Over the years I’ve done a lot of looking around to try and find information about yellow letters. Blog posts, forum threads, yellow letter company websites and coaches all provided some good tips and tricks for creating the best yellow letter. The problem was that all the information was spread out all over the place. There wasn’t a single place where I could get all the information I wanted to know…
- What are Yellow Letters?
- Do you have to hand write them all?
- Where do you find the paper?
- What’s the best printer to use?
- What supplies do I need?
- What should I write on Yellow Letters?
- Do they work for all prospect types?
- Can I automate the creation task at all?
- How much do they cost to create?
The more I’d learn the more questions I’d have…very typical for me. So this post is the culmination of what I’ve learned and the resources that I’ve found. I wanted to create one single place where I can refer back to and add to. If you like this post, share it with who ever you think it may help. And if you have other great resources please link to them in the comments.
Yellow Letters…What are they?
I’m sure most of you have heard the term Yellow Letters talked about by gurus, on investor forums and at your REIA meetings. So what are yellow letters and what do the look like? Simply put, yellow letters are hand written letters on yellow lined notepad paper (legal pads). You know the paper I’m talking about, these…
Yes! It’s probably exactly what you thought. Typically though the content of the letter is only a few sentences long and direct and to the point…”Hi my name is Scott and I’m interested in buying your house. Please call me at…” That is the simplest form of a yellow letter, but you can you make them more complex and more targeted if you like.
Most investors will not want to use a Yellow Letter Marketing Campaign because it is more work…A lot more work…then just printing out Typed letters on nice letter head paper. However the extra time spent crafting all those yellow letters is not wasted. There are some advantages in the Direct Mail world for using this technique.
- They don’t look like the typical junk mail you get from insurance companies, banks or any other letter printed on standard white stock paper.
- The yellow lined paper can typically be seen through most envelopes. Curiosity will cause the receiver to open the envelope.
- The letter takes on a more personal feel. Like it was written just to them, not mass produced and sent out to thousands of other home owners.
These advantages all mean one thing and that one thing is all that matters. Yellow Letters get higher open rates and lead to higher response rates.
Disadvantages to Yellow Letters.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some disadvantages with using yellow letters. You just have to weigh the positives and negatives and make your own decision. For me it’s not a hard choice to make. Here are the disadvantages as I see them…
More expensive to produce. Here is the cost breakdown per mailer of Yellow Letters vs Typed Letters vs Postcards
- Yellow Letters = $0.77 per
- Typed Letters = $0.66 per
- Postcards = $0.47 per
* prices based off YellowLetters.com
Takes more time. To create the yellow letters yourself it’ll take you a fair amount of time. We can’t type as fast as a printer can print that is for sure. Most printers can print out 10 to 15 pages per minute. My best for hand writing a letter is about 1 letter ever 3 minutes. I may be fast or slow I don’t know but I get lapped by my printer!
Some leads will take them as unprofessional. I’ve had sellers calling me childish and unprofessional for sending them a handwritten letter on yellow paper with red ink. I’ve also have been thanked for taking the time to personally write them a letter. In the end you will turn some people off with yellow letters.
Guides To Create Your Yellow Letter
When you think handwritten yellow letters there must only be one way to have this done right…Hand Write Them! Well you’d be wrong. You have quite a few options that can either save you time or money, unfortunately you probably won’t be able to save on both ends. Each method has it’s pros and cons.
Option #1. Write them out yourself.
Get out the legal pad and pen and start writing. If you are only mailing out a couple letters a day or just have a small VERY targeted list this is a great option. You don’t have to mess around with technology or worry that the person you hired is actually going to following through. This is also the cheapest way to go.
Option #2. Hire a local college kid, senior or stay at home parent.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Work on your business, not in your business”? Creating yellow letters is about as tedious of a task as you can come up with. It’s busy work plain and simple and you will do yourself a favor by finding someone who will write them for you.
I’ve heard people pay anything from 15 to 50 cents a letter. It’s all a negotiation so work out the best deal for you and them. You don’t pay enough they won’t do good work, you pay them to much and you’ll go broke. I got some advice one time regarding how much to pay…Figure how many letters you can write yourself in an hour (say 30), then come up with a dollar amount you would feel comfortable paying someone per hour ($10). You can then get your per letter price (10/30 = $0.33).
Option #3. Photo Copy Method
This is a great way to eliminate about 90 percent of the writing. The idea is to hand write one letter, leaving spaces for the leads name and property address. You then run that through your scanner/copier and print out as many letters as you need. Once printed, you’ll go back and hand write in the leads name and address for each letter.
