Category Archives: Marketing

You Can Be Better

Hey all! Long time, of course, and this blog deserves a full update. But a bad interaction with a Zillow sales rep left me thinking. Despite the fact that we are ALL very hungry to close a deal, first thing comes first (and will make us more money): Be a decent human being always!

I know we’ve all felt like Alex from Zillow. He wanted to close the sale. He felt I wasn’t “getting it”. I didn’t like something he said and it offended him. He decided I was ridiculous and “trite” and told me so.

There’s a certain way of thinking that says sales is only a numbers game, and the point is to WIN.

I completely disagree.

Sales is first and foremost a SERVICE industry.  We are servants, who make money by serving the best interests of our current clients and our potential ones.  We should not set out to conquer anyone, or aggressively approach leads as if this is a sport. There is no winning – there are only people who need your service or product, and people who do not.

I’m assuming you are a professional.  Professionals are great at what they do, and they focus on doing that.  If you are a real estate investor, you KNOW real estate. You know the market. You can spot a good deal.  You are a creative problem-solver.  Be those things. Be truly excellent at them.  And then go serve.

By the way, if you are excellent at what you do, you have 80% of your job done.  You will speak confidently. You will provide your prospective clients with everything they need to make an informed decision and your current clients with the expertise to get the transaction closed. Alex had this. I could tell he was great at what he did: he knew the product and followed up with me consistently.

Service may represent only 20% of your activity, but as an attitude it’s the foundation of what you do because it shapes every interaction you have with your clients and sellers. Are you here for them or for you? Are you coming from contribution (as Keller Williams likes to put it) to add something of value to their lives, or are you there to close a sale and move on to the next one? Your prospects will know!

Being better at service is a practical matter.  Unfortunately, the sales rep’s lack of a service-minded attitude lost the sale for me. It made me question his commitment to ME. Service may only be 20% of your job, but without it you will lose clients and money. An aggressive, overly-eager, greedy or arrogant mindset is off-putting and people will go elsewhere.  (I’m planning to find another Zillow rep to help me.)

Approach each lead as an opportunity to serve.  This is called love, by the way: putting someone’s needs before your own. It takes trust in that principle to let go of the gnawing, anxious need for a “yes” and focus on the needs of the individual in front of us.  We need the affirmation…and we need the money! Without even realizing it, though, we become adversarial and treat sellers and prospects as if they are standing between us and what we want.  But they are not – we are there for them, not the other way around.

Be humble. Ask a lot of questions. Provide lots of answers. Get to the bottom of their needs. Don’t be offended. Don’t be superior. Be helpful. Be honest. Don’t sell them on “yes”. Accept “no” graciously.

So yes, you can be better! You can be better at your trade. Start by being a better person. Let go of the need to close the sale, and embrace being a servant who knows her stuff. This will result in a low-key approach that will actually end up attracting much more business your way, because it exudes kindness and confidence all in one.  And everyone loves that.

Is this how you already look at your job (my husband thought most people already do)? How do you handle bad service? Friend me on FB and you can join the conversation.


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Filed under Ethics & Etiquette, Fear, Marketing, Negotiation

A Tip for Determining the Value of a Property

There are so many different ways to find comparable properties when you’re researching the value of a property.  But I wanted to share a quick tip I will use when I feel stuck.

When I look into how much to offer on a house, I start with the obvious: properties recently sold to investors.  If there aren’t many of them, I might look at other things, but if after searching high and low I’m still not sure, I will do this:

First, I’ll go onto Craigslist and search to find properties that are for rent in the same neighborhood as my lead. The fact that you can now search by map makes this even sweeter.  It’s so easy!  Pick 2-5 that are similar to yours, and note the address.

Then, go to the county assessor (or appraiser) website and research those properties.  On my county assessor’s site I can see what the owner paid for it and when.  It may not be terribly recent, but if it was in the last couple years, it gives me a ballpark idea of what active investors who currently own in that area will pay for a similar house.  It really helps a lot when you feel you’re going in blind.

(And having that same list can be the golden ticket if you get the property under contract!)

Happy investing!

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Filed under Comparable Analysis, Marketing

Deal Breakdown: Quick $1k in OKC

Hi all, I thought I’d check in to tell you about our first deal of 2014!  It was a thin deal (hence the $1k), but it’s pretty great it worked out, especially as I was a helpless sicky in bed during half the process.

