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Real Estate Marketing the Right Way | w/ Stefanie Lugo

“So it’s really understanding your ideal client and understanding where they are in that cycle of homeownership.

We call this the 90-10 rule.

The typical journey for a home buyer or home seller is broken into two distinct parts. And 90% of that journey is very quiet because it takes a long time for them to be ready to move forward for this big life change.

They’re doing a lot of exploring online. They’re in a very educational state so they’re trying to gather information. That is all happening online. And then when it comes to the last portion of that journey, the 10%, that’s where most of the clients are starting to raise their hand.

They’re willing to talk to real estate agents. They’re walking to open houses, they’re going on Zillow to schedule showings, and they’re writing an offer. 90% of real estate agents focus on that 10% and they ignore the other 90%, because they get into the business and they think, “Oh crap, this is hard. I need to check right now.”

  • Stefanie Lugo, REALTOR®

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Skyler Irvine: Joining me today, Stefanie Lugo, Realtor, YouTuber, owner of The Market Authority. Stephanie thanks for joining me and welcome to the show.

Stefanie Lugo: Thanks so much for having me!

Skyler Irvine: Yeah, absolutely! So can you please tell me in your own words, what The Market Authority is and how this project specifically came to be?

Stefanie Lugo: Well, thanks for asking. So a little bit about me. I am from the real estate space. My husband and I have a small, but mighty team here in the Phoenix area where we specialize in helping buyers and sellers on their journey home. And what we found when we got into the business about seven years ago was we really knew nothing about sales. We knew nothing about connecting with consumers. Our background was in consumer finance, but it was very much more like corporate finance life. And so getting into this space to where you actually had to compel people to choose you over very steep competition, especially having no experience in the industry, it was a really challenging move for us. And we just became really obsessed with how do we create a network and an audience of individuals who would ultimately go from fan to follower, to client for life, and what did that path really look like?

Stefanie Lugo: And that kind of led us to the concept that helped us create a really organic audience-based real estate business, which at the time was not really the move. So in our industry, it was very much more traditional old-school methods of prospecting and sales that relied on stuff like cold calling, door knocking, very boots on the ground non-scalable types of prospecting. But as social media really started to take a hold with all industries and especially with social media, we wanted to really harness that. And in terms of marketing and audience building, one of the best things that you can do is learn how to identify a niche and create yourself as the authority in that niche and in that marketplace. And I think that that’s something that we tried really hard to accomplish.

Stefanie Lugo: And after just really staying the course, we were able to do that, and become known for a specific type of residential selling here in our area. And that was always significant because again, like I said, we had no industry knowledge, we had no experience, we didn’t know what we were doing and we have a lot of competition here. There are almost 50,000 other active licensees in our county alone and very, very challenging to kind of set yourself apart. And so when that really started clicking for us, we found that that model would work really well for a lot of agents, because at the end of the day, there’s enough business to go around. And when you understand who you can serve at a really high level and create really interesting results for, the selling is kind of taken out of the equation because then it’s a matter of serving and helping to come to a term of understanding with the consumer party, really that this is a great partnership that’s going to benefit everybody involved.

Stefanie Lugo: It’s those win-win situations that we really wanted to hone in on. And so we took that concept and I’ve been really passionate about helping other real estate agents kind of figure this out because this is an industry, like I’ve mentioned, it’s so consumer facing and we’re dealing with people’s homes. This is their livelihood. This is one of the key pieces of them being able to build long-term wealth. And I think that with such a low barrier of entry into the real estate industry, that really puts a lot of pressure on real estate agents to operate with integrity and to do their service, to do their craft really, really well, to benefit the community and not to take from the community. And this is what being a market authority is all about. It’s identifying who you can really serve at that highest level and find organic, scalable ways to connect with them so that we can have a positive impact on our neighborhoods and communities where we work and where we live.