Quick Tip: It’s best to use an inkjet printer because the print will have a more Ink quality to them compared to a laser printer. Another tip is to put a sheet of printer paper (unlined) over the top of the lined paper. You will be able to see the lines of the yellow legal paper through the printer paper. This allows you to write out your template letter so that your writing falls within the lines of the paper.
Here is a video tutorial on how to do the Photo Copy Method
Option #4. Hand Written Font (great solution)
You can take the photo copy method one step further and automate the insertion of the lead name and address. At this point the only thing you have to write out are the envelopes. This is how I did my yellow letters. It produces a very real looking hand written letter.
Basically what you do is write out a letter template like you did in the Photo Copy Method, making sure to leave space for the names and addresses. Then instead of simply making copies of the letter you scan it into your computer and import the image into Microsoft Word (or other word processor). Then use mail merge to merge your list with the letter and print.
It’s a bit more complicated then that so my friend Justin McClelland put together a wonderful how to blog post. The post outlines exactly how you go about doing this method. Take a look
Option #5. Use a yellow letter company.
When I started out doing my yellow letters I had no idea that there were companies out there that would do them all for you. I do not have any specific experience with any of these companies yet, but plan on using one of them once I get some more money for direct mail.
The price per yellow letter is only about $0.75 to $0.80. The 20 cent increase from doing it yourself is so worth it in my opinion. Some advantages of going this route are…
- Save valuable time
- Don’t have to come up with your own letter
- You can test multiple letters to see which works best in your market
- Don’t have to maintain your printer, computer or other technology involved
- You upload your list, set the delivery dates and you are done!
The more i learn about real estate investing and just running my own business I’m realizing that I need to stop doing the busy work. Definitely the busy work that I don’t enjoy doing. Putting together mailers SUCKS!
I’ve done research into which companies are the most highly thought of when it comes to sending out yellow letters and I’ve come up with three of them.
Link -> MarketLikeAWholesaler.com
Jerry Puckett is a tremendous person and has helped me out quite a few times. If you want great personal service and someone who really knows the wholesaling business then take a look at what he can offer. Some of the options that his company provides is…
- Printing of Letters and Envelopes for $0.55 per name. He then ships them back to you to stuff, seal and stamp.
- Print of Letters, Envelopes and Mailing for $0.75 per name. He does it all.
After speaking with Jerry to find out more about his service, this is how he describes it…
My service is a little different than typical soup to nuts fulfillment. For the experienced, I come along side as sort of an outsourced marketing manager. They define their area and budget and after that, it’s my job to make the phone ring, theirs to make the deals. Set it and forget it.
For newbies, I started seeing this gap between folks wanting and needing a mentor and the marketing that needed to happen to get them to the point where there was something to teach. Wholesaling IS marketing. So instead of seeing these folks shell out 15k for gurus, courses and boot camps, I thought I could close the gap.
…if you’re someone who needs coaching, the value add is this: when you use my marketing service, put your own skin in the game, then I make my resources open to help you get that first deal (things like Lead Trackers, Scripts, and repair estimating spreadsheets) I can help with your phone work, negotiations, contracts, assignments, etc. etc. What you need when you need it. You only pay my marketing prices.
There is definitely a more hands on and personal feel to his service. Something a new investor can really benefit from.
Link -> click here for 10% discount code
I have great respect for Michael Quarles who is the owner of the company. He is a regular member of biggerpockets and is always sharing wonderful advice about direct mail and marketing. The guy just knows his stuff. Some of options you get when you go with this company are…
- Choose from 1 of 11 different yellow letters or create your own custom letter (same starting price $0.75)
- Choice of Yellow, White or Pink paper
- Choice of Red, Blue or Black ink
- Handwritten Font ($0.75 per) or Human Handwritten ($0.89)
- Choice of Envelope Type – Invitation Beige, Invitation Beige with art work on back ($0.05 extra), #10 white ($0.015), #10 Blue ($0.030) and #10 Pink ($0.030)
- Postage Type – Standard Postage or 1st Class mail ($0.18 extra)
- Split mailings into 1 to 5 batches
- If split into batches you can set the interval between mailings – week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, month, 2 months or supply custom directions
Here are a couple examples letters from YellowLetters.com
Link -> GoBigYellowLetter.com
GoBigYellowLetter.com gives you more options for your letters. You can be more creative and even add doodles to your letters. These little extra details definitely make the letters look more personal. I can’t imagine anyone being able to tell these things are mass produced. Here are some of the options you have when selecting a yellow letter…
- Select Font color, Paper style and Doodles
- Upload Data List
- Customize your Yellow Letter by simply typing in what you’d like or use the default marketing message pre-created for you. The syle and size is already pre-defined.
