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Sage Insights:

Hey everyone. This is Alex and Mike from Sage Digital Agency here today with Mr. Anthony Knight. He’s the Golden Knight of real estate. He’s with Platinum Real Estate Professionals here in Las Vegas. Anthony has been in the real estate business since he began buying and rehabbing properties at 19 years of age. He has literally seen it all in the real estate business. He’s a thought leader and influencer in the real estate world, traveling and speaking about real estate and marketing techniques across the country. Anthony, thank you very much for joining us today. We love to have you.

Anthony Knight:

Well, thanks for having me and I appreciate the nice intro. It’s all by default.

Sage Insights:

What do you mean by that?

Anthony Knight:

Just the way things happened for me in the real estate industry. Like you mentioned, I’d started buying and rehabbing properties when I was about 19 and I had another job at the time. I worked in a paper mill for paper manufacturing company, working four 12-hour shifts in a row, two days and two graveyards. And then I had four days off. So, on my four days off, living in a smaller community, there wasn’t much to do other than recreational activities.

So, I got into a hobby of buying properties and rehabbing them — at the time, we didn’t even use the word “flip” — and buying investment properties to hold as rentals. And then, fast forwarding ahead, I started my real estate career here in Las Vegas in 2009, which was an interesting time because we were right in the heart of the recession.

And so that was after a failed restaurant venture for me. I really didn’t know what I was going to do in life. And I definitely knew at that point that I didn’t want to go punch another time clock ever again, because I did that for 15 years, starting in high school.

In 2009 I was in a market where there was nothing but foreclosures and short sales. And so, as a new agent, there wasn’t much in regard to sellers. And so, I went heavily after buyers at the time.

Sage Insights:

And then fast forward now a little bit over a decade, and I mean Anthony, you’re one of the top real estate agents in Las Vegas undoubtedly. We cannot go from point A to point B without seeing your advertisements across Las Vegas.

So, you’ve really built a tremendous business in that time and it’s been a lot of fun from our perspective. It’s been a tremendous blessing to work together with you.

Anthony Knight:

Well, and it’s all been through digital marketing. In ’09 I worked at a Century 21 office and ended up being the top producer there in my first year. But what happened back then was I had to focus on working with buyers. Prices were really low, and they were coming in from mostly out of state and out of the country.

My broker at the time had a yellow page ad, full page, and we would get calls into the office. And in about the first six months I did really well converting those leads, but it dawned on me one day, and this was really, I had no experience at all. I mean, I was probably one of the last people to have a Facebook account to be honest.

But at that time, I thought, “Gosh, all these buyers are coming in from other places. Everybody in Vegas is losing their home. People are coming in from other places with cash and buying them up. Where do I get these people?” And I thought, “They’re Googling home searches. They’re Googling Las Vegas foreclosures, Las Vegas homes for sale, Summerlin homes, all of this stuff.”

And I was fortunate really right then at about the end of 2009 to find a guy by the name of Howard who founded a company called Tiger Lead that was later sold to realtor.com for millions. He was getting into pay per click campaigns and attached to it was a dashboard, which now really is what we refer to more as a CRM. Those have come a long way.

I started through vendors and resources because I had to focus on a good real estate agent, right? I can’t really be a marketing guy and I was able to find the right partners — as in fast forwarding to you guys. But we started generating leads and now I have about 70,000 people in my database that we manage on a daily basis.

It was all through digital marketing and eventually became social media marketing too. But really putting those leads in a good database and staying in front of them.

And that’s basically translated for me into a team of six agents that produces about 300 transactions a year. So, my top agent as an example, did 61 transactions last year and the average realtor nationwide does about 11. We’ve never done an open house. We’ve never door knocked. We’ve never cold called.

Sage Insights:

It seems that the strategies of old are unnecessary. I’ve heard you say that in past conversations. It’s the whole idea of presenting an open house or doing some of those tactics that maybe in the past used to work well. But it has totally transformed into a digital landscape to get in front of the right people, get your listings in front of the right buyers, etc. as opposed to tactics that worked decades before.

Anthony Knight:

It worked then because the information wasn’t there for the consumer like it is today. We have to remember too — I remind other real estate agents because a lot of them are, I don’t know if apprehensive is the right word, but resistant to this change. We have to remember we just celebrated almost a year ago now, the 30th anniversary of the world wide web.

I would say the majority of the realtors who aren’t adopting these philosophies, they don’t want to change. It’s a level of comfort and it’s intimidation I think, especially when they’re looking at learning a CRM or any type of digital platform at all. They don’t know where to go. They don’t always have the funds for the ad spin.

