Real Estate Direct Mail 101: What You Should Know Before You Spend the Money

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Today is going to be a good day for those of you who want to understand direct mail just a little better. Over the last 30 days, I’ve been monitoring the BiggerPockets Forums here to see what questions people are asking about direct mail. I was also just generally searching for people who needed a little advice on what’s the best method of marketing their RE businesses.

What my research shows is that about 50% of the questions that are posted in the BP Real Estate Marketing Forum are about direct mail in some way. If you go there, you might see me replying to a lot of the discussions answering these questions.

You see, a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Disappointing Direct Mail Results? Here’s What You’re Doing Wrong.” From the comments, you can see how much of a big topic this is when it comes to investors. People in real estate want to know how to use direct mail to get in front of their targeted leads quickly, cheaply and consistently.

Today, I want to give you all of the good, bad and ugly on the subject of direct mail and let you know the path to take for higher response rates. The goal at the end of the day is to purchase a property, and you can’t do that if your marketing isn’t up to standard.

The Good

Direct mail is still one of the most powerful forms of marketing that you can ever do. Over 20 years ago, direct mail was the main way to market any sort of business due to a lack of internet. Those in real estate could just gather a list of addresses and start hammering the pavement, sending mail out to thousands with very high response rates.

Direct mail costs, of course, but being able to get a letter or postcard in front of a property owner gives you an edge like no other. Your message is there in front of them, and all they have to do is read it and take action if needed.

More likely than not, these pieces of mail end up in the owners’ hands. The property homeowner is the one who makes the decisions on whether to act or to simply throw your mail in the trash. That’s the beauty of direct mail: you have a good 50% chance of something happening; whether it’s good or bad direct mail, it gets right in front of the decision makers and has the chance of making a personal, lasting impression.

The Bad

The direct mail market has exploded in the real estate industry due to more and more people looking to get into this form of business. Unlike 20 years ago, today there are thousands of books on forms of real estate investing, including:

  • Flipping
  • Wholesaling
  • Tax Liens
  • Subject Tos
  • Etc.

And don’t forget all of the TV shows that got us excited back in the mid 2000’s, like “Flip This House” and “Property Ladder.” People started to see these shows and saw how (supposedly) easy it was to get into real estate. This sparked a new wave of investors that to this day, has continued to grow massively.

Related: A Case Study: From Direct Mail to Closing (And Everything Else In-Between!)

So now the market is flooded with people doing direct mail every single day of the week. Most people will tell you to mail only once every month or six, so that you don’t seem as though you’re pestering the property owner.

The sad thing about this is that you’re doing the right thing, mailing when you’re supposed to, but you never took into account the other investors in your city. When you’re not mailing, they are, so no matter how many times you mail, the property owner doesn’t see that; they just see another piece of mail in their box.

The bad thing about this is that the homeowner becomes irritated and starts throwing the mail in the trash without even opening them. This leads to the other part that most investors don’t like: it’s the backlash, which is the “Ugly” side of direct mail.

The Ugly

There is an ugly side of direct mail that everyone encounters if you play the game long enough. A few day ago in the Forums, one guy talked about how he was called a scammer (and more) by a property owner. I responded by just encouraging him to take other forms of marketing to them, which I will get into in the next section.

Just understand that people will get mad and angry and will pick up the phone and call you personally. You see, like I said before, most of the time you’re doing what you’re supposed to do by contacting them over prolonged periods. But you never understand who else is contacting them, which may add up to tons of people wanting to buy the properties you’re targeting.

You can feel their pain on that, right?

People get upset and go out of their way to contact you with sometimes disrespectful words. Some will even go as far as calling the authorities on you if you just happen to be the one that they pick to complain about. Since everyone can get the same lists that you buy, you better believe that some people will get upset.

The Path to Higher Response Rates

First, I would like to say that 2015 will be a good year for all of those who are in RE and want to do direct mail effectively. I say this because I have something that I’m working on just for the BP community that will help you guys take your direct mail to a higher level without you having to spend thousands to do it.

