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DGS 90: Generating Leads with Ben Atkin from DoorsUp

How does an aggressively-minded property management company grow quickly? Leads. But it’s impossible for property managers to pursue the blue ocean of 70% self-managed landlords. There’s no way to contact them. Until now.

Today, I am talking to Ben Atkin of DoorsUp, a lead generation service for property management entrepreneurs.

You’ll Learn…

[02:30] Ben’s Background: Grew up surrounded by real estate, property management, and software.

[03:09] 50-unit Student Housing Apartment Complex: Managing students is difficult; Ben moved on to something less stressful and more lucrative.

[03:40] Bootstrap to the Core: Partnered with Coldwell Banker Premier and started property management company from scratch.

[04:10] Daily Pre-occupation: How do you grow doors? How do you increase the number of units under management?

[04:41] Database: How do you identify people who own rental property? Where do they hangout? How do you contact them?

[05:03] DoorsUp Prototype: Every person in market who owns rental properties and their contact information to track interactions and engagement.

[06:20] Secret Sauce: DoorsUp gets information and people ready to sign-up.

[07:37] Grow Doors: Use DoorsUp to pick an area to pursue to contact owners and acquire more properties to manage.

[14:20] Future for DoorsUp: Going to NARPM to add service areas.

[16:27] FAQ: Does this have all the data that I can find myself? Data is concise, filtered, and updated regularly to make your marketing more efficient and cost-effective.

[21:14] Bogged Down and Overwhelmed: Grew too fast and doesn’t want to be a property manager!

[22:15] My Thesis: Property management has a serious marketing problem. People cannot find a sustainable way to grow doors.

Tweetables

Resources

Ben Atkin’s Personal Email

DoorsUp

Ben Atkin on LinkedIn

Google Street View

Grant Cardone

National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM)

Business Network International (BNI)

Cole Realty Resource

SmartZip

REDX

DoorGrowClub Facebook Group

DoorGrowLive

DoorGrow on YouTube

DoorGrow Website Score Quiz

Transcript

Jason: Welcome, DoorGrow hackers to the DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, and you are interested in growing your business and life, and you are open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow hacker.

DoorGrow hackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges, and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not, because you realize that property management is the ultimate high-trust gateway to real estate deals, relationships, and residual income.

At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change perception, expand the market, and help the best property management entrepreneurs win. I’m your host, property management growth expert, Jason Hull, the founder and CEO of DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show. Today, I’m hanging out with Ben Atkin from a new startup, it sounds like, called DoorsUp. Ben, welcome.

Ben: Thanks, Jason. It’s a pleasure to be on the show. I’m just going to go ahead and say this and geek out out of the way. I’ve watched literally every single one of your podcast and I can jive so much with that intro. It seems like it’s changed a little bit in the last. Did I notice that? You changed that intro to include a couple more things recently?

Jason: I have made some subtle changes, yes.

Ben: Subtle changes, okay. I love that. I’m really excited to be on this show. I’m just stoked to be here.

Jason: Let’s get into your background. You’ve got this startup called DoorsUp, which in my understanding is a lead gen service for property management entrepreneurs, so they can get more owners which sounds very in alignment with what we do to optimize companies so they can handle those leads, so they can effectively, organically, create that business. Tell us how did you get into this space? Give us some background on Ben. Who the heck are you?

Ben: Yeah. It’s a long long road. I’m a second generation real estate person as well as second generation software developer and software person. My dad has a real estate company, was a real estate developer. The most inopportune time to be a real estate developer in 2006-2007. I grew up surrounded by real estates, surrounded by property management, and also surrounded by software.

Anyway, I got my start in actually having experiences in property management in college. I was managing a 50-unit student housing apartment complex. If anybody is familiar with student housing, they know that that is just a difficult job to manage students. 50 units is about 250 leases in student housing. I was looking for something a little bit more lucrative and a little less stressful. I found an opportunity in my local market with a Coldwell Banker property management franchise or Coldwell Banker Premier, partnered with that franchise, and started with a property management company from scratch. Zero clients, zero connections, zero revenue, and zero website—nothing; we just started from the ground.

Jason: Bootstrap.

