Direct mail – or sending promotional mail to motivated house sellers – has been the go-to marketing technique since the early days of real estate investing. While the industry has moved on to adopt digital marketing on a grand scale, the relevance of these traditional techniques remains to this day. Not least of all because each of the houses being sold has its own mailbox.
The business process of real estate investors roughly follows this sequence of steps:
Direct mail marketing (sending letters, postcards, mailers, flyers, and other materials) is very important for getting leads, so real estate investors spend a lot of time trying to perfect it. We will share fourteen tips that are helpful to real estate investors who want to excel at direct mail marketing.
Officials keep public records for the properties in their county. You can base your mailing list on different types of records: tax delinquent properties list, code violation properties list, foreclosure properties list, etc. These lists are also known as motivated seller lists or real estate investor lists and they are basically your shortcut to those property owners who are motivated to sell.
In theory, you can also send your direct mail campaign indiscriminately to a list of addresses from a phone book or to an entire neighborhood. However, direct mail costs money, and if the performance of the campaign is low (the response rate is under 1% – more on this below), the return on investment (ROI) might be jeopardized.
For instance, the owner of a code violation property is more likely to pick up your mail and call you than someone who has just moved into the neighborhood. And since public records offer you lists of properties with this (or another) problem, targeting them specifically through your mailing list boosts the ROI of the campaign.
Speaking of aiming for higher ROI, you’ll also benefit from additional filtering of the motivated seller list so that it eventually becomes an optimized mailing list for your direct mail marketing. It is counter intuitive, but it’s also true: by trimming down the entries on the list, your campaign will have better ROI. How’s that?
If you reduce the number of pieces that are mailed, you cut down costs. And if you target specific types of homeowners, you’ll get a better response.
For instance, let’s say you include only vacant homes in your mailing list, because your negotiation leverage is better when you deal with landlords. Further, your filters include only two bedroom houses, because your budget doesn’t allow you to go after bigger houses. You can use more features to slash the mailing list (we examined various filtering categories in this articlehttps://adwordsnerds.com/how-to-use-real-estate-investor-lists-to-find-motivated-sellers/), but you get the point.
On top of this, when you have a defined audience, it’s easier to tailor the content of the message – and this will increase engagement.
There are many format and content options that you can use to reach homeowners in a direct mail campaign. Letters, postcards, mailers – you can go for any of them.
Letters are a traditional method that brings good results in direct mail campaigns.
The first alternative – a postcard – is cheaper, but the amount of information you can include in it is limited. How about mailers? For one, your direct mail campaign will have to compete for a place in the mailbox along with promotional materials by other businesses (subscription services, supermarkets, gym memberships, you name it). Also, where do most of the promotional mailers with glossy covers end up? In the trash, and sometimes they are scooped up in bulk from the mailbox without even having their contents checked.
So make an effort: craft a letter and put it in an envelope. This approach obliges the recipient to open the envelope and check the message inside.
The design of envelopes for direct mail is a tricky subject because real estate investors can really test out all kinds of designs. If you hire an agency to do direct mail for you, they will probably offer you dozens of options. Which one should you choose? Well, you can use many different designs, particularly if you want to do split testing to find out which design works best.
Apart from the graphic design of direct mail envelopes, (which is best when tackled by a professional), features like size, color, or font (for the address) are easy to customize. And, yes, a change in the color of the paper (yellow or white) can affect the performance of the campaign – yellow paper sparks curiosity in recipients, if the color of the letter is visible through the envelope (this is common wisdom).
Design works best when it’s basic or when it’s related to current events. At least one direct mail agency reported good results from sending their letters in fake priority mail envelopes when people were expecting stimulus checks from the government.
As you may well know, writing to homeowners is not an easy task. While some real estate investors focus their discussions on the use of fonts (handwritten or regular), the content itself plays a crucial role.
Less is more in direct mail copywriting. Delve straight into the point, or how you’ll solve the issue that a motivated seller is facing. Three elements are essential for writing a good copy:
Depending on the type of deals you are after, you can have a different copy for each category of homeowners on the list. This requires the adequate planning of campaigns, though, because you don’t want to mix up the recipients of the message.
Another pro advice on copywriting would be to include helpful information. Now, this might not work best for letters, but if you choose to send postcards or mailers, adding something of value might make the recipient keep the mailer instead of throwing it away. Including a printed calendar is one example, but you can also add a short guide on upcoming local events (like sports, concerts, restaurants openings, or similar) that are scheduled for the next couple of months.
You are buying houses from motivated sellers, so you probably don’t expect that one single letter (or postcard or mailer) will convince them to call your real estate investing company right away. It’s not impossible, but you’ll certainly increase your chances if you try harder. Manage the direct mail campaign in a way that will allow you regular presence in the mailbox.
Moderation is key in this regard. You don’t want to send one letter and then disappear from the radar, but you also don’t want to overwhelm motivated sellers with a new campaign each week.
Common wisdom is to send a direct mail campaign once a month over a three-month period. If you send letters to several different markets, you can alternate your campaigns (for example, this week send letters to market no.1, next week to market no.2, etc.).
Having your direct mail sent more than once will compound the effect of the campaign, regardless of whether the goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about your real estate investing company or if you are looking for hot leads.
Real estate investors who’ve dealt with the market for years know that the inventory of houses is not the same throughout the whole year. That’s because families tend to move after the end of the school year or before the new school year starts (i.e. during the summer). So, generally speaking, in months like May, June, or August, there is a surge in houses for sale.
