When I first started using direct mail in my real estate investing business, I was blown away by the results.
Never before had I been inundated with more deals than I could handle… and after struggling for years to find worthwhile opportunities on the MLS, the discovery of this marketing medium was a MAJOR new revelation for me.
From the moment I saw how effective it was at uncovering opportunities that nobody else knew about, it completely changed the trajectory of my business.
For a long time, my direct mail marketing strategy was pretty simple.
There were a few different variations to the messages I would put on my postcards, but they all worked pretty well, and when I paired it with the right data and filtered each list properly – the results were nothing short of amazing.
The Right Message to The Right People
For me, direct mail was effective because I used a very simple message, and I didn't send mail to everybody. I took special care to contact a very small segment of the property owners in a given market who needed exactly what I was offering.
As a result of reaching the right people, I never had to “convince” anyone to go along with my offers, because when I was talking to the right kind of seller, my offer was precisely what they wanted. If I could just make them aware of my solution in a very short amount of time, there was a good chance they would respond to my mail piece and contact me about doing business.
I liked using postcards because they were cheap (which meant I could reach a lot more people for less money). They were also very easy to send (with no mail merge required) AND hard for people to ignore… but for all of their qualities, they still weren’t the most direct way to get my offer into a seller’s hands.
Postcards were great at finding hidden opportunities to buy cheap real estate, but they always required some kind of action/response from each prospect BEFORE I could send them my low-ball offer. The process still worked well enough… but was there a better way to get deals in the bag?
The Blind Offer Strategy
A few years ago, I started hearing from a few other land investors who were taking a different approach with their direct mail campaigns.
Rather than sending out an open solicitation and asking each recipient to call them back or visit a website to submit their information – they were just cutting to the chase and sending every property owner a blind offer for their property.
When I first heard about this approach, my initial thoughts were…
“Could it really be that simple?”
“Am I really comfortable sending out offers without doing ANY preliminary research?”
“What if someone accepts my offer, but their property ends up being a total dog that I don't even want?”
“If my postcards are already working so well, does it make sense to learn a whole new approach?”
After dealing with my initial skepticism, the more I researched and learned about the rationale behind this approach, I had to admit, blind offers seemed to make a lot of sense.
- It would eliminate some of the back-and-forth between sellers. Rather than asking them to respond to me and THEN sending them an offer, I could just hit them with my offer on the first contact.
- It would be a lot easier to get lists and avoid messing around with the county's delinquent tax data (which can be a major hassle in many cases).
- Instead of spending my time calculating specific offer prices for each individual property (i.e. – the “Ready, Aim, Fire” approach), I could just send out deeply discounted offers based on each property's size or assessed value, and then verify the suitability of each deal AFTER my offers were accepted (i.e. – the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach).
- Rather than focusing only on tax delinquent properties with my direct mail, this would also allow me to find more acquisition opportunities from sellers who weren't delinquent (deals that still came with a ton of free equity, even with their taxes paid current).
The good news is – when I finally started sending out my own blind offer campaigns, I found most of these things to be true.
It didn't take long before I had several accepted offers on my desk – and almost all of them were for some great properties. When I saw it working, I realized this wasn't just a viable alternative to using postcards, it brought some real benefits to the table that postcards didn't.
What's the Catch?
Now I have to admit, even with all these great benefits, the blind offer strategy still had its own little set of issues. As I started using this approach more and more, I found that there were a few downsides to deal with…
Increased Phone Time
In the beginning, my assumption was that blind offers would eliminate all the wasted time negotiating and closing deals over the phone. After all, each property owner would already have my offer in-hand… so what else is there to talk about?
Instead, I found that blind offers actually increased my time on the phone.
Backstory: When I first started utilizing direct mail nearly a decade ago, I used to spend HOURS on the phone, talking with sellers who responded to my postcards, trying to get the basic details about each property. After enough of these calls, I started to HATE talking on the phone, because many of these callers weren't going to do business with me, and these conversations were purely a waste of my time.
In an effort to get my time back, I eventually created a buying website, which served as a way to collect the information I needed from each prospect WITHOUT all the unnecessary phone conversations (and as a side benefit, it eventually started bringing in a lot of organic visitors and free submissions as well). This allowed me to handle most of my offers via email and as a result, I was able to run the acquisition side of my business without spending ANY time on the phone (which I kind of loved).
