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Transform PM Ep 14: The Social Property Manager, Josh Cobb

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Josh Cobb

Coaching Transcript:

Well, I’m a little bit excited to talk to you guys today. My background is actually in property management. I’ve spent most of my working life in real estate, in the property management space. So back in 2002, I graduated high school in Brisbane and I grew up wanting to be a musician. I played in bands, I was a drummer in bands playing around the country, touring around playing with some names that you probably have heard of – not in their bands, just as support acts. We were never big by any means but it was a lot of fun. That’s what I thought I wanted to do with my career, was be a musician and chase this dream. I had a lot more hair back then. Yes, I had lots more hair.

Travelled, moved down to Melbourne, the music capital of Australia at the time and thought this is what I want to do – chasing that dream of being a rock star. Turns out you need a little bit of talent to be in the music industry, so I very quickly moved back up to Brisbane in the early 2000s. Look I’m in my sort of mid-twenties now, maybe there’s something that I need to be thinking about a little bit more long term, something a little bit more financially rewarding. My brother, who is a property valuer up on the Sunshine Coast said, “Look, have you thought about working in real estate?” I hadn’t given a thought before and so I thought, “Great. Surely it can’t be that hard to sell a few houses.” How wrong I was.

So I went and got my certificate with REIQ and started applying for all these positions with companies up and around Brisbane. What I found was a lot of the positions that were being offered were commission-only and, coming from an industry where it’s pretty much like that i.e. commission-only in the music industry, it didn’t really appeal to me at all. I thought I needed something a little bit more sustainable than that. I heard about this thing called property management and I thought, “Great. What a great thing. I can go and learn as much as I possibly can about the real estate industry from a property management perspective and maybe one day move into a sales position.” I got a job with a lady by the name of Margaret Waterman, who’s still in business today up in Paddington in Brisbane, and she was great. It was a fantastic start into the industry, property management only.

On my first day, I asked Margaret the question. The first question was, “How have you survived in property management for so long?” She said, “Josh, a top drawer full of chocolate and a Dan Murphy’s loyalty card.” That was my foray into property management and I said, “Why don’t you have a sales department?” She said, “Josh do you know what a rent roll can be worth to a real estate business?” This is the early 2000s and everyone in this room understands what the value of a rent roll is to a business today. Unfortunately there are many principals who still don’t. So back in the early 2000s, it wasn’t looked at in that way. Property management was not looked at in that way as it is now. That was what I wanted to do. I wanted to work in property management, build my own rent roll, have a saleable asset one day to retire. That just made sense to me. If you work hard, pretty much your income is uncapped and you’ve got a saleable asset. It made perfect sense to me.

I started learning as much as I could about sales and sales strategy. I went to as many sales meetings as I could. I went to conferences and workshops and seminars all over the world as much as I possibly could to immerse myself in the real estate industry. I very quickly realised that the way sales was being taught in real estate wasn’t fun for me. I didn’t enjoy prospecting, I didn’t enjoy cold-calling, door-knocking, letter box drops, all the stuff that you guys do in real estate and do extremely. Well, it wasn’t fun for me. I thought, “Surely we can get the phone to ring the other way. Surely there’s businesses out there that have done this and it doesn’t have to be this hard.”

I started researching as much as I could about marketing. These terms started coming up very quickly. Inbound marketing, content marketing, all these strategies that businesses were using to get people to come to them as opposed to them always cold-calling. They still have their sales department who are doing all those things still very well but they also complemented that outbound interruption style marketing with inbound strategies as well and those two hand-in-hand worked extremely well for the businesses that I started to learn about. So, fast forward to today.

Edelman do a study every year. They research tens of thousands of consumers from around the world about who they trust and why do they trust these companies. What they found last year was that only 52% of people don’t trust business.

