Three Pillars of Real Estate Marketing: Lead Generation

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April 15, 2016

The Three Pillars of Real Estate Marketing: Part One: Lead Generation

Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.
– Jerry Rice

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You’re not a real estate investor, you’re a real estate marketer.” It’s easy to gloss over the deeper implications of idioms like these in our profession, as they are usually washed away in an endless sea of investing advice.

On this series of posts, we’re going to break down the three things that need to occur properly in order for you to put money in your bank account. This post will cover the first pillar: Lead Generation. In particular, lead generation for motivated sellers.

We’re also going to give you actual steps on how to execute and structure these elements in your business today…because life’s too short to wait ’til tomorrow. The Three Pillars are as follows:

  • Pillar One: Lead Generation: How to point opportunities in your direction
  • Pillar Two: Lead Management: How to process incoming opportunities
  • Pillar Three: Lead Conversion: How to sell your sellers

Pillar One: Lead Generation

The barriers to entry for real estate investing are inherently pretty low. If you can afford to buy a targeted mail list, some paper, stamps, and envelopes, then you can get the phone ringing, which means you’re pretty much in business! Congrats!

The problem is that hundreds and hundreds of fly-by-night operations are watering down the effectiveness of these low-barrier-to-entry marketing channels like direct mail. It’s easy, cheap(ish), and you can hire third parties to do it for you.

However, if you get the other two pillars right, you shouldn’t rule out these “easier” methods, as they definitely work.

Additionally, we’ll discuss some of the HIGHER barriers to entry, or the lead generation tactics that require more work.

The key is to diversify your lead gen across different levels of barriers to entry. For instance, don’t put ALL your marketing dollar eggs into the direct mail basket.

Understanding this will put you in the position to rise above the rest. Focusing on the things that most people aren’t willing to do because it’s slightly harder to execute will win you exponentially more deals.

We will discuss each type of real estate lead generation in order of barrier to entry, starting with the lowest/easiest and moving toward the highest/hardest.

Lead Generation can be broken down into 2 different types: Inbound Marketing and Prospecting.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing are the messages that you put out into the world to attract potential sellers or buyers, instructing them to reach out to you. It is “passive”, meaning the messages simply sit there, existing in different mediums, waiting for someone to see them and take action.

Rather than dive into the “what” of each method, I will give you a specific set of “how” instructions for you to get started immediately. If you can execute on 5 of these channels consistently for 6 months, you WILL close deals.

Buying Leads from Lead Gen Companies

Step 1: Sign up at zBuyer for your area, and they will send you leads that they generate. Keep in mind the quality isn’t guaranteed and lots of other people may be seeing and calling on the same leads. It’s better than nothing, and also isn’t free.

Direct Mail

Step 1: Purchase a list

  • Go to Flip This Real Estate List. On the right side, send in a query requesting the counts for “Vacant” and “Absentee Owner” lists for your particular target market.
  • Make sure you buy at least 2,000 leads. Remember, this is a numbers game.
  • Buy the list, and you will receive an Excel file to use when submitting in the next step.

Step 2: If you don’t have a phone system, signup for and purchase a tracking number. It will ask you where you’d like to forward the calls. Enter in the cell phone of whoever will be taking the leads. This can be changed whenever.

Step 3: Mail fulfillment

  • Email with the following template:
  • Subject: Mail order…
  • Body: Hi Lauren! Dan Schwartz recommended I reach out to you for InvestorFuse pricing on your bulk mail. I’d like to send a standard yellow letter template to the attached list. The name you can use on the mail piece is [Your Name] and the return address for the handwritten envelope will be [Your Return Address]. The phone number will be [Your Tracking Number]. I’d like to schedule 6 of these mail drops with you, once per month. Let me know how much this will cost and what the next steps are. Thanks!

Bandit Signs

Step 1: Buy 100-200 of these blank signs, an equal amount of these H-Stakes, and this marker.

Step 2: Write “Sell Your House As-Is. Cash. [Your Tracking Number]” and “Buying Houses Now. Cash. Fast. [Your Tracking Number]” on these signs. Put the H-Stakes into the flutes, and put them in your car.

Step 3: Every Friday at 2PM, go around and put these signs up at busy intersections in your target areas. Make sure to put them up around Walmarts…it works. You can use the app SimpleCrew to track where these signs are.

SimpleCrew in Action

Step 4: Take them down on Monday morning so you can re-use them and not violate your city ordinances! You paid good money for these little assets, so you might as well keep them in play.

Recommended: Hire someone on Craigslist to do this for you. If you use SimpleCrew, you can track their work and pay them $2 per sign to write them, place them, and take them down. Pay half when they place them, half when they return them.

