May 23, 2020

JF2090: Marketing With Groundbreaker Director Ed Cravo

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Ed Cravo is the Co-Founder and Director of Marketing at Groundbreaker Technologies, Inc. He shares his journey into marketing and shares how Groundbreaker can help investors in their personal business. Ed explains how they can help you do more deals with less work while saving you money on operations and banking. The Groundbreaker software lets you streamline your fundraising, relations, distribution payments, and reporting in one easy-to-use tool.

Ed Cravo Real Estate Background: 

    • Co-Founder and Director of Marketing at Grounderbreaker Technologies, Inc
    • Over 4 years of real estate technology experience
    • Based in Chicago, IL
    • Say hi to him at: 
    • Best Ever Book: Drive by Dan Pink 

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Best Ever Tweet:

“The ease of use is such a big deal for us” – Ed Cravo


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Ed Cravo. How are you doing, Ed?

Ed Cravo: I’m doing great, Joe. Thanks for having me. Looking forward to not getting into any fluffy stuff.

Joe Fairless: That’s right. Well, you know the drill then. Best Ever listeners, you know Ed and his company Groundbreaker, because they’re a sponsor of today’s episode, as you are well aware. I’ve gotten to know his team through this process, and I know you’re gonna get a lot of value from this conversation.

So first off a little bit about Ed – he’s the co-founder and Director of Marketing at Groundbreaker Technologies, he’s got over four years of real estate technology experience, he’s based in Chicago. With that being said, Ed, do you want to give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Ed Cravo: Absolutely. So I started my career in marketing right out of college, joined a search engine optimization company, and I started doing sales there, but just learned the entire marketing business as well, moved on to founding my own marketing company after that. In that marketing company we serviced real estate clients, construction clients, e-commerce websites, etc., and then shortly after that, it was a growing agency, but learning a lot, picking up a lot of skills, shortly after that I joined Jake at Groundbreaker and just started focusing on marketing and sales, and that’s been the story since the last four years.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So what was Groundbreaker when you joined?

Ed Cravo: Groundbreaker, when I joined, was already a software as a service company for real estate investment companies. What it did, and it’s the same mission, the same thing it does today, it helps real estate syndicators automate their day to day activities around fundraising, investor relations, reporting, etc, and elevating their brand as well and giving their investors an investor portal where they can gain access to their data and their investments.

Joe Fairless: How has the product evolved over the four years since you’ve been on the team?

Ed Cravo: That’s a great question, because it has actually evolved a lot. The goals are still the same, but what we learned– we were probably the first company to come out with the solution, and it was a bit more than four years ago; I joined a little bit after the company had already gotten started. What we learned over the first couple of years was that ease of use was extremely important, and as syndicators would provide the software to their investors, it was really important that their investors just loved it at the first try, so that they kept coming back, and that wasn’t always the case in the early days.

So we’re actually on the second version of the software, which we are relaunching or have relaunched most of it already or continuously improving on, and our biggest focus was how can we make this as easy as possible to use, how we can make this easy on the sponsors, how we can make this easy on the LP ambassadors… So that’s why it has evolved a lot. We try to do all of the things we’re doing, but with less clicks and less complication.

Joe Fairless: What are some specific examples of what it used to be from a use case standpoint and what you’re doing now to improve that process?

Ed Cravo: Things are easier to reach now. So for example, in the software, there’s this big search bar at the top – this is on the manager side – and if you want to create a new contact, you used to have to go to your contacts section and then click the plus button and then start filling information in. Now you can just click in the search bar and type ‘create contact’ and the option to go directly to that final location where you add the contact comes up. Same thing for creating new entities, for creating new distributions. So you can still navigate to all the different sections, but now you can navigate to everything by just typing what you want to do at the top. So that’s one specific example, but overall it’s just the user experience as well. Instead of having to click three or four different places to get somewhere, now you can get there with less clicks, less of a learning curve.

Joe Fairless: What are some of the responsibilities that you have with Groundbreaker? You said you’re the director of marketing, you’re the co-founder. What does that mean in terms of a day to day for you?

Ed Cravo: That changes over time.

Joe Fairless: I bet.

Ed Cravo: Yeah… But when I first started four years ago, what I did was I would help new clients get onboarded, as in I would deploy their platform, I would make sure that their logos were in the right place, etc, but at the same time I was doing marketing. I was getting the website set up so that we could start to drive a lot of search engine optimization traffic, which was our big focus in the early days. And that was in the beginning.