The seller was part of a small probate campaign,  which was actually over a year old (something I know my friend Sharon would like to hear, since she often talks about perpetual marketing). I’d sent him only one letter, in January of 2013.  But last month I was going through old leads and decided to resend to my probates – and it was worth it! That campaign only cost me about $60.

Once he emailed me, things went quickly – I made an offer (by email) of $44k and he accepted. I used my free version of HelloSign to email him a contract that I uploaded, which he electronically signed on January 30. Due to (another!) snow storm, we had to delay the inspection a few days, but when my inspector-friend did go, boy howdy, it was worse than I thought.

It had been vacant for 3 years and there was more deferred maintenance than I realized.  I had to go back and re-negotiate the purchase price, and we almost came to an impasse.  I offered $29k, but he wouldn’t do less than $40k. I explained that I didn’t think it would sell for that, and that he had a much better shot at finding a buyer if he would at least go down to $35k.  He agreed to $37k, and I told him I wasn’t sure it would sell, but that I would try. That was February 6, and the next day I caught the worst stomach flu I’ve ever experienced – I was in bed for 5 days. 5 days! With a property under contract!

Thankfully, my husband was willing to try out dealing with buyers (something I don’t like anyway). I moaned out instructions about which buyers to call, what to say, and the selling parameters. That same day he got an acceptable offer from a buyer we knew, and it was under contract the next day!  I was so grateful for his help – and pleased to discover he has a knack for doing the job that I dislike.  🙂

We had a few hiccups with the contract, but the title company opened escrow on February 14th and we closed on the 24th – one of the fastest I’ve found so far in Oklahoma (one of the few remaining abstract states).

It was good to get some quick cash to help with marketing, confirm the value of follow-ups, and to see that the probate timeline can often be years.  Plus, I ended up with this testimonial, which not only helps my business, but is very rewarding personally:

“I want to also thank you and your group for working with me on the sale of the house in OKC. It was a pleasurable experience in a not so pleasurable time for me. The electronic filing was seamless and really helped to expedite the sale as well as the title group being on top of everything helping me to meet the close date. I wish all transactions were that easy. I would be glad to recommend you anytime for your future customers if you would like.”


Filed under Deals, Inspections, Marketing, Probate

How to Scrub a List of Leads

What is “scrubbing”, other than cleaning tubs and toilets?

When you “scrub” a mailing list, you’re cleaning it up.  You’re getting rid of dead leads that are no longer viable, and updating leads with new information – making sure you have current contact information.

What are you looking for when scrubbing a list?

  • Properties that sold to someone else  – either an investor or a homeowner – should be removed.
  • Properties that don’t match your criteria.  For example, even though I only market to residential single- and multi-family properties, sometimes a condominium or apartment ends up on my list.  If I discover it when I’m scrubbing, I can choose to remove it.
  • Leads who have changed their mailing address.  A real estate investor’s leads move often, and having the correct mailing address is essential with direct mail.

How do you scrub a list?

If you’re doing this on your own, like I just did, then you do it painstakingly.  I went lead by lead, researching the property on the assessor’s page to confirm it hadn’t sold in the last 6 months (many had), and then cross-referenced the owner name and mailing address, updating as needed. It was not my kind of work.  But it did the job – about 40% of my old leads were no longer good.  What a waste it would have been to include them in my new mailings!

An Alternative: The Revolving Door

But, depending on your marketing strategy, you may never need to scrub your lists.

If you stick to purchasing general leads and researching targeted leads, then your leads can work like a revolving door: they go into a campaign (where you hopefully contact them at least 6 times), and then you forget about them.

For targeted leads based on an event (probate, eviction, vacants, divorce, etc.), you can research or buy leads every month and send to whomever is on the list. Be sure you schedule at least 6 follow-ups of some kind, but then you can forget that list and move on to the next list the following month.

For absentee owners, whose status remains the same for a longer amount of time, you can set up a campaign, then when your campaign ends (say, in 6 months),  you buy a new list and start all over.  The new list will leave off any leads who sold, and update the address of the ones who have moved.

Everyone does it differently, and the revolving door is just one idea.  There are a lot of factors to take into account, including how you deal with leads once they come in, what kind of database options you have available to you (less if you have a Mac), whether you want several people or just yourself to be able to access and edit it, and how much information you really think you need to track.