The longer you do this, the more success you’ll have. If you only put them up once, don’t expect to get a deal.


PPC stands for “Pay-Per-Click” and refers to paid advertising online, whether it be from Facebook or Google. I recommend Google Adwords (you know, those annoying ads that show up when you are Googling things). These leads are quality, as they are from people that are actively seeking you out.

*You want to make sure you can get in front of these people when they are in that mode, so make sure to call them back as soon as they submit their information!*

Caveat: It takes a few months for you to dial in your Google Adwords campaigns. It also costs money. Aim to pay Google 1K/month + another $500-1000 for a PPC manager to pay for clicks and gather data. Depending on your market, people are searching for different things, and you need to make sure you are optimizing how your ads show up based on what people are searching for and, more importantly, what they are clicking on.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to learn how to do this.

Here’s the easiest and fastest way to get up and running with online lead generation via PPC.

Step 1: Get a website. Use InvestorCarrot to have a professional site up in minutes.

Step 2: Reach out to Dan Barrett, who specializes in PPC for real estate investors, at Two Friendly Nerds. He’s worth every penny to manage your campaigns and drive hot leads into your business. He already knows what to do and how to drive traffic to your new website.

You’ll have motivated sellers submitting their info on your site in a matter of a few days in most cases.


Prospecting is when you specifically target someone, reach out to them, and qualify that person to determine if they are a potential lead or not. It is “active” and requires consistent, dedicated outreach and research. Below are 3 high-leverage forms of prospecting, in order of difficulty (remember, these are the higher barriers to entry that very few investors are actually doing).

Browsing for Dollars: Calling Landlords from Online Rental Listings

Step 1: Search, Craigslist, and for available rental properties in your target zip codes.

Step 2: They’ll give you a direct line to the landlords some of the time. Call them and ask if they have any real estate in their portfolio they are looking to sell. If so, you’ve got a lead!

Expired Listing “Intent” Emails

Step 1: Get access to the MLS so you can pull expired listings. If you don’t have access to the MLS, you’ll want to befriend a realtor and see if they can open up an “Assistant’s” account for you, that you will pay for, in exchange for having the realtor write all of your offers. Win/win!

Step 2: When you’ve pulled up the expired listings for your particular target area, email the listing agent with the following template:

  • Subject: Reviving the deal on [Street name]…
  • Body: Hi [Realtor name]. I’m interested in making an offer on this property and wanted to run this by you to see if the seller would still consider a sale despite the listing being expired. My terms are as follows:
  • Cash: [Your cash offer.]
  • Financing: [Your owner financing terms e.g. amount down, monthly payments, interest etc…you can use this calculator to come up with attractive terms for you.]
  • We’re ready to close as soon as they are, so please let me know if there’s any chance we can revive this listing for you. Thanks!

Step 3: For the leads that may result from these emails, have the realtor write up an offer for you. Fresh deal!

Skip Tracing

Step 1: Signing up

The first order of business for those of you serious about stepping up your deal prospecting is getting access to a “Skip Trace” program.

This allows you to get the cell phone numbers of potential sellers. HUGE! There’s a bit of a grey area in getting access to information like this, as you legally can and should only use this information for the purpose of “verifying ownership” of real estate…but consult a lawyer, as I’m not one, before proceeding with this method.

You can apply for such a service at Expect to jump through some hoops to get access to this stuff, but once you do, it will open up a world of deals to you:

  1. You’ll need an Errors and Omissions Insurance policy, something that most small businesses should already have. Most insurance brokers will know what you are referring to if you need to get one.
  2. You’ll need a proven physical office space or home office that meets specific guidelines (like a door that locks and a password protected computer).
  3. Email requesting exactly what information you’ll need for the purpose of verifying owners of real estate.

Step 2: Get a virtual assistant to do the skip tracing for you.

  1. Once you get your account setup, you’ll have to tinker around a bit to find the info you need (cell phone). I recommend searching “By Name and Address.” Then, record a video of how you do this using a screen recording tool like CloudApp, because you aren’t going to want to manually look up all the leads you’re about to skip trace.
  2. Create a simple job posting on Upwork for “Real Estate Skip Tracer.” At the end of your job description, write “Please put the city you currently live in at the top of your application in ALL CAPS.” If the applicant fails to do this, you can quickly disqualify them. You can find virtual assistants between $2-$4/hour to complete this type of work.
  3. DONT GIVE THEM YOUR ACCOUNT LOG IN. These data companies have sophisticated security systems in place that will basically shut down your account if someone logs in from a different part of the world. The workaround for this is a tool called TeamViewer, which allows people from anywhere on the globe to operate YOUR computer…as in control the mouse and keyboard of your actual computer (as long as its on and this software is up and running).

