With any successful marketing campaign, a point of contact must be established in order to initiate a transaction. Bandit signs are, therefore, considered by many to be a necessary component of every real estate marketing system. While relatively primitive compared to alternative methods, they have the potential to generate unparalleled exposure for investors of all levels.
“Bandit signs,” as they have been so aptly named, establish multiple points of contact with prospective customers and facilitate a relatively cost-effective method for creating brand awareness. Even the most successful real estate investors continue to use their own variations of the bandit sign campaign, as they have been both tested and proven.
The complexity of a bandit sign campaign is disguised by its relatively simple nature. However, there is much to be learned by those who want to take advantage of this system and create leads on a regular basis. It does not take a lot of effort to place bandit signs, but those who truly understand their relevance will likely be rewarded with long-term success in their real estate endeavors. Ultimately, a bandit sign campaign may be responsible for determining the level of profitability a business is capable of achieving.
Bandit signs, in conjunction with a little bit of ingenuity, can go a long way in finding a real estate investment property. Sometimes, they are all that is required to lock up a deal. However, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the appropriate steps that need to be taken in such a campaign. Doing so will not only reduce your chances of committing a costly mistake, but also maximize any returns on your investment.
What Are Bandit Signs?
Bandit signs are essentially small variations of the common billboard. Their usefulness is directly correlated to the strategic placement of each individual sign, as they are intended to act as the initial point of contact for real estate investors and potential sellers. Staked into the ground or placed on walls, these displays are meant to catch the attention of motorists as they drive by, but since most cities have ordinances governing the installation of signs on public property, industry jargon has coined the term, “bandit sign.” Though their names do not do them justice, this medium is essential to creating highly targeted leads.
The composition of a typical bandit sign consists of a 12×18 or 18×24 inch corrugated plastic board. Corrugated plastic is the preferred material, as it is cost-effective, lightweight, weather proof and durable. Basic marketing messages are displayed on the face of each board, suggesting their intentions and revealing a means of contact. Simplicity is the key here. Motorists only have a brief moment to take in the information. It is common to see nothing more than a phone number and a variation of the phrase “we buy houses.”
Widely considered to be the first campaign all novice investors should start with, bandit signs have the potential to establish a presence in the community without invading the privacy of a prospective seller.
Bandit Sign Laws
The initiation of a bandit sign campaign is highly advised by real estate investors of all levels. Of particular concern, however, is the legality of their use. A lot of municipalities do not permit the use of bandit signs, as they are often in violation of city codes. You must always remember to check with local town officials regarding the regulations of sign placement.
On a national level, regulations can very significantly. Each city is responsible for establishing their own preventative measures, if at all. Real estate investors found in violation of local codes will be fined accordingly. In most cities, punishment for violating a city’s sign ordinance can include fines ranging from $200, $500 or more per violation. Subsequently, citizens of each individual neighborhood may not appreciate the added presence of unsightly signs. Therefore, anticipate a myriad of mixed emotions regarding their placement.
While the placement of a bandit sign is associated with an assumed degree of risk, it is not enough to mitigate its use. In fact, bandit sign campaigns have proven to be so effective that their reward greatly outweighs any potential fine. These signs have the ability to bring in a significant amount of leads and deals that trump any penalties enforced by local governments. Ultimately, the choice to use a bandit sign campaign is up to you. The final decision will always be placed on your shoulders.
On a more positive note, many cities have found it easier to enforce responsible bandit sign practices than to adhere to strict, No-Sign policies. As a result, many local governments have adjusted their practices to accommodate investors. Some allow this method of advertising on specific days of the week, contingent on the sign owner registering with the city first and agreeing to be responsible for picking up the signs on designated days of removal.
Determining Your Budget & Plan
Assuming you have decided to pursue the use of bandit signs, and are comfortable assuming responsibility, the next phase is to establish the parameters of a plan. This includes the budget and the method in which the campaign will be carried out. Anyone can conceivably place a few bandit signs, but those who take the time to develop a sound marketing system will most likely have long-term success.
Ask yourself: What is a realistic budget that you can consistently utilize on a weekly basis? Those unfamiliar with the process may want to take into consideration the potential return on investment. More specifically, evaluate the projected response rates and budget accordingly. Doing so will justify the amount you are able to spend on the campaign. Remember, you are implementing a system that can replicate itself exponentially, and it only takes one deal to justify the money spent on marketing.