But my mantra for this year is something I read from Tracy Caywood: that the most effective marketing is implementation and consistency. You can’t perfect something you haven’t started yet – so let’s get to work.

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Filed under Absentee Owners, Evictions, Marketing, Planning, Probate

New Year, New Marketing Plan

Last year was a wash for me.  I switched to postcards and they performed miserably.  I struggled with a lot of personal elements in my life, and felt myself sort of go limp, like my toddler does in protest when she doesn’t want to do something.  I am a master at looking busy while doing absolutely nothing, and that sort of self-sabotage happened a lot last year (in the form of research and planning).

I don’t have a lot of regrets about last year.  Thankfully, I can have slow months or years because we don’t depend on this for our full-time income.  But we might one day.  And we also have financial obligations my business is responsible for, and my lack of diligence last year put us in a tight spot.

But we all have ups and downs, and those help with growth.  At least,they do for me.  It’s scary for me to do real estate – for all sorts of reasons – but building resolve and courage is what I’m shooting for (not for eliminating the fear).

So here’s how 2014 is looking:

My Resources

  • I still have my accountability partner.  She means more than I can probably understand, and I know of at least two times when I was actually resolved to quit but she talked me into hanging in there.  So I’m glad to have her help as I move forward this year.
  • My husband will be helping.  He’s already a big part of the business: he helps stuff envelopes when I’m behind, knows about every deal I negotiate and works out strategy with me.  But this year he’s officially coming on board to help.  He’s going to be in charge of tracking and mailing our marketing campaigns, maintaining our leads database, skiptracing, and basically anything related to data.
  • Last year I blew through the marketing reserves that had built up from previous deals. So we’re back to leaning on our Freedom Fund for all marketing costs.  A Freedom Fund is something I learned about from my friend Shae Bynes.  It’s an amount of money that comes out of our personal budget to go toward the business.  Right now we have it at $300.  Once we close on a deal, at least $1000 or more of the profit will jump start a larger marketing plan.

My Marketing Plan

  • For January, I scrubbed an existing list of Tulsa Absentee owners (by myself!) and I ended up with 101 leads.  We also scrubbed all of the probate leads I had and it whittled down to 77. They all got a yellow postcard sent through Click2Mail.
  • We created a follow up campaign so that all of these leads will automatically be sent another postcard each month for 4 months, and we created reminders to schedule 2 more rounds after the 4 months are over (Click2Mail only allows you to schedule 120 days in advance).
  • For February, we’ll research probates and create a campaign of up to 125 leads.  We send out a professional letter and create a follow up campaign of 6 yellow postcards.  (This totals about $300 – my max budget for the month.)
  • For March, we’ll see.  There’s a good chance we’ll have a deal by then.  If  so, we’ll consider implementing our $1000 marketing plan (still to be finished).  If not, we’ll probably repeat February’s plan.

It’s nice to have a plan.  Everyone tells me how important it is.  And I’m usually on board – I LOVE planning.  But implementing is more important than a good plan, so I’m excited that I’ve already touched 178 leads, and without doing any additional work they will receive 4 more postcards.

I hope you’ve had a hopeful, productive start to the year as well!


Filed under Absentee Owners, Fear, Marketing, Planning, Probate

How to Create an Absentee Owners List on the Cheap

I’ve been sending letters to absentee owners since the beginning of 2012 and I like the results I’ve had.  Each investor will have his or her own opinion, and I tend to agree with other investors that wholesalers should focus on more targeted absentee owners (like vacant houses, evictions and code violations).

But overall, a general absentee owners list is a great gateway, and you will get deals, especially if you approach them using a drip campaign, one where you plan to contact them every 4-6 weeks at least 8 times, if not perpetually.  (My friend Sharon Vornholt says that she keeps mailing to her lists until either 1) she buys the house, 2) someone else buys the house or 3) the seller asks to be removed from the list. )

So how do you find a absentee owners?  Below I’ll give you some different ideas, including free or very cheap options.

1) Make friends with a realtor.  The MLS is a goldmine of info, and depending on where you live you could get a list of absentee owners with it, but you have to have access. You could agree to send your dead leads to a realtor in exchange for information or lists off the MLS.   You could also arrange to be an unlicensed assistant for a realtor: do some administrative tasks for them in exchange for access to the MLS.

