This is episode #442, and my guest today is my great friend Todd Swaggerty, founder of YellowLetterHQ.
Todd is a real estate investor, but also runs the largest real estate investor specific direct mail house in the nation…sending a few million pieces of mail a month.
Todd has the unique perspective of having his ear to the ground on direct mail lead generation unlike maybe anyone else…and today he goes all in one kind of a state of the union on what’s working now in direct mail.
Most successful real estate investors use direct mail as a significant portion of their lead generation tools for their business…so you do NOT want to miss this powerful show.
Please help me welcome Todd Swaggerty to the show!
Mike:This is the flipnerd.com “Expert Real Estate Investing Show,” the show for real estate investors, whether you’re a veteran or brand new. I’m your host Mike Hambright and each week I bring you a new expert guest that will share their knowledge and lessons with you. If you’re excited about real estate investing, believe in personal responsibility, and taking control of your life and financial destiny, you’re in the right place.
This is episode number 442 and my guest today is my great friend, Todd Swaggerty, the founder of Yellow Letter HQ. Todd is a real estate investor but also runs the largest real estate investor-specific direct mail house in the nation, sending a few million pieces of mail a month. Now Todd has a unique perspective on having his ear to the ground on direct mail lead generation unlike maybe anyone else in America. And today he goes all in on kind of a state of the union on what’s working now in direct mail because it is still working. You just have to be smart about it.
Most successful real estate investors use direct mail as a significant portion of their lead generation tools for their business. So you do not want to miss today’s powerful show. Lots of great information and nuggets shared. Please help me welcome Todd Swaggerty to the show. Hey, Todd, welcome to the show.
Todd:Hey, buddy. Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Mike:Good to see you. Good to see you. I’m pumped to talk about what we’re going to talk about today because, you know, I came in and really in when the market was just starting to go down, 2008. Depends on where you were in the country. And I don’t think anybody thinks we’re at 2007, 2008, 2009 right now. Like, but things have softened a little bit and we’re been so spoiled that it’s everybody’s taken note to what’s going on there. So it’s going to be exciting to talk about how to use this as an opportunity, you know, specifically from your area of expertise on direct mail. But I know you as an awesome guy. We’ve become great friends and we do a lot of things together. I appreciate you more than you know. But some people that are listening right now might not know who this Todd Swaggerty guy is. So tell us a little more about you and your background.
Todd:All right, everybody, I’ll start way from the beginning. Back when I first started my adulthood, back when I was in high school, I was one of the few guys who knew exactly what the heck they wanted to do. Right? And for me, I wanted to be a fireman and I joined up with the force really early in explorer program in high school and that ventured on for me to have a full-fledged career as a firefighter paramedic with an agency here in San Diego.
And that job was awesome, man. It really afforded me to kind of the same things I still pursue in my business and that is, you know, I couldn’t necessarily put it in these terms at the time but, you know, 15, 20 years later I kind of can, which is to have the freedom of time, relationship, and money for my life and for my family.
The Fire Department, you have a decent job. It’s well-paying. You have lots of time off and your salary is decent. And I thought that’s exactly what I wanted to do till, you know, death did us part. And as time went on and I became older, I started a family, got married, I realized, “Well, heck, I’m still kind of working for bureaucracy.” And so and that in fact it’s hard for me to kind of make my future exactly how I want it to be. And it was kind of challenging too because I live in San Diego. It’s an expensive place and so freedom of money equated to working more over time which would be more time away from my family.
So it was a wonderful job. It was a great job but I decided, “Hey, I need to start doing something.” So back in about the same time as you, I started . . . I knew I missed the whole 2004, 2005, 2006 bubble and I was thinking, “Well, how the heck can I just get into business for myself, working for myself on my days off?” So that started with me . . . I had my truck and trailer. I had a kind of a background in construction on my days off and I started getting involved in foreclosed homes.
So I started doing that. And then I started doing pretty good at it. And it was back when no one else was doing it. So I was able to land a contract through a contractor for Countrywide. If you remember back then Countrywide was the bee’s knees . . . well, they were the biggest around. So we got that contract for Countrywide, and my small 3 or 4-person business exploded to 20, 25-plus contractors servicing all the foreclosures, servicing all the monthly services and, you know, it just exploded.
And so I was able to make a couple of bucks there and I realized, “Hey, well, I’m still kind of working for bureaucracy. I’m working for a bank.” Right? And so I instilled a bunch of rules. I can’t really kind of design how I want to pursue my life and don’t really have any control over it. So a couple years later I started because in that industry and during that time, you know, 2008, 2009, 2010, if you weren’t working with real estate agents, it was kind of hard to get acquisitions. It wasn’t a hard but if you wanted to scale and get a lot, that’s who you had to get lead sources from.
And so I started doing that and then realized, “Well, heck, that’s kind of the same thing. I’m at the mercy of these real estate agents. I’m not really talking to the buyer and I’m crushing the seller and how do I have kind of more control of this?” And I got a lead from a guy who I had met and became good friends with after the fact, Luis Ontiveros. Yeah, I think you’ve had him on the show before.
Mike:Yeah, I know Luis really well.
