How to get started: picking and testing a channel.
One of the most important concepts for you to understand is that you should pick 1 channel, and then relentlessly and meticulously test it before moving on. Unless you’re hiring professionals to run a channel or two for you, you simply won’t have the focus or ability to get the most juice out of the squeeze.
So, if you decide you want to try PPC, then just focus there for a while. Work on testing multiple ads (for example, run 3-5 ads at all times). Test those ads against different zip codes or geo areas. Then test different search phrases. Then test different landing page or website copy to see what converts best.
As you can see, this quickly adds up to many, many combinations of ads and outcomes. Honing in like this will help you get your CPA as low as possible and be able to accurately measure your ROI with that platform.
Once you have enough data to actually know things like:
- What a lead costs
- What a click costs
- What ads convert the best
- What areas cover the best
- What search phrases convert the best
- And so on…
Then you can decide if it’s worth it for you, and if you want to continue advertising. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s making you profit, keep doing it. If it’s not, you can move on (or let it keep running) and test a different marketing channel.
Again, it will be tempting to just throw some ads together on multiple platforms, press “go!” and excitedly wait for those leads to start pouring in. That’s a bad idea. You won’t know what worked, and you won’t be able to reproduce it so easily.
So cut your teeth on one channel and work away at it until it’s successful.
Miscellaneous resources to help you get started
OK, so if so far, this all seems really overwhelming to you, that’s OK. The key is to take it one step at a time and start somewhere.
I thought it would be helpful to point out some other things you’re going to need, and resources to help you get them.
I may end up writing an entirely separate article on creating an effective website, since there’s so much to cover. But for now, it’s enough to say that you’ll need one.
Here are your basic options:
- A WYSIWYG platform: “what you see is what you get” or “build it yourself”. Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and the list goes on.
- A custom designed one. Hire web developer to build a killer website.
- Use an REI focused site. LeadPropeller, Carrot, REI Black Book, and the like.
- Conversion funnel pages/landing pages. You could use Unbounce, or other conversion focused single pages.
Basically, you need somewhere to send people when they click your ads. This page should convey what you do; who you are; why people should trust you; and so on.
If you need a logo created, or an entire brand kit, you have a few options:
- A paid service like Fiverr, 99Designs, etc.
- DIY: use Google Draw, pick a nice font, and make a cool logo.
- Use Canva, Vecteezy, or other easy graphic design apps.
- Hire your relative who’s into graphic design or work with a community college.
- Pay an amazing designer to create something incredible.
You can always re-brand or grow. My main concern is simply that you not go with a super cheesy logo, or just use stock text (like Carrot sites spit out) that makes you look archaic, and like your site was thrown together.
Wrapping it up (don’t forget what really matters).
I do really hope this was helpful for any newbies, or established REIs unfamiliar with the digital marketing landscape. There’s a ton to cover, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
In conclusion, I do want to encourage you with a few things, most of which you probably already know but are worth stating:
Nothing can replace doing right by people, truly seeking their best, and setting them up for success.
Ultimately, if you run ads but no one trusts you, you’re not going to succeed. If you land deals, but no one leaves good reviews, or they feel like they were taken advantage of, they won’t refer others. The biggest key to your success, besides getting the brand, marketing, and partners right, is doing what’s right by other people.
If you make it your number 1 goal to provide assistance and help to the homeowner, even if it means they end up going with a Realtor, or turning you down, you’ll do well. These are the people that are likely to refer friends to you or leave good reviews. This is the way to build a positive connotation with your brand.
A marathon mindset is required.
Make no mistake, if you’re new to REI, you’re starting a business. I know that sounds super obvious, but in our world, we’ve seen a lot of “investors” who don’t seem to think that way. It’s like, if they don’t close a deal in 3 months, they’re out and they close up shop. Imagine if a coffee shop, clothing company, or software company thought that way.
And this isn’t a call to go deep into debt by the way. It’s just an encouragement that if you’re going to jump into REI, to go in with an understanding of what it will take.
Building a brand is a solid long-term investment.
Unfortunately, we see a lot of investors come and go. They start out excited, motivated, and optimistic. Then the dip happens (if you haven’t read Seth Godin’s “The Dip” I can’t more highly recommend it), and things get hard, and they give up.
Besides being unsuccessful, this leads to a bad mentality. One of just trying to make quick cash, versus building a brand. Making quick cash is throwing up a website, picking whatever hack-ish name you think will mysteriously help you rank, throwing some money (probably borrowed) at advertising and expecting to strike it big. Everything you decide, is based on this short-term mentality. After all, why take the time to create a brand, if you’re going to quit if this doesn’t work out?
This is an unhealthy approach to paying for digital marketing or hiring professionals to help.
A better one is treating your business as building a brand. The only bookstores that survived and will do well in the wake of Amazon are the ones that built a brand, and offer something unique and special, something people resonate with. The only way (in the long haul) to survive with Zillow, is to build a brand that’s recognized in your target cities, or home town, and carries meaning. You’re not just another “we buy houses” knockoff, you’re a name people go looking for. When you build this kind of presence, ranking is easy. Everyone can rank for their own name. And when you run ads, there’s already some trust associated with your brand.
Ultimately, that’s the best approach to starting a successful, long-term REI company.