Why You Should Do Almost ZERO Internet Marketing…

by | BiggerPockets.com

There is a much more profitable marketing method than using the Internet. And I’m going to tell you exactly what it is and how to use it.

You see, I love marketing. It truly is one of my passions and I’m thankful for that, since it’s the most important part of my real estate business. And as part of my marketing I keep track of all the results of my marketing methods. I also study other successful marketers in other industries.

How to become wealthier…

Fact is, if you want to be wealthy as a real estate investor you have to understand the difference between generating leads and actually getting a deal. Which is the main reason I do almost no Internet marketing (only craigslist for rentals).

Let me explain… In a nutshell, most Internet leads are crappy and don’t amount to anything. It’s easy to get on the Internet and search for something and those prospects are not worth very much at all.

But direct mail prospects are. However, someone who doesn’t keep track of their marketing results might think, “the Internet is great, I got 1,000 leads this month.” Well… how many of those leads actually turned into deals? It doesn’t matter if you get 50,000 leads a month if you don’t get a deal.

Here’s what I’d choose…

If someone came to me and told me I could magically get 1,000 leads from the Internet or 1,000 leads from a letter I sent out, I would take the letter leads any day of the week. That’s because every true marketer knows that prospects that respond to your letter or postcard are much more likely to be motivated and want to do business with you than someone who contacts via the Internet.

This is so important to understand because I know so many investors who are seduced by technology and spend all day worried about facebook and google ad words and all that stuff… but if they took the same amount of time to write a good letter and mail it out they’d make a heck of a lot more money.

Why this is a secret…

Now, of course you’re not going to hear this from 99% of people. Because they want to make money off of their Internet course or super duper Internet lead generation software. But the truth is, the leads are much crappier than through the mail.

And I have nothing against the Internet at all. I simply care about the best and easiest way to make money. If someone told me it was banner ads or whatever, I’d use that method in a heartbeat. But since I spend my time (obsessively) studying marketing I know the Internet is a waste of time for most real estate investors.

So if you really, truly want to be wealthy, you’d be much better off mailing 1,000 or 2,000 letters a month, instead of doing any Internet marketing. Perhaps you don’t believe me, but test it for a month or so and you’ll see. But… make sure you’re using a quality mailing piece and that the person who created it is a savvy marketer who knows what they’re doing.

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.


    • Brooks Conkle

      Yep, incorrect. Although I see the thought process behind it, I disagree as well Dylan.
      Although, I Do strongly believe that you should have multiple Types of marketing going on simultaneously. So I agree that mixing mailers and online campaigns is a good idea.

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing what more of the readers have to say on this one. I figured this would be a controversial topic, and by the looks of the number of tweets, it is. While direct mail can bring many qualified leads, online marketing, when done correctly can be equally effective.

    I guess the real question would be how it could be tested. You’re certainly an expert marketer offline Jason. I wonder how those efforts would stack up against online experts with a similar budget.

  2. Nichole Schlecht on

    Maybe if you were as passionate about Internet Marketing as you were about Direct Mail, you wouldnt be saying Internet Marketing doesnt work for Real Estate.

    The fact is people dont drive around looking for homes to purchase anymore. The internet made accessing information much more simple. People looking to buy homes go to their computers, do a search to find homes for sale in the area they want to move to, and look at photos of the homes that interest them.

    How do they find these websites you ask? Google. How do you get listed on the first page of Google? Search Engine Optimization.

    Really, its foolish to believe that Internet Marketing doesnt work for Real Estate.

  3. Speaking purely from the real estate broker’s perspective, not the investors here.

    I agree that generally a contact from a personal letter will produce better results than a random contact from the internet.

    But, there is no question that the reach of the internet FAR exceeds that of direct mail. If I mail 1,000 letters, then 1,000 people seem them (well, the bulk wind up in the garbage). But if I write a well targeted blog post, in theory an infinite number of people can see it.

    Case in point. In the Phoenix real estate market, we get a lot of home buyers from Canada. I can attract their eyes with a variety of targeted articles that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I have an article with info on how Canadians can get mortgages in the U.S. that has been viewed over 50,000 times. It would take over $20K in postage to send that article to 50,000 people. An article that took less than an hour to write.

