Kai Davis on How to Stand Out in a Crowded Space
Today, I’m talking with Kai Davis, a business coach who helps freelancers, consultants and entrepreneurs uncover hidden profits in their business without spending more on marketing.
I’ve been following Kai for some time, and even though his work has nothing to do with property management I think there’s a ton of cross application in the areas of positioning and roadmapping which he is an expert on.We’re going to talk to Kai about lessons working with those folks running service-based businesses and how they can apply that to property management. And we’re going to dig into some of the strategies that he has used to market his own business.
In addition to what we covered in the interview, here are three things worth checking out:
- How to blow away prospects with your welcome packet (Episode from Kai’s podcast)
- How to get invited to appear on other people’s podcasts (Video of talk Kai gave at MicroConf)
- Mastering Paid Roadmapping (Notes from this course)
- Background leading up to today
- How do you help consultants build better businesses?
- How did you get started?
- How do you help consultants build better businesses?
- Lessons for service-based SMBs
- What exactly is positioning?
- Why is this so important when selling a service?
- Dog lawyer
- Won’t this exclude a big portion of the market?
- Do you need to choose just one niche?
- Can personalization help you cater to a wider audience?
- How do you help clients prioritize where to focus their sales and marketing efforts?
- What exactly is roadmapping?
- What are the benefits of adding this to the sales process?
- What could this look like for the property management industry?
- How should you price these engagements?
- How do you get clients to go along with this when nobody else in your market is doing something similar?
- Should you lower the price as you become more efficient at delivering the service?
- Commercial Break
- Daily Writing
- Why did you make the commitment to write to your audience every single day?
- What does your writing process look like?
- How else are you using this content?
- Is this something you’ll continue for the foreseeable future?
- Where can listeners go to learn more?
- Who do you learn from?
- What’s the best steak you’ve ever had?
- What books have impacted you the most?
- Best and worst thing about burning man?
- What is one thing listeners can do in the next week to help them stand out in this crowded market?
- Are entrepreneurs born or bred?
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz
- Value Based Fees by Alan Weiss
- Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
- The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza
Where to learn more:
If you’ve enjoyed listening to Kai and want to hear more, then head over to KaiDavis.com/Daily to sign up for his daily email list filled with more valuable insights for your business.
Jordan Muela: Today I’m talking with Kai Davis, a business coach who helps freelancers, consultants and entrepreneurs uncover hidden profits in their business without spending more on marketing. I’ve been following Kai for some time, and I happen to follow a lot of people outside of the property management industry because I think it is the smart thing to do. Following smart people in other industries and then cross-applying those skills is one of the fastest ways to get to the top.
In addition to being a highly-regarded coach and author, Kai is also a founder of the public relations agency Double Your Audience and host of the podcast “Make Money Online” and “Get More Clients.”
Today we’re going to talk to Kai about lessons working with those folks running service-based businesses and how they can apply that to property management. And we’re going to dig into some of the strategies that he has used to market his own business.
Welcome to the show, Kai.
Kai Davis: Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
Jordan Muela: Well, it is definitely a pleasure to have you on. I see you in my inbox almost on a daily basis. You are a prolific writer, you’re a faithful marketer, and I just want to start here. How was it that you got into the business of helping consultants build their businesses?
Kai Davis: That’s a great question. I’ve always been fascinated with entrepreneurship with consulting and with education and teaching through courses or educational products. And, over the last five years, I’ve just had a number of things line up in the right way to be fortunate enough to have this as my audience to be able to share marketing strategies and systems I use in my own business with them–what works, what doesn’t work, what worked for me but what might not work for them. Yeah, I’ve just been lucky enough to build a business where I’m able to teach freelancers, consultants, and independent business owners how to get more clients.
Jordan Muela: So, one of the drums that I hear you beating on quite often is related to positioning. Can you just explain briefly what is positioning and how is it similar or different than branding?
Kai Davis: Absolutely. There’s a lot of overlap between the two. The way I look at positioning and the way I advocate for positioning for service-based businesses is positioning is the act of defining who your target market is, the people you want to sell to, the people you want to attract, your best buyers, and that expensive problem they’re experiencing. The issue they have. What’s motivating them to say, “Hey, we need to hire somebody. Hey, we need to bring somebody in.” So we could think of an undifferentiated, unpositioned business as somebody who would say, “Hey, I will do a thing for money. I will build a web site for money.”
And a positioned business as one that says, “Hey, I work best with this type of client. I work best with, let’s say, property management entrepreneurs and I help them get more leads for their properties.” We specifically position the business to connect deeply with who we understand our best buyer, the people in our target market to be, and that has so many benefits when it comes to marketing our business. We no longer have to say, “Who are we trying to reach? What channels do we use?” Instead we’re able to say, “Oh, we’re specifically trying to reach this type of person, this customer.They use these marketing channels, they listen to podcasts, or they read articles in this journal.” Let’s make sure we’re in front of them in those channels.
Jordan Muela: So we want deep resonance by having real clarity on who we’re catering to. You brought up the example recently of the dog lawyer which I thought was really compelling. Could you just explain what that story was, briefly?
