MTM Ep#23: The rise to the top of real estate using social media micro-targeting with Dan Lesniak

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Welcome back to the More Than Marketing podcast. We’re here with multi-billion dollar real estate legend, Dan Lesniak. He’s the best-selling author of The HyperLocal HyperFast Real Estate Agent: How to Dominate Your Real Estate Market in Under a Year- I Did it and so Can You! He’s also completed 13 marathons and five Ironman triathlons. We’re going to unpack some of the social media tactics he has used from Gary Vaynerchuk and Grant Cardone to explode his business.


– [Dan] How much it costs to get in front of people on Facebook and Instagram, in terms of, like CPMs, and I was just blown away. Like, it was like $10 to get in front of 1,000 people.

– 1,000 people, yeah.

– All right, here we are. Another episode of More Than Marketing. I’m the host, Arsham Mirshah. Today, I’m joined by Dan Lesniak. Did I pronounce that right?

– [Dan] You did! Thank you.

– Lesniak, my pleasure. Dan, thank you so much for joining me. This is, this is awesome. You’re billion-dollar real estate agent, I assume that means you, you know, sold a billion dollars of real estate, yeah, your group?

– [Dan] Yeah. We’ve hit a few billion actually now.

– A few billion now, that’s so cool. I love that. Best-selling author of The HyperLocal HyperFast Real Estate Agent, How To dominate Your Real Estate Market In Under A Year. That’s pretty dang compelling… Title, if you ask me, especially if you’re a real estate agent or an aspiring one. And then, 13 marathons and five iron mans? Is that the right numbers?

– [Dan] Yeah.

– [Dan] Yeah, that’s, that is. I don’t know why I did that, but

– How do you find the time?

– [Dan] It’s just eliminate things that… Don’t serve your goals, don’t serve your vision, and, you know, there’s, people have got time everywhere, like-

– I agree.

– [Dan] Average American, I think, is four or five hours a day on social media on TV so.

– So you’re using that time more wisely, definitely. So that’s a feat in, in and of itself, and then U.S. Navy, before all the real estate, so thanks for your service, my man.

– [Dan] Thank you.

– And then Dan, just wanted to hear from you. Maybe tell us a little bit more what didn’t I cover in the intro? Because my understanding is, well, yeah. Go ahead. You tell me. My understanding is, you know, you use social media, and that’s what I want to cover, digital marketing, social media, to dominate your real estate market, and I really want to dig into that, today. But tell me about yourself in your own words.

– [Dan] Sure. Yeah, I’ll try to give you the quick version of how I got into real estate. You know, this was never something I thought I would be when I grew up or that I went to school with. I sorta grew up in that paradigm where my parents raised me to this belief that if you work hard in school, you can get into the next school. And if you work hard at that one, you go to the next one. And then you get a good job, and if you work hard there, you can go to another one, or maybe back to school and, you know, it all worked really well for me until it didn’t. Like you said, I did the Naval Academy, went to the Navy. I got my Master’s in Business Administration, MBA at Georgetown. I thought I would get out, go look for a big strategy consulting firm. At the time, I had just a government contracting job that was okay, but it just wasn’t super exciting for me. And I wanted something else. That’s why I got my MBA, and I thought I would go be a strategy consultant for McKinsey or BCG. This was back in 2010 and 2011. They all, all rejected me, said, “No, you think you’re, “You know how to do it, but we don’t, “We don’t think you have the sales acumen “for what we’re looking for.” So, they recommended that I go out and get a different kind of experience. So I decided to get my real estate license, ’cause I had bought and sold a few homes before, had invested in a bunch while I was in the Navy, and I knew a little bit about that. So I got my license, I still had my job, my government contracting job, which was just one of those kind of steady, put your 42 hours in, 45 hours in, and.

– Right.

– So, I found ways to start in real estate while I was doing that, and that.

– It was a side hustle. Right?

– It wasn’t a side hustle for very long. It took off quickly. The next thing you knew, I looked up, and I was like, “Wow! I have more commissions coming in “this quarter than I’m gonna make the entire year. “I should probably just quit my job and only.

– Wow!

– So, that’s what I did. And, you know, the reason really, and I wrote about this in the book,

– Yeah.

– [Dan] The reason I, I picked a very hyper-local, hyper-focused strategy in local, You know, hyper-local for me doesn’t necessarily mean geographic, but it’s the first thing everyone thinks of. But,

– It is, yeah.

– But I was forced into that strategy because of my work. So, I didn’t have time to go everywhere. I wasn’t gonna call all my friends and family, and ask them for deals. Because they knew me as a government contractor guy.

– Not the real estate agent, yeah, sure.