Todd:Yeah. And so he assigned a property to me. I’m like, “What the heck is this? How is this possible?” And so what it really did for me, he was really define the, “Hey, I can kind of have more control over where I want to go. I can have more control over my business and the sales process.” Now I don’t want to be a dictator but I want to be directly add value to the person I’m dealing with. All the problems get solved between me, the buyer and the seller. And there’s nobody in the middle. There was no interference. So there was a communication gap was gone.
So I started doing that and then I started doing my own direct mail because, you know, I grew up in the fire service. I only wanted to do that. I didn’t have a lot of business background. I didn’t have a lot of systems or even the aptitude necessarily to be, you know, on the phone and doing sales types activity, that’s kind what we’re doing. We’re a marketing company no matter what you do in real estate.
So I’m like, “You know what? I want to maximize this mail piece and I want to do everything in-house. I want to know everything about this topic.” So I started doing my own mail in-house. And I started doing it for other people in my industry.
Mike:So you get good at it and people said, “Hey, can you do mine?”
Mike:Yeah. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? You hear that stuff all the time. Like, yeah, that’s awesome.
Todd:Right. And so I wanted to kind of maximize that. No, I didn’t want to at the time to do a letter. You know, it was like $1. You know, it was really expensive. Just didn’t make them a bunch of sense and I was wondering, you know, how the heck to transverse myself in all this. And so I started doing it for myself and then I’m like, “I can’t stand behind a machine all day as I want to grow my business.” I brought on other investors in my local market who wanted to do it and I started doing it for them and me. And that just kind of snowballed, man. It’s snowballed year after year and then, you know, I, it’s like you having a website and things like this and then learning how to run a print shop, which is more challenging than I had ever.
Mike:I’m sure. Nothing is easy, right? But you went from doing it yourself to probably getting bigger and more machines and putting more systems and processes in place and turned into a real business, huh?
Todd:Right. And so that’s where we’re at now. You know, I don’t think that anybody spends more time than me on the phone with investors throughout the country, knowing what’s going on or has a better pulse of what’s going on with the direct mail marketing. You know, maybe even in the country. And so that’s really a unique thing to have and to be useful in that way to my customers and my friends like you that are in the business.
So it’s been a really great thing. Something it was really frustrating first to understand and kind of to work with too. It’s been pretty cool. So that’s what we do now. We’re able to fulfill a marketing for investors specifically only in a direct seller niche, that’s all that we do. And we’re able to really help them in organization in their lead flow and in the list and the leadership of acquiring that list and knowing what to do.
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Todd: . . . and it’s been pretty cool. So that’s what we do now. We’re able to fulfill marketing for investors specifically only in a direct to seller niche. That’s all that we do. And we’re able to really help them in organization in their lead flow and in the list and the leadership of acquiring that list and knowing what to do. So it’s been great.
Mike:Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah, you’re the go-to guy for direct mail. No doubt. And you went from sending a few letters for yourself to sending, just to give some perspective, several million pieces of mail a month for investors all around the country, right?
Todd:Yeah, so it’s a few million. Not several but it’s a few million and it grows every month. And so . . .
Mike:What’s the difference between several and a few? I’m kidding. I actually I’m not really kidding but we don’t have time to talk about that. So, Todd, we’re going to talk a little bit about the state of the market. So here we sit, the market is slowing down a little bit. Our people are . . . you know, investors are nervous about it. Part of it is we’re just spoiled, right? Like three days, seven days on the market is not the norm anymore in a lot of parts of the market. And some markets, I mean, even we’ve been taking some price cuts on houses and that’s not something we’ve done for a long time.
So the market is slowing down, which, you know, I’ve been saying for years, I didn’t know when it was going to slow down. You kind of know that’s going to cycle down at some point. But, you know, I don’t want bad things to happen in the market but I know that that creates opportunity, right? And that’s what we really want to talk about today is a little bit about what’s going on in the market, what you’re seeing as a direct mail expert and what people can take away from that and kind of apply to their business to effectively kind of turn lemons into lemonade, if you will. So tells us a little bit about the state of the market. Like what do you think is going on from your perspective and what do you see from your all the customers that you have access to and talk to regularly?
Todd:Sure. Yeah. Well, there is a slowdown in the market systemically. Some places more than others, and some places not at all. But overall, there’s definitely a slowdown occurring exactly, like you said, it’s probably a good thing. So we can only maintain being able to sell house in a day or two or three, you know, for so long. Is it great? Absolutely. But it does have to shift and does have to change them. On one hand, I’m kind of glad that it’s here. So we are definitely seeing that. And we’re actually seeing a thinning of the herd when it comes to the kind of the quick gurus space and the, you know, the one hit wonders.
And so we’re seeing a thinning of that with which is great and so response rates are up. Response rates are up, but as investors our education is also up because we have to communicate to our sellers what’s going on in the market. And we need certain ways to prove that. And so all that does though is going to increase our response rates, it’s going to increase our conversions, and it just kind of changes our market cycle, if you will, makes it a little bit longer as they investigate themselves that they’re not going to be getting the kind of action they thought they were going to be getting on their properties before selling it for as much or as quickly.
