Are you looking to learn real estate marketing ideas from a marketing veteran?
John Casmon is a 15-year marketing veteran who worked on major accounts such as GM. Then he leveraged his marketing skills delivering success in the multifamily industry. He's partnered with investors on more than 900 units valued at over $90 million. John has a focus on helping others learn to be successful. He hosts a popular podcast called Target Market Insights, Multifamily Marketing.
From understanding your target market, creating compelling content, building relationships with investors, and much more. This is the episode for you!
Table of Contents:
- Where To Listen To The Podcast
- Real Estate Marketing Ideas From an All-Around Guy
- Macro Trends in Real Estate
- Real Estate Marketing Ideas We Need to Be Successful
- Two Big Takeaways
- Doing Real Estate for the Right Reasons
- Doing Bigger Deals
- Reimagined Real Estate Marketing Ideas
- Real Estate Marketing Ideas From Actual Experience
- How to Reach John Casmon
Real Estate Marketing Ideas From an All-Around Guy
Darin: A little bit of background on John Casmon before we start the show. John lives in Cincinnati and he used to be from the Chicago area. He started investing on his own while in marketing with a W-2 job. He started to scale up in 2017. Now has partnered on over 900 units valued at over 90 million dollars. This guy has a very successful podcast. He's a speaker at many multifamily events and is just an all-around good guy looking to help others.
So just a little bit about how I know John. This will be our first conversation together, but we did share a panel that we were both on. We were both speakers at Dan Handford's Multifamily Investor Nation Summit, and that was an online multifamily conference. So I got to hear about him and I was excited about bringing him on. But I've also known of John for a while and watched him from a distance.
My first business partner on my first syndication deal, Raj Gupta, attended one of John Casmon's Meetup groups and was interviewed by John. It was recorded and it was put on Facebook and I watched it, and they did a great job together. So I'm excited to have him here today. John, typically the first question I ask is how many properties and how many units you currently own.
An Interesting Perspective
John: Yes, thanks for asking me. It's great to be here. Raj obviously is a good friend of mine. So it was great to meet you or start that connection back with that interview with Raj.
But yes, as far as our portfolio, we've helped investors get into about 1,000 units. We've actually sold a couple of those properties as of now. We're going through the acquisition process on other properties, but about 1,000 units is where we sit.
Darin: That's fantastic. A lot of people in today's market are both buyers and sellers. I mean, it depends on where you are in the business plan. A couple of episodes ago, I had a gentleman on, Swapnil Agarwal. I don't know if you know him, but he's at 20,000 plus units and he had an interesting perspective.
He's like, "Look, I'm both buying and selling. I've got one portfolio that I'm selling at a three and a half cap. And I'm buying another portfolio at a four and a half cap. So net increase in my returns in the portfolio." So everybody has a little different perspective on it and you buy for different reasons. You're in the Midwest, how does that impact the way you look at deals?
John: Yes. I mean, listen, you're right, now is a great time to be both a buyer and a seller. It's really about just understanding the market dynamics, your business plan. I wouldn't get so caught up in it being a seller's market or whatever the case may be. You always want to look for opportunities.
For us, it comes down to looking at the current portfolio. Looking at individual properties, looking at our business plan. And asking ourselves, "Hey, if we hold on to this property and continue to execute this business plan, what does that exit look like? Or what are our exit options, versus what is of value today?" I think you have to ask yourself that.
Certainly, loans play a role in that and all those other things. But if it makes sense to sell today and cash out on a property and roll that into a new opportunity where you can create value, then you take advantage of that. For us, we love the Midwest. And one of the reasons we love the Midwest is that, first of all, there's a lot of growing areas in the Midwest. Cash flow is huge here, so obviously great cash flow markets in the Midwest.
And I think one of the things that people miss out on is that cash flow is really the thing that allows you to have a baseline. Baseline in operations, baseline for your projections. And if the market changes, it's great to have a good cash flowing property versus something where you're focused on appreciation.
