Having put in 17 years as a real estate agent in the Silicon Valley (one of the fastest markets in the world), Alex Wang has been around the block a time or two when it comes to understanding the world of real estate — and his experience shows in his numbers. In 2018 alone, Alex made 56 transactions for a whopping $80 million in sales, a jaw-dropping half of which was generated online. Wow. Just wow.
As the Real Estate Evangelist, Alex has a deep passion for the real estate profession, and he’s a firm believer in the value of being “The Digital Mayor.” Alex works towards this goal in his Palo Alto market by producing authentic content that he uses across a variety of online platforms, going so far as to hire a videographer to follow him for a year to chronicle the daily life of a real estate agent. Emphasizing the need to be real and individualize yourself online, Alex believes that a well-developed personal brand and regular community interaction on social media will go far in helping you stay top-of-mind with clients.
In today’s episode, Alex discusses the multiple marketing methods available for real estate agents and shares why he thinks an online presence is key — from social media and a personal website to Yelp and Google My Business. He also candidly outlines how a focus on building relationships can help you beat out the big names of the real estate industry in your local area.
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IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN:
- How to be authentic in the online content that you produce
- Why it’s important to take your real estate farming game to the online arena
- How to choose the best way to market your real estate brand
- What social proof is and why’s it’s important to your success in the real estate world
- Why your website needs to reflect your personal brand
- How to build credibility and social proof on Google My Business
- How to get customers and clients to leave you reviews
- Why building an online presence is about more than just lead conversion
- How to differentiate your real estate presence from big-name competitors in your local market
LINKS FROM TODAY’S EPISODE
- Alex Wang’s website
- Alex Wang’s YouTube Channel
- Alex Wang’s Facebook page
- Alex Wang’s Twitter
- Alex Wang’s LinkedIn profile
- Gary Vaynerchuk’s website
- Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
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Geoff: Okay. Let’s get into my very special guest for this week’s episode of Mortgage Marketing Radio. I’m diversifying a little bit. Some of you have told me you do want to hear more real estate agents on the podcast for a variety of reasons, and today my special guest is Alex Wang.
Alex is a superstar, rock star, media celebrity, if you will. He wouldn’t probably call himself that, but I am. He’s really gotten a grasp of this whole become “the digital mayor,” to use Gary Vaynerchuk’s term there. As a matter of fact, he got that idea from sitting in one of the Agent2021 conferences, where Gary talked about becoming a digital mayor and producing content.
Immediately after that, Alex hired his own videographer, like his own DRock, and had him follow him around, documenting a day in the life, creating content. And now he’s got his own YouTube channel with tons of videos, thousands of views. He’s built an incredible personal brand in a very competitive market up in Silicon Valley, Palo Alto area. In 2018, his personal branding, his content strategy, paid off in a super competitive market. 56 transactions for about $80 million, so basically, he sells about a home a week. A home a week. Hey, guys. That’s pretty damn good. Right?
So Alex, what we do is we kind of unpack. What caught my attention originally about Alex is that first of all, he’s an advocate for the real estate business. This would be an interview you want to share with your real estate agents, because Alex is the Real Estate Evangelist. And he’s got a great perspective on success as a real estate agent — what it takes, truthfully. We tell the truth here on the Mortgage Marketing Radio podcast. Alex is telling the truth as well.
So we’re going to unpack this discussion. We’re going to jump into things like personal branding, more about his becoming a digital mayor concept, what should agents be talking about. That’s originally how he got on my radar. I saw him talking about that. I’m like, “Alex, would you come on the podcast and share what you think agents should be talking about which is helping you?” As a matter of fact, he told me 50% of his 52 transactions — 50% of $80 million — all came from online, from people finding him, searching, googling, finding him on Yelp, looking at reviews. All came from online.
So we have a nice, frank discussion about agents and lenders who have told me, “Hey, I’ve been in this business for 15 years. I’m not on Facebook. Why do I need to be online on social media?” We’re going to answer that question in this conversation. We’re going to talk about ranking and Google and [inaudible 0:05:17]. And we have a nice, frank discussion, as well, around Zillow and iBuyers, the future of real estate agents and lenders, and it’s a great, nice, frank conversation. I encourage you to listen and share this interview with your real estate agents.
So without further ado, let’s get into this week’s show. Alex, welcome to the show.
Alex: Hey, Geoff. Thanks for having me.