So the investor who is ready to stay in this for the long game is going to be in a prime position. The investor who is preparing themselves and really kind of knowing their market is going to be in the pole position. And so even now, the guys that have been around a while or have some good sales skills, they’re really going at it. Their response rates are increasing and so is their deal flow. So it’s not all bad. There’s still people to sell to.
Mike:Yeah. I mean, there’s always going to be from . . . let’s say, from an acquisition standpoint, there’s always been people that are dying, getting divorce, death, inheritance problem rentals. Those things are always going to exist. Like they don’t follow . . . it’s like people don’t tear rentals up less in a good or bad market. They’re just tear them up because they don’t understand personal responsibility. And unfortunately, that doesn’t follow market cycles. And so there’s always going to be opportunities out there. But, like you said, it’s kind of funny.
We were at our Starbucks or somewhere here in the past week or so. And you know, they have like the newspaper stands and they have like . . . I don’t buy the newspaper but every once in a while I see a stand like that where it’s like I see the front of the newspaper and I think it was “USA Today” or it might have been “Dallas Morning News” where I’m at here. And literally the headline, I don’t remember exactly what it was but it was something to the effect of like market slowest at any point in eight years or it’s like the housing real estate market is, you know, in freefall.
You know, the media always use these words that are crazy and the reality is right or wrong, even though I don’t believe that. All the people that are sitting at home watching the news all day long, they’re being conditioned that, “The market is slowing. The market is slowing.” And truthfully, they’ve used that against us for years that, “The market is on fire. The markets on fire.”
And so now when you can go in and talk to sellers and, you know, a lot of sales techniques and things that, you know, our friends like John Martinez teach is you can start to plant seeds and drop some little breadcrumbs about, “Wow, you’ve probably seen the market slowing down quite a bit. So, you know, it might be a good time to sell.” In case it drops anymore, you can find ways to kind of help lean into what the media is already telling people all day long which, you know, the reality is as long as you buy the house right you can make money in up and down markets just the same.
Todd:Yep, exactly. So I still think it’s a great time to be in the direct selling market and in a few marketing channels and is that ability to educate and allow a few months really to go by that the sellers are self-educating basically on all of the news media that you’re covering. It’s going to spring right back. So it’s just an adjustment that we’re all going through. And it’s a thinning of the herd that I think we’re all kind of waiting for.
Mike:Yeah, yeah. I think a lot of people that are going . . . if you’re listening to this right now and you are new or newer, just know there’s an opportunity here. If you get caught up in the hype and say, “Well, the market is going down, that means I better get out.” I mean, truthfully, the best time to get in is when the market is trending down because, you know, a lot of the competition goes away. And if you’re one that goes away, then you’re going to miss out on the opportunity, right?
Mike:So let’s talk about . . . and I’ve noticed the difference too. You know, we have a rental portfolio. We get lots of postcards and letters, even to our rental properties. And that stack that we get every week is dwindling. I can see it and truthfully . . . let me put this in perspective. I can tell you that there are some heavy hitters in the market I that I know who they are. Successful investors that have been doing the business for a long time, I still get their postcards. Like the people that know what they’re doing, they stay true to their business and they’re not pulling back.
What’s going away are the ones that are like the one-off people that I get a postcard one time, like a lot of those are starting to go away. And those are the people that you say kind of thinning of the herd. Those that the ones that haven’t had any level of success, are trying to figure it out without really knowing what they’re doing, maybe. And those are the ones that that are kind of starting to go away just because they’re not seeing the results that they thought they would.
Todd:Sure. And there’s a certain level of commitment from a investor who has been around a little while and they kind of understand that marketing is the lifeblood of your business. And, you know, they’re not equating it to . . . they’re not getting a deal for a month or two, but they’re looking at their marketing, especially with direct mail over the long haul. They know that it’s a win-win proposition and they’re not looking at the first couple of weeks, months or small mail campaigns that they send out.
And so if we’re just talking about direct mail specifically, the great part about that, too, in the why they continue to do it is it’s a benefit of direct mail that it doesn’t equate to any other marketing channel is that they get that postcard in their hand. And they are putting in that top desk drawer when that timing is right. And they’re pulling it back out to call you. There’s no other marketing strategy that can do that. And you can’t equate that by month by month. That takes six months, a year or a plus to be able to happen. So there’s a small measure before it’s proven to you. You have to have that commitment of faith that that’s what’s occurring and that’s factually what’s occurring and that’s the only way those guys are staying in business. And that’s the cadence for direct mail.
So it’s not necessarily something that’s going to be hitting right away. There’s one, three, six, nine year later. And if you’re consistent and you’ve build that momentum, well, keep that momentum, keep the train going and the lead flow is going to happen. Your ROI is going to be, you know, six, eight, ten times on your spend. And it’s really kind of for me a marketing piece that you can’t lose because of the staying power. And because that’s what we’re waiting for, right? We’re waiting for timing. We’re waiting for the situation to be right by them. If we give them an intriguing mail piece, if we communicated who we are, if maybe we put a picture of ourselves of who we are on there and branded ourselves versus just our business because the direct . . . not to get off on a tangent, but the sellers they want to deal with a mom and pop professional.
They don’t want to deal with a necessarily big organization or branded name. And if they did, they would be calling a real estate agent. They want to deal with a mom and pop professional, same person that gives that mail piece is the same person who is coming to sit on the couch with them and help them solve their problems. And they can kind of see and verify them and all that.
