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Friction can be the enemy of successful marketing. You can unleash remarkable growth prospects for your real estate company by eliminating barriers and simplifying the process for potential clients to find desired solutions. In this episode, we have Trevor Mauch, the CEO of Carrot, a leading provider of real estate investor and agent websites. Trevor discusses inbound marketing and lead generation for real estate businesses. He talks about how all marketing is about removing friction and making it easier for potential customers to get from their pain points to the solution. He also explains how entrepreneurs can understand their market better, especially their relationship with websites. As a renowned expert in inbound marketing for investors and agents, Trevor shares his experiences in helping clients grow their real estate businesses. He discusses Carrot, explaining how it became a market leader, adapting its solutions for different markets, and sharing upcoming developments. He also talks about the dynamic of websites, push and pull performance vs aesthetics, and more. Tune in now!

About Trevor Mauch

RETG 10 | Reducing Marketing Friction

Trevor is the host of the CarrotCast podcast & CEO of Carrot, one of the nation’s fastest growing companies according to Inc Magazine, where they have helped the nation’s top real estate investors and agents pull in over 3 million online leads in just 5 years, closing thousands of deal with their software and training. Trevor lives in Roseburg, Oregon with his wife and 3 kids, and is passionate about using business to fuel your passion and to amplify the impact you want to make in the world. Part of the impact he’s passionate about making is helping entrepreneurs unleash that entrepreneurial dream of finally unlocking that FREEDOM, FLEXIBILITY, FINANCES, and IMPACT that you’ve dreamed of but haven’t been able to fully make happen.

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The Carrot lead generation hub – with Trevor Mauch

Hey, everybody, it’s Jordan Samuel Fleming with another episode of That Real Estate Tech Guy. And I’m delighted that my co-pilot for today’s episode is none other than the CEO of Carrot, Trevor Mauch. Trevor, welcome to the podcast. Introduce yourself and, of course, the product that so many people already know.

I’m Trevor Mauch, the CEO of Carrot. And if I were to distill it down, we help over 7,000 of the top real estate investors, and now agents track the most motivated leads online through the internet. So if you Google sell my house fast, or we buy houses or any of those phrases, you’ll probably find Carrot clients dominating page one in Google and every city in America up into Canada, Australia, the UK, and South Africa now. And our clients bring in about 80,000 leads a month, mostly sellers. So we help you get better leads, close more deals, and have more freedom and impact.

Before I co-founded smrtPhone, I was building CRMs inside of Podio. And I can tell you that most of our real estate customers were using Carrot. Just give me a little background as to how it came to be that you decided to do this and really capture the market. What was the initial impetus? 

Prior to Carrot, I wasn’t really a software guy. I dipped my toes into software by investing in a software company in 2010. And I’ll give a brief overview of what was the impetus for Carrot. But I started investing in real estate in 2021 as a college student, just buying multifamily. Literally, Carleton Sheets stuff like there’s no money down. I figured out how to buy a four Plex by the college with none of my own money when I was 21. Like, how did that happen? And so that got me locked into real estate. But I also discovered that I didn’t want to be in real estate as my full-time job. I really enjoyed marketing. And so I took that marketing skill set to the internet and probably really started honing my chops, you know, in 2007, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and some previous companies got burned out, and my main company saw technology as a way to create more consistent what I now call evergreen income, especially when you can get it as a recurring. And I invested in a couple of software companies. One was called Automize, used by some of the biggest marketers in the world, but it bombed Max, and we couldn’t figure out the tech solution. So we shut that business down after a year and a half. There’s a lot of demand. We couldn’t figure out the tech side of it. And then the other company was called Call Loop, and Call Loop struggled. But then it pivoted to a company called Sales Message. And it’s absolutely crushing it. Now eight figure your business. And so that gave me that taste of software. Now, I married the two, and then I said I loved the business model. And I love how technology can amplify. And let me take all this knowledge I have about how to drive leads on the internet and where there’s a challenge. And knowing this market, I saw this in 2012. I saw that in the previous decade, Jordan, with websites anyway, was all about just getting online. It was like, That’s when you’re Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, or GoDaddy. They all popped up in that decade to get you online. And I would have people come to me and say, I have a website, but it’s not performing. I’m not ranking anywhere. I’m not getting leads. And in those previous four years, all I did was learn how to rank things, learn how to optimize websites, get leads, do conversion rate optimization, make them actually perform, and turn it into money. And I said, Well, I think the next decade, maybe in 15 years, is all about how I make my website perform. We started in 2014 with a beta product. And we said, rather than giving you 100 different design options, you just choose what you think is pretty at that time. We said, What if we give you one, and you can customize it, but we know when people get here, it’s going to convert, and it’s going to give you a better chance to rank? And that’s all we focused on those first five or six years—just performance. How are we making the fastest loading, the best converting, and the best possible website for ranking and Google? That is still our foundation today. We have a lot more features and a lot more support attached to it, but that’s still our foundation performance. Fastest page speed, best converting when someone gets there, and best ranking. When you focus on one thing, go deep and do it really, really well. You don’t try to be an all-in-one tool. I think there’s a lot more room for scale.

