There are many different forms of real estate marketing that investors can turn to generate leads. A yellow letter might be one of the most powerful, if not often confusing, forms out there.
While many investors may have a passing knowledge of real estate bandit signs, real estate door hangers—even good, old real estate blogging—one of the most effective methods of direct mail marketing is the yellow, handwritten letter.
But how do they work? What’s the best way to use yellow letters? Why are they such an effective form of real estate content marketing? (Yes! Real estate yellow letters are content!)
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Here’s a quick primer on the what’s, why’s and where’s of adding “color” to your real estate marketing efforts.
What Are Yellow Letters?
Yellow letters are direct mail letters handwritten (or presented to “look” handwritten) on yellow-lined paper, such as that from a legal pad. It’s a form of direct mail marketing that can prove devastatingly effective for real estate investors looking for leads. (Mostly because this form of marketing doesn’t “scream” it’s marketing.)
Yellow Letter Marketing Pros
There are many advantages to using real estate yellow letters; some tangible, some more psychological in nature. Here are some reasons why you might want to consider their use:
Higher Leads & Conversions: Despite the proliferation of online marketing channels, such as social media real estate campaigns, yellow letter campaigns are still used today, in a variety of business niches. That’s because, despite an abundance of “junk mail,” 41 percent of Americans still look forward to seeing the contents of their mailbox every day. According to a study by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), 34 percent of businesses using direct mail received the strongest customer acquisition from that form. (With conversion rates for “yellow letters” nearly 65 percent higher than regular direct mail pieces.)
Personalize: Yellow letters cut through the noise of busy email inboxes that ping and often annoy users throughout the day with one email marketing campaign after another. One of the best things about direct mail is, according to Gallup, that 90 percent of Americans still enjoy receiving personal letters and cards. Yellow letters stand out among a pile of junk mass mail, produced by institutions like banks or insurance companies, because it still has the look and feel of a personal letter—but packed with a message that can help boost your business.
Pique Interest: The yellow-lined paper, seen through most envelopes, generates curiosity in a prospect. It’s not your typical junk mail printed on white stock paper and sent in white standard envelopes. And since, according to the USPS, 77 percent of consumers still actually pick up and sort their mail physically.
Measurable: You can easily measure the performance of a yellow letter direct mail campaign. It’s just a matter of listing down who called, or emailed a response, to your yellow letter. (And with measurability comes the ability to tweak and improve a campaign to ensure it gives you the best ROI.)
Yellow Letter Marketing Cons
As with every real estate marketing campaign, yellow letters also come with disadvantages. This includes the fact they are:
Time-Consuming: Compared to printing out business letters, handwriting yellow letters for each of your prospects take significantly more time. (Especially if you decide to save expenses and do them yourself.)
Expensive: Compared to printing out business letters, handwriting yellow letters for each of your prospects take significantly more time. (Especially if you decide to save expenses and do them yourself.) Sending out yellow letters, especially if you employ the help of a company that specializes in producing them en masse, require extra capital, more than needed for a typical direct mail campaign. How much more? Each letter can cost at least $0.77, depending on the company used. (Far more expensive than simply for “driving for dollars.”)
May Not Be Received Well: While a lot of people appreciate a more personal letter rather than a generic, mass-produced one, there are still those who would react negatively upon receiving your yellow letter. You might get angry responses, accusations of aggressive marketing tactics, or your letter might be tagged as unprofessional for being handwritten in the first place.
Effective Yellow Letter Sample
When you’ve decided to take the leap to create yellow letters, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started on your first campaign:
1. Know Your Audience
Without having an idea who your prospects are, your letters will have a low chance of acquiring leads. Know who you’re talking to, so you can write your letter in a language, and tone, they will be able to relate to.
2. Write Your Drafts
The next step is to write a draft of your letter’s content by keeping the following in mind:
Length: Long messages might bore a recipient. Remember human beings have an 8-second attention span, shorter than that of a goldfish, so, ideally, keep your letter to less than 120 words. When they call, that’s when you can explain your services in more detail.
Word usage: Short and simple will usually do the trick. Prospects will often lose interest if your letter sounds complicated. (Long-form sales letters can be used on “warmer” leads, already familiar with you.)
Important information: Don’t forget to include your contact details (e.g. phone number, email, etc.) so they can contact you. Make it easy for them to reach out to you.
3. Create The Letters
Now that you have the letter’s content down, you need to start creating them. Below are options you can explore, depending on how many letters you need to send, and how much time you have:
Write them yourself: This is the usual route of investors who only have a small targeted list of prospects, and are a bit limited on funds.
Hire someone else to write the letters: Alternatively, you can pay someone else (a college kid or anyone needing extra cash) to help you write them.