Geoff: You bet, man. So you know what’s interesting? I’m bringing more and more real estate agents onto this show. It’s largely been focused on the loan officer mortgage community, but what I’m finding is that it’s useful to have relevant conversations with real estate agents who are doing some pretty cool things out there like you are, so that’s why I wanted to have you on today. So for those listening, give us the brief background on Alex — where are you at, how long you’ve been in real estate, and what do you love about it?
Alex: Yes. I’m a real estate agent here in one of the fastest markets in the world, Silicon Valley. I’ve been selling real estate for 17 years. I’ve done everything from being an independent agent to joining a team to having a small broker owner of a small boutique firm to having been acquired by a larger company to being on the leadership team and now running my own team. And so I’ve done, I would say, not all of it, but I’ve done a lot of it, and yeah, I just love the real estate agent business, because it’s just a really, really amazing business. You can have 10 successful agents doing it 10 completely different ways and being successful.
Geoff: Yeah, that’s interesting, so I want to come back to that actually, because everybody talks about how you have to be everywhere on social media or you’ve got to doing this or that. We’ll come back to that in just a second, so I’m going to make a note on this here. Let’s open it up from this standpoint. Well, real quickly, people are always curious of the numbers. Transactions in 2018?
Alex: Well, I think like 56 transactions. I sell about a home a week and average volume wavers in the past couple years but anywhere from $80 to $125 million.
Geoff: Awesome. Yeah, and that’s a tough market up there, isn’t it? Competitive?
Alex: It is extremely competitive. Just when you have everything moving so quickly and obviously, we have very, very high price points, thankfully, but it does get very, very competitive.
Geoff: Yeah. So you came across my radar originally… I believe it was a clip I saw of you in a video, and what you were talking about is what agents should be talking about. Guide me a little bit on the context. I assume what you meant by that was in their branding, if they’re showing up online and social media. Is that what you meant by what agents should be talking about?
Alex: Yeah. I think one of the things about being out there and being in front of people is what are you going to talk about. And I think agents have to understand their own value and then be able to promote that to others and explain and not try to pretend they know something that they’re not talking about or they’re trying to just act as if or try to fake it. I think that authenticity when you go online and share is super important, and so, yeah, that’s what I was referring to.
Geoff: So what do you think they should be talking about? You think they should be talking about real estate then?
Alex: I think it should be a part of it, but I don’t think it should be every single week, every single post should be, “Hey, look at my new listing here. Check out my new Lamborghini.” That kind of stuff.
I was really disenchanted. I was part of a reality TV show, and they came up, the crew came up. I said, “Wow, I’m going to be on TV.” I was so excited. The crew said, “Make sure you come to the first shoot day and bring seven changes of clothing.” Seven changes of clothing. What do you mean by that? Apparently, they shoot the seven days all in one day. Shoot this, and then I might change clothes and shoot again. It basically looks like it spans the whole seven days, and all of it was completely fake. I was disenchanted. I said, “You know what? I really want to be able to share with people what it is to truly be a real estate agent.”
I mean, there’s so much behind the scenes that people don’t know about, and it’s not an easy business. It’s simple. It’s just not easy.
Geoff: Yeah. That’s a great transition, actually, into the other thing I noticed you’re doing on your YouTube channel and stuff. By the way, we’ll put links. Everybody listening, if you want to go check out everything we talk about, there will be links in the show notes. But speaking of that, like a day in the life of a real estate agent, you started documenting that, and if I recall, was the whole Gary V. thing, document, your inspiration for that?
Alex: Absolutely. I mean, I started following his content and reading his books probably 2014 and ’15, and then heard him speak at Inman. I sat in the front row and I was thinking, “Gosh, this guy really knows what he’s talking about.” I could really see the trend towards that direction, and so I ended up hiring a DRock, or you know, a videographer to follow me around for a year. We’re still editing and putting that content together as we speak.
Geoff: Oh, really? Putting it together as we speak. How long have you been working with the videographer?
Alex: It’s probably been a year and a half, but you know, you take up so much of a bank of content. If he’s recording 24/7… Well, I don’t want to say 24/7 but at least 40, 50 hours a week, that’s a lot of stuff.
Geoff: Sure. He’s not sleeping with you.
Alex: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. There’s a lot of content to go through.
Geoff: I’m looking at it, so are you putting that on your YouTube channel? Is that where that goes?
Alex: YouTube channel. We’re cutting up the pieces of microcontent on LinkedIn, on Facebook — yeah, those are primarily the main channels — and we’re trying to develop an Instagram platform. We’re on the Instagram platform, but we haven’t launched it yet.
