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I recently learned about a mobile app called DealMachine.
The idea behind this app is to make it as easy as possible to contact property owners with the intent of making an offer to buy their real estate.
Now, as a land investor who relies heavily on sending out direct mail in bulk, driving for dollars isn't a strategy I've employed to find and acquire most of my properties… so I can't claim to be the foremost expert on this approach.
However, being very familiar with the concept and goals behind this method of finding motivated sellers, I know there are times when this kind of maneuver can make a lot of sense.
If you've ever tried to find and contact a property owner directly, you probably know there are A LOT of inefficiencies involved with finding this contact information and starting a conversation. There is a need for software and solutions that can make it easier for real estate investors to reach property owners easily via mail, email and/or phone.
The Old Way
For the longest time, I had no reliable way of finding a property owner's phone number or email address. I didn't even know there were resources out there (like BeenVerified and Spokeo) that could assist with this.
The best I could do was find the property owner's mailing address (by looking up their information on the county website, or with a service like DataTree), which would allow me to send them a letter with the hope that they'd respond to me.
Sending a letter can certainly be an effective first step, but obviously – if you've got alternative ways to contact someone, that's only going to help you in getting the property owner's attention.
- Send out mail solicitations to the owners of specific properties, hand-picked by you.
- Track down all the available contact information of a property owner (e.g. – mailing addresses, email addresses and phone numbers).
When you compare this app to all the other direct mail services and people-finding websites out there – the biggest differentiator is in how it is designed and intended to be used.
When a real estate professional downloads this app to their phone (or tablet, for that matter), they can drive to the physical location of the property, snap a picture and send out a pre-written postcard to the owner (which includes the photo in a prominent position on the card), asking them to call if they're interested in selling.
Here's an example of what these mail pieces can look like:
In the world of direct mail marketing, there are all kinds of different ideas on what type of mail to send out and how to effectively catch the recipient's attention – but I've never seen anything quite like this.
With a little creativity, anybody can write a catchy message with a font that looks like handwriting (and probably doesn't fool anybody)… but I think the real power and uniqueness behind this kind of postcard is the picture.
Most people can recognize a piece of junk mail pretty easily, but when someone sees an actual picture of their house – THAT is a little harder to ignore, and there's a good chance it's going to pique their interest more than all the other “noise” in their mailbox.
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To summarize, the DealMachine App has two key value propositions:
- This app makes it truly effortless to send a targeted mail piece to a property owner… it's so easy, a 1st grader could do it.
- If you're trying to locate a person's whereabouts, it pulls this information from multiple data sources to provide you with several different contact points (alternative mailing addresses, email addresses, phone numbers).
I actually tried using this app on a few of the houses I owned (so I could verify the accuracy of the contact info it provided).
I can't say every mailing address, email address, and phone number were completely accurate (some of the contact info was truly mysterious) BUT, in every case – even though some of the data led me to a dead end, at least one of the correct phone numbers, email addresses or mailing addresses were correct… so theoretically, if I ALWAYS utilized EVERY contact it gave me, I would have eventually reached the owner one way or another (and whether the owner responds is another matter entirely… but that's beside the point of this review).
The Image Matters
In case it's not already obvious, I'll draw your attention to one VERY important part of using the DealMachine app.
For your mail piece to look right, you need to be on-site to snap a picture of the property, OR you need to find a picture of the property somewhere else (e.g. – Google Street View or the municipal records) and upload it via your phone.
The picture you include on each postcard is a MAJOR component of what makes this kind of mail piece work because it provides proof that the sender was there, at the property, and they aren't messing around.
If no picture is included, the mailer can still work, but it won't look quite right and won't be nearly as effective (because the DealMachine postcard template provides the right amount of space for an image to be included).
Here's an example of how it looks without a picture:
See what I mean? Without an image to make it stand out, it's pretty boring and forgettable.
Things I liked:
If you're in the business of sending out this kind of direct mail marketing, there's a lot to like about this app. Here's what I liked the most:
- It's extremely easy to find the information and send the mail. No, seriously – it's REALLY easy.
- For what it's designed to do, the app works well (as is evidenced by its 4.5-star rating on iTunes). The GPS functionality is naturally intuitive and easy to work with.
- It's very easy to get the picture integrated into your mail piece, and it's easier to preview the mail before it gets sent.
- When I had questions for the app developers, the customer support on their website was very responsive and helpful.
- It is SUPER easy to set up recurring mail to a specific address (maybe even too easy… my account was set up to send recurring mail to each recipient by default)
- The price isn't bad for what it can do ($49/mo, + 0.99 per postcard and 0.99 per skip trace). Especially if you plan to use it regularly to find deals, you could easily spend more on services that aren't optimized nearly as well for real estate professionals.
Things I didn't like:
- I would be nice to have the ability to set up a sequence of mailers. Rather than sending out the exact same message with each contact, sending out 3 – 5 alternative messages would probably produce better results over time (i.e. – if the copy from postcard 1 doesn't elicit a response, perhaps the copy on postcard 2 or 3 will).
- As a land investor, I wish there was an easier way to add new properties even when a property doesn't have a registered address (because most vacant lots don't have a street address to go by). I'd love to see the ability to identify properties by parcel number, coordinates, or even by the property owner's name. That said, I understand this is a lot to ask, because this app wasn't created specifically with land investors in mind.
In my conversations with David Lecko (CEO of the company) – he told me they'd like to add more sophisticated mail sequences. Still, people have been getting a deal for every 200 properties they add (and send mail to about 3 times), which they've been pretty happy with. They're getting a lot of other feature requests, but mail sequences are on their development timeline.
I think it's a reasonably useful piece of software that applies to some (but not all) types of real estate investors. If they continue to build out the features and functionality it offers, it has even more potential to serve a greater number of people in the months and years ahead.
Have you used the DealMachine app yet? What did you think of it? Let us know in the forum!