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Hot Seat—Chris Prefontaine

Chris Prefontaine of Smart Real Estate Coach has a great problem - he’s getting a lot of revenue out of his small list, but he wants to grow his list even more. How can he do that? Clate and Scott to the rescue! They advise Chris to step back and take a look at the fundamentals: Is he crystal clear on his target audience? Do you have goals and reliable ways to track them? Psychographics play a big role.

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Check out our video on psychographic segmentation below to learn more and this post about why psychographic segmentation is more important that customer demographics.


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Scott Martineau: Well, welcome to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast, I'm Scott Martineau.

Clate Mask: And I'm Clate Mask. We're co founders of Infusionsoft, and we've got Chris Prefontaine with us, Chris how you doing?

Chris Prefontaine: Terrific guys, thanks for having me on.

Scott Martineau: Ah, we're excited.

Clate Mask: Yeah, this is [00:00:30] a hot suite episode so we get to have you share a tough question and we'll dive into it, spend some time on it. First, why don't you just share with us and all of our listeners what you business is, give us a little understanding of the background here.

Chris Prefontaine: Sure, we have a small family company in New Port, Rhode Island. Tiny, actually, the tiniest state in the country. It's myself and my kids, my daughter, son-in-law and son, in addition to our buying and selling business, the business I focus on [00:01:00] primarily in the coaching and mentoring and partnerships around the country. So we teach others to do buying and selling like we do, and we also partner deals with them around the country.

Clate Mask: Okay, so you teach people how to buy and sell real estate, and you partner with them all around the country. It sounds like you've already got a buying and selling business, but this is ... You're really focused here, and for purposes for our discussion in the hot seat here, it's really about the coaching, your real estate coaching business am I right?

Chris Prefontaine: Yeah absolutely.

Clate Mask: What's the name of the company?

Chris Prefontaine: Chew Publishing, C H E W Publishing, and it's a [inaudible 00:01:31] [00:01:30]

Clate Mask: Okay. Great. All right, well Chris why don't you lay it on us. What's the burning question, and issue we can jump into?

Chris Prefontaine: Well you know you said the tough question, maybe it's not a tough one for you guys, but here's my deal. We grew this organically, starting back in ... I've been at this 25 years, but we grew the business organically from about 2013 [00:02:00] just by people asking to be coached, people asking to be partners. My list is tiny, we've of course use Infusionsoft, but it's around 2,000 or 2,500 names. With that tiny list, we still do, this year we'll do a little over a million.

Scott Martineau: That's great.

Chris Prefontaine: My challenge is just looking at that, saying man how can I grow my list, is my first and foremost question. If we have time for more, great but how do I grow that list because ratio wise, the conversion rates fantastic [00:02:30] with the little list I have.

Clate Mask: Okay, so let's just recap here real quick. How many are in your business?

Chris Prefontaine: It's just, I have one, I actually have two employees now, a book keeper and a person that works just with Infusionsoft and campaigns, and my kids are really just partners. Everything's a profit share.

Clate Mask: Okay, great, so your question is you've got 2,000-2,500 people on your list, your business is about a million a year right now, how do you grow your list?

Chris Prefontaine: My list is only 2,500 total.

Clate Mask: [00:03:00] 2,500.

Chris Prefontaine: Yeah.

Scott Martineau: So what are you doing today, what's working in terms of growing the list?

Chris Prefontaine: The only thing that's grown out so far is some reciprocal marketing with other peoples lists. So we'll do an email blast to ours, and vice versa and that's what's grown it and that was only an effort we took on within the last year or so. Prior to that again, it was just all referral and word of mouth.

Clate Mask: So you grew it from 2,500 over the course of about three or four years, you said since 2013, is that right?

Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, but we didn't try growing [00:03:30] that list itself, and doing some cross marketing with other people in the business until about a year ago.

Clate Mask: Okay, when you started that, how big was it a year ago?

Chris Prefontaine: Maybe 3-400 names that we started with a tiny little ebook back in 2014.

Clate Mask: Okay. So you did a little ebook, got 3-400 names, over the last year you've done some co-marketing work and you've grown it to 2,500 roughly. Are there any [00:04:00] specific co-marketing partners you've worked with that you can see have really grown your list in a more out sized way than others.

Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, there's one in particular. Not only did it grow our list, it probably did a little over a quarter of a million just from that one list.

Clate Mask: Quarter of a million in sales, okay. Awesome. Why don't you explain to people what you're doing to do these co-marketing relationships, because [00:04:30] you're calling out obviously a really critical issue for small business growth which is to grow your marketing list. Many listeners are probably like "Grow my list, I don't really think that way." It's a really important way to think, you want to grow your list, the more people you're in contact with, the more people you have permission to communicate with, the more you can share the information that will drive them to your business, to seek you out for answers and to [00:05:00] do business with. You've got a great mind set of list growth, and I think a lot of our listeners could benefit from just hearing that, aside from the specifics of how you grow the list. Now you've taken list growth, you've taken a particular tactic with list growth, which is to partner with others. Why don't you explain a little bit more about who you're partnering with, and in particular, the one that went really well.

Chris Prefontaine: So you want specific names, I can do that.

Clate Mask: Not so much names, but [00:05:30] the characteristics of the list holder. If you're a coach of real estate, who are you ... Whose got a list that's a target list for you, what are the characteristics of that.

Chris Prefontaine: Got cha. So we do buying primarily with either lease purchase subject to existing financing, or owner financing using none of our own money and no loans. I look for people that are totally outside that box, the big list that got us the result was a gentleman that [00:06:00] definitely buys using private money, which does require a personal signature, which I don't do. Then he sells them on owner financing, so it's within the realm of obviously investors, but it's not exactly what I do. In fact, the people on that list look at what we do and that's why we're been successful. Say man, I can do this without using loans and without all that headache and without calling people I know. That list has been super successful.

Other lists that I've looked at [00:06:30] are people doing tax liens and tax deeds, because we don't do that. Flippers, we don't do that. So anyone in the business that we're not in direct competition with, they're happy to co-market with and vice versa.

Scott Martineau: Love it. So I just want to jump in on a few things. First of all, I'll just point out, I'm sure a lot of our listeners are frustrated with you about this desire you have to grow, you know starting at 2013 you're at a million dollars from this business, and they're probably thinking "This selfish, greedy ..." [00:07:00] So congratulations, good job. Couple of things, and maybe I'll rattle through some of these. We don't have to spend time if they're not of value, but I would say one thing that gets really important as you're starting to try to scale your lead generation to aspects that are related, one is clarity of goals. It's fascinating to me how frequently business owners don't have very clear goals about lead acquisition. I mean, obviously you maybe have revenue goals, that's more common, or sales goals but are you clear [00:07:30] from a monthly, and even a weekly, and even a daily basis, the number of leads you're trying to create. Getting that established, making sure that you're clear, that you have a small team but being clear whose gonna own that, and what are the initiatives that we're going to be driving to try to increase that. It's surprising how impactful that can be.

Second thing is, from a metrics standpoint, starting to get really clear on what your funnel looks like, and because I think you're probably gonna need to start ... Typically, when people start doing lead generation, [00:08:00] there's low hanging fruit that doesn't cost quite as much but ideally you want to get to the place where you have the tracking that allows you to actually see what the impact is from each of these different sources, and that's not always there. A lot of times, I remember when Clate and I started, we had a mentor that was just appalled at the way we would go out and just blindly send traffic but with not even having any clue. We had a webinar, and we just send out the link to say hey, show up for the webinar.

I'll be more specific about some of these metrics. [00:08:30] Any time that you're going to go work on a co-marketing relationship, or you're going to try to do some paid advertising, or you may have organic traffic, you want to have all of your tracking codes set up so that you can basically at the end of the day, here are clear sources of traffic and start to look at conversion rates. How well did that traffic convert? And be able to calculate things like cost per lead, and cost per acquisition. At the end of the days, that's really what you want to be able to do, is say I have a machine [00:09:00] now that I know if I invest x number of dollars or time, that I'm going to get an output of this number of leads. Sometimes you'll find that some sources will create a crap ton of leads, but they don't actually produce any customers. I don't know if you want to spend any time talking about that. How do you feel you're doing there? Are you doing well with tracking and are you doing well with goals, clear goals that you can drive toward?

