Now that we’ve completed the foundational groundwork in the first four parts of this NREI Special Series on how to get started in real estate crowdfunding, let’s take a closer look at pitch automation. This encompasses how you're going to structure your website and covers the mechanics of what you have to do to capture leads to bring them into your network and start nurturing them without having to actually meet or talk to them.
At GowerCrowd, we have reviewed hundreds of websites and built a few ourselves and the way to structure a website, in the immortal words of Ray Kroc who was the founder of the McDonalds franchise, is to KISS—Keep It Simple Stupid! [On a personal note, Ray Kroc stands as inspiration for me because it wasn’t until he was 53 years old that he opened the first McDonald’s franchise, having discovered it to be something new—as you may be doing as you learn about crowdfunding in this series—and realizing that it was the way of the future, had seized the opportunity.]
Your website should be simple, functional and loaded to the gills with lead magnets and calls-to-action. It is going to serve as your automated pitch delivery machine and building it out properly is among the smartest things you can do.
While keeping your website simple, there are two key components that will turn it from being nothing more than an inert visual business card into being a fully automated lead generation machine for you.
And as this is where almost all sponsors get it wrong, just making the two small tweaks I’m going to show you now, will not only immediately start generating leads for you, it will also give you a competitive edge in the race for capital.
The two most important functional parts of your homepage, which is the first page prospects land on when they enter your website address into their browser, are:
- A call-to-action (CTA)
- An education section
The CTA we discussed earlier in this series is what guides investors towards moving forward in their relationship journey with you, and the ‘education’ tab provides easy access for prospects to gaining access to more high value information from you.
There are other important items on your homepage including an ‘about us’ section that at minimum includes principal biographies and a ‘contact us’ page, but without a prominent CTA and an education section, your site is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Remember, your homepage is rarely—if ever—where you will actually be closing any deals. But it is the gateway to engaging people who are interested, getting them to submit their email address, and guiding them along the path towards investing.
The call to action
It is easy to get overwhelmed with the whole process of online capital formation. If you are anything like me, you’ll likely start skeptical that you have any chance of scaling the walls of automation. Then, once you get over that mental hurdle, your mind will start visualizing the limitless different directions you can go in to attract prospects and then you’ll come right back down to earth and wonder where the heck to start.
Slow down. Rome was not built in a day, and your empire will not be either. Be sure to take things one step at a time. And the first thing to do, is to get a nice bright CTA installed on your website so it is prominently displayed right beneath your tagline and subhead.
Many of the main auto-email platforms like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or Convertkit (which we currently use), offer integrations that you can trigger with your homepage call to action button and that are easy to install. The way they work is that first you install a ‘button’ on your website that says ‘learn more’ or ‘join now’ or something similar. This seamlessly links to your auto-email provider in a way that is invisible to your prospect. When the prospect clicks the button and enters their name and email address, your auto-email system kicks in.
There are a few ways to set these up and after considerable trial and error, we have found that triggering a little popup window asking for a prospect name and email address is the most effective option. In fact, in some cases we have seen upwards of a 35 percent conversion rate for pop ups. This means that of all the people who click your homepage CTA button, fully 35 percent actually complete the form by giving you their name and email address.
This is an extremely high ratio and means if someone has made it this far, they are very likely interested. As soon as that happens, you're going to start sending them emails automatically—those we discussed earlier in this series.
Now, inside these emails you set to go out automatically once someone signs up, is going to be educational content. You will want to be informing prospects about who you are by providing content a prospect can use to further their own interests. This might include discussing lessons you’ve learned throughout your career, tax benefits of investing in real estate, modern portfolio theory; anything, as long as it’s something central to your investment philosophy and that provides value to the reader.
But importantly, whether this content is in the form of articles, opinion pieces, videos or other media, it all needs to be housed on your website under the education section. By including it here you provide a resource that prospects can utilize when they visit your site, and a resource you can use in your emails to drive prospects back to your site and to keep them engaged with your ever expanding educational materials.
Couple things to keep in mind. First, there comes a point where you reach a critical mass in terms of the content on your site that allows you to slow down production to a regular cadence. But in an ideal world, you’ll want to reach this critical mass as quickly as possible and that generally means at minimum having a dozen decent thought leadership articles on your site—and I’ll get into how to construct those momentarily.
