A spinoff from Tim Ferris and his "1000 true fans", Joe and Theo share the magic of strengthening and maintaining that 2000 investor core. They preach never to buy an email list and share their unfortunate experience, and Joe spells it out as to why your investors could care less about you? hint, you need to send him emails and other correspondence regularly.
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I'm Joe Fairless, I am with my co-host on Follow Along Friday, Theo Hicks. Theo, what's your favorite color?
Theo Hicks: Blue today.
Joe Fairless: Okay, cool. I ask you that because I always say, "How are you doing?", you're like "Great, Joe", and then I roll right into it. I wanted to throw you a changeup today.
This is a show where we get to the best real estate investing advice ever. We cut out all the fluff that you might hear in other real estate platforms, but here - no fluff, baby.
Today, since it's Friday, it's a special segment, and we're going to talk about what we've got going on in our entrepreneurial endeavors and answer your questions that you have. So if you are watching this via Facebook Live, then feel free to submit questions below, and we will either get to them on this episode, or most likely another episode, because this one is jam packed. How are we gonna structure this one today?
Theo Hicks: Yeah, full play today. We're gonna talk about five different things. First we're gonna talk about what Tim Ferriss (from his book, Tools of Titans) refers to as "a thousand true fans", but we're gonna talk about "two thousand true fans." Joe has a little twist on that.
Then we're gonna transition into talking about how and why you want to send your private money investors monthly e-mail updates when you're doing your deals...
Joe Fairless: And how to structure them.
Theo Hicks: And how to structure the e-mails, yeah.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, what to say and what's important to include every month.
Theo Hicks: And from that we're gonna transition into what we've learned by trying to buy an e-mail list...
Joe Fairless: Yeah, absolute disaster.
Theo Hicks: We'll talk about that a little bit, and then we're gonna talk about goals, and a concept called 50/50 goals, which we'll get into in more detail. Then, finally, towards the end, a question about raising rents for an apartment community.
Joe Fairless: Sweet. And that question was submitted...
Theo Hicks: ...on YouTube.
Joe Fairless: Alright, cool. So the first thing you mentioned was the 2,000 fan thing... You have Tools of Titans...
Theo Hicks: I do.
Joe Fairless: And I have the book Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss... Best Ever listeners, YOU should have Tools of Titans, the book by Tim Ferriss. In the book, there's a chapter... I forget who's interview is profiled...
Theo Hicks: I can't remember either.
Joe Fairless: But he says that being generally famous is overrated, because it's more of a liability than an asset. If everyone knows your name, everyone knows who you are, there's more downside than upside. If you think about it, it's true... Unless maybe you're a movie star, or a performer, in some way. I think there might be some exceptions, but for most of us that's true. And instead of being generally famous, it's more important to be selectively famous to 2,000-3,000 of the most highly targeted individuals.
When I read that, it immediately clicked for me. I e-mailed a couple of my team members - Theo, one of them, and some others - and I said, "Here is our target audience, our primary target audience." This is actually gonna be really helpful for any Best Ever listener who's raising money, because I'm about to tell you who my primary target audience is, and these are the 2,000-3,000 people that will help my business grow the most, therefore I wanna focus our efforts on that. That is 35-65 year old males.
Now, we have about 30% females listening to this from the audience, and I'm all about targeting females as well, but the reality is, when I look at my investor list, that 95% of them are males that I work with. I have a couple really large female investors, but primarily - I'm just going by numbers, it's just data - 90%+ easy are males, and 90%+ are within the ages of 35 to 65, and the majority live in or very close to a large city, and they are either business owners, C-suite executives, doctors, or real estate investors who were active but want to be passive, because they're done with it.
The last part is a bit generic, because it's a lot of the population. They're either a business owner, executive, a doctor or a real estate investor who wants to be passive. But that's true, that's when I'm looking at the investors who have invested in our deals, that's who they are. After reading that, the laser focus is on that target audience.