2) Ask a title company.  This may be a better option if you already have closed deals or happen to know someone, but call around and explain that you’re planning on buying several houses this year and will bring them your business.  Then ask if they could prepare a list of absentee-owned properties for you.  Title companies have access to this info and they might agree.

3) I use them and have gotten a list of 250 names for about $60.  Not bad.  You can customize the list to only include absentee-owned properties, and use other criteria like sales date, equity amount, zip code, and type of property.

4) Drive for Dollars.  Not only is this a common sense way to add leads (most of us already drive all the time anyway), but the leads you gather are very targeted, which means they are generally much more motivated than a general list compiled from a database.  When you’re out, try going different routes and look for tall grass, closed blinds, lack of personal touches and belongings or notices taped on doors.  Go on trash day and make it easy (no trash cart usually = vacant!).

5) Search your county assessor’s page.  In a pinch, if you have no money for a list and no other option, you can look up records on your assessor’s page.  I don’t personally know of any assessor’s page that includes a search criteria for absentee owners, so you’ll have to look one-by-one, and it will be tedious, time-consuming work.  But I’ve gathered leads before while I’m already on the site, researching other properties.  I’ll quickly look at each property in that same subdivision and add the absentee-owned houses to my list of leads.

6) Pay a VA.  You can hire a virtual assistant to do the research for you.  Depending on which country your VA is from, the amount you pay can range from $2-3/hour all the way up to $10/hr.  I hired a local person to assist me with my mailings and she’ll do some of the more complicated lead-gathering that I do.  But for an absentee-owners list, it’s probably cheaper to just buy a prepared list.

7) Buy a list from your county assessor.  If you’re into Excel or programming, this could be an excellent option for you.  Thanks to the freedom of information act, we have a right to access public records and most county assessors’/appraisal districts’ offices are happy to oblige.  In fact, my county assessor has a ready-made absentee-owners list available for $50.  What made it difficult for me to use was the fact that it was 4000 records long and I’m not very Excel-savvy.  It would have taken me hours to filter for the criteria I wanted (and I actually did end up giving up after several hours!).  Another option to is to buy the list and then hire someone on Fiverr, Elance or Odesk to create Excel macros or create a new spreadsheet based on filtered criteria for you.

This is on my mind because it’s time for me to go through my absentee-owners list and scrub to be sure they’re all still good leads.  It’s such a chore to research each lead manually, and I’m debating on just buying a new list (which would automatically clean out my old, dead leads).  I’ll probably end up doing it myself (with my assistant’s help), but it’s nice to know about options.

How do you get your absentee owned leads?  How do you scrub your lists?


Filed under Absentee Owners, Marketing

Yellow Letter vs. Professional Letter vs. Postcards

I’m beginning to think that a marketing or statistics degree would have really helped the last 3 1/2 years I’ve been trying to unravel the mystery that is direct mail for real estate investors.  In any case, at least my Letters degree taught me how to think critically and connect seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts.  And that’s helped a lot.

For almost two years I’ve tried to figure out the great marketing question most real estate investors try to answer: Yellow Letters or Professional Letters or Postcards?  And I still have no answer.  But I’m beginning to wonder whether I need to.

First, I’ll lay out what I know.  It’s all about gathering information and data, so I’ll give that, even if it’s not as quantifiable as it should be.  Last year I closed on 5 houses, all from a single campaign (meaning that I contacted the same lists over and over).  They received one yellow letter and the subsequent letters (sent every 4-6 weeks) were white, professional letters.

So since I saw a rhythm developing, I thought I’d up my marketing but also outsource it since I’m a stay-at-home-mom to three munchkins and also don’t want to eat, sleep and breathe REI.  So at the beginning of this year I shifted my marketing.  I signed up with Postcardmania (a fantastic company), and switched from professional letters to postcards.  I added a brand new list to my campaign (both to increase leads and provide a “control” group for my marketing experiment with the postcards).

The results were terrible.  Really, truly pathetic.  I even SOSed a friend who is a successful investor about my postcard woes and apparently I’m not the only one.  I had less than 1% response rate and no deals (so far).  The failure could have been for reasons other than my knee-jerk theory that postcards just don’t work. I  have to consider that, because well,  it’s worked for others.  But at the very least, the problem of sorting out why postcards didn’t work for me (design? list?) seems too big for me to focus on for now.

After 6 months of postcards with no deals and scanty leads, I began re-thinking and researching like crazy (usually in forums – the best way, in my opinion, to really find out what works with REI marketing).

