JF1534: The Power Of Your Apartment Syndication Brand Part 1 of 4 | Syndication School with Theo Hicks
When raising money, which apartment syndicators are constantly doing, having a recognizable name or brand could make your job easier. Imagine having such a brand that people actually come to you offering to give you their money to invest in your deals. That is 100% possible when you have a highly recognized brand. How do I know it is 100% possible? Because I work for a guy that has done exactly that with the Best Ever brand. Hear Theo’s and Joe’s tips on how to build a powerful apartment syndication brand. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Joe Fairless: There needed to be a resource on apartment syndication that not only talked about each aspect of the syndication process, but how to actually do each of the things, and go into it in detail… And we thought “Hey, why not make it free, too?” That’s why we launched Syndication School.
Theo Hicks will go through a particular aspect of apartment syndication on today’s episode, and get into the details of how to do that particular thing. Enjoy this episode, and for more on apartment syndication and how to do things, go to apartmentsyndication.com, or to learn more about the apartment syndication school, go to syndicationschool.com, so you can listen to all the previous episodes.
Theo Hicks: Hi, Best Ever listeners. Welcome back to another episode of the Syndication School podcast series, a free resource focused on the how-to’s of apartment syndications. As always, I am your host, Theo Hicks.
Each week we air a two-part podcast series focused on a specific aspect of the apartment syndication investment strategy. For the majority of the series, we are offering documents or spreadsheets that are available for you to download for free. All of the documents and Syndication School series can be found at SyndicationSchool.com.
This episode is part one of a two-part series entitled “The power of your apartment syndication brand.” Now, actually it’s going to be a four-part series where we will be focusing in the first two parts on the power of the brand, and in the second two parts we’ll be focusing on the two large components of the brand, which is your company presentation, and your thought leadership platform. But to start off, we’re going to do an introduction into why you need a brand, and how to select a target audience, as well as the first three components of your brand in this episode. Those are the three things you will learn by the end of the episode.
Now, to explain how powerful and important a brand is, I will start off by going over two examples, because what better way than to discuss real-world examples. Probably the most popular brand out there is Apple, but it used to not always be as popular as it is today. In the early ’90s they were losing market share to a company called Wintel, which is a partnership between Microsoft Windows and Intel which no longer exists; at the same time, Apple had also tried a new project called the Apple Newton, which obviously doesn’t exist, because it failed… And it was a multi-billion-dollar project. The combination of those two things had the company overall struggling, and in order to turn things around, they didn’t focus on products, they actually focused on their brand.
In 1997, as you are probably aware of, they initiated their Think Different campaign, and that campaign in combination with the return of Steve Jobs allowed them to reverse the brand’s negative trend, and now today Apple is worth over one trillion dollars. But there was a moment in time in the ’90s where Apple almost went defunct, and they focused on improving their brand through that Think Different campaign, as well as bringing back the face of the company, which is Steve Jobs, and they were able to turn things around, and now I’m recording a podcast on an Apple computer, and you’re probably listening to this podcast on an Apple phone. That’s one example of how focusing on your brand can turn around a company in this create a trillion-dollar company.
An example of it closer to home would be Joe’s Best Ever brand; I’m not sure if you know the story, but he actually didn’t initially start the podcast to create a brand, he actually did it just to make money. At the time, he owned a handful of single-family homes, and he had completed his first syndication deal, but he left his six-figure corporate job and the income that was coming in from those single-family homes and that first syndication weren’t enough. So he brainstormed ways to bring in additional income, and also at the same time he brought on the famous Coach T, Trevor McGregor, who as you all know is Joe’s business coach and life coach. Together, they came up with an idea for a podcast.
The thought was if Joe could build a loyal following, then he could attract advertisers to sponsor the podcast and bring in an additional income stream. Now, [unintelligible [00:08:05].07] the Best Ever brand has blown up to being more than just a podcast. It’s got a blog, a newsletter, conferences, meetup groups, and Joe definitely attributes the success of his company and his ability to control over 400 million dollars in apartments to this point in time where he decided to launch his podcast.
Those are just two examples of how focusing on building a brand can result in building a massive company – in one case a trillion dollar company, in another case a 400-million dollar company and growing.
More specifically, based off of those two examples and other examples of powerful brands, why do you need a brand as an apartment syndicator? Why can’t you just focus on finding deals and raising money and asset managing? Why do you need to incorporate an entirely seemingly different aspect of a business, which is a brand? Well, first is the brand will bring you credibility as an apartment syndicator. Using Apple as an example, they lost credibility due to the failed Apple Newton project, and that credibility was in a sense transferred to that Wintel partnership… But they focused on their brand and were able to bring back Steve Jobs, increase their credibility and reverse that negative trend.