Ben: Bootstrap. Yeah, absolute to the core. I have very little experience in property management at that time even though I did my best at pretending that I did. That was our major problem was how do you grow doors? How do you increase the number of units under management? That was my preoccupation daily because I wasn’t being paid. You talk about bootstrap, I was living on savings trying to grow a property management company. That was my challenge. That was my problem.

I remember speaking to my broker at this franchise. I waited at his office for about an hour. I was brainstorming with him. I said, “How do you identify people who own rental property? Where do they hangout?” It’s not like there’s this big database of everybody who owns rental property and a way to contact them. That’s really was the impetus for what we developed and what we started to pursue.

I leveraged a little bit of my connection with my dad and my brothers who were software engineers, I have a software engineering background a little bit, and we built the prototype of DoorsUp, which is exactly that. It’s a database of every person in your market virtually who owns rental properties. A way to get their phone number, mailing address, and a way to track their interactions with them as you pursue them to engage with the property management services.

Jason: I love it. It sounds like this is almost the equivalent of somebody doing all the manual work to go and find an owner occupied list, then start trying to direct mail to them, and doing all this so manually which works, which can work great to help them grow their business. But it’s a long game. People will try it once and feel like, “I did a mailer, I didn’t get anything.” But then I hear people that have played this game and they’ll say, “I have clients walk in all the time.” They’re holding a postcard they did 10 years ago and saying, “Hey, I’m ready, so sign up.” Explain how this works. Where are you getting the information? Let’s start there.

Ben: Sure. I’m going to mention that it’s a little bit part of our secret sauce. I don’t know if I consider ourselves a big data company. That’s kind of a word that people on software throw around to make themselves sound cool, in my opinion. But we have a lot of data. Hundreds of sources, public sources, that’s really our expertise is in managing and handling data to be able to target these types of people.

Like what you mentioned, let me just make this quick point, mailing to absentee owners is, in some ways, inefficient. How many second home owners who aren’t interested in property management are you mailing to? In a market like mine where it’s a lot of retirees and it’s almost a vacation area, that would be completely ineffective because you’d sent out a thousand mailers and 700 of those would go to people who really have no interest or their daughters’ living in that home or whatever. I’m just going to make that point that what we’re doing is quite a bit more targeted, and hopefully, should save on expenses, marketing wise and other things.

Jason: Explain how somebody could utilize the system growth in their business.

Ben: It’s a web based application. The first thing that a user would see as they login is they would see a map and filters on the side. They can pick an area that they like to pursue in trying to acquire more properties to manage. Let’s say, they’ve got a neighborhood that they really love, they draw a box on the map, and then they add a couple more filters. Maybe they want to manage only properties that are the 2000s and newer properties, so they don’t have to deal with maintenance issues. They hit filter parcels. They’ll just see a whole bunch of pins drop on the map, hundreds of pins of rental properties that are algorithms, are big data approach as identified as rental properties. Not just as absentees parcels, but as rental properties. It’s really rigorous in deciding what we display as rentals.

That’s the first step. They filter, they find the rental properties, they can view the properties from the street with Google Street View through our application. It’s very easy to see if the property’s run down. They can actually look at it from the satellite imagery. They click on the owners name and they click the lookup button. Our system does a whole bunch of secret sauce magic in the background, gives you a phone number, and the accurate mailing address of the owner. As well as information about if they own other rentals. That type of information that they can then pursue that person and try to engage them into a conversation about their property management services. That’s the simplest way to explain it.

Jason: They sign up for your service, they markout their geographic area, they get some pintabs, they can street view the property, then your system will crawl the magical interweb, pull in phone numbers, email addresses, or mailing address. Then the next step for them would basically, probably be to do some sort of a direct mail campaign, cold calling.

Ben: Yeah. We’re agnostic to whatever marketing strategy they want to take. We provide the information, we provide the data. They can be as creative as they need to in order to pursue that market. Call, mail, we don’t have email addresses, that would be something that they get them on the phone and ask for an email address. Then start them in their sales funnel.