Geoff: What’s your intent in doing that as it relates to you and your real estate business?
Alex: Yeah, so three different audiences. One, obviously, is my traditional Alex Wang Group. That’s my sales team, and so that’s just really bringing awareness to people locally in my area where I buy and sell. The second one is mainly my own personal brand as it’s evolved to become the Real Estate Evangelist. I’m a big, big, big promoter on how honorable a profession this is, and so I want to teach others, as well, what I’ve learned. Then lastly, I’m working on virtual assistant support for real estate agents to stop the crazy real estate agent assistant cycle.
Geoff: Explain what you mean by that?
Alex: Basically, what happens typically is a real estate agent starts off. If you don’t have an assistant, you are the assistant, and so they spend their time pushing paperwork or doing whatever. Finally, they get to a point where they’re selling some real estate. They need to hire an assistant, but they’re too busy. And real estate agents aren’t trained to hire and fire and manage agents. They’re trained to build relationships and negotiate.
And so they pick the closet person that [inaudible 0:12:01] that’s next to them or a junior agent, and that works out for maybe six months, seven months, and then what happens? That person, that assistant, either decides to move out of the area, or even better yet, looks at the agent and goes, “Wow, real estate is really easy. I’m going to do that too.” And they end up becoming your competition, and then you’ve got to train and fire and hire again. And so my goal is to be able to help support agents, try to help them to kind of break that cycle.
Geoff: How many assistants do you have, or how many people support you?
Alex: I have five assistants right now.
Geoff: Wow. Are some of them virtual?
Alex: One virtual, but one local and one remote but still in the US.
Geoff: And they have different roles obviously?
Alex: Yeah. I consider my team members on my team as assistants as well, just like I’m their assistant sometimes as well.
Geoff: Everybody’s all in it together. Right?
Alex: That’s right. One big happy family.
Geoff: Right. So what’s been the impact for you in your business in terms of generating listings, buyers, whatever, when you started documenting a day in the life and putting it out there?
Alex: Yeah. It was interesting, because I can’t really say that I got three more listings or X amount of listings, X amount of dollars in revenue from getting my personal brand out there. I can say that definitely it helped with awareness. If you think that agents typically do farming and then they… I don’t know if mortgage professionals do, but at least for agents, we farm a certain neighborhood. We carve out that area or territory and say, “Hey, that is our area,” and then every month or even twice a month, we send stuff to them showing that we’re the best. That’s typically, traditionally, what farming is.
I thought I would just take farming to the online, and it helps. I walk through my kids’ school, and people go, “Oh, Alex, I just saw your new video.” I get a couple engagements in LinkedIn. I had a client just yesterday reach out to me. I sold them a townhouse about seven years ago. Haven’t been in touch with them at all. I mean, I’ve sent them invites to my client appreciation parties and stuff, but they’ve never attended. He Facebook messages me and says, “Hey, Alex, I’m looking to sell my house. Can you come by this weekend?” I don’t think it would’ve been that easy if I wasn’t out there on social media.
Geoff: Well, the point of farming is to really stay top of mind, so when that person’s ready, you get picked. Right?
Alex: Yeah. Exactly. So I think social media’s just the same thing.
Geoff: Yeah. It’s just a different medium for that, and the other thing about social media, I hate the question of what’s the ROI of social media? And I’m sure you’ve heard Gary’s response to that. Right?
Geoff: The ROI of your mother.
Alex: Yeah. Love that.
Geoff: Yeah. It’s not like there’s a direct line, but there’s a dotted line. I was curious if this happened for you. Somebody else who I interviewed — she’ll be on the podcast released soon, Karin Carr — she’s got a big YouTube channel. You guys have a similar follower base, but she gets an average of five organic calls, literally, people calling her most of the time, from consuming her YouTube content, just saying, “Hey, we’ve watched your videos. We’re ready to buy.” Do you have some of that bubbling up for you?
Alex: Wow. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I’ve found that YouTube is such a broad audience. I’m not sure what market she’s in. Maybe she’s specifically hyper-local in her content.
Geoff: She is. Yeah. Yeah.
Alex: Yeah. But yeah, I’ve thought about that, and that’s something on the would-love-to-do project list, to be specific to my area or location, just be that digital mayor, like we’ve learned, in an area. But it is a lot of work. I worked on doing a local series, and by the time I was able to finish producing for one of the local bars that I had shot a video for, the bar closed down. I had to rethink my content strategy a little bit because… Yeah.
