Direct mailers not receiving expected returns

14 Replies

Hey everybody,

So my girlfriend and I recently started our direct mail campaign to an absentee list we got off listsource.

1st touch consisted of small yellow postcards provided by We added ourselves on the list to make sure when they were sending out and how long it took to get them. Not sure what happened but we never got them and only received 5 calls of a list of 712. We brushed it off and kept going.

2nd touch consisted of completely hand written yellow letters and envelopes. We still received the same return. 

Our 3rd touch will consist of a typed letter ourselves and how the home owner can benefit from selling to us. We'll be getting ready to send these by the end of June.

None of the calls we received we motivated sellers. They all wanted 5-10% even 20% above market value.

Is it possible the list is worn out? How often does something like happen to other investors? How could I get around it? 

Thanks guys, we really appreciate the help. More than half of our income goes into our real estate investing and we feel stuck and lost.

Any large metro area such as Miami will have exhausted lists for the most part. Maybe try and hit a different demographic. You could be filtering Listsource wrong. I usually pull high equity properties of an older demographic. Study @Michael Quarles . I study his business often and he puts out great free content. 

Hey Jonathan, I'm having a same problem as you! My first mailing campaign was a list of 1450 absentee owners and I only heard back from two. I actually got pretty lucky since one of the response turned out to be a highly motivated probate case. It's being processed right now.

I talked with another wholesaler at REIA the other day and problem is, rather than the list being worn out, these absentee owners are receiving multiple postcards or yellow letters from multiple different wholesalers. Bottom line: it all comes down to who among these wholesalers has the most professional and credible looking mail piece.

You can definitely try a different mail piece. Or keep on mailing the same list you have now as in some cases you'll get responses after having mailed 3,4 times to the same people. 

Another option would be, as Chris here mentioned, a high equity older demographic list. Personally this is the approach that I'll be taking for my next direct mail campaign starting next week. Good luck!

Sorry to hear you aren't having the success you expected, in my humble opinion successful marketing campaign isn't just a good list and good mail peace, its a little bit of everything. Here are some important bullet points.

  • Pretty awesome list, know exactly what you are target and who you are targeting.
  • Very professional looking letter. Imagine some one looking at all the junk mail, what makes your peace STAND OUT? Ask yourself this before sending it out. (hint, hand written letters will always stand out).
  • Friendly, yet professional phone message - Alot of people who are doing these campaigns aren't full time in real estate and their voice mail goes as generic, 'hey this is Robert, leave a msg, i will call back'. Why not set up a new number for just your mail peace and have a very specific message recorded and call back every missed call on this new number until you speak with some one?
  • Price of list & letter - This is important because most of people have limited budget and i have seen investors paying as much as 50 cents a record on list and as low as less than a penny. What is the right price? Who knows, but they key is to not get excited and over spend on these two items. You can send more peaces for same amount, if you negotiate these two items better.

If it still doesn't work, trouble shoot your campaign. Send a different type of letter to same list, and you will get an idea if its a little or the mail peace.

At the end, there are only 2 things you are doing to have some one call you, good list & good mail peace, there isn't much that can go wrong. Obviously, your professional phone is extremely important when you do get anyone to call you.

Good luck and i hope this helps :)

I agree with @Mohit Madaan (except that it's a mail 'piece'). 

There are so many factors. Your marketing ought to be considered a system, too.

For starters, I'm not aware of a single metro U.S. that isn't saturated with new marketers trying to get a toehold in real estate, competing with established marketers. 

It can be done, but it's an expensive proposition getting started. What I don't like about absentee lists is that the seller motivation is buried and obscured. Consequently, your USP must match a wide variety of motivations rather than a narrow band or single problem as does foreclosure, for example.

Referring to the Traffic > Conversion > Economics cycle, your initial response rate expectations probably ought to be reduced to about 0.5%. Then you have to deal with conversion issues. Since you are not converting any, the economics part of the equation is moot (at least until you either solve the problem, run out of money or stop).

The solution is to either increase your frequency of touches and narrow your message or choose a list that isn't so picked over. Also, rethink your target seller, don't be afraid to alienate the others, and clean up any holes in your system, such how phone calls are handled. We use a sophisticated system and a call center, however you could frankly replicate it for about $150/month (if it's even necessary).

Frankly, I believe that there are too many people chasing too few deals. This is precisely why I specialize in a niche or two. 

@Mohit Madaan had a good point about the phone number and message. An easy and free way to do that is to sign up to Google Voice. you get to pick a number, record a message and forward all calls to your phone if you want to be able to answer the number in real time!

The accepted direct mail standard is that the more times you mail to each recipient the higher the response rate.  Most direct mail teachers I've studied say a minimum of 6 touches up to 11 are needed to be effective.  Very few investors do this.  This is why direct mail is expensive.  Response rate is not the goal, conversion rate is.  People will often call the person whose letter they have consistently seen. 