    I have blog posts that I wrote over four years ago that are still found via search engines and make the phone ring today.

    I’d love to see a direct mail piece that was mailed four years ago that makes the phone ring today.

    The internet is simply a tool to reach people. One tool, of many. Direct mail is another tool. There’s nothing wrong with using multiple tools. In fact, it’s the smart thing to do.
    .-= Jay Thompson´s last blog ..The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Heard a Politician Say =-.

  4. Jason, great post (although I don’t agree with the hypothesis of it). As Jay pointed out, a letter will reach their target and may have their attention for a few seconds before being acted on (either they will call you or they will throw the letter in the trash) , whereas your online presence is a 24/7 marketing tool reaching potential customers that you otherwise would not have accessed. Could you post some data based on your marketing efforts (i.e. lead conversion)? Either way, you would be best served by utilizing multiple marketing methods (well, at least that’s the approach I’m taking).

  5. If you’re new to sales and fail to get good results at first, is it because sales is a “tough racket”? Or is it possible you simply need to learn how to sell better? LOL at writing off an entire marketplace (the biggest on the planet) because you’ve had poor results yourself.

    There is no requirement of course to use any particular marketing method. If you’re getting results…there’s no reason to fix what ain’t broke. But dude, you didn’t even write off any particular marketing method. You wrote off the entire internet, which I think is safe to call a very dangerous and self-limiting belief.

    Kudos for calling it like you see it though 😉

    • I think it’s really important to point out that “internet marketing” is not a marketing method. The internet is a place. It’s a place where people are. If you’re not getting mad, targeted leads and converting them at a high rate, then it’s not the internet’s fault. It’s a problem with your marketing, and it’s a problem that can be fixed.

  6. Michael Phipps on

    I really like Christian’s comment:
    “I think it’s really important to point out that “internet marketing” is not a marketing method. The internet is a place. ”

    A few points:
    * a marketer without internet skills would find it difficult to market online
    * the online audience require marketing copy aimed at an online audience.

    Personally, I wouldn’t write the online marketing channel off – PROVIDED I could put a monetary amount on a lead. If it costs you $1 to attract a direct mail lead, but only $0.25 to attract an online lead, and online leads convert 75% less than your direct mail leads, then I’d keep spending money online, because in the end it is costing me the same per conversion.

  7. Michael Pedzotti on

    I think the difference in methods will in part be affected by the geo- and demo-graphics involved. Firstly, a mailing campaign (using real paper) will be both targeted to both “graphics”, geo and demo.

    With an internet campaign, although there are methods of targeting the reach, there are few boundaries or characteristics that determine who sees what you’re promoting.

    Real estate can be very location specific. If I was to read a promotion via one or more of my subscribed lists, Twitter or some other source, and noticed it was for investment properties in Florida (I am in Australia) I would probably not be interested, as my real estate investments interests are local.

    I tend to agree, but not for the reasons stated. Internet marketing has its forte but I would hesitate to recommend this method for activities that traditionally require tight targeting of the audience.

    • again this indicates a mindset of “internet marketing” being a specific marketing method. The internet is just a place where people hang out. Many of them are interested in real estate in a specific town. Skillful targeting is very possible, and there are many examples of people highly successful in using the internet to engage local audiences.

  8. I tend to agree with Jay here. The reach is too big online to not make it a critical place for positioning your business. Also by marketing online you can get significant residual lead flow both on buyer and seller side. We actually just sold a property this week from a post lingering from several months ago.

    Having the right marketing mix is key. I actually stopped doing the hand-written letter because of diminishing results from stiff competition. Writing and mailing letters has a very low barrier of entry and everyone seems to do it. So does buying bulk leads. Creating quality in-house online lead generation requires a consistent and dedicated process and is worth the efforts.

  9. Jeff Brown

    Hey Jason — First of all, gimme a break, ‘internet marketing’ is a phrase universally understood, nit-pickers notwithstanding. 99% of those reading your post knew exactly what you meant by that phrase.

    Now, where to start on the substance?