Kai Davis: Absolutely. So, it’s been a long-running joke in my mastermind about positioning and how the benefit of positioning is the more niche you go, the more identifiable you are in the mind of your prospector and the mind of the person you want to work with and we had long used the example of a dog lawyer.
You’re at a cocktail party, you’re talking with people; you strike up a conversation with the person next to you and you ask, “Hey, what do you do?” And they say, “Oh, I’m a dog lawyer.” And we love that as an example because it’s so fascinating. “You’re a dog lawyer? What does that mean? What do you do?” And so, by having a positioning, “Well, I specifically work with people who, say, are suffering from dog injuries or are being sued because of their dog attacking somebody allegedly, and I help defend them or I advocate for pet rights.” We’re able to specifically position ourselves, or this lawyer is able to specifically position themselves in the mind of their clients and prospects by saying, “I do this specific thing.”
And, so, to circle back to your question, I came across a real-life example of a lawyer who specializes in dog law. And it was marvelous to me because I could see the power that this positioning had on their business. Just looking at their homepage alone, I could see how, wow, picking this specific narrow positioning, animal law, dog law, allowed them to say, “Hey, I’m specializing in this area and that makes me the go-to person when it comes to any of these types of cases. And so, from reviewing their site, reviewing the cases they’ve worked on, I could see they had a very large and active case load, another strong signal that narrow niche positioning actually acts as a marketing attractor. They’re drawing the right people to them by specifically defining who their best buyers are.
Jordan Muela: So, this begs the question that by getting specific you’re excluding some folks. Help me work through the obvious objection of, “But, I don’t want to exclude or alienate such and such and such and such a person that could potentially pay me money.” How do you respond to that?
Kai Davis: And I think that’s the core question around positioning. The way I typically respond to it is by thinking through the difference between all buyers and best buyers. If we think about positioning as being activity to help align us with the best buyers, the people in our market who will spend more money more often and be more eager to work with us, positioning allows us to more effectively reach those people. If we’re unpositioned, if we’re instead saying, “You know what? There are prospects, there are clients out there who fall outside of this positioning. I don’t want to exclude them.” Well, to catch them, we’re really marketing to everyone, and to market to everyone, we suddenly have a bland, generic average message. We aren’t able to say, “We specialize in this. We’re the experts at A,B and C. We help people like this target market achieve this result.” Instead we’re just using an undifferentiated, common positioning statement, a way to describe ourselves.
And, we’re in competition with everybody else who’s using that same approach to attract all possible buyers. What I’ve seen time and time again is while it feels awkward, while it feels counterintuitive to shrink down your marketing and just focus on one specific niche or one specific vertical, it’s almost like there’s a small, small hole in the back of the cave. And you could see through it and you think there’s something back there and you reach in. But, you discover that there’s diamonds and gems and rubies and it’s full of all this marvelous wealth for you. But from the outside looking in, it looks like this tiny little hole. And time and time again I’ve seen that exact thing with positioning. By going more narrow, we’re able to have more of an impact with our marketing efforts and get more of a return on our marketing.
Jordan Muela: This makes so much sense to me and I think it makes sense to anybody who’s done it that’s seen the benefit that comes from it. But, I want to take a practical application. The clients that I work with, the property management entrepreneurs that are out there hustling and marketing day to day are focused largely onto audiences. There’s the accidental landlord, meaning somebody that came into the position of being a landlord, really more by chance than intentionality. And then there’s the professional investors, the person that owns 1,2,3,4,5,10 plus properties. I’m going to exclude institutional investors for the time being, but you’ve got these accidental landlords, you got the professional investors. Would this require me to pick one or the other, or is it possible to market to these separate niches effectively?
Kai Davis: I think that you get the most benefit from being more precise in your marketing and in your positioning and so when we contrast these two–the accidental landlord and the intentional investor–my mind goes to, well, we have these two categories, but are there other, let’s say, market criteria that would make sense to you, slice and dice them along? Do we want to position our businesses working best with say accidental landlords who have become intentional investors and now have 20 properties under their name? And they’re looking for help growing from there. Or are we working with people who are just starting out as that accidental investor? They now own two properties, they’re trying to figure it out; they’re not sure which way to go, so it might be that there’s a range of different problems that people at different levels on both sides of the spectrum are experiencing. And within positioning part of it is saying, “Well, we want to pick a target market to work with, but we also want to understand that the different problems, different aspects of this target market are experiencing and how to best help them.”
We could imagine a property management entrepreneur focused on the accidental investor just getting started, and one focusing on the intentional investor who’s twenty years down the line. Very, very different segments within those two target markets, but I think it illustrates sort of the gradient effect you have there. It’s not just focusing on one over the other. It’s saying, “Well, who are my best buyers? Who do I want to attract more of? How can I get in front of those people?” And it comes down to the positioning question.
Jordan Muela: Yeah, absolutely makes sense to me. Here’s a follow-up question related to that: We’ve seen a lot of hype about personalization going on right now. In your mind, is personalization a crutch to get around the problem of making positioning-related decisions or do you think it could be done at an advanced and effective enough level such that to some degree it gets away from the dilution that comes from catering to multiple audiences?