– So I started marketing to my building that I lived in, my condo building in Arlington, 180 units or so. It was about five years old, so it was just coming up for sale where unit owners would turn over. I just focused on those 180 people to start. And I got people wanting to sell, upgrade within the building, buying the building, selling the building, or move outs in adjacent areas and I just kind of spread out from there. And I ended up that first year, I got over half of the market share in that one building.

– Wow!

– I did like $12 million in that building alone, and about $10 million in adjacent buildings, and it was all because I went through this simple process, I call it STP: segmentation, targeting, and positioning. You know, a lot of people, no matter what business they’re in, they’re just unintentional about how they how they start, they don’t have a target market and they don’t have a position, right? A value proposition that they can communicate to them,

– [Dan] So I understand, we all adapt to it, it works fast.

– So, talk about, I mean, that’s, you said hyper-local. It doesn’t get any more local than your apartment building that you’re living in, right? I mean, literally, your next door neighbor is your target market, and you It seems like you recognized that, you knocked on the door, and was like, “Hey, look, I know that the timing is such, “and I live here, so I know this market, “and I can help you.” Is that, that right?

– [Dan] Yeah, that was kind of. I mean, yeah, that was it really. It was pretty darn simple. And it doesn’t have to be a geographic area though. If you love boaters, you could focus on waterfront properties, or golfers focus on golf communittees. If you used to be an accountant, you could focus on them. Just taking the time upfront to decide which segment market, which segment of the market you want to try and do business with, and then try and come up with a value proposition.

– Yeah. So, I understand. I understand segment, right? That’s like, “who’s your niche?” I understand position. That’s like how it goes to value prop rate. Talking about targeting. Like what is the target-?

– Targeting is… That’s just which segment you’re going to target, so segment, kind of like how you chop up the market. You know, how you chop it up in the… The bits and pieces, and the target is okay, which piece do you want to go after? Because if you,

– [Dan] If you try to go after the whole market, you’re not gonna make enough noise, right? So you gotta-

– You’re everything to everyone at that point.

– [Dan] Yeah.

– Yeah. I gotcha. Well, I really want to know, because so I, I get and I like this, very wise, kind of going after, in your case, hyperlocal being your apartment building to start. But then, what about this transformation to digital? I watched this, this clip where, Gary Vee, you were in the audience. You were talking to him, and what you say? You said something like you guys cut some $15,000 a month in direct mail, put it all on Instagram and Facebook. I’m very interested to know how that came to be, how, you know, so many questions, Dan. First off, when you decide to do that? How’d you decide to do that? How’d you learn digital? Did you use an agency? I got so many questions for you, man. Can you talk to me on that?

– [Dan] Sure. So… I describe my first year previously, which was 2012, kind of fast-forward six years later. By that time, I had met my wife. She was in real estate. We combined, grew this kind of dual-headed team, and last summer, we met with Gary Vee at an event in D.C. and at the time, we were doing a little over $200 million in volume, and we were on pace to do that again last year.

– [Dan] And he was just such a clarity when, put it in perspective to me how much it costs to get in front of people on Facebook and Instagram in terms of like CPMs, right? And I was just blown away. Like, it was like $10 to get in front of 1,000 people.

– 1,000 people, yeah.

– [Dan] 1,000 post cards cost me $500. And he told a story at this conference about how he gets upset when he looks at Wikipedia and sees the line that he took his family wine business from $3 million to $60 million because at the time, a lot of that happened because of Google PPC. He said, “Look, had I gone all in on it “instead of just 20% or so,” right? I would’ve done $250 million.

– Or $600 million instead of $60 or whatever, right.

– And then he said, “within a few years, “Google PPC got up to be 80, 100,” whatever it was for CPM. Yeah, and he said, “Look, at some point, “I don’t know if it’s in a year, two years, five years, “that will happen to Facebook and Instagram.” Then, we met with them for after that event for about half an hour. I had a private meeting with him, which was cool, And I walked away and told Keri like, “Look, we need to cut direct mail.” And I think we’re, at the time, we were spending 15, $20,000. You know, we just went out and started. We hired videographers, we hired more people on our marketing team to do social media. I started making ads, and pumping out a lot more content. Six months later, we met up with Gary Vee at another conference he was at in Miami. That might’ve been the clip you saw but he, he had me tell a story

– Yeah, I think so.

– In front of the whole audience, which was pretty cool, but normally December, so we met with him in the end of August the first time, made those changes within a month. First two months, not much happened. But by December, these people are like, “Man, we see you everywhere,” Normally in December, we’ll close at about 20, 22 deals, that’s what we did the last two years. We closed like 88, it was our highest month ever.

– Wow, like 4x.

– [Dan] Yeah.

