Real estate direct mail marketing is being used by many investors, but there is a big difference between doing it and doing it well. I have made some mega expensive mistakes over the past few years and will be sharing what I learned during this process. Even with those mistakes in place, direct mail marketing has been my #1 source for generating new motivated seller leads and keeps my pipeline full of motivated sellers. So why direct mail? Statistics recently released by the USPS shows that 39% of households find advertising mail interesting, compared to 9% for e-mail advertising and 3% for telemarketing. USPS research also shows that mail doesn’t get screened as aggressively as e-mail is filtered. Launching a successful direct mail campaign isn’t as easy as printing and stuffing a few envelopes; it requires planning, consistency and expertise. Just because you’re spending money and sending out letters doesn’t mean that your campaign is actually working to it’s full potential. So consider implementing some of these useful tricks that I have learned from researching and implementing different combinations in my own real estate direct mail marketing campaigns.
Nothing can be more detrimental to the success of your campaign than the quality of the list. I mean, it seems obvious to say that if you are mailing on Friday to people who lost their home on Monday, you’re a little late to the table right? I would say the number one most important factor in a successful campaign is the list, so if you’re mailing to the wrong people or to an outdated list with bad data, chances are good that your campaign won’t be a success. You have to reach sellers who are motivated, and there is definitely some finesse to that. Here are a few helpful tips:
1. What is going to motivate your Seller – I personally try to find a seller with multiple “motivations”, and by doing this I tend to have a higher response rate. When I say multiple motivations I am referring to somebody who, for instance, is an absentee owner that is also behind on taxes. An even bigger bonus might be, an absentee owner that is behind on taxes, and the property is vacant. Generally taxes are escrowed with a house payment, but some landlords choose not to escrow their taxes, and begin to fall behind. If you couple landlord behind on taxes with a vacant property – you may have just found an even better motivated seller prospect!
2. Getting the list – I use a combination of building my own list and purchasing others. Building my own list gets expensive, but having a top notch list is a coveted asset. I have a phenomenal virtual assistant that works for me from the Philippines, and builds a fresh list from the county clerks office daily. I have to pay for my VA and the access to the county clerks office, but those are some of my absolute best lists. In comparison it costs about 5 times more for me to build those lists than buying them, but the quality of my leads received are far greater. Often the lists you buy from other sources are older, and have already been advertised to so much your chances of securing a good deal gets slim.
Even with all of that said there are some lists I still buy because I just don’t have the resources to build them on my own. Some examples of lists I buy are vacant properties and 30/60/90 day late mortgages. When purchasing a mailing list from a broker you can often customize mailing lists based on a variety of criteria – but be sure the broker is trustworthy and reputable. Also, be sure to ask what the “deliverability guarantee” is. Typically, it’s 93%.
Get Your Mail Opened
Almost 44% of direct mail is thrown away unopened. Some of the following steps will cost you more time or money upfront, but if you double your open rate it actually results in a lower cost per piece because more mail is actually opened. Follow these simple steps to achieve a 99% open rate:
1. Hand write the Address – Doing this spikes curiosity, and entices the recipient to know what’s inside. Just think about it, with printers so readily available, hand printed envelopes are “rare”. Seeing a hand printed envelope means somebody took the time to sit down and write this out, and creates a feeling of importance and is proven to increase the odds of your mail being opened by 300% or more! Hand write both the mailing address and the return address – and I often don’t use a return address unless I plan to skip trace the bounced letters. Not using a return address leaves people wondering who sent it, and almost guarantees it is opened.
2. Use Peel and Stick Stamps – First class stamps cost more than metered bulk mail, but the stamp creates a personal touch that, when coupled with the handwritten envelope, creates an irresistible mail piece just screaming “open me”.
3. Dump the white envelope – Use off size envelopes and random colors. I often use purple envelopes, or manila clasp envelopes that are 6×9 in size. These really attract attention, honestly it looks just like a birthday card or invitation. If it’s a really hot prospect and you just want to make that impression, try using a package, such as a first class priority box from USPS that will not fit in the mail box, and throw a pen in the box with the offer. A friend of mine, Jason Roberts, recommended I try this with a campaign I was running and it worked out great! All in all what your attempting to do is make your mailing stand out so much that everything else in their hand gets put to the side so they can open your mailing first.
Ok, So they read your letter, Now you need them to respond
It’s all in the letter. When I started my probate marketing I was getting responses, but not the kind I wanted. Even though my letter worked well for other campaigns obviously my letter was not sending the right message for this one. I spent months refining the letter till finally I started getting the right calls. I recall receiving one very specific call after my last revision of the letter where the Executor of the Estate was just calling to say how much they liked our letter in comparison to the others. Even though that Executor wasn’t planning on selling the house they still called just to say “thank you” for delivering a nice mail piece. Getting your mail responded to starts with a list, and then moves towards the packaging, but the final part is a crucial one. Here are some key tips to closing the sale by using some proven sales copy methods.