If we just let that sink in for a minute, that means fewer than half of your landlords and half of your tenants actually trust you. Now that might be higher depending on your customer service strategies and what you do to add value to your consumers but on average, this is the state of business today that 52% of people do not trust business.

The number two reason is that our personal and professional lives have converged. What I’m going to do to sort of illustrate this fact is take you through my Facebook news feed. Who’s got Facebook? Everyone on the other end has got a Facebook? Personal? Yes? You use it for personal reasons, right? This is my Facebook news feed.

Here’s a post by my little brother where he says 2 months of no exercise, now back into it. I tried jogging but didn’t get too far. Now my little brother it getting married in April so there’s a reason why he’s out jogging. I think he’s trying to get a couple of pant sizes a little bit lower than what he is at the moment but nonetheless, here’s a post from a family member.

Next is Ironman Triathlon. I mentioned before it’s a company that I follow, it’s a sport that I participate in, but it’s a brand that I love and the content that they post I always want to keep up to date with things that are going on in the triathlon community. That’s for me personally.

The third post here, here’s my wife. “My ferns I planted on Sunday have already died. I didn’t even have enough time to do something wrong and they already gave up. Someone please help!” Now my wife is not a horticulturist by trade. The ironic thing about that is she’s an intensive care nurse. If the hospital knew how she looked after her plants at home, I think we’d all be in trouble.

The fourth post here is Qantas. We all know Qantas. It’s the only airline I personally fly with. I love the brand. The history of the brand, the story of the brand, everything about Qantas I absolutely love. Wherever we travel its’ the only airline we travel.

Now, I’m pretty sure that for all of you, although the content would be different, the formula would be very much the same in your Facebook or social media news feed. It would be personal, professional, personal, professional, would you all agree? Facebook or Instagram or any of these platforms are the only places on the planet that you can see something from a business and then something from your Mum next to each other. What that means is, you don’t have to be better at marketing than other real estate companies or property management companies anymore. That is not the benchmark that we need to be shooting for anymore. You have to be more interesting if not more interesting, or as interesting, helpful and human, as my family and friends.

That’s the benchmark you need to be shooting for if you want to get attention when it comes to marketing online off line wherever it is. With social media has created this little microcosm of content from family, from companies, from everyone. You are competing for attention against everything, not just other property management companies. That’s the number two reason why marketing is extremely hard today.

I’ve termed the ‘Social Property Manager’ as someone that is all of those things that you can see on the screen there. Inherently helpful, radically transparent and human just like our family and friends would be.

When it comes to marketing today, we don’t need one or two of these ingredients in our marketing, collateral, our content that we create, we need all three if we want to get attention.

What I’d thought we’d do today is have a look at some non-real estate examples and some property management specific examples of companies that have changed the perception of the people in their marketplace and are winning attention over and above their competitors.

Here’s a little company you might have heard of called McDonald’s. Now McDonald’s have had their fair share of perception issues around their food, around what’s in it, how it’s made, all those sorts of things. We’re all aware with the perception that McDonald’s has in modern day society. They started a campaign. It started in Canada back in 2011, I believe, called ‘Our food, your questions’. They were on a mission to change the perception of McDonald’s in the communities in which they served.

They created this ‘Our food, your questions’ where nothing was untouched. So all of the questions that you have about McDonald’s food, it could be, “Is it really chicken in the Chicken McNuggets?” or “How is it that a Cheeseburger won’t go off after being out on a counter for 3 weeks?” All of these questions, nothing was left off the table. They were quite happy for you to go to their website, ask any question you could possibly think of about McDonald’s food, whatever it is, and they will come back to you and they will answer it in the form of a video or post or some sort of content.

What the video shows is essentially the results. As a result of this campaign, McDonald’s have increased the food quality perception scores across all key measures. The trust of their brand increased tenfold, and across all of their key measures. So, in terms of their customer service, food quality perception scores, all of these things started increasing as a result of this company being inherently helpful, radically transparent and human. That’s pretty bold by McDonald’s, to go out and say, “No question is off the table, you can ask us anything you like and we’ll tell you exactly what the go is.”