Just know that I want everyone here to succeed in this game, but if you don’t change the way you do direct mail, then you will continue to experience the bad and the ugly.

People, we have to stop trying to sell to people in today’s times with yesterday’s methods due to all of the competition out there. Everyone is doing direct mail, so you must start to think outside the box. You can’t keep asking people to buy their property. Have you ever thought that they may want to keep their property?

For this reason, you have to come in with an approach that educates them, not sells to them. Take it from a guy who has seen and done it all when it comes to online and offline marketing. The people who sell, sell, sell are the ones who just don’t make it in the long run.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Using Direct Mail Advertising to Grow Your Real Estate Business

But those of us who come in with the approach of educating people by helping them solve that problem are the ones who have higher response rates and capture tons of more leads. Most people do direct mail to catch that property owner who needs to sell now, today, and at this given second. The truth of the matter is that those people are likely trying to find a rock in an ocean. If you hit, then you’ve found a diamond in the rough. If not, you just wasted thousands of dollars of postage and material.

The key to having a successful campaign is to solve the issues of property owners out there. The way to do that is give them as much free information as possible on your website, if you have one. Then, let them decide whether or not they want to sell you their property.

First, get them in the door with something of value like a report, ebook, video, blog post or guide. Whatever you do, get them onto your site and provide them with value. Doing it in this manner will explode your business over time, and most importantly, eliminate the bad and ugly.

What approaches to direct mail have been successful for you?

Leave a comment, and let’s talk!

About Author

Antonio Coleman

Antonio Coleman is a real estate marketing consultant and CEO of the Coleman Marketing Group where he routinely gives high value to his clients and subscribers.

8 Comments

  1. karen rittenhouse

    Hi Antonio:
    We have been direct mail marketing full time since 2007 and I can’t say enough about the merits of this form of marketing. I prefer to spend money marketing directly to the houses I’m interested in purchasing and, yes it costs more than many other forms of marketing but, when the phone rings, I’m probably interested.

    As far as the ugly, I’m always amazed at the time people have on their hands when they call to complain about receiving a marketing piece. I don’t call the pizza companies who leave flyers, and “no” I don’t want a discount on an oil change (I don’t even know who you are), and it’s not time for my tires to be rotated – but I understand why these companies must market for clients so I simply throw away their materials when I’m not interested! But I digress…

    When consumers call to complain, I kindly respond that the card was not directed at them or their home personally, that we have a marketing company mailing for us to entire zip codes. I further explain that I will forward their contact information and request their address be removed from our list. “As I can’t be certain how quickly it will be removed, please discard any future mailing you receive from us. My sincere apologies for upsetting you.”

    Then I hang up and shake my head in disbelief – but I do send their contact info on and request it be removed from future mailings.

    Those are not the people I’m targeting with my mailings, anyway, so I don’t mind getting those calls. To find motivated sellers, you have to mail to the masses so, naturally, most recipients are not interested.

    The most important thing with direct mail is consistency. We mailed to one area for 11 months without receiving so much as a phone call. Just as we were about to move our dollars elsewhere, the phone lit up and we bought seven houses there in less than two months. Never Stop Marketing!

    And, I like postcards because the message is seen without the need to have someone open an envelope. We do mix it up as some people prefer to read a letter. Personally, I don’t have time to read a lot of words!

    Thanks for another great post.

  2. Fitzgerald Hall

    This is an awesome tactic that even helps me feel better as a direct mail marketer. I feel much better offering helpful advice to people and leaving our company as an option vs sell sell sell. I believe, the more you give the more you receive. I have not tried this particular method yet, but my next direct mail campaign will definitely have a facelift!

  3. John Hamilton

    Another great article Antonio!

    I like the idea of helping people. If I can make some money doing that, I don’t mind. I’ve always been a helper and a giver, even to fault.

    Your advice on having something on your website that not only informs the potential seller of options and how certain transactions take place, or a video of you (the business owner) to give it that special personal touch, is classic. I think that would help do most of the heavy lifting for you by the time they decide to pull the trigger and contact you, whether by online form or phone.

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