All Hail, Snail Mail: Why a Hip, Young, Digitally Savvy RIA Is Sending Mailers to Prospects

With stamps and hand-addressed envelopes, Taylor Schulte of Define Financial is using a personal touch to tap into the power of the inbox that long preceded Outlook and Gmail.

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

Taylor Schulte, who owns a fee-only RIA based in San Diego, is doing something perplexing next week. In the thick of summer, and at the beginning of the slowest five-week period in finance, he’s sending out mailers to prospective clients.

You read that correctly. Schulte is mailing would-be clients information about his firm, Define Financial, to inform them of investment and planning strategies and pitch them on his services.

“When was the last time you received a high-quality piece of content in the mail that wasn’t trying to get you to go to a seminar or buy an annuity?” he asked.

To be clear, Schulte is no Luddite. The surfer is active on Twitter, has two podcasts – including “Experiments in Advisor Marketing” – and a website optimized to appear in front of anyone searching for an advisor in San Diego. He considers himself an amateur marketer, but creative and willing to take risks.

Email campaigns that share valuable information over time and eventually prompt recipients to act have proved successful for Schulte. So now he’s trying them in physical form.

Define Financial is sending four mailers inspired by things Schulte wrote and published on his website. The content is largely the same, but tweaked for print and made visually alluring by a graphic designer he hired.

Each recipient will get one mailer per week beginning Aug. 5. The first includes a cover letter and educational material about donor advised funds. The others will go out every Monday, so they land in mailboxes either Tuesday or Wednesday, the days with the lightest mail. The last mailer will offer recipients the opportunity to set up a call with Define Financial.

The mailers are going out to 50 homes worth between $2 and $5 million near Define Financial’s office, which is a 13-minute drive from Torrey Pines Golf Course. Schulte said he used the real estate brokerage service Redfin to find the address and then had his intern scrape property records for names of residences.

Along with a stamp, Schulte thinks a hand-written name and address will improve the chances of someone opening up the mailer and paying any attention to it.

“This is an experiment so I wanted to be careful about putting too much time into the strategy and developing it,” Schulte said.

All-in, the project cost about $2,000 and several hours of work. The cost to print the mailers, the paper clips to hold them together (which the paper-light office didn’t have) and stamps came out to about $1,500. The graphic designer’s fee was $500.

Define Financial has a $1 million investment minimum and those prospects typically require $4,000 or more in marketing dollars before they become a client, according to Schulte. But he won’t consider this experiment a failure should no recipients become customers.

“If I can just get one person to take action and reach out to me and say ‘thank you’ I’ll consider it a success. Can I get someone to take action through a mail campaign?”

The experiment could prove to be a waste of time and money but marketers say Schulte might be onto something.

“I’m very curious to see if it works out for him. It’s a counterintuitive strategy, which makes me think it could work,” said Victor Gaxiola, the co-founder and head of marketing of TechGirl Financial, a wealth management firm in San Jose, Calif.

Investors, like everyone else, just aren’t excited about getting email anymore, Gaxiola said. At the advent of email, there was novelty in getting a digital letter from a friend. But that time is long gone. Inboxes are flooded with marketers’ bait, newsletters and receipts.

“It’s not a digital piece that is forgettable. It’s the very reason why we still send out birthday cards to our clients,” Gaxiola said. “It takes nothing to send an email.”

Print mailers can be effective if done the right way, said Kelly Waltrich, the chief marketing officer at NorthStar Financial Services Group, the parent company of Orion Advisor Services, FTJ FundChoice and CLS Investments. When her company occasionally sends one, it pays close attention to the size, color and materials.

Anything that adds value and sticks out won’t likely be automatically tossed away, Waltrich said.

“What are the things that you keep? They are the things that add value that have staying power.”

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