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How Did You Learn This Stuff? The development of a strong USP

Unique Selling Proposition

Unique Selling Proposition

“How did you learn this stuff?” he said. He is Blair Ballin, a REALTOR®  in Phoenix. I was shooting a video of his luxury listing in Phoenix. “Huh?” I asked. “”How did you learn this stuff – the video and WordPress and camera equipment, you know – that stuff. How did you learn about it?” he asked again.

I explained.

The development of a strong USP

I have been in title for 11 years. I have always been a sales guy. I know people. I know the best sales people ask more questions than they answer. I’ve always been a good sales person. Being a good sales person served me well. That is it did until 2007.

In 2007 the real estate market in Phoenix came off the tracks. Sales prices once only going north were quickly going south. A new term reared its ugly head. “REO” {bank owned property}. Seemingly over night the market in Phoenix was dominated by REO’s and REO agents. REO agents that I did not know.

In a normal market my business was insulated from competitors, really from the market itself. This was anything but a normal market. All of a sudden, it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about the relationships I had built up. It wasn’t about the people I knew. It wasn’t about my reputation or hard work. Business was being directed by banks. By asset managers.

It sucked! And I hated It.

I hated the attitudes of many of the real estate agents suddenly doing business. I say suddenly because many of them were new to real estate. Whether they knew someone or not I don’t know but they were suddenly the kings of real estate. And some of them knew it – as evidenced by their attitudes. You know, the “my shit doesn’t stink” attitude. I called them. Emailed them. Facebooked them. Some of them were rude. Not just rude to me but to other real estate agents. Professional courtesy? Yeah right!

80% of the deals in Phoenix were distresed. REO and short sale. I went from being a top performer to a no performer.

What was once a great job became a nightmare. I was miserable. I started working day and night trying to generate business. I learned about something called Inbound Marketing and was quickly fascinated by it. It just made sense. Inbound marketing is the concept of helping your ideal client find you on the Internet when they have a need. It was the complete opposite of how most real estate agents were marketing themselves with postcards, flyers, newletters, print real estate books, bill boards, magnets, sports schedules etc. Whereas inbound marketing was the here and now, outbound marketing was marketing to the future. A real estate agent throws a bunch of stuff at consumers in the hopes that it sticks, that a consumer remembers them when they have a need.

I knew the real estate market would come back one day, I just didn’t know what day and I wanted to be ready. The feeling of not being in control really bothered me. For the 1st time my success, my paycheck was dependent on an outside factor and I didn’t like it one bit. I knew I needed a strong Unique Selling Proposition or USP and I thought the Internet was it. I was all in. I read day ad night, watch video after video and in the process, learned about something called WordPress.

I surrounded myself with people that knew more than me. People outside of the real estate space. I had this website built, originally it was I filled it with content I thought my ideal client would look for when they have a need. My ideal client is real estate agents. I didnt talk about myself and how awesome I thought I was, I talked about PAIN. In my experience, people are motivated by looking good, not looking bad and  avoiding pain. Pain in their business. I talked about real estate marketing online. WordPress, SEO, SEM and social media, specifically how to drive traffic with tools like facebook, twitter and others.

My phone started to ring. It was real estate agents calling me, only not in Phoenix. I was getting calls from agents in Vancouver, Miami, LA, Ohio, Texas, Philadelphia, I was getting calls from everywhere. Why weren’t real estate agents in Phoenix calling me? They wern’t looking for me. They were not looking for real estate marketing information because there was little pain in their business. Because of short sales, for the 1st time a real estate agent in Phoenix could SEE who needed their real estate services. All a real estate agent needed was a notice of default list, trigger leads {30,60,90 lates} or a farm from a local title company. Anyone that bought between X and Y was a candidate for a short sale. The agents calling me were in other markets, markets that were not as devastated by foreclosures and short sales as Phoenix was.

In 2009 I added video into the mix. I noticed that my daughter {6 at the time} kept asking if I would play something on the internet for her. Where did I go? YouTube. I was fascinated by video. Video was everywhere, I guess I didn’t see it. Even at my daughters school, they were using video in the classroom. If there was any industry perfectly suited for video it was real estate. As a consumer I knew I would prefer to see a video of a home than pictures. I started doing video on my 13 inch macbook pro. Just me talking into the camera at first. Then I stepped up to a flip mino, then Kodak Zi8, go pro, Canon T3i, Canon 60D and now I have the big daddy – the Canon 5D Mark III.