The one outcome from that was I am getting a page on my website called InvestWithJoe.com - it's being built right now, because I realized, "Holy cow, that's my target audience!" That's who we work with the most, but there's nothing when they go to our website that actually says, "Hey, person who is perfect to partner with us (and accredited, by the way; they have to be accredited), here's the page just for you!" and therefore, in about a week and a half to two weeks, when you go to InvestWithJoe.com, it will be a landing page just for individuals that I'm referring to.
Again, disclaimer, people outside of what I just said - females, people who are 70 or 25 years old, people who don't have the occupations I mentioned, yes I've partnered in some capacity with a lot of people on my deals, but they're all accredited, and primarily that's the target audience.
It's actually refreshing, because now it's not a matter of "Okay, let's look to see how many video views we have on YouTube, how many e-mails have we gathered, how many downloads do we get of the podcast", it's more about who are we attracting? Because it's better to be selectively famous within 2,000-3,000 or the individuals I just described, than to be generally famous to everyone, have our show on a billboard somewhere and waste money and get leads that aren't qualified.
Theo Hicks: Yeah, what you mentioned was interesting, because you put your own little twist on it... The original post about 1,000 true fans is basically saying that you want to maybe make a product - one of your products, if it's $10 (some monthly product) and you sell it to 1,000 people; that's $10,000/month, $120,000/year, which is plenty of money to live off of, so why would you focus on hitting millions and millions of people and maybe have them purchase it maybe one month or two months...? Instead of having 1,000 people that buy your $10/month product but like you so much [unintelligible 00:09:06.11] maybe they'll buy your $10,000 seminar or some sort of video series or consulting program you have out.
I like how you take it and you're like "You can use it for anything." Whatever business you're doing, whatever thought leadership platform you have, you can do the exact same concept.
Joe Fairless: Yeah. I didn't think of it that way. That's absolutely true. So thank you, Tim Ferriss, thank you for putting together Tools of Titans, and thank you for doing those interviews, and thank you to whoever you interviewed whose name we can't remember, and who mentioned this in the book.
Theo Hicks: If you just google "1,000 true fans", it's basically a blog post, I believe...
Joe Fairless: Well, these are two separate things. 1,000 true fans is an article that was written and has been since updated, because Tim talks about it a lot... But separately, he interviewed someone on his podcast, and it's in the back portion of the book, and this individual talked about how not to be generally famous, but be selectively famous with 2,000-3,000 people, and it's a different person from who authored 1,000 true fans, but a similar concept.
Theo Hicks: Okay... I'm gonna look it up, and then the YouTube video and the show notes of the podcast - we'll put the name down there.
Joe Fairless: Sweet, so we'll give him credit.
Theo Hicks: Okay, so that's being famous to 2,000 people. Next, we're gonna transition into talking about monthly investor e-mails.
Joe Fairless: Monthly investor e-mails. I'm gonna get my laptop out for this, because I'm gonna list out the outline that we put together for our monthly e-mails to investors in our deals. Before I go through the outline of what should be included, a little bit of context...
A major complaint that accredited investors have when investing in a real estate deal is that there is lack of communication... Because real estate investors tend to get caught up in the deal and having the deal perform, which is the most important thing, but it's also important to communicate along the way so that at the end of the deal, when it is successful, the investors wanna invest with you again.
At our conference in Denver last February I remember an accredited investor who was doing a presentation, and he said "It was a great investment, but I didn't hear from the group for like three, four months at a time. At the end we made a lot of money, but I would never invest with them again." Remember that? Remember when Jeremy Roll said that?
Theo Hicks: Yeah.
Joe Fairless: So I had already been doing monthly e-mails to investors on all the deals, and Theo helps out with that, too... We've been tag teaming this now, so this is a great topic for us to talk about. So that's the reason why we do monthly e-mails... It's not typical. It's more typical to do quarterly reports, but it's nice to be in front of investors, letting them know what's going on at the property.