Kai Davis: Great, great question. I think personalization is a wonderful and an amazing technology, but it works best for businesses that are large and at scale. I would say that if you have less than, let’s say 100,000 visitors to your website each month, you aren’t really going to see the benefits of personalization. That below a certain threshold, it can act more as a crutch and you would have more benefits from saying this specifically is our target market, this is who we’re going after, this is what our marketing message is, revolving around over time as you learn who is buying your service and who your best buyers are. You might identify multiple segments, you might start deploying personalization there, but, first and foremost, I think you start with positioning and then you evolve over time to say, “Oh, wow. We’re actually serving three markets here.” Let’s make sure we could segment them as soon as they come in, personalize the experience, personalize the content, and present the most relevant information for them. But if you’re early stage, if you’re just getting started out, personalization may be a bit too soon and bit too early for your business.
Jordan Muela: I love that answer acknowledging the benefit but super practical and I’d just love to dive in more to the overall kind of mental model that you apply to early-stage businesses overall. Most small service-based businesses do not have defined department heads for sales, marketing, HR, etc. We go online. We very quickly get overwhelmed reading articles about SCO, PaperClick, Lead Generation. What is kind of the mental model that you would hand to one of your clients to help them prioritize and make decisions when there are so many options regarding sales and marketing?
Kai Davis: Such a good question. The way I typically break it down is helping independent business owners that I coach work through and analyze both the impact of the different sales and marketing opportunities in front of them. Should we be guesting on podcast? Should we run Facebook ads? Should I be guest blogging? Should we have our own blog? Should we have our own podcast? Okay, well, what’s the impact that each one of these could have on your business? How much effort does each one of these require? Guesting on podcast that probably isn’t as much effort as launching my own podcast and interviewing people. Writing an article each week–that might take a lot of time. So, I have people just go through this simple exercise of saying, “Well, how much effort? One is low, three is high–will it take to complete this?” What’s the impact this will have on your business?
And, once we have even just this first pass quantitative assessment of the different opportunities in front of us, we’re able to start to see the things that stand out. Oh, this is a high-impact, low-effort activity. I haven’t set up a contact relationship management tool, a CRM like PipeDrive for my business yet. I probably should set one of those up so I could follow up with my past leads and past clients. Great. That’s high-impact, low effort. Let’s focus on that first. So, it’s a simple framework, but I think by looking at the different activities you want to work on and figuring out what will have the biggest impact and what will cost you the least in terms of time or investment, you’re able to make the right decisions to grow your business.
Jordan Muela: I like that. Kind of an expected value-type framework, thinking what’s actually the ROI on a given activity, stack ranking things accordingly. I tend to be more of a mind of starting at the bottom of the funnel and working your way up. The implications that being rather than starting with FaceBook ads, starting with making sure that your sales process and your onboarding process is actually tight and then kind of moving up funnel from there. Down at the bottom of the funnel– roadmapping. Can you just give me a brief definition for this term roadmapping?
Kai Davis: Absolutely. Roadmapping or Roadmapping Session is typically a discovery-based project for a consultant or service provider to learn more about the outcomes that the client or customer is looking for and identify any risk that surrounds the project and mitigate that risk through sharing information, through additional research. So, an example might be property management entrepreneur says, “Hey, I need more traffic for my site. I’m going to work with a Ascertain Optimization Consultant.” Well, that’s the start of a large relationship. He might be spending thousand of dollars there. But with a roadmapping session, you’re able to come in and explain to the consultant, “Hey, this is the problem I’m experiencing.”
“Are you [inaudible 00:14:34] a lot of traffic?”
“No, I don’t, and I don’t know what changed.”
The consultant’s able to diagnose the problem. “Hey, it looks like this happened, You migrated sites. You lost a lot of content. You don’t have a lot of links.” Whatever it may be, it’s an opportunity for both you as the client and the consultant as the service provider to better understand the problem and better understand what solution makes sense to move you from you are to where you want to be. Am I explaining that well?
Jordan Muela: Yeah, I think that definitely makes a lot of sense. I think this is kind of a ripoff of consultative sales, right? You want to make sure that people have the perception that there is real consultative value, not a simple transaction. So, you’re taking some of that consultative factor, you’re packaging it up in something that has clear, defined parameters, you’re putting a price tag on it, and you’re gating the bigger services behind that. So what are the benefits related to doing this?
Kai: The biggest benefits of all are it’s easier to get to a go-no go decision as the consultant presenting this to a client, than it is with the standard proposal process. So, typically what would happen pre-road mapping or without this consultative sales or discovery session, is we’d invest time putting together the proposal to get to that go-no go decision of “Do we want to work on this project together?”. Instead, with the road mapping session, we’re able to present the client with that opportunity of “Well hey! The best place for us to start is with a smaller discovery project.” We’re able to a) See how we work together and mitigate any risk around the relationship, b) Understand what the problem is and mitigate any risk around “Well, are we solving the right problem?” And c) Mitigate any risks around costs. “Hey, we don’t know how much this is going to cost!” Well, by going through this process, we’ll at least be able to say “This is the cheap way, it’ll be about this.” “This is the more way expensive way, it’ll be about that.” We’re able to reduce the risks we see around the project.
