Real Estate

How to Build a Deal Flow “Funnel” to Get UNLIMITED Deals Sent To You

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Want to grab the best real estate deals before the rest? The properties with motivated sellers, high-profit potential, equity upside, and BIG cash flow—the real estate deals that every investor dreams about getting. Well, what if we told you that top investors have a tried-and-true way to get them before anyone else and that they do this consistently, every day, every year, while ninety percent of investors are forced to buy their scraps?

Of course, we’re talking about funnels. Not the cake you buy at the fair or the thing you use to pour oil—we’re talking about real estate marketing funnels, and if you know how to use them, you can make money at ANY TIME with ANY property. James Dainard and Sam Primm have been using marketing funnels for years to get off-market deals sent their way. But they’ve also used them to get agent business, find property buyers, and build investor lists. So how do they do it?

Today you’ll get a masterclass on building your own investing funnel, so you can get the best deals sent to you instead of picking up low-profit on-market properties. This is the same system the TOP investors are using, and if you repeat the steps outlined today, you’ll be able to build a bigger portfolio, create more passive income, and reach financial freedom faster. 

Rob:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Podcast show, 807.

James:
Basically, it’s where you’re establishing your brand in a specific market to kind of bring you in a benefit. It brings your brand awareness to a segment to drive you in business. And so it’s about putting it into different segments to trapping the people and bringing them to you then to convert the sale or with off-market the same thing. There’s different funnels that drive you an off-market deal or an on-market deal in general. And so it’s about establishing that lead trap, driving the people into that trap, and then having it constantly be coming to you, but it’s a way to trap customers and then get them to constantly be coming to you to keep your sales channels open.

Rob:
Every week we are bringing you stories, how-tos, and the answers you need to make smart real estate decisions now in the current market, with everything happening. We bring on experienced titans, people that are crushing it in this game, that are pivoting, that are adjusting to everything the market is throwing our way. But really at the end of the day, we’re having really great real conversations with real investors. And today, I’m joined by the iconic, the legendary, the one of a kind James Dainard, with perhaps the coolest arm tat I’ve ever seen. How you doing, man?

James:
I’m doing good. You’ve just butter me up. So now I’m feeling very confident for the next hour, so this is a great way, and I’m turning 40, so now I feel even better.

Rob:
When? Today? Is it your birthday at this moment?

James:
It’ll be August 2nd is I turn the big 4-0. So, very soon.

Rob:
All right man, I’m going to send you flowers and chocolates. Just what’s your address though? Can you say that one more time on air for us?

James:
Yeah.

Rob:
Today’s episode, we’re talking all things funnels, funnel marketing. We’ve been talking about it on the real estate show for so long, and I always geek out about this kind of stuff. But really, this came off from an offshoot comment that we had in episode 781 on how to find off-market deals. We started talking about funnels. I was like, “We should do an episode that actually talks about the funnel marketing in each of your businesses,” because James, you’re a very established guy in the real estate world, and so is Sam who’s joining us on today’s episode. For new listeners today, James, what do you think they’re going to get out of today’s episode?

James:
It’s a really important topic that when people think of real estate podcasts, they don’t really think about the marketing side as much. They think about the strategy. But funnels is so important because as you set up, whether you’re a wholesaler, a fix and flipper operator or a BRRRR investor, it’s all about setting up your deal flow and what’s going to come to you to execute your plan. And so I’m excited to talk about just putting clarity in the top of your funnel so you’re getting the right things to come to you, get you to that right decision, and then really dig into understanding your buy box and what you want to be as an investor and to get that deal flow coming to you correctly. It’s really, really important just jumping into clarity of your entire business.

Rob:
100%, man. And if you’re an experienced investor, we’re also going to be discussing how to track your customer’s journey through that funnel. And we’re also going to be talking about establishing KPIs, the Key Performance Indicators of your business. James, you talked a lot. You spit out a lot of gold nuggets out on this one, so I’m really excited to jump into it. But before we do, let’s get into today’s quick, quick, quick tip.
Get specific when it comes to your buy box, when setting up your deal flow, no one really, if you’re working with a wholesaler, you don’t want to go to them and say, “Oh, send me any deal. That’s good. I’ll look at it, I’ll buy it.” You want to get very, very specific. You want to give exactly prescriptively what you’re looking to buy that way wholesalers and other people, real estate agents, brokerages, and also you just don’t want to spend too much time looking at everything. You want to spend time looking at the things that you want to buy so you can stay focused in your business.
And with that, let’s get into today’s episode. So we previously did an episode with James Dainard and Sam Primm and to talk about real estate funnels. You hear us talk about funnels all the time on the BiggerPockets podcast. Today, we finally decided to jump in and actually define it and talk about why it is fundamental and why it’s pivotal to your real estate business. So with that said, welcome back to the show, James and Sam.

James:
What’s going on buddy?

Sam:
Thanks. Excited to be here. I feel like I won the battle last time, so I’m kind defending my belt today for you guys, so I was gracious enough to come back and let you guys beat me this time.

James:
If Rob makes me the winner today. Are you going to ship me your belt? I do want, I am jealous of your belt.

Sam:
I’ll ship it over. Yes, sir.

Rob:
Two day ground. Well, awesome. Well, let’s talk about funnels, fellows. I mean both of you have very successful real estate businesses and I want to just talk about the funnel process and how many funnels you have, how it all works in your ecosystem. I feel like initially it always sounds more complicated than it is, but at the end of the day, funnel marketing is stuff that we’re all doing. We’re just trying to nail down that concept a little bit more for the listeners at home that may not be familiar with the marketing side of it. So with that said, James, do you think you could just very simply tell us what a marketing funnel is and why it’s important to your business?

James:
Yeah, I think I’m a little old school. I used to just call them lead traps, but now I guess the new thing is called a funnel, but basically it’s where you’re establishing your brand in a specific market to bring you in a benefit. We have eight different businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Each company has their own funnels that brings your brand awareness to a segment of… it brings your brand awareness to a segment to drive you in business. So like Intrust Funding or lending business, we set up lead funnels through educational where it’s targeted towards borrowers and investors that need hard money to fund their deal.
And so it’s about putting it into different segments to kind of trapping the people and bringing them to you then to convert the sale or with off-market the same thing. There’s different funnels to drive you an off-market deal or an on-market deal in general. And so it’s about establishing that lead trap, driving the people into that trap and then having it constantly be coming to you. I think they call it a funnel because it’s constantly spiraling things towards you, but I just made that up so I’m not quite sure, but it’s a way to trap customers and then get them to constantly be coming to you to keep your sales channels open.

