising dollars.

You’d be surprised, too, if—on the same day you read that story—you had also designed three different postcards for one of those instructors and had consulted about a brochure with the other instructor. In fact, I designed 139 postcards last year for Grafe Auction, the company used as the case study throughout the course. Plus 15 already in 2016 (more than I have for any other client).

John Schultz, Robert Mayo, and I spend the vast majority of the course talking about digital media and analytics of all media. So, I understand if direct mail might seem like a tumbleweed ghost town to the casual observer.

I make money creating advertising for both Facebook and direct mail. Facebook is the biggest innovation in advertising ever. I truly believe that and am thankful for the times it bails me out of tough strategy situations with my clients. While Facebook collects a mind-boggling amount of data about its users, there are still audiences it can’t reach that direct mail can.

Your In-House Bidder, Banker, or Attorney Lists

Sure, you can email your registered bidders, biggest hitters, and referral agents; but we all know that direct mail is more disruptive. It has to be physically touched at least once, even to be tossed in the garbage. While Facebook can match 40-50% of your email addresses, that leaves 50-60% in limbo. With email open rates averaging in the 15-25% range, are you willing to take the chance that a number of your proven prospects won’t be bidding?

Acreage Owners (Including Absentee Owners)

I can buy direct mail lists of people who own specific amounts or ranges of acreages in many locations around the country. This is a critical list for farm real estate auctioneers—both in acquiring new sellers and in appealing to farmers looking to buy more land. Facebook doesn’t have any data remotely close to this category.

Owners of Fishing & Hunting Licenses

Facebook can give me fans of Realtree and Mossy Oak, Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s. I can tap into lists of people who like kayak fishing, bow hunting, and trophy whitetail deer. If I want people with actual hunting or fishing licenses, though, I have to use direct mail. Also, since Facebook doesn’t allow the overt advertisement of guns and ammo, you’re going to need other disruptive media to advertise those wares.

Every Door Direct Mail

If your property needs the attention of everyone on a United States Postal Service (USPS) mail route, Facebook can’t match direct mail. No digital or other print media can, actually. With some ingenuity (that my mail house uses) this USPS tool can be expedited to almost first class delivery times.

SIC Code Businesses

Facebook can match a lot of professional roles—more than any medium I’ve found. What it can’t grab yet are businesses. For instance, today I was working on a proposal for a self-storage facility. I can get a direct mail list of those; Facebook didn’t have that category for entities, employers, or professions.

Chamber of Commerce Members

Facebook can’t tell you who takes part in offline groups like Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, or other trade associations. If you’re lucky, you might have access to your group’s email database, but that’s usually not an option. Since most groups don’t have daily or weekly (or even monthly) print publications, how do you reach those movers and shakers?  Hint: it rhymes with “correct sail.”

As my clients and industry peers can tell you, I’m an evangelist for almost everything in the ATS course. It was a game-changer for my business and for the firms I serve every day. The part it didn’t change, though, is my belief that a tactile medium holds more value than ever in a digital world. For me and my clients—including both of my fellow ATS instructors—Facebook and direct mail are complimentary tools, not zero-sum competitors.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

1 comment

  • Adam Kielsmeier

    Very good post, thank you. To clarify on the issue of firearms (and ammo) and Facebook, it is only private sales that are prohibited. Many of us who auction firearms also hold FFL’s, and are so allowed to advertise firearms and ammunition on Facebook. I feel FB’s new firearm policy has actually helped FFL-holders by eliminating the competition of private sales; our ads stand out more. Regards, Adam

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