Skyler Irvine: I love how you touched on kind of that sell cycle of… This is what happens a lot, is you get into real estate, they teach you everything about real estate and a lot of it’s super outdated. They don’t really teach you anything about selling. And then you become a realtor and you realize no one really cares how much you know about the contract, it’s can you sell yourself and get clients? And then it kind of pivots again to where once you really understand that selling is about building trust and connecting and building the network that it becomes… You then don’t have to sell anymore and you almost have to go from, “I don’t know how to sell,” then you learn how to sell, but then you stop selling yourself altogether. And that’s kind of the life cycle of all the things they don’t teach you in real estate school that I think a lot of people in your experience have gone through as well. So for Market Authority specifically, who’s this for? Who’s the ideal person to follow along with the project that you are doing?

Stefanie Lugo: So what we have found for real estate agents of all experience levels, it doesn’t really matter if they’re brand, brand new, or if they’ve been in the business for 30 years and suddenly consumer behavior changed and they didn’t, and they’re wondering why their business has slowed down. There tends to be three main obstacles that we look to correct. And the first is a lack of systems and operations. And so we are very… We have a huge focus in systemizing workflows and creating a standard process and procedure in the real estate space, where before that was really never a focus. It was very much like a fly by the seat of your pants, because as you said, the industry doesn’t teach you how to operate a business or stay organized, or systemized communication, is something that is so important to the success of a transaction, right?

Stefanie Lugo: These skills are not being taught in the industry whatsoever. And so that creates a giant obstacle for agents of all skill levels. The second big obstacle we look to correct is a lack of predictability. So coming down to the idea of marketing to a certain niche, right? A lot of agents either don’t understand where their business should be coming from, or they lack clarity on the metric that they need to hit each day in order to generate those results. And from the agent standpoint, that creates what I like to call porpoising, right? It’s like the peaks and valleys business, or feast and famine, whatever you want to call it, where you get busy with a lot of deals. The first thing to fall is the prospecting and looking for new business. And so you end up closing all of your deals. You cash all your checks and you have no business for three, six months, and you have to completely start from scratch, and that cycle repeats.

Stefanie Lugo: That is a disservice to consumers. That is a big problem that everybody should be incentivized to help real estate agents address. Because when agents start getting that commission breath, that’s when they’re going to start making mistakes, because they are so concerned with getting a paycheck that they might overlook, intentionally or unintentionally, their duties to their clients, which is something that has to be corrected beyond just the longevity of having a business, a healthy business. The third big obstacle that we look to correct is the marketing. So a lot of agents, especially today, they understand that the marketing is important for them, but they just haven’t quite found a way for it to look right for their business yet. So they struggle with what to say. They lack clarity and confidence in how and where to show up. And that makes any really concise marketing strategy on and off social media really difficult. And you do need both pieces because what you say in person has to kind of match up with what you promise online. And if there’s a disconnect there, you immediately lose trust with your buyers and sellers.

Stefanie Lugo: And so we work with a lot of new agents and I love working with newer agents because we can really help correct issues that might crop up down the line. And we’ve been able to create some really astonishing successes for new agents. But I also work with the agent who’s been in it for 30 years, who maybe makes several hundred thousand dollars per year, maybe even a million dollars in gross commission income a year for her business. But she built her business off of farming, and she’s been sending mailers out to her neighborhood every month for 30 years. And then 2020, 2021 comes around and she’s not getting responses to that anymore. And it’s because everybody’s moved online and she never showed up online because she never figured it out, right? So there’s a lot of… Those three different obstacles really tend to come up regardless of where an agent is in their journey of building their business. So that’s kind of where we try to meet them at and help them overcome them.

Skyler Irvine: What made you want to launch your own business like you had? And this is kind of business number two or three realistically. And did any experience in the corporate world previously kind of help you with this transition or with some of the things that you’ve done on your own?

