We spend 3 to 5 times an agent’s average take-home pay on marketing each month.
Written by Simon Alcott: Published Feb 14th, 2020 | Updated Feb 14th, 2020.
Simon Alcott is the driving force ⚡ behind Turf.Press, a feisty technology company helping property owners and managers better connect to their residents.
10 Minute Read
The Mind Behind an Innovative and Aggressive Approach To Real Estate Marketing
Turf.Press, the makers of your favorite property management software, recently had the opportunity to chat with Joe Manausa, a real estate entrepreneur and nationally recognized 🎖️ real estate marketing expert, about his unique approach to selling properties.
Let’s jump into the interview.
💬 Hi Joe and thank you for joining us today to talk about your experience in the real estate space. Let’s kick off the interview by having you tell us why you focus so heavily on marketing? In one of your YouTube videos, you mention that you spend more each month on marketing than most agents earn in a year. Can you tell us a little bit more about what this marketing strategy entails?
My marketing strategy is unique to the industry. Most companies do little to market listings and to generate lists of consumers to which they will market homes. Instead, they utilize independent contractors and essentially “outsource” the work of marketing homes to them. In a nutshell, this means that real estate agents are a business within a business, and they are responsible for 100% of the work required to market a home. Unfortunately, they are also 100% responsible for all the rest of the work too (like showing properties to buyers, negotiating contracts, maintaining lists of interested prospects, training, planning, finances, etc.).
The industry model is broken and real estate agents have too much on their plates. This often leads to frustration from consumers and unsatisfactory results.
I’ve been in real estate for nearly 30 years, owning both a RE/MAX franchise and a Century 21 franchise at different times in the past. I ran their models and often won awards for having one of the most productive offices in the Southeast. Just like other brokers, I focused on recruiting agents and left the burden of consumer interaction with them, and we sold a lot of homes. But something was missing.
As the internet slowly encroached into the business twenty years ago, I noticed that “word of mouth” marketing was starting to get replaced by “word of Google.” As I studied our industry, I found that the typical agent had fewer than two reviews online, and most of those were negative! I knew we needed to change.
I went back to school, earned my MBA, and built a consumer-centric (as opposed to an agent-centric) real estate brokerage model. Our focus was on earning five-star reviews from every customer we serviced.
I knew these reviews would ultimately become the backbone of our business, as all marketing tends to drive people to Google to “check you out.” And they are checking us out!
In 2014, I launched a brand-new company for the purpose of delivering 5-star service with a business that focused on customers. Our model utilizes salaried employees (not independent contractors) and everybody works as a specialist on a team. We have a buyer team, a seller team, a marketing team, and an inside sales team. Our slogan is “Why work with an agent when you can hire an entire real estate company,” and it serves to explain that no individual at our company has to “do it all.” A typical customer works with five of our “agents” during a transaction, and because of this, we are far more responsive than our competition where each customer has a single point of contact (the agent).
Our compensation ensures that our people are well paid so they do not need to strong-arm a customer “because they have bills to pay.” Our results are showing. We now have thousands of five-star reviews online, and our goal is to break 1,000 on Google alone this year. The next best agent in our area has a handful, and the next-best company has 85.
Our marketing strategy is singular, in that our company is “one agent.” Other companies that have independent contractors have as many marketing strategies as they have agents as every agent runs their own marketing. If a company has 300 agents, they have 300 marketing plans. We just have one. This centralization of the marketing spend allows us to be far more productive than anybody in our area. The most productive agents spend a small percentage of what we spend, and the other 99% of agents hardly spend anything to get homes sold.
Our strategy is to invest in an omnichannel plan with the goal of generating long-term leads that our inside sales associates work towards appointments over time. In our market area, there are roughly 5,000 homes sold each year. Our database is approaching 90,000 people right now. When Joe Manausa Real Estate takes a listing, we get the word out like no other agent can do.
We do more marketing BEFORE a home hits the market than other companies do AFTER it hits the market. Our COMING SOON marketing plan serves to raise awareness so that on the day a property goes live, we can deliver multiple buyers to the seller. We sell our listings much faster than does our competition, and at higher prices too.
The key to getting top dollar in a sellers’ market is to have multiple buyers competing for a home. Most agents generate so little interest that they fail to create this competition and the seller ends up negotiating with the first buyer that finds the home.
We know the first buyer is the one most likely to pay top dollar, so our COMING SOON marketing is designed for that first buyer to have competition. The results speak for themselves.
💬 Can you give us any numbers or specific examples regarding your marketing spend?
The average agent in Tallahassee sells 5.4 homes per year (this parallels what NAR reports too I believe across the US).
This means, on average, agents have a take-home pay of roughly $16K each year. We spend anywhere from 3 to 5 times that amount each month building our list of prospective buyers for our present and future seller customers.
