Certain Death of Your Real Estate Investing Business

by | BiggerPockets.com

Do you know what the one thing is that will cause certain death of your real estate investing business? I can tell you what it is; a lack of leads. Leads are the life blood of your business; without them your business will wither and die. Consistent and focused marketing is the only way to get that steady stream of leads.

Jump Starting Your Marketing

There are probably dozens of ways that you can jumpstart your marketing. It has been my experience that most successful real estate investors regularly use more than one strategy. In my business, direct mail is my number one source of motivated sellers. I have a system for getting it done, and therefore I have great results with direct mail

I am committed to making some changes in my marketing for the upcoming year, and I would like to challenge you to “up your marketing game” by adding at least one new marketing strategy each month for the next 12 months. Now I know the thing that comes to mind is “that’s going to be a lot of work”. You can be sure that this will involve some work, but the results will be more than worth it. In the upcoming year, I also plan to work smarter (rather than harder) and figure out how to outsource some of these additional marketing activities.

Here are a couple of things you can do without spending a lot of money.

  • You can post “We Buy Houses Ad” on Craig’s List.
  • Attend real estate auctions and network with other real estate investors. This is a great place to find out who’s is buying multiple houses each month.
  • Attending estate sales is another way to get leads on property. Spend a couple of Saturday mornings a month going to these sales. Often the property is going to be sold as well as the belongings. Make them an offer that includes finishing the clean out of the house when the sale is over. I’ve said before; there is always “something else” sellers want other than the cash.

Get Creative with Your Direct Mail Campaigns

When we are entering probates into our database each month, there are about a dozen or so probate attorneys that come up consistently as the person who is in charge of settling the estate. Probate attorneys are a great source of leads. Compile a list of these folks and send them an introductory letter as well as a follow up letter every few months. You want them to remember you when they have an estate property that needs work or just some serious updating.

Who else would be a candidate for a direct mail campaign? Think of someone that could send you leads and drop them a line.

Do more “driving for dollars”

I have to admit that I have fallen down on the job where this is concerned so here is what I plan to do from now on. Whenever I am out looking at property, I plan to spend at least an additional 30 minutes to an hour driving for dollars. It’s sort of like killing two birds with one stone.

If you are lucky enough to see the postman, trash collector, pest control person or other person that spends their days in the field, stop and ask them if they would be interested in earning some extra cash by giving you a call if they see a vacant or abandoned property. Today I’m going to put a whole box of business cards in my car so that I am always ready.

Magnetic Car Signs

I’ll admit right up front that I’m not a big fan of these magnetic car signs when it comes to putting them on my car. But can you think of someone that would be willing to do this for a tank of gas a month? They’re driving around anyway and a lot of folks don’t mind the signs.

Other Ideas

Maybe you could have some apparel with logos on it. How about suiting up with a polo shirt or a ball cap with “We Buy Houses” on it the next time you go out to run errands or attend a ball game?

Join your local Board of Realtors as an affiliate and get to know these guys. It’s pretty easy to find out who the folks are that deal with distressed properties and get to know them. Networking with these folks will let them get to know you. Buy the way, this works for almost any type of business. Realtors buy things from and use all types of services from folks just like you and me.

How Can You Keep From “Falling Off the Wagon?

Marketing your business should be your number one activity. Remember that without leads, you have no business. The most important thing I could tell you is this:

  • Schedule Your Marketing; Live By Your Calendar

Online tools are great, by nothing beats having a giant wall calendar staring you in the face every day. Have your marketing activities scheduled in advance for at least the next 3 months. I guarantee this one thing will change your business.

Last but not least, be patient. Change takes time. But if you work the plan every day, you will see big changes in your business; guaranteed!

Photo: Justin Henry

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. Great post Sharon! I am just starting to get into direct mail marketing and I’m curious as to what your preferred mail piece is… postcards? yellow letters? Being new to this type of marketing, of course I’ve got the “Is this really going to be worth the money?” question running through my head. Any advice you can give a direct mail newbie?

    As for my RE background, I’ve been a buy and hold landlord for 12 years and I’ve bought almost all of my rental properties off of the MLS. I’ve recently branched out into wholesaling and fix-and-flips. These strategies seem to require a much larger discount, which is why I’m starting to market for motivated sellers via direct mail. I’ve recently put up about 100 bandit signs and have taken about 20 calls. I’ve made some new investor contacts but have not yet done a deal, although I’m feeling that one is bound to come soon.

    In any case, any input you can give would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again!