Rob:
Yeah, totally. I mean that’s part of it. So, if you visually just think about a funnel, think about an oil funnel, you put that inside of your engine and then you pour the oil in there and then it funnels it into the engine. It’s effectively an upside down triangle. And if you really want it to just break it down in a very simple terms, a funnel basically describes your customer’s journey from your brand all the way to purchase. The very top of that funnel is where they learn about you and then they keep traveling down that funnel and maybe you provide value along the way and at the very end as they exit the funnel, ideally that customer is purchasing whatever good or service you have.
And so to put this in a very simple example, every single person in the BiggerPockets community that owns real estate has a funnel. If you have a long-term investment or if you have a short-term investment or whatever, let’s say you want to get your house rented, you might list that on Craigslist and then someone would then reach out to you because they have found out about the product that you are offering and then you would lease it to them. That in very simple terms is a funnel. Did I miss anything there?

Sam:
No, I don’t think you did, but I want to piggyback off your point. This applies to everybody. And I know funnels may not excite everybody, but what you track improves and what improves makes you money. It’s something that in even maybe a little bit different angle of it is when you have a funnel, you’re tracking things, you have metrics you’re trying to hit, and the more things you track, whether it be just a funnel to get a lead to buy a house, education, whatever funnel you’re looking at, starting a funnel and having the discipline to actually do it no matter where you are in your business will improve your business and will improve your bottom line. This applies to everybody, honestly, no matter what business you’re in.

Rob:
Absolutely. I’ve always said, I mean business is basically funnel marketing. You could have the greatest, let’s say you opened up a taco shop inside of your house where no one can see it and you make the best tacos that have ever existed in the entire universe. If there’s no way for people to find out about said service, no one will ever knock on your door and say, “Hey, I heard you have really good tacos.” You have to figure out how to get the awareness out and you have to get people through your funnel to find out about that service. So whether it’s a business that’s a landscaping business, a painting business, a real estate business, it is the exact same concept for any business that you ever run.

Sam:
That sounds like a sketchy business though, Rob, inside taco shop.

Rob:
Listen, I didn’t say that the health department approved it. I was going off the cuff here, but you get what I mean. You get what I mean. I think ultimately, one of the things that I want to stress is it doesn’t have to be super complicated. I think for most of the people at home who have a rental, the most simple use case of this is, like I said, you could list on Craigslist, but that is just one way to get awareness to the one thing that you’re trying to rent. You might also list on Trulia, you might also list on Zillow, you might also list on Redfin, on all the different websites that exist. The more places that you’re putting your brand and your exposure and your listing out there, the more opportunities that there are for people in the greater population to find out about the thing.
That would be from a rental standpoint, but both of you have very successful businesses both in the flipping side of things and the wholesaling side of things. So what I wanted to talk about was for the investors that are really trying to figure out how to get more deal flow because this is really what sprung this conversation to begin with. On the last episode that we did, I believe that was episode 781, we talked about how to find off-market deals, how to increase your deal flow, and so what I want to talk with each of you about today is how you establish your funnel to effectively get more deal flow into your respective businesses.
So if you wouldn’t mind, James, can you just tell us a little bit about the funnel process and a little bit about your business and how they all interact with each other?

James:
Yeah, we have two main businesses that are always sourcing investment properties. And so that’s what I consider out of the eight, two are the main purchasers of those business. One, is an off-market company where we’re targeting and creating funnels for off-market or for off-market sellers that maybe have a problem house, symptoms of distress, or they just want to move that transaction through cash. And so we’re constantly marketing via call centers, direct mail, online ads, internal phone calling, door knocking, and each one of those is their own individual funnels that are coming back to our company to package up and wholesale off. And so it’s about, for those different segments, we’re setting up different funnels for each one, whether it’s for a call center, we’re contracting a call center and we’re doing mass calling, mass marketing. That’s going to produce a certain amount of leads that’s going to feed into our sales team.
It’s almost like one big funnel with a bunch of bolt funnels in it, like small ones. And it feeds down into our sales team to underwrite, look at an investment highest and best use and sell it off that way. Buying ads, same thing. We’re buying leads, different types of sellers, it’s coming through the funnel. At that point we get to sit there, underwrite the deal and contract it. Other things that we do for deal flow is our on-market funnels and our broker to broker networking. So essentially, out of those two ones because of our brand and how long we’ve been purchasing for, that is really what we’re marketing in our broker community.
We are dependable buyers. We’ve been here forever. Here’s our 4,000 transactions we’ve done. That’s one funnel where brokers are constantly bringing us off-market deals that they were presented a listing opportunity on, but they didn’t feel it was marketable. Other than that, there is just the straight funnel of where is properties getting listed on-market, which require, it’s less marketing, but it’s more about tracking the deal flow and getting it in front of our sales team with auto searches to where they’re seeing the opportunities very quickly and we can jump on them and turn them into transactions.

Rob:
Yeah, so basically, if you have a need in one of your examples, the wholesaling need, you need someone to bring you off-market deals, you are going to basically establish some sort of funnel that will get people to send you leads. That’s the ultimate goal with establishing a wholesaling funnel is you are finding wholesalers, you’re getting in contact with wholesalers, maybe even brokers that send you off-market leads and you’re establishing contact with them to make it known and aware that, “Hey, my name is James, this is my company. This is what we do. We are looking for off-market leads.” And so you’re establishing communication with a bunch of different people and by doing that, eventually they all end up presenting you a deal, ideally.