Sometimes it's not a whole lot, because ideally, real estate is boring. That's ideal, because if real estate is boring, then time is on our side - paying down the mortgage, ideally increasing the value and cash-flowing along the way.
So here's the structure that we have for monthly e-mails. Before I go into that, we do monthly and quarterly -- the monthly e-mails are slightly different from quarterly e-mails. The monthly e-mails I'm about to describe, and then the quarterly e-mails I'll describe, it's just a little addition to it.
So a monthly e-mail will have the occupancy and pre-leased occupancy. So we'll list out what's the occupancy at and what's it pre-leased at. People who are on tap too live at the property. We'll also have the renovation update. For all of our deals we do a renovation of the units, increase rents, and improve the property aesthetics from an exterior standpoint as well. Therefore, it is an update that says how many have been renovated in total since we've bought it, and sometimes we'll provide pictures of the renovated units, maybe a new monument sign out front, new landscaping... So it's renovations, interior and exterior.
Then are the rents of the renovated units reaching the premium that we projected - that's really important, what type of premium we are getting... Are we flat at exactly what we thought we'd get, are we a little bit under? Maybe it's a seasonal thing, because people are not moving in as much, so we have to go a little bit under to make sure occupancy stays healthy. Are we a lot of over, and why, and then any other improvement projects that we've done.
If we built carports, for example, and we're charging X amount of dollars for those car ports, how many we built, if we've painted, whatever. And then we'll have miscellaneous updates, like if there's Halloween and there's a Halloween party, or -- this is a good one too, if there's an employer that announced that they're coming into the local area (which is happening a lot, fortunately, for us in Dallas-Forth Worth right now). If there's any major announcements from a development standpoint, anything like that, we'll include a link to that article. That will be the update.
Now, every month doesn't have all of those things I just mentioned, but ideally it has most of those things every single month. For example, we might not have pictures of renovations, because we sent those pictures when the renovations started, so they don't need to see the same pictures of different units over and over again... And clearly, there's seasonal stuff. Bu that's the structure for the monthly e-mail.
Theo Hicks: The information that we get for this e-mail - we get that from the property manager?
Joe Fairless: Yes, the information that we get, we get from the property manager or the regional manager, depending on how the management company is set up.
Theo Hicks: So for these e-mails, you wanna e-mail them on the first of the month if you plan on sending them out in the middle of the month; if you plan on sending them at the end of the month, e-mail in the middle of the month, that way you're not rushing the deadline to throw the e-mails together. Because it takes time to get all this information together from the property manager into your e-mail... So make sure you do that.
Joe Fairless: Yes, that is a lesson we learned last month.
Theo Hicks: It is. [laughter]
Joe Fairless: I was in Miami, meeting with investors on a Friday (which was the 14th, I believe) and Theo was in Ashville, North Carolina, hiking, and we were scrambling a bit to get all the investor e-mails sent out, because we didn't prepare in time to get it done prior. We had eight properties at this point that were sending updates on, so it does take a while.
One lesson that I learned along the way regarding timing is I used to send them out by the seventh of the month, and then it would just take a little bit longer for month end stuff to wrap up. Now we've set expectations that it will be sent out by the 14th of every month... But our internal goal moving forward after last month, where we were scrambling, is to send it out by the 10th, and that way we have four days cushion if something unexpected happens.
Theo Hicks: I think the only other thing that I can think of that I've learned so far is when you're actually structuring these e-mails, some of this information is kind of like -- we have it in bullet point form, so whatever is the best thing that's happening to that property, make sure you put that in the introductory paragraph. So you start with something good, and make sure you also end with something good. If you had some sort of incident at the property, you wanna put that in the middle.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, that's just something called recency bias... It's proven, it's a psychological thing where at the end especially, if you read something really good at the beginning, and then pretty good in the middle, and then there's an incident at the property and you put that at the very end, even though that is completely insignificant relative to the overall property, if you end it on that, then the recency bias has proven that they're gonna have a bad taste in their mouth about the whole update, when in reality that was 3% of the whole picture, and 97% of it is doing phenomenal.
