Do you want a steady stream of repeat and referral business? Bill Risser introduces Barb Betts, the Owner and CEO of The RECollective. Barb shares how building a real estate business through relationships is her primary focus. Even until now, she still receives referrals from the internet leads she met 20 years ago. That is why real estate agents should want to build the majority of the business by referrals. She shares some of the best ways to do that—from personalized postcards to social media. If you want more tips on how to build a relationship-based real estate business, tune in!
Barb Betts - Owner/Broker - The RECollective
My guest is as passionate about relationships as anyone I know. I'm talkingaboutBarb Betts. She's the Broker, Owner and CEO of The RECollective. She also has a couple of other marketing companies, Relately Marketing and Real Estate by Relationships Academy. She's doing all great stuff and it's going to be a blast chatting with her. Let's get this thing started. Barb, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Bill. I'm excited to be here.
I'm happy to have you here. Molly McKinley has been a source of guests for me. You and I get to meet officially at an event this past fall. I interviewed Sara Sutachan and now I'm interviewing you. This is a great day for me. It's been a lot of fun. Let's start in Southern California. Are you in the Long Beach area?
I am in the Long Beach area which is situated halfway between LAX and Disneyland.
Are you a native? Did you grow up in Southern California?
I was born, raised and brokered in Long Beach, California.
I grew up in San Diego. I lived there for almost four years. I got the Southern California thing going. I know you have a son who plays baseball at a very high level. Tell me about that.
He was drafted out of Long Beach Wilson High School by the Tampa Bay Rays. He spent many years in the organization. He had some significant injuries that have been challenging, and you throw in COVID in the middle of that. He played Double-A in 2020 for them and was a free agent at the end of the season. There's this little thing called the baseball lockout going on now. It's been a little challenging this off-season.
He signed the contracts with the Los Angeles Dodgers. We have moved into the Dodgers Organization now at the Minor League level. The fun fact is all my friends are thinking they are going to see him at the Chavez Ravine in April 2022 and that's not quite the case. I'm super excited for him to continue his journey and play baseball at such a high level.
What's his position?
[bctt tweet="You can balance being a mom and having a successful career in real estate. " via="no"]
He's a left-handed hitting catcher which is unique to the catching position. He is naturally born left-handed. He eats, drinks, sleeps and golfs left-handed. My husband is challenged in the height department. When my husband saw him picking up Cheerios with his left hand, mom wanted to get him a glove for his right hand. Dad said, "I'm not going to have a 5'10” left-handed player that can't do anything." It's a true story. My husband bought him a glove for his left hand and threw balls at him in our living room at a very young age. Chris can throw a baseball harder than I've ever seen anyone throw a baseball right-handed. He hits balls 400 feet left-handed.
We get to talk a little bit about this because I worked for the San Diego Padres for twelve years. I love baseball. It's my thing. The dynamics of a left-handed throwing catcher is an issue because the majority of batters are right-handed. They will be in the way of throws and it's tougher to throw the third. It’s way easier to throw the first, I would think, because you wouldn't have to twist around so much. Maybe pick a lot better. I was going to ask you before I knew all of this, "Are you a Dodgers or Angels fan?"
Not so long ago, we were Angel fans, but we did own a Dodger hat, which is a good thing. I never thought I'd say I bleed blue being a SoCal girl and mostly raised in the Orange County side of town. We are Dodger fans overnight. We've made a lot of our friends very happy because we have a lot of Dodger fan friends.
We probably should talk about real estate. The baseball fans love this but there's always somebody who says, "Why do you spend so much time?" It's because I love it and I want to have a great conversation. You're approaching twenty years in the real estate industry. Congratulations. That's amazing. There's always something. I love the story of how real estate found you.
I'm the typical realtor that had a bad experience buying a home. Many realtors can relate to this where I thought, “If they could do that poor of a job and make that kind of money, I could do better.” I was in accounting. I was a glorified bookkeeper/CFO, but I was not a CFO. I was a bookkeeper but I was good at it. I love spreadsheets but I hate debits and credits and that kind of stuff. I also was a young mom. We just had our son and our daughter was on the way.
I worked for a very challenging boss who was female. She told me one day when my child was very ill that I needed a nanny for situations like this because I'm a working woman. I thought, "No." I decided, "What can I do where I can have a balance of being a mom and having a successful career?" Since I had a child so young, we were eighteen when we had our son, I didn't go to college. I didn't have anything to fall back on. I wanted something I could own and say I'm an expert in. I wanted something that included a license or certificate that didn't require me to go back to four years of college. You combine the bad experience of buying a home with me wanting that, and every one lands in real estate. That was the easy answer.
