Jerry never had any intentions of owning a marketing company. When he was stuck with the task of finding work from home, he worked with a friend answering phones and talking to people because she was great at everything but talking to people. Once he did his first wholesale, he was hooked. Jerry learned how to do marketing and went out on his own. Now he helps investors keep deals in the pipeline.
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Jerry Puckett Real Estate Background:
- Founder and managing partner at New Refined Images
- Helps clients source deals through direct mail and internet marketing
- Sent more than 1 million pieces of mail to more than 90 markets in 2017
- Say hi to him at www.marketlikeawholesaler.com
- Based in Fort Worth, Texas
- Best Ever Book: The Speed Of Trust
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Jerry Puckett. How are you doing, Jerry?
Jerry Puckett: I’m doing well, Joe. Thank you for inviting me onto the Best Ever Show. I appreciate it.
Joe Fairless: My pleasure, nice to have you. A little bit about Jerry – he is the founder and managing partner at New Refined Images. He helps clients source deals through direct mail and internet marketing. He sent over one million pieces of mail to more than 90 markets in 2017, and you can learn more about his company at MarketLikeAWholesaler.com. Based on Fort-Worth, Texas, Cowtown, where I’m from. With that being said, Jerry, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Jerry Puckett: Sure, you bet. I did not start off to have a marketing service; that was not my goal, that was not my plan. I just wanted to be a wholesaler. In 2010 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I needed to find something that I could do from home, so that I could take care of her. It was either quit my job, stay home and take care of her, or it was to hire somebody else to stay home and take care of her, and I just couldn’t see me doing that… So I ended up falling in with a friend of ours who had a very small real estate company, and all she wanted me to do was answer the phone for her.
So it went from that to — just the long story short, she really had no people skills; she could analyze a number up, down, backwards and sideways, but she could not talk to people. So I was talking with them on the phone, and she’d go out there and ruin the deal every time. They’d say “Well, we’ve spent 20-30 minutes on the phone with Jerry. Where is he?” So she started bringing me along to her appointments with her, and I found out that I had a knack for negotiation.
At one point we had two fully executed contracts and she only had enough money to close on one, and we didn’t know anything about creative financing at the time. She was like “Oh my goodness, what are we gonna do with this other one?” and I said “Well, I’ve been reading Bigger Pockets. Why don’t you let me wholesale that thing?” She said “Wholesale? What’s that? I don’t know anything about wholesaling. I said “That’s okay, I do”, because I’d been reading Bigger Pockets.
I made a couple of calls, I sold the property, I made a $10,000 fee in just a few minutes, and I was hooked. Wholesaling is cool, it’s really easy, or so I thought at the time. What I didn’t really factor into my equation at the time was that she had done all the work ahead of time of setting up the marketing campaigns and everything else like that… So when I actually got out on my own, I had to learn how to do all of that stuff for myself.
I had a colleague from — my very first Bigger Pockets colleague; his name is John Claus. He was kind of watching over my shoulder as I got better at wholesaling here in DFW. He was like “You’re doing a really good job competing there against some of these big guys… Could you do a campaign like that for me down in Austin?” I’d drank the Bigger Pockets Kool-Aid a long time ago and I wanted to pay it forward, so I said “Sure, no problem. We’ll just set it up and I’ll run it like I do with my own systems, and all you’ll have to do is pick the calls and make the deals.”
He thought that sounded pretty good, so within five months he had three deals under contract and he had netted six figures off of each. So what does he do? He gets back on Bigger Pockets and starts shooting his mouth off about it – “Hey, six-figure income from a yellow letter.”
Next thing I know, my phone is ringing off the hook. “Hey, Jerry, can you help me with my marketing? Can you…? Can you…?” So that’s how the marketing service was first built.