Preparing to Receive Leads
Prior to placing your bandit signs, establish the method in which you wish to receive the leads they generate. Accordingly, they may come in the form of a call or a variation of web-based media (email). Regardless of which method you choose, you must have a system in place to receive leads your signs have produced. Known as a lead intake system, this process will enable you to keep track of incoming leads and permit you to respond to them in a timely fashion.
Note that receiving a lead does not prevent you from marketing further. To run a successful business, it is important to simultaneously pursue leads and deals. Do not stop marketing once you have a deal on the table. “This means you’re marketing like crazy when you’ve got no deals and you’re doing the same amount of marketing when you’re in the middle of closing five deals,” says Jason Hanson on Bigger Pockets. Continuous marketing will prevent leads from drying up and provide you with an opportunity to seal another deal immediately.
We have taken the time to highlight a few of the most common lead intake systems. They are as follows:
- Google Voice: Google Voice refers to a free virtual phone service that can be redirected to a 3rd party number (typically a cell or office line). Calls received by Google Voice are recorded and transcribed so that you may refer to them at your convenience. Perhaps even more importantly, these numbers are untraceable.
- Call Center: Investors with the resources may consider hiring a live receptionist to answer incoming calls.
- Website Squeeze Page: If your bandit signs redirect leads to a website, consider the use of a squeeze page. These sites are specifically designed to capture a prospect’s name, contact info and the subject property they are interested in selling.
Creating a Bandit Sign
Once the lead intake system is put in place, you may begin to draft a design for your bandit signs. This can be done on a variety of websites that specialize in this particular field. When starting out, be sure to order approximately 200 to 500 bandit signs, taking into account that a lot will be torn down and have the potential to go missing. Be sure to shop around, as to obtain the best deal possible. Buying in bulk will make the cost more bearable.
While not incredibly difficult to create, there is a specific set of guidelines you should adhere to. They are as follows:
- Acquire an easy to remember phone number to place on the signs that is not traceable.
- Do not put your company’s name on the sign.
- Do not put your name on the sign.
- When choosing a message, keep it short and to the point (for example: WE BUY HOUSES CASH FAST).
- Make sure the font you use is as big and bold as possible.
- The context must consist of no more than two lines, not including the phone number.
- If possible, choose a color scheme that is bright and consistent with your brand.
- If you are a licensed Realtor, make sure to check with your local Board of Realtors to see if you need to represent that you are a licensed realtor on your signage.
Preparing For a Bandit Sign Campaign
The prospect of conducting a bandit sign campaign is typically more engaging than people realize. As previously stated, anyone can blindly and effortlessly place advertisements in areas they suspect will generate leads. However, it is ill advised to pursue a campaign of this importance without taking the time to conduct market research.
Create a Route Map
Often overlooked during the course of a bandit sign campaign is the importance of a route map. As its name suggests, a route map plots the course of your objective. Knowing the location of each individual sign will help you to keep track of their whereabouts and provide you with an overview of your subject area. More importantly, creating a route map will allow you to track your leads.
Tracking Incoming Leads
While relatively simple, tracking incoming leads is absolutely imperative to any successful campaign. With little investment, you will ultimately be able to determine which areas of your route map generate more responses. Simply asking prospective sellers where they saw your advertisement will help to delineate which particular signs are gaining the most exposure.
Keeping track of the particular type of leads you bring in is just as important as the quantity. For example, if your bandit sign campaigns bring in predominantly short sales, then you need to be prepared for those leads and be able to capitalize on them. Even cold leads will provide you with contacts to check up on in the future, essentially giving you an advantage over your competitors.
Building a Buyers List
Executing a bandit sign campaign has several objectives, some of which are less evident than others. Of course, these signs are specifically created to attract potential sellers. However, their placement may catch the attention of likeminded investors as well. A reverse form of marketing, if you will.
Contacting another investor’s bandit sign will not only allow you to establish relationships with other investors in the area, but it will permit you to build up a large list of potential buyers. Take their name, number, fax, and email, and put that information in a database to reference later. It makes perfect sense to look for buyers and sellers simultaneously.
According to James Kimmons at About.com, “it’s very important to have a list of ready buyers already in place. This buyer list can yield your buyer very quickly, and your holding costs will be much lower by selling the property in a hurry.”
Respect Local Investors
As real estate investors rely on reputation, it is equally important to treat other investors in the area with respect. Do not put bandit signs in front of other people’s signs, as it will only serve to escalate the situation. Furthermore, replacing their signs with yours will only increase hostility, making the risk of retaliation that much greater. As a sign of good faith, they may feel inclined to report you to the local authorities. Besides, there are more than enough deals for everyone. Please respect local investors in your area.