Nowadays, I’m mostly trying to develop our inbound marketing in all sorts of ways, whether that’s growing our blog, whether that’s establishing a partnership with you guys, or even setting up for the Best Ever conference, that and the entire thing set up, so that we can come in and try to perform our best while there.

Joe Fairless: You joined an SEO company out of college and you were on the sales team. What did you learn from that experience that you’re applying in your current role?

Ed Cravo: One thing that I didn’t mention with your previous question is also sales. So I have, at times, done too much marketing, to the point that we had enough leads that somebody needed to step into sales. This was years ago. So I jumped into that as well. So I think the things that I learned there, the biggest one was, how do you get a website to the first page of Google for a specific keyword? And that was the most valuable thing I learned earlier on, and of course, that’s an evolving art and science, search engine optimization, but I would say that was one of the biggest, most valuable things I learned early on, that I have applied to Groundbreaker and to any work that I do with marketing.

Joe Fairless: Let’s take a step back and let’s just talk about — is it fair to refer to your service as an investor portal?

Ed Cravo: Yeah, that’s one part of it. Investment management or syndication automation would be fair as well. It’s just we’re building different tools to automate a lot of those day to day activities, but the investor portal is a big part of it. That’s one of the things that our clients are able to give to their LP investors.

Joe Fairless: So let’s just talk about it in that context for just a moment, because I think a lot of the Best Ever listeners think about what you do in terms of an investor portal, and then there’s things underneath that that correspond to the investor portal. So with the investor portal, I can tell you personally, I was not on board for having one for our company because I was concerned about the transition from getting investors in our current deals from nothing, just email updates and no portal, and we would do one-off email responses when they asked to look at distribution histories, and we would manually change their information, whether it’s they moved or whether they just got a different bank account, we’d have to work with them on that… And we would do all that manually.

And I was against it initially, for a long time, because I was concerned with the transition period, because I thought it’d ruffle a lot of feathers with our investors, because now they have to have access to a new website with login information, etc. So what do you say to a syndicator who has those concerns whenever they’re talking to you about jumping on board with Groundbreaker for that solution, for a portal, but they get the same concerns I did?

Ed Cravo: Yes. “What’s this busywork that they’re trying to push on me? Why do I need this?” etc. It’s a really great question. I think we’ve seen the market move. I think 2015 is when we first started to say, “Okay, here is this technology we have.” We were trying to do something else with it at first, but then we started to talk to some real estate syndicators and tell them, “We can give you this in white-label, what do you think?” Some of them were interested and some of them bought it. They cashed in the early days to be able to use this technology. It wasn’t as streamlined to offer as it is today. What we’ve seen over time is that — this is a classic market adoption curve is what we’re seeing. First, there’s that under 2% of the market adopting a new technology. They’re called the innovators or early adopters. And the innovators and early adopters, what they want is they want the latest and greatest. They want the coolest toy, because they think that that’s going to give them a leg up in their competition; and I’m speaking in broad terms here, not just about our technology, and it is true.

The innovators and early adopters are often able to get a leg up on their competition by being the first ones to come out with something that the market’s going to demand later. They’re the first ones and people start talking about them, and maybe in this specific context, the innovator or early adopter, one of your LPs is sitting at dinner with some high net worth friends. And what do high net worth individuals talk about at dinner? Well, many times they talk about what they invest in, or their latest and greatest investment, or their latest and greatest call in the stock market, etc. So they might, at that point, pull up their investor report and be like, “Look, I invest in real estate right through this portal. This is how it works,” and show them right then and there on a tablet or phone. And those are the early innovators.

Joe Fairless: Yeah.

Ed Cravo: The early majority is the next section of the market, and you can look this up on online market adoption curve. The early majority is a big chunk of the market, and that’s where we find ourselves in today, and that’s when the actual LP investors are beginning to ask the syndicators for a portal saying, “Hey, I have a portal with this other syndicator that I work with. Why don’t we have a portal? I’d like to have a portal so I can log in and download my documents, I can log in and see my distributions, what’s coming, what’s past, etc.” So I think, right now, we’re in the market phase where the LPs are beginning to ask for it, and the syndicators themselves are starting to look for it.