When I started sending blind offers, I found that deals rarely came to fruition without at least one or two phone calls… so it wasn't quite as feasible to run a “phone free” business anymore. Granted, it didn't require an excessive amount of time on the phone, but it definitely took more than I had grown accustomed to.
Since the cost of postage was more expensive for letters (vs. postcards) and each mailpiece consisted of two pages in an envelope (vs. a small piece of cardstock), the cost of each direct mail campaign went up substantially.
Furthermore, when I bought lists from various data services (with the exception of AgentPro247, which is actually pretty cheap), the lists usually ended up being more expensive than the lists I could get from the county. However, this aspect could range quite a bit – because some county list are very cheap, and others are very expensive.
Lower Response Rate (But Similar Acceptance Rate)
After several years of sending postcards to the tax delinquent property owners in the counties where I've worked, I've seen a fairly predictable response rate to the mailers I send out.
Typically, I would hear back from 5% – 10% of the recipients (and in some rare instances… if I got really lucky, it might be as high as 20%), and for every dozen offers (approx) I would send out, I would usually get one acceptance… which comes out to a final acceptance rate of .05% – 1%.
When sending out blind offers, I found that the response rate was a bit lower (around 2% – 3% in my experience so far), and many of the responses were angry callers.
The angry responses didn't bother me… because I'm used to it – and since I had taken the time to create a new, pre-recorded voicemail greeting (designed specifically for blind offer campaigns) to filter all these calls, I didn't have to waste any time taking their abuse.
Interestingly though, even though I've seen a lower response rate to these blind offer campaigns, the acceptance rate (i.e. – the part that actually matters) has been around .05% – 1% – which is basically the same acceptance rate I've seen with postcards.
Note: One important thing to keep in mind is that I have always erred on the side of sending out very low, very conservative offers (whether I'm using postcards OR blind offers), usually around 5% – 15% of market value. As a result, I would estimate that the acceptance rates I've seen are generally on the lower end of average. I've heard from others who have seen higher acceptance rates with both approaches, and this is probably due (at least in part) to the fact that many investors send out higher offers than I do.
Do Blind Offers Make Sense?
After working with these types of letters for a while now, I wouldn't necessarily conclude that this is the ULTIMATE, no-brainer strategy for finding great deals – but it does come with some undeniable advantages that will appeal to many real estate investors.
If a person is willing to spend a little more money upfront and pick up the phone to talk with sellers on a regular basis, this direct mail strategy can eliminate a lot of wasted time in dealing with the county's messy data and in crafting hand-tailored offers that will most likely get turned down anyway.
Furthermore, the ability to target specific types of properties based on size, location, current uses and assessed values (among many other things) is a MAJOR advantage that in my opinion, can justify the extra costs rather quickly (assuming you have the extra money to spend in the first place).
Even though postcards allow an investor to get started on a tighter budget, look closer at each opportunity and craft deal-specific offers that might make more sense to each individual seller… I have to admit that blind offer campaigns have been substantially easier to deal with.
My Blind Offer Template
After seeing the way blind offers have produced real, tangible results for me, I wanted to provide a few resources here for anyone who wants to pursue this avenue further.
When I made my foray into the realm of blind offers, I decided to create my own, unique template, using a lot of the same wording and persuasion principles I had built into my original postcard templates.
After years of seeing great results with these postcards, I felt like I had learned a thing or two about how to elicit responses from the right people – and I wanted to incorporate those same elements into the letters I was sending out.
Below, you can get a quick look of what the format looks like…
(Note: These examples don’t contain the exact wording of my letters, but they'll give you a general idea for what they say. Feel free to use this example to create your own version… or if you want to see the precise language I use in my blind offers, you can download my templates at the bottom of this blog post).
As you can see – this template consists of 2 pages that explain all the essentials, without going overboard. Each recipient can make their own decision, and it gives them several different options for getting in touch with me if they choose to accept the offer.
Doing a Mail Merge
One important thing about these letters (which differs from my original postcard approach) is that blind offers require you to do a mail merge.
When you're sending a specific offer price, for each specific parcel, with a unique purchase agreement that includes each property owner's name, an expiration date, and a closing deadline – there is no way to do this effectively without merging a few pieces of variable data into each mail piece.
