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Marketing Lessons from the CMO of America’s Largest PM Company

Marketing Lessons from the CMO of America’s Largest PM Company

Today, on The Profitable Property Management Podcast, I’m talking with Pam Kosanke, the CMO of Renters Warehouse, America’s largest and most awarded residential property management company.  During her 4 years at the company, Pam has helped propel Renters Warehouse to over 19,000 properties managed nationwide in 42 markets across 25 states.

Pretty impressive, huh?

In our chat, we cover how Pam has built up the brand and the multi-channel marketing strategy that’s helped grow the brand and make it something unique and sustain this aggressive growth at scale.

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Topics covered:

  • (01:22) – Pam’s background leading up to today.
      • (01:28) – Pam discusses how she got started with Renters Warehouse.
      • (03:04) – The vision for Renters Warehouse that she bought into early on.
      • (04:18) – What Renters Warehouse looks like today.
        • (04:51) – Tangible measurements demonstrating their status as a household name.
          • Public feedback, DJ endorsements.
          • Consistent online and offline marketing.
  • (07:52) – The success of Renters Warehouse’s radio strategy.
      • (08:15) – The original impetus to use radio as a major platform.
        • (08:17) – Renters Warehouse founder Brenton Hayden.
        • (08:17) – Media Bridge Advertising.
      • (09:20) – How radio created a local ‘buzz’ and increased their credibility.
        • Dramatic changes in lead volume.
        • (10:08) – Why DJ endorsements have been a key to success.
      • (10:37) – The metrics behind a successful radio marketing campaign.
        • (10:54) – Discussing the importance of frequency.
        • (12:00) – Sourcing leads via their call-to-action.
        • (12:33) – Measuring cost per sale.
        • (13:42) – AM or FM?
          • (13:46) – Understanding individual markets and targeting local demographics.
      • (15:34) – Experiments in original programming.
        • (15:37) – Real estate shows
        • (15:59) – Interview format sales ads.
      • (16:36) – How Renters Warehouse have found success with their call-to-action.
        • (17:17) – Why they have chosen to ‘gate’ their offer.
  • (18:57) – Multi-Channel Marketing.
      • (19:13) – Pam explains multi-channel marketing and why they’ve invested in it.
        • (20:19) – Driving awareness and demand and capturing it through your different channels and touchpoints.
          • Social.  
          • Content marketing.
          • (21:07) – Retargeting and re-marketing.
      • (22:30) – Whether Renters Warehouse started with a first touch or a last touch attribution model.
      • (25:03) – The internal competencies Pam developed within her marketing team.
        • (25:16) – Hiring of a digital marketing expert.
        • (25:40) – Back and forth ‘accordion’ development pattern.
        • (26:40) – The importance of agency support for the innovation factor.
  • (27:51) – Rent Estate™ Revolution.
      • (28:20) – Pam discusses the drive behind creating and publishing their book.
      • (28:55) – The multi-capacity nature.
        • Giant content marketing piece.
        • Material for white papers and infographics.
        • Training material for sales team.
      • (29:16) – Rent Estate™ Revolution’s success as a marketing tool.
        • Generates warm leads.
        • Increased credibility.
        • Public relations tool.
      • (30:00) – The brand strategy component.
  • (32:40) – Learning from failure.
      • (32:54) – The relationship between failure and innovation.
      • (33:43) – Lessons from direct mail.
      • (34:26) – Lessons from TV.
      • (35:06) – Lessons from radio.
  • (36:54) – Challenges going forward.
    • (37:23) – Maintaining current strategies or making significant structural changes.
    • (38:17) – Recognizing and capitalizing on existing opportunities.
    • (39:00) – Brand investments; creating marketing pieces.
      • Radio shows, workshops, local events.

Rapid-fire Questions:

  • (40:07) – What’s the number one skill set to being a successful CMO?
  • (40:32) – Who do you learn from?
  • (41:21) – What books have impacted you the most?
  • (44:05) – How much is too much to pay for a new property management contract?
  • (46:00) – Early on, what placeholder number did you use as a default assumption about customer lifetime duration?
  • (46:57) – What’s the number one thing you see property management entrepreneurs doing wrong when it comes to marketing?
  • (46:57) – What’s the low hanging opportunity for property management businesses?

Resources mentioned:

  • “Own It” by Sallie Krawcheck:  Influential and inspirational book on financial feminism.
  • Seth Godin:  Recommended learning resource for real estate entrepreneurs that Pam uses.
  • BiggerPockets:  Learning resource Pam recommends for the real estate entrepreneurs.

Where to learn more:

If you want to learn more about real estate entrepreneurship and property management opportunities, head over to RentersWarehouse.com or RentEstateRevolution.com.  If you want to reach out to Pam directly, tune into the interview for her personal email address.

Transcript:

Jordan: Welcome closers. Today we have another episode of the Profitable Property Management Podcast coming at you. Series one, focused on marketing. I’m your host Jordan Muela, and every week I interview world-class property management entrepreneurs and industry experts who share actionable insights to help you grow your property management empire. Whether you manage 100 or 1000 doors, this is the show that is going to help you see the big picture and get to the next level.

0:00:24.9 Today I’m talking with Pam Kosanke, the CMO of Renters Warehouse, America’s largest and most awarded residential property management company. Pam has helped propel the company to over 19,000 properties managed nationwide in over 42 markets in 25 states. Not bad.

Today, we’re going to talk about how Pam has built up the brand and the multi-channel marketing strategy that’s helped grow the brand and make it something unique and special, and really just sustain very, very aggressive growth. Which is harder to do as time goes on. 0:01:03.9 Welcome to the show Pam.

