As an entrepreneur, it is simply part of my nature to always be tinkering with our business. When there are 4 partners and all of us share the same entrepreneurial spirit, then the tinkering can easily get out of hand. Luckily, when we come together to work on “Big Picture” real estate investing ideas, I get to work on the development and implementation and get my hands dirty with making things happen.
So when we came together one year ago, fresh off of a growth spurt that saw sales and revenue each grow over 60% in one year, and made plans for growing another 60% in 2012, I knew I had my work cut out for me. To be fair, we had already been implementing systems and planning for growth and we already had relationships and inter-actions with each of these companies. But it was our total immersion and dedication to using their strengths to improve our passive real estate investing company that have propelled us on a tremendous growth curve. This is a quick glimpse into how all three web companies, used together, have transformed our business.
Using Bigger Pockets To Build A Powerful Real Estate Brand
When I first started using Bigger Pockets in 2009, I was way too distracted working in my business to devote enough time working on my business. That is a common trait among entrepreneurs who have not learned yet to replace themselves in their company. When you replace yourself and develop other people, you give yourself time to work on the things that make your company grow. In the past 18-24 months, I have been able to devote that time to one very important idea. The idea surrounded developing our company into a trusted brand. Not just some guys who sell houses to far away investors. We wanted to be the trusted, go-to company when it came to learning the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts of distance investing. How is that for a list of clichés?
The reality is, that is exactly what we wanted to develop. I had no idea that the single best resource for building that brand and developing a trusted message and voice was Bigger Pockets. I began to devote an hour a day, then two hours a day and then I added an extra hour or two some where during the week until I was maintaining a blog on the site, commenting on forum posts and eventually writing articles for the site. Once I had a voice on the site and others began to recognize me as someone who actually knew a little about investing, I began to use the same respectful and educational tone I used on the site to start branding my company in ads.
By not just blowing up the users on Bigger Pockets with ads from someone that has no credibility and no desire to contribute back to the community, we were able to develop a trusted name and make connections to what really makes the site powerful…the active, daily users who are actively investing! Once that trusted voice was established our ads had resonance and the fact that our ads were focused on brand building and educating investors it helped continue to build our reputation.
Bigger Pockets has grown into our single biggest lead source outside of direct referral. We are able to consistently brand our company and the response to the ads we run both on the site and in the newsletter has been tremendous. The users on the site are engaged and intelligent and have so far proven to be investors who recognize value investing. As a passive investment company, these are the types of clients that work best with our company. Our ability to make strong connections because of the strength of brand recognition is a huge contributor to our ability to turn those leads into active clients using our service, which is the point of being in business in the first place!
HubSpot Opens Up A New World Of Connecting With Leads & Clients
I stumbled upon Hubspot.com by accident and signed up for a consultation without really knowing what the site was all about. I was so impressed with the demonstration that I signed up on the spot. At the time, I had no idea if I really needed it, but they had tools for insight that I knew I would need and the ability to completely integrate with our lead system. I could see a clear path from developing great leads on Bigger Pockets to nurturing those leads on HubSpot.
We were able to move our blog to Hubspot from Wordpress, which gave our site and blog much greater exposure. We were able to develop custom landing pages easily, which we would direct our ads back to. When interested investors landed on our landing pages, we were able to track not only the conversion rate, but also how they responded to certain questions, did they like video explanation better than pictures, which response buttons worked best, etc…
This type of insight was invaluable in helping us learn to fine-tune our message to match the content an investor would receive when registering. By delivering a consistent message from ad to landing page to content, we were able to monitor higher conversion rates from visitor to lead. We were also able to view analytics from all of our competitors and watch what they were doing on line as well. This helped us again to fine tune our message and create a clear difference between us and every other company in the industry. Again, let me be real clear here. You cannot simply go out and buy these programs and expect sales to grow through the roof. You have to have a vision to begin with of exactly where you want to go with your real estate business and why you want to go there. Once you do, great tools like HubSpot can assist you with reaching your goals and give you analytic help with deciphering what all the data means.
Once we had the leads and the help understanding why visitors were registering at our site and what they wanted as real estate investors, it was time to move those potential clients along and assist them with developing passive real estate portfolios.
Salesforce Can Change Your Sales Trajectory
Choosing to use Salesforce.com was not a clear-cut decision on our part. A huge plus for Salesforce was the fact that integration with Hubspot was easy and already existed on a corporate level. We were struggling with whether to use Salesforce or another customer relationship management system and the ease of integrating with Hubspot was a huge plus. The knock on all of the systems was the same…it would take a tremendous number of hours, we would need to either hire a Salesforce administrator or hire an outside consultant to set up the system and regardless of which way we went, there would be considerable cost associated with the implementation. I can say that none of it was as bad as it appeared it would be and that whatever money we spent, it was well worth it!
We hired a full-time IT person whose sole responsibility was implementation of Salesforce. He had the credentials and the background and was certified as a Salesforce specialist. His first responsibility was to assist me in developing the path that we would send each lead down and how we would shape our communication with each lead. Our intention was to stay true to our ‘Service’ mindset and not lose sight that the worst-case scenario involved a lead that was better educated, enjoyed our interaction, could identify the brand, but ultimately chose not to invest. If we could accomplish that, then somewhere in the middle of all the leads and all of the new process we were creating…investors who valued our service would choose to work with our company,
Using Salesforce has proven to be a fantastic resource and one of the best decisions we have made as a company. It not only led us to make a fantastic addition to our team, but it also helped us to really think about every inter-action we have with our clients. From thank you cards, gift baskets, special occasion cards and even emails and phone calls, every ‘touch’ is recorded and tracked. We also import all of the data from Hubspot into Salesforce so that we are able to identify trends and similarities among all of our clients. We are able to identify what a ‘typical’ client wants to read in a blog post, what educational pieces carry the most weight with clients and what their response rate is to our customer service department. Being able to have all of this information in one spot and at our fingertips has helped us identify just how ‘Big’ we need to think as real estate entrepreneurs.
Each of these sites has contributed to an incredible growth cycle that currently sees our company completing the same number of transactions in one month in 2012 as we completed in our best full quarter in 2011. Many entrepreneurs would rightfully worry about the integrity of their services and their ability to perform at the highest level across the entire team when faced with that type of growth. I think we find comfort in knowing that we have top level systems and programs that have helped us develop and manage our brand and consistently deliver upon the promise of that brand. With the help of all three of these great companies; BiggerPockets.com, Hubspot.com and Salesforce.com, we are confident that everything we dream up as entrepreneurs and real estate professionals can be accomplished, monitored, improved and ultimately grown!
Interested In Learning More About Buying Real Estate? Check Out A Couple Of Free Resources Below!