A great way to distribute their content, things that you’ve helped them create, or others who’ve helped them create, or even knocking on people’s doors. That sounds ridiculous in my mind; it sounds ridiculously inefficient. But if you knew that someone had 10 rental properties and those rentals properties were exactly what you wanted to manage, you can see exactly where the homeowner or where the landlord lives or where the rental owner lives, it might be worth dropping off some fudge at the doorstep of their home. That sounds ridiculous, but that’s actually something that one of our […] has done in the past. It’s very differentiating as opposed to just this search engine optimization, pay-per-click strategy. It’s a little bit closer to a human connection.

Jason: Oh, yeah. Realtors still knock doors. Realtors still do this. Property managers have probably really tried to avoid doing that. I’ve got a client who’s in commercial property management. One of the ways he would get clients is he would go bring a candle to their place. “I’m old fashioned here, so here’s this candle.” He would give a gift, a little gift. The secret is, he’ll buy these at the dollar store. This isn’t like an expensive thing. But some people are showing up with, I don’t know, a bottle of wine or something. It’s a dollar of candle and it probably meant something, it felt like something warm to them. I think it’s all about connection.

Obviously, if they were really aggressive, they’ve listened to Grant Cardone’s 10X, they’re like gunho. They wanted to create some business. They just need the opportunities. They go into the system. They may have done a multichannel approach. They’re like, “This is my dream list right here. I’m going to call them. I’m going to send them some material. I’m going to nail them on a regular basis. I’m going to go knock on their door.” They will get the business.

Ben: Here’s the thing, like I said, we’re marketing strategy agnostic. People are already doing wonderful things to get more doors. They’re doing great things. They’re setting up landlords seminars, they’ve got great content, they’re trying to push them to these distribution channels, but one of the things that we can provide is a way to reach more and more people. As part of your mailer, send out an invitation to your seminar. It fits really well into the things that people are already doing. If you’ve got a digital marketing strategy, get somebody on the phone, and say, “We would love to just send you an information in an email about what we do.” Just enroll them in an email nurturing campaign that you’ve already developed, that you’ve already got going. It seems like organic traffic is a little bit harder to get in our industry for the smaller guys and for some of the companies that are just starting out. They’ve got to put a little bit of effort into it to start getting those doors, getting the traction that they’ve got.

Jason: Yeah. If we’ve got roughly 70% that are self-managing in the industry, there’s tons of blue ocean. This just helps you to see where the fish are. If you can see them, you can go hunt. It’s time. Love the idea. I think this is such a nice match-up between DoorGrow and what you do. I’ll be really curious to give feedback to some of our clients on some of the strategies that we teach them if they have these opportunities that they can go after. It’s really going to be cool. Ben, what’s sort of the future for DoorsUp?

Ben: Yeah, good question. Like you mentioned in the beginning, we’re very recently coming out of stealth mode or development mode. We launched just short of a month and a half ago. We’re constrained geographically right now where we can service. Having just barely launched, we are currently servicing customers in Utah and Nevada. I live in Utah, I live right in between Las Vegas and South Lake City, which are two large markets that we wanted to initially, prove the concept of the product and establish a customer base. We are going to be in NARPM, at the NARPM convention conference in October in Arizona. Is that right? It’s in Arizona.

Jason: Yeah. My assistant schedules it all for me. I just do what she tells me to do. I’ll be there.

Ben: We’ll be there and that’s where we hope to add, geographically, another service area. We’re going to be growing that way, kind of state by state as we go. That will be determined by the traction we’re able to get in different states that we’re able to start servicing. If we can grab a couple of customers in one state, that would be enticing enough for us to go through that state and start servicing that area.

There’s an advantage for our customers right now. They’re alone in these sea of data. They’re the only people using it. That’s a huge competitive advantage right now for the people using it, to be some of the first ones that are using it. As much as we’re just coming out of beta and the user interface is not as polished as it should be or could be, but there’s a huge advantage for those that are early customers that are starting to use the system and see some results.

Jason: What are some of the most common questions that people are asking you about this? I would imagine one question that comes to mind is, “Does this have all the data that I can go find myself?” Or is it missing that?

