What to Do When Your Direct Mail Isn’t Generating Leads

What to Do When Your Direct Mail Isn’t Generating Leads

If your direct mail isn’t generating leads, don’t worry! I have five key principles to turn your direct mailing luck around.

Direct Mail Isn't Working

What to Do When Your Direct Mail Isn’t Generating Leads

Watching all your friends rack in sales with direct mail can be a bit depressing if yours isn’t yielding the same results.

Not only that, but direct mail can get expensive! And when something expensive isn’t working, it can be very tempting to just ditch it altogether.

But don’t quit just yet! Once a successful direct mail campaign is up and running, it barely needs any time or attention from you. That means you can achieve a steady flow of leads from a machine that works on its own in the background of your business!

With a great deal flow and an automated marketing system, you’ll be that much closer to your dreams of financial independence.

5 Principles for Perfecting Your Direct Mail Campaign

Follow these five tips and you’ll have a profitable direct mail campaign up and running before you know it!

Principle #1: Reasonable Expectations

Disappointment is just unmet expectations.

So what expectations you should have for the success of your direct mail?

Direct Mail Isn't Working

A 1-2% Response Rate (Yes, Really)

Historically, across every industry, direct mail has always had a terrible response rate. Believe it or not, if you’re getting a 1-2% response rate, you’re doing better than most! (And, yes, a 1-2% response rate IS worth the trouble, which is why direct mail is still alive today.)

If you’ve been working the direct mail game for a while now, you may have been misled over the last decade. Response rates skyrocketed when a whole bunch of pent-up demand was unleashed and have since settled back down to the regular 1-2% rates.

Find Your Gimmick

Today’s society is one giant fight for attention between TV, radio, magazines, Netflix, YouTube, texting, apps, mail… the list goes on!

Finding a way to stand out from all the noise is key. You should always be testing new strategies to get people to open your piece of mail.

For example, one piece of direct mail I still remember was from a company called Columbia House. They sent a penny attached to a letter with the message: “For one penny, you get ten CDs.”

This stood out for many reasons:

  • It was heavy (heavier than your average envelope, anyway)
  • It was unique (how many pieces of mail do you get with a coin attached?)
  • It had an eye-catching offer (10 CDs for one penny?!)

Businesses are always using gimmicks like these because they know that 99% of direct mail gets chucked immediately in the trash.

To achieve that “magical” 1-2% open rate, you’ll need to consistently test new strategies to get your mail opened. Once your direct mail isn’t generating leads anymore, find another strategy. Direct mail is a game of constant testing.

Principle #2: The List

Just about every day someone asks me, “What’s the best list to use for direct mail?”

My answer?

The best list is the list you’ll actually send mail to.

Here’s what I mean.

Realtors Have it Easy

When realtors are setting up a direct mail list, they just pick a neighborhood and send mail to every door in it.

That’s because everything is geographical for them.  They figure out where they want to work and send mail to that area. Over time, that neighborhood will become familiar with their face and brand and once they decide to sell their house, maybe that’s who they’ll choose as their realtor.

For us investors, things are a bit more complicated.

Signs of Distress

We aren’t just looking for people who live in our market. We’re looking for signs of distress.

People exhibiting signs of distress will more likely NEED to sell their houses in the near future. And when people NEED to sell, they look for investors, not realtors. We can offer them speed and peace of mind in exchange for their equity.

Signs of distress could include:

  • Probates (code violations, divorce, etc.)
  • Bankruptcy
  • Absentee owners
  • Vacant houses

So I Should Only Send to These People, Right?

Well… not really.

If someone is way behind on their taxes, maybe they’ll NEED to sell their home soon…!

…or maybe they’ll catch up on their taxes and be fine by next month.

There’s really no way to know. Having signs of distress on your list is certainly a good thing, but it’s no guarantee that it will increase your response rate by any means.

Thus, the direct mail you send to your list is far more important than the list itself.