We’ve seen the conversation online on LinkedIn, at the Best Ever Conference, where this is a point of focus now in our mind, and I believe it’s pretty clear that as the late majority comes in and the laggards come in – those are the later stages of the adoption curve. Pretty much every real estate syndicator out there is going to have some online experience for their investors. So yes, it’s all about timing, like you said, and yes, it may be a hassle to do it in the beginning, but I think it’s going to become a question of, is this even a choice anymore? Can I even continue to grow my business without these tools that are helping my competitors advance, that are helping the other companies grow faster, it’s helping them do more deals, spend less time, just give their LP investors a better experience in general. Can I afford not to have that? We don’t think that the answer is going to be, “Yes, I can afford to not have that,” for very long.

Joe Fairless: Thank you for sharing that thought process and the market adoption curve. I did a quick Google search, and I was following along with you as you were going through it. I’m actually proud that we’re in the early majority, and that’s when we jumped on board; that we weren’t in the late majority or the laggards. But exactly what you said, LPs started coming to us and saying, “What’s the login to the portal? How can I get access to it?” I’m like, “Well, we don’t have one right now.”

From a general partnership standpoint, as you said, it’s helping the competition with their business. So why not allow it to help us with our business? So I get that, eventually, it’s not even going to be a choice. You just need it. Let’s go back to the root of the question though, that I asked, and that is the transition period that could be painful for limited partners and general partners. So can you talk to us about what that transition period looks like, tactically speaking, and how you make it as pain-free as possible?

Ed Cravo: Absolutely. So without a doubt, introducing a new platform to a new group of people may cause a little bit of pushback, or you may feel that there’s going to be a little bit of pushback. So it’s important to do it right. It’s important to get it right, to plan it appropriately. So the way that is done right now with Groundbreaker is that we call it white glove onboarding. And what that means is that you have a customer success person on our team that is providing you and your LPs with the documentation, the instructions and the training that they will need in order to be able to make this transition over to the new platform.

So where they’re coming from is they’re coming from receiving emails and needing to make phone calls to you to get updates, if that was the case or if you’re providing updates to them via email. So they are still going to be able to receive emails from the general partner, but those emails may be done in an automated fashion through the platform, or they may be done in a scalable fashion (not completely automated) through the platform as well. But in the early days, it’s about training the LPs on how to use the platform, and it’s about training the GP and the GP team on how to not only use the platform, but communicate with the LP investors.

So in our case, specifically, we’re providing our GP clients with the documentation, with the training material that they can pass on to their investors, and then we’re supporting them throughout that entire process. But that brings it all back to the point that I was saying earlier where ease of use, ease of adoption is extremely important for this specific purpose, for that transition period. Let’s face it, many LP investors may not be the most tech-savvy. We’ve got a lot of LP investors who are extremely tech-savvy, and we’ve got a new wave and a new generation of LP investors who are extremely tech-savvy coming into– beginning to manage the family money or the money that they’re making themselves.

So it’s all about being able to offer that high touch support early on if needed, but primarily being able to offer something that does not need that much support in order for somebody to figure out how to use as well.

Joe Fairless: What’s something a competitor of yours offers currently that you do not offer and why?

Ed Cravo: In terms of functionality?

Joe Fairless: Yeah.

Ed Cravo: Let’s see. So Juniper Square is a well-known competitor of ours, and they offer a very robust waterfall modeling functionality. And at this point, we do not have anything as robust, and the reason why is because we just have not caught up with them on that yet.

Joe Fairless: Has there been a big need?

Ed Cravo: Well, everyone does distribution to waterfall. So there is a need for it, and the question is, will people trade the ease of the functionality? There’s still a way to do it through Groundbreaker. It’s not as automated, it doesn’t calculate as automatically, but there’s still a way to do it by uploading the distributions. Now the question is, are people trading the high-end functionality for the price or the price for dealing with the current workaround, which we are saying, “Hey, we’ll get this, we’ll make this better and better. Join us now so that we can grow together”?

Joe Fairless: What’s been something that has surprised you about the users as they experience the platform, whether it’s they spend more time here, or they really focus a lot on certain components of it that we didn’t think were going to be as important, but now we moved our efforts into development into that area – anything like that?