Mike:Sure. Sure, sure.
Todd:We’ll get into that later.
Mike:And build this relationship. Yeah, this is a relationship business at the end of the day. So let’s actually get into some of the tactics, some of the stuff that you’ve seen and we’re kind of talking about state of the market, really the economy. Let’s kind of go into state of the market and direct mail like what’s working now. And so you have your ear to the ground like nobody else in direct mail for sure. And, you know, some discussions that always come up are what are some good lists, what’s working now and then what are some good kind of what’s working in kind of the pieces.
You know, post letters, cheap stuff versus glossy stuff. Like you said, big brand or kind of company branding versus like, “Hey, I’m Joe your local house buyer.” All those things. But let’s start with lists first. Let’s get into lists. Like some of the of the better lists that you see that are working right now. Or maybe even a couple that you see that . . . you know, maybe you could drop a couple nuggets of lists that people just don’t focus on enough but there’s opportunity there.
Todd:Right. So that’s kind of a loaded question and I want to preference first by saying that every market is different. I wish my job will be so much easier if I could say, “Go get this one list and, man, you’re going to just kill it.” So let’s preference that. Every market is different. And that’s actually a good thing for the investor because they can do some searching and they can really kind of find out what’s working best for the market.
Mike:So really, the best list is kind of a tiered approach. I mean, you got your niches, then you kind of have your broad niche list and then your big wide open list. The guys, they’re . . . and we’re going to start in reverse here. The guys that are the big players are mailing to people, they have their highest potential to sell to them, right? And so that’s a lot of the times that’s big, wide open lists of absentee and owner occ, generally speaking, high equity and own their property, 15, 20 years plus, and possibly all those age demographics are in there for the absentee and the owner occ of, you know, 55 older or higher. And so basically guys, they are at that level. They’re hitting all the niche lists by casting a very wide net and they’re successful due to that because they’re also gaining timing.
And this is what we were talking about earlier. It’s all about timing. And so if you’re in front of a participant, if you’re in front of a seller consistently, and they’re always thinking who they’re going to sell to and it’s always getting your mail consists, you’re casting a wide net, you have a lot more people raising their hands in that wide net of wanting to sell to you. And so that’s why people who mail a lot can be very successful, then they’re growing that momentum and that just snowballs into something that’s, you know 4, 5, 8, 10 times plus on the money. Then getting back to the broad niche list, that stuff we’re doing on purpose. That’s things like interfamily deeds, that property that’s been transferred from a trust to an heir.
And that can be done recently or that’s something that can be done, you know, 8, 10 years down the line but they still have this property they inherit and the appetite for that property from that investor is still something that they’ve inherited into their predisposition to want to sell easily and that’s where we come in.
Mike:And the interfamily deed transfer is kind of a precursor or a way to avoid effectively probate, right? You know, dad’s terminal he’s going to die. Like let’s just transfer the deed to the house now and not have to go through all that legal stuff down the road. I mean, those are the types of decisions that are happening, right?
Todd:Yeah. So basically what that is it’s an inheritance list and, you know, even a step before that is probate which was the first one and consequently last one we’ll talk about but these are the . . . the seller participants have done this on purpose. They planned and they said, “Okay, we’re putting this property in a trust and when mom or dad passes, it goes to the executor in the interfamily transfer is established. Now what a lot of guys do is they hit him so hard at the beginning along with everybody else soon as somebody inherits property or as soon as our property goes into probate. What guys don’t do is follow up with those leads 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 years after the fact that they’ve inherited the property.
A lot of times what happens is (a) they’re not willing ready to make a decision, (b) they haven’t, and they’ll get to a point where the timing is right for them. You know, Uncle Johnny’s been living in the house rent free forever and they’re just done with it. Market is doing well. Or they see a decline in the market. They’re seeing a declining market. All right, let’s get rid of this thing as soon as we can before lose anymore equity. So there’s those types of lists. There’s a few more of them, the unknowns, you know, unknowns are great. You can get those off of ListSource of equity unknown of the transfer dates.
And lot of times all those unknowns are unknowns because their interfamily transfer deeds, to be quite honest. But the way you find that out . . . not to get off on a tangent is really dig into the solds for your area. We’ll get into that next but then there’s the niche list. You know, if you’re a beginning investor, you’re probably going to want to starting a niche list. It’s hard to scale with niche lists. It’s harder to grow a very large business just on niche lists.
Mike:Yeah. The niche lists are kind of the cream off the top and, you know, if you’re, depending on the size of the market that you’re in. If you’re spending less than 5,000 bucks a month, let’s say, on direct mail, you probably should stay in the niche lists. Like you shouldn’t go on to the ones you mentioned up front which are like, you know, over 65 and they have a lot of equity in-house because that’s not real motivation like a probate or interfamily deed transfer or tax liens for three years or anything like that. You know that is like, hey, there’s really two pieces, right? There’s like could they sell if they want to? Do they have the equity to be able to sell if they wanted to? And then are they motivated to sell?
And so, you know, if they’re over a certain age and they have a lot of equity in their house, you know, they could sell but that doesn’t mean motivation. And so you don’t really kind of move into those . . . you know, it’s a seller that’s less likely to sell to you at a discount, right? But you should not start there, you should start in the niches. So tell us some more about these . . .