I ended up going out to a Bigger Pockets conference out in Denver that year, and people all over the place were saying “Hey, can you mentor me? Can you mentor me?” There were folks out there that were charging 10k-15k a pop upfront, just to teach people regurgitated crap that you could get anywhere for free. So I just saw the two things kind of dovetailed. There’s nothing I can really teach you unless you’re actually out there talking to sellers, and you’re not gonna be talking to sellers unless you’re doing your own marketing, so hey, why don’t you use my marketing pieces, and the least I can do is teach you how to go from there. So that’s how the wholesaler thing got started… Dovetailed exactly at the same time when the MLS dried up for investors and they weren’t able to find products on the MLS anymore, so that a lot of them would say “Jerry, you always have product, how come I don’t have product?” I said, “Well, you’ve gotta market like a wholesaler.”
And one thing just kind of led to another and one market after another, one investor after another, one state after another, people were coming to me, I was doing their marketing for them, and it just kind of grew from there. If you check out my profile over at Bigger Pockets you’ll see we’ve got something like 7,000 positive reviews from people that are out there making money off of what we’re doing.
I don’t try to reinvent the wheel, I just kind of stay sharp and in front of the different trends; you learn a lot by split testing with over a million pieces in 90 markets, so I almost feel like I’m cheating, but that’s the way we do it. Everything we do is custom and boutique.
Joe Fairless: Split testing that many tests, for a lack of a better word, you’re gonna learn a lot… What have you learned?
Jerry Puckett: Well, the funny thing is I can take all the data that we get from the mailings and I can kind of put it on a heat map of sorts; Google’s got some pretty amazing features. So I start to see trends, I start to see something that happens out in California or over in New York and I know that it’s gonna spread. I see from the results of the mailings that some language choices work well, while others don’t… So it’s just something that you pick up along the way. We monitor every response that comes, so everything that we write is done custom. We don’t use templates that are just stale. I don’t write letter two until I see the results from letter one etc.
So I see trends a lot of times before they happen, I know when an area is getting hot, I know when an area is drying up, I can see it shift from one place to the other, and hopefully when you examine all of that you can get in front of it. I think that’s one of the advantages that we have – we’re able to stay in front of the market as it were, and stay out in front of everybody else.
Joe Fairless: What are some language choices that work well?
Jerry Puckett: Well, you’ve gotta be somewhat particular to your market in that. For instance, the things that I say in Austin absolutely wouldn’t work in Denver, and the things that I might say in Southern California could probably get you locked up in New Hampshire. You wanna kind of focus in on the vernacular. It’d be kind of hard to do it nationally, but for example when I’m in Texas I say things like “Y’all”, “Circle the wagons”, mustangs on the mail piece itself… People love horses out in Texas…
Joe Fairless: [laughs] Oh, I thought you were talking about the car.
Jerry Puckett: Oh, no, no, no. Not at all. Mustangs. We’ve done some studies on that, the psychological profiling of American people; they’ve always wanted an American kind of royalty and people have an affinity for horses or mustangs. It’s a real subtle psychological thing, but if you put a picture of a mustang on the outside on your envelope, your open and read rate is gonna jump way up. It’s sometimes just that simple.
Joe Fairless: What do you put in New Hampshire? You mentioned New Hampshire, you got me curious about that state.
Jerry Puckett: New Hampshire – they’re Yankees, right? And they think that everybody is out to kind of scam them, and there are a lot of — well, I guess I’m just gonna say there are older folks that if… There’s certain things that you must do. You must put your full name on the return address; if you don’t, they’re just going to assume that you’re a scammer and they’re gonna call the cops on you, or they’re gonna report you to the district attorney, or something like that.
You must do that, you must be absolutely polite, you must Mr. And Mrs. when you address somebody, no “Hey, Dave” or “Hey, Bob.” It’s got to be very formal, it’s got to be very polite, and you’ve got to assure them somewhere along the course of the way that you are not trying to scam them, that you really do want to buy their property… And “Please give me a call” and then have the number be one that works well, and not at all try to be anonymous. That’s the thing when you’re over anywhere in New England – if you try to be anonymous in any kind of way you’re automatically gonna be targeted as a scammer, and they will call the police on you quickly.