Ed Cravo: I may not be the best person to answer that question, and I do have an answer, but I’m not sure that it’s exactly what we’re asking here, because I’ve already said it, and it’s that the ease of use is such a big deal. Early on, we were really the first ones out there and we were like, “This works. It’s great.” Through the phone, you could almost see their eyes light up. Through the phone, you could almost see that. That was three or four years ago as we gave a demo. But then we just realized ease of use is more important here than any other technology we’ve seen in the past, because of the work that’s been done with the LPs.

Joe Fairless: Taking a giant step back, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Ed Cravo: Oh, my best real estate investing advice ever would be to probably not listen to me on that advice because I’m not — I’m a technology and marketing person.

Joe Fairless: So let’s talk about that. So let me rephrase. Based on your background, as a technology and marketing person who works in real estate, what’s a tip or a piece of advice you have for someone who is focused on technology and marketing in real estate? Just whether it’s an SEO tip, or — you already talked about product adoption curve, which is really interesting, but what’s something based on your background?

Ed Cravo: Okay, now that’s much easier for me to answer. Thank you for rephrasing so that even I can understand it. So I would say two things. Biggest one– so this is specifically for the GPs out there that are trying to attract more LPs or trying to close more deals with LPs – it’s transparency. We’ve learned a lot about transparency recently with one of our mentors. Todd Caponi is the author of the book, The Transparency Sale, and it’s just such a powerful state of mind and mindset to have to be transparent… Because not only is that going to help you gain the trust of your LPs, but it’s also going to help you put forth the best offer that you possibly can. Because if you’re going to go out there and be 100% transparent about everything, you’re not going to go out there until you are comfortable with that being 100% transparent.

A couple of years ago we started learning this, and it’s just changed the way that people respond to us. It’s changed the relationships that we’ve built by just being brutally honest, brutally transparent with everything. It’s really made people build a better relationship with us. So I think that’s huge, even for PPs as well as they’re starting to build their businesses, they’re starting to expand and work with more LPs, is by figuring out “How can we be as transparent as possible with everything we’re doing?”

The other one I’d tack onto that from a marketing perspective is to figure out how you can be omnipresent. How can you be so present in the different channels, in the different watering holes that your audience is in that they can’t ignore you? If your audience is listening to podcasts, how can you be on the podcast? If your audience is reading BiggerPockets’ forums, how can you be on the BiggerPockets’ forums? Figuring out where your audience is, and then from there, making sure that you are present in those environments has served us really well at Groundbreaker.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Ed Cravo: Absolutely, excited for it.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:22:12]:07] to [00:22:58]:09]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?

Ed Cravo: Best ever book I’ve recently read– not that many books, but I read very closely into them, maybe 10, 12 a year, and the recent one would be Drive by Dan Pink. It’s all about motivation. What motivates us? It’s so cool, because it really dispels a lot of thoughts you would assume about motivation, and they start out with an example about motivation in monkeys in the lab, and the author Dan Pink says, “This is the physics equivalent of letting the ball go and the ball flying up instead of falling down.” So they reveal this entire third driver of motivation. I don’t know if they call it specifically intrinsic motivation, but it’s all about intrinsic motivation.

It shows us that, sure, we are all motivated by rewards; that is undeniable. But there’s this entire third area of motivation, and the first one is just your basic human needs, and then there are rewards, and then there is this intrinsic motivation, which is people’s motivation to just be better. It’s people’s motivation to reach for mastery and become better at what they do, and it’s extremely powerful. Ever since reading the book, I see it everywhere. We actually included it in our hiring process from now on. We look for intrinsic motivation; it’s the number one characteristic that we look for every time we’re hiring. So I highly recommend it; very exciting, very eye-opening book.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Ed Cravo: About what I’m doing specifically, We try to keep that very updated; that’s .co.

Joe Fairless: There’s also, and you can get a free pitch deck template for all of you Best Ever listeners out there, and that will be very helpful for you as well.

Ed, thank you so much for being on the show and talking about your background, talking about portals. I know that’s just one component of your company, but the platform that you all have, and then addressing some reservations people might have about entering into this space if they’re just general partner, and as you said, eventually it’s not even going to be a choice; you just need to do it. So you might as well do it now, whenever you’re earlier on in the company, than later… Because the earlier you do it, the better off you’ll be, and I can tell you from experience, that’s definitely the case. So thanks so much for being on the show, Ed. I hope you have the best ever day. Talk to you again soon.

Ed Cravo: Thank you so much, Joe. Thank you for having me.

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