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By Ralph Roberts

RISMEDIA, May 31, 2007-What happens to those hundreds or thousands of letters you send to prospective clients every year? My guess is that 90% or more of the recipients simply crumple up those letters and toss them in the trash. But what if that letter came back? Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Wouldn’t that catch the recipient’s attention?

That is exactly what I was thinking when I came up with the idea of using a crumpled letter as one of my key marketing tools. For years I would send letters to people who were trying to sell their homes themselves-whom we in the real estate business refer to as For Sale By Owners or FSBOs-and to sellers whose listing contracts had expired. In the letter, I would explain that I knew the homeowner’s listing contract with the other agent was about to expire or that the person had been trying to sell her home for several months without success, and offering my services as a listing agent.

These letters generated some extra business, but I was not getting nearly the conversion rate that I had expected. I knew that most of the people receiving my letters were going to do the same thing as I do when I receive similar sales letters; they were going to crumple them up and throw them away.

Tired of spending time sending out letters that were just going to end up in the trash, I decided that I would take action whenever someone tossed my letter in the trash or simply ignored me. I would resurrect that letter and use it to my marketing advantage.

About four days after I sent out the original letter, if the prospect had not gotten in touch with me, I would send out a nearly identical letter, but this time, I wadded it up first, smoothed it out a bit, and wrote with a red marker at the bottom of the letter, “Please Don’t Throw Me Away Again!” I inserted the letter in a plain envelope, addressed it by hand, and mailed it to the original recipient.

When I started this new marketing program, I saw an instant boost in conversion rates. I was receiving more than double the responses to my crumpled letter than I had ever received from the originals. Some people thought that I had actually dug through their trash to find the letter and resend it! Even prospects who knew it was a marketing trick thought it was clever and were willing to hire me. It showed that I would stop at nothing to sell their homes!

What made the crumpled letter approach so successful was that it was a unique twist on an old strategy. I was still using traditional direct-mail marketing, but I had discovered a way to freshen it up and make it new. People who were so accustomed to tossing unopened letters in the trash took notice of the crumpled letter. That’s the one letter in the whole stack that they did read.

I employ a similar tactic whenever I deliver marketing materials to prospects prior to meeting with them. Instead of sticking them in a plain brown envelope or one with my company’s logo on it, I place the materials in a FedEx or DHL envelope and drop the package off at the prospect’s home, leaving it inside the screen door.

When the owners arrived home from work, they drive up, get out of their car, collect their mail and perhaps their newspaper, open the screen door, and see a package from FedEx or DHL. Now which envelope are they going to open first? I can almost guarantee that it is going to be that unlabeled FedEx or DHL envelope. The shipping companies do not mind, because you are advertising for them, and the people receiving the package are usually delighted to receive a little surprise when they get home from work.

I use a similar approach with e-mail messages, adding a catchy description to the Subject line and offering something of value in every message I send out-my signature, containing my name and contact information and a list of Web sites where the recipient can go to find out more about me and what I do. Send me an e-mail at, and I will respond, so you can see exactly how I use my signature to draw attention and opportunities my way. I also regularly broadcast e-mail messages with valuable insights or gifts attached, such as inspirational or entertaining poems or presentations.

Remember, the ultimate goal of any correspondence you send out is to have the recipient read it. Just think of the number of messages that an average person receives every day from newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, e-mail, Web sites, postal mail, and while driving to and returning home from work. Ask yourself, “Why would anyone want to read my letter?” If you expect someone to read your letter, you had better come up with a good answer.

Official Spokesperson for Guthy-Renker Home, Ralph R. Roberts is an award-winning and internationally recognized real estate agent, speaker, and coach and author of several books including his most recent, Flipping Houses For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons), Walk Like a Giant, Sell Like a Madman (HarperCollins), and 52 Weeks of Sales Success (HarperCollins).

To learn more, visit, call 586.751.0000 or e-mail