But I started out in 2009 with a $1,200 a month budget, which was a lot for me at the time. Being new in the industry and having to recover from the recession or still being it in really, I started with a $1,200 marketing budget total. Now it hovers around $30,000.

Sage Insights:

I’m particularly impressed with the amount of people you have in your database, and I really, really just think that that is a tremendous thing that you did.

It was very important for you to recognize that early on and leverage everything that you were doing, to funnel all of these people into one place and then again, to be able to be top of mind.

This person who got an email from you, maybe they’re not interested in buying or selling right at this moment, but who knows if their family member is? Who knows what’s going on six months from now? And if you get ahead of them and get something in front of them with some frequency, it seems like when the time comes, they’re going to say, “Oh, I remember I got that email from Anthony Knight or his group.” I think that’s tremendous.

Anthony Knight:

Just about any business, but real estate especially, is based on having as many conversations as you possibly can, right? And so there have been maybe hundreds of leads now that we’ve generated with people we never even met.

We would get a call from somebody three years later who says, “Hey, so-and-so referred you” and we’re thinking, “Who’s that?” And we’d look in the database and think, “Oh, okay, it’s that person from three years ago. Okay, well good. We had enough conversations with them.”

In real estate there are three components I see to be successful. They’re not in any order, but they are knowledge, effort, and relationships. That’s the base.

Sage Insights:

You said something pretty spot on. We find when we have conversations with people in the real estate industry who are looking to get into the marketing side of their business, they’re so focused on the email or whatever it is, but it’s all focused around contacts, not the conversations. It really is all about the conversations and being able to sort of tie that back into a relationship.

We see people solely focused on buying a list of phone numbers or email addresses and then feeding it into an email platform, and then they can’t figure out why they don’t get any sort of response or an ROI out of the email that they sent on day one.

Anthony Knight:

The email drips are important, but the email drips are going to become redundant. And the other side of it is that you still have to have that conversation. If a lead registers on your website then they’re a warm lead at that point, right? They took the liberty to type in their information, their name, their phone number, their email. If it’s all correct, which most of the time it is nowadays because there are CRMs that do a reverse look up, verifying the phone number, boom. Right.

The key is you’ve got to call that lead within the first five minutes of receiving it in real time. And the reason why is because that person is in the moment, they’re in the mood at that particular time to look at real estate, so you’re not annoying them. They’re a warm lead and that’s their moment.

A lot of agents, 40% of internet leads don’t even get clicked on or opened in the CRM at all and you have to make several calls. But making that first initial call right away is crucial because if you wait until the next day, or even if you wait three hours, they might be at the grocery store, cooking dinner, or at their kid’s soccer game or at work or who knows.

Sage Insights:

Or worse, they would have already contacted a competitor of yours.

Anthony Knight:

That happens definitely too. Speed to action is also very important, especially when you’re spending the dollars to generate.

Sage Insights:

So, you’re really taking into account the lifetime value of this particular customer. You’re not looking at maybe a listing fee where you’re doing a one-off, but that it’s a relationship you’re building. Who knows which referrals could come from it?

And you are willing to invest the money upfront in order to generate that traffic to the website, start a conversation, get them into your system, speak to them over the course of whatever period they need in order to get comfortable with you. And again, add them to the ecosystem, so to speak.

Anthony Knight:

There’s a high-dollar value on building a solid database, if it’s complete and operated properly, especially in this industry. The database to me is the biggest asset I have in my business by far. Then we get into billboard, radio and TV, but we’re still using digital marketing as a piggyback.

I’ve realized that with billboards all over town and on the freeways, that people are very likely going to see the message but not catch the phone number, not be able to remember it, definitely not writing it down, and probably not calling that minute. But when they’re going down the I-15 at 80 miles an hour, they’re not catching even the website either.

We know that through our print marketing and other avenues that we’re still capturing them through Google because they’re Googling the keywords of our message on the billboard and then they’re pressing the call button on their phone. They probably will never know the phone number.

Sage Insights:

That’s true. Yes, in fact, that’s how you and I met. I saw one of your billboards and I can’t remember the site, but I went into Google, put in whatever I remembered, found you, and that’s how the relationship started.

Anthony Knight:

There’s no way for me to know if this is the correct amount, but the rule of thumb I adopted was that whatever billboard cost is, I spend 25% of that amount on digital marketing. All billboard costs are different, and it depends on where they are. But if a billboard costs us $1,000, I’m spending $250 on digital marketing.