Ben: Right, good question. Essentially, people ask that question. They have a little bit of misunderstanding about what we do. That was an instinct that you had right at the beginning of our conversation is, it’s similar to what people are doing which is they’re going out sourcing their own data, sending out mail, or sending out stuff like that. That’s a very rudimentary version of what we do. The answer to that question is, I guess, the data is so concise, so aggressively filtered, that makes your marketing very efficient, and enables you to do certain things that you never would have time or money to do otherwise.

Now, campaign is being an excellent example. The sales cycle for property management is so long. We’re not selling toothbrushes. If you ask somebody, “Hey, you want to buy this toothbrush?” They can say, “Yes,” and it’s done; the sale is done and the service is done. Property management has such a long sales cycle where you get somebody on the phone and you say, “I would love to manage your units.” And they say, “Well, it’s got a 12-18 month lease on it. I’m not interested unless it’s vacant. 12 months from now, call me.” I’m being able to keep track on that and being able to keep track of how many times you’ve mailed to somebody is another really important part of that process. It’s integrated into the system right now. People are able to track their leads, they’re able to keep track of how many times they’ve mailed to somebody, keep notes on phone calls that they’ve had.

The other aspect of that is that the data updates. I don’t know if you’ve ever spoken to somebody who has actually tried to implement a long-term mail campaign, but the data, six months out, has changed. People buy properties, they sell property. How do they correlate whether they’ve mailed to somebody already? Whether they’ve called somebody already? How do they just track that change over time to be able to spend their time with one person long enough for them to close them given that property management has such a long sales cycle? That’s part of the advantage of using a system like ours to do your prospecting and data sourcing. We keep it up to date. The data is updated monthly. The phone numbers, you click the lookup button and it does lookup immediately right then. Very, very fresh data which you’re not going to be able to find yourself.

Who has time for that anyway? You’re going to be managing 200 properties and you’re going to be spending time in a big Excel spreadsheet trying to correlate […]. Absolutely not. I saw as a huge way to be much more effective and to really spend my money where it’s going to make the most effect, given that I knew that people have multiple units, and they were units I wanted to manage. I can pursue the market that I want rather than shotgunning a mail campaign or something out in the world and seeing if I got anything I wanted.

Jason: Tell us a little bit about some of the early adopters. What sort of experience have they had? Is there a case study or an example you can share with us?

Ben: I’ll start with myself. I was the first case study. If we go back to that origin story of DoorsUp, I asked my broker, “Where do I find these people?” He said, “I have no idea. No one has any idea.” We developed this raw prototype of the system. I got this report. It’s so embarrassing to even look at now, it’s this ugly Excel spreadsheet, but it was our prototype. It was the name, phone number, and address of every person in my market who owned rental property. How many rentals they owned, the value of their portfolio, and the addresses of all of their rentals. It was ridiculous to me. To me, it felt like magic.

I got straight down and called through that list. After wasting three months getting four or five units, in two months, we were managing about 45 units. I was just bogged down. It was crazy. We grew too fast. I discovered that I didn’t want to be a property manager, so I went into software.

Jason: Yeah. A lot of people were like, “Why don’t you do it, Jason?” I’m like, “Then I can’t help everybody else do well.” Then, I’ll be competing with everybody. I don’t think anybody wants that. You’re no longer doing that, but you had a really rapid growth initially. I love creating that problem for clients, by the way. I love when they come to me and they’re like, “Man, my biggest problem is adding doors and getting doors.” Then I say, “Great. Let’s get you to problem number two which is how you deal with the growth. Now, you’ve got doors coming in and you’re in pain because you have so much growth.” I love creating that problem.

Well, anything else they should know about this? If not, how can they get in touch? How can they find out more about DoorsUp?

Ben: Yeah. I guess, I’ll end with this thought, this is kind of the thesis behind DoorsUp. This is why we got into this space and try to solve this problem. My thesis is, essentially, that property management has a serious marketing problem. I listen to your show a lot and I feel like I didn’t steal that idea from you—I sure hope I didn’t—but you’ve taught me a lot about that, but I experienced that myself. People cannot find a sustainable, reliable way, to grow their door count. Profitability aside, that’s important. That’s very, very important, but top line revenue growth is the thing that we are focusing on helping people to.