James:
And there’s two funnels in that. There’s the paid funnels, which you’re putting together a marketing plan, establishing… spending money to bring those opportunities to you through the funnel system. Then there’s the relationship funnels where you’re out there working with wholesalers, other investors that are going to bring you deal flow that isn’t going to cost you a lot of money. And so every time we’re trying to look at any type of lead to lead, even with the brokers, the same thing. When they’re bringing us a deal, typically they’re double ending it. So we’re not making revenue on that. When it’s on-market, we’re going and finding it ourselves. So in each segment when they’re bringing in… when you’re looking for deal flow or any type of lead, typically there’s two main funnels which is going to be the paid ones and then the relationships. And it’s really 50/50 at that point or kind of what you want to do with your business on whether you want to do that marketing spend or do you want to focus more on the relationships?

Sam:
And for what we do is exactly that, James is we have 50/50 split, we have five full-time buyers and their job is to go network and bring in two deals a month from their networking, and then we give them leads to provide two deals a month from our marketing. We’re trying to diversify ourselves a little bit, right? In case the marketing dies down or people are now getting leads, we have the actual networking to fall back on and if that dies down, we have the marketing to fall back on. I think it’s good to diversify a little bit in your funnels, paid versus free networking and marketing, but I also think that probably not try to do too much. I guess we try to go too wide and we weren’t going deep enough in each funnel.
I think it’s better for especially new investors that are listening to this just to pick one or two funnels to go a little bit deeper on rather than spend a little bit of money on Facebook ads, spend a little bit of money on direct mail, spend a little bit of money on networking, go to meetups. I feel like people will spread themselves too thin and they don’t go deep enough to actually make an impact and actually make connections and spend enough money to make an impact. They’re just barely spending money here or there. So from my take, especially for new investors, I would just pick two or three lanes and go deeper rather than wider.

Rob:
Yeah, that makes sense. So basically what you’re saying is if you open up your funnel too wide and you’re sort of like, “Hey, bring me this, bring me this, bring me this,” and really just trying to cram everything in there, you won’t really be able to service the customers or whoever’s in that funnel to the end point because you’re going to be too spread just trying to keep up with all the people that are coming at you with random ideas, random things, investments, deals that are coming across their table, right?

Sam:
Exactly. We were spending $7,500 a month on Google Ads in St. Louis and we were breaking even. As soon as we jumped that up to 20,000, we were getting three extra return on our actual investments. So going deeper and not just tippy toeing around usually makes a big difference. And it’s very similar to when I first got started investing in real estate. I would say, “Anybody bring me any deal, I’ll buy any deal, any area of town, any price point.” And two things happened. One, people sent me too many deals, I didn’t have time to analyze and I dropped the ball. The other thing happened was I couldn’t do all that and I was just wasting my time the minute I said, “I’m looking for this area, this price point, I’m going to turn to rental,” people started me bringing deals that I actually wanted to buy. So similarly, if you have a little bit of a focus, I think it can go a long way into doing more, not less.

James:
Yeah, I really like what… I mean, what Sam just said is really important. Getting deep into something is going to get you results. In the era of social media, everyone sees a hundred different ideas and they’re chasing all of them and you end up not accomplishing a lot because like Sam said, you’re just stretched too thin. And also, what Sam touched on is at that top of that funnel, that’s that brand awareness that you’re trying to establish. And if for deal flow, your brand awareness is A, qualifying yourself to people that will bring you deal flow, but it’s also really defining that buy box because as an investor, my brand is what will I buy to wholesalers? It’s that I’m reputable, that I will close, and then I’m clearly articulating to them what I will perform on. And so that’s really important as you go out and start setting up these funnels and start setting up these marketing channels is to really explain what you’re trying to accomplish because it’s going to bring you the deal flow that you’re looking for, not just everything where you can get overwhelmed.

Rob:
Yeah, true. Sam, did you ever have a moment where you gave that parameter to a wholesaler, you’re like, “I’ll buy anything that you send me,” and then they actually sent you stuff and then you didn’t buy it and then they just stopped sending you stuff? Has that ever happened? I feel like that’s probably a pretty common thing that most real estate, I mean I’ve done that many times where I’m, “Just send me a good deal and I’ll look at it,” and then I look at it but because I don’t ever actually end up buying it, because it’s not exactly what I want, the wholesalers stop sending me the deals.

Sam:
Well, exactly. You either don’t reply to them and they don’t bring you the deal. Or, the other thing that happened that I failed to mention earlier was they don’t remember you. Everybody says that, right? So if you say, “I’ll buy any deal anywhere,” that’s what everybody says to them. But if you say, “I’m looking in 63,304 to 63,305, I’m looking for that 200 to $400,000 price point, it needs 50 grand.” They’ll remember you when that deal crosses their plate. So, getting more specific in everything, but kind of this example goes a long way. And for sure Rob, I had plenty of people send me deals I just didn’t get to, was too busy trying to do too many things and didn’t get back to them. And you have to give offers to these people to get them to continue to bring deals.
Even if it’s a low ball offer, explain how you got to that offer, get them their offer back quickly and then they’ll probably bring you another one. But if you fail to give them an offer, you can pretty much guarantee that they’re not going to bring you another one.

Rob:
Yeah, so if we just really break down some of the more common problems with just establishing your funnel, especially as a real estate investor, the ones that I’m hearing from both of you are A, trying to cram too much into the funnel and B, really when that happens, the actual follow-up to the lead is also lagging. And so a lot of the times you’re not able to convert or close a lead. Is there anything else that really pops up as a big problem with funnel marketing in either of your operations?

Sam:
I think you hit the two main ones, but in general, knowing when to stop pushing money or energy down a funnel, knowing when to pluck that leaky bucket or stop the bleeding is super important. And I think everybody’s business and time is different, but as soon as you’re dropping the ball, not being able to make offers on that lead source through that funnel, or you’ve spent a ton of time and energy and they’re just not giving you the quality leads, everybody’s break point’s a little bit different. I think when the ball is getting dropped and you’re not continually at leasing some potential for profit is the time to back away. And that usually happens, what the theme so far of this is when people are spread a little bit too thin.

Rob:
Sure. And James, on your end of things, how important is speed to lead in any of your funnels? How important is it to get… to follow-up with whoever falls through that funnel super quickly? Is there a time assigned to every respective funnel or does it vary depending on what you’re trying to market?

