I’m spending a lot of time on English-speaking blogs, online forums or Twitter. Professionally, I’m heavily influenced by an online circle and as often, most of them are US-based.
I was feeling a bit alone and worse I was forgetting that people were doing really interesting things around me, here in Europe and more so in Switzerland.
I just moved from Neuchâtel to Zurich and 2019 must be the year I get to meet more founders, people doing interesting things!
I started seeking out companies disrupting somehow a traditional market. In this series, I’m dissecting their business model and their online marketing.
The first Startup of the series is NEHO!
Neho is interesting to me because they focus on one of the most traditional industry and did something I was talking about with my mastermind friends.
They simplified and productized completely a traditional offer and leveraged the web and the fact that the Swiss market is somehow small (meaning the big international players don’t enter it first).
They offer a flat-fee - zero commission - property selling!
They distribute the leads to their local agents and have the opportunity to be active in the whole country making economies of scale on their technology and online activities.
They built and sell their IP and can market it and scale the business.
How did I get to know them?
But first, I need to explain how I got to see this company. In September of 2018, my parents received a flyer at home with the offer of Neho.
They did a great job at getting us hooked with their offer (it’s really clear and value-based) a.k.a. attracting leads. They attract us with their offer and get leads promising an estimate of the property against our email and information about the property we own.
Curious, I went straight to their website and completed the opt-in form. I thought I would see a live example of a Swiss company leveraging automation and email marketing on top of their productized offer.
I didn’t have all the right information to provide (nor did I care) and I was just reverse-engineering and observing from the inside what they were doing.
I received directly a call from their local agent and I told him straight that I was just curious and working on similar fields. The information I provided was not accurate as he told me. But anyhow, he was an interesting and cool guy and we chatted for a little while.
At the time, I imagined they untagged (or removed) me from their list as I was clearly not a lead and not even a property owner. I didn’t hear from them during a few months...
I kind of forgot them for a while until December when I received a broadcast newsletter sent with MailChimp.
(Signal vs Noise > the fact they use MailChimp is a signal for me. They know the importance of email marketing and automation but didn’t implement it so far)
I don’t see the whole picture, but 2 things appeared clearly to me:
- They don’t use email marketing effectivelyThey had the opportunity to keep in touch with me and nurture the relationship the whole time but I received only one email (a broadcast!) 3 months later.
- They sent a broadcast email yet they had some information about me that they could use to personalize and craft a better email.
In this article, I analyze their offer and their online activities to see what service providers can learn from it and what I think Neho could do better (it might be on their Roadmap as they are at the time that I’m writing this article hiring someone in Digital Marketing).
Productization of their offer
I believe their strength is the intellectual property (IP) they packaged and the fact they leveraged process and technology to disrupt a traditional industry. They productized a known and typical offering.
What do I mean with productizing?
A productized service is a service packaged as a product. It often presents several characteristics:
- Fixed scope
- Fixed price
- Clearly defined market
- Clearly defined process (IP)
- Focused on the benefits
- Description of the outcome for the buyer
But why would you do that?
- Productizing an offer offers many benefits and opportunities. One being, you can duplicate and scale your process. You gain leverage (time and rates) by specializing
- By defining a clear market, you can leverage content marketing, direct advertising, and marketing automation to build an engine working for you
- You can anchor the benefits/results against the rates (because the price is fixed)
- You can leverage the way you deliver the service by building templates, checklist, and processes
- You can build in-house tools to help you with the delivery
Somehow, you can act like a tech startup or as a SaaS in the way you market your services and can build a scalable and leveraged business without just hiring more people.
How do you productize an offer?
This question goes out of the scope of this article. But a good start is to ask yourself, where and for whom do I (we) bring the most value, the most often and on a mostly standardized way?
How could I push that further?
Scaling isn’t mandatory, there are both places in the market for a tailored great experience and productized services. The trouble is in the middle (mediocre tailored experience).
Brian Casel put together a great crash-course on productizing services.
Now, what would I do if I were them...
Leveraging Automation and Email Marketing
They could leverage what they do on the front-end (attracting leads) with email marketing and marketing automation & personalization on the back-end, moving me and leading me down the funnel.
When I gave them some key information and I became a lead, they reached out directly by phone.
Why not, play offense to win!
But some leads are hot while others need to be educated and gain confidence. And not everybody wants to sell his house in the next 3 months, but they might in the next 3 years!
They should not leave any leads behind. And as they have a clear avatar of who they serve, they can automate and leverage their marketing with an online sales funnel and email marketing automation setup.
At the end of the day, marketing automation & personalization is simply talking 1 on 1 to many people at the same time and leading them at their own rhythm without ever leading them behind.