Doing a mail merge adds a little bit of complexity to the process, but it's not hard. If you've never done this before, I'll show you the basics of how it's done in this video…
Note: In the video above, I'm using Microsoft Office 2016. If you're using a different version of Word, the mail merge commands may be in a different location.
Sending the Mail
When you're sending out a direct mail campaign of any kind, it ALWAYS makes more sense to use a printing/mailing service, rather than trying to print, sign, stamp and mail all of your letters from your home computer and printer.
That's not my opinion – it's just a simple fact. It's cheaper. It's faster. It's WAY more efficient. And it will save you hours (maybe even days) of time.
The first time I tried sending out blind offers, I did it with Click2Mail, because I had used this service many times in the past and I was familiar with how it worked.
Click2Mail has a tool that allows users to perform a mail merge outside of Microsoft Word, but after going through the process a few times, I thought it was pretty clunky and cumbersome to work with. With enough time and patience, it ended up working fine – but it seemed like there had to be a better way.
Also, at the time of this writing, Click2Mail requires all letters to be formatted for a window envelope (which I found a little annoying), so I had to create a secondary version of my blind offer template – which is formatted so that the mailing address will fit into a windowed envelope (otherwise, each mail piece would have to include a third page, simply to hold the addresses).
Here's what the unopened letters from Click2Mail look like to each recipient…
As you can see… it can work, but it also has a very “corporate” look to it (like it's a bill or some kind of junk mail) and doesn't have a very personal feel – whatever that's worth.
With my editorial comments out of the way, if you want to see more about how Click2Mail's mail merge and ordering process works, this video will give you a decent overview…
Now, since I had also heard good things about LetterPrinting.net (ITI Direct Mail) from others who were doing blind offers, I decided I would give them a try as well.
The ordering process with ITI was very different from Click2Mail. Rather than putting you in total control of the order, ITI Direct Mail has a lot of built-in help, where an actual person is putting together each order and verifying that everything looks right BEFORE sending you the proof for your final approval.
ITI also offers a lot more options for a 2-page letter. For example…
- You can include it in an enclosed OR windowed envelope.
- You can use one of several different handwriting fonts on your envelope.
- They offer discounted postage options for pre-sort mail.
- Quick assistance with mail merge campaigns is readily available.
- Mail can be sent out in multiple batches.
- Several different paper types and perforation options are available.
Here's what the unopened letters from ITI Direct Mail looked like…
I realize it's hard to see it (because both addresses are blurred out for privacy reasons), but that's a handwriting font for both the delivery and return address – along with a peel and stick stamp… which looks a little more personal and a little less mass-produced.
Here's a quick look at the handwriting fonts currently available through ITI Direct Mail…
Pretty cool, huh?
If you ever want to give ITI Direct Mail a try, this video gives a quick overview of how their ordering process works…
Note: This is not a promotion or an endorsement of either Click2Mail or ITI Direct Mail. I'm not getting paid anything for mentioning them here – I just want you to know about two of the services I've used to date.
Want To Use My Blind Offer Templates?
Just to round out this blog post – I wanted to give you one final tool to use, in case you want to try your hand at sending out blind offers.
As you probably noticed from the examples shown above, these snapshots are meant to show you the format of my blind offer template, but not the exact wording. I do this because I'm not an attorney and I'm no smarter than you are. If you want to draft your own blind offer letter and contract – you are probably just as capable as I am (seriously, it's not hard).
At the same time, I always appreciate having convenient options available to get the job done – so if you'd rather download a done-for-you template that's ready to rock, you can use the exact same thing I do (and just for kicks, I’ll throw in a couple of extra goodies to help you along the way).
Lastly, keep in mind my templates are used for making offers on vacant land (my primary investment niche), so if your goal to make offers on houses or other types of properties, it may be in your best interests to tweak this template to fit your situation appropriately.
Note: When you sign up as a REtipster Email Subscriber, I’ll send you an instant $20 off “Discount Code” for this item. No pressure of course – but the discount is there if you want it.
One Final Note
It's also crucially important to download a good list, filter the data for precisely the property types you want to target, sort through your list adequately and structure your offer prices appropriately. If you don't have all of these things buttoned up, your response rate and acceptance rate will suffer.
If you need a more in-depth look at how I handle these aspects of the blind offer strategy for vacant land, I've put together a detailed set of instructions on all of this information – and you can find it in Module 2, Lesson 8 of the REtipster Club membership site.