    • Jerry – Direct mail is my biggest source of leads by far. It’s not unusual to talk to 20 or more sellers to find a really good deal, so don’t get discouraged. I have some statistics on my blog about direct mail results. I don’t remember them exactly, but it tells what percentage of your DEALS

  2. Jason Grote

    Sharon, this is pure revelation concerning our business! I have lived in heavy marketing and I have lived in absolutely no marketing. Can I say that the times of no marketing nearly put me out of business! Once I realized this important principle, my business has flourished. Lead generation is where it’s at!

    • Hi Jason-

      Absolutely. If folks don’t learn anything else this year it should be that the lack of continued and focused marketing will definitely put you out of business. Take some action every day to market your business before emai, before facebook, before anything else. The results after one year will be remarkable.

  3. Sorry about that Jerry.

    Direct mail is my biggest source of leads by far. It’s not unusual to talk to 20 or more sellers to find a really good deal, so don’t get discouraged. I have some statistics on my blog about direct mail results. I don’t remember them exactly, but it tells what percentage of your DEALS come after each mailing, but something like 85% of your deals come at the 5th mailing and beyond. This is what you have to understand; it’s all about the repetition that makes it successful

    For probates, I only use white computer generated letters (handsigned and hand addressed), with white envelopes. I also used letters for absentee owners until about 18 months ago. when I started using postcards. I think they are fine for absentee owners. I don’t use yellow letters.

    So to answer your first question, “is it worth the money”? Absolutely!!

  4. It is always good to keep the funnel filled with new prospects even if you do not currently have anything. I usually place a sign on the property and let a few key people know I have a house for sale and the news gets around. Both are very inexpensive advertising.

  5. Excellent write-up, Sharon!

    It’s great to hear your success with direct marketing which matches your philosophy of being “consistent” and “focused.” I think the key is to find something that works for each person, whatever it may be and that definitely takes a lot of trial and error.

    When I first got started in real estate investing, I must have tried every marketing method out there. (I’ve actually tried out every method on the list here!) Through experience, I learned what worked for me and my personality which ended up being out in the field in front of people everyday. Ever since that revelation, I’ve put my effort into doing exactly that and it’s produced results.

    Definitely good advice to give to folks about trying out different methods. For those who are not seeing immediate results, it could just be a matter of finding out the best methods that work.

    Thanks for sharing!

    p.s. Oh, I definitely remember the car sign magnet. It was more of a conversation starter for folks than a lead generator. Had too many people coming up to me in parking lots just wanting to talk whether it be about real estate or other subjects. Though it didn’t work for me, I’ve heard it’s worked for others! 🙂

    • Hey Rachel –

      It’s great to hear from you. I definitely think that everyone has to figure out what works for them. For you, getting out in front of folks at the parks is a great way to build your business. It’s kind of like having a captive audience in a room. While that wouldn’t work for me, I can see that it is perfect for you.

      Marketing is always trial and error; each person’s business is different and will therefore will require different strategies. The main thing is to always be trying things and to continue testing. You also have to be ready to make changes as needed.

      I did a test with the car signs. I had someone put them on their vehicle for about 6 months. It wasn’t an effective strategy for me either. I think possibly you need a high end vehicle wrap for best results.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Hi Brian –

      Wholesalers and rehabbers definitely need to spend more time marketing. But in all honesty, I don’t know a single real estate investor that doesn’t need to be doing some type of marketing for deals even if it is just networking and marketing “themselves”. People have to know about you before they can send you a lead on a great house.

    • Jason Grote

      Sorry, that is an inaccurate statement. I can’t think of a single aspect of real estate investing that does not begin with some sort of lead generation.

      Agents must market for clients. Then when they go to sell they use the MLS = marketing

      Money lenders have to market their services to investors.

      Buy n’ hold, rehab, flip, and any other exit strategy begins with SOMEONE marketing for a lead. There is no acquisition of real estate without marketing. You may not have marketed, but someone marketed you! Otherwise, how does a seller find their buyer? How does a buyer make themselves available to the seller? MARKETING!

    • Brandon –

      I would love to accept the challenge. We are doing this in my mastermind group.

      By now you can get one of those big old office depot calendars for 2013, and some of them are 15 month calendars. I am working on my year (2013) already. When I get more of it done, I will do a blog post and take some pictures.

      Get your calendar and start wrting down everything you do regularly like REIA meetings. Then decide on your maketing, and put those steps down week by week. Just do that for everything. You can always email me if you want to “report in”. Good luck.


    • Ryan –

      You have to put the property under contract once you decide it’s a deal. it’s imperative that you know what your exit strategy is; wholesale it, rehab it, or keep it for a rental. You have to know what you intend to do with it the day you buy it.

      There is a ton of information here on BP. I also have a getting started section for folks that are new on my blog.

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