- Personalize each Yellow Letter. That means that they take the data from your customer list and place it in pre-defined locations on your Yellow Letter. Each piece is personalized automatically by mapping your data to our Smart Templates™ (i.e. mail merging)
- Delivery methods – Standard, First Class Presort and First Class
- Envelope. Each Yellow Letter is folded and inserted into a 6″ x 9″ plain white envelope. Each envelope can be customized with personal variables such as…“Mark, Check out this special” or “Sue, Hurry, this special won’t last” etc…
Yellow Letter Tips and Tricks
Over the years I’ve learned some tips and tricks in order to get a better response rate from my yellow letters. Here is a list of some of my favorites along with some links for even more tips…
- Use multiple stamps on your envelopes that add up to the current 1st class postage rate. I used a 34 cent, 10 cent, 4 cent and 1 cent.
- Use a decorative stamp on the envelope or a doodle of some sort.
- Have a personalized return address stamp and use it on the back of the envelope
- Use the correct Weight of paper for your printer. Typically it’s between 16lb and 20lb minimum. Your printer will jam if you don’t
- Place something lumpy in the envelope (like a candy or penny)
- Use a company like yourfonts.com to make your handwritting into a font
- Split Test (LINK)
- Send multiple letters to every lead over a period of 3 months
- Keep the letters short and to the point.
- Have the letter come from a female (your wife)
- Use Blue or Red ink
Additional Posts containing Tips and Tricks
- Simple way to get a better response from your probate letters
- 5 Tips for printing Yellow Letters better
- My made up out of state owners letter
- Marketing Monday – My Yellow Letter Process
- To Yellow Letter or Not to Yellow Letter…That is the Question
- Another Tutorial on creating Yellow Letters with Print Shop
Yellow Letter Examples
We all want to know what someone else is saying on their yellow letters. You just have to remember, with direct mail the same letter will work like gang busters for one investor but fall flat for another. So while it’s great to see what other people are using you really have to experiment until you find out what works best in your market. It might not be a yellow letter at all.
In any event here are some links to yellow letter examples that I’ve found…
Use the examples above as inspiration. In most cases for me and from what I’ve heard, the short and straight to the point letters seem to pull the best. Like any other type of letter only write what you feel comfortable saying.
Yellow Letter Response Rate
The big draw to yellow letters by investors is that they should get you a higher response rate then your typical typed letter and definitely more then postcards. I’ve tried all 3 types of mail over the past few years and I can confirm that yellow letters worked the best. Here is my average response rate for each method.
*all figures are based off 1st mailings only. subsequent mailings to the same list will get worse and worse response rates (but better quality of leads)
- Yellow Letters (out-of-state-owners, driving for dollars): 12%
- Typed Letters (out-of-state-owners, driving for dollars): 4.5%
- Yellow Letters (probate): 4%
- Typed Letters (probate 1st mailing): 5%
- Postcards (out-of-state-owners): < 1%
You would think that yellow letters is by far and away the best mail type. However you also have to take into consideration the audience I was sending the letters to. So it’s not really an apples to apples comparison but I’m confident in saying Yellow Letters is the best for my target audience.
Why Yellow Letters Don’t Work
Nothing is a certainty in direct mail marketing. This means that in some instances yellow letters will not work for you at all and you’ll be cursing out all of us who told you it was great. Before getting to angry, take a look at your target audience and ask yourself these simple questions…
Question #1: Are you using the wrong message within your letter?
Your letter might not touching on one of your target markets main problems. One of the first things I learned about with putting together a direct mail letter is that it should contain a solution to a particular problem they are having. Don’t say what you do, tell them how you can solve their headache.
Question #2: Wrong Lead Type
Yellow letters are great for Absentee Owners , Out-of-State Owners and For Sale By Owners but don’t work so well for Probates. Some people might have had different experiences, however I’ve found that a more professional letter works best in probate. People going through the probate process are high on emotion and don’t react to kindly to a personal letter from a stranger.
Question #3: Not sending multiple letters to each lead
Maybe you are quitting on your list too soon. If it’s not the #1 rule of direct mail then it’s in the top 3…you should be touching your leads at least 5 to 7 times each.