I have over 300 interviews on this show and I’d say ten knew they were going to be a realtor at the age of fifteen.
People are going through high school in career class, doing the course and then researching why they should go into real estate.
You started with Prudential, which is not around anymore. They have been absorbed by a couple of places. They were well-known for their training, education, and setting you set yourself up for success. Is that what you found there?
What I found there was the manager. I will never forget when I went to the career night that we used to have back in the days of real estate. It was pouring rain that night. I still went and no one else showed up. We were in a training room and he said, "Let's go to the conference room and sit down." I figured he had canceled.
[caption id="attachment_4159" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The RECollective: Learning the short sale market was the best thing we did, and we didn't shy away from that.[/caption]
One person there is worth his time. I'll never forget him, Richard Dewitt. He has since passed but he sat down and educated me. He gave me hope and told me I could do it. I know more now if you could fog a mirror and you have a real estate license, you probably can land in a brokerage somewhere. He made me feel special and heard. To that point, they had great new agent training and a mentor program. They had all the things I needed going into the career that I knew nothing about more than just my personal transaction. Education and support are what attracted me to Prudential.
Something tells me that you took some of those lessons from him and you still use them. We were talking about early 2004, 2005 or somewhere in that range. You're cruising along. I like to ask this question because you understand social media very well. You teach and train. You have an academy. You had to be an early adopter in the office. Were there old people running around going, "You’re never going to amount to anything. Why are you doing that?"
This is really going back. Realtors who are reading who think that internet leads started with The Portal. Let's call them that to keep names out of it, it didn't start like that. It started with Yahoo.com. It was the first site to generate buyer and seller leads online. They partnered with Prudential only. It was called The Portal. Each office in our Prudential system had an assigned agent that was the Portal agent. I was the only agent that was willing to take it on because all the other senior agents were like, "That's never going to turn into anything. The internet is never going to sell a house. No one is going to go online and look for an agent." We know where we are now.
I tell people that before I got my acting gear and figured out how to do business that sustained my family and me, and allowed me to balance, I did stay up until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning answering internet leads. I was working 37 days straight with no break. There were a lot of agents who said it would never work. This is why this whole NFT world and everything else that we're in, I don't understand it yet, but I never say never.
It's weird watching the swings in the value of crypto, but maybe that's all part of the process. You never say never, I agree. As we look through your career, you were well-prepared. I'm not sure if you joined the REO world prior to or during the dark days, but that had to be huge for you. Think about the value prop you're bringing in today’s world. You’re way early on understanding how internet leads work, not all of them close. It's a small portion, but you got to be consistent with all of them. Now you're also schooled up and skilled on how to handle that market.
It's the combination of learning to work the internet leads and what I became passionate about, which I continued through my career. It’s the power of doing business by relationship. Learning those internet leads have the potential to turn into relationships. Although they were frustrating and irritating, some of them were very challenging. Sometimes they are non-responsive and sometimes they ghost you on appointments. The good ones turned into relationships that I still have now.
When they give me referrals and have conversations, or they come to one of our parties, it cracks me up to think we met online years ago before internet leads were even a thing. We then fast forward to what my good friend Glenn calls the great inconvenience of real estate. We all know what happened in '06 and '07. I thought, “I've got to not ignore this REO world that is going on.” Relationships got me an REO account. A good friend in Arizona who was an REO machine handed us a binder of all the REO contact she had and said, "Go build some relationships." That's how we got our first REO account, which led to more REO accounts.
We were not getting 50 to 60 new homes a day like some brokerages were, but I'll equate it to this last refinance boom. In that period, I didn't stop working on my relationships because a lot of real estate brokers did. They focused on their banks and left all their other people behind. When the REO world stopped, they came up for air and their clients had moved on to other agents. The REOs, in my husband's words, were the icing on the cake at the time. It was nice to have a guaranteed 5 or 6 deals a month coming in, but we never forgot our relationships. We got through that and it has been crazy ever since.
Some of those relationships needed you more than ever. That was a big part of what you were doing.
Learning the short sale market was the best thing that we did. We didn't shy away from that. Those were the hardest days of my career. This market is hard now. Don't get me wrong. The speed and the exhaustion of the market now are so hard. However, when you have to go into someone who you just celebrated with a few years ago, pop champagne with, give them their keys to their first home, and now you're having to go in and have an adult conversation about how to break up with their home and divorce their mortgage. That was very hard because these are the people you love. With REOs, they are gone. You have no relationship with them. Short sales were a lot more challenging.
