As real estate investors, we buy and sell property. I focus on residential real estate in southeast Michigan and one thing that is consistent no matter where you are based is that as real estate investors, we all need to build our buyers list and sellers list in order to do our work. When I first started getting active in this business, people asked me, “Emily, how is your buyers list going?” so by hearing over and over how important it is to have a pool of buyers ready to go for when I want to sell a property, I began networking and asking each investor I met what kind of property they invest in. I made a spreadsheet with all of their contact information, what they were looking to buy and their price range (when I was starting out I didn’t want to invest in a software system to manage this information, so a nicely organized spreadsheet did the trick). My buyers list began to build.
I had someone else ask me, “Emily, if you only have a buyers list, what inventory are you going to have to offer them?” This was also an important wake-up call that I also need to be looking for prospective sellers all the time to build up my sellers list –which is where leads can primarily come in from. Since I am not a licensed real estate professional, the MLS wasn’t high on my list of initial resources to search for deals.
When I sold copiers we had to make cold calls, a lot of them, we often called it “dialing for dollars” and it wasn’t always fun…or ever fun really! As a sales rep, I was also lucky enough to have a base of customer accounts that I had to look after and sell to when it came time for their business to purchase new copiers. As a real estate investor, I had nothing…no names to work with, no account base whatsoever…I had to build from the ground up and this process certainly doesn’t stop.
While calling people out of the blue asking them if they want to sell or buy a house doesn’t seem to make sense, there ARE ways to successfully prospect for leads.
Here are 3 methods that I have been using that are working to help me build my buyers and sellers list.
1) BANDIT SIGNS – good ol’ fashion “We Buy Houses” signs. In this day and age of online marketing, it was a marketing method that I had to remind myself “Don’t knock it til you try it!” The keys to a successful bandit sign campaign are the following factors:
– Easy to remember phone number
– Color – I like white background and bright blue font (professionally printed)
– Sign size – I like 18’ x 24’ – You can expect the signs to cost $2-3 per sign if professionally printed with the specs I suggested.
Here’s a good resource for ordering: http://www.supercheapsigns.com
– Location – I put the signs up myself. People thought I was crazy for not “outsourcing” this but I wanted to learn how to do it myself because how else would I be able to explain to someone the most effective ways to do it? There is certainly a method to putting these up and it includes putting them in places where traffic stops for a while, not where cars are whizzing by more than 30 MPH. I feel its effective to target the zip codes you like to do business in as well as consistently posting signs at the same locations.
Something to be aware of when you are putting these up – they are called bandit signs for a reason –they are generally “not allowed” by most city ordinances so just keep that in mind you may get a call from the city. If you do, I recommend you be very apologetic, be sure to ask them where the sign was located and make sure not to put the sign back in that spot.
2) SQUEEZE PAGES (or landing pages) – people talk about these a lot today. The term squeeze page has come from the goal to “squeeze” information (namely an email address) out of your prospects. It is worthwhile for a person to provide their name and email address as they will get a free report for example. Greg Clement, a real estate investing authority & mentor I have counted on, defines the squeeze page as “a web page designed to compel the visitor to take one specific action upon the moment of landing on the page. The sole purpose of the squeeze page is to convert the page visitor into a lead.”
Here is a link to my “seller squeeze page” as an example. You will want to have a separate “buyer squeeze page” because you are delivering a separate message to a much different audience.
Also, Greg Clement wrote an entire eBook on this method called “Websites Suck – Squeeze Pages Rule 2.0” and you can download it for free by visiting his blog (& providing your name & email) – a very worthwhile resource I have referenced many times. http://www.idontliketowork.com/
3) DIRECT MAIL –this is another method that I swore shouldn’t be needed in 2010 when so much is done online and through email. While direct mail is certainly more expensive and more work than sending emails, it is a method that generates a mild to moderate amount of leads. I have mailed physical letters to prospective sellers in order to grow my sellers lists. I focus on targeting only a few different audiences (foreclosures and probate) as I want to be sure my efforts are not spread across too many areas at first.
I am happy to go into more detail on how to find these audiences and I will share template letters that I have sent that have yielded results. One thing to keep in mind with direct mail, you have to have very low conversion expectations. I send out hundreds of letters and get 3-6 responses…I keep track of the cost to understand how much these leads are costing me and for now, it is worth continuing.
My real estate investing friends, Todd & Kelly Brittingham, have put together a great blog post on their direct mail campaign efforts that also talk about this.
I am confident that if you use these methods, the leads will come – your buyers and sellers lists build over time. As I use these methods to slowly build up my contacts, I keep in mind that real estate investing is a long-term business…a marathon, not a sprint!
What has worked for you? Have you tried a method to build your buyers and sellers list that was a real winner?
Please share your best practices here and dazzle us! We can also learn from what didn’t work…
Also, feel free to let me know if there is anything you could use more details on to help you in your efforts!
To Your Real Estate Investing Success,
~Emily A. Hay