Geoff: Had you got that video out sooner, man, you could’ve saved the business.
Geoff: That’s awesome. Alright. So the day in the life, the documenting thing, how much forethought goes into that? Or is it just like, hey, DRock here grabs a camera and follows you?
Alex: So it was more so the latter in the beginning. Just following. But then the editor who’s editing the footage has to not only… If they’re shooting and editing, they’re shooting it so they’re living the time, they’re living there with you during that time, and then they go back to the computer and live through it again. That’s a lot of time, and so I’ve started to be more intentional in terms of when I record and when I shoot. Because of that, I’ve actually shot less, but I do have large bank of content that we’re releasing over time. That helps, but yeah, I’m shooting less.
I went to go see Gary at the Agent2021, and he told me straight to my face, “Hey, Alex, in a couple years, you’re going to have a team of five on your marketing team.” For editor, for a videographer, for a copywriter, and he’s right. It’s a lot of work, and it’s very, very time-intensive. The fact that you’ve got this great podcast going on, I really want to give you props, because it’s not easy, even on one platform.
Geoff: Yeah. Exactly. And of course, I’m thinking now about getting out to YouTube and all that fun stuff. People listening, what they’re hearing, I think, is… People who really haven’t gone down this road yet of creating video content, I know what they’re hearing. They’re hearing, “It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work.” And all of a sudden, these excuses are coming up. How did you get started, man? Did you just go full bore? Did you dip your toe in the water? And what do you recommend for people?
Alex: Yeah, I think I just looked at the money that I was allocating towards marketing. Everyone has a different type of budget, and I’ve got people locally here that are spending a couple grand for just newspaper advertising a week. Not even a month but a week.
Alex: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I think the newspapers are only in business because of real estate agent, but that’s their branding and their allocation of those marketing dollars towards branding. I said, “Well, I don’t do really much of that marketing. What I will do is allocate my dollars to hiring full-time, 40-hours-a-week with benefits, that kind of thing, and jumping full force into that.
I think that everyone has a different type of budget. We’re looking at how to allocate that.
Geoff: Okay. That’s different. Alright. That makes sense. Yeah, so for some people, they don’t have the budget. It’s just get started, and if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, everybody knows you get started just with this beautiful little thing called your phone.
Geoff: It’s that simple. You mentioned the newspaper thing. I’m just curious when I hear that. Do you know if those people are getting results from newspapers?
Alex: Oh, one of the biggest players in our market… I was on a listing appointment interview, and they said, “Alex, I’m looking at this local newspaper, and competitor number one, he’s got seven listing ads, seven pages of ads in the newspaper. Competitor number two has three. Alex, you have none.” I said, “Yes, you’re right.” Then I told him why. It is working, but it’s a propaganda war, regardless — your personal brand message and how you’re going to get that across to people. Some people don’t like being mailed constantly every single month or having these large advertisements. Some other audiences do.
Geoff: There’s a couple things in there I want to unpack a little bit. One I wrote down what you said. “It’s a propaganda war.” I haven’t heard it characterized like that, but in reality, it really is. Because you’re really trying to capture somebody’s attention, either online or off.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, look at our government. Look at who’s our president. I don’t want to get too political.
Geoff: Yeah, right? Well, politics has always been propaganda. Okay, so let’s go back to the thing I wrote down for us to circle back on. There’s 10 or more different ways, obviously, to do this business, and you’ve just mentioned somebody doing it with newspaper ads. Here’s what I love about that, because I talk to agents every day who are succeeding in door knocking.
I get kind of pissed off when people say, “This doesn’t work” or “What are you, an idiot?” if you’re not on social media or whatever. Those kind of comments. The agent generating results from newspaper ads, which some people would be like, “What? The guy’s running newspaper ads? That doesn’t work anymore. What an idiot.” To that, our point earlier about there’s 10 or more different ways to do this business, how does an agent choose where to be?
Alex: Yeah. I mean, it’s tough. It’s very difficult. I think you have to go alongside what you personally are more comfortable with. It’s challenging. I’ve got an agent on my team, and she’s not on Facebook. She doesn’t believe it. Privacy concerns. All of the things that I totally understand, but I feel like in this day and age, if she’s not going to do that, then she needs to figure out something else that works for her. Maybe it’s being involved in her local schools or maybe it’s volunteering. Anywhere where you can build long-term relationships.