Pam: 0:01:04.9 Thank you, thanks for having me.

Jordan: 0:01:08.2 Really appreciate you coming on. I’m super excited to talk to you, because you have carried – you have shouldered a big load with this goal of aggressive growth at scale, that is actually sustained. I want to rewind the tape and start back at the beginning.

0:01:22.2 How did you get recruited into Renters Warehouse? What did that look like in terms of you actually joining the company? What was your background?

Pam: 0:01:28.2 Yeah so I had about 12 years at Leo Barnett Advertising in Chicago. So a big advertising firm. I spent my years on, kind of blue chip brands, Fortune 500 companies, Allstate, McDonald’s, Hallmark, Toys ”R” Us, Kellogg’s, and I actually ended up as a VP account director working on the McDonald’s Chicago land co-op. Over 500 stores.

So got pretty in the weeds with pricing models and local and national advertising strategies. So that’s kind of my background. 0:02:08.2 And I ended up leaving Leo Burnett to start a marketing and consulting kind of group. I just really got a little bit bored of the big corporate life, so I wanted to try something new.

And I met Brenton Hayden, who is the founder of Renters Warehouse at the time, did some work for him and kind of just went my own merry way. 0:02:29.4 Then a couple years later, just kept hearing back from him, “Hey come on full time.”

So I wanted to move to Minneapolis, I got here, I said, “Well, I’ll give it a shot” and you know, kind of test it out and almost do it as a part-time type deal, and really haven’t stopped since. 0:02:46.6 So it kind of, the story goes. I fell in love with the company and the brand and the mission, and there was just so much work, and excitement in the industry that I’m constantly challenged. 0:03:01.7 So, that’s what’s kept me around and have loved our growth.

Jordan: 0:03:04.2 So what was the vision that you bought into early on? Did you understand that you were going to be building a truly consumer brand in a space where that really hadn’t happened before?

Pam: 0:03:13.5 Yeah, you know we’ve always had some big goals, big sights, big vision around this brand. And in some cases, I remember – you’re kind of taking me back here. I remember at one point walking in and saying, “We want to be the number one brand in this space like Kleenex is to tissue.” Right?

You know, we really wanted to shoot for the stars. And it was amazing, because in some cases people hadn’t even heard of property management. 0:03:47.7 Some markets that we were in were like, “What’s that, why can’t I just Craigslist it?” Like what is property management? Right?

So it wasn’t just about Renters Warehouse, it was about helping to educate people in the actual space. 0:04:00.6 And as you know, and I”m sure a lot of your listeners know, the world of property management has dramatically evolved. And the intelligence around it and the wherewithal of investors coming into the space and kind of making it a true asset class. It’s been an exceptional growth story for the entire industry.

Jordan: 0:04:18.2 Absolutely. So one of the things that I wanted to hone in on here, is when we talk about building a consumer brand, I want to define that and flesh that out beyond just buzzwords. Who wouldn’t love to have a consumer brand?

Can you just talk me through how you feel Renters Warehouse has demonstrated proof of concept and let’s say specifically in the Minneapolis market where the concentration is so high? I think it is pretty obvious you guys have crossed that threshold. What are the tangibles of what it looks like to say that we’re actually a household name?

Pam: 0:04:51.4 Well, you know it’s tangibles I guess we can certainly prove it within our growth, our numbers. Right? When I first started, we were two markets and around, I think around 2000 properties.

And you know, it was clear that Minneapolis, anywhere you go you’ve heard of Renters Warehouse. People understood – heard the brand on the radio specifically. We are huge proponents of radio as a medium and as a channel and we’ve created a really impressive relationship with the local agents here that can kind of put the numbers and the negotiations together for us for a winning combo.

0:05:32.7 And the DJ endorsements that we worked to hone and you know really be innovative in that space through endorsements – people felt like it was a brand for them because their DJs were almost speaking directly to them about our brand.

0:05:51.4 And it continues today. It’s funny, I was speaking to somebody recently – well anywhere I go, “Where do you work? What do you do?” And I say “Renters Warehouse here.” “Oh everyone’s heard about that brand. Oh! Renters Warehouse, that’s huge, I hear you guys all the time.”

So there’s a lot of awareness of our brand and we’ve taken a very different approach to marketing. We’re not the silent, digital players. You know, in the background, waiting for demand to be – you know, waiting to draw people in.

We’re very much creating the demand in traditional mediums, and then getting people to understand that this is an opportunity for them outside of just simply selling their house. Right? 0:06:38.8 There is an alternative option, and frankly, there is an ability to invest in real estate as an everyday homeowner and investor.

0:06:48.3 And I think we’ve spoken to people in such a variety of states of affairs. You can imagine when I first started it was about – it was the great recession and it was about helping people. It was helping people get through their real estate crisis. And if they couldn’t sell their home or would lose too much if they did, we provided them an alternative and actually financially rewarded a viable option for them.

0:07:15.1 So, you know, in some cases we were almost couch therapists, if you will, taking phone calls from people who were fairly desperate or they’re going through major milestone events, whether it’s marriage or divorce. 0:07:25.3 Or death in the family. And so we’ve had to work through some of those very personal situations, and this is the most expensive investment people have made in their lives and so it takes a very personal touch.

0:07:36.3 And so I think through those – through the ongoing and consistent marketing, offline, online, we’ve created a presence in this marketplace and across the country now that people can relate to.