We don’t have, in our industry, any sort of enabling data or service or company like other industries do. For example, if somebody in property management really wanted to spend all day everyday prospecting, if they wanted to do Grant Cardone 10X, they want to not talk to seven new landlords a week, they want to talk to 75 new landlords a week. How would they do that? They would go to Rotary Club and hope that a landlord was there. They would go to BNI, Business Network International, and hope that a landlord is there. Or they’ll take a realtor to lunch and pray that he’ll give him a referral. How does an aggressively-minded property management company grow quickly? They just need these leads.

Whereas in real estate sales, real estate sales and other industries, we’ve got Cole Realty Resource, we’ve got SmartZip, we’ve got the REDX. We’ve got all these prospecting tools. Property management industry just does not have that, which has made it impossible for property managers to pursue this blue ocean, 70% of self-managed landlords. There’s no way for them to contact them. They have no visibility into that market.

Just from a very macro perspective, that’s what we’re trying to provide the industry. To be able to turn the focus from just closing hand razors, people who go on Google and raise their hands and say, “We want your service,” to be able to aggressively pursue that market instead of just waiting for leads to come to them. That’s what we see. That’s my thesis is that there’s a problem in property management that they need this data and we can provide it. We’re still proving and testing that thesis. But we’re very excited to get out there and be able to offer that to people. We’ve seen some success.

If people want to contact me, there are plenty of ways on our website. You can go ahead and email me. My personal email address is ben.r.atkin@gmail.com. That’s probably the easiest way to reach out to me personally. Though, I’m also tuned in on the website if you chat with us. It’ll be an actual person who answers that. If you’re in Utah and Nevada, go online, signup for a free trial. We’d love to have you start using the system. We do a two-week, 30 lead, free trial. Other than that, just reach out to me. I’d love to chat about it, and jive about property management, and see if we can help this industry grow from the 30% penetration to 40% or 50% or 60%. I see there needs to be some sort of change in order to be able to do that.

Jason: Cool. Ben, where are you based out of?

Ben: I’m in St. George, Utah. Just an hour North of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jason: Got it. I know where it is. I was born in Utah. Alright. We’ll connect, I think that I have a lot of clients are at the point where they’re ready to be able to leverage their service like this. I think a lot of property managers are not. I think a lot of them really are just not ready to leverage something like this, unfortunately. If that’s the case, reach out to DoorGrow. Then they’ll see if you’re ready. “You’re ready. You have the bandwidth to do these kind of things and grow your business. Let’s get you connected to DoorsUp.” I look forward to watching what you guys do, seeing the progress, and growth of your company.

Ben: Thanks, it’s a pleasure.

Jason: Thanks for coming in this show.

Ben: Hopefully, we’ll see you at NARPM. Anybody else, hopefully, we’ll see in there. Thanks!

Jason: Alright. Very cool. If you are a property management entrepreneur, and you are wanting to grow your business, and you want to grow without SEO, without pay-per-click, without content marketing, without social media marketing, without uncomfortable videos, without pay-per-lead services, and they’re having phenomenal growth, they’re easily adding in a year 100 doors to their business, they’re adding $100,000 in revenue to their business annually and you want to do that, maybe you’re one of these companies that, right now, is losing more doors than you’re getting on right now because it’s difficult to try to outpace the market when doors are selling off because the market’s good with marketing then reach out to DoorGrow. Let’s optimize your business, let’s get you ready to use a service like this, and some other strategies, and tactics that we have, that can help you grow your business. Check us out at doorgrow.com. We would love to help you out.

We want, like what I say in the intro, we want to impact this industry, and we’re excited to find like-minded entrepreneurs like Ben and others that are helping to make this industry great. I think it has massive potential. I believe that property management industry can be as big as the real estate industry; I think it has the potential to really grow here in the US. Let’s make that happen, everybody.

Make sure, if you’re a property management entrepreneur, you join our Facebook group doorgrowclub.com. Get inside the community. Connect with us. This is a group for property management business owners. Get with your tribe. Connect with us, and we’ll probably see you in person at some of these NARPM events because I’m hitting as many as I can lately. Hopefully, I’ll be connecting with you guys in person and inside the DoorGrow Club.

Thanks everybody for tuning in to DoorGrow Show. Until next time, to our mutual growth. Bye, everyone.