Theo Hicks: That's why restaurants give you dessert last.
Joe Fairless: I want it first and last! [laughter] Great experience at the beginning, and great experience at the end. Okay, cool. Then the quarterly thing - the only tweak to quarterly updates is that we'll include the profit & loss statement of the property and the current rent roll. And we offer the detailed financials at any point in time that they wanna look at it, but we send it out on a quarterly basis, so they have access to it.
Theo Hicks: The only thing I can think of to add to this, just to get a little more technical about it, but we use MailChimp (that's the service we use), and for all these images and all these links, you don't wanna put screenshots of the P&L statements in the actual e-mail; you wanna have a link that takes you to Dropbox or whatever other service you use. That way the e-mail is not super long.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, it's nice and compact. Since we're getting technical about this, the header image is of the monument's sign (the main sign at the front of the apartment community) and at the bottom right-hand corner of the header image we always have the Ashcroft Capital logo. That way it's included in there, and all we do is we just go in the PowerPoint and group the image with the logo - group that together, save it and then upload that image to be the main dominant image for every update.
Theo Hicks: I think that's everything for the investor e-mail.
Joe Fairless: One other thing, real quick... Sometimes we'll do monthly payments to investors, other times we'll do quarterly payments, so obviously, if it's quarterly, in the quarterly update we'll mention the amount that they will receive and by when. Then if it's monthly, we don't really need to mention every single month that they're getting a payment or a distribution; we'll just mention at the beginning of the distributions what we're on track for, and if that changes, then we'll let them know.
Theo Hicks: So transitioning... This has to do with the e-mails, but it also plays into the 2,000 true fans versus just having that shotgun approach, trying to collect as many names and e-mails as possible - e-mail lists. We've recently bought an e-mail list and it didn't go very well.
Joe Fairless: No, it didn't. It's a big belly flop, that's what happened. We paid $3,000 for 60,000 e-mails... Let me back up. It's clear that the larger the e-mail list, the larger your influence and your community grows. Having an actively engaged e-mail list, it's right up there with the podcast. I don't know which one I'd rather have. If someone says "Would you rather have 100k listeners to your podcast every day, or would you rather have 100k actively engaged people on an e-mail list?" I'm not sure. That's how powerful it is.
Now, if you ask me, 100k YouTube subscribers? Screw YouTube subscribers. I'd rather have either 100k e-mail people or podcast listeners. I'm not sure which one I'd pick between the two, but those are the two most important things I've identified through testing, and my marketing background etc.
Because we've got the podcast thing down, but the e-mail thing... I have a goal of getting 30k e-mail subscribers in my database, and I think we're at 4-5k or so, and the open rate is really good... It's 25% or so on average, and the clickthrough rate is incredibly high, too... I think it's like 3% for the e-mails we send out. So we have a really engaged and high-quality e-mail list, so I was like, "Let's 10x this thing." I've read about 10x-ing, and there's the one thing we talked about before, about "Okay, this is your 12-month goal. How can you accomplish it in one month?" So I did a brainstorm; I was like, "We can accomplish this thing in one month, because I'm just gonna buy a freakin' e-mail list, 60k e-mails, convert 10-20k of them (a third), and that will be it. That will be done."
Well, we paid $2,000 for the e-mail list, we paid $1,000 to a company that is sending them out on our behalf... It's just a database e-mail company, and I believe it's on the up and up. They've been on ABC news, being interviewed on their business, and how it's good etc. Well, out of 60k e-mail that were sent out, we got one opt-in. One single opt-in out of 60k e-mails... So clearly, a bunch of bad e-mails; clearly, it went to spam with a bunch of people, and clearly this freakin' does not work, at all. What a waste of $3,000.
