Real Estate Marketing: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

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If there is one topic that is always on the top of every real estate investor’s mind, it has to be marketing. Without a steady stream of leads we are, quite simply, out of business.

Marketing is also a topic that is debated frequently here on BiggerPockets. One of the major things discussed is, “What is the best mail piece to use in your direct mail campaigns”?

The short answer to that question is, “The one that works.”

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Different Stokes for Different Folks

When you are setting up your direct mail campaigns everything has to be tailored to that particular niche. To take that thought one step further, there are also other things that play into choosing the perfect mail piece for any specific group of individuals “or your audience” in your direct mail campaign.

Related: 10 Commandments for Your 2014 Direct Mail Campaigns

Here are a few  things to consider:

The socioeconomic status of the recipient will be important. This will have a great deal of bearing on whether or not they will be responsive to a specific mail piece. The particular problem they are having that makes it necessary to sell quickly will also be a determining factor.

A highly educated person will not respond the same way to certain mail pieces that possibly another person with a different background would. No single mail piece will be right for everyone.

This information is in no way meant to be discriminatory. It is meant to make it easier to help specific individuals by understanding what particular marketing strategies they are likely to respond to.

Tailor Your Marketing to the Recipient

There is no, one perfect mail piece or marketing message for everyone. So let’s look at some of the ways to pair mail pieces up with the recipients.

Know Your Audience

Yellow letters might work well for folks in foreclosure in certain types of neighborhoods. Will they work for someone in the same situation in a high end neighborhood? It’s very unlikely.

That particular group of folks in high end neighborhoods will be looking for something different. They want someone to help them that’s able to present themselves as a real business; one that uses a professional mail piece like a white letter. They want a “closer;” someone they can look at and know they have the resources to help them. It’s all about projecting the image your audience needs to see to get the desired result.

Remember that you just need to get in the door.

I hear from folks all the time that say, “But I want them to know I am just a regular guy; not a corporation.” When sending a white letter you can always say something like, “I own a local real estate investment company, and we have been doing business here in this area for 15 years.” You have the opportunity to portray yourself however you want to be viewed. They have to actually open the mail piece and read it though.

I strongly believe that you should only use white letters for probates. I have worked in this niche for a long time, and I hear a lot of comments from folks about receiving yellow letters and postcards. Overwhelmingly folks in probate are upset when they get either one of these mail pieces, so just don’t do it.

Yellow Letters

I have a friend that uses yellow letters with outstanding results. Her market is very well defined. She only works in inner city neighborhoods. Her letter is like a standard yellow letter in many ways, but she adds some additional text that I think is responsible for her success.

She makes it clear that she is looking for a motivated seller. One of the problems I have always had with yellow letters is that they are just too generic. “I will buy your house, as is, for cash. Call me at 000-000-0000.” There is just no indication most of the time that you are looking for a motivated seller. Personally, I am not in the phone answering business; I am in the problem-solving business so I don’t want to talk to 75 non-motivated sellers. I only want to talk to those folks that have a problem and that may be willing to sell at a deep discount.

If you can tailor your message in a yellow letter to include this type of text and you are sending it to a people that will likely be responsive to your message like she does, then you may have a home run.


Postcards work very well for many niches.  Someone that is in the foreclosure process may be embarrassed to receive a postcard offering to “help them out before their home goes into foreclosure.” You want to be careful not to invade their privacy or cause them embarrassment with the message on your postcard. Keep your message very generic and don’t mention the foreclosure or “their problem.”

In general, I have the same results with postcards as with white letters for my absentee owner mailings in my area. This may or may not be true for you in your particular area. Everything needs to be tested.

White Letters

White letters can be used for most niches. Using a white letter when you can use a postcard will cost you more money, but you have to weigh the results after testing various mail pieces in your area and in your niches.

If you are working in lower socioeconomic areas, they may be put off by a professional looking letter. This is a case where a simple yellow letter with the right text fits the audience better. You will just have to test it to see which one works best.

There are 4 Parts to A Successful Direct Mail Campaign

Successful direct mail campaigns nail each one of these things:

  • the list
  • the mail piece
  • the message
  • the mailing/campaign

It’s critical that you have a well- defined list, the correct mail piece, the right message on your mail piece and you set up a campaign or a series of letters. How long you mail to folks will be determined by the particular niche you are working in. Just remember that 85% of your deals will come at the 5th mailing and beyond. Check out these articles for more information on direct mail campaigns.

 If you’d like more information on direct mail marketing, please see:

Creating Successful Direct Mail Campaigns for Real Estate Investing

 How to Successfully Use Direct Mail In Your Real Estate Business

What kind of results are you all getting with these types of marketing campaigns? Let’s discuss in the comments below…


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. Sharon,
    Thanks for the great article. I’ve heard over and over that copy is very important to response rates. Where is the best place to find examples of good copy for various types of campaigns? I could write it up myself, but I’d be starting from scratch with no idea whether it will get a good response.