Something to put at the end of the letter is "If you're not ready to sell now, please save this letter and call me if your situation changes."  It's surprising how many people will actually save the letter.  Also, combine the letters with a phone call to the homeowner a couple of days after the mailing - "Just calling to see if your received my letter."  But keep mailing.

IMO do not use a yellow letter.  Their time is long past.  Just too many investors sending them.  I had one homeowner show me 57 yellow letters he had received, all saying virtually the same thing.  Which would you rather receive, a form letter (which is what a yellow letter is) or a personalized letter.

I agree that the best success is to focus on one or two niches, and sub categories in those.

Originally posted by @Rick H. :

I agree with @Mohit Madaan (except that it's a mail 'piece'). 

Unbelievable, i am usually the one correcting my friends on their grammar. Must have been my late night debate between sleep & jumping on forums. lol

Originally posted by @Joseph Gozlan :

@Mohit Madaan had a good point about the phone number and message. An easy and free way to do that is to sign up to Google Voice. you get to pick a number, record a message and forward all calls to your phone if you want to be able to answer the number in real time!

 I am BIG on this one because the way your phone/message sound can make the lead want to work or not work with you.

if you want to take this a step further and make your business look like a multi national company for like $30 a month, i would recommend

Totally, worth the investment if you are serious about your business.

Oh and i know a guy who hired a lot of people in foreign countries to hand write these letters with an ink pen. They usually cost you about $2 an hour and can write English in much better hand writing than you and me.

Thats definitely going to stand out!

Originally posted by @Mohit Madaan :
They usually cost you about $2 an hour and can write English in much better hand writing than you and me.

"...hand writing than you and I."

Just saying.

Maybe too much partying and/or not enough sleep? Who knows. Still great feedback though. 

Originally posted by @David G:
Originally posted by @Mohit Madaan:
They usually cost you about $2 an hour and can write English in much better hand writing than you and me.

"...hand writing than you and I."

Just saying.

Maybe too much partying and/or not enough sleep? Who knows. Still great feedback though. 

 lol, i don't party, well i can't party... with Pregnant wife at home and 2 out of 4 units vacant in a million dollar property, i can't even sleep properly these days.

First off, I'd like to thank everybody for their great advice.

@Christopher Salazar My criteria is out of state absentee owner, 40-100% equity, owned since 1999 or before and spanning across 2 counties. I know of him and I'll try talking to him directly. Thanks!

@Daniel Seo  I'll be talking to a pro wholesaler down here and asking him what he thinks what lists do better. I like everything to look perfect so I do focus a lot on the mail piece itself. With that said, I have the worst handwriting of anybody I know (haha). 

@Mohit Madaan Thank you for detailed replies! What are some trouble shooting methods that you can recommend? Also what's the name of the company that will write letters?

@Rick H. You made some good points about adding that sentence and how yellow letters are played out. Maybe it's time to tap into a creative way of getting the message across.

Jonathan, I'd perhaps make your touches more often than 1 every 6-8 months. Thats a lot of time in between and if these leads are receiving multiple letters more often than every 6 months they will remember those one. I'd probably do 1-2 months.

I'm not a big fan of list source. I live in a smaller metro area and much of the data is not recorded properly. I tried to get a large list of absentee 3/2s one point involving 4-5 towns in my immediate area. When I got the list the homes were located in only one of these towns because the others simply don't report number of beds and baths so listsource assumed it had none. 

As for your criteria I would suggest upping your amount of equity from 40% to say 60% on the low end. Those 40% owners might not have enough skin in the game to make a deal work but on the other hand they are maybe stuck with a HELOC or other second mortgage that they want to get out of. Its a tough call.

There's usually two primary aspects of effective marketing....driving traffic and conversion of that traffic. I'm not sure what your CTA (call to action) is on your postcard or mailer but I'm guessing that you're asking them to call you as opposed to send them to a website you've built.  I could be wrong.

Either way, I believe you should be most concerned with what the copy says on the mail piece you're sending out. If your copy is not good it will look like all the others and be thrown in the trash. If your copy is compelling and has a strong CTA, you're going to stand out above 98% of your competitors.

And if you're trying to get people to a website...make sure the copy on that site is top notch. 

There's a reason why great copywriters make a lot of money...they get noticed and drive people to action.

You could also stand out from your competition with different packaging. I've used what I call 'lumpy mail' to get an envelop opened and then compelling copy to get someone to respond. 

I was selling consulting services a while back and sent a lumpy mail to a large privately owned business up north. I received a terse email from the owner telling me I should dial it back a bit and to take him off my mailing list.

I responded politely and then he shot me back this email: 

Didn't mean to sound so rude; 

I'm not that kind of guy. We all got a good chuckle out of your presentation. Have to admire anyone who thinks out of the box! It's hellfire hard to get heard these days.

We're spending about $100k overhauling the website over the next year, so we're all set for consulting, thanks.

I didn't land them as a client but I got noticed...and sometimes that's the hardest part!

Stay disciplined and use a good CRM to schedule follow up and keep notes. When it comes to sales, only 2% of sales actually occur on the first contact. Eighty percent occur after the fifth contact.

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