Chris Prefontaine: Not really, because in my buying and selling we've got that fine tuned to a science. [00:09:30] The kids know exactly what they're accountable for, so when I transition into the coaching, I have goals monthly of more the end result. How many home study courses, how many JB partners we're gonna bring on? We are not dialed in yet with the exact number of leads, etc that you just referenced that our other business has. I don't know why, that's just where we are right now. I would love to, I've heard, I heard you speak Clate at the super conference, and I've been with Fusion Soft for a while, [00:10:00] so some of this stuff is definitely what I'm yearning and I'd like to get more fine tuned with it for sure.

Scott Martineau: Yep, cool.

Clate Mask: Yeah, so I totally agree with what Scott's saying about the goals and the tracking and the measurement. I want to back it up to just more of a foundational level here, because you said I don't know why I haven't done this yet. Well, yeah you do because you've got another business that you've been growing over a long period of time and now you've got this new business, and you've been doing a bunch of things with your offer to appeal [00:10:30] to people who already were coming to you. You've grown this business, because you have an offer and you have a sense for what it is that your target customer needs. You've been able to connect that pretty well coming off of your old business, you've kind of spun off this new business, but you didn't have to from the beginning get really clear about whose my target customer, what exactly is the message I share, and what is the offer that I'm providing. You've got a business where [00:11:00] people are coming to you, and you're able to do some partnerships to build your list. If you actually take a step back and look at the fundamentals of growing your business and growing your list of prospective customers, I think you'll be able to deconstruct it pretty quickly and get to a place where you've got clear goals and clear tracking the way Scott's talking about.

Specifically here's what I mean. You just said a minute ago, you know, your son and daughter they know that business really, really well. Are you [00:11:30] crystal clear on what the target is? In other words, who do you want to add to your list. Not who do you want to go to partner with to get on your list, but first who do you want to add to your list. Are you really clear?

Scott Martineau: The characteristics of your buyer, your target customer.

Clate Mask: Your ideal customer, your ideal target. Are you clear on that?

Chris Prefontaine: You know, everyone from my wife to other people in the business say to me, what is your ideal? I would say that I'm not super clear because of this. If I look at my JB partners, and you guys can tell me if I'm off on this, I [00:12:00] look at the partners and I say "Okay, is there a common thread?" No, I've got wannabe investors, I've got investors who've struggled then found me, I've got investors who've spent a ton of money with other people, had no success and then came here and did, I've got engineers looking for a plan B in life. I've got all kinds of different people coming in, but I don't see a common, this is my niche so to speak. Does that make sense?

Clate Mask: Yeah, I think you're looking at niche in a different way then I'd want you to look at it, and I think Scott would want you to look at it. It's not so [00:12:30] much about, you're looking for the profile, the characteristics. You know, some people would call this the customer avatar. You're trying to figure out, what are the common attributes of this customer? It may not be that they're a particular niche, so to speak, or vertical or industry or that sort of thing. But there's something demographically, there's something psycho graphically, in common with these people. You might look at it from an [00:13:00] income profile standpoint, you might look at it from an age standpoint, you might look at it from an experience standpoint in different things that they've done in the past. You might look at it from, certainly from a gender standpoint.

There's lots of different ways you can slice it, and it's not just demographics, it's also the psycho graphics. It might be that they're very growth oriented, or personal development oriented. It might be that they're ... [00:13:30] You've got to come up with that profile with what the customer looks like, because until you do that you're really kind of, you're taking shots and it's based on your gut feeling and kudos to you that you've got a gut feel that's helped you build the business to the point it is right now, but if you really want to grow your list, you've got to get scientific about what is the profile of that target customer that you're after.

Leave aside the partner that you're trying to work with for now, it's just about whose the target customer, 'cause then you're going to go and say now that I've got a real [00:14:00] clear picture of who that target customer is, I can begin to go out and find the partners who have lists full of those target customers. You know we've actually put together a video about psycho graphics, it's intro to psycho graphics, it'd be really useful for you as well as other people that are working on getting really crystal clear on their target customer. We'll put a link to it in the show notes.

Chris Prefontaine: Got cha, so this begs my question, what is the way to get there? [00:14:30] Because so far, I've not gotten there. Have you got a good break down?