Personally, for me in marketing, I’ve… Seth Godin came out with a book several years back, actually, called Permission-Based Marketing, and it just made so much sense. Because traditionally, when I first started off, it was all interruption-based marketing, so it’s just door knocking, cold calling. At least in my area now, that stuff doesn’t fly, but maybe in some other markets, it does still.
Geoff: Oh, it does. Yeah. I’m curious about the person who’s not on Facebook, and you were suggesting the other, more traditional methods — school, soccer, baseball, whatever. It’s funny. I was writing about this, actually, this morning, because I’ve had that same thing come up. I had a loan officer kind of get angry with me. Same comment. It was, “Hey, I’ve been doing this business for 15 years. I’m not on Facebook. Never going to be. Why do I need to be online?”
Basically, I was probably a little saucy that day, but I said something to the effect of, “Well, look, even if your business is 100% referral… Is that right? Okay. Great. Well, what’s the first thing that referral does before they call you today? By and large, they’re going to look you up.” Somebody said to me the other day — I wonder how you feel about this — is today, online, whether it’s Google, Yelp, wherever you get found, that is the equivalent of the Yellow Pages 30 years ago. How did you get found 30 years ago?
Yellow Pages. People look you up. It’s like, well, if I can’t find you in the Yellow Pages, are you legit? Are you real? Nowadays, I’m wondering, like with your friend who’s not on Facebook, even though you’ve got that circle of influence business, we know they’re still looking you up. So does that then play into some doubt or some questions about legitimacy if I can’t find you online?
Alex: Oh, absolutely. And to your point to that gentleman, that loan agent, I would say, “Do you know Blockbuster and Kodak?” They just want to stick with their own old ways.
But going back to it, yeah, I think social proof is what I call it. It’s being able to be… Proof online. Word of mouth was back in the day. It was like, “Hey, you’ve got to use Jeff. He’s a great mortgage guy. You’ve got to use him.” He tells his friend, “Hey,” and the friend tells another friend. It’s word of mouth. Now it’s word of keyboard, and word of keyboard is by far so much more expansive in terms of people read an online review about you and see what you’re doing and the work that you do. That shows credibility and social proof and that other people are working with you and that reinforces it.
I have competitors in which I get selected as the agent because they go to the other competitors’ websites and they both look the same. The exact same templated website with just a different picture. Do you want that to be the type of marketing that people use to market your home?
Geoff: Ah. Interesting. So what you’re saying by that is that cookie-cutter thing. All websites look the same, but they come to Alex’s website. It’s clearly thoughtful. It’s unique. It’s different. It probably highlights you in some unique ways. That’s important in getting chosen as well?
Alex: Yeah. Yeah. We’re not templated real estate agents. Right? So we shouldn’t be using templated websites. We should use something really, really focused on our own personal brand.
Geoff: Yeah. That’s funny. I was just thinking about the personal brand question. Because I’ve even heard Gary V., I’ve heard him say two different things, and I don’t want to get in a sidebar about him, but I’ve heard the whole comment of like, you know, personal brand is all you have. But then I’ve heard the comment of, like, personal brand’s not that big of a deal in certain situations, in certain contexts.
Alex: Yeah. He’s a walking dichotomy. I think it goes down to reputation like you said as well. It’s what are you trying to… What kind of reputation do you have or are you trying to convey to others to see? Hopefully, it’s true. It’s not smoke and mirrors, but anyway, if you don’t put something out there, someone else is going to put something out there. You’ve got to control the message, and I think that’s where we can differentiate, whether it be loan agents or real estate agents. That’s how we can differentiate from the competition.
Geoff: Awesome. Okay, so I’m looking at my show notes, and the last time we talked, for some reason, I wrote down ranking number one in Google local search, Yelp. What that allows me to think is that you do a pretty good job in ranking on Google.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, if you’re going to be typing… We’re currently here in my office in Palo Alto, and so I say, go into Google, and go to “incognito” mode so that there’s no cookies or anything like that. Privately browse and search for “Palo Alto real estate agent,” and hopefully, I’ll be there on the first page, and hopefully I’m up towards the top of the list. I got very, very into just understanding which websites rank on that list. To be able to understand if Zillow’s there, then I better be on Zillow. If Realtor.com’s there, I better be on Realtor.com. If Yelp is there, I better be there. Then building those profiles based upon that kind of reverse engineering search.
Geoff: Yeah, so you are number one in terms of local. When the map comes up for a local search for sure.