Todd:Yeah, so the niches we kind of all know about. Even if you’re a beginning investor, that’s kind of what you’re digging into. And so the best one, if we’re going to start from the bottom up, the best one and the hardest one to get at first is going to be driving for dollars. Now you go into your market and you’re picking areas, you know, investors are working in and you’re just combing the streets. That seems, you know, challenging and cumbersome and you have to get 500, 600, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 to get a good basis. But those are going to be your best converting, your best lead sources and they’re easy to get.
And so when you’re first starting out and you are wanting to, how the heck do I get this going? I can’t afford $6,000, $7,000 a month. Well, that’s where you start. You start with knowing your market, knowing what is selling in your market by going to your title company or different services like PropertyRadar or PropStream where you can look at solds that have sold for cash off market. And so you’re looking at what types of properties those are, where they’re at, how they became in that position, you know, is there an interfamily transfer deed on it? Was it owner occ?
And so you’re kind of, you know, approaching it from that perspective. Who is selling? And also by your zip codes. So you’re combing those zip codes, you’re doing driving for dollars and then you go into some of the niche lists based on what you just saw selling for cash in your market. And it could be the probates. It could be the tax delinquents for your market, tax delinquents that have been tax delinquents for a little while. Most places you know, you can be tax delinquent for quite a few years before it means anything. So you kind of have to do that footwork. And so on the niche list is it’s the greatest amount of work for sure. But it’s the highest ROI and your best chance of utilizing direct mail and hitting a person who has a motivation to sell to you.
Mike:Yeah, that’s one of the things we tell our students is like, you know, it’s easy to say just go buy a list. Just rely on somebody else to come up with your list. And at the end of the day, you know, it’s harder work but you got to do the work. Like we know this about real estate investors and all people. Like people are generally lazy, right? So they want the path of least resistance. Let me just do the . . . and we’re cheap too, right? So let me just do the cheapest list and the cheapest postcard I could possibly find and not put in a little bit of extra effort or a little bit of additional investment.
But the reality is if you were to kind of look at the pool of all real estate investors, like most of them are doing that. If you are willing to get down and dirty a little bit, dig into some of these lists and really learn what they mean and focus on, you know, we won’t probably have a lot of time talking about list stacking but looking at people that are on multiple lists for motivation, then the reality is, is your ROI your success can be much higher, but you got to kind of get off the proverbial couch and be willing to do a little bit of work, right?
Todd:Right. Absolutely. I’m glad you brought that up. And that’s the most frustrating things I have in my job is assisting direct to seller investors is that they’re not necessarily willing. Everybody wants . . . even guys that are successful in doing well, they just don’t want to have to deal with data aggregation. And data combing, data aggregation, what’s selling to who in your market, what are the most active lead sources in your market digging into that will for me is directly related it to the long game in your business.
If you are in this business for the long game, if you are in this business to have freedom of time, money, and relationship and that’s what you want, the first thing you have to know and you have to keep your entire investing career is your data aggregation. Knowing what’s going on, building upon that, that and the leadership of your company are the two most important things in your business and I see so many very successful investors wanting to give up that lead aggregation to some high price courthouse, go-getter person when they can do all that stuff themselves and really see if it’s working or not.
And 9 times out of 10 people who go to those types of agencies come on back to the roots and just have to figure out what’s going on in their market. And if they have the pulse up and it shifts, right, they’re shifting right now, what’s going to happen, if they have the pulse on it and they can jockey and move and know exactly where their cheese is close. So you can’t give that up. You have to start from the beginning. It sucks but it’s just you got to know everything about your lead and aggregation.
Mike:So let’s talk a little bit about the mail piece. So there’s always these kind of age old questions, letters versus postcards. There’s always like the cheap paper and the cheapest thing you get or some oversized glossy on super heavy cardstock. I mean, obviously there’s a million different flavors but kind of real high level here, in your experience, what works better? Let’s just kind of start with letters versus postcards. What do you say?
Todd:Letters versus postcards is going to be one of those things where you’re starting out and if you’ve done all this work together at niche and you’ve done all this data aggregation, you want to put your best foot forward. And oftentimes in my market because I send only letters is that I’m dealing with other direct sellers who only sent letters, right? And so you kind of get rid of the postcard guys but that can only last so long if you do that and have the ROI make sense. So we’re going to stick with your niches. You’re going to want to do letters a minimum of on a niche list is it really kind of depends but 30 day intervals max of 60, right?
And then you can switch on and off quarterly if you want between the letters and postcards. We’ll get into a little bit of the content of the letter and the postcards and things. But then after that, if you’re sending, you know, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 30,000 mail pieces in a market that is not a very that maybe has houses for sale for 150,000, $200,000 plus, you know, you’re probably want to stick to postcards and keep the letters for your niche stuff. And then periodically on your large list, you can send a letter. You know, maybe sent 2 letters in your 60-day cadence, your quarterly cadence a year. And then have it with postcards.