Let’s have a look at a couple of property management-specific examples. Some of these companies you might have heard of. This is a business up in Brisbane called Image Property Management and they’ve got 3 offices across Brisbane. What Shannon, Davis and the team at Image Property started to do with their website was essentially what McDonald’s did with ‘Our food, your questions.’ They wanted to be the Wikipedia of property management in Brisbane. That was their mission. Their website is essentially a repository, or a resource library, of every question you could conceivably ask about property management. That is the content they share on social media, that is the content they push out through email, to their clients, prospects, anyone in their database.

They’re radically transparent, they’re inherently helpful and they’re certainly human. You won’t find a listing on their home page. What they realise is that people coming to their website are not tenants looking for property to rent. They go into the portals, so they instead started using their website as the centrepiece for landlords and property investors in Brisbane to come looking for that information and building them as the trusted authority in property management in Brisbane.

This is just an example of the frequently asked questions on their website. “When is the best time of the year to advertise my property for rent?” “How long after I move out do I get my bond back?” “How do I break my lease?” Have you all been asked those questions? Yes, yes? What they decided to do is to mine their email, mine their questions that they’d been asked everywhere in their business and build a library of those responses on their website.

They’ve got downloadable pieces of content, ‘The Landlord’s Book of FAQ’, ‘The 15 Ways To Increase Cash-flow’, ‘The 21 Costly Investor Mistakes’ that could be putting your investment at risk. All these resources they wanted to be the Wikipedia of property management in their local market. That was their mission.

Next example is a property management and traditional sales business in Brisbane as well. I hail from Brisbane, I had to use some Brisbane examples. Brad Bell Real Estate, and some of you may have heard of these guys. They do get talked about quite a bit in the industry for some pretty cool strategies that they put in place with their marketing and content. Now look at their home page. This kind of says it all. You go to most real estate websites and it’s either a picture of a listing or it’s, “Hey, this is how many awards we’ve won, here’s how long we’ve been in the industry, list your property with us, three months free management.” All these things that we use as marketing tactics, but look at their home page. It says everything about who they are. Pretty powerful, yeah? “We’re here to help.” So, “I’m thinking of selling”, “I need a property manager”, “I want to know what my property is worth”, or “I’m a landlord and I want to check my statements.”

They’re the four main people that coming to their website and very quickly when you land on that home page you very quickly know where it is that you need to go. This says everything about their brand and what they’re all about which is helping. They too went and built a library of super helpful, inherently or radically transparent content on their website. All of their staff get involved in this. It’s not a marketing company or an actor or a film crew doing this. This is their team answering questions that they’ve been asked in email, at open homes, at auctions, at exit and entry condition report inspections, all those things. Their staff are answering these questions on video. So, once a month they get together, they write down a list of the top most asked questions. All of their staff are being asked and whoever’s been asked that question, it’s their responsibility to stand in front of a camera and respond to that question.

When someone asks that question in an email, or it might be a landlord sending an email saying, “Hey, when do I get my statement? Why hasn’t my rent hit my account yet?” or might be a tenant saying, “Hey, how do I light a pilot light on a gas hot water system?” All these questions that we get asked in property management and they say, “Guys, we’ve answered that question on our website. Go here and watch this video plus you’ll see all the other helpful pieces of content that we got on there as well.”

When a landlord or a tenant receives something like that, what does that do? It blows their mind, right? Because they’re thinking, “My last property manager, all they did was shoot me a quick response,” or “They had a signature in their Outlook that they just shot off to me.” Super helpful, radically transparent and human. The 3 attributes of the Social Property Manager. Certified Social Property Manager, in my opinion.