[bctt tweet="Educate others and give them hope that they can make it. " via="no"]c
You have your own company now and we're going to talk about that, but there was one more stop along the way. You made a shift over to Keller Williams. What was behind that?
By then, my husband had joined me. We have a small little team. In Prudential, there were some leadership changes at the time. It was an aging brokerage. It didn't have the technology and the forward-thinking. No one was sitting around talking about ideas and what was coming next. It felt like a change was appropriate. I was a founding member at the Keller Williams that I went to. That was exciting because we got to build something from the ground up and have some influence being on the ALC. We moved and grew our team there. It was a great experience and we're super glad we did it.
Like many successful realtors, agents and entrepreneurs, you are going to do a lot more than just work for someone else. You're going to open up your own brokerage and start your own marketing company. Talk about making that leap of faith. It's a little bit of a leap of faith because now you're in charge of a lot more things and responsible for a lot more stuff.
I got my broker's license in 2016. It’s not because I ever thought of opening my own brokerage. It’s because I felt like it was the next step. It was like getting a Master's in real estate. I already had the Bachelor's. I was very successful and I thought, "I want to have that higher level of knowledge." The other reason I did it was I remember leaving Prudential and feeling suffocated that I had to find somewhere else. I thought to myself that if that ever happens again, I don't want to be forced into finding something else.
That was my backup plan. I can always be on my own if I ever need to leave or if this company closes its doors. A culture shift happened. My team was unhappy and we were unhappy so we thought, "This is the time." Having the confidence to do it is a big deal. It's not easy opening your own brokerage, but we had the team and my husband's support. We did it and never looked back since. It’s been a few years now and it's the single best decision that we ever made.
I love the name Relately Marketing.
Relately is the marketing company. The real estate company is The RECollective.
What is Relately? What are you doing there?
I'm a relationship junkie. I've been, seen and built our business by relationship. I understand intrinsically the power of building a business by relationship, and it's not just by referral. I don't like the word referral. If you know me well, I use the word referral internally with people like you. When I talk to my clients, I don't say the word referral. I use the words introduce and connect me. They are us.
Referrals are whatever agents should want to build their business by and have the majority of their business be that way. What I found is as I teach agents how I do what I do and how I've built my systems. One of my key factors in building our business is consistent communication. You have to consistently show up in front of your clients or they will forget you.
[caption id="attachment_4160" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The RECollective: You need to be on social media and learn how to do it relationally.[/caption]
You don't always have the time to talk to every single person in your database. I believe in the power of mailing to your database. It's not the large geographic neighborhoods. I'm talking about a list of relationships. We started creating big, large postcards that we mail to our database. We create the content every month and do a combination of personal and professional like, "I love you," versus, "This is what's going on in real estate." Agents started asking me for them and they were like, "I don't have the time to create them. Can you create them? Can I have your templates?" My staff and I sat down and I thought, "I want to help the industry but I'm not just going to give it away. We worked hard on all of that."
We decided to launch a marketing company that helps realtors market relationally to their database. We prepare a custom postcard. What I mean by custom is they all look the same. I'm not creating one for every different realtor, but on the back of the postcard, we work on a custom template for you with your photo and information.
We've got our mail house and they send it all out for you. You don't even have to think about it. It includes birthdays, anniversaries, and all the love cards or notes that I send everybody, and social media content. It's a marketing tool for realtors that want to work relationally and don't know how to get the message out there, and don't have a team or a staff to do it for them. That's how it was birthed and it's been super successful. We're happy with it.
Have you ever gotten somebody who says, "I know this is the first few, but I want to send them some leads?"
I don't care. They can put whoever they want in their database. That's why I'm launching the academy, to teach them how to do it the right way. What we don't do is we don't let you nitpick the content. You got to trust us that this works and we're doing this the right way. You're getting the content that I used in the last years and I know it works.
You mentioned real estate by relationship and Real Estate by Relationship Academy. Let's go there next. First of all, I'm thinking, you don't have a whole lot of free time.
Everyone says that. My husband and I still sell real estate. I still work a lot of days and we are active owners. He's a realtor and I'm an active broker. I couldn't do what I do without my husband. I got to give him major props in this. He has transitioned to take over a lot of our day-to-day sales activities. I still do a lot of rainmaking. I still do a ton of lead generation and go on certain appointments, but he's at the appraisals, inspections and...