And the content of the letters and postcards is highly debated. And there’s so much emphasis put on font and ink color and all that kind of stuff it’s really it’s not really that important. First thing you want to do is get noticed in the mail stack, right? So your postcard or your letter can do that. Your postcard, you can do that by a multitude of things, the Street View is very, very popular. And depending on your market, you might have an adverse reaction to that. And so we have a . . .
Mike:And by the way, for those that they don’t know what the Street View, on your letter or postcard. So Todd has the ability and his company to pull in a Google Street View picture. So you could kind of say, “Hey, we want to buy this house and have . . . ” That’s an arrow like pointing at it, right? By the way, you could basically . . . you know, it catches your attention, right? If you see that versus somebody else, you’re like, “How did they get a picture of my house?” Now, there’s some adverse effects to that too. But anyway, high level you have the ability to pull in a Google Street View into your mail and it catches people’s attention because it’s unique. At least it’s different for now.
Todd: Right. And so that grabs their attention. They’re looking at it and going, “What the heck is this?” And you give them that three or four or five seconds to digest what you’re saying. And then they identify a need of what you’re saying, right? And so there’s other ways to soften the blow of that adverse reaction is first, you know, you do a small picture on the front of the postcard. You’re saying, “Hey, is this property for sale? I have never driven by it. I got this picture off the internet but I just wanted to get your attention.” That’s what you’re doing. The purpose of that is to capture their attention with asset.
And so on the back of that postcard, you’re going to have your basics, you know. Hey, we can make the sale process easy for sale as is. All that stuff we already know and it’s across the border on all of our pieces. And then for me, I want to soften the blow a little bit. I want to tell them exactly who I am. And Mike it’s your Mastermind that I’m a part of Investor Fuel. Trevor Mauch, the owner of onCarrot is there and he was saying that the highest viewed portion of the website is the about us. And we always want to make it about the seller. It’s always about them.
But when we tell them a few things about us, we’re actually making it about them because it makes them feel comfortable. So anytime you can drop the veil of who you are as a business owner, show them who you are and be searchable. Facebook page with a bunch of work that you’ve been doing. Examples of people you you’ve sold FaceTime, video time on your Facebook page and maybe a QR code on that postcard on that letter with a quick introduction video. “Hey, this is who I am. This is what I do. I like to, you know, get a chance to speak to about your property and see if I can be any help to you. If that’s true, you know, go ahead and call us at this number.”
And you’ve opened the door and you’ve introduced yourself and you’ve done something no other investor in our market is doing, right? And so not to get off on a tangent with letters and postcards. So you want to do both of those things I discussed on a letter or a postcard and you want to give a sentence or two about who you are, what you can do for them. Kind of drop the veil of who you are as a direct seller investor. Of course, you want your logo on there. You want to be discernible by, (a), you. A picture of maybe you and your family. It kind of puts the guard down and they want to identify that every time you [on their piece 00:37:21] and your logo.
And then, you know, letters versus postcards. Postcards are for when you’re starting to ramp up the quantity of bunch. But you still want to have those soft little touches. The doodle does the same thing kind as the Street View. It just kind of make them swim in that whole direct mail fatigue of what the heck is this. You know, and three or four seconds to digest it and see what is and with the letters, different color envelopes help just going, “What the heck is this? This is not normal. Let me see what it is.”
After you get past that, that’s all the work a mail piece needs to do for you. Make it a little bit inquisitive, kind of make it a little transparent on who you are, communicate your message. That’s all you can do. And then the rest is for your sales process.
Mike:Yeah, at the end of the day, man, we, gosh, I don’t even know. We’ve met with 10,000 or 15,000 sellers, you know, over the last 10 years, probably. And if I look back . . . but, you know, we didn’t buy 10,000, 15,000 houses. Like we met with a lot of people and, you know, ultimately, you know, a small percentage of that maybe that we actually bought houses from, relatively speaking. But if you look back to all those cases, like they trusted . . . they ultimately sold to us because they trusted us. They trusted us to solve their problem. There was a relationship there.
Now, it’s not like we’re play poker together now and we’re hanging out taking vacations together afterwards, but they trusted us enough to say, “This person could solve my problem.” And you don’t have to have that relationship with 100% of people because 100% of people don’t need you to solve their problem and you probably couldn’t solve their problem. But the ones that need it most, that relationship is why that’s so important. They’re like, “Yes, I have this issue going on,” whatever their issue might be. And they are thinking about how can I solve this? Who can I trust, right? So we know . . .
I mean, anybody that’s been a real estate advisor for a while and you bought a lot of houses, you know that there are sellers that every once in a while are telling you things that some of their closest family members don’t know, right? And you should feel good about that. If you’ve gotten to that point because you became a trusted advisor for that person. They trusted you. And so back to your point here is, the more you can start to plant those seeds in your letters of, “I’m a real person. My family lives here. We help people in the area with real estate problems, challenging real estate problems. And effectively, you can trust me too,” right?
Mike:I’m planting those seeds along the way. And then generally, I know your belief is that a letter is just more personable than a postcard because if done right, it looks less like a solicitation and more like an invitation, if you will, and to let me help you, right?
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. Awesome, man.