Similarly for you, you’re not gonna have an existing company that you need to repair the brand for, but as a new syndicator who hasn’t completed a deal, one of the main challenges you’re going to face is a lack of credibility. You’re gonna have a credibility problem in the eyes of different team members you talk to, you’re gonna have a credibility problem in the eyes of passive investors… Why would a broker send you a deal if you’ve never done a deal before, or why would a passive investor invest with you and not someone else if you’ve never done a deal before? But having a powerful brand in place before you start to reach out to these team members and before you start to have conversations with passive investors will allow you to go from being perceived as an unknown newbie to a known expert. So you’ll go from no one knowing who you are, and when they first talk to you they don’t know about your background, or they know that you haven’t done a deal before, to becoming someone who is hopefully known to them before you actually talk to them, and you’ll also be perceived as an expert.
An example would be if you were to google “Joe Fairless” – you wouldn’t just see Joe’s LinkedIn page, or a Facebook profile. Instead, if you google Joe’s name, you will come across endless pages on Google of his brand. If you think about it, if you put yourself in the passive investor’s shoes, if you Google someone’s name and all you see is a LinkedIn profile, and then you google someone else’s name and you see a LinkedIn profile, but then you also see a website, a podcast, a blog, in-person events, who is perceived as more of an expert? Even if the person that only has a LinkedIn profile has done a deal before, the fact that you have such a presence online will give you that extra level of credibility that you would not be able to have otherwise.
So you google Joe’s name and you see that he’s someone who has posted content for over 1,500 days in a row, which is his podcast; they see that he’s someone who is consistently producing and performing. They also see that he hosts in-person events with his meetup and his conference, which gives even more credibility than someone who solely has an online presence… And they’ll also see a variety of other educational content; they see that not only is he successful, but he’s attempting to help other people be successful as well. All those things hold extra weight in the eyes of a potential team member or a potential investor. So credibility is huge.
Number two, having a brand allows you to have extra networking abilities. For example, with a podcast you have the ability to network and form personal connections with your listeners that you’ve never met before, and you’re doing this while you sleep. So you record a podcast episode one time, and someone on the other side of the planet who is listening to it during the day while you’re sleeping, that you’ve never met before, who might be a potential passive investor, is listening to your podcast, getting to know you and getting to see you display your expertise.
Also, the brand allows you to meet people that could potentially be future team members. For example, if you create an interview-based podcast, or an interview-based blog, or an interview-based YouTube channel, then you get to go out and pick — rather than calling up a broker and having a regular conversation with them about your goals of buying the deal, instead you can invite them on your podcast, which gives them exposure, and before or after the podcast you can talk to them about your business.
An added level to that is that you’re able to leverage your brand to meet people, in person or just via Skype and having a conversation, that you would not have been able to meet otherwise. For example, in Joe’s first 200 podcasts he interviewed Robert Kiyosaki and Barbara Corcoran. Without a brand, how would he have met those two individuals? It would have been very difficult. It’s possible, but it would have been very difficult. Instead, he has an in, which is his podcast, that he mentions how many people listen, and that is focused on real estate, and invite them on. They usually say no, but in this case they said yes.
More currently, Joe has been able to talk to other famous people like Emmitt Smith, Terrell Fletcher, which he actually spoke to and who actually spoke at his real estate conference, and Tony Hawk among other people. Again, without a brand and without the podcast aspect of that brand, how would he have gotten to talk to Emmitt Smith? How would he have ever had a chance to talk to him unless he ran into him at a grocery store?
In other words, the brand is the most time-efficient networking strategy that has ever existed, because again, you can network with people across the planet while you’re sleeping, and at the same time it’s also powerful because it allows you to interact with people that it would be impossible to do otherwise. So that’s number two, the networking advantages of a brand.
Number three would be direct and indirect cashflow. For Joe, when he started his podcast, the goal was to get sponsorships, so that’s a direct line of cashflow from the podcast. Other examples of more indirect things that come from having a brand would be money made from things like conferences, book sales or consulting programs… Because if you have a large brand and you have a large following, then there are things that you can sell to them, that add value to their business, and it makes you money as well.