Stefanie Lugo: I think so. What’s interesting is when I got started in corporate finance, I was 18. It was my first experience. It was my first professional experience. I never finished college. My husband did, but I did not. And so the only technical training that I had in the professional space was delivered to me by the corporation that I worked for. I worked for a Fortune 500 stock brokerage, basically. And they don’t fly by the seat of their pants. You don’t get to the Fortune 500 by just kind of going at things willy-nilly and when you feel like it, right? So they have very specific trainings and procedures and workflows that you follow in order to contribute to the success of the corporation as a whole. And I think that concept just made a lot of sense to me. And so when we got into the real estate industry, again, we did not know what to expect.

Stefanie Lugo: We had no idea how we were going to continue to pay our mortgage, pay our car payments, have food to eat. We just knew that we had to replace our incomes. And so it made a lot of sense for us. So the first thing we did was we created a business plan. We did some math. We literally reverse engineered how many homes, how many leads we’d have to generate to earn the amount of income that we needed to sustain that. We looked at the different marketing outlets that were available to us. We did the whole thing and then we monitored the metrics as we went. And we’ve had years where we grew exponentially and we’ve had years where we went the other way. And the years where we went the other way happened because we were not applying those workflows and we were not following the metrics of the way that we had in other years.

Stefanie Lugo: And so it just became really clear to me of like, well, 87% of real estate agents tend to fall out of the industry. Again, we’re here. Our function is to protect the public, right? We should be able to make a great living in doing that, but the first and foremost thing is we have a duty to buyers and sellers. And if we can’t operate a business successfully, how can we serve our clients to the highest level? It just really bothered me that there was this huge missing link. And so really it did come from our past experience and applying it and finding success and applying those principles to our own business. But as we also started seeing some of the other issues and shortfalls in the real estate industry, it really kind of lit a fire in me to help where I could. And it’s just been something that I’ve been focusing on for the last several years. And this has been the best route to it through The Market Authority that we’ve found.

Skyler Irvine: What social media platform or platforms do you have the most success with for business and what do you think it is about that platform that works for you?

Stefanie Lugo: So I think in our space specifically, our sales cycle is pretty long. So we will meet with buyers and sellers like 12 months before they’re ready to make a move. And that might be specific to real estate. I don’t think every industry has that long of a sales cycle. But for us, that results in two very important platforms. You need a really great lead generation tool and you need a great lead nurture tool. And so where we found to be the most effective was Instagram, because that helped us kind of solve both. It helped us to attract new ideal clients who had never heard of us before and then nurture them for months and months and months to stay top of mind before they were ready to ultimately reach out to us. Because just because somebody is beginning their journey online doesn’t mean they’re ready to move forward with you yet, right?

Stefanie Lugo: They’re still in the exploratory phase. They’re trying to figure out where they’re going to move. It’s a big life decision that takes time. But the earlier on you can enter their awareness with your brand, the higher of a likelihood you have to actually convert that client down the line, regardless of who else they know who’s a licensed agent. Because at that point, you’ve explained for months that you are the best fit for them through your marketing on social media and they understand that, and they’re going to choose you over any of your competition because they understand the results that you can help them achieve. So Instagram has been an incredible tool at doing that.

Stefanie Lugo: I’ve also spent a lot of time on YouTube and I’ve seen a lot of success in other areas on YouTube and something that I just find so fascinating is the way that YouTube and Instagram work together, because YouTube is so great at getting super top of the funnel leads where it’s just individuals searching whether they want to move to Phoenix or what the home search process might look like for them. And if you can capture this segment of that audience, who could be a potential buyer or seller in your market, and then funnel them back through Instagram to nurture them until they’re ready to reach out, that is a relationship that I love. So those are the two places where we definitely spend the most time.

Skyler Irvine: That’s great statement on how YouTube… YouTube struggled, in my opinion, a long time to generate the social aspect of it, but it’s also what makes YouTube great. And Twitter has always been kind of the comment section for YouTube or the way to engage for a lot of creators. And now it’s becoming more Instagram of, “All right, you can get the long form content, but if you want to message me, it’s way better to follow me on Instagram than it is to kind of comment on a post.”

Stefanie Lugo: Yeah.