Principle #3: Diversification

I don’t recommend direct mail be your sole lead generation source. It would certainly work, but you’d need some deep pockets to make it happen.

Instead, use at least 3-5 marketing channels at all times. The more you can responsibly manage, the better!

In addition to direct mail, consider any of the following:

  • PPC
  • Facebook ad campaign
  • Bandit signs
  • Online classifieds
  • Door knocking
  • For-sale-by-owner websites
  • Property management websites
  • Auction websites
  • Networking
  • Meet-up groups

Direct Mail Isn't Working

If you’d like more tips on diversifying your marketing, I highly suggest you listen to episode #325 of The Epic Real Estate Investing Show podcast. There, I explain how I used these marketing methods to build my business with no starting cash.

Principle #4: Go Deep

Before you start hammering out 3-5 marketing strategies all at once, pick one that you know you’ll do consistently and go deep with it.

Get good at it. Learn everything you need to know to make it successful. Put your strategies to the test and, when you’re satisfied with it, start learning another marketing strategy.

Going Deep With Direct Mail

Luckily for you, direct mail is not difficult to go deep with. You can do it in three steps:

  1. Get a good list and a great mailing piece.
  2. Make a 90-day mailing schedule.
  3. Be ready to answer the phone when it rings.

That’s it!

Now, you should have the time and energy to add another marketing strategy to your plate.

Principle #5: Persistence

This business, like any business, is built on consistency and persistence.

If your direct mail isn’t generating leads after the first or second attempt and you’re ready to throw in the towel, real estate investing might not be for you.

And if you started real estate investing with the intent to “give it a shot for 90 days and see how it pans out,” …well, you may as well quit right now.

Yes, you will witness other people finding deals in their first couple months of investing. It’s not THAT uncommon, but it’s certainly not anything to count on.

In general, to produce consistent, long-term income, you must foster a consistent, long-term mindset.

Direct Mail Isn't Working

The Real Reason You’re Investing in Real Estate

I doubt you started investing in real estate because you heard it was easy.

Simple, sure – but certainly not easy.

I suppose it could be “easy” to flip a few houses and quit, but I doubt your goal was just to create a few thousand extra bucks, either.

What you want is passive income – the kind that can replace your job and allow you to retire early.

A Reorienting Coaching Call

I recently had a coaching call with a client who was struggling to stay focused.

I asked him, “Why did you get into the real estate investing game in the first place?”

As expected, his answer wasn’t, “Because I just LOVE real estate!”

Rather, as most people would, he stated, “Because of the potential for wealth creation.”

So I asked, “Why do you want wealth creation?”

“Because I don’t want to have to work so hard.”


“Because I want to spend that time with my family and grand kids instead.”


“Because it makes me feel good.”

“And how does that make your family and your grand kids feel when you feel good?”

“I’m much more fun to be around and they like me more.”

“And how does that make YOU feel?”

“Well, that makes me feel fantastic!”

Chase the Feeling


THAT’S why he got into real estate.

THAT’S what he should be focusing on. And I told him so.

It’s not the real estate we’re after. It’s not the money, either.

We’re after the feeling that we know real estate and money will bring us.

And that feeling is worth all the persistence in the world.

Three Steps to Get Started

Now that you’re all set to be a direct mail connoisseur, I have three quick action steps to get you started:

  1. Pick 3-5 marketing channels that you can see yourself doing consistently.
  2. Do them consistently.
  3. Stick to it!

Need Extra Help?

If you feel like you’re everything right but you STILL haven’t landed your first deal (or it’s been months since you got your last one), I have a free real estate investing course for beginners.

You’ll get access to video tutorials walking you through every step of a real estate deal, the resources you need to make it happen (think buyer/seller interview sheets, example property flyers, a formula for writing personal notes, a script for presenting offers, etc.), and direct access to me during our monthly coaching calls.

Plus, I’ll literally PAY YOU to get your first deal!

Go to freerealestateinvestingcourse.com now to get the details and make your pledge!

Matt Theriault

Real estate investor and educator.