Jordan Muela: So you get that micro transaction out of the way upfront, you’re qualifying people. If they were just yanking your chain, you’d figure that out real quick, and then once that micro transaction has happened in which value was delivered, presumably this person is all the more motivated to work with you. You happened to advise this framework and the concept and the context of service-based consulting, et cetera, that makes a ton of sense to me. I don’t know of anybody doing that in my industry of property management.
What I do know, is that the analogs are similar. I mentioned earlier the two segments of the accidental landlord and the intentional investor. In both cases, when one of my clients sits down to have a meeting with those folks, they’re presumably and I know the vast majority of time they’re creating the [inaudible 00:01:47] value by addressing the problems, concerns, solutions, options, et cetera. When I hear you talking about this, the kind of devil on my shoulder that’s representing the negative way of thinking about this is “Wow, Kai, that sounds like a lot of work.” It just sounds like a whole lot of effort to have to do with somebody where you don’t know if they’re going to work with you or not. Well in this case, you’re getting, you have the micro transaction so there is some value that’s coming from it, but the thing that I’m thinking about is that by putting a price tag on it you are enabling the service provider to actually get serious about that consultative session and to really… You’re freeing them up to really invest in it fully. Does that make sense?
Kai: Completely, and I completely, completely agree. I always contrast it with free work when I’ve done it, or a friend’s done it, and there’s always been a habit of “Like, that free work thing… It always goes towards the bottom of the pile below the paying projects.” I think with road mapping sessions we eliminate that problem. It’s a paying project. We’re going to pay full attention to it. We’re going to deliver a value with it. I completely agree.
Jordan Muela: So, I think about with investors, there’s a little more intentionality. The investor is a higher dollar transaction, right? They have more properties, they’re more attractive, and so because of that I’ve seen really nice spreadsheets that are effectively designed to build out a pro-forma for that investor. There’s more care and effort happening, less so for the reluctant landlord, but in both cases that person has come to you with a question that presumably you should be able to create value around.
For example, for the reluctant landlord, a lot of times the question is “Should I sell or should I rent?” Now if you could walk into a meeting and… Guys, I’m thinking out loud here because I don’t know anybody in the industry that does this… I’m thinking out loud, but this is what I would be thinking about. Is building an offering around walking a couple into a room, a couple that has this question of whether or not they should sell or they should rent, having a small micro transaction…. It could be $100, it could be $150, the amount is really less important than the fact that you have a structured process, you have a defined outcome, and at the end of that process you have a very clear path to have continuity in the relationship. One of the things that I’m wondering is, what does that dollar amount look like? What is the lowest dollar amount that you think it makes sense to really even just justify a road mapping session?
Kai: I’d say… I wouldn’t price it under… It’s hard to give a floor but I’d say never price it under $100-200. The typical rule of thumb that I use is, figure out what the value of the project or projects on the back end after this road mapping session might look like, and use that to derive the price of the road mapping sessions. I like the rule of 10%, so with my typical engagement after a road mapping session is say, $15,000, my road mapping session might be $1,500 just so people are clued in with about what the level investment might be to work with me, what the level investment is to work with me on a road mapping session.
They could see “Okay, we started with $1,500, we went up to $15,000.” There’s a nice progression there. It’s hard to say what the price should be. I don’t think that there’s any absolute rule, but for estimating where the price can start and then grow from, I like to use the rule of 10%. I like calculating out “Well, hey, if it’ll take me say 10 hours in total to do all the discovery and delivery and answer the questions that they have and I’m targeting an hourly rate of around X… Well, it makes sense for me to price it around this.” Or price it a little lower to move people forward in the funnel. I think the most important part that you’ve highlighted though, is the importance of charging. That sets up the continuity, that sets up you as the authority, you as the expert, you as the professional service provider in the mind of the client.
Jordan Muela: Oh man, because, Kai… I hear this advice but you could assert your value. You want to work with high value clients. You want to charge a lot of money. And all that sounds good, but in my mind, that is worthless advice outside of the context that you have to deliver massive value. If you’re not thinking on a consultative level, and you’re sick of having to deal with issues largely centered around price and you feel like you’re being treated like a commodity… I mean, in large part, that’s your fault. I see it time and time again, clients get really crabby complaining about folks that they consider tire kickers. Particularly in the situations if they’re buying leads off of places that are basically the equivalent of Zillow. “Oh, I’m buying leads off of Zillow, and man the first thing these people ask me about is price. What do you charge? What’s your management fee?” Et cetera. The reality is that’s the normal thing for the consumer to do. What else are they going to ask? You can’t blame the consumer-
Jordan Muela: … if the consumer is uneducated and is non-discriminating. They’re simply going to default to price. That doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily a bad client, but if you don’t have a structured process to advance the conversation beyond price, then… There you go.