When you’re looking at the real estate investment sector in particular, you’re talking about people who are absolutely keen on driving up leads. But really, I would say technical competence, understanding, and knowledge are usually really, really at the bottom. These are not people who tend to have the skill sets. And so you are providing them with such a path towards what they need, and that’s why I think Carrot is as widely used as it is. 

One key element that we really honed in on in the early days has been a big part of our success. It’s really us saying, How do we help our clients be successful? It’s that we’re going into high-margin service businesses. Where if you lose one deal, it can be 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, or $60,000 lost. And as an example, I was talking with one of our clients, Paul Meyers, out of Augusta, Georgia, yesterday. Paul Meyers had come over from a Squarespace website. He did what a lot of people do. They go, Hey, it’s low cost. I know how to build a website. I’ll go look at a carrier site. I’m going to go pay someone on Upwork and get the model of the care site. And I’m going to do it for 10 bucks a month instead of 100 or 200. He ended up moving away from that and into Carrot, recently seeing a dramatic increase in results. Because Squarespace is built to launch easily,  edit easily, and make it look beautiful. It’s not built to perform. And that person on Upwork might have some experience getting some things out there. But they don’t know the science behind why that form is there, why that button’s shape is that wide, why the words are the words on that, and why it’s these three form fields, not these other two. There are all of these elements that, when you add them up, might boost conversion by 20%. But then you add 70 of them up—80 of them up—that we’ve built over the last decade. All of a sudden, you have a very, very tightly performing website that’s extremely hard to build on your own unless that person is literally a performance and conversion expert, a tech expert to make it load fast, and an SEO expert, which is a unicorn. There’s not a whole lot of them out there. There are some, but very, very few. And you’re probably gonna pay 10 grand to have that built-in and probably build on our platform. Anyway, so many of the biggest investors are coming away from custom sites to Carrot because it’s easier and actually lowers costs for them. And they stopped losing those deals from PageSpeed SEO and conversion issues.

A great advantage of just how much traction you have is that you can see the performance, not only from a technical web point of view but with this many customers using your platform. You can watch the performance, and you can make decisions based on what is actually happening at quite a large volume. And that brings me to a question I have. How much do you guys internally test models? How much do you continually push things forward and adapt? 