Second, the very idea of building out this educational content section can be so intimidating it becomes a barrier to even starting. So here’s what to do.
Just get one article written and up on your website. In fact, as soon as you’ve finished reading this article, get your own first article written and installed and here’s how to do that…
Content that converts
What we're going to do now is take a look at how to produce great content that converts the perfect prospects for you.
The first step is deciding what your content is actually going to be about. What are your investors interested in? What information do they need in order to make a final decision? What do your investors not know in the status quo, but could benefit from learning?
When creating this content, assume that your audience knows absolutely nothing about real estate. You should also assume that they will be reluctant to invest any of their hard-earned money and, once again, the burden will be on you to call them into action.
One of the biggest challenges that you're going to have is that you know this topic better than anybody else. And when you know a subject extremely well, it can be tough to explain it to somebody else because you assume that they know as much as you do. It's difficult to imagine that they don't. But you cannot make that assumption—after all, you are the one involved directly in the industry and your ideal prospects, quite likely, are not.
There are a few ways to develop the content topics for your website, but here’s one of my favorites. Grab your latest pitch deck pdf, the one you last sent out on a deal when you were raising money. Then recruit someone who has zero knowledge of commercial real estate to help you out—it might be a spouse, one of your kids or anyone else who at minimum can read and who knows nothing about real estate. Give them your pitch deck and ask them to highlight all the terms in it that they don’t understand.
That list of highlighted terms just became your topic list.
And remember this. We were all taught during our formative years to use the most advanced language we could when writing anything, because this would demonstrate to the reader how well educated and knowledgeable we are. This is great if you want to be an academic, competing for who can write the most utterly impenetrable text on the most obscure topics possible, but it’s completely useless if you want to sell anything—which is exactly what you’re doing. Selling, or pitching, requires a completely different form of language—and brings us back to our friend Ray Kroc—Keep It Simple Stupid.
This doesn’t mean talking down to your prospects but assume first that they don’t understand a concept and explain it in simple terms. Take the topic list that your helper just assembled for you and write content that explains the terms to them so that they can understand. Once you’ve done that, you can always move on to the deeper topic dives that are more advanced, but to start with keep it at the real estate 101 level that anyone can understand.
Now, once you have your topic list lined up, pick one of those subjects you are the most comfortable talking about and knock out an article covering that topic. It doesn’t need to be long—half the length of this article you’re reading now is more than sufficient—and get it installed on your website.
Getting the message out
So now you have broken your value proposition down into individual components by creating a topic list. By doing this, you are creating bite sized pieces of content that prospective investors can consume online in their own time. No longer do they need to sit through an hour-long meeting with you to hear your story, and no longer do you need to present the same thing to each investor multiple times.
Over time, you will want to add more articles to your education section. If you write only one article a week over a three month period, you’ll have reached that twelve-article critical mass threshold. Plus, while you’re doing that, inevitably you’ll realize that the content you’ll create can be broken down further and further. Even from one article you can generate dozens of corresponding pieces of content to help build your brand and educate your audience even more.
There might not be a single post that recognizably pushes a prospect to become an investor—but with enough consistent, useful, and digestible pieces of content, you can make it clear that you know what you’re talking about—and you don’t need flowery language to do that, you just need volume.
The path to investing, as you’d expect will vary be each possible investor.
Your job is not to create a one-size-fits-all marketing solution, but to create a machine that can help attract people from all sorts of different directions.
Naturally, this machine needs fuel in order to keep running because now it’s time to start attracting prospects with this content you’ve created and that means going on to social media and begin posting, using this same content.
And a short-cut way to adding hi-octane to the articles you write before posting them on social media is through a process called ‘content factoring.’ In the next installment of this series, I’ll show you how to take just one article and easily create multiple versions of it to post on social media so you can expand your visibility, be seen as a thought leader in the industry and attract more prospects.
Adam Gower, Ph.D., who is an authority in real estate crowdfunding and is known as the creator of the Investor Acquisition System, combines a lifetime of experience in real estate investment and finance with best-of-class digital marketing tactics, techniques, and strategies to help crowdfund real estate syndications. Find out more in this new book, SYNDICATE or at GowerCrowd.com