    Many years ago I was forced to abandon my local San Diego market, as income property there made no sense whatsoever, plus I needed to be able to sleep at night. I went national. That decision was far more consequential to my business than I’d ever thought possible.

    It meant 100% of my business since that forced switch (except for referrals) has been internet based. It took a few months to get the hang of it, but I’ve done well, given that I was dragged, kickin’ and screamin’ into that arena.

    Still, and ironically, my main source of success pre-2.0 was direct mail marketing. 🙂 I rarely made less than five figures a letter, three times making six figures from one mailing. I’m ecstatic to be ‘returning’ to San Diego’s market now, even if it’s only to work with sellers — never buyers. (The numbers are still shameful, relatively speaking.)

    If what you’ve said about ‘internet marketing’ had been true in my experience, I would’ve been a Vons checker for several years now. My records show some interesting facts about 2.0 vs 1.0 marketing.

    1. Though my income decreased as a consequence of going national AND 100% online, it was mostly due to the reality of dealing with only half of the market — buyers. I haven’t been able to list but one local property since ’04! Still, my income has averaged well into six figures annually.

    2. Note: The following numbers, though conservative, are still nothing but projections based upon my experience.

    As I return to SD via both traditional and online marketing efforts, they’ll be weighted towards old fashioned techniques. My projections indicate that for the fiscal year 7/1/10-6/30/11 my income will increase by a factor of 3 easily, and more likely than not by a factor of 5 or more.

    You’ll be happy to hear I’ll be using direct mail much of the time, though all of that mail will contain references to and addresses for my various online sites. I’ll be makin’ “tip money” through a new site targeting home agents — I’ll refer home buyers to them for a fee. I know many solid pros in the area, which makes this effort a no-brainer. It’ll be mailbox income.

    3. I’ll be able to get belly-to-belly with local house brokerages relative to my ability to be a rainmaker for them, (I get them listings they’d never of had.) something which has had success nationally, but will no doubt be a slam dunk locally.

    4. I’ll also be establishing a new website narrowly targeted at San Diego income property owners. This will be in addition to direct mailing efforts, which will be generated from my 22,000 property database. I guarantee you I’ll do six figures from that site in the first year.

    It’s my contention, Jason, that if you were getting advice from a pro with genuine experience, knowledge, and expertise in online marketing, you’d profit from it big time. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
    .-= Jeff Brown´s last blog ..A Snapshot Of What We Once Were and the Death of THE Role Model =-.

  10. Since I’m the one who wrote this post, I’ll now chime in since there have been a lot of good comments. First off, like I said, I have nothing against the Internet. All I care about is the best way to make money (how to get the biggest bang for my buck.)

    And after my personal research, I know using a direct mail sales letter is far and away better than any type of Internet marketing. If someone gave me $1,000 so that I could send out 1,000 sales letters… and if they gave someone else $1,000 to spend generating leads on the Internet… there is not a doubt in my mind I would crush them.

    You see, with a letter I can target exactly whom I want to buy houses from. For example, I do alot of deals in Stafford, VA. So I would buy a list of absentee landlords in Stafford, VA and I would send them out a highly targeted piece of direct mail.

    It would start out as Dear (I would personalize every letter). Then I would go on to say that I’m a private investor who already owns houses in Stafford, VA (personalizing once again) and that I want to buy their rental property, etc. etc.

    The biggest problem is that most people don’t know how to write a good sales letter. But if you learn this valuable skill… and you send your letters out to highly targeted prospects… you’ll make a small fortune. Much more than you’d make wasting your time on Internet marketing. Sure, the Internet might get you a lot of leads, but I could care less about who gets the most leads. All I care about is the best way to get deals that put money in my pocket.

  11. Jason – the reason that you feel you could “crush” someone is probably because you are not an internet marketing expert. For 1k, I could easily beat any return you are going to get from letters.

    My company does the internet marketing for my mom, Kat. She is rated as a top lender in the nation on Zillow.com and we set that program up for her and coached her through success with it. For most of last year, it was free. She probably did more loans from Zillow last year than most full brokerages did at all. ALL of her other business is from internet marketing.

    You can be successful… you just have to know what you are doing. Do you feel you are qualified to be making the judgement?