Alex: Oh, good.
Geoff: Yeah. Then let me see. You probably have more than one feature in. Yeah, then you’re fourth down as well. You’ve got Zillow popping up. Yelp. That’s probably the local view on Yelp.
Alex: Yeah. Scroll past the ads. Scroll past the ads. Those are organic, and organic is where I really wanted to focus on rather than paid. Now if you have the budget, doing both just accelerates it even more.
Geoff: It’s called — I’m not an expert on this — Google Local Search. I had the guy from Yext down here, though, a while ago, so I should know that.
Alex: Yeah. Google My Business is the pro.
Geoff: Google My Business. Thank you. Yeah.
Alex: It is free, and whether you are a real estate agent, a mortgage agent, or a coffee shop, you better be on there. It’s very cool. In fact, I’m looking here. See there’s a little blue sign right there? It’s one of my reviews. Google actually took the review and sent me a big poster of my review.
Geoff: No way? That’s cool.
Alex: I thought that was pretty cool.
Geoff: So Google My Business. Yeah.
Alex: Google My Business. Yeah. I think it’s Google.com/business or something like that. Google it, and you’ll find it.
Geoff: What do we need to do to get present, to show up on Google My Business?
Alex: Just create a profile. Create a profile, add some pictures. Basically, write a little bit of copy in terms of your background. It would help to have social proof, which, you know, comes from reviews of people that have worked with you. I recommend that you not try to game the system and try to tell all 10 of your immediate family members to rate you at once. But definitely, I think they’re looking at organic reviews, so let it come organically and you can… I know on Yelp I’ve got maybe 115 reviews. You don’t have go from zero to that. It took me since about 10 years, that’s all, to get there.
Geoff: Wow. That’s all.
Alex: That’s all. But you can start with just having a couple because if they’re going to be looking at you and the other two competitors, they’re trying to choose somebody, at least you have a couple reviews. Shows that credibility and social proof that someone’s worked with you, and they’ve had a great experience working with you.
Geoff: What’s your process for getting reviews?
Alex: Do a damn good job.
Geoff: There you go. Enough said. And ask for the review. Right?
Alex: Yeah. Yeah. You’re not supposed to solicit reviews, and so I encourage, if you do such a good job for people that you never have to ask. For a buyer, the best time that they’re happiest is when they get the keys. It’s a great opportunity to say, “Hey, I’d love it if you could refer me to your friends, family members, coworkers, or share your experience with me online.” People are like, “I’d love to” if they had a good experience.
Geoff: You don’t do the post-closing email with “pick one”? You know what I mean?
Alex: No. I did that before, but I think now it’s just a little bit more… If I do a good enough job, I do remind them in the very beginning. Quite often, my business… and one of the questions here that you had was where most of my business comes from. Half of it comes from online.
Geoff: Half of it comes from online, so explain that.
Alex: Half the time it comes from people who I don’t know, don’t have a relationship with, but they go online, and they find me and learn more about me. A lot of times, they’re already convinced that they want to hire me before I even meet with them because they read the reviews, because they see the picture, and because they gravitate towards me and my brand. Some people are looking at me and go, “Oh, I don’t think I could work with that guy,” and that’s totally fine as well.
Geoff: But that’s fine. That’s life.
Alex: Yeah. Exactly.
Geoff: Well, that really actually goes to our other point earlier about the conversation of, do I need to be online? Look at it. You’re getting 50% of — what the heck was the volume? — 50% of $80 million, was it?
Geoff: Yeah. So $40 million in volume in sales because of your online presence. So for those who are asking, “Do I really need to be online?” it’s like, well?
Alex: Look at ROI.
Geoff: Exactly. And are you doing any paid traffic or anything?
Alex: I do. I do Google AdWords behind some of the video content that I push out as well. And then we push Facebook ads. We’re working with a new campaign to go even deeper into it, so I’m just really tapping the surface of paid media right now.
Geoff: Just getting started with Facebooks ads?
Geoff: How have you found that to be?
Alex: It depends on what the objective is, if you have a couple goals. If it is for brand awareness, it’s been great. If it’s been for engagement, it’s been good.
Alex: If it’s been for leads? Yeah. But I have to say, though, it goes back to the local content. I live in Los Altos, just right next door here, and to be part of that Los Altos community, I think there’s a reason to have that kind of digital mayor local group, as well, but separate from your other stuff.