Photocopy technique: Write the body of the letter while leaving spaces for your prospect’s name and address. Photocopy that letter as many times as needed. Finally, write down the missing details on the blank spaces.
Enlist a yellow letter company: If you have a lot to send out, you can always hire a company who specializes in yellow letters to do it for you, like Yellow Letters or Go Big Yellow Letter.
4. Track Your Data
This strategy, as with any other campaign, needs to be tracked so you can evaluate its performance. Among the key metrics you need to track include the number of letters you send out, how often you send them, and how long you’ve been sending them.
Next, track the responses you’re getting (e.g., phone calls, emails). Always answer calls and respond quickly to emails. Aim to find out what a home seller wants and what their timeline is.
If you aren’t getting any responses, then look at your strategies and start modifying your letter. (Your message to market match may be off.)
5. Conduct Split Tests
Split tests help sharpen your technique, so you can keep improving your response rate. Start by sending out two different letters to the same customer demographic. Each set of letters will have a different message and design. Find out which set delivers the best response rate and repeat that technique with other prospects.
The more technologically-advanced the world gets, the more we humans crave authentic communication. A yellow letter is a great bridge between marketing automation and personal one-on-one dialogue.
Though there may be a bit more expense involved with yellow letters, these powerful forms of real estate marketing might be the best way to cut through a crowded market and find those deals that require a more human, personalized touch.
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Fortunately, direct mail is not a crowded marketing space.
Unfortunately, a good portion of mail ends up in the trash without a second look.
Reasons for this dismissive attitude vary, but above all, stands one glaring fact:
The recipient knows you’re trying to sell something.
Because of this, mail that doesn’t get to the point – and get there quickly – is tossed without being read. Succinct mail, on the other hand, has a higher chance of catching the eye of the intended audience.
In fact, your only chance of sending successful direct mail is to target the right audience, with the right message, at the right time.
Here are 10 tips that give your real estate direct mail the best chance at catching the eye and landing leads.
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1. Target Your Audience
Find your audience.
If you don’t have a target audience, then you don’t have a message. If you don’t have a message, then you don’t have a direct mail campaign.
To discover your ideal recipient, ask yourself these questions.
- Do you want to target house buyers or house sellers?
- Do you want to target high or low-income housing?
- What is your desired end result, to get leads, or to build awareness?
With that information in mind, determine the ideal target area. A desire for high revenue leads will target high-income areas. Conversely, a desire for low-income leads will target low-income areas.
Every message has an audience because every audience has a problem. What problem are you solving and who are its victims? Target them.
2. Time Your Mail Correctly
It’s no secret that seasonal trends dominate the real estate market.
Fortunately, these trends are predictable.
Data covering 1999 to 2015 shows this yearly arc in housing sales.
Image via HousingWire
November through mid-February win the award for slowest months of the year. In March, sales spike and continue to do so until they reach a peak in June and then steadily decrease to be revamped the next Spring.
Understanding this arc is critical for the success of your direct mail campaigns.
People sell more houses during the Spring to Fall months than winter months. Send the right campaign at the wrong time and you might as well throw the mail away yourself.
But use this arc to your advantage and your audience will be more receptive.
Data understood the best course of action is to preemptively strike the market mid-February and keep sending until the fall. In the winter, send holiday mail, not to land leads – because, statistically, you won’t – but to increase brand awareness.
Since your goal isn’t to sell and buy during the holidays, don’t be pushy. Use something holiday friendly. Consider…
Image via Brokerforyou
Or even less salesy…
Image via PixelsPrinted
During the holidays, simply remind people that you are a friendly realtor in the area. During spring through fall, send direct offers.
Any great salesperson will tell you that timing is everything. In real estate, timing is dire. Follow the seasons.
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3. Find the Ideal Frequency
You don’t want to annoy, but you also don’t want to avoid.
Choosing the best frequency is largely a matter of experimenting with different frequencies and watching the impact. But, even though trial and error is a great way to learn, it might not be the most efficient.
So here’s a good rule of thumb for direct mail frequency: send once a month.
This frequency will keep you regularly in touch with the people who matter without annoying them.
Having said that, don’t hesitate to experiment with a higher frequency during the selling season – Spring through Fall – and a lower frequency during the holidays.
Whatever you choose, commit to a frequency and relentlessly hit your due dates.
4. Catch Your Audience’s Eye
With the bulk of postcards and envelopes in everyone’s mailbox, getting your message to stand out is tricky.
Luckily, you don’t need your direct mail to stand out.
You just need to quickly give the recipient the appropriate information.
Because before throwing away, people glance at every piece of mail to make sure it’s worthy of the trash.
Your only goal is to catch the eye of your intended audience.