    • werd. If you know your way around the interwebz you can do better with NO money than any traditional marketer could do with $1k. 100% of my business comes from internet leads as well. It’s just a different skill set. It can be learned.

  12. I think people are missing the point I was trying to make. I’m not talking about getting leads for Realtors, or lenders or anything like that. I’m talking about buying houses and being a real estate investor.

    And direct mail (not the Internet) is the best way to go out and buy single family houses and become a successful real estate investor. Give me $1,000 for direct mail and I’ll do more deals in an area… than if you had $1,000 for Internet marketing in the same location.

  13. Michael Phipps on

    Jason, you’re right, I misinterpreted that you were looking for leads. I’m not in real estate. I’m not even sure how I came to be reading this article. But I agree from you last comment, It sounds in your business letters, and even face to face would crush any internet marketing efforts to attract sellers.

    I know I’ve never recalled an online ad asking if I’m interested in selling my house, but I get letters in my mailbox all the time that I can recall.

  14. Personally, I think the type of marketing that works is highly dependent on the person. Some have had good results marketing on the Internet while others have had good results through off line marketing such as direct mail (as what you prefer).

    To me, I think it’s all a matter of personality. For me, I’m not as much of a techie than others – I have yet to understand the logistics of marketing on the Internet. Also, I’m not much of a bulk direct marketer. If I do any direct marketing, it’s very few and far between.

    My preference is to talk to people either in person or on the phone. If I find a home I’m interested in, my first instinct is to skip the mail all together – I either go to the home in person or try to find a phone number and call the seller directly. It’s just my style and the way I do things.

    I believe more in quality over quantity. I don’t really have to be working all that many leads to get results – I just need to get in front of people physically or talk to them on the phone to find out their situation and to see if I can help create a win/win solution. If not, then I can move on to the next lead.

    For me, talking and being in front of sellers is the best use of my time. We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. The key is for folks to focus on their strengths and to use methods that cater to their personality. Results cannot be made when we do things we are not good at – results can only be made when we cater to our strengths, not our weaknesses.

    There have been folks who have had great success just making offers on the MLS – they don’t even meet with the sellers or the listing agents. Then there are others who have found deals on craigslist and other online listing services such as LoopNet. Still, there are others who have found success with direct mail (as you have). The list goes on and on.

    In a nutshell, I think results really do vary from person to person – there is not one marketing technique that works for everyone. It’s all a matter of personality and catering to our strengths, not our weaknesses.

    Interesting article. Looking forward to reading more responses!

  15. A. Kumar Mangalick on

    The term “Internet Marketing” is badly defined, and I would argue, almost completely undefined. There are at least 8 completely different ways to market anything on the Internet that I can come up with right off the top of my head, each with its own benefits and caveats:

    1 – Organic search results
    2 – Pay-per-click search enging advertising
    3 – Blog
    4 – Facebook
    5 – Twitter
    6 – Podcast
    7 – Video
    8 – Social bookmarks

    I haven’t even included email marketing, which is probably the closest (using the term loosely) analog to direct mail marketing.

    Jason, you may have some evidence to back up your belief that direct mail marketing has produced stronger leads than “Internet marketing” FOR YOU, but to generalize that finding to everyone else and to paint with a broad brush is very misleading, I think. Bravo for stirring up the pot and creating discussion on this topic, though.

  16. Robert Woodruff on

    I feel both forms of marketing are important in finding motivated sellers of houses. You should never put all of your eggs in the same basket while marketing. I always say, “Nothing makes your phone ring better than getting out in the field and doing something to make it happen yourself.” To me, both of these forms of advertising are lazy man’s games. Investors who market primarily by either of these methods usually do it because they just want to sit at their home or office and watch the deals come in. And to have that luxery, costs lots of money to yeild little results. For instance, it makes absolutely no sense to me to spend thousads of dollars to create thousands of leads that must be sifted through to find just a few deals. I’d rather do “active” marketing and.get much better results. My favorite technique involves a product sold for around a dollar at the dollar store and depending on who I am targeting, can net me up to a 30% response rate!!! If you know marketing, you know that a 30% response rate is unheard of. I just began marketing seriously on the net and I know it will have long term effects, which is great. But, I earned my financial freedom by way of active outdoor marketing. I didn’ have all that time and money that it takes to market seriously on the net. However, I do now!

