Some people may view direct mail as a relic, a dinosaur, a thing of the past. What people forget is that the personal touch a piece of direct mail brings can mean the difference between a satisfied seller and an angry customer. In this episode, Chris Arnold sits down for a conversation with real estate investor and Founder of Call Porter & Ballpoint Marketing, Ryan Dossey.
Ryan talks about doing direct mail the right way and the importance of putting a brand on it. He also outlines some strategies on taking every call so as not to miss any deals. Finally, Ryan shares tips on the lists that he considers valuable.
Discover what he does to stay on top in terms of using direct mail. Learn a lot from the expert and get valuable tips in doing wholesaling through his marketing strategy
Does Direct Mail Still Work In 2021 With Ryan Dossey
As always, thanks for hanging out with us. I like to bring you guys some practical stuff. I like the type of show that when I get off of it, there are 2 or 3 things that I wrote down and I’m like, “I can’t wait to get into the office tomorrow because I know these are actionable items.” That’s what you’re going to get and you’re going to get it around direct mail. You’re like, “Chris, direct mail, you’re always talking radio.”
I got my boy, a good buddy of mine and one of the smartest marketing guys I know. He’s a multiplier of his brother. It’s one of the main reasons we brought him in other than the fact that I love this guy to death and that is Ryan Dossey. He knows direct mail backward and forwards and I was like, “Ryan, let’s do an episode for 2021 and the topic being like, ‘How do you make direct mail work in 2021?’” Ryan is like, “I’m all over this. Let’s do it. Let’s add some eye to the tribe.” Ryan, what’s up? Welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. I’m pumped.
For those that don’t know Ryan Dossey, I know a lot of people do, give us a quick snapshot. Where are you at? How long have you been in the game? What are your credentials?
I started back in 2014 or 2015. Like most people, it’s the old side hustle deal. I was making $22,000 a year pre-tax at my W-2. I got to a point that I was like, “Screw this.” In my first deal, I made $10,000. I had a partner on that one and realized, “I made six months of my life in three hours. What am I doing?” I’ve been hooked ever since. I went full-time in 2016. It was a super rough year. I did six deals. In 2017, I did 74 deals and kept four rentals.
That’s what you call a quick scale right there.
I was bored with those little checks. Between ‘18 and ‘19, we closed on 150 units and 130 of those were in Indianapolis, another 10 in St. Louis and another 10 in Louisville, Kentucky. We buy and sell probably 5 to 10 properties a month as well.
The reason I love Ryan is you hear those numbers and he is an outlier. He’s somebody that you look at and go, “That’s not the normal trajectory.” Tim Ferriss talks a lot about this. When you go to achieve something, don’t find what everyone is doing. Find the anomaly. One thing I love about Ryan is he’s an absolute anomaly. You’ll find it’s because of the way he thinks. This guy geeks out on marketing, which I love.
I’m a nerd.
You’re a cool nerd, for sure.
I appreciate that.
If you want to see us, put a face on the name, go to YouTube, subscribe to Chris Arnold – Real Estate and you can watch us. Let’s hop in. Let’s get to the meat of this. I want some actionable items, some stuff that I could apply to my direct mail. We do direct mail still, even though I’m a huge radio fan. Direct mail is one of the five marketing channels that we have kept. Let’s talk about this. Let’s come out of the gate behind on this one. Number one is putting your brand on your direct mail. That’s not talked about a lot. Let’s talk about this nugget and why.
There are a lot of guys that are loud like, “You should never do branded direct mail. People want to work with small individual businesses and stuff.” That was the case until Amazon and Yelp came along. People are checking reviews on toilet paper. You don’t think they want to know if the guy who’s going to buy their house is legit or not. We have sellers tell us all the time, “I was talking to company X in town but your reviews were better so I’m going to take your offer.” When you build a brand, there’s responsibility. If you do it right, it’s your biggest asset. If you do it wrong, you’re screwed. If you’re not taking care of people and you’re not doing what you’re saying you’re going to do, those reviews stack up real quick.
You think it’s important to pick up those reviews. What about some that might argue the other side and go, “There are people that receive these pieces of direct mail and they’re not happy to receive them in the mailbox. Now I’m attaching my company name to that.” How do you feel about that?
I’ve sent in Indianapolis probably 750,000 to a million pieces of mail in the 5 or 6 years I’ve been there. I’ve had one bad review over somebody that didn’t like getting a letter.
Half those people will call in and tell you how much they despise your direct mail. They won’t go in and do anything online but there’s that big of a gap.
