To be "distressed" means different things to different investors. I only want "distressed" Sellers that have new homes they can't afford anymore; that don't need work; that are easy to sell; that aren't over-leveraged; and all beckon me to live in them!
Meanwhile, I don't think there is any secret other than being chronic, persistent and repetitive in letting a targeted niche of prospects know what you have to offer. Otherwise, "one-off", or short term advertising puts the "pain" in campaigns.
I'll go further and say that ugly mail always works better for me than pretty mail. The less I explain on the piece, the more compelling the mail is. I never mention anything negative, and only pique the Seller's curiosity in solving ONE problem they are most likely having.
That said, I believe in direct mail. I profile a zip code for all homes that have been owned for a certain period of time, had "x" amount of equity at the time of transfer, have fixed rate mortgages, no recorded 2nds, are 3/3/2's or 3's, over 1,100 sqft and under 3,500 sqft and built within the last four years.
These are going to be excellent Sub-To prospects. Now, the entire mailing list conforms to a similar profile.
So...now I know who's not going to call me. No acreage owners; no farm owners, no condo owners, no massive fixer owners, no McMansion owners, etc. These are not popular properties to resell. The buyer pool is smaller, and the resale time is LOOOOONGER.
Meanwhile, when Buying, unlike the amateurs who think they need fancy websites because guru "X" says they're the "bomb", or whatever, I only provide my cell phone number to Sellers. If the Seller is too unmotivated to call me on the phone, they'll be too cool to say, "yes" to me asking for their deed, taking over their payments, and leaving them on the hook for a loan.
I only want to bother with desperate, anxious Sellers that don't know they have any other options, and are willing to overcome their fear of the unknown by calling me directly on the phone.
Websites serve as "bug zappers" for the unmotivated, and/or the idly curious.
I encourage the competition to always rely on websites for Buying property! he he. They've got lots of time on their hands. Meanwhile, I've got too many fish to fry to screw around with either the curious or the "web sniffers".