James:
We are all about speed in the office. That is how we built our whole businesses over the last 18 years. Getting back to people very quickly with that direct answer, because the thing about the investment world is 90%, from my opinion, 90% of the single family, traditional investors out there have a lacking clarity about what they actually want to buy. And there’s a smaller bucket of people that go, “No, this hits all my buy boxes. I’m taking this right now.” At least in today’s market when the market’s a little bit more stable. And so for us, the best way for us to get deal flow is to A, give people direct quick answers and also, make it very easy on them. The easier it is for this funnel to bring me deal flow and the more that they can transact, the more that funnel starts producing.
And so speed to lead is a huge thing for on-market and off-market. I mean a good example is actually an off-market deal came across to me, it was about three weeks ago, and I looked at my phone, I was like, “This is right in my buy box, but I got to look at this a little bit closer.” I didn’t even call the guy back. I knew him fairly well. I gave him an answer. I got back to my office two hours later, looked at it for 20 minutes, I call him to take the deal. It’s gone.
And that’s that speed, and that’s two and a half hours. That’s not a long window, but a good deal is a good deal and you have to jump on it. Same with on-market properties, that’s where we get a lot of our properties right now. We’ve actually had better luck buying on-market than off-market and the way these things are transacting because if things are listed really low, the market’s still not as hot as it was a year and a half ago, we want to jump on that deal. So typically when a property gets listed on-market, it gets on-market, we drive it, budget it, and write an offer all within six hours of it being live with a very direct, no inspection quick close offer. And we do that to secure that deal down.
And just by even doing those activities relentlessly for six years, brokers bring us additional deal flow just by seeing our offers and how quickly and how seamless our offers are. So, it actually creates its own funnel in itself. But getting back to people a good deal is a good deal and they’re going to leave quick. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the market. Even in 2008 when the market was in a free fall, a good deal would get sold very quickly. As investors, you have to jump on things very fast. That is what we train at our office relentlessly off-market, on-market, get back to people, get clarity, and then lock it down.

Rob:
Yeah, makes sense. That happens all the time, man, where it’s like something looks like it’s a good, especially anything that’s on-market, something looks like a good deal and you’re like, “Ah,” you’re in the car. You’re like, “Let me just get home and let me get my laptop out, laptop out, let me analyze it for a little bit.” And then you’re like, “It’s the one.” And then you go back to the Zillow listing and it’s pending and you’re like, “Ah!” That happens all the time, man. And it really is because you just didn’t act quickly enough.
Sam, what about you? Is there any timeframe that you put in the side of speed to lead, which is for anyone at home if I didn’t explain it? Basically just how fast you can get to your lead.

Sam:
We try to get to them as quick as possible. If somebody’s filling out a web form deal, we’ll call them right away because A, we want to be professional and communicate, but B, hopefully we can stop their search. They’re Googling, “I need to sell my house for cash,” and they’re just going down the list and they’re calling or filling out web forms. So if we can communicate with them, set an appointment, we can stop them hopefully from calling the next person and limit the competition. And we also try to just be able to communicate with them as much as possible throughout the entire process.
And I want to piggyback, I’ve used that twice now off of what you both were saying, but when you’re in the house with the home seller, you also want to be as quick as possible. We want our guys to put an offer on the spot. If they can lock it up while they’re in the house the very first time, we have a lot higher chance of getting a really good deal than having it shopped around and have them talking to other people and being wishy-washy of what they should or shouldn’t do. It’s really important to be able to put offers to wholesalers, but when you’re in the home with the seller, it’s super important to just be quick and be honest and be upfront.
We walk through with the sellers our process, we say, “We think it’s worth this. How much do you think it’s worth fixed up? Here’s how much we need to put in it, and then here’s how much we’re going to profit at the end of the day.” And we just are super transparent. The more transparent with the… that we are, the better. And that’s something that our top sales guys does. He literally walks them through everything and most of the time we’re like, we think, “What do you think your house is worth fixed up?” And they’re going to say, “300.” And we’re going to say, “We actually think it’s worth 325 fixed up.” So, we just really build that trust and show them, show the fees, everything we have to pay. Because St. Louis, we’re not making 50 K a rip here. We’re making 15, 20, 30 K.
So most people are okay with us making a little bit of money if we show them everything and we’re taking on a risk by buying this and fixing it up. So just a little side note on there, but speed is important anywhere.

Rob:
Man, okay. You’ll actually tell them how much you’re going to make. Has that ever stopped the sale or has that ever made them be like, “Whoa, that’s okay. That’s more…” Do they get more defensive on the offer that you submit at that point ever? Or is it usually pretty straightforward to just be trustworthy and honest?

Sam:
I would say occasionally it’s backfired, but it’s helped way more than it’s hurt and we’re, and we are being honest, but there’s some subjectivity to it. “How much do you think this kitchen needs?” People are usually like, “Oh, 30 grand.” You’re like, “No, this kitchen’s probably 15 grand kitchen.” So we just build that rapport throughout the process, but we don’t exactly know. We’re going to be conservative on our numbers on what we think it’s going to need to repair. We can, I won’t say fluff is the wrong word, but we can make the numbers appear to us making 15 grand when probably we’ll make 25 or 30. We can’t show them a 15 grand profit or making 60, but we can build that in there a little bit with some of the things that a typical… We sell our houses, we have an agent that gets paid a flat fee, but we can say, “This is how much it costs to sell a house, 6%, 7%,” whatever it is.
So you can build in some of those discrepancies a little bit and some of that subjectivity to make it look like you’re making an okay profit. And sometimes we make less than that. That’s what the story we like to tell. And it seems to work pretty well here.

Rob:
You’re padding it, you’re conservatively underwriting it to just cover your bases?

Sam:
Yep.

James:
And you’re walking the seller through their plan. What Sam’s talking about, we train the same way. Our costs are not their cost. If they want to take it to highest and best use and get the highest possible price, then they’re going to need to take the same steps as us but the costs are going to be a lot different. And that’s where we’re making our margin is the cost, and half the time we’re making our profit because we can get things renovated half the price of what a homeowner can. And so a lot of times you can almost give them full market value and you can still turn that profit out of it. And what actually Sam talked about is a great way to get deals, just being transparent, walking them through, give them the steps to get the highest price, but it might be less profitable than just selling to someone like Sam.

Rob:
Right. And it all goes back to basically having a really good buy box and knowing what a good deal looks like within that buy box so that you can say, “Yes” faster to that deal when you’re actually in the house with that owner, right?

