Getting Better Responses from Direct Mail

Scott CostelloAll, Blog, Probate Investing 19 Comments

With it being time to send out my probate mailers again I was brain storming to try and come up with alternate types of direct mail pieces.  I really started to think about this when Greg Harris over at 1st Round Knockout R.E.I. Blog created a post about split testing letters, postcards and a third kind of mailer (he didn’t say on his blog, but I know what it is).

Then today Nick Johnson wrote a post about using those $100 Business cards to help increase your response rate.  His idea is a pretty good one and I plan on testing it out next month.  I’m not going to repeat what he said, so if you are interested go click on the link above.

Dimensional Mailers

For the last hour or so I’ve been searching around the net and finding some interesting information and ideas.  I came across the idea of Dimensional Mail Pieces.  I’ve never heard it referred to that way but the idea is the same as Lumpy Mail. By giving your mail piece that third dimension, that lumpiness, it will make the receiver more interested to see what is inside.  We are all curious aren’t we?

Some examples of these would be…

  • Crumpling up the letter to make it look like it was thrown out
  • Putting logo pencils, pens or what ever in the envelope to make it more interesting

Another way you could interpret Dimensional Mail is to think abstractly.  What I mean is instead of a physical dimension like lumpy, you make it mental.  Here is a great example of what I am getting at…

  • Stamp “DO NOT OPEN” on the outer envelope. Inside is another envelope: “Do not open … unless you want to sell your house.” Inside that is another envelope: “Do not open unless you want money quickly”. Inside that is a still smaller envelope: “Do not open unless you have the vision to seize an opportunity you may never have again!” Expensive, but irresistible… and could be profitable.

Mark Up the Envelope

In my research, some people suggest putting additional markings on the outside of the envelope to draw the openers attention.  Before even reading about this, last night, I had decided to print “In regards to the House at 123 Main St in YourTown” and highlight it in yellow on the fronts of the envelope.  My thinking was that if an executor saw that, they may be more inclined to open the envelope and see what is inside it.  Some other ideas that I have seen are…

  • Looking up each house on Google Earth, zooming in all the way and taking a screen shot of the place.  Then printing that on each envelope.  This would take a LOT of work, but would get my attention.
  • Place words such as “important”, “confidential”, “offer on your house” on the outside of the mailer.

Off the Wall Ideas

Lastly I came across this website called that had some very cool mail pieces.  Here are a couple of my favorites from that site…

Also something else I was toying around with doing was getting my handwritting turned into a font.  You can do that pretty easily and for only about $10 at or

If anyone has anymore crazy ideas feel free to share them or has used one of the above items I’d love to hear how they worked.

    Scott Costello
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    Comments 19

    1. I love the Jump'n Jack mailer. You can't tell me that won't get someones attention? Only question I have is it appropriate for sending to probates?

    2. I think its a great idea. I have looked into that before. I would throw some in caution though. These are probate files and something to gimicky might come off insensitive to some.

    3. Hey Scott…

      As you might already know I sent out my first batch of direct mail to apartment owners last month. I sent out 278, 20 came back unable to forward and I got 7 call backs (as of today.)

      For some reason, I get a better response in the commercial market than I ever did in any other market (but the closest in comparison was definitely my probate mailings.)

      Now, as of right now, I don't do anything fancy. I mean I posted my exact letter over on my website but I do have a neighbor hand-write the apartment owners and address, plus I have her put a normal stamp on there and a return address sticker. It's getting opened like that as of now and it's nothing fancy.

      In the future, I'll try some lumpy mail techniques based on the particular mailing I am sending out…i.e. including either a piece of candy in there or 2 aspirin wrapped in saran wrap. Those are for future mailings and I will include them on my website as well.

      Right now, I'm just using your standard #10 envelope but I think that using colored envelopes get opened up more often then plain white ones. Perhaps you can try that out.

      Or I've also tried to use colored paper with a white envelope. With all of that said, I agree with what Bilgefisher said. So perhaps instead of something gimicky you can try different colored envelopes? different sized envelopes? etc. etc. I'm sure you can think of different ideas too.

      Ya know now that I think about it…perhaps you could do a lumpy mail piece with aspirin wrapped in saran wrap in them. Because it is a stressful time when some passes away and you have to deal with all of their finances, etc. Perhaps they are upset and stressed about what to do with the property?? Might be able to work, you just have to figure out exactly how to word your headline as not to offend or upset.

    4. Have you ever stopped to think about how effective a brief, sort of “homespun” video could be. Couple a great DVD message with the lumpy-ness it would create in an envelope and I think you have an astoundingly effective piece of marketing.

    5. That's an interesting idea Craig. I wonder if the receiver will actually go the extra step and play the DVD? You almost have two challenges now, 1 to get them to open the mail and 2 to get them to play the dvd. What do you think about that?

    6. I honestly think a DVD would be more be watched than a letter would be read (how's that for bad sentence structure?). I once toyed with the idea of becoming the Short Sale King of Maryland after meeting my boy, Shaun McCloskey. Then MD enacted the strictest foreclosure law in the country and shot my idea straight in the ass.

      But I digress.

      One of my great ideas along the way was to shoot a VERY low budget, very homegrown type video aimed at homeowners in trouble. Reasons: Do something different. And, create lumpy mail.

      The video would not be high production. Professional yes, but not high dollar. Honestly – I still think its one of my greatest ideas.

      Total cost should be no more than $500 bucks to make the video and produce a bunch of DVD's in simple paper sleeves. Hell, you could do it on a Mac for less using iMovie, or Final Cut.

      Listen – you and EVERY MoFo out there is doing letters. How many investors do you think are doing essentially what amounts to a personalized 1 minute commercial sent directly to the distressed owner?

      Answer —— NO ONE!

    7. I think it's actually a great idea, I just wanted to play devil's advocate. 🙂 Thanks for elaborating on the idea though. Creating a DVD would probably be a good fit for the probate mailers as well. Not something that would negatively affect your image like some lumpy mail.

    8. When I was knocking doors I used UPS envelopes and slipped a flyer in there with a $1 store digital watch. The note said something about it being “time” for them to do something about the house. I'd then seal the envelope and drop it on the porch.

      Then I'd mention it the next time I came by. Worked like a charm. They never realized that I didn't pay for the UPS delivery. And we all know that those special delivery envelopes are irresistable…

      I know that the UPS envelopes are free and I think Fedex are free as well. You just gotta have the stomach for knocking doors.

      In fact, you could put your lumpy's inside the fedex envelope, seal it and then put that inside another plain envelope and mail the whole thing to them. I know I'd open it!

      In the end I'd rather mail a classy, hand-signed letter to the exec's and beneficiaries the first time and then drip mail the exec's only with a yellow postcard (click2mail) every 30-45 days for the rest of eternity. Til they buy or die…

      Remember, keep it simple. And cheap. And effective. And efficient. And honest. And clear. And persistent.


      You buy any houses yet?


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