💬 What have been your 3 best marketing channels to date?
SEO (organic traffic to www.manausa.com), Facebook, and Radio.
What have been your 3 worst marketing channels to date?
TV, Google PPC, and Instagram.
💬 What marketing channels required longer time investments before they started to see an ROI? For example, what activities have a big-time lag between input and output (cause and effect)? How did you know to stick with these marketing strategies early on, even if the results were not immediately seen?
This is a great question, as I really don’t believe in “good leads versus bad leads.” Instead, I really see them as “Now leads versus later leads.” Most agents convert leads generated in the last week and then have very low conversion rates for longer leads. They don’t believe this, and they will site examples of leads they’ve worked for years … but those are the exceptions.
We track the germination period on every lead and have found that, on average, the digital leads that we generate take 9.5 months to close.
So much of our systems and processes are built around long-term follow-up. We know that when we test a new marketing approach, we have to give it a year and pay attention to the ROI Trend (not merely the ROI) to see if it makes sense.
💬 Do your marketing tactics work just as well for multi-family properties? What are some adjustments in your approach to marketing when you’re trying to sell a multi-family unit/building?
We do not have much of a multi-family property market in Tallahassee, so we typically market units in these the same as we would a single-family home. We have sold some multi-family developments as a single sale, and we use a healthy combination of good SEO, good content (numbers and the details investors want to see), and the use of some commercial property sites to help raise awareness.
💬 In your opinion, what are the biggest marketing mistakes that you see real estate entrepreneurs/agents make? Why do you think these are such common mistakes?
They do not measure results and they make emotional, rash decisions on things that seem like good ideas. You cannot expect to get a healthy ROI until you first identify what you’ll do with the leads, how you will measure conversion, and who will be in place to deliver the immediacy that today’s consumer demands.
💬 You’ve been pretty active on YouTube. I was watching one of your videos where you break down supply and demand property trends in your region. This is very in-depth and granular information. How much of a role does buyer/seller education play in your overall growth strategy? Specifically, how does educational content focused around data help your company?
I learned that “content is king” nearly 15 years ago. We work mainly with families moving, and one of the two in the couple will be analytical enough to want to see the bigger picture.
I use content to attract the analytical buyer to my website with the hopes of impressing him or her enough to earn the right to compete for their business.
💬 Not only do you spend a lot of time, money and energy on marketing, but you also obviously put a lot of effort into creating a great Customer Experience (CX). You have an incredible number of 5-star reviews on Google and Facebook. Can you tell us a little bit more about how much behind-the-scenes planning goes on at your company with regards to CX?
As mentioned earlier, this is the backbone of our business plan. We tell our customers early in the process that we are working for their five-star review, and then we ask regularly to ensure that we are performing to standard. Of course, after the transaction closes, we ask them for their review.
💬 Customer Experience is often something that is more easily managed within small teams. However, your team is quite large. How do you transfer your ideas, policies, and culture around CX to your employees and agents to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of your standard? Has this proven to be a challenging task? What have been your biggest challenges with respect to getting everyone on the same page?
My model allows me to invest in good people at every level. Most people that I want at my company would not take a job without a salary of some sort, and I’m not trying to hire the entrepreneurial type that real estate attracts. I want proven leaders to run my teams, and I go out and get them from hiring conferences with attendees such as Google, Raytheon, Johnson & Johnson, etc. I get people on the same page by hiring a leadership team that knows how to lead.
💬 In another YouTube video, you mention that you provide your service “without the drama”. Specifically, what is the “drama” that is so common in your industry and how are you able to avoid it?
There are many flavors for drama in real estate. Many of our customers have shared horror stories of their past experiences with agents who over-promised and under-delivered. The drama occurs when a negotiation begins and suddenly it appears as if the agent is working for the other side … meaning the agent does not know how to negotiate on behalf of the customer’s best interest. While we are not perfect and I can’t say that every transaction has been drama-free, we end up with happy customers that know we’ve used our experience and best business practices to make the transaction as enjoyable as possible.
💬 You have a really interesting policy where if you don’t sell your client’s home within an agreed-upon time-frame you’ll buy their property from them. How do you hedge risk on your end with a policy like this?
I hedge my risk by being good at valuation and by ensuring we only offer it to customers who will follow our guidance. If I meet with somebody who thinks they know more than me about selling a home (I’ve now brokered more than 12,000 home sales), I typically choose not to work with them. They are the types that end up being unhappy with any level of service, so I prefer to just let them go. But the majority of people we meet follow our guidance and get their homes sold fast and for top dollar.
💬 Thank you greatly Joe for taking the time to chat with our real estate investing blog readers today. We really appreciate it. To our readers, if you’d like to learn more about Joe and his company manausa.com, you can 👉 head over to his website here.