Kai: No, I completely agree, and we could draw on a couple parallels here. One that comes to mind is ballroom dancing. Where you have a lead and a follow, and if you don’t have a game plan put together, if you don’t know what the journey you’re going to take that lead on… Through your business is, they are going to default to being the lead. They are going to default to choosing the direction you move forward in. Due to the training they perceive, it’s going to be “Well, how much do you charge? That’s too much. We’re going to go with someone else. Can you put together a proposal?”
But instead, if you move forward and say “Hey great! So excited to work with you! Listen, here’s how I work best with my clients. Step one, answer a few questions so we can make sure that I’ll be able to help you achieve your goals. Step two, we have a road mapping session or whatever we call it, to understand the outcomes you’re looking for and the most efficient way from where you currently are to where you want to be.” At the end of that process, if they’ve said “Hey, yes, this makes sense. I want to work with you. Let’s move forward.”, you’ve built that relationship. You’ve led them forward, and you’ve avoided the client falling into some of the bad habits that they’ve been trained to exhibit by past consultants they’ve worked with. Focusing on an hourly rate. Focusing just on price. Focusing on cost. Not focusing on the return on investment. By instead leading them forward through a road mapping session, you’re able to make sure you’re focusing on the most important things for them in their business, the return they’ll be able to achieve and avoid the questions that aren’t as important.
“Well, what’s this going to cost upfront? What’s your management fee like?” Well, do those even matter if we know we’re going to be able to get you a return like X percent, or this return on your money? Through the road mapping session, you’re able to determine that.
Jordan Muela: I mean, you’re basically getting someone to pay you to build trust and to build the authority and the context of the relationship, which is a pretty awesome concept. But the question is, how do you do this if nobody else in your market is doing it? If I’m a consumer and I call up three management companies and I get quotes, and the third one that I call, they’re talking to me about this road mapping session and basically suggesting that I pay before I even hire them as a client… How do you get over that hump?
Kai: It’s a good question.
What I’ve found works best is pointing to your road mapping sessions as a unique differentiator. Well yes, we’ve noticed none of our competitors do this and it’s really confusing for us, because what we’ve noticed in the feedback we’ve gotten from our clients is “The road mapping session gave us clarity on what we wanted to achieve. We had a better project plan. We understand what our options were before we started working together.” By highlighting the road mapping session as a differentiator that helps reduce risk overall and build trust. I think it stands out in the prospect’s mind. We can contrast it with “Well, what are the other guys proposing?” They’re writing a proposal, or giving you a quote for doing something for you, without fully understanding the scope of what you need or the outcomes you’re looking for. That kind of seems risky, like, would you want to work with a dentist who says “Nah, we don’t need to do x-rays, let’s just get on in there and start working.”
You need to have a plan before you get started, so often times when I’ve encountered that objection, I’ve pointed to the road mapping sessions as a unique differentiator for my firm. Pointed to the value of risk reduction. Pointed to the value of having a clear path forward. But sometimes, that prospect still says no. They say “Hey, there’s somebody out there who will do it for free.” or “I’m not sold on the value.”
That’s absolutely fine, but I’ve seen time and time again is those prospects that pass up on a road mapping session are the same prospects who, if you presented them with a quote or proposal, would say “Ah, we’re looking at a couple other things still. We’re shopping around. We’ll get back to you.” So by having that road mapping session earlier, you get to that objection earlier in the sales process. The person will say “Whoa, hold on. I’ve talked to three or four other people, nobody else has said hey we have to start with this road mapping session or this discovery session, why is that?” You’re able to overcome that objection, educate them and move them forward. Or, earlier on in that discussion say “You know what? It does not look like we’re going to be a fit. Let me refer you to a few of my colleagues that might be a better fit here.” It allows us to better select for clients that value our time, our insight and our expertise.
Jordan Muela: Oh my man, I mean… Isn’t that the best form of segmentation we can do? It’s really the people, no matter what the demographic they are, they want to… They want a relationship as opposed to a transaction. If you boil it all down, you want to work with people that want to have a relationship with you and they want to lean upon you for your wisdom and expertise. Those are the profitable and the fulfilling relationships to have. This is a great way to segment.
Follow-up question that I had for you, you’re doing this and you’re advising this in the context of consulting packages that could look quite a bit different. There’s a lot of customization depending on the client. How do you imagine that the road mapping process would be different if the service that you provided was more narrow? Let’s say that you were only doing consulting for dentists that deal with children. Let’s say for example… You’re doing SCO campaigns. So SCO campaigns only for dentists that deal with children. How do you imagine that your road mapping would change? Would it become a lot more… Would you be able to lower the overhead and lower the price because of the repeatability and the process?
Kai: I actually would raise the price because of the value we’re able to demonstrate by having such a specific and narrow positioning. In a sea of marketing agencies that serve the dental practice, we’re able to stand out and say “Hey, you know what? We focus only on dentists who work with children and we help them get more customers like their best customers, through organic white hat search engine optimization strategies. Our prices are high because they reflect the quality of work we deliver, and the way we start off is with a discovery session to identify the outcomes you’re looking for.”
Jordan Muela: Wow. Touche! Okay, alright, point taken!