– So, how does this translate from digital to 4x more in sales? Because, first off, in that clip, you mention, like, for first two months of doing digital, Facebook, Instagram, whatever you were doing, you weren’t seeing the traction. Gary’s like, “Oh, that’s where most people quit.” Sounds like you didn’t quit. You kept with it. I can relate to that as an agency owner. I can tell you we have a lot of clients who… And I get it, sometimes like, There’s impatience of sorts, and a lot of times like Google and Facebook, they’re algorithms, their machine learning, it takes data, it takes time for that to work for it to find your target audience and hit them at the right time, right? But how did that, in real estate, I watched some of your stuff. I think it’s pretty cool. You guys go around to like the barbershop or the restaurant. You know, do some video… And tell your audience on Facebook and Instagram what this local business is all about. I love that! How does that actually then turn into business for you though? Do people reach out? Do they know that you’re, they know that you’re a real estate agent, and they reach out like, “Hey, I’m trying to sell my house, or buy,” or what?

– [Dan] I mean we do a mix of other strategies but we’re, we’ve sort of mixed what I would call Gary Vee’s strategy and Grant Cardone’s. So, Gary’s more into the branding and into the long-term, and Grant’s more into the sales. And I think both can do both. But… We’ve got a mix of those videos that you described that are just highlighting local businesses, and that’s just those people put it to their audience. We put paid money behind it as well. It gets people in the community recognizing us, gets them knowing who we are. And yeah, we’re talking about the barbershop. But, we’re using a branded microphone. It’s got our name on it, so it’s kind of like elegantly mentioning it. And then we’ll also do a mix of ads that are, “Buy House Now,” right, or something.

– And you’re targeting that same, You’re targeting the audience that is, you know, interacting with your videos, right? So, if you see, you’re putting the video out there. Okay, get some impressions. You know, there’s a reach. there’s impressions. You get some frequency. But the people who maybe comment, or maybe like, maybe you target them, and with a down-funnel ad, is that true, yeah?

– [Dan] Yeah. Yeah. So if they watch our general, non-salesy video, then we’ll create a retargeting audience in Facebook, and then go more direct sales with that ad, right? And we’ll retarget our website visitors now. We’ll do custom audiences of all our past clients, and then we’ll use lookalikes so we’ve.

– Brilliant. This guy’s true digital marketer. He goes, “Custom audience and lookalike on that.” That’s one of my favorite strategies in VDC. Or high volume PDP, one of my favorite things to do. Because that’s leveraging the power of these, the two big ad platforms, Google and Facebook. They got A.I. and machine learning, you know, to the hills. They’re leading that charge and they’re using it for ads. What you just mentioned is a brilliant strategy, and it works. So, kudos, man. Kudos. So, that’s your, So it sounds like, kind of more… It is a mix of what you said. It’s a mix of that branding. It’s like, “Hey, I’m seeing these folks, “and they’re doing me a service. “They’re adding value to my day.” And then, also, you’ll hit them with the ask, with the Gary Vee right hook after all those jabs, right? And I love that. I have this saying, and I want to see if you agree with it. Very simply put. In social media, there’s two pillars of social media. One is you have to be active. If you’re not there, if you’re not on it, you’re not, 80% of the battle is showing up. You gotta be active. You gotta be there. You gotta be commenting. You gotta be liking stuff. You gotta be putting stuff out. But just putting stuff out, or saying “Nice” in the comment, or hitting like, that’s not enough. The second pillar is adding value. And I think that’s something that you and your team are doing really well. You’re going around and you’re highlighting these local businesses, as for that one example, that one strategy, and that adds value to them, because it gets them exposure, right? And then it tells the community, “Hey, this is here. “This is what they’re all about. “Here are their values. Come check them out.” So you’re doing it, man. You’re doing the, you’re adding value, and you’re super active on it, and I think because you are hitting those two pillars, you’re seeing the results. True or false?

– [Dan] I agree 100%.

– That’s awesome, man. What other, like, strategies or… Like how are you expanding this? How are you, right, because you gotta take it beyond yourself. I know you wrote a book. And I think it seems like you’re, you’ve shifted maybe from real estate to training real estate agents, is that true?

– [Dan] We do both.

– We’re growing our team, getting more people, recruiting more agents from social media has helped a ton. Last year, we had about 20 or so agents. Now, we’re up to 50, so we’ve doubled. Doubled band, we’re gonna keep adding. And we also started a coaching company called HyperFast Agent. We coach agents all over the world now. We’ve got about 160 people that are doing our monthly program. We’ve actually, We’re putting on a digital summit right now that I think over 2,000 people are signed up for. There’s a lot of work there as well.

– That’s awesome. That’s good for you, man. It sounds like you, your digital strategies also helped you recruit.

– [Dan] It has, yes. So, I know a lot of real estate agents don’t like to… hire people that aren’t in commission roles, but having this big marketing team and digital team is allowing us to do multiple, different things. So, it’s helped with getting more buyers and sellers. It’s helping with getting more agents. It’s helping our coaching company. I’m sure we’ll probably leverage it into other things down the road as well.