James:
Yes. Yeah, clarity and buy box is the most important thing for investors, knowing what you will buy today and if you know that, the deals will come to you.

Rob:
Awesome. Well, I’d like to actually move into, I mean you told us a little bit about it, but I’d like to move into what are some of the funnels that you both use and how do you track those funnels, right? I know that James, you’ve mentioned doing TV, digital ads, stuff like that. Can you talk a little bit about when you’re establishing a marketing funnel like that? Do you always have KPIs in place? What is it like to actually set up a TV ad, for example?

James:
Yeah, so one of our biggest marketing channels right now is a call center. We use Easy Button Leads and it brings in, we can produce leads for about $30-$40 a per seller appointment. And so that is our biggest funnel right now. And the reason we’re using that is because we can get the most amount of coverage for the cheapest amount of cost. And so we can hit a massive amounts of sellers if funnels in to us and then our cost per lead is lower. But what Sam talked about that speed to lead on that specific business will change everything in your numbers. When we’re tracking those, we have our monthly, annual or monthly cost on that, comes in, that’s going to produce a certain amount of leads. Then we look at what’s our cost to our appointment, because a lead isn’t going to always mean an appointment.
That just means they showed interest in our funnel and now it goes to the next step and we got to get them to that appointment. And so the things that we’re tracking for KPIs is speed to lead is one of the biggest key things that we do look at. What we found our lead flow, actually our appointments went down quite a bit in the last 45 days and the reason being is our guys were getting back to these leads in about two hours, which isn’t that long, but then we got it down for under 30 minutes. That was our new requirement and it quadrupled our appointment amount. And so by tracking the speed to lead, it made a huge difference in the amount of opportunities we have. This week alone, we have 16 off-market appointments, whereas a month ago we only had two averaging in a month.
And so it makes a huge difference and we’ve already spent the money on the lead. So now what it does is by getting the appointments, it takes our cost of appointment down. So every funnel that we’re setting up for an off-market sale that we’re spending money on, we’re tracking what is our monthly marketing spend, how many leads are we getting, what’s our cost of appointment, and then cost per deal? All four of those we’re going to be tracking because we also don’t want to be just getting deals just to not make money at that point too. Our average assignment fee in the Pacific Northwest is about 38,000. We do have a little bit of cushion in there, but our average cost per deal for almost every one of our marketing methods is from 6,000-8,000 per deal, is our cost.
And so we’re constantly tracking how many appointments, how much is our marketing spend? And then given on what’s going on in the market based on the performance, we’re adjusting the funnels and our marketing spend because at our off-market company, we have a certain budget that we’re going to spend to market to off-market sellers. We never kill off a funnel, but we will pull back based on its performance at the time.

Rob:
And so what was the really pivotal change to go from 2 to 16 deals in a month? That’s a pretty, I mean eight x to basically what you were doing. What was the big change?

James:
That was appointments not deals. If we get up 16 deals, then we will be looking good for our marketing spend, but it was the biggest thing is that we were wondering why our deal flow went down, our appointments went down so much because about three months prior to that, we were averaging about 10 to 15 appointments a month or a week. And it came down to we switched up our internal caller. We have one lead manager where they all come in, he sets the appointments for our closers at that point. We had him doing additional funnel work where he’s making outbound calls and it was starting to distract him and he was getting back to him too late. So that was the first thing we look at, how fast are we getting to them because we saw we were getting the same amount of leads from our call center, but we weren’t getting the same amount of appointments.
So we want to dig into where’s the issue there? And that’s why KPIs are so important to track. It’s going to show you a trend, and then once that trend gets out of whack, you can really narrow in and go, “Okay, what’s the differences that we were doing today versus 90 days ago?” And then we were able to pull that reporting and we could see that our guy was getting to those leads about 50% slower than he was before. And so, instead of having him go with an average contact time of an hour, we were saying we have to be at half of that, and then we get to see the performance. Now in 30 days, if it didn’t go up, then that tells us it’s not a speed to lead issue and we need to address what kind of leads are coming in and why aren’t we getting into appointments? So setting up these KPIs tell you when to track and when to adjust and when to really research things.

Rob:
So for everyone at home that may not know KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator and it’s basically the big metrics, like a big metric that you’re trying to track within your business, right James? Is that the simplest way to describe it?

James:
Yeah, that is, you nailed it.

Rob:
Okay, great. Woo, man, I’m glad I know these things.

Sam:
I was like, listen, I just saw Oppenheimer, I felt like I was listening to Oppenheimer talk there with all that-

Rob:
Seriously?

Sam:
That just shows the importance of tracking things because not only can you get more efficient, you can know what dials to turn and when to turn them. If there’s a certain lead source that is performing better, like James says, he never shuts a funnel off, but you can, for sure, turn the dial on a lead source if it’s providing more whatever for whatever reason… Seasonalities of ads on TV during political seasons a little more expensive, so you might turn the dial down, but you have to be tracking those things to know your cost per lead and cost per appointment and cost per buy. And in St. Louis, we’re similar. Our cost per lead is anywhere from that 200 to 400 range. Our cost per buy is anywhere from that 3,000 to 5,000 range.
Our margins are a little bit less, but also our costs are a little bit less. Just to give a little different perspective, not every market’s going to cost you $7,000 to get a buy. Some will be less and some might even be more, but as long as the profit’s still there and you’re getting the ROI that you want, you can turn up or down that dial however much you want.

Rob:
Yeah. And so Sam, what is your main business? Is your main business doing BRRRRs? Are you more of a fix and flip guy? Is it equal parts? Tell us a little bit about that and then walk us through some of the funnels that you’ve set up. You talked about someone who will go to your website, fill out your form. I want to know a little bit under the hood of that business.