So while the investment and while the standardization of the process may be there, at the same time, the potential value you can create through positioning make man charging a higher price. Point taken, what I’m thinking is if I’m doing this day in and day out for accidental landlords, the type of infrastructure whether spreadsheets or forms would probably allow for me to get this process pretty well dialed in. I’m thinking for folks that feel like this is going to be some entirely new complicated service that’s going to be burden, and overhead, et cetera… I imagine that you could get this process pretty well dialed in on an ongoing basis. Let’s say you’re doing it 30-40 times a month.
Kai: Entirely. It’s very easily packaged and presented to a client as a thick scope service, and I’m a very big fan of these fixed and narrow scope service offers. We’re basically saying “Hey, it’s like a can of soup! You know what you’re going to get. It says what’s included on the label. And we’re going to move forward, and you’re going to get these deliverables. You know what to expect, and we have a common lease of scale when it comes to those types of projects.” Like he pointed out, you have the same spreadsheets, the same questionnaires, the same intake, the same process, and similar deliverables. So you’re able to more easily serve a greater number of clients. But just because it’s easier for you to serve those clients, doesn’t necessarily mean the value that’s delivered has in any way been diminished.
Jordan Muela: Absolutely!
Alright, well, hopefully guys as you’re listening, you can use this as food for thought. Think about providing road mapping and some kind of a packaged service for the prospects that you deal with, to elevate your value, to elevate your authority, and to better qualify the kinds of people that you’re interacting with.
I want to transition now to talk about the habit of writing and content production. In my industry, there’s more awareness about content production. It’s importance, it’s value. A lot of times as people approach that topic, they’re still thinking of it in terms of another box to check in my business. At the end of the day, is there a lot of value in being able to create high volumes of low-quality content? Yeah, there’s some. Not a ton, but there’s definitely some. The opportunity that I see, aside from just trying to get more traffic off of long tail keywords, is really refining the voice that you have and that you can communicate with current and potential clients. You are a great example. You have developed a really serious discipline of daily writing.
Can you walk me through the thought process that went into you deciding to make that commitment, and decision, and what the payoff has looked like for you as you’ve walked down that path?
Kai Davis: Absolutely. The trigger, the impetus for it was a desire to increase the conversations I was having with people who were on my email, who were part of my audience, prospects essentially, and increase the number of conversations, and increase the strength of the relationships I have with these people. What I find is as I increased the frequency with which I write, and the frequency with which I email out to people on my email list, right now I send out daily as you mentioned at the top of the show, more people would write back, more people would open the emails, more people would engage. I’d end up with more relationships, better relationships with the people on my list. So it was a desire to increase the quantity and quality of those relationships that moved me towards emailing daily. As a result I’ve seen more engagement with people on my list, more people writing back, more people asking questions, and as sort of the ultimate benchmark, an increase in sales that I can attribute directly back to the daily emails I send out. It sort of is full circle as I build stronger relationship and have more conversations I better understand the people in my market. As I better understand the market I’m able to better present solutions to the problems they’re experiencing to help them grow a better business or get more clients.
Jordan Muela: What does your writing process look like on a daily basis?
Kai Davis: I have two hours blocked out every morning. I have everything on do not disturb mode, phone is in another room, Slack is close, Skype is closed. In those two hours I’ll have a list of the different articles I either want to draft or want to work on and time to work on them. I write in Ulysses on my iPad or my iMac, it’s my writing tool of choice. My goal is just to write 700 to 1,000 decent words for a daily email. I understand and accept that on average my emails are going to be average. Over time they could be great, they could be A plus emails, they could be A plus pieces of writing. But what I’ve discovered is having the habit of consistently putting content out beats waiting to create that epic piece of content and releasing it once a quarter or once a year. I found by writing more often, by having that daily habit of blocking out the time and focusing on my writing I’m able to write better pieces that connect with my audience and that move people forward in building a relationship.
Jordan Muela: Connecting the dots here I think one of the differences is that Kai is focused on sending these articles, if you will, to his email audience which means he’s orienting around having a conversation with these people. When you write content and you primarily think about it as being a blog, and an SEO, long-tailed keyword sort of thing you really kind of depersonalize it. You don’t have an audience in mind and it’s easier to justify just checking that box, churning out 500 words, et cetera. How do you distribute your content? Are you only taking what you’re writing and sending it to your list or do you also publish it as a blog, put it out on social, et cetera?
Kai Davis: Great question. I’ll take what I send to my list after … I do some modifications and edits based on feedback if somebody’s like, “Hey you said X and it’s actually B,” but I’ll make sure I’m saying the correct thing. Once I send out the email three or four weeks later I’ll cross post it to my site, I’ll share it on social media, and I’ll reuse that content. But I’ll take it a step further and say the large pieces of epic content I dismissed earlier I’ll take individual articles or emails that I’ve sent out and slowly over time assemble them into those larger pieces of content. So it doesn’t need to be I need to write a 10,000 word guide on X, Y, Z today, it’s over two months I wrote 10 1,000 word articles on this topic, let me put it together, do an editing task, now I have a 10,000 word piece of content on this topic. Great, let me promote it as an epic piece or a 10x piece of content and I get the benefit of both sides of the equation. I’m quicker to publish, I have more engagement in relationships with my readers, and I’m able to turn that content into both daily content for my site, and parts of longer form articles that I’m developing over time.