I know people love maybe the West Coast or East Coast markets. The challenge I always see is that if you buy a three and a half cap property, now you're in a situation where you really have to have that appreciation to make that deal work. Because it's not cash flowing that significant. So it's not going to be pushing off 7, 8, 9, 10% annual returns. It's only going to be able to deliver a couple of points of returns at this point.
A Balanced Portfolio
Darin: So you really have to look at that and ask yourself, "Where's the risk? Where's the upside?" And make sure that you have a balanced portfolio. Nothing wrong with doing appreciation deals or deals that are more heavily focused on appreciation. But I would urge you to make sure you have some strong cash flow deals as well.
The Midwest is great, not just any place in the Midwest, but we like strong, growing markets. It's the same fundamentals other investors like, we like population growth, job growth, industry diversification. We find that in markets like Louisville, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus. There're a lot of great markets where you can find great cashflow that still has some appreciation potential in the Midwest.
Darin: So are those the markets that you focus on? You mentioned Louisville, Columbus, and Indy.
John: Yes. We like a two-hour radius from where I live. It just conveniently happens to be that we're centrally located two hours from Indianapolis. About an hour and a half from Columbus, a little less than two hours to Louisville, Kentucky, Lexington. And yes, those are great markets where we see good cashflow. A good amount of inventory, as well as some appreciation potential because these are growing markets.
Darin: You live in Chicago?
John: I live in Cincinnati now.
Darin: Oh, in Cincinnati.
John: I was in Chicago for eight years and I moved to Cincinnati two years ago.
Darin: Fantastic. So a lot of people are moving out of Chicago, California, New York. Do you see that based on your network that you still have from Chicago?
Key Components of Real Estate Marketing Ideas
John: Yes, absolutely. And there are a couple of things and some of that is, I always pay attention to trends. I spent 15 years in corporate American marketing and market research is obviously a key component to any marketing. One of the things we looked at was migration patterns. And when you look at those coastal markets, particularly California, you look at New York, you look at Chicago, some of these gateway cities. What's happening is they've become so expensive.
Because wages really haven't kept up with the cost of living. People are having to sit and look at their paycheck and make some real hard decisions. Not to mention taxes, state taxes, housing taxes. All of that stuff is really starting to take a bigger chunk of the paycheck. People are looking at quality of life. If you can move to another market down South, you can move to the Midwest, you get a bigger bang for your buck. It's really enticing to people.
The legislation in some of these markets is becoming really overbearing for some people where they really feel like they want to get out. They don't want to deal with all the legislation, and it really makes it easier to do business. Jobs are what people move for. So if you have a hard time finding a job, if you have a hard time paying your bills, it's easy to start to look at your other options. And moving to a more cost-friendly place is certainly one of the things that a lot of people have done. That's why you see people leaving these cities.
Macro Trends in Real Estate
Darin:Yes, that totally makes sense. You're one of those guys and I don't know if that's why you moved. But I am in the Dallas market and I'm originally an East Coast guy, I'm originally from Connecticut. I spent 14 years in South Florida. I've been in the Dallas market now for a little over 11 years. It's amazing to be in one of these markets, where job growth, population growth, and the cost of living is just so much more favorable than some of these other markets.
It's getting more expensive in Dallas and in Texas, people are moving in. It's creating more pressure on home prices and multifamily prices, etcetera. But it's still so much more affordable than being on the coast. So I don't see it changing for a while. Some of these markets, that population shift, but COVID definitely prompted more of that to happen faster. But I think that people, like you said, are going to continue to go where the jobs are.
John: Yes, they're macro trends and there're a lot of components that play into it. Part of it is when you look at it. There's a cost to living, we talked about jobs, people following where the jobs are. If you really keep it somewhat basic and simple, wherever the employers set up shop, that's where people are going to go.
I had a great conversation with my grandparents over the last weekend. I'm from Cleveland so I wanted to learn how they got to Cleveland. Because they're from the South, they're from Alabama. One of the big things that drove them there was jobs, manufacturing jobs back in the '40s and '50s, up until the '60s. They moved to Cleveland for manufacturing jobs.