– I’m sure as well. What advice do you have to like, you know, maybe a digital marketer or a real estate agent, if that’s easier, who’s just starting out, because it sounds like you know you have, you said you hired some videographers and what have you, so I don’t, if I’m a real estate agent just starting out, I don’t have that, right? So how do I get started? What’s my, you know? What’s my first step, second step?

– I think using video more and you don’t have to be expensive like the quality on the iPhone is more than enough especially if you get a stabilizer, which most of those stabilizers are like $150 at most. You know, you can get the, I use the DJI Osmo Pocket a lot because they’re very, very small and convenient, but you can even get your own camera and put a monopod on it, use that as a selfie stick, right? That’s only gonna be like $1000 in the setup, so it’s not super cost-prohibited. I think the key is to do. Just make a lot of content, make a lot of different ads. I think, you know, I use Facebook ads library a lot to scope out my competitors, and just big guys, what they’re doing and the one thing I notice is that and we were probably guilty of this for years where you kind of just using, thinking of social media as like the check in the box like, “Yeah, I have a Facebook page,” or “I have a YouTube channel.” If you never run ads, or you just make one ad and run it for six months, it’s not gonna work, fucking stupid thing. And so I think if you’re just starting out there’s a huge opportunity and just, Make content every day. Test new ads. The person that can make more and quicker, which sometimes if it’s just you, it’s gonna be faster because there’s no one else to do it. A couple things a day. Eventually, some of it will be good, and you’ll win because you have more bats. They just execute fast.

– Yeah. Miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And I agree with you. You can, the iPhone cameras like more than good enough. Facebook makes it easy with their ad library and their stock photos, for example. It’s easy to get started. You don’t need a designer necessarily. And then, the hyperlocal, just walk out of your building and start going to local businesses for wanting to use your example, or talk about, I saw this one, one of my friends went into real estate. He does a weekly real estate update for the county that we’re in. And he talks about the median, home prices, and, you know… Is it a seller’s market, buyer’s market? And he just gives that update. I’m not in the market to buy or sell a house in my community, but I still watch it because I’m like, “Oh, cool.” Information, and it’s like two minutes long, you know? And I feel informed so that when it comes time, who am I gonna go to?

– Yeah, I mean, if they see you interviewing all the businesses in the area and you’re just running ads to that zip code.

– [Arsham] And then, on that targeting, is that how you started? This is probably, you started with just like, I guess on Facebook, you can do interest targeting, right? I wonder if you did any of that to begin with, or you just did, “hey, it’s the zip code. “Show it to everyone.” Maybe in age because 18 year olds aren’t buying a house.

– [Dan] I mean, it’s so cheap, and I’ll just do the entire zip code. For general, top of the funnel, kind of branding videos. And as they watch it, I’ll start to make specific audiences And get ads in front of people that watched the first video.

– You know, major takeaway. I’m grabbing, and I gotta wrap up for time-sake, Dan, is that you said, and it was in reference to the Gary Vee, Gary has this experience where he’s using PPC Google ads. He wishes he went all in then when it was less expensive. And then now it’s more expensive, the cost for clicks have gone up. It’s become maybe saturated, maybe more competitive, whatever the word you want to use. But Facebook and Instagram is still kind of in the earlier days. So it’s funny. You said the CPM, so the cost per thousand impressions on Facebook, is $10 for your zip code, whereas if you were to send 1,000 post cards, it was like $500, right? So 50 times more expensive. Now 50 times more expensive, and one thing, if I can add to that, you’re sending a post card, which is a flyer. Easy for them to kind of chuck away. You can’t get a big message across on that. So the content is like not as rich as for 50 times less, you can deliver a video to someone. Right? Like that’s amazing.

– And you can add on it because you know, you know who watched it, who didn’t.

– And you get data on it, yes! And you get the tracking and you can then target the people who engage with them versus not. So, I love it, man. I love it. I love it. Hey, Dan, anything else you want to add to this? Or we can go on forever, but anything from your book or anything you wanna toss out there?

– [Dan] No, I mean, if you guys want to get the book, I do have a deal where you can get it for free at, so you just have to pay the shipping. So, if you guys wanna check that out, it’s

– I’ll put that in the description, and share with my buddies who are, couple of them who are going into real estate, or have gone into it recently. I can think of three people actually off the top of my head. So yeah, definitely getting that out there. Dan, keep kicking butt, taking names, man. It’s a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for your time. For all y’all out there, like, subscribe, share this with a friend, and we’ll see you next time. Cheers.

Dan Lesniak

Dan LesniakBest-Selling Author

Arsham Mirshah

Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

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