  17. Your article is very dangerous advice. I challenge you to the fact I could do more deals, do them faster, and do it with NO cost what so ever.

    I am not saying direct mail is dead, but its a very expensive option for investors . I also believe it limiting. It does not pull the same response as it did 5 years ago. You need to direct your response anyway from your mailing back to your website.. A business can no longer rely solely on direct mail and survive. 1000 dollars investing in mailing would get you maybe 500 letters sent. with a 2 % response rate , 10 Leads, perhaps 1 – 2 deals.

    I can get maximum exposure online, and have my internet sites sort through leads for me to find the most motivated sellers and hungry buyers. I could use software such as the “Online Lead Finder” to pull back 1000’s of leads in minutes and already be contacting people who have there hand up saying ” HELP ME” Early bird get the worm, and my automated follow up will be in their hands before you can get your next post card out..


  18. How are you going to nurture your 1000 direct mail leads? Print and send them a letter every week. This would be so costly, for most products/services would not give you any ROI. But, if what you sell costs $1 million, then sure go ahead. Write some letters, but at that point, I would prefer 1-to-1 presence.

    Sidenote, I really enjoyed your post. Even though I do not agree, it’s always fun to debate.

    Looking forward to the next one.

  19. Clayton Rokosh

    This blog post is a almost 6 years old, so I know I won’t get a response to my comment, but I just want to type what I’ve learned from reading the blog post and the comments above me.

    A real-estate investment business survives on lead-flow. Leads are your customers, and your customers have money.
    Marketing is the source of lead-flow, and therefore the source of your business’s survival.
    Therefore, marketing is the most vital part of your real-estate investment business.

    There are many options for marketing your REI business. You use one option or a combination. Each option works specifically to your personality, budget, situation, market(if there’s a lot of competition for a particular option), etc.
    1) Direct mail(yellow letters, postcards, etc)
    2) Internet marketing(your own website, ads, etc)
    3) Social marketing

    I want to elaborate on social marketing because it’s the option I knew was available to me, but didn’t truly understand it on a deeper level. Social marketing is a number of things….

    1) Calling the person directly or going to their house. The common factor I see in direct marketing is the illusion of appearing genuine. Drawing a crude $100 bill, attaching a photo of yourself, or hand writing the message yourself are ways to give your letter a more “humane” feel to it. Personally, I think the fact of going directly to their house is a WAY MORE humane method. Plus, if the property was vacant and it’s difficult to find the owner, the fact of you getting the owner on the phone, shows you’re motivated to buy their property. Although showing that you’re motivated to buy must not be the best cause we want the seller to motivated instead.
    2) Word of mouth. Probably the best marketing “technique” throughout all human history. I don’t really need to explain this do I?

    Another big reason to choose one marketing option over another, is the law of equivalent exchange(any full metal alchemist fans here? :D) In every single thing you do in your business, what do you want to trade away? Time or money?


    Let’s say I need my house painted. I can either do it myself or pay someone to do it. If I do it myself, I’m exchanging my time to save money. If I pay someone to do it, I’m exchanging my money to save time. It all depends on what you want.
    Exchanging time for money = active work(a job)
    Exchanging money for time = passive work(a business)

    Do you want your REI business to create a job for you? Or to create a business? In the beginning, you can treat your REI business as a job and eventually develop it to become a business. Again it all depends on you!

    – Social marketing is active work because your deal flow, your business’s survival, ALL DEPENDS on you making calls, going to people’s houses, talking with people in the community, etc.
    – Direct mail marketing can be either active or passive depending on how it’s setup. If you write hand written yellow letters yourself, buy bulk leads, assign mailing addresses, etc, then it’s active work. If you hire a virtual or physical assistant to write them for you, then it’s passive.
    – Internet marketing is passive work. The only work involved is to setup the website, which can either takes 100s or 1000s of dollars to setup, or a long time to setup yourself. Once setup with SEO, PPC, landing pages, etc, and designed for automation, your marketing website will constantly produce leads. Again, you have to either know what you’re doing, or hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

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