So, you need to add that into your costs in a sense because we know that’s how they’re finding us ultimately from that billboard ad. They’re going to Google it first, then they’re probably visiting our website for a few minutes. And then they’re either registering or they’re calling us directly.

So last year we had just under 300 listing calls and our conversion rate was 22% and that’s been pretty steady for about the last three years in a row. We’ve hovered around 21.5% to 22%.

Sage Insights:

You’ve obviously been in the space for a while, and you have the resources both financially and operationally. If I was a new real estate agent and I was trying to get started today in the business, as far as sort of creating the strategy, what would you recommend as the timeline or the roadmap?

Anthony Knight:

Well, I think you’ve got to look at it as a business and so it would be similar to starting any other business. You have to have a budget. You have to have funds available somehow to start campaigns and you hire, in my opinion, Sage Digital.

You have a nice website built and you have a budget for ads and you run them into a good CRM. And from there you follow the rules of whatever the CRM company is. They will give you guidance on how many calls you should make, what kind of drip campaigns you set up, etc. Whichever CRM you pick, you should listen to them because they know their platform and they know what works. It’s simple but it’s not easy. It’s definitely not that complicated.

Sage Insights:

One of the biggest takeaways from what you’re saying is that people need to look at the marketing budget as not an expense. At the end of the day, the phone is not going to ring magically because you just throw a website up. Nobody’s going to come to your website without marketing dollars that are attributed to that. Therefore, it’s not an expense, it’s an investment in your business. You then need to get reporting on it and make sure things are what they should be.

Anthony, just the fact that you know your exact percentages, it shows that you look at the data and you know exactly the dollar value, what $1 invested should net you at the end hypothetically. So, I think that that’s incredibly good.

Anthony Knight:

Well, yes, you nailed it too. I mean, you can have the most beautiful website in the world, but if you’re not driving or doing something or consulting with somebody to drive traffic to it, it’s like having basically a Ferrari without an engine.

You need to set a budget and follow the rules and make the calls and it works. And we know too, like you said, it’s an investment. So, we know that our ROI typically — for years now, it’s never really changed — is somewhere in the 400% rate.

Sage Insights:

I’d love to dive in a little bit further about the CRM. I think a lot of agents who don’t really know where to start, the website and the paid search ads, we already have several podcasts on that, but as far as what an agent should look for in a CRM, what would you suggest? Should they focus on integrations, how it plays with the website, phone tracking, or what?

Anthony Knight:

Definitely. There’re a lot of CRMs nowadays that are pretty similar and they’re like rocket ships basically. You can do just about anything you can think of as far as the dialer that’s built in and everything else.

I always say the best CRM is the one you use because that’s a problem in our industry. A lot of agents have taken the step to subscribe to a platform and they pay for it every month, but they don’t really use it or they don’t use it properly.

But what you’re really looking for is obviously something that can integrate with whatever type of lead generation you’re doing. Most of them will have an API code and beyond that, then you’re looking at, “Is it user friendly?” Especially if you’re going to have a team and train them on it. It’s got to be fairly simple to use and not too complicated.

But the one I use is called Rocket Agent. It’s great. What I love about it is that it grades us from an A to an F on our performance based on the follow-ups that were sent and whether or not we made them. It’ll set automatic follow-ups based on what you click on for the conversation you had.

Like, if the lead says, “I’m ready in six months” you’ve clicked that, but it’s going to schedule a follow up in 60 days because a lot of times they’ll tell you six months and we call them three months later and they bought.

Also, the auto dialer that’s built in records incoming and outbound calls for the lead. So that’s really good from a team management perspective, that I can listen in on the conversations that my agents have had and coach them.

Plus, there’s a whole bunch of other things we can do on the backend for the escrow management and lender management sides as well. So, I recommend Rocket Agent, but there’re some other good ones too. Follow Up Boss is a good one as well.

Sage Insights:

I’ve seen a lot of these real estate platforms that call themselves CRMs, but it’s really more that they do websites, marketing, and they sell you leads. What are your thoughts about those?

Anthony Knight:

An agent can subscribe to those. They can buy leads from Zillow or Commissions Inc. or Boom Town. There’re a lot of them that have a CRM built in with your account, and they’re good CRMs too. But they’re charging you to generate those leads. You’re going to pay a heavy licensing fee, typically about $1200 to $1500 a month, and then you’re going to have to pay for your ad spend too.