Skyler Irvine: YouTube kind of lack that, but I hope it doesn’t change. I kind of like having those two things separate. Another thing you touched on that I think is super important is nurturing the leads.

Stefanie Lugo: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Skyler Irvine: You want to generate leads to kind of generate that interest, but you nurture them for a long time. What I have seen a lot of realtors mistake or mess up on is only creating content around the home purchase process.

Stefanie Lugo: Yeah.

Skyler Irvine: And the problem with that is if someone is searching for an answer to a home purchase question, they’re typically already in the sales cycle, working with another realtor and the content that you’re creating, isn’t getting them before they’re starting to look for the house, it’s after they’ve already worked with a realtor. So a lot of that work and effort is kind of going wasted because it’s not getting them early enough. What advice would you give to someone that wants to have similar success on Instagram? Or what would you tell them at least to kind of help avoid failure in either the strategies on Instagram or the actual content they’re creating on Instagram?

Stefanie Lugo: I think you kind of hit the nail on the head. So, it’s really understanding your ideal client and understanding where they are in that cycle of home ownership. The problem is, most people get into the real estate industry looking at this as easy money and really attracted by the high ticket commission check at the end of a quick transaction. But what they don’t realize is, most individuals already know three to five other real estate agents. And, like you said, if you are waiting to look for the low hanging fruit of people who are… We call this the 90-10 rule. So the typical journey for a home buyer or home seller is broken into two distinct parts. And 90% of that journey is very quiet because it takes a long time for them to be ready to move forward for this big life change.

Stefanie Lugo: They’re doing a lot of exploring online, they’re in a very educational state so they’re trying to gather information. That is all happening online. And then when it comes to the last portion of that journey, the 10%, that’s where most of the clients are starting to raise their hand. They’re willing to talk to real estate agents. They’re walking to open houses, they’re going on Zillow to schedule showings, and they’re writing an offer. 90% of real estate agents focus on that 10% and they ignore the other 90%, because they get into the business and they think, “Oh, crap, this is hard. I need a check right now. I just spent all this money on dues. I have bills to pay. I need to find a right-now client.” And so they focus on the most competitive, most least receptive group of buyers and sellers.

Stefanie Lugo: And they wonder why it’s so difficult. So we need to shift that focus away from the right-now content, which is just listed, just sold, open house. When we’re posting that stuff or posting information, and that’s no longer the value, right? The value of a real estate agent used to be the MLS book. We would have physical printed books, shared and contributed to by brokerages in the market area, which at that time, there were not 10,000 firms, there were like six. And so they would all contribute to the MLS book and that was your value. You would say, “Hey guys, I picked out the best houses for you. Get in the car. I’ll go get the keys and then we can go see the houses.” Home buyers and sellers, they’ve already gotten this information online. So when you’re just parroting that same information, they’ve already seen it. It’s old news. That’s not valuable to them.

Stefanie Lugo: Instead, we need to look at the other 90% of the journey and think, “How can I help be a guide to them and provide them as many resources as they can so that they can come to a point of confidence and clarity in moving forward with a home sale or home purchase?” That’s the value. And that comes from helping contextualize information that they’re already finding online, but helping them understand what’s what, as the authority in that space for that particular home buyer or home seller. And a lot of agents are afraid to do this, because that means niching down and that is so scary for so many real estate agents, because it feels like saying no to other opportunities. I just had this conversation with another agent in our mentorship and she was saying, “Listen, I’m getting a lot of business on Instagram that I don’t really want to be doing.

Stefanie Lugo: It’s outside of my scope of expertise. And it’s just not something where I want to be spending my time. I want to be spending my time in this part of town where there’s a higher price point, where my family lives, where I can stay close and really just own that part of town, but I’m afraid to say no to the Instagram business.” And so a lot of agents find themselves in that space where they’re like, “Well, I don’t want to say no to what’s working, but I really don’t want to be doing that stuff anyways, so I’m just going to kind of have half-ass it,” pardon my language, “get a check and hope for something better next week.” No, no, no, no, no. This is something that we can be very intentional about and strategic, and then we will be more successful and more profitable because we’ll be spread less than. That was a super long answer to that question. So sorry.