1. It’s all about the Sale – I prefer to keep my letters to no more than one page. I have used many sales tactics in the past, such as yellow letters, hand written letters, fancy wedding paper, but ultimately after several years, I have narrowed it down to a business professional letter that is hand signed and printed on a 30 lb paper. In my sales copy I incorporate all all the tips below.
2. Your headline better land the deal – The headline will be the first thing read. I spent almost just as much time on that short blurb as I do on the whole page, and no – my headline isn’t “We Buy Houses”. Try getting creative, pinpoint a problem they have and offer a solution if they read your letter. Many people will not want to spend the time to read the rest of your letter so be sure to use bold sub-headlines for each paragraph of your letter. Use headlines that summarize the paragraph targeting key points that will resonate with your seller. Basically, if someone looked at your letter and read only the headlines and sub-headlines, they should be convinced to go ahead and give you a call. Here is a great article that talks about dual readership path, and I would highly recommend taking the time to read it.
3. Focus on the sellers, not on you – When writing your letter think less about the “features you offer” and more about how those features help your seller. For instance instead of saying “We buy houses, fast cash closings” say “How would it feel to have a known Guaranteed sales date without the need for a bank?”. The second headline delivered the same message, but focused on how that helps the customer and less on the feature itself. When you find yourself listing out features, try to recompose the message to portray benefits. It works far better for engaging the seller.
4. Make a risk-free offer – I do this in two different ways. First I always offer to give the seller a free estimated value of their home if they give me a call, and second I offer them an educational download from my website. If I can get them to call me about a offer then I might be able to talk to them about a sale,and if they go to my website for the report, then I can capture their contact info via a squeeze page.
5. Don’t forget the P.S. – While your headline is the #1 most read part of a letter, readers will often skip directly to the P.S. – make sure this resonates with the seller. I sometimes use a call to action, or a pretty hard dose of reality. For instance, on my pre-foreclosure mailings, I put – PS Your home will be sold at the 5/7/15 foreclosure auction. That sentence is in bold, and very hard to ignore.
6. Use their name – I always use mail merge (Google for more info) to personalize my letters. I always address the sellers in the opening of the letter and reference the property address within the first sentence.
7. Always Include a website – I noticed a big upswing in response when I started including my squeeze pages in my letters. It seems like many sellers are nervous or embarrassed about their situation, and filling out a web form is just simpler for them. I have used websites like Lead Pages to create my squeeze pages, and they convert sellers very well. Consider giving the seller a good reason to visit your site. If you are mailing probates, offer an article explaining the probate process, or if mailing notice of defaults try a foreclosure guide. When prospects respond to your free offer online, you can collect their contact information – and then try to make direct contact with them to discuss the sale of their home.
Here are a few more strategies to ensure that your mailings are working as effectively as possible!
1. Test and track your direct mail – When someone calls, or fills out a form online, always ask how they heard about you. I place a small snippet in the footer of my letters with a code so I can track what mail piece my seller is calling about. Something like “NOD2.1” or “P3.4”. This tells me Notice of Default letter 2 version 1, or Probate letter 3 version 4. Documents these mailings and you will ultimately start finding clear winners.
2. Don’t give up to soon – It seems to be pretty consistent across the marketing world that your best response rate will be around the 7th contact. Just because they didn’t call you the first time doesn’t mean stop trying. Try and try again using different mailing versions and finally you may get the response you want.
3. Create a Marketing Schedule – Don’t just send 50 letters once and say it didn’t work. This is a business and needs a game plan in place to keep the wheels turning. Plan it out in an Excel doc or something that’s easy for you to keep up with. Prioritize your month with key deadlines and number of marketing pieces, craigslist ads posted, or other key variables that need to be completed every month to keep you on track.
Time to wrap it up
I know for many people who are looking at this you are saying – “wow that’s a LOT of work” or “I don’t have time for that”, but imagine if it tripled your response rate, and therefore your deal flow? I know I used to send out 20k postcards a month, and I get more calls a month now sending just 3k letters for a smaller cost.
If this sounds like more of a chore than you can handle, a company I recommend using, and is very reasonably priced, is Think Ink Marketing. They can provide all of the services above and have a respectable turn around time. I must give credit where credit is due, Think Ink Marketing helped guide my current campaigns and much of what I write is from what I have learned from them. My conversion rates have gone way up, and my marketing costs have gone down.
Photo Credit: Main Photo