Real Estate Marketing Ideas Built on Labor Force
John: My uncle was up there, had a great job and was able to bring other people up there and help them find jobs. My grandmother was telling me that my grandfather didn't even have a job when he moved. There were so many jobs available. He just had to get there and then put in a couple of applications and then boom! You've got a job somewhere, a great paying job. And the middle class is really built on that. It wasn't really built on education and so many other things back then. It was really built on the labor force.
And right now as you fast forward and you look at the decline in population of cities like Cleveland and Detroit where those manufacturing jobs have left. Now you have to look and see where the jobs are going now. You've got a lot of companies that are setting up shop in the South and that's where a lot of jobs are. A lot of transportation, logistics companies in the Midwest, but we're talking more about Louisville, Cincinnati. The places where you can get to the bulk of the rest of the country in a day.
If you're doing same day shipping, it's a little bit easier if you are more in a central location to get packages up to New York. As well as to get them down to Dallas, to Florida, to other parts of the country. So that central location is becoming really key for some of these key industries here. You are following the jobs, and to your point, I don't see that changing because that's a macro trend that we've been seeing take place for over two, three decades at this point.
Old but Gold Real Estate Marketing Ideas
John: What I would say is these gateway cities in particular, they're going to have to do a better job with retention. Sometimes they're saddled with legacy costs, legacy pension plans for teachers, for fire departments, for police officers. Things that people weren't thinking about 50 years ago when they set these things up. But that can get pretty costly. There's some real threat that some of these cities may end up going bankrupt because they don't have the funds set up right now to cover some of those expenses.
Darin: Yes. I'm always surprised that even back in the last great recession, there wasn't more of that on the local government side. Where cities and counties were financially in trouble because of those pensions. In a big way, it hasn't happened yet, but maybe it'll come down the road. Two things that you said, one, you went and talked to your grandparents.
I just want to applaud you because here you are super successful. And you still went to seek advice and get a better understanding from people that are older than you. I think that that is something that a lot of successful people do. They're always looking for other people that they can learn from. It doesn't always have to be somebody that's wealthy, that killed it, financially. You could still learn from other people that have gone through different cycles and different economic trends, and so I applaud you for doing that.
Secondly, you mentioned that you're a marketing guy. I know that you're a marketing guy, can you share with the listeners your background? 15 years in corporate marketing, what was your role, what types of companies were you with, what were you focused on?
Too Big to Fail Real Estate Marketing Ideas
John: Yes, so I worked for a couple of different companies. But to just start it off, really my first big job if you will was at General Motors. I was working at an agency, GM was my client, and long story short, my client got promoted. They liked my work enough to ask me to interview for the job and hired me for that role. So I was at GM for about four and a half years, from 2007 to 2011. If you have your calendar in front of you, you remember when the recession took place. I was there during all of that. So the big thing for me was watching a company that was quote-unquote, "too big to fail," go through these challenges. It just taught me a lot.
Darin: Like what?
John: Well, I think one of the things is that the music can't stop and I think a lot of people miss that. They just assume things are going to keep being great forever and keep rolling on. The writing was on the wall for a while. There was an article back in 2005, I don't know what magazine did it, but it was all black. And it was just a negative story on GM and whether or not it was going to fail. I recall seeing that back in 2005, two years prior to me joining the company and that was one of my concerns.
It was like, "Hey, how healthy is the company?" At the time, Toyota was all the rage. They were very concerned with the Japanese vehicles, where you had Toyota, you had Nissan, you had Honda. So the American automotive industry was having a tough fight.
Real Estate Marketing Ideas We Need to Be Successful
John: As you look at all those things, you look at where sales were at and really try to understand where the company was headed. When we went into bankruptcy, I remember there was a statement that was made by one of the CMOs. He talked about the different brands that we had and how there were too many brands in the automotive industry. But he didn't feel we had too many, some of these other companies should go away with it. I just remember thinking, that makes sense if you can properly fund the brands you have.