Skyler Irvine: No, but it’s really important. It’s something that a lot of realtors specifically will fall victim to A, when they’re early on in their career, wanting to turn every no into a yes.

Stefanie Lugo: Yes.

Skyler Irvine: Because they don’t know that many people. So someone that might be thinking about buying a house, in their mind, that’s their opportunity to get that person to buy a house from them. And when you spend a lot of the time and energy trying to turn nos into yeses, or perfecting your sales, or signing up for a lot of these seminars that teach you how to close harder, it’s really spending a lot of time on the high energy stuff. Where if you pivot that and go try to spread your wings to find more people who are already a yes, is a higher ROI of a lot of that time and energy and an angst that’s spent. I think it is something that you can tell every single person, but you almost have to experience it yourself to really understand it, and especially for the realtor who wants to specialize in one area.

Skyler Irvine: A friend says they have to list their house over in another part of town and they do it as a favor, but what happens in real estate is one deal leads to more deals like that. You always end up… Whoever you’re working with will refer you people like that. So if you’re working with people that you don’t like, you end up working with more people that you don’t like, and all of a sudden you don’t like your business. Or you take a listing in another part of town and then that leads to three more potential listings and now all of a sudden your business is on the other side of town. It might seem great, but you’re losing a lot of time driving there and it’s now outside your expertise.

Skyler Irvine: And then all of a sudden you might become someone who has become a victim of your own business of, “Well now I’m just spread too thin and I have to go over this side of town because it’s where all my deals come from now.” And you can accidentally end up in a business you didn’t intentionally want to set out to. So I think that answer really important and I think a lot of people are going to understand those emotions that can happen. In your opinion then, what is the most important personality trait or strength that someone in your industry needs to be successful at this job? And is that something that they need naturally, is that something they could work on? What are some things that jump out to you?

Stefanie Lugo: I think that we really want to look for resourcefulness. One of my agent colleagues said… I was asking her, “What was one of the most surprising things when you got into the industry?” And she said, “Well, that they didn’t just give you houses to sell.” So there are a gazillion steps that will take you from starting out to massive profitability and high level of service and no one is going to hand them to you. I can get really close to The Market Authority Academy. I can give you just about as a plug and play done for you business from the ground up as I can get, but you are still going to have to make some decisions and put on your CEO hat, because that’s what you are, honey. You are a business owner at that point so you need to be making those decisions.

Stefanie Lugo: You need to be interpreting the market data. You need to be really resourceful in terms of finding skills and information and learning how to make that relevant, not only to yourself, but to your potential clients as well. I think that the other thing that we look to as well is resilience. That’s probably equally as important. It is a really challenging industry and there can be a lot of nos and it can feel very, very personal. And what kind of makes this even more difficult is the highlight reel of social media of other realtors. So one thing that I kind of started seeing early on was I was getting followed on Instagram by a lot of realtors because they’re trying to see what we’re doing and trying to kind of emulate what was working for us just from the outside looking in.

Stefanie Lugo: But when you do that, I think there is a… It is helpful to have a community of real estate agents online. I think that from a referral standpoint, it makes sense, but also just being able to build a community of like-minded agents so that you don’t feel as isolated in this industry, I think that’s also important. But what you’ll see is the highlight reel of social media. So you see all their wins, you see the top 10% of all the good stuff that happens to their business. You never see the struggles and challenges that they decide not to share. This is why I try to be pretty transparent on my Instagram without being a total Debbie downer sometimes.

Stefanie Lugo: But even the best listing agents are only going to get about 40% of their listings that they go on. And even the best buyers agents are only going to ultimately close about 65% of the buyer opportunities that they have. And so it’s not going to be a matter of if you lose a client, it’s going to be a matter of when. It’s not going to be a matter of if the deal is going to blow up in your face. It definitely will and in varying and exciting ways each time. And so you really have to prepare yourself to be resilient with the changing winds of this business and stick to the process instead of the results.