Sam:
Yeah, for sure. So very similar to James, we have, I call it a flipping business. When I say flip, I just mean buy and sell a house. So that could be us fixing it up and selling it on the retail market. That could be us wholesaling it. That’s one of the businesses here in St. Louis, and that’s where we do a lot… we do a lot of outbound marketing and where we have the networking marketing we utilize to buy deals. If somebody calls, fills out a web form, we are having our outbound sales agent call them right away and her goal is to get an appointment set on that initial phone call. She actually gets paid a bonus if she sets up an appointment on that initial phone call and we buy the house. Our job is to set appointments, and if it’s a additional phone call or our acquisition rep sets the phone call or sets the appointment, that’s fine, but she gets bonus on setting an appointment on that initial phone call because we just want to get in the house as quick as possible.
So very similarly, we have a few different funnels that we utilize. We do direct mail, we do PPC, Google AdWords, we do a little bit of Facebook ads. That’s one thing that we should probably go deeper or just quit, but that’s another story. And then we have dabbled in TV, but I don’t think we went deep enough into that. That’s our funnels for that business. Then the beautiful thing about my BRRRRs method and the BRRRR method with the rental stuff is that company feeds that business. Those properties we’re buying anywhere from 20 to 30 properties a month, wholesaling and flipping them. But if there’s a really good deal as a rental, we’re going to go ahead and snag that one and keep that one as a rental. So, having a few different exit strategies will allow you to maximize that funnel.
I think we talked a little bit about it last time, but if you can fix and flip the property, you can wholesale the property, if you can wholesale the property, if you can just list it or if you can keep it as a rental, you’re really going to be able to maximize whatever leads you’re getting into that funnel and not just having one exit strategy. I know that might be a little overwhelming for a newer investor to have to be able to do all that, but if you can work on being able to have different exit strategies, I think your funnel’s just going to get more efficient and your profit’s going to go up.

Rob:
Yeah, so let’s jump into one of those funnels that you talked about. You said direct mail that would be… Just walk us step by step. So you effectively have to get the list of people that you’re going to send direct mail. So that’s the establishment of your funnel I suppose, is that’s where you want to get one source of your off-market deals? How does it start there? Do you go and you pull that list and then do you write just a letter to every single one of them?

Sam:
My form would be a lot bigger if I was doing that, but yes, no, that’s a great point. So we’ll start from scratch. We utilize PropStream. It’s something that a lot of people can use. It’s very cheap to, it’s $100 a month to get 10,000 records, I think. So, very cheap. We start from there and we have a little bit of James in us. We like to be analytical, so we take our top average profit per deal zip code. So we take our zip codes in the St. Louis metro area that we have the highest profit for deal. We attack them first. We’re trying to spend $25,000 a month in direct mail. So we build a list from there, we go to those zip codes and then we figure out how deep we want to build that list, how many pain points do we want?
Obviously we want going to want high equity. Do we want to go a vacant property? Do we want to go to the homeowner? Do we want to go to a certain amount of age of the property? What do we want? Do we want liens? So we just go through that PropStream software and build a few lists from there as far as trying to get dialed down to people that are going to have the most motivation to sell. Once we have that list built and we build it to our, however much we want to spend that month, we go ahead and send that to a mail house and they send out some postcards and letters and we split test those and send those out. We’re trying to build it efficiently and then we’re always split testing different types of mail and different types of things to see what the winner is. And then we split test that again next down the line.
We do that and what we do is we send the same list for six months in a row. We’re not going to do a new list every single month and only send one piece of mail. We get the most buys from our very first letter, but we get the equal amount of buys from our second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth letter. So after that first letter, you catch them. We get the same amount of buys from each other letter so it’s something that I just want to reiterate is you’re not going to send one mailing list and be super profitable. You have to commit to continuing to send it and continue to drip on it month after month. And at that point we’re taking that call inbound and we’re doing everything. We already talked about trying to set that appointment, trying to go there as quickly as possible and offer on the spot if possible.

Rob:
The way that the owner or the property owner finds out about Sam Primm co LLC, whatever you’re called, is you’re going to send them a letter in the mail, and that’s how they find out that you are even interested in buying their house. On that letter, you have some kind of information, some kind of call to action that says, “Hey, I want to buy your house. If it’s ugly, if it’s junky, if there’s bodies in the closet, I will buy it. It doesn’t matter. Call this number.” If so, then they will then send you either a text or a phone number saying, “Hey, I got your letter in the mail, I’m interested.” And then you basically set the appointment, go and you meet with them, make the offer, close them. I’m sure I probably missed a step or two, but is that sort of how that journey might go?

Sam:
Yes, that’s exactly right. And we’ll even buy a property with a body and a bed. I know stories are always fun. We had that happen last year. Somebody called in and said, “My father just passed away.” We’re like, “Okay, we’ll go out there.” We went out there and I guess it was a cultural thing for them, but the father was wrapped in a St. Louis Blues blanket on the bed still and completely scared the acquisitions rep. So we’ll even buy houses with dead bodies on the beds.

Rob:
And fun fact, this is also a funnel for Sam, this show right now. Okay, so we’ve talked about the acquisition side, and that’s effectively the act of acquiring real estate, but then there’s the disposition side, and that is actually trying to offload, sell that property. So does your funnel, I mean, effectively, do you establish a whole new process and routine and everything for now trying to get that house sold once you’ve fixed it or once you’ve acquired it?

Sam:
Yeah, I’ll take a stab at that one and then James can follow-up. But we do, so we used to just do what everybody else did. We’d get a property, we’d have our list of good buyers and we text it out to, but then we would blast everything out to try to just sell it for as most profit. It was just super easy. Everybody and their brother and their sister was in the real estate game. That has tightened up a little bit, and now we spend way more time than we used to focusing on that dispositions, spending money, sending out direct mail to potential cash buyers that we’ve seen that we scraped through the MLSs and seeing cash buyers in the area, developing relationships, having our dispositions rep go out and take people out to lunch and out to dinner, just develop those relationships.
We have five acquisitions guys and we have one, well, one and a half now, dispositions people. We’ve had a much bigger focus on getting rid of these properties for the highest profit to somebody that’s actually going to be able to close. That’s been a huge focus for us, and we’re starting now to build funnels around that, like I said, via some direct mail, via some texting, of course, email blast. But the best leads, I think James will speak to this, is the ones that you have a relationship built and you text it to a couple people and they go look at it and they put an offer and you just know it’s sold.

Rob:
Yeah, okay. Yeah, that makes complete sense. James, is that pretty similar to how you guys do it?