Geoff: I’m glad you pointed out the specifics about the Facebook ads, because first of all, I just taught a class to REALTORS® yesterday on that, and that’s the same thing I was saying, is start with the awareness and the branding and engagement. This is to the point about why you should be producing content anyways — online, on Facebook, for example. But most people, they just run right to the lead conversion thing, and you haven’t built the base before that. Therefore, you’re suffering.
Alex: Right. Absolutely. I think agents are too quick to try to find that silver bullet. They go, oh, what is that perfect? Oh, if I do social media… Oh, that’s perfect. Then I’ll have all this business. I mean, like I mentioned earlier, it took me 10 years to get my social proof to where it’s at right now, and I still continue to hone it, audit my reviews. People will just be able to understand where my business is coming from on the reputation I have online.
Geoff: Absolutely. Wow, that’s good stuff. I’m just curious, for the Facebook ads — because this is lately my study, I’ve been diving deep on this — are you doing them yourself? Do you have an agency? Are you part of some kind of group?
Alex: I have an agency that I work with closely. A creative agency on one side and a paid media on the other side, and they’re working together to put the campaigns together.
Geoff: Awesome. Just curious. Okay, cool. So in the last few minutes that we have, back to the notes here. I’ve got to, I guess, have a conversation about Zillow, iBuyers, just total open, because that’s charged with energy and Zillow haters. Everybody’s saying Zillow’s trying to put you out of business. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Tom Ferry interview he did with… was it Greg Schwartz, the president of Zillow?
Alex: No, I didn’t.
Geoff: If not, I can send you a link to it. It’s about a 15-, 20-minute interview, and I think it’s pretty good. It’s real candid. It’s straightforward. I’ve got my own perceptions based on that, but what’s your take on that? Do you think Zillow is trying to crush you guys?
Alex: I think if crushing us makes them money, I think, yes, for sure. I advertised on Zillow. I made money on Zillow, and I paid a lot of money on Zillow, as well, to get those leads. But those are leads. Those are not relationships, and I tell agents that I train, I say, “Hey, guys, stop buying leads and start building relationships, because that is really where the focus of the real estate business should be.” But all these disruptors, quote, unquote “disruptors”… Zillow started off the business with this whole Zestimate thing just to get the eyeballs on the internet. Once they got the eyeballs, they’ve already won. They’ve got the eyeballs on the internet. They’ve got the traffic now.
But when I work with buyers in this area, I explain to them. Zillow is third party data. They’re not a brokerage. They’re scraping data from another source, and it’s not as accurate. Does Zillow care? Probably not, because they’re getting the eyeballs. iBuyers’s the same thing. I think that I’ve got this… There’s so many of these start-ups. I mean, I’m in Silicon Valley. There’s so many of these start-ups with the iBuyers and a lot of VC money behind it.
There’s this one very, very successful company, and one of the cofounders was buying a house in San Francisco. And he kept on getting outbid. Made an offer, got outbid. So he started this new company to really bring — I’m not going to say the name of it — but bring transparency to the real estate offer process. Basically, like a bidding process and everyone can see what’s going on. Buyers want that. Buyers want that transparency. Sellers don’t. Sellers are looking for one thing. They’re looking for the highest possible price.
I had another listing a few months ago in which, on the market, one offer, from one of these iBuyer kind of offers. They ended up paying significantly amount of money over the asking price, but they were the only one to offer, and that was more so because the agent was not experienced, was not local, did not know where the market was at. I feel like, yeah, there’s all this disruption happening, but I think that the value of the real estate agent is even more important — a good real estate agent, someone who has that local knowledge, that experience, and particularly that negotiation skills to be able to come in and be able to help represent the buyers or the sellers.
Geoff: Are you trying to play the game of “get to the customer first”?
Alex: I think speed is super important, even just utilizing technology. It’s not to replace it with the buying process but to get in front of them first and being able to see the skin in front of the client and build that relationship before anyone else does.
Geoff: Let me ask you this, though. We know all the eyeballs are going to Zillow. Right? That’s the destination for people looking at buying a house, typically, 186 million, on average, go there every month. Where does your website and your listings play into that? Are you trying to drive people to your — it sounds like an obvious question, but I’ve got to ask — drive eyeballs to your own individual page or how are you playing in that strategy?
Alex: I don’t have the budget to compete against Zillow. I don’t have the budget to compete against Redfin. The IDX searches on websites is dead. I’ll take that to my grave. The user interface and technology on Redfin, for example, is so much better than my site for search. So I’ve got clients that… Well, let me take a step back. Let’s talk about Zillow first.