Joe Fairless: What happens when they call the police?
Jerry Puckett: Well, usually the police will call you and say “Hey, we got a report from so-and-so that you’re running some kind of a scam.” You’re not doing anything wrong, you’re not doing anything illegal, so you’ve got to explain to them exactly what you’re doing, how you go the address and everything else, and they’ll usually just leave it with “Okay, but take so-and-so off your list” and I’m like “Of course.”
Joe Fairless: [laughs]
Jerry Puckett: I don’t wanna have anything else to do with them. But if you’re in this business for any length of time, something like that’s gonna happen. I’ve listened to quite a number of older posts that Michael [unintelligible [00:09:52].25] would put out; he’s got recordings of people who have called him and threatened to shoot him in the head and different things like that. I’ve got a few snippets of those myself. You get all kinds of interesting calls, with people who wanna do all kinds of crazy things to you. They get mad; I don’t know why they get mad, but they get mad.
Joe Fairless: Conversely, Southern California – what’s the approach there?
Jerry Puckett: Man, Southern California is a bear to get anybody to notice you at all. We’re lucky if we get a 1% response rate out there. That is the toughest market anywhere. So the approach there is you’ve gotta kind of be bold and over the top, and you have to exude a frame of mind that says that you have money, and that you’re able to move quickly.
I know that that sounds kind of like Captain Obvious sort of thinking, but it’s not, because in a lot of markets you want people to think that you’re just the guy next door.
Joe Fairless: That’s Texas.
Jerry Puckett: Yeah. Here in Texas I get in the door by being the guy next door.
Joe Fairless: Yup.
Jerry Puckett: I just do a couple of deals a year to help buy Christmas presents and groceries, but in California if you take that kind of — I guess you would call it a kiss me approach… If you take that kind of approach in California, you’re never gonna get a call. No one is ever gonna call you. So the best thing you can do there is show them pictures of other deals that you’ve done, maybe put some of your numbers out there, anything that’s gonna be visually appealing and speak to their heart immediately. They can’t be overdone; it’s still got to be a short and a sweet message, but we’ve gotten traction just by saying “Hey, here’s the last deal that we did” or point them to a website where you might have testimonials… “Here’s what so-and-so had to say after doing a deal with us”, and just have that be something easy that they can get to and listen to. That will capture their attention sometimes, and they’ll give you a call just to check you out and kick your tires, and if they’ve done that, then you’re in the door, so to speak. You’re in play.
Once anybody’s called, that’s one of the biggest things that folks will do wrong – they don’t follow up. I can have somebody call me and say “Take me off your list” and that’s fine, I’m gonna take you off a list, and I’m not gonna waste any more money mailing to you, because now I have your phone number. I can reach out and touch you any time that I want for free, and you’ve already opened the door by calling me.
So the way I work any given market – I continue to stay in touch with people until one of four things happens. They either will sell me their property, sell it to someone else, tell me to go to hell, or die. And if they die, then I’m gonna follow up with their executors and the heirs until they sell me their house, sell it to someone else, tell me to go to hell or die.
Joe Fairless: Wouldn’t the “Take me off your list” be basically telling you to go to hell? So wouldn’t that already take them off the list?
Jerry Puckett: No, no. “Go to hell” means literally “I’m gonna shoot you in the head, leave me alone.” They’ll get mad. If somebody’s rude, if they’re at the point where they’re rude on the phone, I won’t ever speak to them again, I’m done. But if somebody is just “You know, I’m not really interested, take me off the list” – that’s okay, because people’s circumstances change frequently. The people who are in distress this month, last month they didn’t have a clue what was going on, or that they were gonna fall into something where they needed some help.