Mike:And we could talk about these things for forever. So, by the way, you guys, this is the cool thing about Todd, by the way. If you’re sending direct mail now or you’re thinking about getting started or whatever, like he’s so giving of his time and I don’t know if I should say that to . . . no, I do believe that but like, you know, there’s obviously a lot of people that listen to the show here. So, Todd, what’s your cell phone number again? No, I’m kidding. But at the end of the day, his company is so helpful at sharing this information with customers and prospective customers that, you know, back to the kind of solving people’s problems.
Like if you’re sending direct mail and you really kind of stuck and you don’t know exactly what to do, they’ll openly tell their customers here, “I just heard this from somebody and we tested it and it’s working really well. So we advise this.” And so you got like a little bit of a consultation there as well with Todd and Yellow Letter HQ. So you should definitely check them out.
Todd:Right. You’re absolutely right and definitely do it because one thing I’ve learned is that just like what we’re talking before, no one is going to be put in the extra effort. You pick up the phone and ask us. [inaudible 00:41:06].
Mike:Right. Yeah. To put in perspective, when we started working together, I don’t know if you ever remember this part but I was using a different mail company for a long time. I was using a big kind of corporate branded over glossy postcard. And, you know, whenever I ordered through them, they weren’t real estate specific but they were a huge mail house, just not real estate specific. And, you know, I would have to come up with the idea of what I want on the postcard. I’d have to send them our graphics and then they would make it all happen. And until I started talking to you, and I was like, “Well, hey, we’ve got this graphic.”
And you’re like, “Why are you doing that? Why are you doing that? Just use this one. We’ve already got this created. You’ve picked from one of these five designs. These are working well right now.” And I was just kind of like, “Wow, that’s not only easier, but I have the perspective of somebody actually telling me, ‘Here’s what’s working now, just replicate what we’re already doing.”
Todd:Yeah. And that’s where you can do a few things to take basic templates that we’re using that’s working and kind of still make it your own. Now we can definitely duplicate anything that you want created. But you can take what we’ve already have and roll with it and make your own unique changes unique to you. And sometimes that’s where the whole family picture thing comes into play. And at the end of the day, you can kind of just customize it and make it exactly how you want or take one of our proven templates. Because at the end of the day, the seller is only thinking about selling to the property to somebody that they trust.
All this other weird stuff that we tweak out about and try to kind of have control over as our business owners to make our business better has no weight. There’s no weight on ink color. There’s weight on actually having a colored postcard versus a black and white postcard because it simply just gets noticed in the stack. But one color versus another color doesn’t have the weight. So yeah.
Mike:Yeah. Awesome. So kind of bring us home, Todd. We were talking about a lot of stuff here. For people that are listening right now and they’re like, “Wow, this is all really helpful.” And either they might be a veteran real estate investor that’s been doing things one way for a long time and it’s not working as good as it used to or somebody that’s getting started that, you know, doesn’t really know where to start from and how to kind of discern all the information that we just talked about here. So give us just like an overview in next minute or so of how do you move forward with this information and where we are in the economy right now and where we are with the knowledge that you shared today on lists versus letters and staying consistent and all that? Kind of summarize it, if you will.
Todd:Right. Well, I think it’s kind of a summarization of our entire the talk here and equates to everybody across the board is, number one, have a commitment to doing. If you’re going to do it, be able to do it a minimum of six months and have the reserves to do that and choose your marketing strategy based on that. So you’ve committed to do it and knowing your market, knowing your avatar of your seller. Knowing your data. And so that’s going to apply to everybody. A big business and businesses that have been doing very well, just based on being able to blast big mail campaigns out, right?
So be consistent. And that first starts with the commitment and knowing your data and then dropping the veil of who you are as a business owner. Let them know who the heck you are. These one-off postcards that are nondescript and people not even putting their actual real return mail address and all that. You know, you want to be searchable. They want to see you. Who are we dealing with? And how much can they find out about you before they ever pick up the phone?
It used to be that, “Hey, we didn’t want them to find out much about us. We just wanted them to pick up a phone.” The problem with that nowadays is they have 30, 40 other postcards they can do that with and it’s just all based on timing. So get rid of that perspective. Let who you are show through a little bit and that’s your uniqueness, right? And that’s how you’re setting yourself apart. And that’s basically it. If you’re committed to it, you know you’re going to do it, you’re going to follow through, you’re going to have do the research and you’re going to know what data points are working well in your area and you’re going to build that momentum and you’re going to be in front of the right sellers for a long period of time.
And all that marketing strategy, all you have to deal with work with now is your own sales strategy and making sure that’s all online, right? If you use those, those three components, and all you have to worry about is you being consistent with the follow ups in your back end systems and you don’t have to put so much energy and effort into the mail piece itself, put that energy and effort into your data aggregation and then over to the sales side and leave the mail piece creation kind of out of it as long as you’re being transparent and searchable.
Mike:Awesome. Man, this was some very powerful information, Todd. Thanks for sharing with us.
Todd:Sure, man, no problem. Anytime. And so guys can get hold of me on our website, www.yellowletterhq.com. You can send email to me as well, [email protected] and we can send you a link if you want to kind of get a mail strategy going. I meet with my investors, my customers for 4 appointments a day, 15-minute blocks. And anytime you can set in available slot up through our calendar system and you can get a chance to talk to me and kind of go over what you’re doing and where you want to go. So that’s pretty unique and a pretty good thing. And also I do a lot of getting more active in the social media space. If you want to hit me up on a chat on Facebook, I respond to those pretty much on the fly pretty quick as I’m going through my day.