But is it a waste? I'm gonna catch myself, because I've trained myself not to think of things as a complete waste... What are the lessons learned? The lessons learned so far is that in a lot of things there's no shortcuts. You have to put in the work, you have to grow it organically, and you can enhance things along the way. For example, we have a team that is optimizing the opt-ins of each of our pages on the website... I don't think you know about that.
Theo Hicks: No.
Joe Fairless: I actually hired someone who I interviewed on the podcast, and he said his team optimizes your website so that the people who go to your website are more likely to opt in. So we're paying him $1,500 a month, and they're optimizing page-by-page, the website. They said their goal is to get 50 additional opt-in a month, which... Small potatoes, but going back to what we were talking about earlier, 2,000-3,000 people is really -- we only need that many. For the deals that we're buying, they're fully subscribed. One of them, it's been taking a little while, but it's going under contract hopefully today, but it's already subscribed.
I can't imagine what will happen when the e-mails grow to more, because we already have more investors than we have deals. So complete belly flop, lesson learned, and that's the story.
Theo Hicks: And you're saving the Best Ever listeners $2,500, too.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, so I'm officially taking the stance that I do not recommend buying e-mail lists from e-mail databases, albeit reputable e-mail databases, according to the research my team and I did. I don't recommend doing it, it was a disaster. But lesson learned, and we keep moving on.
Theo Hicks: Exactly. Speaking on moving on, let's move on to the next topic. 50/50 goals.
Joe Fairless: 50/50 goals - this is something that will be a game-changer for every Best Ever listener who sets goals, which I hope everyone does. Let me tell you a problem first, and then I'll tell you why this is a solution.
The problem is that I set aggressive goals, and I also set aggressive goals for our team members, Theo included, and others. The problem with aggressive goals is that if you don't accomplish the quantifiably aggressive goal, then there is a feeling of letdown and of failure.
We all know there's no failure, it's just feedback, but more to the point... Instead of having a goal being dependent on if you achieve it or not, that specific thing, now we approach it half of that, 50% of that is actually achieving it, but the other 50% is have you identified, or what have you identified that will help you and the business get better results in the long run, through this goal process?
For example, let's use the e-mail thing. The goal is to have 30k e-mails in the next 12 months in our database. This month, because that was the goal, was to have 7,866 e-mails by the end of this month; we're not gonna get that. That was 50% of it, but the other 50% is what have we learned that we can apply towards the long game, because we're in this for the long run, and when we do that, then we feel a sense of accomplishment, and then we're able to actually improve the business from a long game standpoint... Because we're in this for decades, not months, or not a year or two.
That makes us - myself included and team members - feel a lot better about accomplishing or not accomplishing goals, because we all know we're better off in the long run because we went through this exercise. So the 50/50 goal is what we're doing from now on, and it's simply 50% of the success with the goal is achieving it, and then 50% of it is identifying what you've learned that will help the business in the long run?
Theo Hicks: That reminds of a concept that the cartoonist Dilbert, Scott Adams is his name - I read his book, and he talks about systems thinking versus goal thinking, and that when you're trying to pursue something... I always use the example of a podcast, that's what resonates with me the most... You're making a podcast and your goal is to get X amount of listeners, X amount of downloads, or do this many podcasts per week, and let's say after a year you don't reach your actual number... Assuming you continue to do it, that year you're gonna learn so much about how to do a podcast - the actual system of how to actually create a podcast: how to structure the podcast, how to record it, how it all works... But even if you quit completely, you still had a system of how to speak better, how to structure presentations, and these are all different systems that you can use for essentially anything that you do in life.