Here’s why people give bad reviews. I did a video on this. You’ve got to take people off the list when they tell you to take them off the list. When somebody calls in and says, “Remove me,” I use REsimpli as my CRM. Every new mail campaign, I export out anybody who’s interacted with my company and scrub all of those property addresses from my list. I’m not re-mailing people who call me and say, “Go to hell for sending me this.” I’m not going to send that guy five more pieces like my competitors are. A lot of investors are like, “You can’t take people off the list.” You’re wasting a ton of money if you’re not taking people off the list. People only take the time to go leave a bad review if they’re really fired up. They get a piece of mail and they’re upset about it. They get five from you, they’re angry.
When you build a brand, there’s responsibility. If you do it right, it’s your biggest asset. If you do it wrong, you’re screwed.
You’re managing the frustration level by listening to people. It sounds like from the overall list, you’re doing a good job of pulling people off that don’t want to be on there and continuing to work that list where most people are probably too lazy to do that, to be honest with you. They’re like, “My company name is not on there. What do I care?” In the event that you are utilizing it for branding, make sure that you’re listening to the people that are responding back.
People don’t even realize, even if you don’t market branded, there are websites where people can leave reviews about phone numbers. Google your phone number and see what comes up. There might be a bunch of people that are like, “These guys won’t stop sending me letters.” You might think people aren’t going to google you when they get a letter. Trust me, they are. They’re googling your phone number and the name. They’re trying to figure out who this is. Especially if you’re using the stuff that’s a little shady, the final expiring notice type stuff. They’re like, “Who’s this A-hole?” People are going to look.
It’s contrary. If you are reading, Ryan is an outlier. He’s usually going to come into the back door from what most people do so it’s definitely something to consider. Let’s go to number two here. This is potentially a no-brainer. I love it. We’re talking about the direct mail card itself. What you’re doing on here is what you’re calling flick me a text. Let’s talk about this. This is an interesting piece to add to your direct mail postcard.
This came from one of my clients. I would love to pretend that I’m the only one who has good ideas.
It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be the originator.
He was like, “This works.” One of the things we’ve started adding in, if you’re using inbound numbers, ours go through REsimpli. I don’t know if you recommend it, Chris.
We love REsimpli. Anyone reading knows that we value that as a CRM.
As people text or call in, those leads come in either way. What you’ll find is different people respond to different things. For instance, I mentioned putting my website on my mail. Over 33% of my leads get a piece of direct mail, go to my website and check me out and then fill out a form or call the tracking number that’s on my website. They’re not just calling straight off that letter. You’re going to have people that picking up the phone as intimidating but they’ll flick a text or they’ll to the website and fill out a form. You give people other options. If you don’t say, “You can flick me a text,” they’re not going to think to do that. That’s another good way to potentially pull some of those leads.
I got to be honest with you, it probably wouldn’t cross my mind if I receive a postcard to text that number. I’d assume I couldn’t.
I wouldn’t text GEICO. I get a letter like, “What’s this cost?” I’m like, “No.”
What’s some data that you’ve seen around this that you could share on the value of adding that? I’m sure you’re getting more inbound opportunities but what type of metrics have you been able to track with this?
This is new for us but what we’ve seen is about a 20% increase in the existing response. If you’re getting a 1%, you’re at a 1.2%. If you’re getting a 1.5%, you’re at a 1.8%.
A 20% bump is not bad for simply adding a line under the phone number. That’s a no-brainer.
I’m not going to lie, it feels real good when you buy a house strictly through texts that you’ve never talked to the person on the phone. We bought two duplexes from a guy that texted in and was like, “Here’s the address. Give me your offer.” I was like, “Boom, this.” He was like, “Here’s how you can get keys from my property manager.” Contract signed, closed. We never even talked to the dude. I was like, “That was glorious.”
Let’s go to another point. That’s a great one right there. You told me that and I was like, “I will go back and tell my team. That didn’t even cross my mind.” Excellent nuggets. Most people are going to send these calls to voicemail. Over half of these calls are hate calls or “I’m listening. I’m working a 9:00 to 5:00,” or whatever that looks like. “I don’t have time to manage the backside of this.” You want to challenge that ongoing live answer on it. Talk to us through this. Convince us. What data do you have?
It’s easy. You can’t have a company that has a bad customer experience and expect it to go well. That’s something I got from Facebook. Facebook is huge. One of their big focuses is the customer experience. When it comes to the direct mail piece or Facebook ads or Google Ads, whatever it is you’re doing to generate traffic, when you say, “Give me a call,” and then don’t pick up the phone, they feel slighted. You asked me to call you, Chris. I called you and then you didn’t pick up. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that with a buddy. They text you, “Call me.” You call them and they don’t answer. You’re like, “What an idiot. You just asked me to call you.”