Skyler Irvine: Okay. So we’re getting close to the end so we’re turning on speed round. What is your favorite productivity hack and how did you discover it?

Stefanie Lugo: Saying no. Saying no to as much as you possibly can and that might mean automating or delegating to other people things that have to get done, but are outside of your wheelhouse. I discovered it by being burnt out and wondering why I hated my business so much and it was just because I was doing stuff that I didn’t need to be doing.

Skyler Irvine: That’s a really good hack. What’s an underrated tool that you find is indispensable for your job?

Stefanie Lugo: Asana.

Stefanie Lugo: Asana is a task management system online and it’s such a great way to use it. It takes a little while to get used to it, but it’s really productive.

Skyler Irvine: Did you take any in additional resources to help you be better at Asana? 

Stefanie Lugo: I’ve just spent a lot of time living inside of it and I’ve been teaching agents how to use it for like five years. You can go back and see really old YouTube videos of me of trying to learn it and, and sharing it with other agents too. And once you figure it out, it’s so helpful, but you absolutely are not going to remember everything you need to do. So anything that can help you stay on top of that workload is always a plus.

Skyler Irvine: And that’s another hack, I think, is to really try to learn something is to try to teach it and then you really know what it is. What’s an occupation other than your own that you would like to try someday?

Stefanie Lugo: My path not traveled is sports nutrition. I’m really interested in personal health and I think nutrition is a huge part of that and one day I will find myself in that space.

Skyler Irvine: That’s really cool. What are two or three books you’d recommend to my audience, and also throw in podcasts maybe, two or three books you’d recommend to my audience and why those books?

Stefanie Lugo: I love Atomic Habits by James Clear because that’s a really great approach to sticking to the process and forgetting about the results, which is probably the best thing that you can do in this business. I love Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt. My biggest ambition in life is to become the female version of Michael Hyatt. I’m his biggest fan girl, but I love the way… I love his approach to having really great daily routines, understanding how to sift through the workflow and understanding which things you can delegate and what things you absolutely must do each day. StoryBrand by, is it Donald Miller? Is a really great one to help understand your place in the story. That’s a good one too.

Skyler Irvine: That’s a great one. Okay. So what’s one question that you wish I would have asked you and how would you have answered it?

Stefanie Lugo: Oh, Skyler, that’s such a good question.

Skyler Irvine: That’s why we save it for the end.

Stefanie Lugo: I wish that you would have asked me what I wish all real estate agents knew. And I would say that I wish all real estate agents knew that even when they cut corners or when they try to just get it done without doing it properly, they’re impacting the entire industry because that experience is going to be extended to consumers and at the end of the day, we’re here to protect the public. And there is a enormous thing going on in the real estate industry right now, the DOJ versus NAR battle that is being very highly publicized. And we were about to see an interesting reckoning on ways we can do better to fulfill our duties to consumers. And I think that that is true in any service industry that requires licensing. You need to do your business the right way because other people are impacted by it.

Skyler Irvine: It’s a great answer.

Stefanie Lugo: Sorry, not to get philosophical there

Skyler Irvine: No, that’s what we’re here for.

Stefanie Lugo: Yeah.

Skyler Irvine: Awesome. Well, what’s the best place for people to connect with you and learn more about you and Market Authority?

Stefanie Lugo: The best place is to find me on Instagram. It’s @bryceandstephanie, that is our husband and wife team, but really it’s mostly Stephanie, that’s where I’m sharing everything that we do on a day to day. If any real estate agents want to learn some really awesome free content, you can just find me by searching my name on YouTube. I have a great channel where we share a whole bunch of tips and tricks to help you up your game and do better in business and in life.

Skyler Irvine: That’s awesome. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate you.

Stefanie Lugo: Thanks. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.