And I’m slowly coming to another conclusion all together.

If we know that some people have great success with postcards (and they do), others with professional letters (yep) and many, many others with yellow letters (resounding yes), then maybe the type of mailer isn’t as important as I thought.

I noticed that successful investors tend to mention over and over NOT the types of mailers they send out, but the types of leads they target, or their commitment to follow ups and/or drip campaigns.  Not everyone focused on both, but the successful ones focused on one or the other,  and usually thought it was much more important than the type of direct mail they sent.

Last year I found success in sending a drip campaign of professional white letters to absentee owners over the course of a year.  I don’t think the success came in how targeted my leads were (they weren’t), but in how many times I “touched” them.  The house I bought last January took 5 letters before they called me! 5!

Perhaps what I should have focused on was getting high quality, targeted and motivated leads AND/OR continuing the drip campaign I was already having success with.

Now, I’m not sure how the postcards play into this, honestly, since I did a drip campaign and kept the same lists and added another similar list.  Which brings me to the next idea that I’m beginning to think is important: do only what works for you and chase that alone.

I don’t know why postcards aren’t working for me.  I could probably find out.  But I need to do what already works to find success.  Really, all of us are groping in the dark to find out what works.  And when we stumble on something that works for us, we need to stop, clear our heads of other distracting and tempting paths, and focus only on that. 

I thought I was doing that with postcards.  It’s taken me 8 months to see that I’ve lost nearly all of my momentum, and I should have not let it lose any at all.  So I’ll need to go back, start sending professional letters again, re-gain my momentum, and only once that ball is rolling could I consider stepping aside and really looking into figuring out what went wrong with postcards.

There’s a phrase I came across in a Bible class I took in college: the “day of small things”.  It describes what it took for the Israelites to rebuild their city.  Our broken nature might naturally gravitate toward big bursts of effort, or seeking excitement and distraction, but to build anything substantial, it takes “not despising the day of small things”.   We must put one foot in front another, again and again, every single day.  Faithfulness has fruit, apparently.

Staying focused is so hard for me, but it takes focus to be consistent, and it takes consistency to build momentum.  I’ve felt that my success with REI has been a boom and bust cycle since I started in 2009 (not just felt – it’s in my marketing and deal statistics!). And I believe that’s from a tendency to become distracted with perfecting my marketing (or business model, or this or that) rather than focusing only on building the momentum of the particular strategy I have already discovered works for me.

What are your thoughts on types of direct mail pieces?  Do any of my ideas resonate with you? Do they agree or contradict your experience?  I’d love to hear about it.


Filed under Education, Marketing

Breakdown of Closed Deals in the Past Year

I’m one of those dorky people obsessed with detective novels.  I love a great mystery and all that.  (My absolute favorite is the Lord Peter Wimsey series, by Dorothy Sayers.  If you like mystery, read this!)

I look at my marketing as a mystery to be solved.  I’m constantly trying to figure out the perfect marketing strategy, and I’ve learned that you never know when a piece of information that initially seems irrelevant turns out to be critical in discovering the truth.  So I try to collect as much data about my campaigns as possible.

In that spirit, I’ve come up with a breakdown of the 5 deals I’ve closed in the last year.  You can take a closer look below.

My Impressions:

  • Follow Ups Matter: 4 deals out of 5  received 2+ letters from me before they called.
  • Are spring and fall busier times than winter and summer?
  • Are older sellers (50+) more motivated than younger ones?
  • Free and clears might be a better criteria for my absentee owners, rather than out of state with equity.
  • Are Absentees better than Probates? 4/5 deals closed were absentee owners
  • Vacant houses are gold.
  • I wish there was a way to know about problem tenants before the eviction process.

What do you think?  Am I missing any key pieces of information that could be important?  Which information do you pay attention to?  What have you noticed when you’ve looked at trends in deals that you close?