Question #4: Your message is too general
Getting a lot of tire kickers? I was having this problem big time in the beginning. We used a very general “we would like to buy your house” yellow letter. The response rate was kick ass, but the vast magority of the callers where just seeing what we were all about. If your message is too general you’ll tend to get a lot of these types of calls. Good for getting your phone to ring, bad for your time. Sometimes it helps to be more specific with your letters.
My friend Kelly (of Flipping Ohklahoma) wrote a blog post about why she stopped using yellow letters.
Yellow Letter Supplies
Sending out thousands of letters can really add up the expenses. I typically spent about $5000 a year on mailers and I used the cheapest supplies I could find. My motivation with what I purchased was based on my small budget. Also my desire to not have to keep replacing my printer ink ever 3 weeks and clearing my printer of paper jams made me pay more sometimes.
If I could go back and pick a new printer I would have selected one of these two below, as the Brother Laser Printer that I got gives me way to much trouble.
After researching what other people use and recommend I’ve come up with this list of items to help get you started…
- School Smart 16 lb Essay and Composition Paper
- Higher Quality Yellow Lines Paper
- School Smart Yellow Wide Ruled Loose Leaf Paper
- School Smart 15 lb Sulphite Paper Essay and Composition
Also if you want to give this a try, you can buy cannery yellow printer paper and within your word processor you can use the below linked template to actually PRINT the lines on the yellow paper along with your letter. This way you are guaranteed to have the words and lines properly lined up.
Quick Tip: Small Local Print Shop. I have never gotten paper from my small local print shop, but many people swear by it. If there is one close to you then it’s worth investigating. They may also be able to give you a great deal on actually printing your yellow letters.
You typically don’t want to use the standard #10 white envelope for your yellow letters. You want the envelopes to stick out or look like something a friend would send you. Most investors like to use greeting card envelopes (4.5 x 6.25). You also can go either very cheep so the yellow letters can be seen through the envelope or get a higher quality envelope that certainly wouldn’t be junk mail.
I get my envelopes from Staples or Costco depending on who is having a sale. My best deal has been 500 for $10, but typically I was getting the staples brand envelopes at 500 for $15.
- Staples 6 3/4 Envelopes
- Costco – Southwroth Fine Linen #10 Envelopes
- Ebay – Just search their site for envelope deals on a regular basis
Quick Tip: When you spend over $1,000 at Staples, you get into their black card rewards program. Once you are in the rewards program you will get tons of coupons and cash back certificates. Many of them are good for envelopes and other mailing supplies.
Quick Tip #2: If you buy non-self adhesive envelopes please don’t like them all. Use either a sponge or buy something like this from amazon…Envelope Moistener Bottle
I’ve always bought my ink from amazon. I’ve tried the generic ink because it was much cheaper but found that it either leaked or ran out faster. After much testing I’ve found it’s just more cost effective to get the higher quality ink from the manufacturer that made my printer. It’s not fun to have to clean your printer after an ink cartridge or toner explodes/leaks all over the place. Plus your significant other will kick your ass for messing up the carpet or desk.
Quick Tip: If you spill toner onto your rug don’t even think about wiping it up, get your vacuum and just suck it up. Wiping only smears it and rubs it into the carpet fibers.
Quick Tip #2: Ink Color -The right shade of blue that looks just like it came from a pen: (r, g, b) (0, 35, 102). Enter that into the custom color field on your Word doc. (hex is #002366 if you’re using a text editor that takes it.) *This tidbit came from Jerry Pucket over at bigger pockets
Yellow Letter Companies
As I’ve mentioned before I think using a yellow letter company to send out your letters is worth looking into. Think about how much time you would save by outsourcing the entire creation and mailing process. If you are like me and work a 9to5 job your free time is much better spent networking and dealing with motivated sellers.
- Good Forum Conversation about Yellow Letters (Todd Brittingham had a great comment).
- Awesome discussion about what paper and printer to use and where to find them for yellow letters.
- Need Advice on Yellow Letters
More About Direct Mail
This blog post has been all about yellow letters. I did not explain the entire idea of direct mail and how it can grow your business. As luck would have it, Brandon Turner from BiggerPockets.com wrote the best and most comprehensive blog post about direct mail that I’ve ever read. Have a look here…
Final Words About Yellow Letters
If you are brand new to Yellow Letter direct mail or have been doing it for a while I hope this post has helped you out. I tried to answer any questions that I’ve had over the years. The funny thing about direct mail and yellow letters is that what works today might not work tomorrow. You always have to be testing and tweaking. The best way is to have a split test campaign setup for each of your mailings. Send out two different versions of the same letter with minor changes.
Happy Yellow Lettering!
P.S. – If you have any questions or advice leave a comment
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