Today I want to introduce you to the NCOA Database (the National Change of Address database). I have some tips and resources for you today for using the NCOA Database and for managing all those returned mail pieces. By using the NCOA database you will be able to streamline the process of keeping your lists up to date, and it will help eliminate some of those costs associated with sending mail to bad addresses.
Direct mail is the foundation of many of our real estate businesses. In fact, it’s the number one marketing strategy that most of us use. Even though we know it’s critical to keep our lists up to date, it’s really hard to stay on top of this job. Today’s article will help you change that.
Stale Contacts (AKA Dead Leads); The Statistics
According to MelissaData.com, 2% of your contacts become stale every month. People move, they marry (or get divorced), they get a new job which leads to a transfer, and some people die. For one reason or another, their address will change. Most folks will do a change of address with the post office. However there are some people that fail to do this and they are usually the ones we are looking for.
The first step is to run them through the NCOA database.
Using the NCOA Database
Today I want to give you some tools that will make this job a little easier. There are a lot of companies you can choose from that have access to the NCOA Database, but here are two that you can take a look at.
The first company is pretty well known and that is MelissaData. There are a number of free tools on their site, and you can get 1000 leads free. Sweet!
MelissaData will match your list against the approximate 160 million records of the USPS. This will be permanent change-of-address records for a specific period of time.
What’s the Cost?
Here is a screenshot taken today of the costs for their change of address services. Melissa Data offers a lot of different services so you’ll want to take some time to really look their site over.
This is another company I came across. According to NCOA, over 44 million consumers & businesses move each year. That is a lot of people, and I’m pretty sure some of them are on our lists.
NCOA offers a free report if you want to upload a file. I’m not exactly sure what that includes, but feel free to give it a shot. They also seem to offer some pretty affordable services for getting the new addresses. Here’s a screenshot of their pricing just to give you an idea.
Do Your Due Diligence
Be sure to check these companies out for yourself to see which one meets your needs best.
What if you still can’t find the seller? It might be time for a skip tracer.
Skip tracing is the process of locating someone. A skip tracer is the person doing this job. Skip tracing is most often used by debt collectors, but it’s really valuable for finding sellers if you are a real estate investor. A lot of investors are reluctant to use skip tracers due to the cost of their services. Today I would like to invite you to look at the big picture.
Here’s something I would like for you to think about.
You know that other investors are marketing to the same people you are marketing to. When you get a piece of returned mail, everyone else doing direct mail got the same thing; returned mail from this address.
You can also bet that most of those other investors are either stacking them up on a shelf with the intention of doing something with them “one day” or throwing them in the trash.
That’s what makes those leads so valuable. In some ways the leads in your return mail stack are even more valuable than the ones were delivered. In most cases it will be worth the time and money to get their new address information.
There's gold in that pile of returned mail!
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Most investors have given up on the lead at this stage, so that gives you a distinct advantage when you finally reach these sellers.
Let me ask you this; how many deals would you need to close to make skip tracing a valuable part of your business?
Would that be one deal at $10,000; two deals?
What if you could close an average of 1 deal a month from those returned mail pieces? It’s definitely something to think about.
Be Smart About It
Before you hit the buy button on one of those services you should do a couple of things.
First of all, take each piece of returned mail and look these folks up on Google. You might be surprised how many of them you can find simply by doing a quick (free) search. Secondly, take just a minute and look up the individual property that is listed on the returned mail piece on the tax assessor’s site. If it’s a property that’s still available and it’s one you would want to buy, go ahead and try to find the owner. If it’s a vacant or abandoned property, that’s even better.
Skip Trace Companies
You can look these companies up online, but here are a few I know of.
TLO has both transactional and flat rate pricing, but I wasn’t able to find the actual pricing on their site.
Find the Seller
This company charges $9.97 per lead. Bulk rates seem to give you only a slight discount.
This company has a 10 day free trial, and a baseline cost of $59.95 a month. You can also pay annually for a discount.
No More Dead Leads
For those of us that spend money (sometimes a lot of money) on direct mail, we need to be sure we’re not wasting that money. Keeping your lists up to date and really trying to find the owners of those properties that come back to us as returned mail should become a priority for each of us. Using the NCOA Database can be a tremendous tool for doing this.
If you have some resources you would like to share I would love to hear about them.
Have you used skip tracing in your business? Let me know.
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