Mike:Awesome, Todd. And I see your shirt on. What are you got there?
Todd:Oh, what do I have here? Investor Fuel like you were talking about before.
Mike:Yeah, yeah, Todd is a member of our Investor Fuel Mastermind. Really just a wealth of knowledge. Really enjoyed getting to know you over the past I guess a couple years really. So Todd, you know, I’m going to ask for a shameless plug here while we’re here. Tell us a little about Investor Fuel and, you know, I guess what . . . you didn’t know I was going to ask you this. But, you know, give me a little plug to people that are out there. Honestly there’s a lot of people that ask about it. We’ve created a lot of buzz. It’s the people that are in the group know that it’s just a wealth of knowledge and a lot of really great people. But just share your thoughts on, you know, give us your elevator pitch on Investor Fuel.
Todd:Right. So I’ve had a unique experience of being invited to a lot of masterminds and because of my knowledge and my position here in the direct mail space. And what I like most about Investor Fuel is first the people. You know, this business can kind of attract the type A personalities, which are there absolutely. And there’s a certain attitude that sometimes comes with those type A personalities. So with Investor Fuel, the people I’ve met in that group are just are salt of the earth, down to earth and giving people. And who you have there is kind of a whole team of guys like me. I’m in there. John Martinez is an advisor. You have Trevor Mauch owner of onCarrot.
And you have every facet you need of this business in that room to have personal relationships with the people that are doing the work and direct access to them. So any problem I have in my business, in marketing I come to you. Sales, I go to John. You know, and to be able to have that resource is really just is catapulting my business. And for me it’s not so much as catapulting my business but it’s absolutely important. That’s just the peace of mind of knowing who I can go to to get the answers to my questions. I’m not here clustering, picking up, you know, trying to re-learn stuff and trying to be excellent at something I suck at.
And so to have all those people and those resources in that group has just been awesome. So we meet once a quarter and it’s at different places throughout the country. And we talked a lot about ROI in my business because that’s really important. And you can put out X amount of dollars. You need to get X amount back. And for me, the ROI for Investor Fuel has just been off the chart. This is not just for me getting customers, this is me building my business, growing my business, and learning different things for my business and its growth and contributing mostly to Investor Fuel. So it’s just been awesome, man.
Mike:That’s great. Thank you. And one of the things that . . . you know, I’m always biased if I say things. But one of the things . . . I’ve been in other mastermind groups too. One of the things that I’ll say is, you know, we focus a lot on life. Like why do we work so hard? I mean, a lot of us entrepreneurs are . . . you know, like I have 5,000 Facebook friends but I don’t have 5,000 like best friends that I share my darkest secrets with, you know?
So it’s like we’re all connected. A lot of us understand how important social media is for our business. But then we kind of sometimes we go home and we feel alone, right? And don’t have anybody to talk to. And I think it’s been . . . you know, it’s my group, I won’t take credit for this happening. It just evolved by getting the right people in the room. But there are people in there that have created like, lifelong friendships and, you know, doing deals. There’s some really cool stuff that’s just a byproduct of it. I mean, you’d agree with that, I assume?
Todd:Yeah. Yeah, and there’s some really big players in that group doing some really large partnerships as well and doing the work-life balance thing together. Pretty cool, man.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for that. So everybody, this was episode number 442 with Todd Swaggerty, a great guy, great company. I mean, we recommend everybody we can to go to Yellow Letter HQ if you’re not using them now. As the show comes out here, we’re actually just a little bit before the Christmas holiday here. So anyway, happy holidays to everybody. We really appreciate you.
If you have not subscribed, if you’re thinking of like, “Well, what can I get Mike for Christmas here?” I’ve got a little request. Go out and subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, YouTube, wherever you listen to us or watch the show at. And of course, all of our shows, all of our content. Thousands of hours of content for free, you can get access to on flipnerd.com.
So we appreciate you guys. We’ve got some exciting changes coming with the show in the year ahead and we’ll be announcing those soon. But actually we’re coming up here. I haven’t . . . actually, I don’t if I said this out loud before, we’re literally just a couple weeks away from our five-year anniversary of this show. So hard to believe it’s been that long but it has. So, Todd, thanks again for being with us today.
Todd:No problem, man. Anytime.
Mike:Awesome. And everybody, thanks for joining us. We’ll see you on the next one. If you’re an active real estate investor already doing deals and looking to double or triple your business, you should consider joining the Investor Fuel Real Estate Investor Mastermind. We’re a small group of investors that share our best practices, tips, and tricks with one another in an effort to all win. Real estate can be a lonely business for successful real estate investors. But it doesn’t have to be.
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We limit our membership to only one to two members per market, so everyone shares their knowledge, tips, and tricks openly and honestly. Our members include some buying one to two houses a month up to the most respected investors and leaders in the real estate investing industry, some of which have personally done over 1,000 deals. If you’d like to be considered for our invitation-only, world-class mastermind, please visit investorfuel.com to request your personal invitation. Our next meeting is coming up quickly, go to investorfuel.com now to learn more.
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