Jordan: 0:07:52.8 Love it. I agree. I think that empathy, the E word, is key here and you guys really have focused and doubled down on emotional hot button issues and how to really clear focus from day one. One of the areas of focus, not in terms of messaging, but in terms of medium, is radio. I’ve got to ask, who’s idea was that? Out of the gate? To invest in radio.

Pam: 0:08:15.6 You know, it was a combination of – and I’ll tell you, I inherited it a bit from Brenton Hayden and a local media agency in Minneapolis called Media Bridge Advertising. Tracy Call specifically, a founder.

Back when Renters Warehouse was just a small group of people, Brenton reached out to Media Bridge because he heard a Glenn Beck endorsement for another brand. It’s like, couldn’t figure out who this brand was able to get this type of endorsement.

And he struck up a relationship with Tracy and I think we started with $3000 a month to try to figure out if, “Ok, if you had one – if you could just put one chip on a pony and you rode it, who would it be and what would it say.” And they doubled down. And the phones started ringing off the hook.

It dramatically changed the lead volume. Because it was creating buzz and awareness and demand and suddenly it had a whole other level of credibility behind it. 0:09:20.7 And certainly empathy. That’s a great word. There was a lot of, “We can help you through this situation”.

And that strategy just blossomed and grew and you know, you mined one well of a station and a DJ and you worked to the next one. Part of it is making sure you’re getting – radio is a complicated – it can be a complicated medium in the sense that you’ve got to get the numbers right.

And a lot of people walk away from radio but they didn’t buy it right. They didn’t buy it with the right strategy and they certainly didn’t buy it with the right type and level of negotiation. 0:09:53.5 It’s been very, very critical for us to get the right type of rates and certainly Media Bridge Advertising has worked to do that for us.

But I think that’s just continued to be a bread and butter piece that we’ve made – created as a platform of our marketing strategy. 10:08 And DJ endorsements specifically. We sit down with all of them. We go through our business model.

In fact, many of them are clients. 0:10:16.4 And we make sure that they believe in what we’re doing. And when they believe, they – it very much comes through on the radio, and there’s a lot of news talks and sports talks channels that people absolutely embrace, and they trust these DJs to tell them the truth. 0:10:32.4 And you know, that’s the case. And we will only work with people who want to work with us.

Jordan: 0:10:37.9 Talk to me about the language and the metrics of radio. When you talk about success and kind of slicing and dicing things, what are some of the numbers or metrics that get thrown around to determine whether or not – to set up a campaign for success essentially?

Pam: 0:10:54.2 Right. So we’ve found that frequency absolutely matters here in this space. So, depending on – you know, sometimes we’ll buy certain days of the week, we’ll buy certain weekends. You know, we’re testing a variety of strategies there.

But we’ll run 40 to 50 ads a week. We’ll buy vertically. Majority in prime day parts. We’ll plot the ads around our endorsements. 0:11:22.5 You know, we’ll go very deep into specific segments of time. And Monday through Wednesdays have been our heaviest time periods. We avoid some of the retail end of week prices.

And, you know, it’s a cost per thousands game sometimes. I mean, you can’t always perfectly measure that, but we have an aggressive rate on cost per thousands in terms of impressions. 0:11:45.7 But you gotta find – we go through each one of these stations, and when we turn it on, we measure leads from that station. We do it through our free home rental price analysis and a lot of times it’s sourced by the user who is going online to fill that out.

0:12:00 I mean, it’s our call to action. They’ll, you know, when they call in, we are – our inside sales team absolutely makes sure that they mark down where they heard from us. So we have directional data. By no means is it pure. As you can imagine, lead sourcing is always a frustrating component of any marketing person’s job, because there are – you know, sometimes it’s simple a matter of what the person last remembers, or it’s a popularity game in terms of radio stations.

But we tease that out and when we see good cost per lead rates, we continue. 0:12:33.1 And it’s about volume, it’s about rates, and you don’t want to just spend more to get more, you know, in terms of price per lead. You’ve got to really be careful where there’s a tipping point of volume coming out of a station. 0:12:44.2 And cost per sale on the other side is equally important.

And you know I always say don’t get fooled by efficiency when you’re getting screwed on effectiveness. Right? So be careful. You might say, “Wow, that’s a really good cost per lead rate for us”, but we’re not converting them. Why aren’t we converting this. Is it a quality issue? Is it a sales team issue? Is it a messaging problem? 0:13:08.1 Are we bringing in the wrong people who are just kind of tire kickers at the time and maybe they’re not ready?

So we very much look at cost per sale. I’ll pay more for a great quality lead then I know I can close and keep down that cost per sale. 0:13:22.8 Because ultimately, that’s the metric that matters.

Jordan: 0:13:24.8 Absolutely. You’re preaching to the choir. We see this all the time with companies that hire non-integrated lead gen vendors. Where they’re doing pay per click or whatever it may be and they’re getting reports about eyeballs, clicks, click through rates, everything other than cost per conversion, which is the number that actually matters.

0:13:42.5 Follow up question on radio. AM? FM? Have you found both to work?

Pam: 0:13:46.2 We have. I think, you know, it really is market dependent, so I think that’s actually been – beware of the secret sauce. Right? It’s – at some point, this isn’t some sort of ‘set it forget it’ kind of piece.

We have to identify the right demographics across each market. 0:14:07.2 We have to identify the stations that match our consumer profile the best. And sometimes it’s sports talk and sometimes news talk. 0:14:13.5 And sometimes there is an AM show that kind of works as a very low – it’s a low volume audience but they’re really high converting. Or high loyalists.