And then of course, since we are apartment syndicators, we make the majority of our money from actually doing deals, so indirectly, we benefit from our brand by doing more deals. We are able to bring on more passive investors, more team members, more partners, find more deals than we would have been able to do without our brand and the credibility and networking and exposure that comes from it. So that’s number three, direct and indirect cashflow.
Number four is education. If you listened to the previous Syndication School series, you will remember that two of the requirements to becoming a syndicator is education and experience, and one way to gain education – which also has other benefits as well – is your brand. Again, if you have an interview-based podcast, then you’re able to bring on different real estate professionals who are active and successful, and have conversations with them, and ask them really any question you want. So if you have a particular question about a specific aspect of the syndication investment strategy… Let’s say you wanna know what’s the best way to put together an offering from a legal standpoint, then rather than just calling up a lawyer and asking them those questions, which they’ll probably answer, but an extra level of connection would be to bring them on your podcast and also ask them that same question… Because again, you’re gonna get the answer, people listening are gonna get the answer, and you’re gonna form a more personal connection with that person, and you’re giving them more exposure for their business as well.
That brings us to the fifth point, which is contribution. The first four are more for you, how you’re gonna benefit, but at the same time by building a powerful brand other people are going to benefit as well, because – I’m gonna keep using the podcast as an example throughout – if you have an interview-based podcast, not only are you getting the benefits of credibility, networking, potential cashflow and your education, but people listening are also going to learn if they likely have similar questions that you have, and by you asking them, they are learning things that will help them achieve their business goals, and at the same time, since the brand will help you achieve your business goals as well, the people involved in your business – your team members, your passive investors, partners, any clients you bring on, people that go to your conferences, anyone who benefits from your brand will also have the ability to grow their business, as well.
So those are the top five. There are plenty of other reasons why brands are powerful, but the top five reasons are that credibility factor, the ability to network with people you don’t know, while you sleep, and connect with people that you would likely never meet otherwise. Three is the ability to create a line of direct and indirect cashflow. Four is the education benefits to you, and five is the ability to contribute to other aspiring investors, in this case the syndication niche… But really, these concepts discussed in this podcast and in the next three syndication school podcasts can really be applied to any business strategy, not even just real estate.
Now, there is one thing that Joe wishes he would have done differently starting out. Obviously, everything’s worked out perfectly fine, but one of the things that he wishes he would have done differently starting out was to have focused his content more. The mistake was not defining a specific target audience; instead, he focused on trying to bring in as many listeners as possible. One of the reasons why he came to this conclusion was after reading Tim Ferriss’ — I don’t know if his most recent book, but it’s his book “Tools of Titans.” In one of those chapters he interviewed an economist who brought up the concept of “2,000 true fans.” Now, essentially, there are two different types of fame; there’s general fame, and there’s selective fame.
General fame is essentially the type of fame where you are known by everyone, you are recognized by everyone. That would be like a rockstar, or a rapper, or a very famous actor/actress, or a very famous sports star/athlete. I guess another example would be a politician, as well. Now, the benefits of this type of fame is, of course, lots of money, but there are also liabilities, because if you are generally famous, you can’t really do much without being recognized or bombarded by paparazzi or fans, and while that sounds nice to us right now, I’m sure after a couple of weeks of everytime you go to get a burrito from Chipotle, the cashier, the people working there, everyone in line is starting at you and asking for autographs – I’m sure that would get annoying pretty fast. Overall, general fame is pretty overrated, and it’s something not many people accomplish anyways.
The other fame is the selective fame, and per the name “2,000 true fans”, selective fame is when you are famous to 2,000 to 3,000 hand-picked people. With this type of fame, you’re able to maximize the financial upside while minimizing that downside and the liabilities that come with the general fame… And the reason why this aligns really well with apartment syndications is because you don’t really need hundreds of thousands or millions of people investing in your deals. 2,000 passive investors would be enough. You don’t even need that many, but having 2,000 who are loyal to your brand and loyal to your company will allow you to do any deal you want and raise money for any deal that you want.
That’s why you want to select and define a specific target audience, and these will be the people who will be your 2,000 or so true fans… Because at the end of the day, the best brands are the ones that only attract the ideal customer, rather than attracting everyone. An amazing brand would have 1,000 people who will buy anything that they create, whereas a brand that has 100,000 followers that only has 1% of people buying some of the things they make is not as effective, is not as good.
