Direct Mail Tip: How & Why You Should Track Your Direct Mail Marketing

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Last week I wrote about how you could save a small fortune by applying stamps to your own letters, instead of having a mail house do it for you. (99% of them will rip you off on postage, trust me on this.)

I’ve also written about how using a live stamp can make you more money versus using metered mail. (Since more people will open your letters and you’ll get more deals. If you use metered mail, more of your letters will go straight into the trashcan without ever being opened.)

And today, I want to share with you the most important direct mail lesson I ever learned, which will save you literally thousands upon thousands of dollars over the course of your real estate career.

Tracking Your Marketing

You see, one of the problems with direct mail is that someone will send out 1,000 letters of a “yellow letter” and then another 1,000 letters of a typed letter and maybe 1,000 postcards. However, they don’t track the marketing at all, so they have no idea which letter or piece of mail got them the most deals.

For instance, one time an investor may send out 1,000 letters and get 5 deals and then they’ll try another letter and get zero deals, but they won’t pay attention to which letter worked the best and they’ll still keep the “terrible” letter in their direct mail rotation.

Can you see how wasteful this is?

Sending out 1,000 letters is not cheap. If you send out a letter and get zero calls and no deals, then you should obviously never use that letter again. But if you send out a letter and get a ton of calls and deals, you know you have a winner and you should role that out to additional zip codes.

You should always be testing your letters too. Just don’t send out two letters and then pick the one that works best and use it forever. You should always be testing your current “winner” versus new letters to see if you can boost the response.

How do you track these results and determine which letter works best?

It’s easy, and there are a few ways you can do it. First off, you have a mailing list: send one letter to half the list and another letter to the other half, then keep track of which half gets the most calls.

You can also “key” each letter by using a special report. For example, every piece of direct mail should offer a special report as an incentive for sellers to give you a call. Well, when you send out the yellow letter, have Special Report A and when you send out the next letter name it Special Report B.

What I’m trying to say is, give your special report different names so that when a person calls to request a special report, you’ll know what letter they received.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter how you track your results, but never again, should you send out a letter without tracking the response. If you start to do this today, in just a few months you should be able to determine the best letter in your “arsenal” and increase the number of deals you do very quickly.

Image: Felixco, Inc. /

About Author

Jason R. Hanson is the founder of National Real Estate Investor Month and the author of “How to Build a Real Estate Empire”. Jason specializes in purchasing properties “subject-to” and has purchased millions of dollars worth of property using none of his own cash or credit.


  1. Mr Hanson, I am offended by your comment “by applying stamps to your own letters, instead of having a mail house do it for you. (99% of them will rip you off on postage, trust me on this.)”

    You may have had bad luck with certain mailhouses, but to lump everyone into the same bucket is as bad as being racist. As a Mail Service provider, I deal with a multitude of reputable mailhouses, none of which mark up or alter postage. The US Postal Service has PostalOne!, which aids accountability with visibility. Although I agree with your tracking opinions, offending mailhouses with an incorrect statement taints the rest of the message – unnecessarily so. Too bad.

  2. Hey Jason — My experience in 20 years of direct mailing completely back you up on the stamp approach. It’s more expensive and time consuming for whoever does it, but compared to not being opened? A no-brainer if ever there was one.

  3. Bliss Mitton on

    I would like to add that in judging return rates should also consider the area you mailed. A really good letter sent to an upscale 3 year old neighborhood will get poor results. Also review results by subdivision/area. Some areas will be “in play” and should be mailed more often. Other more stable areas can be kept on your standard rotation or not mailed at all depending on your budget.

    Also, try buying a mailing list of houses with 50% or more equity (cost is about 6 cents per name). You can play with the equity percentage depending on what type of deal you are looking for. This way when the seller calls he at least has the ability to make a deal.

  4. I am one who also throws metered mail in the trash most of the time, especially if the sender is completely unknown. As a former employee of a direct mail outfit, the owner was VERY shady. I did not work in a department where I could verify shady dealings, but would not doubt it for a second.

  5. Don’t forget tracking inbound calls with 3rd party services. Companies like Kall8 and IfByPhone offer phone tracking for very inexpensive – you can even integrate the more robust solutions within your website.

    In the words of Claude Hopkins – “The time has come when advertising in some hands has reached the status of a science.”

  6. How deeply do you keep track of the responses? do you keep track of the quality of calls you get or just the number of calls?

    I’ve also wondered how long do you test out a marketing piece before you mark it as “not working”?

  7. Isn’t this type of direct mail more about being in the right place at the right time. I believe someone is going to be motivated to sell you their house before they even get your letter. I seriously doubt that the words on a yellow letter will make someone a seller. The reason for changing the letter is to give the prospect a slightly different message each time to try to keep you on their mind. This is why follow up is so important. Think about how much cable & cell phone mail you get, eventually you will be deciding to change your service and you will have the company to call right there. I think it is the same with this type of marketing.

    Do you really think that when the motivated seller calls you after you have been sending him letters every 6 weeks for a year that you finally sent him a GREAT letter? Doubt it, it was just his time to sell.

    • Barbara Brennan on

      As a full-time Realtor who has used direct mail, it truly does seem to me to be a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I’ve heard in various real estate boot camps that a homeowner usually needs a minimum of 6 mailings before responding, so there is that too. As with most endeavors, it seems consistency is a good thing.

  8. John R.

    The idea of mailing out two different reports to to the same list to determine which report get more response is not accurate/reliable; only because you wouldn’t know if it was the report or if was the mare fact that it was the 2nd time they received your mailer.

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