This example here is a company up on the Sunshine Coast called Property Only. Property-management-only company. Their office, if you’re ever up on the Sunshine Coast, give Keith a call. He’d be happy to show you around his office. It is amazing. He’s a surf fanatic. He’s got about 1000 surfboards around his office. They call it ‘the boarding office’. He doesn’t shy away from who he really is or who the company really is and what they stand for. He’s a very relaxed, very lovely guy to talk to and their business is very much in-sync with who they are as humans. Their homepage says it all. We don’t just manage properties, we manage people’s wealth and financial freedom and there’s a difference. That says everything about who they are as a brand and their profile video on their home page – I encourage you all to have a look at it today – is one of the best profile videos I have seen anywhere for property management company, for the reasons that it is nothing about them.

It tells a story about why people invest in property and why people can benefit from doing that. It’s got nothing to do with them, all about their consumers. One of the best profile videos. Go and check that out later on today. They’ve also got a little library of FAQs on their website that they continuously add to. You may not be able to see it on the screen, guys, but down in the bottom of that screen there it says, “We’re always looking for questions to answer. Please help us.” What is one question you’d like to know more about or a problem you’d like solved when it comes to property management or property investment? They’re not even asking for a first name or an email, they’re not asking for any contact information, but do you think they ever have an issue with coming up with new things to write about? This is a company, in my opinion, who are all in with those three things. Inherently helpful, radically transparent and human.

This is going across the Pacific to Washington. This is a friend of mine, Holly Beckman, who I had the pleasure of meeting a little while ago. Holly runs Apartminty in Washington. Holly refers to it as the matchmaking service for tenants, so she’s like a buyer’s agent for renters in Washington and the communities that they serve. What she did was started listening out to conversations on Twitter from tenants in the local community, looking for comments like, “I hate my roommate,” or “I can’t wait till my lease is up,” or “I really want to move to Washington, but it’s really hard to find a place to rent.”

She would look out for these conversations, not in a creepy way, but she just looked out for those sort of things being said on Twitter. She would chime into those conversations and say, “Well, look, I can help you with that, Kelley. We’ve got a great apartment that would be perfect for you. Let me help,” or “Come and see us,” or “Here’s the link to the property on their website. Go and have a look.” She would proactively look for these conversations happening on Twitter, chime in and be helpful, radically transparent and human – just like a friend would be.

In one month, 30 days, she generated USD 150,000 in new leases as a result of spending 10 minutes a day listening to people’s conversations on Twitter and just offering her help. Total cost, zero for ten minutes a day. Was she inherently helpful, radically transparent and human? This is a mindset and a lot of people, business owners specifically, nothing against business owners. I have worked with them everywhere, but there is sometimes a tendency to say, “Josh, we list and sell property. That’s what we do. We don’t have time for any of this stuff.” 10 minutes a day, Holly spent, and the other businesses that we’ve looked at, they’ve made it their mission. That is a mindset and a business model that they see is going to get them attention in future, so they’re all in.

In my opinion, you can’t be in the middle with this business model of being helpful and creating lots of content that people are actually looking for. There is no middle ground in my opinion. It’s either you’re in or you just keep going out there and interrupting people the same way real estate agents have done forever. That’s the option for you, in my opinion.

If we’re not extremely helpful, radically transparent and human, in my opinion, it’s going to be very difficult to get attention in future, whether it’s on social media, whether it’s offline. Any marketing that you do, unless we’re those 3 things, it’s going to be very difficult to get attention. I just want to leave you with this, if there’s any questions as well:

If we stopped all of our marketing today in real estate, and this is a question for all of you, would anyone miss it?

That’s where we need to get to. We need to think less like real estate agents and if it’s anything I’ve learnt about businesses all over world, who have built huge audiences (and I’ll share some examples with you if you like); companies that are succeeding at winning attention today, if they took away their content and they took away their marketing, they would have people who would be genuinely upset that they did that. That’s where we need to get to with our marketing and it needs to be those three things. Inherently helpful, radically transparent and human way of marketing.

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