    • It will be harder to find real-estate specific examples, but if you search for “direct response copywriting” you’ll find lots of examples of successful sales letters written in other niches. AIDA format works well. The “basics” are to identify your prospect in the headline or subject, give them reasons to do business with you, and then ask them to call you or visit your site.

        • I write for RE investors at the marketing agency where I work, and I don’t know of or use any RE-specific material for “inspiration.” That’s why I told Adrian to have a look at letters in other niches if she’s thinking about writing her own. Just did a quick search to see what’s out there for RE copy samples and got a bunch of letters in other niches (and 1 or 2 in RE, nice!) 🙂

  2. Hi Sharon,

    This is one of my favorite “drilled down” articles for marketing 101 for REIs.

    Direct mail has an expense tag, and you have to be willing to pay for it AS A PERMANENT BUSINESS EXPENSE. As a newbie, making money quickly (as in 3 – 6 months) with only direct mail in a 1 – 3 frequency rate might be a huge disappointment in deal flow, even if the piece is perfect.

    Other marketing methods for a fast start such as telemarketing expireds, landlords, fsbos and listed houses following up with post cards thanking them for the phone call is another “tool” in the Motivated Seller Marketing Toolbox, as are meet up groups to help sellers and buyers sell and buy on terms, e zine articles, blogging, bird dogs, etc.

    Thanks Sharon, very clear DM piece. Love it.

    • Well thank you Brian.

      You definitely nailed it when you said that is was a “permanent business expense”. I think most people would agree that you need more than one type of lead generation. I have an article on my blog about a gal that needed money, didn’t have any money to market, so she did the hard thing; she cold called FISBO’s. She found a seller relatively quickly and made about $30k as I recall.

      Cold calling is (painful) but free. Thanks for reading.


  3. Hey Aston –

    Like I told Adrian there are at least 2 companies that I know of that are owned by active investors here on BP.

    These companies specialize in real estate marketing pieces; several types of letters and postcards. I have personally worked with a number of them over the years. I wouldn’t advise anyone to “reinvent the wheel”. That’s why we have folks that write copy. 🙂


  4. Sharon,

    This is one of the best overviews of DM. I share your passion for this kind of marketing.
    We get deals from every mailing.
    It’s always an adventure—it’s kinda like “what’s behind door number X” You just never knw what will come out of a mailing!

    I recommend your letters to others. They have been helpful for me in mixing it up a bit in my messages. Thank you for your generosity.

    • Kate –

      Yes it is. You have to be marketing all the time.

      I know some of the more “old school” investors that are very successful in their methods. They never bought a list or sent a single letter. These folks network all the time. You will also find these folks getting out of the car to go knock on doors if they see a house that is a neglected FISBO or a house that looks vacant or abandoned. They will also do that if they see really nice house that is located in an otherwise run down neighborhood that has a for sale sign in the yard. They are smart enough to know that this house is probably not going to sell at retail. These older investors can be really creative in using their “old way of marketing”.

      This just proves that these strategies still work. And the bonus is that they are free.
      Thanks for reading.



  5. Interesting to hear your insights regarding direct marketing mailings for specific groups, Sharon!

    I remember receiving these types of mailings as a landlord. Some were yellow letters, some were white letters and some were postcards. The biggest “turnoff” to me were these mail pieces were not personalized — they seemed to be saying the same thing only dictating what they can do without any knowledge about the situation and/or the properties themselves.

    To say the least, they were all “trashed” never to be looked at again. With the advent of the web, I think we’ve lost that personal touch with what has proven to work with the old way of doing business in the past.

    Just my thoughts and experience. Thanks for sharing your tips! 🙂

    • I agree completely Rachel.

      I personalize all of my mail pieces. I believe that they seem a whole lot less like “junk mail” if you mention the name of the person and the property address. It also helps to use a targeted list. For instance if you are mailing to absentee owners it makes sense to mention that they might fall into that category. Thanks for reading.


  6. Sara Cunningham on

    Sharon spot on. I also noted some people talking about personalization. This is so important. If you want your correspondence to actually get read then it needs to look like it’s not a generic mail piece. Firstly it should be addressed directly to the person you are sending it to. Secondly I always used to tell customers to use white envelopes and have their marketing company use a hand written font for the address. You can also have bulk mailing stamps used instead of a printed permit. Of course this is more expensive since you are paying for insertion of the letter. You can cut down on cost by using window envelopes then the name and address only needs to printed on the letter inside since it will show through the window. For those starting out a postcard is probably the most cost effective way. No insertion costs and postage can be cut down by keeping it to postcard size. I’m a huge fan of this method of marketing, when it done correctly.

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