Zillow is great for information about the background of a certain property, but it’s not very accurate in terms of search. It’s not accurate. It talks about foreclosures. There are no foreclosures in this area, and yet it talks about all this other information. It just wants to gather the eyeballs. So most of my clients, actually, do not use Zillow. They use it just to kind of have it as a reference point, but then they go to Redfin.
The funny thing is Redfin’s a competitor. They’re a brokerage and they’ve got kind of the discount model, but their user interface and their technology is amazing. Most of my clients are using Redfin, and then when they find the house, then they call me. I help them write the offer and negotiate the deal.
Geoff: Why do you think they’re not going with a Redfin agent if they’re already there?
Alex: Because that person doesn’t have the local knowledge and experience. I know that the pending sale down the street that just got under contract yesterday had four offers and then sold for $2 million.
Geoff: Why doesn’t the Redfin agent know that?
Alex: Because they’re not local. Their model isn’t to be based upon local, experienced agents. They’re siloed. They’re completely siloed into one agent does this, one agent does that, one agent does this. And so there’s not that ability to be able to be in the know. I’m selling real estate, and I’m helping buyers buy real estate all the time, so I’m completely always in my market, wheeling and dealing and knowing what’s going. Then I share that information with others that are doing the same thing. So we have a, really, 90/10 rule in terms of 10% of the agents are selling 90% of the real estate.
Geoff: Sure. Yeah. That’s becoming more and more the case. So then is the game for the buyer journey, what you just laid out there, is we know people start in that awareness — to use the Facebook term — the awareness, then consideration stage. When they’re in that consideration stage, they’re bouncing around to multiple destinations. They’re going to Zillow, Red… then they’re going to come across your content, and they’re be like, “Oh, cool. Alex has got some awesome content. Let me save him.” The metaphor or whatever I use is like planes in LAX. They’re all hanging out there. When they’re ready to call that plane in, they’re going to. Is that a similar thing in terms of [inaudible 0:38:50]?
Alex: Yeah. I think that for these buyers, they know at some point they’re going to need an agent, and so they’re assessing to see what their options are. I think they can definitely go with the iBuyers, which are kind of more of the discount model. Generally, a lot of buyers think they can do-it-yourselves, just like they don’t an agent to help them. There’s that type of buyer, but the majority of buyers in this market — particularly I’m talking about Silicon Valley where we have a lot of multiple offers on property, not enough housing to go around and competing buyers — more than saving money, buyers just want to be able to buy the house that they want.
So who’s going to help them to get that? Is it going to be the agent that’s just a part-time agent, or is it going to be the agent that doesn’t have as much experience? Or do they want the veteran agent that can maybe make sure to give you the best chance to get the job done? When they look for that, that’s really where I want to be is part of that consideration or hiring process.
Geoff: So it comes back to trust then?
Alex: Absolutely. It comes back to trust, and trusting that the right real estate agent’s going to add that value by their local knowledge, experience, and negotiation skills to get you the house.
Geoff: You’re leveraging content, your personal brand, your personality, being real and authentic, and that’s how you’re creating that trust with people online? You get found. People like what you do, and they’re like, “I think I’m going to choose Alex.”
Alex: Yeah. Absolutely.
Geoff: That’s pretty much what it is. Awesome. Okay, cool, man. Listen, I know you’re busy. I got another meeting pending here. Last question, I guess, closing out is, what are you trying to do different in 2019? What are you adding to your mix of marketing?
Alex: I think I’m going to be diving deeper into those three various channels that I mentioned — targeting real estate agents but locally, as well, for my real estate business, and then just continue to help other agents be better. I’m really changing my role. I’m a real estate evangelist. Right? I am a evangelist of the real estate industry and why it is such an amazing job to be a real estate agent in an honorable profession. I’m just going to continue on that path and see where it leads me.
Geoff: That’s awesome. We’re going to put links in the show notes to everything for you in terms of your online properties. Is there anything you want to give us additionally, though, if people do want to connect with you?
Alex: No. I mean, probably the easiest way is just tweet me at AlexWang.
Geoff: On the Twitters, huh? Alright.
Geoff: Love it, man. Well, listen, appreciate you making time very much, and listeners, as always, thank you for tuning in. We appreciate you, and if you like this episode, you know what to do. Leave a little love out on the socials, and we’ll see you on the next one. Bye for now.