#1 Barclay House
3/1/1 in solid middle class neighborhood
ARV 100k
Repair level: moderate cosmetic
Seller demographic: single, female, age 50+
Seller motivation: desperate
Seller circumstances: moved out of state for job 5 years ago
Seller financial situation: not in default, but close to it, mortgage of 60k
House situation: occupied by “squatting” tenant buyer
Exit Strategy: Executed L/O then executed option and sold to investor
Mailing List: out-of-state absentee owners with equity
# of Mailings before calling: 2
Date called: 3/23
Date of closing: 4/25

#2 Elmview House
3/1.5/2 in lower middle class neighborhood
ARV: 75k
Repair level: full cosmetic
Seller demographic: son of owner, a widow
Seller motivation: motivated (difficult to tell)
Seller circumstances: father passed, mother moved out of state to live with son
Seller financial situation: owned free and clear, some city code violations
House situation: vacant and vandalized
Exit Strategy: Wholesale (double closing)
Mailing List: probate
# of Mailings before calling: 2
Date called: 8/1
Date of closing: 9/24

#3 Beech House
3/2/2 in middle class/upper middle class neighborhood
ARV: 115k
Repair level: none, completely remodeled
Seller demographic: married, mother of previous owner
Seller motivation: Very motivated
Seller circumstances: Bought house for son, who was injured and unable to make payments
Seller financial situation: owned free and clear
House situation: Currently occupied with long term tenants
Exit Strategy: Cash offer rejected, owner finance offer accepted
Mailing List: Out-of-state absentee owners with equity
# of Mailings before emailing: 1
Date emailed: 6/4 then 7/25
Date of closing: 9/25

#4 Toledo House
2/1/1 in middle class neighborhood
ARV: 110k
Repair level: moderate cosmetic
Seller demographic: widowed, age 80+
Seller motivation: Very motivated
Seller circumstances: Long term absentee owner, unable to take care of house, with bad property manager
Seller financial situation: owned free and clear
House situation: occupied by non-paying tenants (grandsons of “property manager”)
Exit Strategy: Cash offer rejected, owner finance offer accepted
Mailing List: Out-of-state absentee owners with equity
# of Mailings before calling: 5
Date called: 10/1
Date of closing: 11/4

#5 NW 17th House
3/1/1 in middle class neighborhood in transition
ARV: 100k
Repair level: full gut rehab
Seller demographic: married, age 60+
Seller motivation: Motivated (difficult to tell)
Seller circumstances: co-owner of childhood home with sister, who had a stroke
Seller financial situation: owned free and clear
House situation: vacant, a hoarder house that needed bio-hazard clean up crew
Exit Strategy: Wholesale (double closing)
Mailing List: Out-of-state absentee owners with equity
# of Mailings before calling: 5
Date called: 10/24
Date of closing: 1/7


Filed under Deals, Education, Marketing, Planning

Picking a Database for Your Mac (Part 1)

How do you organize your leads and marketing campaigns, and keep track of response rates and other business stats?  I’m glad that I’m at least doing those things, but I have to admit that I’m doing them very poorly.

From the beginning this is how I’ve done it:

Every person who called or emailed me got a Property Information Sheet.  It’s actually a pretty great form.  I fill out all of their personal and contact info, along with information about the property, their motivation and mortgage.  I have a space to note all conversations with them.  I write down comps and calculate the ARV on the back.  My sheet is a tweaked hybrid of Vena Jones-Cox and Sharon Vornholt’s info sheet.  If you’d like a copy of mine, just email me.  I’d be happy to share!

Then I go enter their response on my Marketing Stats worksheet in Excel.  The first tab is my summary page, where I can see in one glance the total number of mailings I’ve done, total pieces mailed per campaign, number of responses, offers and deals and I have a formula that calculates the response rates.

I used to also keep close tabs on the cost for each campaign (broken down into category), along with time spent to prepare it (also broken down by category).  I haven’t done this in a while, though.

I have a tab for every single mailing I do.  I copy and paste my leads each time I mail them, and they get a new tab.  I delete the ones who have been removed.  When it’s time to do a mailing, I copy and paste the list onto a new excel sheet and manually remove the ones who need to remain on my list but who are follow-ups (and get a different letter or no letter from me).

It’s just not working for me.

You can see how quickly this can get complicated and waste time.  I have 20 tabs on my marketing worksheet (including my Summary tab), meaning that I have done 20 mailings this year.  It’s really hard to keep track of, and a near disaster each time I want to update my list, access information or do a mailing.

I’ve been looking for a change.  I mentioned in my interview with Sharon that I’ve been inspired lately by Tim Ferriss to set up my business and my life to reflect my values and goals: to make my life simpler in order to have more TIME for me and my family.

