I interviewed Ryan Dossey, the founder of Call Porter, who has recently joined into a separate partnership with my father on a few buy-and-hold real estate investments.
Call Porter is a company designed as a marketing service for real estate investors. It acts as a full-service marketing platform by procuring lists of potentially motivated sellers or properties with value-add potential in whatever markets or submarkets a client is looking in.
Some examples of lists that a real estate investor might be interested in include out-of-state absentee owners with a substantial amount of equity in a property, absentee owners with dilapidated properties or people who have fallen behind on their mortgage. The final category could include those with equity or those without equity as many banks will do what’s called a “short sale” if a mortgagee falls behind on their mortgage but doesn’t have enough equity to sell the property. In these cases, banks will reduce the principal of the loan in order to facilitate the sale. It’s generally an arduous process, but since the last thing banks want to do is to take properties back, they will often let these properties be sold at a significant discount.
Call Porter does not just put together these lists, though. Indeed, any investor could find a list such as this through online services such as DataQuick.com and ListSource.com. In addition, Ryan offers mail services live call answering, appointment scheduling and deal tracking. As of today, he has over a hundred clients.
Hand Writing Machines
Ryan has found that mailings work much better when they are specifically targeted, and the letter looks like it has been handwritten. “Typed letters look like junk mail,” as he told me. He has purchased over 10 handwriting machines that each cost several thousand dollars. And while almost anyone can tell that these letters aren’t actually handwritten upon a close inspection, they generally aren’t thrown out immediately. Ryan estimates that they get several times as many calls as traditionally typed letters.
Each investor puts together a campaign that usually features several letters sent over the course of several months to each potential seller. Some are short and to the point. Others are longer. But the process is customizable. After the letters go out, then potential sellers can call in to Call Porters answering service, which works as follows,
“All calls outside of business hours go to our professional voicemail. These voicemails are then automatically transcribed and sent to several people on our team via email, in real time.
Call Porter’s reps ask the potential seller as much information as they can. They get the basics of the house; such as the bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, current condition, etc. They also ask about what the seller is willing to sell for, why the seller wants to sell and when the seller can meet. They also include the “Zestimate” from Zillow.com (which is a semi-reliable estimate of a property’s value based on an algorithm). At this point they either schedule an appointment for the investor (Call Porter’s client) or give the investor the potential seller’s number and the property’s information so the investors can set up the appointment.
Ryan also does his own real estate investment. Indeed, this was one of the main reasons he started Call Porter, “to build cash flow so I could invest myself.” Ryan tracks the progress of their own deals in a software program called Podio, which he can record the latest offers, counteroffers, inspection notes, rehab estimates, etc.
It was Call Porter that allowed Ryan to really finance his own investments. He went from 10 wholesale deals and flips in 2016 to 74 in 2017. (A wholesale deal is when you get a property under contract and then assign that contract to another investor for a fee.) And despite one catastrophic rehab where a bad contractor cost him well over $30,000, he was still able to make very strong profits.
It was this marketing infrastructure that enticed my father (who has a fairly large number of real estate holdings) to partner with him on a few deals. Ryan has a proven track record of getting very good deals. But because Call Porter and Ryan’s flipping business are relatively new, he didn’t have much money with which to buy and hold. That is why Ryan decided to partner with my father. As he’s noted, “buy and hold is how to build lasting wealth in real estate.”
Ryan’s philosophy with Call Porter is not to build a huge number of clients, but to have a quality group of clients who keep coming back. One quality client who sends out several hundred (or thousand) letters a month is worth far more than a dozen clients who start, dabble for a few months and then quit. Indeed, despite only being around for a couple years, Ryan doubts than many of his clients will ever stop using Call Porter.
The main reason for this is that putting together a marketing campaign for real estate is rather expensive and messy regardless of whether you outsource it or do it in house. By creating a centralized marketing system, Ryan can cut costs by having economies of scale. He can also afford to hire people for things like taking phone calls, whereas a single investor trying to buy one house a month could never afford to hire someone for such a specific task. Instead, they would have to take those calls themselves. They would have to print out and send out the letters themselves, too. Or they could outsource parts of it to different companies. For example, Yellow Letters does letter campaigns, but doesn’t take calls. Other companies will act as call centers, but usually for a variety of different products. In these cases, it’s unlikely that any of the reps will be particularly specialized in your product and thereby, the service they offer will suffer.
Ryan has wisely put all of these functions under one roof. Now real estate investors can hire him to do their marketing for them and do the property evaluating, negotiating, rehab, selling and/or renting themselves. In other words, Ryan’s clients can focus on actually doing what real estate investors, as opposed to what marketers do.
By offering high quality service in a valuable niche market, he’s built up a lot of customer loyalty. Which is incredibly important, especially in a market where one client will keep coming back over and over again. And as many studies have shown, “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.” (2)
That being said, Ryan does have to find new business as well. He does this by being active on social media and in the real estate investing community.
Regarding social media, Ryan has built up a following of over 2500 people on Facebook (2683 to be exact). He consistently makes posts regarding real estate and his marketing business and seeks out other real estate investors to meet and engage with. For example, one recent post notes a recent deal he did while simultaneously marketing his business,
“We bought unit number 40 for the year yesterday! The cool thing is I didn’t even go to closing. The really cool part was my team ran the appointment Call Porter booked, analyzed the deal, negotiated it, and contracted it while I was on a beach in Hawaii!” (3)
He also regularly posts on real estate investment forums, most notably BiggerPockets.com (which is the largest real estate investing website in the world). His usual post includes a summary of a deal he’s done that, of course, name drops his company Call Porter. This can elicit interest, which brings in more potential clients. Remember, he only needs a select group of loyal, repeat customers. He doesn’t need to sell to everyone out there who may be interested in buying a house.
Furthermore, Ryan speaks at as many real estate events as he can. This includes local REIA groups (Real Estate Investment Associations) as well as other investment meetups and events. These events give him the chance to showcase himself as an expert and offer his services.
Finally, by offering a quality service, he gets a lot of referrals. Sometimes, he’s even had to turn down business, or “fire” clients if they are too much of a hassle. Finding new clients hasn’t been a huge challenge for Ryan. Having found a great niche and offering a quality service has made that part easy.
Instead, Ryan spends most of his time making sure the service he offers continues to be of high quality.
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