It’s always something we’ve got to stay on top of. So there are two dynamics with websites where it might be a little bit different. For example, smrtPhone, where the website is a very visual thing. People have an emotional connection to their website, especially agents, but investors do as well. And the bigger an investor gets, oftentimes the more differentiated they feel they need to be visually from the guy who just got started last week and read the book. And so there’s this push and pull of performance versus aesthetic. And that’s probably the biggest challenge we’ve had. Someone looks at a site and they go, I just think this looks prettier. And we test that. I’ll give you an example. I’ve got a really good buddy, one of the bigger wholesalers in the country. He rolled out a very, very pretty-looking website about six years ago. We would have people coming to us saying, Oh, I want one that looks like this guy. And we tested the crap out of it. And we’re like, But it doesn’t convert as well. Maybe it does for him in his market. But across the 20 markets, we tested the end. And the clients we tested in those markets, in most of those markets, it actually performed worse. So we’re not going to roll something out. Because you think it looks good, we’re going to roll it out, because it’s actually going to work better for you. That’s been the biggest push and pull. We’ve got a team on our product team, and I’m a deep part of it as well. And we have a quarterly cadence on the performance side of things. So we have a certain proprietary process every quarter that we go through to ensure we’re always ahead of the game on PageSpeed. So we look at a cross-section of 220 MSAs in the country. We grab, and it ends up being about 1000 websites every single quarter. And we’re always running tests and figuring out how are the current websites against these. We break them down between custom sites, Competitor A, Competitor B, Competitor C. And we have a threshold that we always have to stay above speed. We do the same thing with SEO. If we ever have the threshold going down where there’s a competitor or another site type that’s going up we study it, make the pivots, or just stay ahead. When you study the numbers right now across the 220 MSA, if you look at the top five rankings, Carrot owns over 60% of the top five rankings across the top 220 markets in America for the top three keywords that sellers type in. So most of the rankings and traffic come through Carrot clients. And then on the conversion side, that’s the most challenging side. But we’re always running somewhere between five and 20 split tests every quarter. We have a primary process. Once again, we have a hypothesis that could come from well, this is working in this market. Why don’t we test to see if this can work well here? We want to make mobile conversion go up a bit. Let’s look at our data. And we’ve noticed that mobile conversion needs to be stronger. It’s crushing on desktop, and mobile isn’t. We’re gonna spend that whole quarter testing mobile and getting that up. One example of that was probably the end of 2020. But as we kept on following the data, and saw more and more mobile usage now. For motivated house sellers, it’s still mostly on the desktop. Buyers or real estate agents, and leads are mostly on cell phones. Facebook traffic is 80 to 90% cell phones. Google traffic for sellers is the vast majority desktop still. But as we saw desktop climbing, the team pulled up the websites on the cell phones. And we say well, what does it look like? And I had a hypothesis that if we can eliminate text above the form, eliminate another couple of things, and bring up that form higher that has increased conversions, it did by about 25%. So we automatically made that change across all websites. And then the ones we couldn’t, we then sent people a message saying, Hey, you might want to eliminate some of that text at the top of that form. And here’s the data on it. So those are things we continually do.

RETG 10 | Reducing Marketing Friction

If you can make a change across your platform, but then you look at specific markets as well, how much do you take into account the potential specifics of markets when you roll that out as well? If I’m in a market, I might not necessarily get all the changes if they’re not beneficial to me.

That’s one of the challenges that we do have. I’m not gonna say that we’re anywhere near perfectly solving it. I’ll give you a couple of examples. In Birmingham, Alabama, or markets like that. It’s actually different messaging, a slightly different structure. Then we’re going to markets like the LA market or San Diego markets. There are different markets, sophistication, different avatars, and different demographics in those markets. If it’s an aging population, you need to make sure the buttons are far bigger when they’re pulling them up on a cell phone, or it’s easier to navigate, and things like that. It’s a challenge because you’re running a platform where you have to build a tool that can best meet the needs of everybody, but then give guidance and training on how to modify it for your market or marketplace vendors who can dive in with you one on one or our coaches. That’s how we treat that now. As we roll out a product that, according to our data, it gives you the best chance of overperforming based on all the factors. And then we do our best to say, Hey, you need individual work at a deep level. And you’re going to really go deep, here are these resources. And I’ll give you another example at the broad level across the market. So there are some fundamentals that are always true, that we’ve found. And so we lock those in. These are our principles at Carrot, and here are some of those that are always true. You always should have a form at the top of your homepage that’s clear, simple, and not more than three form fields. It doesn’t matter what lead type you’re going after, or what market. If you put seven form fields in there, you’re gonna get some really qualified leads but your conversion is going to tank. We found three that are the best and the ideal. You can do one and you can put just the address for sellers if you’re okay with lower quality in the back end. But we found that three is the best. Another principle is the button on your form should always be as big and as wide as your form fields above it. You should never have a form field that is 150 pixels wide, and a button below it that is 35 pixels wide. You always want to fill up that space because you want your button to span the whole width of the cell phone and make it so it logically flows into that CTA. One more, no matter what marketing, no matter what demographic, you always want to make sure that your calls to action are calls. The call to action buttons are not just commands, Click This, Continue, Submit. It should be a benefit-oriented button. It should be getting my fair cash offer, see the investment properties. Have people see and visualize what they’re gonna experience on the other side. And when you look at motivated house seller websites in the industry right now, it’s no accident that almost every website, the ones that work, says some variation of Get My Offer, Get My Fair Cash Offer, and Get My Fast Cash Offer. Before Carrot, they didn’t say that. Before Carrot, almost every website was Submit, Continue. And we tested that. And we tested submit continue all the other words, probably 15 to 20 variations. We have a blog post on this from I think 2015 or 16, where we were able to more than double the conversion on these two websites by changing five words. Those five words were just the button and went from Continue or Submit to Get My Fair Cash Offer doubled conversion across those sites.