I think that and 50/50 goals are very similar in terms of -- obviously, you want to actually accomplish that goal, but in the actual pursuit of it, you're learning something that if you look at it as a complete failure, you might not necessarily take that new system with you, you might throw it all away and [unintelligible 00:28:01.04] reach my newsletter goal, but I learned how to write my newsletter better; I learned how to speak better while doing the podcast", and obviously, everyone can benefit from speaking and writing better.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, I love that. That reminds me of when I work with some of my clients and they start their own podcast, and they're also having investor conversations... The longer they do a podcast that's interview-based, where they're asking questions to their interview guests, the better they become at investor conversations. Because the initial inclination people have when they talk to an investor is to actually talk a lot. Well, you shouldn't be talking a lot, you should be listening, and hearing what their goals are, hearing what success looks like for them, where haven't they had success in investing (if they haven't) and then aligning what they're focused on with what you've got, and assuming that it makes sense, talking to them about what you're doing.
The more you ask questions, the more you interview people, the better you are at asking questions in other situations, and the better you are at ultimately closing more deal.
Theo Hicks: Yeah, exactly. And the podcast is a really good example, just because even if you don't even show it to anyone, even if you just have the conversation with someone or you just do it by yourself, you're still actually doing the process, learning how to speak better. For me personally, the biggest thing that I realized when I started podcasting [unintelligible 00:29:34.13] there's like a disconnect between the thoughts in my head and then me saying it out loud... So I can't articulate what I'm thinking in my head. Once I realized that, I know -- this totally helped me have better conversations with people in general, but also with doing this podcast and talking with some clients and things like that.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, good stuff.
Theo Hicks: The last part, we have a question and I think it'll be a pretty quick answer... It's from a YouTube comment; you can also ask questions on our YouTube channel... Just search for "Joe Fairless" and you'll find it.
The question's from Jeffrey, and he says "Hey, what are ways to raise rents when implementing trash collection for every resident in a 375-unit community?" I guess he wants to implement a trash collection service which costs more money, so how does he raise rents to cover that... Is that what the question is?
Joe Fairless: I don't know what the question is... [laughter] Okay, repeat it one more time, please.
Theo Hicks: So the exact question is "What are ways to raise rents when implementing trash collection for every resident in a 375-unit community?"
Joe Fairless: Okay, so he wants to raise rents by implementing trash collection... First off, can you raise rents based on the market and the market comps? That's the first thing. He's saying raise rents through trash collection -- really, it's "How can you increase your revenue either by raising rents and having trash collection included in that, or by having a separate fee that residents have to pay for trash collection?" Either one of those two, you still have to look at what the competition is doing and what will the market bear, so if residents will pay for that extra increase in rent to have their trash collection included, or an incremental fee. That's the main answer to his question.
In addition to that, there are services that will offer -- and we actually just bought a property, a 314-unit property in Dallas that had door side trash collection. They charged $15 to the resident; all the resident had to do was put the trash outside of the door, which isn't the best you're walking around the community, because you just have trash outside of people's doors... But you put your trash outside the door and they've got a third-party service that comes, picks up the trash, takes it away, no muss, no fuss, they don't have to go walk to a dumpster.
That was a revenue-generating fee, because they charged the resident $15, but it cost them $10 to actually pay for the service, therefore they're making $5/unit on that.
The reason why they did it is because this property is a concrete jungle, meaning there's really no green area - we've talked about this property already on the show - so there's not a lot of room for dumpsters; it's really tight, and if there was a dumpster, it would have been right next to someone's window, so it made sense at this property... But even better, able to make money on it per unit.
Or, you can just do a fee and you've got a dumpster/dumpsters and you charge whatever the market will bear for it, and that's a fee on top of the rent.
Theo Hicks: Perfect answer. We have one more question that came in via Facebook Live. "Does your minimum buy-in amount vary per deal?"
Joe Fairless: No... Not as of yet, but it might in the future. So if someone's asking for a deal that you have, do you change the minimum amount that investors have to invest in order to be in the deal? How I approach it - and it could change - is $50,000 if you're a first-time investor in a deal, and $25,000 if you're a returning investor. That likely will go up in the future, but as far as "Has that changed from previous deals?" - no, but it will likely go up in the future, where bringing in new investors will be 100k..