The people who are gonna be in distress next month, right now they’re cruising along like everything’s fine. So when I reach out — I usually just use text. I will reach out and text somebody maybe 3-4 times a year if they’ll say “Take me off the list.” One of about four things can happen. And I’ll just say something like “Hey Bob, it’s been a while since we’ve talked… Has everything been okay?” I don’t ask about the property specifically; polite society being what it is, their only point of reference for speaking with me in the first place is their property, so when I reach out to them like that, they can either answer back and say “Jerry, I’m still not interested, but thanks for checking on me.” And that’s fine, then I’ve deepened my rapport with them, and I’ve reconnected my name with selling their house.
Or they could say “Jerry, I’m not interested right now, but I know somebody who is… And didn’t you offer me a referral fee?” So they can refer me to somebody. Or at that point they can tell me to go to hell, leave them alone, don’t ever contact them again.
So if any of those things happen, that’s fine, it pushed my agenda a little bit more forward. And they could always say “You know, Jerry, things have changed. I’m interested in hearing your offer now.” And that happens more often than you would think. People’s circumstances change, they change quickly; if you’re somebody that’s been in contact with them and that stayed in touch with them over time, then when it’s time to do something, you’re gonna be the one they call.
That’s why everybody who does this just preaches about being persistent and consistent, and that’s why. The more persistent and consistent you are, the luckier you get. You’re gonna be the one they call.
Joe Fairless: And when you were talking about the different states and the vernacular that you use, or the approach – that’s not just your off-the-cuff thoughts, that’s based on quantifiable split testing research, is that correct?
Jerry Puckett: That’s correct. We have a system that we use for everybody that we work with that allows them to track their responses. It really kills two birds with one stone; I call it a lead tracker, but it’s not quite sophisticated enough to be software… It’s a spreadsheet with a lot of bells and whistles built into it. While it allows the client some place to track their calls, set appointments, take notes and everything like that, it also keeps my master mailing list updated in real time, so that I don’t have to nag anybody to do it. But part of keeping track of the calls is that I ask them and try to teach them how to take good notes when they’re talking to people, and if they happen to record calls, then that’s something I can hear too, and I can actually listen to the way people talk.
But yes, in any given market, I will keep track via that lead tracker which version of the text that I used for which segment. That gives me back information on the back-end; I can see who responded to what. With this many different pieces to play with, I’ve done things as small as moving a comma to see if it helps or it doesn’t help. I know that sounds silly, but you really have to test something to death.
Joe Fairless: I’ve heard that when you put in a comma, it makes the amount look larger, but when you remove the comma, then it makes the amount look smaller.
Jerry Puckett: Yeah, anything that gives more wide space on the page is gonna be helpful. But then on the other hand, if you don’t use a comma, sometimes when people are reading it they don’t take a breath as they’re reading the message in their mind where they should, so if you meant to pause for emphasis, then it’s not there. So there’s a lot of different things to take into consideration.
I tell people all the time that just because you have a printer on your desk and you know how to use mail merge that doesn’t mean you’re a marketer any more than having a set of tools out in your garage makes you a mechanic. So there are a lot of things to take into consideration if you’re trying to crack a market open and you’re really trying to succeed.
Joe Fairless: I do have some tools in my garage and I am definitely not a mechanic, so I understand that… The direct mail that you do – do you work with any investors who purchase medium to large apartment buildings?
Jerry Puckett: I have worked with people who have bought up to — I think the largest any of my clients has bought is like a 50-unit, so I guess that would probably be small to you, considering the things that you do, but I think it was pretty big to them. Where would you put 50? Is that small or medium?
Joe Fairless: I don’t know, we’ll say medium; we’ll call it medium. So what is the approach for the 50-unit, compared to what you’re doing with the single-families?
Jerry Puckett: Oddly enough, a lot of the messaging is the same. Messaging when you’re trying to buy something is usually just different iterations of your contact information plus the benefits of working with you plus a strong call to action. If you apply that formula, it’s the same thing. But with the apartment owners, and also with mobile park home owners, you want to convey to them that you really know what you’re talking about.