0:14:27.8 So you have to understand kind of what that magic formula kind of is, if you will. But there isn’t one that’s universal. Right? There’s magic formulas that happen to work with a combination of messaging and the DJ and the station, per market. And in some cases, per seasonality, it’s relative to seasonality.

0:14:47.1 But we, you know, we’ve seen even in certain markets where sport’s talk is dominant and sometimes it’s a complete failure. You know, we really have to understand – we have to test. You have to test and tinker and all those things.

And once we get some of those basics where the audience is pretty concentrated but we understand – if it’s the right type of price tag and entry point for us, we’ll expand into a contemporary hits type station format with much more ears and listenership and it’s a bigger audience to play in.

0:15:19.5 It can be more expensive so we have to be careful there. But we’re about scale. We want to grow as fast as possible. And listen, who’s not a potential and investor? It’s hard to figure out who that perfect person is, but everyone is an option.

Jordan: 0:15:34.6 Absolutely. Have you guys dabbled with any original programming?

Pam: 0:15:37.8 Yes we have. We’ve done some of our own real estate shows. We’ve had, you know, some cases require some ad sales, as you know, so we have to get the right. You have to get the right person, the right personality. 0:15:50.0 You have to be a content marketing type of expert who really understands the space and is extremely versed in it. And you’re willing to put together the work to make those shows happen.

0:15:59.6 We do have some, you know, almost an interview strategy format which we will leverage two minute formats as well. Across the country. We’ll have some of our experts in each department or Kevin Ortner specifically, our CEO. Work with the DJ, answer some questions in a long-form format.

0:16:19.9 But yeah, we’ve done some shoes and we’ve had some success in our local market level with that. But yeah, hey there’s always really cool tactics and opportunities ahead of us, so that’s a great idea. I think at some point, we could have a really nice show if we had the resources to do it.

Jordan: 0:16:36.5 So one thing that I feel like we almost kind of glossed over, is the fact that what – you mentioned that the free rental price analysis is the sell. It’s the call to action with the radio ads. I’ve loved the way that you guys have positioned that simple, bold, crusty offer. There’s nothing new about the free rental price analysis. The CMA.

But the difference – there’s a CMA and then there’s a CMA. Right? The way that you package the offer can be so profoundly different, and I’d love to go on about it, but there’s not a whole lot to go on about. It’s just been the fact that you guys actually show – you demonstrate, you show rather than tell. You give a pre-visual of the report, etc.

0:17:17.2 One question I have for you, is do you guys gate that offer? Meaning, when somebody fills out that contact form, do you send out the free rental price analysis immediately or do you gate that behind the sales person interaction?

Pam: 0:17:28.4 Well, you know what that’s a really good question. And it’s been one of those things that we challenge ourselves on all the time, especially marketing and sales. We’ve gated it, and first it was because we really wanted to get in front of the consumer. We wanted to make sure we could get the contact information and send an advisor to the home to make sure that we had that in person conversation to aid in conversion.

0:17:59.6 But I think in today’s world, and so much has changed – there’s an instant gratification opportunity here, especially with absentee landlords, out of town investors, where you’d love to be able to do it over the phone.

0:18:14.0 And there’s a whole other level of legal parameters of giving that price analysis. So, we’ve steered clear of it. At one point, from a strategic point of view and now I think more from a legal point of view. We’re not sure how to kind of tread through that all the time. But sometimes we’re able to do it and sometimes we don’t. I would like to more and more, but I think that gate, is frankly, worked really well for us and it allows us to have that additional level of in-person conversation. As you know.

Jordan: 0:18:40.4 I completely agree. I think it makes sense. My belief is that it is significantly down funnel that it merits a sales interaction. Whereas, maybe an ebook or something along those lines might not. A follow up question related…

Pam: I would agree with you, I agree with you.

Jordan: 0:18:57.8 Well there you go, we’re on the same page. But different folks have certain philosophies. I’m sure somebody could parcel it differently. What it relates to though, is multi-channel. Can you just explain to me what is multi-channel marketing? Why is it hard and why is it something you guys have invested in?

Pam: 0:19:13.2 Yeah, I think it is exactly what it says it is. It’s being able to put together campaigns with a multiple touch points. In the past, it was – and multiple roles of those touch points. Right? So it becomes a role of media strategy, but you have to work through in addition to your brand campaign and certainly your budgets and resources available to do those effectively.

But quote, old days. Right? It was turn on the TV, call the sales person. There wasn’t this automatic and very inextricably linked relationship back to digital that there is today. 0:19:49.6 And even though we’re digital and social – is very – I mean it’s like this – it’s like the multiple channels under the seat, I call it.

You know, it’s like – this isn’t – the amount of channels around digital and social are almost endless, so we have to be able to understand that it – there is the typical, I think, marketing funnel that is trying to play out, but there’s going to be different channels that kind of insert themselves within that funnel.

0:20:19.7 So you’re driving awareness and demand, and then you’re capturing and converting that through additional channels when people are able to research and, you know, in the online channels and then there’s social channels.

0:20:33.5 There’s reputation management factors, there’s a channel, there’s certainly the LinkedIns and the Facebooks, the Instagram and Pinterest. All the social pieces.

There is content marketing that almost becomes it’s own channel, where there’s searching on the industry itself and trying to understand who’s telling the most secrets. Notice this space more and demonstrating competency in the spaces.

And then there’s actually just capturing, frankly, the search, as you can imagine. The basic pay-per-click in that space.