Sellers are the same way. What’s different that we’ve seen in my personal business, you can be downright abusive as far as a business goes. Make people listen to your seven-minute recording before they get to the press two. You can have them go through all this stuff. The deals that I get are typically nicer properties than what most people are getting because I’m getting affluent people that want to trade equity for an easy transaction. Those kinds of people aren’t going to jump through the hoops. “You sent me a letter, Chris. What’s your offer?” You don’t pick up, we pick up, “Here’s the process. Let me come on out.” We hear from sellers all the time like, “I called 3 or 4 people in town and you guys are the only ones that even answered the phone.”
I feel like the juice is worth the squeeze on that dealing with the headache of the people that are haters calling in because of the upside on the deals that you’re going to get if you do answer these calls live.
Let me be blunt. I don’t take my own phone calls. Call Porter, for anybody who doesn’t know, we take inbound calls for investors. We’ve got some guys in multipliers that our clients. They’ll like, “I’m going to have my acquisitions manager take my calls.” A closer’s best use of time isn’t being told where to stick it 33% of the time.
That’s why we never sent those calls directly to our acquisition managers. We always add a pre-screener or pre-qualifier.
Mindset is huge. If you’re a solopreneur, having 1 out of 3 people tell you to go to hell is going to grate you down no matter how tough you pretend to be. You’re going to start to pre-judge like, “This guy sounds like that guy.” Whether it’s my company or somebody else’s company or an employee you hire, you’ve got to take them live. Ideally, you don’t want your person who’s making the offers even being involved in that process because otherwise, they’re going to pre-judge stuff and miss deals.
What are my options here? I’m reading going, “Ryan, you got me. I need to take these calls live but you’ve also convinced me I don’t want to do it myself. Maybe you even convinced me, the first thing I thought is, ‘No way I’m taking those calls.’” What are the options that somebody has for this process so that they don’t have to do that themselves?
As people text or call in, those leads come in either way. What you’ll find is different people respond to different things.
There are tons of answering services that are out there. Call Porter is ours. There’s Ruby and PATLive. The other option is hiring your own staff to do it. That was how I started our answering service. I hired one girl to take my calls but then I couldn’t justify the cost of paying somebody $3,000 a month to take the 40 calls that I had at the time. I hired a couple of more people, took calls for buddies and then it grew from there. You can go that route.
I’ve got a friend of mine that has a VA that takes those calls. I don’t super love the VA route. I don’t know about your market. People in my market are racist. “That’s all. Get out.” If they even get a hint that somebody is not American or not local, they’ll rip their throat open. If you’re going to hire somebody else to do it, hire an ex-pat if you’re going to go the VA route or hire somebody that sounds like they’re in the US or is even in the US would be my recommendation.
I agree with you on the fact of going live. Our solution to that is we have in-house people that fundamentally do what you would do for something like Call Porter. Hire someone in-house. If you don’t then a great alternative to that, if you’re like, “I don’t want to hire someone, train them and manage them,” then kick it over to Ryan’s company like Call Porter and go that route. There are numerous companies that do this. Call Porter is definitely an option.
To have somebody good, you’re $12 to $15 an hour. You don’t want to throw $2,000 a month at that if your marketing budget is $3,000. I’d rather you do more direct-to-seller stuff and then less on the backend.
Process that out. Ryan is providing a good solution there. It’s funny, I was telling you before this that I had Don Costa on here. Don’s the man, the myth, the legend and he brought up the same point. Instead of all his direct mail, he’s answering these things live. He said, “People have seen this backward for a long time by shooting it all to voicemail.” You’re the second person that’s come on in this show that gave that same point, which is great. Let’s go into a practical thing here on list building. I want to talk a little bit about duplicates. You’ve got an interesting perspective here. The thing I like about Ryan is he can get granular on stuff.
I’m trying to keep it practical.
You were tearing down to the studs, which I love and then he’ll be like, “Here’s a small practical, granular thing that you can do.” We’re going to get one of those that can make a big difference on whether or not you get a deal. Let’s talk about duplicates. What most people should do for 2021 if they want their direct mail to be effective?
Honestly, it’s direct mail, cold calling and texting. It’s any form of prospecting you’re doing. Most people are buying a list from ListSource or a PropStream or something. On ListSource, there’s a button that says remove duplicates, which if somebody owns ten properties, it’s picking one. How do we know that’s the one they want to sell? What we do that makes us stand out from everybody else in our market, if I’ve got somebody who owns three properties, instead of me just picking one or marketing to them separately on all three, we’re going to have a VA or use software to go through and merge those down.