One is aggressive, and the other is an invite. And I think people often massively undervalue things like the wording. Understanding a button matters enormously to how you position those things, what they say, how people instinctively understand things, versus having to work them out. If they have to work things out. You’ve caused friction. And friction is the killer.

Friction, you can do like a whole podcast on that word, like with smrtPhone or with marketing. All marketing is guys and gals removing friction from getting someone from the pain point to the solution. The more friction between the pain that they have and the solution on the other end, the harder it is going to be for them to work with you. And that applies to smrtPhone. That applies to everything that happens on your website. It happens once they pick up the phone and call you, what happens once you submit a lead? How long does it take for them to talk to you? That’s friction. If it takes 24 hours, that’s more friction than 24 seconds. So that’s your whole aim and marketing. It’s looking at every step in that process and saying, How can I remove more friction? The more you remove, the more successful it’ll be.

Scheduling a call is a huge friction point. You’ve just introduced someone who was possibly absolutely motivated and ready to have a conversation, and you’ve introduced a 24 or 48-hour, whatever it is your pause of friction for zero reasons.

On the website side, we have an event that we do call Carrot Camp and it’s always these players that come in. And one of the guy’s name is Keith Sant who didn’t know what he was doing with real estate or tech. And now he’s one of our biggest evangelists, crushing it. And he’s like the guy that will put in front of people to train. And I remember him coming probably two or three Carrot Camps ago. And he goes, my aim has really been to reduce the amount of time I spend on my business but make the experience better for customers. And he put in a Calendly Schedule link after someone submits their form. It said, Hey, thanks, we’ll get a hold of you. But if you want to just go ahead and schedule your appointment right now, pick your best time. And what he started to find was a percentage of people would just pick their time. And now you think about that and go, Well, what if they pick a time that’s a day or two out? Might that increase resistance? What he found was it actually closed the loop for that person to say, I’ve engaged with this company. I have an appointment. And another big part of it was after hours. So there’ll be people that would be calling in or submitting at 9, 10, 11 o’clock at night. And they would actually pick their time for the next day. And they would say, Yeah, first after I selected my time, I didn’t go look at other websites. And there were deals that he closed 100% because he reduced resistance and added clarity for people for that next step just by putting in a Calendly link to book an appointment after they submit their form.

Obviously, there’s been some exciting stuff going forward with you guys over the last year. What do you focus on right now for the benefit of the real estate customer base?

There are a few big things we’re doing. One thing, we acquired a company called Investorfuse, a CRM or lead conversion system. One of the things that we’re really doing with Carrot moving forward is we want to serve people on a deeper level. I think we’ve done an amazing job on the website side. But then just being honest, we have some gaps in our feature set. We have some gaps and we want to fully round out the SEO tool set. We want to make it so people don’t have to go to Ahrefs and other tools like that to pull backlink reports. That’s all going to be inside of Carrot. We want to make it so there are fewer and fewer things for you to do with your online market outside of Carrot and make it so you can save time, have everything in one spot, and even save expenses. As the economy gets tougher, people do start looking at that credit card statement and go, what am I going to cut? We’re trying to help you save money and save time and get things in here if you’re doing marketing, you’re doing Facebook ads or Google ads. We’re gonna have more data inside of our system. So you can really manage all of your online marketing in one spot. You can get your ad campaign data. You can get better reporting and analytics. Another couple of things we’re doing is really stepping in to find ways we can serve that experience for pro customers a lot more. We have a lot of the biggest investors, but honestly, there are some big gaps in the feature set to serve the pro members. We’re stepping into that big time. There are a million other things but the last one or two that we’re really looking at is I see the market and I’ve been talking about this on our podcast for about four years. You have the wholesale side of the marketing of the retail side. And probably four years ago, I started talking about what I call a hybrid that the industry is going in this way. You have iBuyers in the middle, between the two that are playing both sides there. And then I said, Man, the markets are gonna get driven towards the middle guys. Your investors are going to have their licenses or partner with agents. They need to be going and not just saying, Here’s my discount cash offer. But hey, if you want to put the most in your pocket, I can list it, or here’s the creative way. Agents need to be coming in saying not just I’m going to put you in my pretty little box if I can list your house for 6%. But if it’s a challenging situation, stop throwing those leads away and say that they’re tire kickers. Make him an offer partner with an investor. And so we’re helping to drive that more and more. We’re going to simplify our product for what we call hybrids. And really encourage and aid investors and agents to work together, share leads together, do deals together, and the door just to both sides of the business all inside of our platform. Fast Five. I definitely think we’re gonna have to have another podcast with you on it. And maybe with you and John as well. Yeah, obviously, John’s been on the podcast before everybody knows that smrtPhone, did an integration with Investorfuse over the last quarter or so. And it’s been fantastic. And we’re continuing to build more stuff into that. So I got Five Fast questions I ask all the technology 