0:21:07.0 And then there’s this whole world of retargeting and re-marketing where you capture data and you want to send follow up information and how that gets – you know, there’s lots of different channels to do that. Email, social, display units within a – YouTube videos. There’s an endless variety of ways to continue to have conversations with consumers after you’ve created that demand.

And so, that’s kind of – I guess in a long answer on multi-channel marketing, but it kind of helps you understand these aren’t – this isn’t necessarily a new sales process, but it’s just a whole new way of interacting with consumers across a whole other world of channels.

And so, it’s important to plan those spaces. 0:21:52.5 We’ve very much doubled down in digital and social marketing to help make our traditional advertising that much more effective. We’ve had to keep up with the way people are researching the industry, researching brands, taking into account consumer reviews and really looking for different forms of content, whether that’s, certainly just copy, or video.

0:22:17.3 And so that’s the exciting part of it. I think the complexity and the difficulty is in proving out the ROI and making sure that you’re not, you know, just – almost testing way to many things at once.

Jordan: 0:22:30.1 Attribution, absolutely. That’s the next thing I was going to ask you. So, hearing that, it sounds a little overwhelming. And practicality for most companies, tracking all of that would be really challenging.

Did you guys start off with a first touch or a last touch attribution model and how has your attribution progressed over time to account for multi-channel?

Pam: 0:22:48.1 Yeah, it was very rudimentary to start. It was purely just radio. You know, there was some pay-per-click that we didn’t quite understand how it all worked. I mean, it was baby stages of getting into the online/offline world. And that was kind of the limit.

And since then, it’s even a matter of testing all the various strategies within pay-per-click and display and retargeting and landing pages and contact and, you know, custom numbers and things. So, we’ve had to learn a lot.

0:23:21.7 In fact, we had to reinvent our entire website to handle or to take advantage of the opportunities in organic clicks, right? As well as the paid clicks. So that’s been – you know, there’s a lot of journeying through those processes.

0:23:39.3 And once we started to get more sophisticated with platforms, and literally a website that could handle – and we’re still working on that – but national and local traffic, and routing and optimization. Then we were able to get more creative in a way we that we applied some of our digital marketing to the system.

And then some of the paid social and kind of – we don’t have our hands – our heads perfectly wrapped around all the different metrics. I mean we’re certainly measuring a lot of things. I think the beauty is in putting it together and getting that last click model together.

0:24:15.0 I’ll say that I think we’ve been able to put some of the pieces together, but I don’t think we have a perfect attribution model that I can say is perfectly steering us. This is why they pay marketing people to put their marketing hat on and make decisions. Right?

0:24:32.0 At some point, it’s about also the creative idea and the message driving the effectiveness as much as it is all the channels. Right? So, it’s just as important as what you’re saying, as much as it is where you are. 0:24:45.6 So, now I think we’re using a variety of pieces including – but it all comes down to cost per lead and cost per sale. Right?

So it all comes down to that and now we look at everything all in and not just channel specific in some cases. 0:24:58.2 Because I think it’s really hard to tease out the interactivity of all of this.

Jordan: 0:25:03.0 Pam, what internal competencies did you develop and build out within your marketing team? Over time, where did you feel like it was most important to prioritize first, in terms of that internal skill set?

Pam: 0:25:16.5 Well, we started with hiring a digital marketing person. Pretty immediately. That was my first hire. And I’ve only built out the digital marketing team. I’ve taken on the brand strategy and communication strategy piece and integrations piece, but the technology and the requirements needed in the digital space have been quite, you know, exhaustive. Right?

0:25:40.7 So that’s kind of how we started. Not, I would say it’s been a bit of an accordion process. Where we had outsourced some things, then we decided to in-house somebody to run point. We could in-house a bit of the workload and some of the pieces.

0:26:00.7 And then we would outsource again and say, “Oh well, you know, we’ve reached our limit, we need to find some additional specialists in the space and different platforms to try to give us the right kind of results.”

And then we decided, “Well, you know, now it’s time to in-house somebody, we can save on some of those fees.” Right? And through some of the paid space. That it goes back and forth and as you build a team, it is important to recognize when you’re – you need to bring in – you’re going to save some money bringing in some people in-house versus outsourcing some of the workload. And we’ve just needed to adjust as we go.

0:26:40.5 Certainly, there’s tipping points, but I would say you’ve gotta – it’s important for us to have had agency support for the innovation factor. 0:26:50.9 You know, we don’t know everything and we can’t expect our people to be in – 30,000 foot view as well as a 10,000 foot view. As you can imagine.

Jordan: 0:26:58.6 Makes, totally makes sense. The way that I have used – viewed the entire process of outsourcing is that if you’re competent enough to be a discriminating consumer and then be very selective about the key areas where you’re choosing to outsource. As opposed to orienting towards, ‘I’m basically saying I have no idea how to judge the quality of the gooder service.” That’s really where…

Pam: 0:27:24.8 Yeah, you can’t wash your hands of it. Right? You can’t just throw up your hands and say, “Here’s an agency, go do all this.” I don’t think that’s – yeah, that’s not been our approach. I mean, we run a hub and spoke model. We’re always kind of doing that.

The hub grows and shrinks as we need it to. So do the spokes. Right? We can rotate around partners as we either grow them, or maybe we’re dissatisfied or maybe they almost become an extension of our in-house team. 0:27:51.3

Jordan: 0:27:51.7 Absolutely. So let’s talk about the book that you guys have recently put out. Authored by Kevin Ortner. I’m sure there was a lot of people that contributed to that. This is a – this is a level up. Even for you guys, this is a step up in terms of the commitment. Writing a book. Right?