Instead of me having one guy with ten properties so he’s in my list ten times, I’ve got one guy with one long column of all the properties he owns. If you’ve got somebody who owns three properties and you send them, “I’m interested in your properties on Poplar Main and Elm Street. Give me a call if you’re interested in selling for cash,” you now look smarter and savvier. You know what’s going on more than any other person who’s ever sent that guy a letter because everybody else is picking a random one or mailing this one guy on all three.
When you hear something like that, it’s one of those small practicalities that gets overlooked. You hear it and you go, “That makes sense. It’s like calling me by the wrong name.” In direct mail, if everyone is calling me Mike and my name is John, finally, one letter comes through and it says stuff like, “These guys don’t know who they’re talking to.”
I’ve got two other practicalities that I didn’t even tell you before we hopped on called the asset type. If you’re marketing two condos, I want to buy your condo at the address instead of just property. Same thing with duplex, triplex and quad. When we get into apartments, we’ll call it your apartment or your buildings if it’s a larger facility. Most people are marketing to duplexes with a, “I want to buy your property or triplexes.” I know back when I started, I would do 1 through 4 units and send them all the same copy. We’ll now segment it into, “I want to buy your condo, Chris, your duplex or triplex.” You knew that.
The third and final one is to make sure you merge multiple property owners. If Chris and Charlene own property together and I mailed Charlene and Chris get the mail, Chris is bitter of like, “I own this property too.” We’ll take the time to go through and merge Chris and Charlene. That way, the letter comes addressed to both people. If either of them opens it, they feel like it’s to them and not like they opened the other person’s mail.
I want to step back here. For those that are reading, I want to address something and it’s an important principle on something that Ryan is modeling for all of us. As I see people come in, Ryan starts a marketing channel and they get good at it and then they go launch the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Before you know it, they’re half-assing a bunch of different marketing channels and honestly complaining about how they don’t work.
I want you to notice the detail of how far Ryan is taking his understanding of direct mail and understand that this is how a marketing person thinks. They will go down every rabbit trail, every potential option, split testing and all those types of things. You can notice Ryan’s expertise around this. I feel like for a lot of us reading and this is even a good reminder for myself, this is what it sounds like to get granular on something and become great at it.
That’s why you’re doing so well with direct mail because you put this time and attention on it, which I love so props to you. There’s some modeling that you’re doing for us that’s great. Let’s go to this last piece. I want to talk about a couple of lists that those reading should consider for 2021 and might’ve overlooked. I’m pulling some lists on what you’re talking about. Tell me a couple of lists here. Get me on the cutting edge of maybe what I should consider for 2021. What would those be?
One that I’m doing that I mail every single month is individuals that are absentee so no trust, no companies. PropStream lets you filter by the number of properties they own. I’ll do absentee-owned properties owned by individuals who own less than three properties in Indianapolis, which is one million-plus people. That’s only 13,000 people.
That’s a good subset of people that aren’t super skilled landlords. A lot of these are mom-and-pop-type folks. That’s one list that I’m absolutely loving. The second one that I didn’t tell you about either and this is my absolute favorite mailing list, is the vinyl village properties. If anybody follows me on social, you’ll notice I often share these nice properties we’re buying. That’s because that’s what I’m targeting. I’ll do properties bill 1989 or newer, 1,000 square feet or more, three bedrooms or more and 1.5 baths or more with a 35% to 100% equity range. Every flipper, landlord and tenant want that asset. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to monetizing that opportunity.
You had mentioned a third. I know I said two and I slipped one in there. Do you want to hit on that expired MLS list? I got more nuggets here. I can’t even keep up with it.
We still have one big one you missed that I’m going to bring back up. I’m a smart ass when it comes to life in general. My favorite thing with PropStream list, expired MLS listings with equity and you can add in your property type and all that. What does everybody say when you give them an offer that’s lower than what they want? “I’m just going to list it.” I’ll be like, “How did that work for you last time?” I have the Trump card ready and then they’re like, “You’re right. It didn’t work.” I’m like, “Did you have a counter in mind?” It makes it an easy transition into getting that deal. We pulled deals from that list all the time.
Some great practical lists to consider right there. I guarantee people reading haven’t thought a couple of those.
Can I nerd out?
I was going to let you come on with this last point because I know you got one. What do you got?