If I want to go to Starbucks or Barnes & Noble to get some work done in the evenings, when my husband is watching the kids (and this happens 2 nights a week, usually), here’s what I need with me:
-my Macbook laptop
-my Actives binder (with property info sheets)
-my Follow-Ups binder (property info sheets organized by which months I’m scheduled to follow up with them)

Seriously!  It’s so heavy.  It’s at least as heavy as when I was in high school toting around 5 textbooks!  It’s pretty ridiculous to be doing the same thing in 2012, especially considering that my little brother’s high school has phased out textbooks in favor of laptops. o_O

So, even though there might be tons of investors out there with a great paper or Excel system, mine just isn’t working.  And I want to get rid of paper anyway.  Just keeping my papers organized wastes a lot of time.  Add to that how often I’m hunting for papers and well, going digital will help me a lot.

Also, since I’m trying to simplify the workflow process, I’ve been hiring other people to help complete tasks, and I’d like to have a database that other VA’s (Virtual Assistants) can access as well, since that will hold basically all of my business info.

So not knowing anything about databases (what is a given, what is doable, etc.), this became my wishlist for a database:
-Can be in the cloud or have mobile access
-Multiple people can access it
-Leads are separate from their group, and can be in several groups at once
-I can attach files and documents to a lead
-It can sync with Mail Merge (or a similar program)
-It can sync with Gmail
-Works just as well on Macs & PCs
-It’s not expensive

In the next post, I’ll explain what my options are and the advantages/disadvantages of each.

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Filed under Marketing, Planning

Why I Stopped Using Yellow Letters

I know dozens of NR [New Rich] who don’t accept Western Union or checks as payment.  Some would respond to this with, ‘You’re giving up 10-15% of your sales!’ The NR, in turn, would say, ‘I am, but I’m also avoiding the 10-15% of the customers who create 40% of the expenses and eat 40% of my time.’ It’s classic 80/20.
– Tim Ferris, The Four Hour Workweek

When I started marketing in 2010, I heard a lot of buzz about the yellow letter.  You know – The Yellow Letter.  That keyword alone gets 4400 hits a month in the US on Google.  Lots of investors use them and have great success, and when I started marketing again at the beginning of this year, I started with yellow letters too.

The yellow letter is a great way to grab the attention of a homeowner.  You usually send it to owners of vacant properties, or at least absentee owners.  It’s got a vague, bare bones message with a bold call to action.

They tend to get great response rates.  With the one and only yellow letter campaign I’ve sent this year, I got 15.2% of homeowners to call me back.  That’s Uh-Mazing.  Typical response rates for direct mail are in the 1-3% range.

The Yellow Letter is short, mysterious and bold.

But guess what?  All were tire-kickers.  They just wanted to know what they could get for the house; they didn’t need to sell.  And that makes sense, doesn’t it?  They were calling to figure out who I was, what I do, and why I wanted to buy their house.  Because I didn’t tell them.  They were NOT calling because they necessarily wanted to sell their house.  They were calling because they were curious.

On the one hand, having a compelling call to action is great for marketing.  You want that clincher, right?  You want something that pushes them over the edge to give you that call or to go to your website.

But if they’re not calling because they want your product, then you’re wasting your time (at least, that’s been my experience).  And how can they want your product if they don’t KNOW what your product is?

After talking to hundreds of homeowners this year so far, I’ve decided that weeding out those who are not motivated and/or only want full market value is essential to me running a successful business that makes money and serves others.

Using a professional or white letter helps me do that.  I use the professional letter (or postcard) to explain exactly who I am (an investor), what I do (buy houses as-is), and why they should sell me their house (close quickly, no repairs to make, can offer cash).

With the professional letter, most people who call me know who they’re dealing with and are serious about their intention to sell.  My response rate is much lower (5-10%), but still very good.  Giving up a higher response rate is worth less time answering phone calls and filtering out bad leads.

For me, using professional letters/postcards is the equivalent to putting out a sign in front of your store front. It needs to be easy-to-read and clearly convey what kind of business you have.  You want to spend your time serving customers, not explaining your business to passers-by who are simply curious about your shop.

Right now I’m in the process of converting many of my letters to postcards, which seems like a GREAT idea since I can almost completely outsource the entire process.  (Tim Ferriss would be so proud!)  Down the road, I’ll get back to you on how the postcards compare with the professional letters.


Filed under Absentee Owners, Marketing, Planning