James:
Yeah. The thing about dispoing, dispoing has typically in the past always been one of the more challenging things of wholesaling and just selling investment properties because especially back in when we really took… started our business in 2008 through 2012, there was a lack of capital in the market and it was hard to move a deal. Now, we’re in a very similar kind of situation where there is capital, but the cost of capital is very expensive, and so it has slowed everything down. And in these two eras, we’ve really focused on the relationships. What Sam had just talked about was the last three years, there was so much money in the market, the market was doing so well, everybody wanted to be a real estate investor. There was so much movement in the market that you could stick to a marketing plan where you’re just going to send out an opportunity and people were on an asset grab so they’re buying that deal.
As the market cools down, dispo gets harder, and it comes back to this core principles that we are in real estate and we’re providing a service, whether it’s wholesaling or being a broker. Wholesaling is providing a service of securing a deal and selling commercial paper. Brokers are selling investment property. Two very similar things, but they are different. That comes down to the relationships and where we’ve really increased our transactions and created funnels now, isn’t just to get… Your funnel before was, “Hey, I’m an off-market guy. Do you want come on my buyer’s list?” That was basically everybody’s funnel because everyone wanted that. Now, it’s about finding that exact product for the investor that they’re looking for. The people buying today have a specific need, whether it’s development, fix and foot BRRRR properties. It could be a DADU property, but they’re looking for a specific thing.
And so what we’ve done is we’ve spent a lot more time setting up lead funnels for that specific investor because not every investor is the same. They buy differently. And so by giving away free education and teaching about that specific strategy that they’re interested to, it’s created multiple funnels all coming back into the same brand that we’re a brokerage that sells investment property and we understand how to underwrite package it and get them a good deal. And so as dispo gets harder, or if any marketing channel that you’re in is harder, sometimes you have to create additional funnels that are a little bit more niche and more specific that’s going to drive you the right client that you can then spend time with, get to know them well, learn what they want, and then you can convert a lot higher. When you have a property that the person really wants or hits all their buy boxes, it’s really easy to sell, and every buyer’s buy box is different.
And so by setting up these channels, it’s allowed us to really transact at a higher pace. In the last 90 days, we’ve sold more properties than we did in the prior six months, not just because the market has cooled down, it’s because we switched how we were bringing in our clients.

Rob:
You mentioned DADU earlier, what is that?

James:
That’s a detached accessory dwelling unit, and that’s something that’s a very hot investment trend. I mean nationwide, but specifically in Seattle. And so what that is when you buy a single family house, you can renovate the house and then build your own detached house in the back. And typically it has size constraints of a rental, 1,000-1,200 square feet, but it allows you to add an additional property in the back of your existing property that is hyper accelerated the returns for rentals because you get to build the property that you can cashflow in the back.
Or in Seattle, we can condominium them off and sell them separately. And so it adds a huge kicker into extra deals. And so it’s a very hot trend. And so a lot of times when there’s a trend floating around the investment space, we do set up that specific funnel because that’s where you’re going to transact back best with your dispo’s.

Rob:
Interesting. You’re saying you find a trend, I mean, that’s kind of funny. I never really thought about that, but I mean it works with everything, but if you see a trend, you’re like, “Okay, let’s capitalize on it,” and you basically adjust your businesses and your funnels so that you do that and then you have a much larger buyer pool, right?

James:
Yeah. The first thing we do is we buy it ourselves and we test it, and then we make a case study and go, “Hey, this is what happened. This is why this works.” And that’s the best way we like to market is, “Hey, we’re doing this, this worked. Here’s how you do it.” And we give them a step-by-step plan at that point. But on dispoing, creating that funnel backwards works really well. We sold over 75 lots to one specific builder in the last 24 months. We did that by finding what his buy box was, and then we matched our funnel for off-market to just bring in those specific types of properties. And because we were giving them the opportunities, they hit 95% of their buy box. They were outbidding everybody. And so it allowed us to transact really well.

Sam:
And I think it’s like reverse wholesaling is a little bit of what we call it. If you have a known buyer on the backend, you can maybe raise your price or even bring them in throughout putting your offer together, “Hey, we have this property, we built this good disposition list. You’re a trusted buyer,” like everything we’ve talked about in the past couple minutes. And then you can bring them in and say, “Hey, what would you pay for this? Here are the numbers, here are the pictures.” And that allows you to kind of a back into a deal and it’d be a little more certain on the deal. And it all boils down to building that dispositions list.

James:
Well, And I do have a question for Rob, because Rob is a marketing genius and the famous YouTuber, how do you use funnels? I think you probably know marketing better than me and Sam combined in one brain.

Rob:
I don’t know about that.

James:
Yeah, I mean, you are the celebrity of YouTube. How have you created your funnels to drive in your business?

Rob:
Honestly, there’s a couple of ways that I do it. I always tell people that no matter what business that you’re doing, email capture is the number one thing that you want to do in any business because email marketing is still a very successful way to build a relationship with your clients. You can send out daily emails, but also, just a way to convert a lot of the leads that are in that list. So in my space, especially in the Airbnb world, what I’m starting to realize is I’m actually starting to move a little bit off of the Airbnb platform and I’m actually developing a direct booking website. There’s a couple of reasons for this. I’ve always depended on Airbnb primarily, and there’s also Vrbo and there’s other OTAs, Online Travel Agencies out there, but I’m playing by their rules. I don’t really have control of my listing.
I could get shut down for any reason and I don’t really love that. And so I’m creating a direct booking website. And the one thing that happens when you create a direct booking website for your short-term rental business is, as I mentioned, taco stand out of your house. It’s not like people are just going to know that my direct booking website exists, right? I have to sort of market that. And so, one way would obviously be YouTube, but the primary way that I’m actually marketing and developing my funnel within my short-term rental business is I am capturing the emails of all of my guests by using a device. Have you ever gone to a hotel and when you’re trying to log into wifi and it’s like, “Put in your email and check this box”? That’s effectively what I’m doing at all of my Airbnbs now, you connect it to your router and not only are you getting the email of the person that booked your place, you’re getting everyone’s email.
If it’s a group of 10 people, you’ve just gotten the emails of 10 different people that then get added to my email list, my CRM, and then you can actually market to them after they stay, “Hey, thanks so much for staying. We really appreciated it. Next time you come back, I’ll give you a 10% discount.” A year later you can say, “Hey, it’s been a year since you stayed at Casita Cujo, please come back. We’d love to have you here.” Or if you really want to get super into the weeds on the funnel there, you could even capture data like their birthday and send them a birthday email. It’s like, “Hey, happy birthday, James. Come back. You’ll get 50% off of your space since it’s your birthday.”
And so that is my way of utilizing funnels within my real estate business because primarily when I started this thing, I was just getting one off guests, I would say, but never come back. But if you can build your business around repeat business and you can even just increase your repeat business by 5%, it can have exponential results on your overall revenue. I’m getting into this whole, I do funnel marketing outside of real estate, but within it, I’m really excited to get under the hood and figure out what I can do to actually make more money and emails… And that email list is the number one way to do it for my direct booking website. How’s that sound? That do good?