At some point, everybody’s gotta do it. The go big moment. 0:28:13.5 Talk me through how you guys thought about the ROI on that early on, and then what it was like to actually bring that to market.

Pam: 0:28:20.7 Ah yeah, wow what a process. I mean, talk about a steep learning curve. It’s a, you know, wanting to write a book and then actually going through the exercise of doing it was, you know, it was an impressive feat. We’re extremely excited about it and proud of the, I think the result.

0:28:40.0 You know listen, we didn’t treat it as a book. You know everyone’s got a book to your point. We wanted to basically create one of the most important evergreen content marketing pieces that we could imagine.

0:28:55.6 You know, at the end of the day, it’s a giant content marketing piece. And so, that’s how we treated it right? And we can dissect all the chapters, we can, you know, and parse them out in different ways, we can create white papers and infographics. We can teach our sales team. It becomes a training tool inside.

0:29:16.5 We’ve had countless people that are dabbling in the space read the book and excited to buy additional properties and certainly use us as the property manager. 0:29:25.7 So, from that standpoint, it brings credibility, it’s public relations, it’s content marketing fodder, it’s a training mechanism.

I think the level of investment into it, it’s already paid its dividends. The process of having our, you know, it’s media pitching material. People and our employees love it. They’re proud of it.

And we invented the term, and trademarked the term, “rent estate” to help define – redefine the industry and frankly, claim the number one position within it. Right? 0:30:00.9 So it was a brand strategy component to this and we changed even the name of all of our agents to, ‘rent estate advisors’. Right?

We’re trying to let people know that we’re no longer just a transactional leasing in property management company. We actually have – we’re advising you through this very critical landscape and there’s major financial returns and you know, considerations that we can help you work through. And it’s important. 0:30:29.6 So I think it’s kind of – it’s real estate for the every day man and woman. It’s helping to disarm the intimidation factor within the space. It just works on a variety of levels.

So it took us over a year to get it done correctly. We had production help, copywriting support. We had a book production production specialist who helped us put it together. And then we’ve just been using – we created an entire website, RentEstateRevolution.com to support all the materials. We wanted it to be a very interactive type of concept where people can get additional resources. So it’s got a lot of legs and I think we’ll continue to use it for years.

Jordan: 0:31:09.8 What I love is the dichotomy of both vision and incrementalism. The vision is the long term, “Where we’re going to take this” consumer brand, coning ‘rent estate’, etc. The incrementalism is the fact that you did start with that key core concept of rent estate trademarked. Got a lot of mileage out of that long before you actually took the gigantic step of creating the book. 0:31:32.6 And I think that’s where the magic exists. Is living on both sides of the spectrum, and kind of moving through that as a journey.

Pam: 0:31:38.6 Yeah, I appreciate that. That is very much the way we approached it. We knew we were on to a big idea. You know, and I think going back to kind of my brand days at Leo Burnett the everyone wants to put together their ‘why’.

And this became a very clear way of articulating that why and getting the company to truly, kind of drink the Kool-aid ourselves, rally around it and embrace it in a way that now it’s a part of our everyday elevator pitch. It’s a part of why you come to work.

You know, we want to help people discover the power of single family rental investments that we very much lovingly call rent estate. Because the magic is in outsourcing all of the headaches and the work, because today’s tools allow you to be able to do that. So that you can enjoy your time doing anything else but property management and then the fun is in getting more of these properties to then, you know, help you manage your wealth.

Jordan: 0:32:40.2 Let’s transition for a moment to talk about what hasn’t worked. Pam, give me the straight talk here. What have you tried that was a complete and utter failure? Surely you’ve had, you’ve got one or two of those in your time with Renters Warehouse.

Pam: 0:32:54.9 Yeah, I mean, I think if you’re not failing, then you’re not trying to be innovative. I mean, mistakes and failing happen all the time. Right? We run some campaigns where I say, “Wow, that just totally, you know, that pooped the bed.”

I mean, we didn’t get the type of, you know, we got a lot of impressions, we didn’t get a lot of clicks, like what really happened there, we’re not sure. We’ve done that with social, I don’t think we’ve had a perfect, you know, we haven’t had some of the – there’s so many components to test, I think that’s kind of the big watch out is that, is it the format, is it the message? Is it the target audience? Is it how much you put into the ad campaign? What were you running around it? Right? Did it meet – did actually match the way you were talking about it on the radio?

So you have to make sure things are kind of working together. 0:33:43.7 I think we had hits and miss with direct mail. We you know, part of the beauty of that is you know, you could do 26 variable testing in there. You could say, ok is it a letter format? Is it a postcard? Is it a big high impact piece? Where am I buying the data? Is the data right? Can I take the – can I get the email addresses to then run some targeted social campaigns so that when people get the direct mail they see email and they see some Facebook ads. You know, all those kind of things.

0:34:11.5 So, I think the failure comes with, you know, frankly not trying some of these things and understanding your way through it. You know, you have to be able to embrace aspects of it. 0:34:26.1 We tested TV a bit. But it’s an expensive proposition to fail at. So, you know, if it’s not working dramatically, you kind of got to abort mission.

But I would say that that’s actually – like, it’s not that I don’t believe in TV, it’s a matter of I don’t have the resources to make it, I think – I didn’t have the resources to stay in the game long enough to understand how we can make that work harder for us. And how it works in conjunction with radio.

0:34:51.9 If you think about it, you need a visual piece as well as the audio piece. Right? We were very much an audio brand and we started to figure out, kind of our visual components. So, I don’t know if there’s been one – I mean, there’s radio stations that don’t work. 0:35:06.2 I mean, we fail at that all the time. We might start at some radio and realize, “Uh, we didn’t quite nail that one.” Either it’s the station itself. Maybe it’s the DJ. Maybe we didn’t get the ads right.