Jordan Muela: I love it. Great way to recycle the content. What I love most is that you’re sharpening your blade. Your communication’s tool is becoming more and more refined over time both as you write, because at the end of the day how do you get better at writing but to do more writing, but also based on the feedback that you’re getting. I was just thinking about this yesterday. I had a conversation with somebody else in the office. Oftentimes the folks that are further ahead have the greatest degree of urgency, i.e. it’s the people that are well that are into fitness and supplements, et cetera. You’ve been doing this for a while and it’s clearly working and yet you’re still doing it. I think about other entrepreneurs like Ryan Handley, Marcus Sheridan, people that seemingly don’t have “time”, and I’m using air quotes here, to do the writing are the ones that make the time. Do you envision that this is a discipline that you’re going to continue to do two, three, four, or five years from now or do you view is at having some kind of a natural end point as you graduate to something else?
Kai Davis: Great question. I view it as a discipline I’ll be practicing five years from now. I think writing is central to ever single part of my business, the courses I put out, the coaching I do, the education I do through my free daily emails. I don’t see a point in stopping it if it’s working. One of my fundamental directives in business is if it works keep doing it, do not stop doing it, and the daily emails work. As you point out it allows me to sharpen the blade, it allows me to better understand the core concepts I’m teaching. I think that it’s one of the most valuable activities I can do in my business.
I just crunched the numbers and over the last quarter if we back out revenue from different sources that have come from email each daily email I’ve sent has generated around $300 in revenue for me. It’s not that each email turns into $300 immediately bu the relationship building might turn into a coaching program that lasts for six months and brings in $12,000. When we back out that value of an email we start to see it as a multi $100 process. I see it as an integral part of the marketing for my business.
Jordan Muela: That makes so much sense. The other thing that I really think about is that this enables you to expand the advertising. If we just did loosely planned advertising as paid and marketing as being more organic, a lot of the folks that we see trying paid mediums they’re doing so because there’s no learning curve, you swipe a credit card you’re getting leads. But the downside is a lot of those leads are unqualified. The difference that I see is that if you have that nurturing, that relationship building in place at the bottom of your funnel you can afford to … It basically allows you to have a longer conversion timeline for these leads rather than having that hot lead come in and they either do or don’t convert within 14 days you now can actually afford to wait in six months because in six months things have a preponderance of getting better not worse. Rather than knowing for sure that that lead is going to decay there is a decent odds that after reading great content for three to four months they’re now actually in a position that they’re ready to have that conversation that they simply weren’t three months ago when they had no idea who you were.
Kai Davis: Entirely. I completely agree. I think there’s so much value in the nurturing and the education, and in a sense the warming that happens over that process. Somebody might come into my world or anybody’s marketing world and say, “This is interesting but I’m not quite ready to pay money yet today,” but building that relationship up over time and giving them that opportunity to engage with me, ready they daily emails, respond back, get replies, have the answers to their questions, it builds up that trust so when they’re presented with that opportunity to buy a lower priced product or service now they have enough trust to say, “Yeah, I think I’ll do this. I’ll move forward,” and they’ve just gone up that trust ladder. When I say, “Here’s another opportunity to work with me or another thing that might help your business grow,” we’re able to piggyback on that trust.
Jordan Muela: So guys I just realized if you’re doing paid advertising the degree to which it succeeds or fails is going to be directly correlate to both your sales process and the degree to which you just in general position yourself, you have a strong brand, and you build relationships over time because what are we? We’re human beings and we all take time to build trust, recognize that aspect of your consumer’s psychology and behavior.
I want to transition now to the rapid fire section of the interview. I’m quickly just going to go through some questions and I just want to get guttural answers from you Kai. The first question is who do you learn from?
Kai Davis: Oh that’s a good question. First of all I’d have to say my dad, he’s been an entrepreneur my entire life and so it’s been wonderful to have him as a source of lessons. Other than him I’m a huge, huge fan of professional education and personal development. On my bookshelf right now I have books by Eugene Schwartz on copywriting and books by Allen Weiss, consulting and value based fees.
Jordan Muela: I love it, Eugene Schwartz, okay, direct response. Hands down that’s some great stuff to pay attention to.
Next question, what’s the best steak you’ve ever had?
Kai Davis: This is a good question. It was three year ago, I was in Las Vegas for MicroConf and a group of about 15 friends and I went to this, I think it’s closed down now, steakhouse called Brand. I ordered a bone-in rib eye that was about the size of my head. To this day I have a photo of the steak on my phone as a Favorited photo and it is gorgeous, a tear is leaking out the side of my eye right now. It was a delicious steak.
Jordan Muela: Well this was a leading question guys. I’ve actually heard this advice from Kai before. I was in Vegas, I was owed a free meal but a friend that I had referred some business to, I promptly headed to Brand and it was closed as he said. Disappointing news but none the less if they open back up it’s the place to check out.