So who are the 2,000 true fans for apartment syndicators? Well, for example, obviously your “fans” are gonna be the passive investors who are investing in your deals primarily. For Joe, his target audience is, again, defined very specifically, and it is people that are between the age of 35 and 65 years old, that are male, living in or near a large city, and are employed as a business owner, executive, doctor, dentist, engineer, or a real estate investor who is interested in being a passive investor, and they are accredited.
Now, these criteria are based on Joe’s existing investor database. As I mentioned, he did not have a specific target audience in mind initially, so once he had done a couple of deals, he went back and analyzed his investor database to figure out what was the common thread amongst the majority of the investors. That doesn’t mean that he won’t take money from people under 35 years old or over the age of 65, or he won’t raise money from females, or people that live in small cities, or have different jobs… But they have to be accredited. The point is that this is what he focuses on, because this is his demographic of the majority of the investors… But again, he does have larger investors that fall outside of this criteria, and of course he wants to attract these types of individuals, and if they reach out, he will help them invest in his deals.
But initially, his target audience was, again, undefined, but when his thinks about it, it was advertising professionals, because at this point he had not done a deal yet, and for syndicators that have not done a deal yet, the majority of their investors will come from family, friends and colleagues. For Joe, since he had worked in the advertising industry for many years, those were the types of people he was focusing on in the beginning.
Now, Joe also has a secondary target audience, who are aspiring apartment syndicators, hence the Syndication School. This is targeted towards people who want to become apartment syndicators, to help them out along the process. 65% of our content is directed towards that primary audience of passive investors, and 35% of the content is targeted towards the secondary target.
Now, who are your 2,000 true fans? You don’t wanna just copy Joe’s… You can if you want to, but you want to make it more specific when you are first starting out, because you aren’t going to have access to such a large demographic of investors, because Joe has done many deals, whereas you haven’t done any deals at the moment. So instead, you want your primary target audience to be hyper-focused based on the networks you already tapped into. This could be your current job, it could be if you are tapped into your college alumni group, if you play [unintelligible [00:25:07].29] sports, it could be people that go to your gym, friends and family are pretty obvious, maybe there’s a charity that you volunteer at… Essentially, ask yourself what networks you’re currently tapped into, and based off of the demographic of people, define a target audience with age, gender, location, what they do for work, things like that.
Now, if that primary target audience isn’t big enough, then you can define that secondary target audience, and rather than it being the same as Joe, which is aspiring apartment syndicators, because you likely don’t have a consulting program or the expertise to teach people how to do apartment syndications, instead it should be defined as an audience that you want to know. So who are people that you don’t know right now, but you want to know, and your brand will be a good way to tap into that network. Overall, at this point you should be able to define exactly who it is you’re targeting your brand at.
Now, we’ve talked about what a brand is and where you should target your brand at, but what the heck is the actual brand for apartment syndications? Well, there are six main components of the brand. Number one is a company name. Number two is a logo. Number three is a website. Number four is business cards. Number five is a company presentation, and number six is a thought leadership platform.
In the remaining minutes of this episode we’re gonna focus on those first three – the company name, the logo and the business card. In the next episode, tomorrow, or if you’re listening to this in the future, the episode after this episode, we will focus on number four, which is the website, and then next week we’ll focus on those remaining two, which are the company presentation and the thought leadership platform.
We will also be offering a free document with this episode, which is a branding resource document which offers tips and links for creating all six of the main components. But we’ll go over most of the tips and I’ll explain which companies you wanna use, but I would definitely use that resource, because you can click on all of the different providers and examples that are listen on there.
Number one is the company name. When creating a company name, you have the decision to either incorporate your name or not incorporate your name… Your name being “Theo Hicks” or “Joe Fairless.” For example, Joe started off with a company called Fairless Investing, but eventually he transitioned to Ashcroft Capital.
There’s pros and cons of each, and it’s really up to you to decide which option to go with… But when you’re including your name in your company name – Fairless Investing, for example, or Hicks Acquisitions – the reason that’s beneficial is because your investors are not investing in a company, they are investing in you; so by incorporating your name, they’re investing in you AND the company, and it will give the people that look up your company name an understanding right away of “Okay, this is Joe’s business” or “This is Theo’s business.” Whereas if you have a name that doesn’t incorporate your name, they’ll have to do a little bit more investigating to determine whose company it actually is.
The downside of including your name in the company name is that the business is going to be dependent on you forever, which is eventually going to become a problem, which is why Joe transferred from Fairless Investing to Ashcroft Capital. If you have a podcast, you’re doing conferences, and blogs, and you’re obviously doing your syndication deals, and you have meetup groups, and newsletters, it’s gonna be difficult for you to do all of that. If your name is in the company name, then if you’re not the face, people expect you to be the face.