This is how I’ve built all of my companies and what’s contributed to most of my deals. I’m not going to give the specifics. I just want to give the concept so people know how the wheels get turning. The other reason we market branded is once somebody lands on my website, I’m then able to remarket to them digitally. When I’m marketing to somebody, they get a piece of mail. Whether they call me or not, if they go to my website, they click on my Facebook page and interact with me digitally at all. I’m then adding them to value-add retargeting campaigns. They’re seeing me and my staff at the closing table, us walking through projects. I have over 100 pieces of copy written designed to add value.
I feel like a lot of investors are the skeezy guy at prom that’s like, “Come home with me.” Our approach is more like, “You look nice tonight.” We’re going to hit you with like 300 other compliments first. When we go to meet with sellers, there’s almost this celebrity shell shock of like, “You’re the guy from the internet,” because they’ve seen all of the ads that have my acquisition staff in them.
On top of that, if a letter costs me $1, I can get back in front of somebody digitally for a few pennies. A typical seller, when they start to engage with my company, is going to see me anywhere from 200 to 300 times in the first 30 days. They know who I am and they know what I do versus my competition that’s like, “I hope they call off this one Hail Mary expired notice picture postcard.” There we go.
If I’m reading and I’m like, “This Ryan cat is cool. I like this guy.” If people want to follow you, everybody loves free info, where can they follow you? Are you an IG guy, a YouTube guy?
You can’t have a company that has a bad customer experience and expect it to go well.
A couple of things you gave are nuggets and people might be interested in circling back around. First of all, if they’re interested in Call Porter and they’re like, “I’ve been trying to find a good third-party company to send this to.” Where do they find that?
CallPorter.com. We’re in the process of redoing our website and our pricing is cheaper than it currently is on there. Schedule a free demo with our staff and we’ll get you squared away.
I know you have BallPoint as well so I want to make sure I hit on that. One of the other reasons you’re good at direct mail is because you help people do direct mail if they want to outsource, too. If I’m reading going, “This Ryan guy, I like for him to take over my campaigns. I don’t feel like messing with this myself,” how do they find you there?
BallPointMarketing.com or if you follow me personally, I share stuff all the time. What’s different is these aren’t printed. We have robots that physically hold the pens and handwrite them in cursive.
You showed me a video of this, by the way, which was super cool to see robotic handwriting on these letters.
You can get all the other points right but you’ve got to send something that’s different from what other people are doing. We’ll even do full-color customs for the market and client. We’ll have sellers call us that are like, “I’m a retired school teacher and I don’t want to sell my house but your handwriting sure is pretty.” It’s like, “Thanks.” I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s a robot in a warehouse.
One of the postcards you showed me, the thing I like about what you’re doing is everyone sends yellow, pink, blue, whatever postcards. You’re utilizing a comic book type of postcard. They’re super well-designed and super catchy. If they came in a mailbox, it would stick out among everything because it’s bright, cartoonish and colorful. Maybe hit on that real quick because I thought that was cool to see that you guys are doing the comic-type stuff.
We wanted something that was different where we could highlight the various benefits of working with an investor. It’s a seven-postcard sequence. The funny thing that I normally get with that is like, “Seniors aren’t going to like this.” Comics were popular in the ‘40s and ‘50s. That was their heyday. Now with Marvel, everybody is into comics.
It’s funny because one of our postcard images is a girl that looks like Katy Perry. One of our clients is like, “She’s too sexy. People are not going to like this.” People love it because it’s so different than anything else they’re getting that it stands out and that was our goal. We want it to be something that somebody gets and they’re like, “I haven’t seen this before.” That’s what we’re getting.
Ryan, I appreciate your time. You came in. I’m a practical guy. I want to finish a podcast and be like, “I can implement that. I can research that. That was good food for thought when we process that.” I appreciate it. Thanks for coming on.
Thanks for having me. This was fun.
We might have to do this again. I know there’s a lot of value that was added. To the rest of you, as always, thank you so much for joining us. Until next time, we will catch you soon when we add more value. Talk to you later.
- Ryan Dossey
- Chris Arnold – Real Estate
- Video – How To Remove Sellers From Your List… For Good!
- Call Porter
- Don Costa – past episode
- Instagram – @RyanCDossey
- YouTube – Ryan Dossey
About Chris Arnold
Chris Arnold is a 15-year Real Estate veteran who has closed over 2500 single-family real estate transactions in the DFW metroplex. Chris is the founder of multiple companies that are managed by a US virtual team, which allows Chris to run his organizations while living in Tulum, Mexico full time. His passion for leaders has led to the creation of Multipliers brotherhood which serves the top 5% of real estate entrepreneurs out of the US. Most recently Chris has launched his REI Radio coaching program. This program is designed to teach real estate investors the marketing stream that everyone knows about but NO ONE is doing!