Fast Five Question

  1. What feature of Carrot has the biggest impact on your customer’s business?
    I’ll give the high-converting fast websites that are like the core of our products. But without that, I think everything else would be hard, amazing support to piggyback on it.
  2. What is the biggest mistake people make when bringing on Carrot? I’m gonna guess that the exact answer you gave me is going to fit question three (3.)
  3. What’s your best advice on how to integrate tech carried in your business?
    The biggest mistake that they make is not choosing upfront. How much of the work do they want to do versus hiring it out? I think that’s with anything that they do in their business. So choose early on. Are you a person who wants to do it yourself and tap into those resources? Or do you want to pay someone to do it? If you do that, you’re going to accelerate your process. The next part is just overcomplicating the customization of your site. Just go with what performs. Get some traffic to it. You can always tweak it later. Don’t spend too much time tweaking the design at the start. It’s that and then recognize that all offline marketing creates online demand. So a lot of people think, well, not gonna do Google, Pay per click, or SEO. But everything you’re doing offline—the calls, the direct mail, the cold calling—people are gonna pick up their cell phones, and they’re gonna eventually Google your company name. They’re gonna Google a company name plus reviews. And if you’re not represented well online, ranking high for your company name and reviews, with really good reviews, and really good credibility, you’re going to lose business from offline. So recognize that online is so important to make your offline marketing work better.
  4. What is one more hidden thing you wish everyone knew about Carrot?
    I think, and this is relatively new, that we haven’t really fully stepped in over the years to like, build the official community. And so we launched it last year. And that’s where I’m insanely pumped. We want to wrap people into our community. So that’s hidden a little bit. It’s growing really fast. A dig in there. And also, there’s another thing that people just don’t recognize, we have an amazing tool set where you can actually spy on your competitor’s rankings and see what’s working for them. And you can put in your competitor’s URL. It’ll tell you what keywords are bringing in traffic for it and what percentage of their traffic is coming from those keywords. That’s a cool tool set when you’re doing your research.
  5. If someone’s just starting out in real estate investment, what are three technology products you would recommend they bring on first?
    I think that the first thing is, I’m going to give a little free or low-cost when you get something to be able to organize your day, your week, your schedule your life a little bit. I honestly just use Google Sheets for my priority tracker. Have something that tracks your priority so you’re doing the right things in your next actions. It could just be a free spreadsheet, could be a piece of paper, or something like that. I’m obviously going to say I think you have an online presence for sure. That’s going to help you win more deals even if you’re just doing offline marketing. In the last part, everyone should get smrtPhone. Obviously,  if you’re doing anything with the phones, that’s obvious. I think the other thing, honestly, is just having a cell phone or having something that you can just in the early days, you’re just gonna communicate with people back and forth on your cell phone. And once you get so overtaxed with sending people back notes just manually, make sure you’re using systems like Investorfuse, smrtPhone to scale things up.

How to reach Trevor

It’s carrot.com. Pretty simple. It’s like the vegetable. And if you guys enjoy podcasts, we have a podcast called The Carrot Cast, where we dive in, and every Thursday I do something called My Truck Talks, where I’m just driving in my truck, talking about the entrepreneurship journey challenges, what you’re gonna do moving forward, it’s not even real estate specific. So check out the podcast at carrotcast.com or your favorite podcast deal, and care.com for care in our product suite.

Trevor, it’s been an absolute pleasure. And thank you for coming to the episode.