If you don’t wanna be the face of the company for everything, then you don’t wanna include your name. The advantages of that is that you are essentially tapped into a larger team. At Ashcroft Capital there’s partners, there’s underwriters, there’s analysts, there’s directors, and everyone comes up under the Ashcroft Capital name, whereas if it was called Fairless Investing, that would be a little strange for the other people who have important duties and roles in the company. And of course, the company will not be dependent on you forever, it will not be dependent on you being the face for everything.
Again, pros and cons for each. It’s really up to you. The ideal strategy is probably either to start off with your name in the company and then transition, or to just pick one and use that indefinitely.
The last thing you wanna know about your company name – it’s probably pretty obvious, but it’s gotta be easy to pronounce and easy to remember. If you have a very complicated name that is hard to pronounce, then you probably don’t wanna include it, because if people can’t pronounce it, then people aren’t gonna be able to talk about it and refer to other people. It’s gonna be hard to say “Hey, I’m investing in this company… I can’t really pronounce the name, but it’s a great company.” It’s not gonna sound as good as “I’m investing in Ashcroft Capital, that’s run by Joe and Frank.” So that’s number one, the company name, so you’re gonna work on that.
Number two is the logo. After you have created your company name, you can create a logo that incorporates that name. I highly recommend outsourcing this to a designer. You can go to LogoGarden or Fiverr or UpWork to find a designer to create your logo. The process is to obviously have your company name and have a few design ideas of what you wanna incorporate, and if you wanna incorporate a microphone or if you wanna incorporate apartment buildings, have that in mind and tell that to them. Also have 2-3 color schemes, so red-white-blue, black-green-grey… Have a couple color schemes in mind, and then also fonts as well. Send that information to the designer and ask them to mock up a handful – maybe five – different logo types. Then once you have those preliminary designs, ask for feedback; post them to social media, LinkedIn, maybe print them off and bring them to meetup groups, to anyone else who has a good eye for these types of things, and ask them “Hey, I’ve got these five logos. Which one do you like the best?” Then based off of their feedback, pick the best one.
Once you have your logo, then the design and the color scheme should be consistent across your entire brand. For example, Joe’s is red, white and blue, and that is consistent across the entire Best Ever brand: books, meetup groups, podcasts, blogs, newsletters… They all have that red, white and blue color scheme. So that’s number two, the logo.
Number three are the business cards. Before you create your business cards, you also wanna have a website, which we’ll talk about in the next episode, so that you can include that on your business card… But you want to include your company name, your logo and your website on these business cards, and if you can get business cards from LogoGarden or Vistaprint, and they usually will have a whole slew of designs to choose from, and you can incorporate your logo in a custom design.
One thing to think about is the title to put on the business card. People have different opinions on this, but you can put the owner, or principal, or syndicator… Really, I guess the title is more so for people who are actively involved with residents. For example, for my business card for my properties that I manage I didn’t put the owner, because I didn’t want to be perceived as the owner; instead, I put Project Manager, that way if I gave my business card to anyone, whether it be a tenant or a vendor, they didn’t look at me as the owner, they looked at me just as someone just like them, who’s working for someone else. That way, if they have any questions or pushback, I could just say “Oh, well, it’s not my decision. I’m just working on behalf of the owner.”
In fact, I actually had my wife be the owner, so whenever we had issues with tenants and they asked to talk to the owner, I would just send them to my wife, and we’d be sitting in the same room, listening to them on speakerphone and giving her pointers on what to say. But anyways, those are the first three components of the brand, which are the company name, the log and the business cards.
So in this episode you learned the five primary benefits of creating a brand. You learned the one thing that Joe wishes he would have done slightly differently starting out, which is to define a target audience, and to do so, we introduced the 2,000 true fans concept, and told you exactly how to select your primary and maybe even your secondary target audience. Then lastly, we’ve just been over this, which is how to create a company name, logo and business card. For those three components, make sure you check out the free document which is available at SyndicationSchool.com, or in the show notes of this episode, so that you can click on the links to the different providers who will help you create your logo and business cards. That concludes part one.
In part two we’re going to focus exclusively on the fourth component, which is the most important component of your brand, which is the website. To listen to other Syndication School series about the how-to’s of apartment syndications, and to download your free document and all previous free documents, visit SyndicationSchool.com.
Thank you for listening, and I will talk to you tomorrow.