So we’re constantly working through – it comes back to cost per lead, cost per sale. 0:35:22.4 You know, and what are some of the levers that we can pull to help fix that – fix the situation. And if we can’t within a couple months, we do have to move on. So I think that in every channel, we’ve kind of not been perfect. We have to figure that piece out.

You know, from an opportunity standpoint, I think we have, we have, we have a lot more room to grow as a brand. From a messaging and communication strategy. 0:35:48.5 So we’re actively supporting that and working to figure out what is the 2.0, 3.0 version of ourselves that will provide some new news and make everything hang together even tighter.

Jordan: 0:36:00.4 Do you guys at this point, actually advertise truly national campaigns? Or is everything you’re doing more or less on a market by market basis? Even if those campaigns look similar but restricted to specific markets?

Pam: 0:36:13.6 Mostly local. We do do some national SEM in some cases for certain types of key word strategies. That does happen. But we’ve stuck – we’ve done some testing with XM Radio. We almost abort – we aborted not really because it wasn’t perfectly working, we just – wanted to understand from a local level how it was kind of paying back.

I mean, there were other opportunities. 0:36:38.7 But we very much are hyper local. In every possible way. That’s just been something from a real estate game, as you can imagine. People trust local knowledge of their area and their marketplace values.

Jordan: 0:36:54.0 What do you see staying the same, and what do you see changing as you continue to scale? The company’s going to presumably try and maintain the same growth rate, maybe make the growth rate improve, but the burden is going to get bigger as the numbers get larger.

Do you see the strategy that you have right now meeting the growth needs that you guys will have, or do you think that there are going to be some significant structurally pieces that will need to change to hit those growth goals over the next two to three years?

Pam: 0:37:23.2 I think it’s the latter. So, we have dramatically evolved our marketing and our growth model to accommodate this need for scale. I mean, we want to be a property management that has over 200,000 properties managed. Right? It goes from big lofty goals.

We are actively working on acquisitions and takeovers to help grow that landscape, and I have to look at the cost per acquisition based – versus kind of organic marketing growth numbers. So that’s always that kind of, “Hey is it easier to go and buy a door or is it easier for me to organically grow.”

And I think we’re very much committed to both paths, because we believe in that retail side of the business and the power of helping everyday homeowners as much as we’re helping the investors. Right.

0:38:17.7 I think fundamentally, I’ve got to – I’m going to have to understand how the other side of the coin plays into my strategy. Number one. I think there are opportunities for us to explore national marketing as our footprint grows, and those will be regional buys, those will be national buys.

0:38:40.1 I think there’s opportunities for us to – we’re going to have to invest more in the digital marketing side of the space where we have, you know, we’re scoring up sales cloud and marketing cloud and all the sales force systems, and I think getting some of that automated marketing pieces, kind of firing on all the right cylinders.

0:39:00.9 We’re going to take some additional layers and invest things from a marketing standpoint. I think the brand side of things, you know, making sure we’re investing in the brand in a bigger way. I’d say real estate, getting more, creating more ownable pieces, like you had mentioned. You know, having your own show, putting together you know, new work shops and events that we can start to own and make sure that we’re really in deep with the local community and having these kind of in depth conversations would be key.

0:39:33.7 So yeah, everything has to evolve. And that’s what’s so fun about it, is that we fundamentally believe in marketing and investing in marketing and that’s very much a part of our culture and our DNA. And, it will always require a bit more. 0:39:48.8

Jordan: 0:39:49.6 I love it. So no resting on your laurels. Constantly changing the model, which frankly, is a necessity to be able to maintain this fast growth. I want to transition to the rapid-fire section of the interview.

I’ve got some quick questions I want to go through. Just get some gutteral answers from you Pam. 0:40:07.3 The first is, what’s the number one skill set to being a successful CMO?

Pam: 0:40:13.5 Good question. Number one skill set would be the ability to value interdependencies within the organization. Marketing is everything. Dig deep into every single aspect of the organization where marketing applies.

Jordan: 0:40:32.7 I like it. Ok. I feel ya. Next question. Who do you learn from?

Pam: 0:40:39.2 You know, I love talking to people about their businesses. I learn from anybody who wants to talk to me about their job, their industry. There are so many different ways we can learn about best practices in the spaces based upon cross industry marketing.

And so I talk to people all the time in different business groups, networking groups. Wherever I am I’m trying to understand what they’re doing well and what applies to our space. And learning from other brands. That’s really how I learn the most.

Jordan: 0:41:21.0 What books have impacted you the most?

Pam: 0:41:23.5 You know, it’s funny I’m not very much of a book junkie 0:41:30.3 [Edit – stutter]. I read so much online and on magazines and kind of – I almost have like a Twitter attention span when it comes to reading. And so anything within the entrepreneur space, or within the leadership space. I am totally riveted by.

So I just read about people and their stories and things that would have some sort of parallel impact to the way that I think about our business. 0:41:59.4 So, I wish I could tell you a great awesome book. I think my last one was around – the last book I read was called, “Own It” by Sallie Krawcheck so it was about financial feminism, so you know, but actually very inspirational, applicable concepts to talking to women about the opportunities within real estate.

Jordan: 0:42:22.5 Any blogs you would throw out there, publications that you read?

