Self Storage University Podcast: Episode 70

Postcards Or Letters?

Direct mail is one of the best ways to find a self-storage facility to buy. And the discussion always turns to whether you will have better luck sending a postcard or a letter. In this Self-Storage University Podcast, we’re going to compare the benefits and disadvantages, along with some tips for creating a more effective direct mail piece.

Episode 70: Postcards Or Letters? Transcript

Postcards, letters, personal letters. What's the best way to do an outreach program, a direct mail program to Self Storage sellers? This is Frank Rolfe with the Self Storage University Podcast. We're going to talk all about direct mail, what the options are, and some tips to make those things work. Let's first start off with some general observations on direct mail. It is an industry that's built on failure. A 99% failure rate in direct mail is considered good. 1% response to a direct mail piece is considered excellent. Have you ever heard of anything else that has that high a level of failure and still is considered a success? And the answer is no.

So when you do direct mail pieces, what you're doing is you're sending a large volume of items out, like a whole bunch of little missiles, and you're only hoping that one of that big batch actually hits the target. But that being said, you want to do your best job because you're hoping that you'll beat those kinds of numbers. You want to beat 1%. Can you hit 5%? Yes. Could you hit 10%? Yep. Possible. So a lot of it is all going to depend on what you send.

So that then brings people back to the natural question then, What should I send? If I have this one shot to try and make the phone ring with potential storage property seller, what are my best options? Well, let's go over those options. The first option is the good old classic postcard. Now when you send a postcard to a seller, what happens? Well, it arrives at their PO box or at their house, and they have to make a snap decision within one second whether to actually look at it or throw it in the trash. That's one of the big problems with direct mail is. There's a trash can sitting there. People get a lot of junk mail. They tend to sort it quickly and you don't want to go into the trash can.

So how can you stop from being in the trash can crowd? Well, number one, put a picture of a Self Storage facility on the postcard. They're more prone to read it if they see something that they can identify with. Also, put words like "Self Storage owner." They're going to look at that. If there is no LLBean Self Storage edition catalog. So more than likely, they're going to want to read it because they see the photo and they see the name and they say, "Oh, I think I'll give it a look."

And then all you're trying to do is to get them to call you. You can't sell them anything. They're not going to do anything just based on that postcard. All you want to do is make the phone ring. So prominently put on there your phone number and also put in words like "We are investors not brokers" because most of your mom and pop sellers tend to not like the brokerage community, they like want to go direct to a buyer, save the commission. And a lot of them have had bad experiences with brokers in the past trying to list their properties.

Now, you don't have to go with the photo of a Self Storage facility. The other things I just mentioned you do, but you can change it up. You get a picture of yourself, you get a picture of your wife, you get pretty much anything you want because whatever you do, if it makes the phone ring, it's all good. And sellers respond to these pieces in different ways. If you sent the same photo to 100 people, one subset would say, "Oh, I like this person. It looks like a friend of mine. It looks like my brother. It looks like me when I was younger."

And with that very same photo, another subset would say, "Oh, I hate that person. They look like someone who's mean. They remind me of someone I hated in high school." Again, that's the nature of direct mail. You're going to have a very large percent who don't like what you do. The key is to get the ones that do like what you do to respond. Now let's talk about the concept of letters.

So as opposed to a postcard, you could send out a letter. Now there's two types of letters you can send. One type of letter is the good old form letter that we get in direct mail all the time. I know you probably get two or three a day from all kinds of folks. State Farm Insurance or Progressive or whatever the case may be. And where do most of those end up? Well, almost all of those end up in the trash.

So a seller can spot a letter from a mile away that's a form letter and they're probably not even going to open it up. So form letters have always been very, very difficult to succeed with as a direct mail tool with Self Storage because unlike the postcard, they don't even know what you want. They don't even know that it's regarding Self Storage or selling the property. All they know is they get this letter and they look at it, they see it's a form letter they just throw it in the trash. Never even open it up.

The alternative to the form letter, however, is a personal letter, an actual letter that you write yourself, longhand with a pen because that's not a form letter. When they see that in their mailbox, they will open it because they can see that someone actually wrote the letter. So at least you're going to get them to open it. But here's the big problem when you send the personalized letter. It takes forever to write a personalized letter. Whereas you can print a thousand postcards in no time flat, you can't do that when you're trying to write a personal letter. It's very, very time intensive, very laborious work to do.

So since we all know that direct mail is all about volume, you're really sacrificing your volume with the personalized letter. So then what's the answer? Then should we just only do postcards? No. I would do a mixture, but I would reserve those personalized letters for a little bit higher category than just broad brush sending direct mail. While you can send a lot of postcards out, you can't send a whole lot of letters out.

So when you see Self Storage properties in certain niche markets that you find more attractive than others, then you might go to the personal letter format. But even then I would vary it because again, we're talking a very broad brush macro numbers here. So what I would do is I would send a postcard and then on that elite subset, then the personalized letter and maybe back the postcard again. Because possibly the person who is not responding to the postcard will respond to the personalized letter.

And using that same theory of varying things, let's not send out the same postcard every time. It's okay if you send the first postcard out and you'll hit that subset who likes it. But what you want to do is you want to send an entirely different piece the next time because you might capture another subset that will respond. Some people out of sheer laziness, they just send the same one over and over and over. That's not a very good use of your marketing dollar.

Since it is so random, since it is so macro, changing out that photo. Even changing out the colors of the postcard could reap huge benefits because someone who ignored what you did last time might see the new postcard with the new photo, the new colors, and then they might respond. The bottom line to it is don't be afraid to do experimentation with direct mail. You will find over time that you have different direct mail pieces and they all probably do fairly well, but they're all completely different.

Because again, it's a big wide world of people out there we don't really know, at any given moment, what will actually trigger them to respond. So don't be shy. Don't hold back. Doing what you see other people do seldom works very well. If you say, Well, I will create a direct mail piece like the ones I get at home, well, they ain't going to do you any good because those direct mail pieces you get at your home probably all ended up in the trash.

Instead, be bold. Be different. I had someone once say, "Well, can I put just a photo of myself eating a picnic with my family on the postcard?" I said, "Absolutely, give it a shot." Someone may see that postcard and say, "Oh, I like the looks of that family. Reminds me of my family and then give you a call." So don't feel like you have to follow any kind of certain format. You can be very random and different because the more different you are, the better the likelihood you'll break through the morass of all the other direct mail somebody gets and it'll take.

Now one other item is even on direct mail, it doesn't hurt to vary the whole concept of direct mail and intersperse cold calling with that. So even though if you say, well, I hate cold calling, cold calling bums me out, I don't like doing it, you'll find the mixture of the cold call or the direct mail will even give you a greater chance of someone having an interest in talking to you. And it's a whole lot easier if you send out direct mail and then cold call because you can then cold call and say, "Hey, I'm just calling to follow up on that thing I sent you."

It gives you a good intro, makes it sound like you're not just someone calling through a phone book. You actually took the effort to send a direct mail piece along with it. The bottom line to it is that if you look at all of the Self Storage deals that happen in any given year for most buyers, the source of some of the best come from direct mail. Sure, there's online listings, there's things with brokers and those are all fine and dandy. But direct mail is definitely an important part of the process and it's something you should definitely want to be doing in order to find the best deal for you. This is Frank Rolfe with the Self Storage University Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.