Next question, is there any single book you could point to as having had the greatest impact on your business career?
Kai Davis: “Ultimate Sale’s Machine” by Chet Holmes.
Jordan Muela: Love it.
Kai Davis: Without a doubt. I’m huge into marginalia. I’ll write in every single book, don’t loan me a book, it will come back covered in notes and highlights, and page tabs. That book probably has 300 plus passages highlighted…
Jordan Muela: Wow.
Kai Davis: … 100 little page tabs in it. It’s one of the most valuable books I have read in my life. It has directly contributed to the creation of two different businesses I’ve run. I could see it influencing me over the next four, or five, or six decades of my life. One of the most valuable books I’ve ever read, highly recommended. Second on the list would be “The Brain Audit” by Shawn d’Souza on why customers buy and why they don’t, wonderful, wonderful book.
Jordan Muela: Okay guys write it down, check it out. I’ve read the first, not the latter. The first one that was the first book that I sent out as a client appreciation gift to some of my clients early on way back in the day, very, very inspirational, Chet Holmes was a master, he’s passed on but incredibly talented guy, a lot of innovative concepts in that book.
Next question, in your mind Kai what’s the best and worst thing about Burning Man?
Kai Davis: The best thing about Burning Man is it thrusts you into a community where traditional rules, traditional norms, traditional needs of society and interaction are suspended and you’re able to build relationships with people on the strength of we’re both interested in this thing, we’re both on a bike ride, we’re both looking at this piece of art and it gives you an opportunity to connect without let’s say the limitations that the real world will put on it due to what class you’re in, what type of job you have, what you look like. Burning Man removes a lot of that. But the downside of Burning Man, the thing I’d say I like the least about it is how it’s a figment, it’s exclusionary it’s a festival built on the idea of it’s gift based and there’s no money here but you got to drop $500 to buy a ticket and another $500 to $1,000 on your supplies so hope you enjoy spending $1,500 for our gift based economy. So there’s an interesting bit of push/pull there. I love it, I’ve been to Burning Man twice, I’ll be going next year for sure. But I definitely think there are some interesting challenges within Burning Man as a whole.
Jordan Muela: All right, interesting insights. Haven’t gone but we’ll take the advice on that point.
Kai Davis: I recommend it.
Jordan Muela: I believe it, you’re not the first person to say that. What the annual attendance on average?
Kai Davis: 70,000 to 80,000 people.
Jordan Muela: Wow. How large is the area?
Kai Davis: That’s a question I should know the answer to, I do not know…
Jordan Muela: But it’s in the middle of the desert right? It’s a…
Kai Davis: It’s in the middle of the desert, it’s pretty big. To bike directly across the city itself would probably be like biking through the man, by the temple to the other side would be about a 20 minute bike ride so it’s pretty large. It’s large enough that my girlfriend and I got off in our car at the wrong stop on the wrong side of the city this year and had to spend a wonderful two hours walking back at 1AM to our camp and we were just like, “No, let us get home please. This is too much.”
Jordan Muela: That’s how memories are made my man. Next question, what is one thing that listeners to this podcast could do in the next week to help them stand out in a crowded market?
Kai Davis: That’s a good question. The thing that I typically recommend the most is reviewing your positioning and reviewing your understanding of your best buyers. I think I’ll use that advice here as well. You identified those two primary segments, the accidental landlord and the intentional investor. I think thinking about for your own business who you’re focused on, who your most profitable clients are, what other characteristics and qualities define your most profitable clients, and then refining your marketing and your messaging to focus on those people. It won’t exclude people you’re already working with but it will attract more of your best clients so you could work with people who are more profitable for you and your business.
Jordan Muela: Love it. Final question of the day, Kai, in your opinion are entrepreneurs born or bred?
Kai Davis: You say bred as in sort of nurtured, it’s an acquired skill versus a skill you’re born with?
Jordan Muela: Correct.
Kai Davis: I’d say I think it’s an acquired skill. I don’t think there’s any quirk of birth or any mutant X gene that makes somebody an entrepreneur or not.
Jordan Muela: All right.
Kai Davis: But I would say risk tolerance does play a huge, huge factor in how willing you are to be an entrepreneur and risk tolerance is something that I would say is more genetic than not.
Jordan Muela: True, true. So a little bit of a balance there, a little bit of elements of both.
Kai Davis: Elements of both.
Jordan Muela: Fair enough. Well Kai I’ve really enjoyed this. I’ve gotten a ton out of following your newsletter. If folks want to join your newsletter and start getting your daily emails where’s the best place for them to go to do that?
Kai Davis: The best spot would be for them to go to kaidavis.com/daily, that k-a-i d-a-v-i-s.com/daily and they’ll be able to sign up and get tomorrow’s issue in their inbox.
Jordan Muela: Guys I highly recommend it. We have to start cultivating mentors outside of the property management industry. Guys like this have a lot to teach to teach us. Kai I really appreciate you coming on the show today. We’ll keep an eye on your career.
Kai Davis: Thank you so much for having me and thank you to all the listeners who tuned in.