Let’s imagine there are 3 cases:
- The owner ready to sell in the next 90 days (actively looking for a solution)
- The owner, somewhat interested in selling in the nex 5 years
- Someone interested in them (not an owner, but a potential source of referrals)
By considering only the people ready to sell short-term, they leave the biggest piece of the pie...
Neho, you did the hard part (get their attention and a small commitment). Don’t lose the opportunity to keep in touch with them, educate them on your IP, success stories, and get them to trust you.
As a Minimum Viable Funnel, would set up this kind of email marketing automation.
- I would use a real Marketing automation software like ActiveCampaign, Drip or Infusionsoft
- I would set up a secondary free offer on the website in case they exit the page (A lead Magnet about the margins that the traditional Agencies take usually for example)
- I would follow this lead magnet with an email crash course on your IP or the traditional Agency model to “indoctrinate them”, get them to know Neho better and trust them
- I would then email once a month with useful information and with a CTA to book a call that triggers an automation to set up a call
Automation could also be leveraged in the sales process and the fulfillment process. You can do the heavy lifting and focus everything where you deliver the most value. And from there, scale!
(I have no idea of their process in the sale and fulfillment process, I only focused on the visible front-end).
Their avatar is so clear, they have a real shot at becoming a reference for individual property owners creating useful content for the Swiss market. No matter where their leads come from, they have local agents to take over and hopefully an email marketing strategy (see above) to follow up.
Content Marketing would be their own real Estate on the Swiss web and the competition is kind of weak today.
They could be extremely useful, create a lot of leads and goodwill and potential referrals. Content is the key on the Web and is also a great way to play medium-long term on the web, coupled and leveraged with PPC ads to gain traction faster (see below).
Their articles could be leveraged with content-upgrades and lead magnets to get more leads to opt-in and go down the funnel. (I would create a choose your own adventure journey in the email funnel)
At this point, it doesn’t matter if the leads don’t buy today, the automation works for them and the local sales guy will just talk to them when they are ready. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t act for 2 years prior (actually yes it matters, it only means they evicted the competition. If someone read you for 2+ years, she doesn’t shop around anymore, she trust you and your solution), they will be lead to the call automatically and systematically.
But how do you work with content?
Besides keywords research and all the technical things, the first goal should be to create a resources/educational center that is not time and date based (like a blog) but is evergreen.
They could create an article a week, upgrade the best into content-upgrades or White Papers and slowly but surely become central to every swiss individual property owners.
I didn’t dig much in how they gain traffic. I just looked at a handful of keywords on Google and their Facebook ads.
Besides partnership (I don’t know what they did), if they had built a great funnel with content, lead magnets, and email marketing, they could bring more traffic and scale nicely and smoothly (as long as their service delivery is good).
A few considerations of the things I could see in a few minutes:
- They buy Google Ads for a handful of keywords and are first (intent-based keywords)
- They buy Facebook ads but don’t do real A/B test https://www.facebook.com/pg/nehoimmo/ads/
- They don’t seem to have retargeting ads (it’s a waste to bring traffic but not to retarget them) https://www.facebook.com/pg/nehoimmo/ads/
- All the PPC ads land to really cluttered pages and they could obviously improve they cost per conversion by tailoring their landing pages with their ads
- Their SEO is quite weak (at least in French) > Content and influencer marketing is the answer
What could they do?
- They need to put a real funnel in place (with a secondary free offer so that no leads are left behind)
- Create Landing pages tailored to their ads
- Create awesome content and push it with Facebook (short term). Long term it will help with SEO and will sell Neho 24/7
- Keep on with Adwords for intent short term buyers (they probably need Cash-Flow)
- Retarget everybody that didn’t sign up with Facebook ads to their Lead Magnet (Traffic from Adwords, Facebook, SEO and other)
- Outreach influencer in lateral fields to bring traffic (a real estate blog, or someone working in a similar field with traffic like bonus.ch or Comparis or VZ) and do guest blogging or guest newsletter
- Organize local Seminars (and eventual online webinars) for people who signed up but are not convinced or ready). > Not really a traffic strategy, but highly effective and easy to set up once you talk to your leads via email each month.
They have an interesting model and seem to have success. Yet, they can’t do nearly as good as they could if they were leveraging these different points presented.
For the rest, what can you learn? Whether you are an agency or a solo-consultant, you can gain leverage as well:
- Simplify and productize your offer (at least your front-end offer). It will help you to promote it and to find an audience eager to learn and buy from you
- Build a Minimum Viable Funnel with 5-6 email sequence to start and don’t let any leads behind
- Build content, starting yesterday. Don’t forget that you’re not educating your peers but your target market. You don’t have to be perfect, competition is still stuck on the 80-90’s model anyway.