Scott Martineau: I would sit down and pull the collective minds as you've been working with these clients, all of these things that you can sort of think about, and I would create a survey that you would send out to your entire list. You can do it in the vein of, hey we want to understand what your challenges are as it relates to real estate so we can help you better, but I would craft that in such a way that you can start to segment your list in a way [00:15:00] that essentially allows you to prioritize the things that are most important to them. This is a little bit different then what Clate's talking about, in that you could also ask demographic question and things like that. I would do that, and include in there some opportunity for verbatim comments where they could say, for example, you might say what are your biggest concerns about real estate? You might have some options that they could select, but also allow for verbatim that you can go scour and read on your own.

I think if you do that, you'll find a couple things. Number [00:15:30] one, you'll start to see ... You'll have enough information to start putting together these avatars that Clate talks about, where you're looking for the patterns. Two, it'll help you as Clate said, find the target pools to go after them. Then third, which is probably as equally as exciting, you now have an understanding of the problems and the very specific problems that your customers are dealing with, and even understanding the language they use as they talk about those. That's really, from a lead generation standpoint, I think that's the biggest strategic approach. You mentioned [00:16:00] that you started with an ebook, but really fantastic lead generation starts because people begin to educate their prospective leads about ... When you offer up education to your leads about the problems they're facing in your category, that's where whatever strategy you're using, whether that's through a co-marketing deal or you're paying for ads, offering that education in exchange for their contact information is going to be the winning strategy.

Anyway, short answer is, do some qualitative analysis, launch a survey, [00:16:30] go back and do a deep dive and put those customer avatar togethers and be really clear.

Clate Mask: Now I do what Scott's ... No, go ahead.

Chris Prefontaine: So the survey, to whom? The current list?

Scott Martineau: Yeah, I'd start with that, and that could be something you put on ... That's actually an interesting opportunity for any time you're doing lead generation, I wouldn't probably put a ten question survey on that, you're going to suppress your response, but it is something ... Some of these questions, you could ask like " [00:17:00] What's the biggest challenge you're facing with real estate" for example, or buying real estate, or selling real estate. If you put that as one of the questions, maybe like you do an initial lead capture with name of the email on the second page, you do a secondary follow up where you're asking that second information. That gives you not just a one time hit, but an ongoing hit where you're constantly being able to refine who this target customer is and what they're problems are. It'll pop, you'll start to see wow, like 30% of my list has [00:17:30] tried real estate courses in the past and they've failed. So now you know, in your lead generation messaging, you've got to really speak to that. You have to understand that people are coming from a place of having tried stuff in the past that's not working, I've really got to address that concern, help them understand why I'm going to be different and that I understand that problem.

Clate Mask: Or you might find that oh, 40% of my list if first time real estate investors who have a comfortable job paying them x. Or you might find [00:18:00] its something totally different, that it's people that are trying to get started out from the very beginning. The point is this, you want to get really clear through a combination of tactics that we're sharing with you here, you want to get really clear on what that target, who your target customer is. By the way, you want to make sure that that target customer is very desirable for you. What you don't want to get is get a really clear picture about a predominate customer type that you're talking to that you really don't [00:18:30] want as a customer. So make sure that you're really clear on that. I think that goes without saying, but sometimes if you go through this process, you might actually ... A person can kind of get lost in the process and come out on the other side with clarity about something they're not excited about in their business.

So let me just back up to what Scott said. One thing is a survey. The other thing is, and I'd say and it goes to my point I made just a minute ago, identify ten clients that you really like as clients. You're like hey, these clients really fit well. If I could multiple [00:19:00] these ten clients and get ten more, twenty more, hundred more, thousand more, I'd have the business that I'm really fired up about. Get those ten clients, and interview them. By the way, when you do this the first time, it sounds kind of funny 'cause you're basically saying "Why do you do business with me? What is it that you like about what we offer? Why is this valuable to you? Why does it matter?"

Scott Martineau: What happened before, how did you find us, what ...

