When I first wrote this article over two years ago,I wanted to document what I felt were the three best business websites, apps and decisions we had made that all effected the incredible rise of our company. We had almost 10,000 views of that original article and many requests for an update.
To be very direct, the same three companies that helped us vault to the top of our niche in real estate investing are the same three that help keep us there today. There are no “magic bullets” or any “next, new programs” that we have to tell the world about. Business is business and often the same basic ideas, decisions and systems – utilized correctly- are the ones that continue to help companies grow.
So with that being said, I would love to introduce all of the readers to where Memphis Invest is today. Three web companies transformed our real estate company and helped us to three straight years as an Inc. Magazine Fastest Growing Private Company in America. Those three companies helped us to win two Business of Year Awards. Those same three web companies have helped develop our brand, our strategy, our growth plan and strategic outline for continued growth. These three companies deserve some of the credit for our companies ability to finish 2014 as a nearly $75 million dollar sales company with 580 closings and managing just under 2,800 properties for almost 900 clients. Those clients have asset value of over a quarter of a Billion dollars under property management with our company and those assets represent significant portions of investor wealth.
As you read, you will understand how we use these companies to develop and control such a massive operation without losing focus of the most important factor in our success. The success of our investors! Customer service, portfolio performance and a high-level of trust are all key ingredients and these companies all combine to help us achieve our goals!
Using Bigger Pockets To Build A Powerful Real Estate Brand
This is the personal story of Chris Clothier finding and figuring out that there was a powerful real estate investing site being developed in Denver, CO. When I first started using BiggerPockets.com 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 those first 18-24 months, I was 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.
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 BiggerPockets.com. 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 BiggerPockets.com 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.
Biggerpockets.com 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!
Looking back over 5-6 years of being involved on the site and developing an education-marketing platform, this one site has been responsible for a huge part of our branding and messaging plan. The site is perfectly set-up for education. Our idea, while not unique it is still a minority idea, was to use education as a way to introduce our company. We wanted to attract our ideal client and that was one who was interested in learning and using the best of the best. With over a quarter of a million real estate investors interacting on the site, it is the most important real estate website today. It is a perfect place for investors to interact and communicate and most of the users are actively interested in learning and sharing. So, this initial introduction through education has been a huge part of our company’s ability to develop deep and lasting relationships with many, many active users on Biggerpockets.com. We have always told potential investors that there will be plenty of time for selling. Let us meet and learn about one and other and then we can do business!
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, etc.
Today, the insight we are able to glean about our visitors, leads and clients as well as the experience we are able to expose them to through using the HubSpot platform is second to none. Every step of a visitors experience on our website and the interactions after their visit are well thought out and tracked for performance by HubSpot.
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!
When we first began to work with these three companies, we had yearly sales of roughly 190 properties per year. We were already considered one of the largest and most well run companies in the Turnkey real estate space. With an eye toward growing and developing and really seeing how great of a company we could build, we searched for the best tools and ideas to use. We found them. Today, we are closing in on 600+ sales a year and headed toward a $100 million annual sales company. Companies like ours are few and far between and there are no others in the Turnkey real estate space. Many have copied our messaging and some have copied our advertising and marketing, but none have been able to copy our success. The success is due to an incredible team of people using the best tools available to learn, develop and improve.
We would never discount the hard work of our team or the personal drive of our family. But mixed with the right resources, something special has happened and we are proud to share it with others. We hope as you have read this article it has helped shape your own thoughts about our company, your investing and how great entrepreneurs are open to sharing with each other.
Here is to a fantastic 2015 and a year of incredible firsts and growth for each of us!