James:
Yeah. Well, and you made a really important part of the funnels is that marketing follow-up-

Rob:
Follow-up, for sure.

James:
For us, on average, it takes us four and a half months to close that sale. Some are really quick and some take a really long time. And so the blended average is four and a half months. But that funnel, and the follow-up to keep people moving through, is really important on any type of lead that you’re contacting, staying in front of them. I’m actually really glad you brought that up because that is half the battle of getting that sale done is just staying in front of the people for a long gated amount of time, communicating with them and then having them drive back to you.

Rob:
And just get any excuse to reach out to them. I just added a pickleball court to one of my properties, so I can send out an email to all of the guests that have stayed in the past and say, “Hey, last time you stayed, this pickleball court wasn’t here, but now it is. Come back and enjoy it.” And again, you can hit them with a discount code. You can just remind them, stay top of mind. But effectively what you want, especially in the short-term rental side of things, is for someone to read that email and be like, “Oh my gosh, that was so fun. I got to text the group and make that trip happen again.” There’s a bunch of different ways you can get creative with it.
My big funnel in the short-term rental space isn’t just that. It is listing on Airbnb, Vrbo, my direct booking website, Furnished Finder, putting all my stuff out there for the world to see because that’s the only way people are ever going to find out about my businesses. A lot of use cases here from flipping, to wholesaling, to agent businesses, to short-term rentals. Hopefully, we were able to teach people a little something today.

Sam:
Yeah, I think I just wanted to add a note as I’m sitting here learning from you two gentlemen, the passion that you guys have, especially Rob, just went into a Rain Man tangent and then James has been doing this the whole time. But having that passion for these funnels and really enjoying the process, I think is super important for newer investors. If you don’t have that passion, that is fine. Don’t fake it, but find somebody that does either hire that out, it’ll be worth it, or partner with somebody that has a passion around this side of the business. The reason these two guys are so freaking successful and they’re here talking and I’m learning from them along with everybody listening, is because of their passion and how much they get into it.
If you don’t have that passion for this side of the business, I think that’s fine, but I would suggest finding somebody that does and making them a part of your team some way, shape or form, because having that kind of thing and having that enjoyment out of figuring things out and maximizing things will set you apart from a lot of different people.

Rob:
Yeah, totally agree, man. A lot of what we just talked about today is marketing, marketing 101, and admittedly, not everyone is a marketing person, and that’s totally fine. I’m a marketing guy. I am not a detail oriented, in the numbers, in the weeds, spreadsheet guy, and I have a partner that does that, and then I handle the marketing side of it. I definitely think whether it’s someone on your team or it’s your partner, especially in partnerships, when you’re finding a partner to work with in the real estate space, find out how to be supplementary to each other. And for me, I just happen to be the marketing arm of my own business.
A lot of good stuff here, guys. I appreciate you guys coming in and talking about this stuff. Hopefully everyone at home, you’re sort of thinking about your business and your respective funnels. And remember to put it in simple terms, you can think of a funnel as an upside down triangle. I’m going to draw it out right here on this piece of paper. It’s going to be the most amazing thing I’ve ever drawn. All right. This right here is a funnel, for those of you that are watching on YouTube. People travel down that funnel. It is the experience, it is the journey that a customer takes through your funnel to ultimately convert. And one of the big things that we talked about at the beginning of this, perhaps the biggest downfall is the lack of follow-up. So make sure that you are following up with the people that are going through your funnel or else you’re doing all of this for no reason. So not only following up, but doing it in a timely manner.
Sam, any other big downfalls of the funnel? I know you had a couple at the beginning of the show.

Sam:
Yeah, the biggest one for me, especially for newer investors, is going to be go deeper and not wider. Don’t try 10 different channels and create 10 different funnels. That’s just going to be inefficient, and you’re probably not going to see a ton of results. I would just pick two or three and go a little bit deeper into those. Figure out where your inefficiencies are, get efficient, and then after that, start to stack on more funnels, so deeper, not wider.

Rob:
Awesome. Well, I think I just thought of a great drinking game. Take a shot every time someone says “funnel” on the podcast. With that said, James, where can people learn more about you if they want to find you on the internet, connect with you, send you a tweet, all that good stuff?

James:
Find the top of my funnel.

Rob:
Yeah, exactly. If people want to find you at the top of your funnel, where can they do so?

James:
Probably, the easiest way is Instagram @jdainflips, or you can check out james dainard.com.

Rob:
Awesome. What about you, Sam? Where can people find the top of your funnel?

Sam:
The top of my funnel? Pretty much any social media I am on. The name’s @samfasterfreedom. So, whatever social media you’re on, just go ahead and find me there. If you’re on Twitter or X or whatever they’re going to call it now, just hit me up there. If you want to communicate with me, same as James @samfasterfreedom on Instagram, I’ll answer your DM and get you whatever information you need and try and help you out.

Rob:
Awesome. And you can find me over on YouTube @robuilt. I talk about all this stuff in long form, or actually, I guess it’s a shorter form than podcast, 15 to 20 minute videos that teach you everything about real estate and some funnel marketing is involved, I suppose. You can also find me on Instagram @robuilt, Threads @robuilt, and that’s it, guys. I think we can safely say that today we put the fun in funnel and that’s it. Yeah, I’m going to leave with that. I don’t even want you guys to react to that horrible joke. Catch everyone on the next episode of BiggerPockets.
[inaudible]

 

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