Clate Mask: Yeah. A lot of the things you ask them though, they'll look at you like "Well, you're the person that should know this. Why are you asking [00:19:30] me this?" You have to say hey, bear with me on this, I'm doing some market research to understand my customers better so I can serve them better, and they'll always want to do it. But you ask them those kinds of questions, 'cause you think you know and your guts tell you certain things that are good, but to get the picture really clear, a combination of a survey plus interviewing ten ideal customers that you already have, this is all about finding more of them. Then you begin to get a clear picture of what this customer looks like.

[00:20:00] Now, once you've got that target clear, then the rest of the marketing job is about getting the right message and making an offer to them that will compel them to come join your list. And by the way, the offer you make isn't like the immediate hey, just into this course. You're trying to bring them into your list, so you want to make it really easy. If you've identified the target customer, and then you've identified a partner who has a lot of those, who you believe [00:20:30] has a lot of those target customers on his or her list, now you've got to craft a message that your partner will share with his or her list, inviting the recipients of that message to come to join your list through a compelling offer. That offer, again, should be really easy and compelling and exciting for them to come join. So don't make the hurdle to high, where they've got to come spend a bunch of money.

By the way, you might have some partners where it's all about driving them direct to a sale, but you asked the question how do I build [00:21:00] my list? So if you want to really build your list, 'cause you know over time you can nurture that list and make sales, multiple sales, then make it easy for people to jump on your list. If you kind of boil it all down, it comes down to getting the right target, with a message that really speaks to that target, and Scott said something a little earlier that's really powerful here. As you do this work to understand the customer better, you know how they think, you know what their problems are.

Here's [00:21:30] the key thing, the great list builders understand that they are not providers of a product or service, they are marketers. Then they take it a step further. They're not marketers of information about their products and services, they're actually marketers of information about the problems that are solved by their products and services. If you take that and slow it down and think about it, are you marketing your solution or are you marketing information [00:22:00] about your solution? Or better yet, are you marketing information about the problems and issues that your target customer is thinking about, which just happen to be solved by your product and service. Be a marketer of information about that, and you will begin to speak to ... You'll have a message that speak to your target, and compels them and encourages them to come join your list through an easy offer to do so. So, that's the ... The fundamentals are the target, the message and the offer [00:22:30] and finding partners is the current method you're using and I think it's a great one, just get more clear on the target.

Chris Prefontaine: Perfect.

Scott Martineau: Last idea, I don't know if this is ethical, legal or anything. I don't think it's illegal. I would definitely not look past a referral opportunity. So going out to your list, both your list of leads as well as your list of your coaching clients you've worked with, and I wonder if there's a way to share ... You're sharing fees in a partnership, I wonder if there's ....

Clate Mask: You're saying [00:23:00] you don't know if it's legal in your industry.

Scott Martineau: In your industry, yeah. If you're sharing fees, if you're creating a partnership for somebody who brings a deal to you, one other thought might be ... I don't know, it might be too complex. Is there a way to offer some type of, for the coaching clients that you've referred to us, who we also partner with, we're going to create a small percentage where you can take part in that transaction as well. I don't know if that would, just something to think about.

Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, we've done it with our one or two top partners, so that's definitely a good suggestion.

Scott Martineau: [00:23:30] Maybe even, is there a scenario where leads would refer their friends who were interested, I don't know, something ... Well Chris, we hope that you can step up your sub-par growth rate, and get the show on the road.

Clate Mask: You're doing great man, it's awesome, great to hear. Just focus on the fundamentals of target, message and offer and get really clear on that target.

Chris Prefontaine: Sweet, I appreciate it. Some great take aways, guys and I know this calls not about this, but [00:24:00] I've been in touch with you guys about your staff, [inaudible 00:24:03] and things you've coming up, so I'm anxious to keep calling up on that and hopefully in 2018, have that on my agenda.

Clate Mask: Cool, sounds great. So Chris, great talking with ya, thanks so much for taking the time.

Chris Prefontaine: Thank you guys, thanks for having me on, it was helpful.

Scott Martineau: All right, well thanks everybody for tuning in. Hopefully that was helpful for you. We're going to call this a wrap for this episode of the Small Business Success podcast.

Clate Mask: Thanks for listening, don't forget to rate us, write a review, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. If you're looking for more ways to [00:24:30] grow your business, check out our knowledge center at

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