Try and grab everyone’s attention, and you’ll get no one’s. That is why you must determine who your audience is and target them with a bullseye focus.
Consider these examples that immediately, and in as few words as possible, explain what is being offered and what you can do about it if you’re interested.
Image via BaltimoreWholesaleProperty
Image via BaltimoreWholesaleProperty
Image via PostcardMania
Image via PostcardMania
What do all of these postcards have in common?
Each one immediately tells the recipient if they are the intended audience. If yes, they’ll hang onto the postcard or contact you right away. If no, the postcard gets tossed.
The quicker that you communicate who you’re targeting, the better. Don’t try to drag people along for a ride they don’t want to go on. You’ll upset a potential client, create distrust for your brand, and miss out on a sale.
A quick description of what you do, an easy to read font, and a short explanation of what the interested receiver can do are the ingredients for eye-catching direct mail.
5. Don’t Crowd
It’s important, particularly with postcards, that you use space wisely. There isn’t much of it, so focus your space on three primary things.
- What you do.
- Who you are.
- And… what the recipient can do about it.
When it comes to real estate postcards, stick to these three things religiously.
Here are a few examples of this format in use.
Image via PostCardMania
Image via PostCardMania
Image via PostCardMania
Crowding your message is never a good thing. Only include a single CTA. Anything more and you’ll confuse your audience. Anything less and you’ll lose them.
6. Consider a Digest
USPS found that the daily average amount of time a person spends reading their mail is a staggering 30 minutes.
Now, you and I both know that they aren’t spending 30 minutes reading postcards from real estate investors. Likely, they’re looking at their bills, magazines, and catalogs. Which illustrates an important point for your direct mail campaign.
Namely, postcards are great, but they aren’t looked at for 30 minutes. However, there is a type of mail that will naturally get more reading time:
A digest of the city’s happenings.
Take, for example, the back of this direct mailer, which is riddled with events for February, March, and April.
Image via KopywritingKourse
Similarly, this piece of mail includes everything from best lunch items to a football schedule.
Image via KopywritingKourse
While grabbing the attention of your audience quickly and without reserve is important, so too is providing genuinely helpful and interesting information, when appropriate.
Strike a balance between the digest and the postcard and your offers will be taken more seriously and with greater consideration.
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7. Be Honest
Marketing can be difficult. Low response rates, open rates, and conversion rates plague nearly every type of marketing… including direct mail.
And, sometimes, that marketing difficulty causes people to try unorthodox tricks.
Email, the trick is typing “Re:” or “Fwd:” into the subject line. On the phone, it’s pretending that your headset fell off at the beginning of the call. With direct mail, it’s sending a dishonest or partially dishonest message to your recipient.
Using these tactics, though, only hurts your business in the long run — establishing yourself as a foundation for childish tricks and half lies.
To help you determine what not to do, here are some examples of dishonest real estate direct mail.
Image via Pinterest
Image via BiggerPockets
Image via YellowLetters
Dishonesty may grab attention… for a moment. But immediately after the recipient realizes they’ve been duped, they’ll look away and throw away.
The temptation to submit to scheming marketing tactics is a real one. But don’t.
In the end, it only makes your open, response, and conversion rates worse than they were before.
9. Be Consistent
The key to any type of marketing is consistency. Whether you blog, podcast, or send direct mail, consistency is king.
The amount of time between seeing an advertisement and actually purchasing is often lengthy – weeks or sometimes months. And thus, the importance of marketing, over and over again, can’t be stressed enough.
Remember, you’re not out to save the world with each piece of direct mail, you’re simply out to remind people that you exist. Because, then, when they do need you, they’ll find you.
Decide on your frequency and stick to it for a preset amount of time. Once you near the end, see if you can do anything better for the next period of time… so on and so forth, always improving.
10. Follow Up
Keep your phone nearby and your email notifications on.
The goal of direct mail is for the target audience to contact you. But, that means you need to be ready for their contact.
There’s nothing more discouraging than reading a savior-esque piece of mail, contacting the investor, and not hearing back for a week or so.
If you take too long to respond to your leads, they’ll either lose interest or find someone else to work with. It’s important that, as much as possible, you’re available to answer phone calls and respond to emails promptly.
Play for the Long Run
All marketing endeavors, including direct mail, are a long-term play. You won’t send your first postcards and, overnight, spike your sales. But you will steadily increase your brand awareness and lead generation.
Direct Mail Campaign Real Estate
Like anything that’s worth doing, it takes time.
Keep that in mind as you apply these tips to your direct mail campaign.
Real Estate Direct Mail Marketing
Even though your mail is going to get thrown in the trash, it’s what happens immediately before that counts.
Namely, whether they read before they toss.