This TeamViewer tool is mandatory if you’re serious about outsourcing your skip tracing without getting your account shut down. It can’t be done otherwise (correct me if I’m wrong in the comments). Most virtual assistants will already be familiar with these types of tools.

I let my VA use my computer while I’m sleeping at night. You simply need to give them your TeamViewer code, log in to your computers “Guest” account so you don’t have to worry about them digging around on your computer, bring up your browser, and let them go nuts in finding contact information for you.

Now it’s time to get busy with your prospecting efforts.

Skip Tracing Existing Lists

Step 1: Buy a super-targeted vacant, high equity, absentee owner, zip code specific list from Flip This Real Estate List.

Step 2: Give this Excel file to your VA to skip trace at night while you are sleeping. Have them put in all possible cell phones in a new column.

Step 3: Dial for dollars. Basically, you are just finding out if they are interested in selling their property or not. If they are, then that qualifies as a lead. If not, mark it dead.

For a much faster way to reach out to all of these phone numbers at once, you can use to send out a voicemail directly to the voicemail box of every single cell phone number.

Your message can be something like “Hi there, this is Joe with JoeBuysHouses, I’m actually looking for a home in this area and got your info online. If you or anyone you know were interested in selling their house at this time could you please give me a call back? If not, no worries. Thanks!”

No harm, no foul. The people that respond will be hot leads that you can process in your lead management system, which we’ll talk about on the next post.

Driving for Dollars

Step 1: Drive around your target area looking for distressed properties and write down the addresses. Here’s what you want to look for:

  • FSBO signs
  • Overgrown yards
  • Overfilled mailboxes and newspapers on the ground
  • Notices on the front door
  • Blue tarps on the house
  • Boarded up windows
  • Garage sale signs
  • Abandoned cars

Step 2: Create an army of “Birddogs” who can drive for dollars on your behalf and give you new leads every day. Offer to pay them $2,000 for every lead they find that turns into a deal. You can find plenty of motivated birddogs, or “Property locators” by posting a gig on Craigslist and vetting the people who email you. Just make sure they are good communicators and have a car.

Step 3: Compile these addresses in a simple “Vacant Properties” app on your Podio workspace (or a Google Sheet if you’re not on Podio yet…shame on you!)

Step 4: Send the list to your skip tracing VA.

Step 5: Call them individually to see if they are interested in selling or not.


This is the hardest yet possibly the most valuable avenue, because a few great connections can keep you fed with deals for life. Here are some ideas of people to network with that can refer you leads:

  • Moving companies
  • Attorneys
  • Probate
  • Divorce
  • Bankruptcy
  • Tax lien
  • Other wholesalers
  • Leverage their marketing and bring a buyer to their deals.
  • Contractors
  • They see distressed houses all the time and could act as a birddog for you (as well as a future contractor if you promise they will get the job).
  • Title Companies
  • Sometimes title companies might have a wholesaler’s deal under contract with no buyer in place yet…easy money if you can bring a buyer and split the assignment!
  • Pest control companies
  • When there’s cat pee, termites and roaches, you know you’ve got a deal!
  • City Inspectors
  • Code violations and condemned buildings are great wholesale deals and they could point you in the right direction.
  • Accountants
  • They may have clients who need to liquidate.
  • Firefighters
  • If played right, these connections could lead to some smokin deals 😉
  • Carpet cleaners
  • People ready to move/sell
  • Paper boys
  • They are already “biking for dollars” for you!
  • Property managers
  • They know landlords. Landlords get tired and want to sell all the time.

With enough irons in the fire, a few of these sneaky connections can become a goldmine of potential leads for you, especially if you position it as a win/win every time. You can either pay them or refer them business in exchange for the lead opportunities.

Whatever you do, be authentic. We’re all in this thing together, so no need to come across as fake and needy. You’re just a person looking for deals and happy to help out in any way you can in exchange for some leads.


We discussed a lot of sure-fire, time-tested ways to actually get leads into your business today. We hope you will use this guide to take action and create legitimate value for these people who need to sell their homes. Remember, you’re a professional, even if you’ve never done a deal yet!

Don’t forget to do the harder forms of lead generation, as you’ll have less competition.

In time, even the harder forms of prospecting can be systemized and outsourced. When you have 3-5 forms of lead generation all happening simultaneously, you will have plenty of leads to work with, but that’s not the end of the story.

You will also need effective lead management. This is what happens AFTER the lead comes in. How are you taking these leads? Tracking them? Writing offers? Setting appointments? This all needs to be organized and automated for you and your team so you don’t ruin your chance with a lead that you’ve worked so hard to create.

We will discuss this and more on the next post.

Until then, happy deal-finding!