So, I think it’s better to subscribe to a CRM outside of that because of the cost. But the other problem is that you get tied in with one of these lead gen systems, and if you ever want to leave them, you lose your CRM.

Instead, you can subscribe to a Follow Up Boss or Rocket Agent for $100 a month, then hire a consultant to do your ad spend and run your leads right into the CRM. That way, you’re going to be able to get almost twice the ad spend because you’re not going to be paying a $1,500 a month licensing fee.

Sage Insights:

Makes a lot of sense. I mean, you don’t want to get tied in with a product and then you’re sort of strong-armed into losing the website, losing your CRM, losing all your data rights.

Anthony Knight:

Right. You’ll lose the website too. So, you should have your own website, get a third-party CRM, and hire a digital marketing consultant to manage your site and do your ad spin. Then you’re going to be able to get more for your money for sure.

Sage Insights:

One point about that I’d like to interject is that it’s all about hiring the right company. Again, one can go and open a Google ads account and have a significant budget, but if it’s not watched, if it’s not looked at properly, you’re going to be paying for clicks for listing homes in places where you’re not even licensed.

Anthony Knight:

And we both know I’ve been in that situation more than once.

Sage Insights:

Yes, it’s not a good situation. So, it’s very important to ensure that whoever has that oversight, it will be worth whatever you pay them in order to ensure your ad spend is not being thrown away.

One thing that I’ve found with independent CRMs that are not linked to websites or lead generations, I find them to be much more intuitive, much better CRMs. You can actually take real data in and get real actionable insights, as opposed to some sort of a solution that might be a little bulkier.

One point that you touched on are the email sequences and the follow-ups. Where do you get these emails? Are they provided by the CRMs? Is it something that you write? Do you have somebody write them?

Anthony Knight:

You can do both. You can edit them if you want, but the CRMs come with all kinds of marketing campaigns built in for just about any situation you can think of.

Sage Insights:

I can imagine that an agent may be feeling that they’re kind of stagnant these days, not knowing what direction to go. You ask them to write content for email follow up. They’re going to look at you like, “Are you crazy? I have no clue how to even start that.”

Anthony Knight:

Well, you set it one time on the campaign, and they’re scheduled on auto fills with the person’s name. The emails are well-written and look like you sat down and took the time to write it. However, it’s based on if they say they’re six months out or a year out or working with another agent or just looking or they’re a seller.

Sage Insights:

I’ve been doing email marketing for probably 12 years, and over the years all the new tools come out, different algorithms as far as sending times and a whole bunch of tools to make your email perform better, have sort of really evolved email.

And emails are still, for many of our clients, some of the top performing channels just because it’s so directed. You can get personal. You can send the right message to the right person at the right time and it really works out.

However, one channel that I see very underutilized, it’s somewhat new, is SMS or text message marketing. There are regulations, so it has to be used correctly. Have you dabbled with it before? Is it something that you’ve seen other agents use?

Anthony Knight:

We do that as well, but that’s also built into the CRM.

Sage Insights:

And how do you find it works when you start text messaging clients?

Anthony Knight:

We get about a 20% contact capture rate. It’s worth it.

We’re also using a lot of artificial intelligence. We’re finding that the AI is having a more successful conversation with the lead than I would myself if I was sitting there responding. It’s sending out the text, they respond and it’s a conversation. In some cases, by the time the conversation ends, they’re looking for a specific type of property and they’re ready to be referred to a lender and they want to go out and look this weekend.

Ours even noticed that someone one texted, “I’m sorry, can’t talk right now. I’m at a funeral.” And the AI responded, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I apologize for bothering you at this time. If there’s a convenient time for you to speak, etc.” And the lead of course, texted back and said, “Thank you so much. Yeah, call me on Wednesday.”

Sage Insights:

Look, as you’ve said, we could talk for hours about this. It’s a fascinating subject. I think that any agent, frankly, should listen to this podcast, to get the insights from you as somebody who has been doing this for such a long time.

We really enjoyed having you on here. If there’s ever a time that you’re available again to do a deeper dive, maybe into particular segments of what we talked about today, we would certainly love to do that. We really, really appreciate you joining us today.

 

 

This post was adapted from a conversation with Anthony Knight, “The Golden Knight of Real Estate,” from Platinum Real Estate Professionals in Las Vegas, NV. He has been in the real estate business since he began buying and rehabbing properties at 19 years of age and has literally seen it all in the industry. He’s a thought leader and influencer in the real estate world, traveling and speaking about real estate and marketing techniques across the country.