William H. Pivar & Corinne Pivar are the authors of Power Real Estate Letters: Letters, E-mails, and More to Meet All Business Needs. You can purchase a copy on Dearborn Real Estate Education's Web site or by calling 800/554-4384.
Write Letters That Open Doors
In the real estate profession, the letter is a tool to get you through the door. But in order to be effective, you need to know the best practices.
July 1, 2007
Excerpted from Power Real Estate Letters: Letters, E-mails, and More to Meet All Business Needs.
In effective communications, personal contact usually ranks first and telephone conversations come in second. This leaves written communications in third place. Written correspondence does, however, have some distinct advantages over other methods of communication.
Besides providing a written record, which allows little room to question the message conveyed, the written word can provide clarity of intent often lost in verbal exchanges. Also at times writing is the only feasible way to communicate effectively because of the recipient’s inaccessibility, the sheer volume of people to be contacted, or the complexity of the information to be shared.
You may be great at working crossword puzzles because of your extensive vocabulary, but remember that the purpose of your writing is to communicate, not to impress. In any written message, the KISS rule applies — Keep It Simple and Sincere. In other words, your message should follow these guidelines:
- Get to the point quickly.
- Use clear and concise language so that readers will not get a message other than what is intended.
- Avoid extraneous material that detracts from or obscures the primary message.
- Be honest.
The most important attribute of any business communication is clarity. One of the keys to achieving clarity is brevity. Short letters are more likely to be fully read and understood by the reader. If the reader is not getting the importance of the message within the first 15 seconds, chances are that you need to rewrite your message.
Get Them to Read It
Sales letters are different from other business letters. A sales letter is really an ad, which is simply a request for business. They’re intended to sell your services or a property. In advertising, the acronym AIDA is often used. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. A sales letter should meet these criteria: it should get the reader’s attention, generate interest, create a desire for the product (or for more information), and result in either action by the recipient or an anticipation of your call.
When you wish to target a particular party rather than a group, you can make your solicitation letter more likely to be read by sending it as an overnight letter or using a special service such as FedEx. Because it shows that you regard the message as important, the recipient is less likely to discard it without thought.
Letters must grab the reader’s attention in the first few sentences. If you have attracted the reader’s attention, the entire letter, even an extremely long one, will generally be read. Attention-getting headings can be directed to particular interests of the recipient, or they can even be absurd or humorous statements. The heading must, however, quickly lead to a message of interest; if it doesn’t, your solicitation letter will be discarded. Keep in mind that people want benefits, and they must be told quickly that benefits are what you are offering them.
Avoid Wasting Money
All sales letters are not equally successful. Some letters have phenomenal results, while others fail to generate anything other than mailing expense.
Because direct mail is one of the most costly advertising media in terms of the cost for each contact made, you don’t want to waste dollars on mailings that fail to maximize results. Test your market using different copy so that you can concentrate on what works most effectively before any mass mailings are sent.
To evaluate effectiveness you can use different mailing pieces sent to people whose last names begin with different letters. By knowing the number of pieces mailed and the resulting number of appointments, you will be able to track your percentage of success.
10 Ways to Make Your Letter Stand Out
- Personally address all correspondence. Never write “To Occupant.” Occupants don’t buy or sell real estate — people do.
- Address each letter to make it look personal to the recipient. Handwritten is best, but not always practical. The letter should also be personalized by using the recipient’s name. With computer aid, this is a relatively simple task.
- Target letters to those likely to be interested in your services. Use mailing lists or reverse directories that will give you the names of residents from their addresses. This rifle approach is better than a shotgun approach, in which much of the shot misses the mark. For example, if your mailing’s goal is to locate buyers for lower-cost homes with low down payments, consider mailing to families within the service area that live in moderately priced rental units and mobile homes.
- Include your card in every letter. If your card has a recent photo of you, the card’s effectiveness increases; your reader now identifies your name with a particular person. Cards should also include your e-mail address and company Web site.
- Consider a CD-ROM business card, especially when targeting a particular individual. The card, which can be shaped like a normal business card, can be inserted in any CD-ROM drive. It can contain your current inventory, including virtual tours, a presentation of what benefits your firm offers, and so forth. The card can also include a direct link to your Web site.
- Don’t use a postage meter, third class mail, a stick-on address label, or a window envelope. These make it look like junk mail, and junk mail is more likely to be discarded with only a cursory glance.
- Don’t disguise the purpose of the letter by making your mailing appear to be an official government letter or a check. Misleading your readers is unethical, and you want to establish yourself as a professional, not a sleazy operator.
- Don’t use undersized envelopes. Envelopes that are too small force you to make an awkward fold in the letter.
- Make lists. Lists are very effective in sales letters because the reader’s eyes are led naturally down the letter.
- Be careful with color. Color and texture attract attention and can be effectively used in flyers and attachments, but the letters should appear personal. Color makes the letter appear to be a mass-market piece, creating a negative impression when selling real estate. A light color such as buff or gray can, however, convey a professional image. While slick, hard-coated stock can be used for attachments, the letter should be on uncoated stationery.