So if you start talking about the rent rolls, or separately metered — different things like that… You want to let people know that you know what you’re talking about, and that you are a fellow landlord. And if nothing else, so “If you’re not interested in selling, I certainly would like to network with you, I’d like to know more people like you.” Often times it’s a matter of just getting them into your network.
A community of people who own properties like that is much smaller, so if you’re networking with everybody, these folks also see each other a bit different — oh gosh, what’s the word for it? They network with each other in different ways, so if you get into somebody’s network, there’s a good chance that you’re gonna be able to reach out to somebody else, because they’re involved in the same association, they go to the same sorts of meetings, they deal with the same sorts of issues… So conquering that smaller market is actually a lot easier than when you’re doing a single-family house – to hit all the prospects that you need to, that’s usually a pretty huge prospects, and most people’s budgets don’t carry that kind of wallet to it. But when you’re looking at the apartment buildings, the community is much smaller, so you try to capture all of them and get all of them into your network.
Joe Fairless: Based on your experience as a real estate entrepreneur, what is your best advice ever for investors?
Jerry Puckett: Don’t cheap out. If you want to make money in this business, don’t go cheap. There’s just too many people out there that try so hard to pinch a penny that they’ll the make the things scream. I was brought up with the notion that the harder you squeeze a watermelon seed, the more likely it is to slip right out of your fingers. I’ve seen people try to outsmart people that have been doing this for years, I’ve seen them try to come up with uber-laser-targeted lists that nobody else has thought of… They’ll bend over backwards trying to save money, instead of counting the cost of what it’s gonna take to actually get to where they wanna be.
So my best advice that I can give to your best ever listeners would be really consider what it is that you wanna do and count the cost. Don’t cheap out on it. Sink some money into it if you’re gonna make some money back on it.
Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Jerry Puckett: Oh, the Best Ever Lightning Round… Okay, yes!
Joe Fairless: Alright, cool. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever book you’ve read?
Jerry Puckett: Best ever book I’ve ever read… I guess if it’s a business book, I’m gonna say The Speed of Trust, by Stephen Covey.
Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever business transaction or real estate deal you’ve done?
Jerry Puckett: The best one was the first one that I told you about earlier. It happened so easily and fell together so nicely that it was purely addictive. Man, a couple of phone calls and I made $10,000, wholesaling a property that I didn’t have enough money to buy.
Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made in business on a transaction?
Jerry Puckett: The biggest mistake that I ever made was not conveying my vulnerability. In other words, the biggest mistake that I ever made was at one point in time I was not 10)% honest with somebody that I was working with, and that came back to bite me more times than I could count.
Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?
Jerry Puckett: I love helping people on Bigger Pockets. I love to spend time answering people’s questions, and I make myself available to people who have questions trying to get started. I’m there all the time, hit me up.
Joe Fairless: And how can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you? What’s the best way?
Jerry Puckett: The Best Ever listeners can get in touch with me by going either to BiggerPockets.com and looking at my profile, Jerry Puckett, or they can go to my website at www.marketlikeawholesaler.com. Fill out that Contact form and I’ll be in touch with you.
Joe Fairless: Jerry, thank you so much for being on the show, talking about best practices for direct mail, the differences, not only in regions, but also in states and the locations within the states… You talked about Southern California, you talked about the difference between that and (it sounds like, according to you) the polar opposite, New Hampshire. With Texas, having it all in there – mustangs (the horse, not the car) on the envelope, that sort of stuff. Really interesting, because it’s based on research and data, not opinion, and that’s what’s most interesting to me… It’s simply what’s working, and that’s the kind of stuff that I really love learning about, and it will be helpful for any Best Ever listener who is doing direct mail to pay attention to the word choices that we’re using.
Then also you talked about that 50-unit and how to approach that larger property… So thanks again for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Jerry Puckett: Thanks, Joe. It’s been great. I appreciate you.