The statistics support this real estate market dynamic, and if you look closely, you’ll also note that November traditionally boasts a high inventory of houses as well (possibly related to the end of the fiscal year and the collection of taxes).
Does this imply that you should start a direct mail campaign before the summer, like in March or April? You can ramp up the marketing in these months, but keep in mind that selling a house is a big decision. Also, sometimes, families choose to move houses in the summer, but they prepare for it throughout the whole year.
Spread out your direct mail campaign throughout the year, but don’t forget to double down during the periods of high activity on the market, either.
For real estate investor entrepreneurs, it all comes down to numbers. As we mentioned above, homeowners on a mailing list receive direct mail, some of them call to become leads, and some of those leads end up as houses under contract.
So the number you are looking for to assess the performance of a direct mail campaign is the response rate. The more property owners respond to your call to action (call your office), the more closed deals you get. A response rate of 1% is considered a success for direct mail campaigns. This means that out of 100 letters sent in the campaign, one property owner calls your office.
In rare instances, you can get a response rate of 2%, which is great. On the other hand, if the response rate is below 1%, that’s an indicator that you need to tweak some element in your campaign.
There’s no way around it – if you want to have reliable metrics, you have to send a series of 1,000 pieces of mail or more. This is the best way to gather relevant feedback on the campaign in terms of the response rate.
Let’s say you want to save on marketing and you send only 50 letters in the campaign. If, for whatever reason, 8 homeowners call you from those 50 you contacted, this will provide a misleading response rate. When you take inaccurate response rate as a baseline, your expectation from the next direct mail campaign will be skewed. Your decision-making will be affected by this, and you might spend money or lose deals because of it.
In digital marketing, you press a button and that’s it – the transmission of your campaign has started. Direct mail campaigns take place in the physical world, and time is an important factor.
The delivery of your REI direct mail depends on a complex parcel delivery infrastructure, usually handled by the US Post Office. Delays are a common occurrence and sometimes they can’t be avoided. So, when you assess the effect of your campaign, don’t expect the results to be immediately evident.
Also, check if all the mail was delivered to its intended addresses or not. Those real estate investors who buy mailing lists from data companies might have up to 20% addresses on the list that are undeliverable for various reasons. If this is the case for your campaign, you can save money on your next series by eliminating these incorrect addresses from the list.
It’s kind of obvious, but it still deserves a mention: sometimes, the success of direct mail marketing doesn’t depend on the elements of the campaign. You can tweak the design of the envelope or try a different writing copy, and still not get a good result if another big factor affects your marketing as a real estate investor.
For instance, a downturn in the economy, or the crisis we are in, warrant alternative approaches to marketing in general. These circumstances might work in your favor, too. When the mortgage forbearance and eviction moratorium are finally lifted, that will likely boost response rates to your real estate investing direct mail.
Maybe it took a while, but both digital marketers and traditional marketeers have started to learn from each other. Digital marketing offers real estate businesses the ultimate testing opportunity where you can gauge reactions to different designs (colors, buttons, placement of elements and such) in real time.
Direct mail works slower than it’s digital counterparts (like email marketing), but Google ad campaigns or Facebook ad campaigns are also forms of direct marketing.
We examined some of these common features in another article, and your business will benefit from learning some lessons that work for both direct mail and online marketing (the whole gamma of it).
Wait a minute. Did we just share all those tips on REI direct mail with you, only to refer you to a professional marketeer? Yes, we did. Bear with us.
If you have enough time on your hands, you can create and manage a direct mail campaign on your own, there is no doubt about it. Once you have a finished envelope design and a written copy, you can print the direct mail at a cheap price – probably cheaper than the offers you’ll get from marketing companies.
The issue is: lack of experience. Direct mail marketers, especially those who’ve worked with real estate investing campaigns for years, can give you valuable input. Whether it’s the design of the envelope, the quality of the copy, the color of the paper, or the font of the letters, you’ll gain access to expert advice on these and many other aspects of the campaign.
Professional marketers have metrics derived from constant testing, and they can tell you what works and what doesn’t. You can use these tips to make informed decisions when you talk to a professional.
It’s best if you have a fixed marketing budget before you start a campaign. Seasoned real estate investors know this, but it can be new info for beginners. When you run direct mail along with Google ads and search engine optimization for your website, the costs quickly add up.
Also, don’t expect tit for tat, i.e. a guaranteed number of deals to come out of a direct mail campaign. Real estate investing is not an industrial process where you put x dollars into the machine to get y amount on the other end of the cycle. Sometimes, the money you invest in marketing yields results months down the line, so keep this in mind and be patient.
There you go, a host of tips on creating a successful direct mail campaign for real estate investors. The biggest dilemma is probably whether to hire a professional agency or to do it yourself. Both options are good, with the following caveat: the former will cost more money, and the latter will take up much more of your time.
Many elements determine the performance of direct mail marketing when you reach out to motivated sellers. Things like getting hold of a mailing list, filtering the recipients of your campaign, the design and copy of the mail itself, and the timing, all contribute to finding new leads.
Take these useful tips and start crafting your own direct mail campaign. They work if you go for a marketing agency and they work if you do it alone.
Reputation is everything in real estate. It takes hard work to build a good reputation, and even the slightest blunder can ruin it. And, today, with social media (and the internet in general), it’s really easy to check the track record of a specific company, your real estate investing business included. To help you create
Artificial intelligence (AI) brings disruptive innovation across industries, but will it ever transform real estate deals as we know them? Opinions vary, and since real estate investing is five to ten years behind the curve on trends in digital marketing (and adoption of software in general), we will have to wait for a conclusive answer