When the market got worse I had to make a choice: stay in title and be absolutely miserable or leave. I decided to leave. I founded a marketing company called PRO-Found with 2 other guys. One was an SEO ninja and the other was a WordPress expert. We built WordPress websites for restaurants, small businesses, real estate agents – even title companies. As we got more and more interest from the real estate space we needed a competitive edge. An Indexable IDX. We spent the better part of a year and tens of thousands of dollars {more than 7 of them} on what became known as the GetFoundIDX. GetFoundIDX was a customizable, indexable IDX built specifically for WordPress real estate websites. To make it that much more compelling, we built it to support video. The 1st Indexable IDX for WordPress that supported video – on the property detail pages. Woo Hoo!

I learned how to shoot video, green screen, screencast, video techniques, video outlines, editing, optimization and more. I was learning about video as much for me as I was my clients. My videos did not get a lot of views but I didn’t care. I knew video marketing is not about views. I wanted to lead by example. I was committed to being the title person that would SHOW a real estate agent HOW TO do something as opposed to telling them WHY they should. I was ahead of the curve. While my competitors were focused on short sales, short sale divisions and classes on Zipforms or FLEXMLS,  I was investing in my business. In my clients businesses.

I started getting calls from title companies across the country. Small ones in Rhode Island to big ones in Hawaii. Most of the conversations started with “I’ve been watching your video’s and . . .”.


After the IDX was complete I returned to the title industry as the Director Of Sales Technology for a large, national title company here in Phoenix and then to Grand Canyon Title.  I taught classes on the things I was doing. I knew what worked because my website was creating hundreds of leads. I taught classes on WordPress, Content, Screencast, HUB Marketing, Twitter, Video, Editing, Syndication and Optimization. My USP was strong. I had a solution for anything a real estate agent in Phoenix could need. WordPress website? I owned a marketing company. Training? Absolutely. Video? You know it. IDX – one of a kind. Talk about a USP!

Back to Blair Ballin, the REALTOR® this post is based upon and the question he asked:  “How Did You Learn This Stuff?” I learned this stuff, the stuff about technology in the real estate space because I wanted an advantage. I felt helpless in 2007 and I didn’t ever want that to happen again. I knew where the market was going. I knew real estate agents were becoming more of a commodity in the eyes of the consumer, one reason – they did not know HOW to differentiate themselves. Most were all saying the same “stuff”. “Search the MLS like a REALTOR®!” “Call for a FREE CMA!” Noise to the consumer. I knew that 98% of consumers start their home search online and 80% choose the 1st agent they find. I wanted my clients to be that agent through WordPress, Content, IDX and Video. The video I was shooting for Blair was for a luxury listing, it will help him stand out in a sea of vanilla. It’s a video his seller LOVES. It’s a video he can use in his marketing to demonstrate HOW he is different. It’s a video that says more about his listing than he or any IDX could ever say.

At the end of the story, yes – I told Blair the same story I wrote here while I was shooting his video, I asked him: hey, if you were a title rep in Phoenix, would you want to compete against me? He said “No one else offers what you do”. Yet another example of what a strong USP can do your your business. My schedule is booked 10 days out. I don’t track real estate agents down anymore. I help them find me – online. My USP?  I help real estate agents get found on the Internet. What do YOU DO? How are you different than your competitors? How can you make your ideal clients life noticeably better? What’s so special about you? Figure that out and you have the inner workings of your own  strong USP.

I’ve learned that leads go to the best marketers, not necessarily the best real estate agents. Tools like WordPress, Video and our Indexable IDX can help you not only get found online, but also help to convey your value. Why a consumer should work with you. Now you just need to learn how. Fill out the form below.

See Blair’s finished video here: 3050 E Marlette Ave Phoenix

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Hi I'm Stephen Garner, I'm just a guy in the title industry {in Phoenix} trying to change how real estate agents market themselves and their services. To that end, I teach my clients HOW TO leverage sales technologies like WordPress, Content, Video, Camtasia, Final Cut X, iMovie and indexable IDX solutions to convey value and help your ideal client find you online when they are most interested in learning about you and your services. I work for escrows. Hire me!

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  • Ryan Stewman

    We have a lot in common.  That’s what got me started in learning all of this internet weirdness as well.  Funny how those of us that refuse to “die” are now leading the way in tech.  Keep it up my man, I love your posts. 

    • Stephen Garner

      Hey Ryan, I find that people care what I have to say when they find me online. It’s the new way of the marketing world. Real estate agents need to learn this stuff of risk being invisible and irrelevant. They should find someone like us to help them. Are you still coming to AZ? Hit me up when you get here and lets talk about that Internet show…