Pam: 0:42:26.9 Ah man. I, you know, it ranges from a like a Seth Godin to anything within real estate. We constantly are searching for people who are writing interesting things within the real estate space. So BiggerPockets and certainly some of the work you’re doing. We’ve very much are kind of always mining that space. So, I read about single family rentals, investments, and thought leadership there all the time.

Jordan: 0:43:04.9 Ah love. Ok. Got it. Got it, got it, got it. So it’s not all just the generic entrepreneurship kind of stuff. You’re actually, you’re digging deep within.

Pam: 0:43:11.9 Well we have to. I’ll tell you the number one thing. You have to be a thought leader in the space. If I don’t understand the space inside and out, how can I possibly talk about it. You know, so that’s why you know, I’m personally investing in real estate. I rent estate.

I’m working with people who would know how to help me find and source, you know, financing and properties to do that. Right? So, I go to every single trade show, Americatalyst. We go to IMN. We go to a lot of the real estate spaces, and I go there not to work a booth, but to listen to every single presentation.

0:43:51.0 It’s critical for us to be thought leaders in the space from an inside out. From a marketing team as well as our sales team and anything my agents know, man I better catch up. 0:44:01.7 And they always know a little bit more than me, but I need to know that stuff.

Jordan: 0:44:05.5 Love it. Got to practice what you preach. Couldn’t agree more. Here’s a follow up question that I enjoy asking every guest that comes on the show and I’m curious to hear your answer. When it comes to paid and organic, your primary marketing channels, how much is too much to pay for a new property management contract.

Pam: 0:44:27.8 How much is too much? And by the way, not necessarily our primary channels just yet, but very much a part of the mix — how much is too much to pay for a contract? Well, I mean, we’re paying up to $2000 for our contracts in some cases. You know, my – I like to drive acquisition costs below $1000. You know, there’s lifetime value numbers that are all over the map. It depends on even the market. 0:44:57.8 So, you know, I – we hate spending anything above, well – when – we try to keep it below $2000 for sure.

Jordan: So when you quote me those numbers, we’re talking about SEO, pay-per-click, radio, not buying a portfolio, correct?

Pam: Correct.

Jordan: 0:45:18.0 Got it. Ok.

Pam: 0:45:19.7 I mean you know, by the way we can – that – in some cases it’s the same kind of dollars, so we try to stay within the right type – a similar framework where, you know, I’m constantly battling, or not battling, but I’m partnering with my portfolio services group and our acquisitions team, and Noel Christopher you’ve had on your show – to make sure that we’re spending money as wisely as possible.

But, you know, there are definitely organic versus management company acquisition costs. There’s some different structures there, but it’s all the same money. Money’s money. We want to make sure that we’re, you know, being true to our lifetime value of our customers.

Jordan: 0:46:00.1 Related question. Early on, before you guys had meaningful data, when you were two, three years old, what placeholder number did you use as a default assumption about customer lifetime duration?

Pam: 0:46:10.3 Oh. Duration. Assumptions. 0:46:18.0 [Consider editing] You know, three to five years we were hoping. You know, I think it’s longer. In some cases we literally had customers – we still have customers who started with Renters Warehouse when Renters Warehouse started. We’re kind of seven, eight years.

Or we just turned ten. So in – you know, I think we do still have eight, nine year old clients in that case. You know, it was hard – we had such a great wealth of information in Minneapolis, but every single local market, you know, we’re learning more and more about what’s making those consumers stay around. 0:46:48.3 And certainly how the local real estate marketplaces are effecting their ability to, their desire to rent versus sell.

Jordan: 0:46:57.4 Last question of the day. What’s the number one thing you see property management entrepreneurs doing wrong when it comes to marketing? And put that on the flip side, what’s the low hanging opportunity for property management businesses?

Pam: 0:47:12.0 What are they doing wrong? I think in some cases, not having a point of view. You know, there’s – what really is the compelling difference that you’re talking about and kind of getting that bottled up elevator pitch down right. And adjustable and really framing it versus competition.

And I think that is about the thought leadership piece right? So, sometimes there’s not a clear sense that they are beyond a transactional company. You know. Like something that just kind of helps you lease and manage properties versus people who are going to help you understand the wealth creation potential of rent estate.

0:47:59.9 Or the opportunities within the real estate investing space. And I think that’s what people need to not just understand who you are, they need to be convinced. Right? There’s so many choices, so how are you going to convince them to choose you.

And I don’t know if there’s that perfectly articulated value proposition that some property management companies have.

0:48:24.8 Your second – what was the flip side of your question? 0:48:26.2 [Edit out]

Jordan: The flip side is just what’s the opportunity. I think you just identified it.

Pam: 0:48:31.7 Yeah I think…

Jordan: 0:48:32.2 [Edit out] Wow guys, 0:48:34.7 [Edit out] Hang on those words, that advice was pure gold. We can go into the tactics, we can talk about where you can get more leads, we can talk about the new strategy that’s going to create some additional lead stream for you, but let’s go upstream.

Let’s always point to the principal and she just nailed it. Identify the customer, identify the needs, have clarity in your messaging. Have a point of view and do not fall into what I like to call, ‘we’re number one syndrome’. Incredible advice, Pam. I appreciate you coming on the show today. If folks want to find out more about what Renters Warehouse is up to, what’s the best place for them to go to.

Pam: 0:49:13.9 RentersWarehouse.com or RentEstateRevolution.com. Tons of information. You can check out our blog, you can read our downloadable guides. And you can always send an email to [REDACTED]. We love sharing free advice.

Jordan: 0:49:32.9 Thanks again for coming on.

Pam: Thanks Jordan, I appreciate you having me.

 

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