But I worked on the Pontiac brand and if anybody remembers Pontiac, we didn't get to do a whole lot of big marketing things. We made everything we did look and feel big, but my budgets were tiny in comparison to the team at Chevrolet and Cadillac. I just felt like we didn't really have proper budgets. We didn't have the things we needed to be successful and launch. But we made the most of what we had and we always made what we did have, feel big. So learning how to be scrappy as a marketer is one of the things I picked up.
The other big piece was understanding what that impact was on me personally and all the employees. Watching your boss's boss on CNN talking about the business. You just had a conversation in the hallway and they told you, "Keep your head down. Don't worry about it, everything's good, just do your best." Then you watch them on CNN saying, "If we don't sell 15,000 vehicles, we're going to go bankrupt." I'm like, "Wait, what? You just told me to keep my head down."
No One Is Indispensable
John: So there's a corporate side of things and there's certainly politics. I think the biggest takeaway was that no matter what company you worked for, no matter how big that company is, you're disposable. And it is up to you to figure out how you will take care of yourself and your family. That paycheck, that W-2 job, it's not guaranteed. I don't care how skilled you are, I don't care how great you are, I don't care who you're connected with. That person can get fired any moment, that person can retire, can get pushed out, can get shipped.
You can become too costly from a financial standpoint, maybe they want to get younger, cut salaries. You're expendable and that's the way the business is. That same person I was referencing crushed it all through bankruptcy. Helped lead the company through that process, got a lot of publicity, and ultimately they shipped her to Shanghai. The new person they brought in and didn't really care for, shipped her to Shanghai. I just sat there and I was like, "Man, for a year and a half, this person was the face of the company."
We're not talking about the face of a company, we're talking about the face of a huge conglomerate like General Motors, and the politics of it came in. It humbled me to the point where it was like, never believe your own press, I don't care what you've done. We did some great ad campaigns, I had a 100 million dollar advertising budget, did some stuff with 50 Cent and Maxim. Parties here and the Super Bowl and all sorts of cool things. But at no moment did I believe that I was driving this ship or anything like that.
Setting a Plan B in Place
John: I always knew it was the brand manager for this brand and I just happened to wear that title that day. I remember I was an intern and this guy told me, "You want to work, so you get everything for your name, not because you hold a title and not because of the company you work for." So never fall in love with the business card was really the biggest thing I took away.
Make sure that you start to build your own. So that if one day you're just not somebody's guy, they just don't like you, you don't get that promotion to partner or whatever the case may be, you have your plan B in place. You're solidified no matter what.
Darin: I think that's a huge learning lesson, being disposable. It brings a story to my mind when I was in the software business, software sales. I had this awesome manager, he was just great. He married a woman in the same company and he ran my division. She basically ran the largest division, sales, for the company. They were both high flyers, they both made fantastic money, and they decided to chase the career and they never had kids.
Similar to your Shanghai story, the wife got up where all of a sudden they brought somebody new in, they brought somebody young. They moved her aside and put her in a different role that wasn't as prominent. I was friends with my boss and I could tell he was just crushed. That was a big takeaway for me that there's no loyalty between corporations and their employees. It's like what have you done for me lately, and then if not, you move on.
You Can Be a High Flyer Too
Darin: So when you hear other people in the financial world talk about multiple streams of income and building wealth and passive income, I wish that people had really drilled that in my head earlier. I've only been in the real estate game for about three and a half years. And I think it's so important for people to realize that you could be a high flyer right now. You think that you're in a safe place by having a job, but at any point in time you could be out.
John: Yes, you're spot on, man. During that time, I remember in particular, there were two phases to it. Because I was told, "Hey, you're fine, John, we love you." The reality is I was a junior executive at that time, so I wasn't making that much money. They still need people to run the company and do work, so from that standpoint they were like, "You're good," but you just never know. I mean, there's just so much uncertainty, you just never know what could happen.
And I remember one of the days they were doing layoffs. I came in as late as I could possibly come in without ruffling feathers because I just didn't want to accidentally see some stuff and all that. I'm like, "Hey, they're going to be doing layoffs." Pretty much they were waiting for you on the elevator. So when you got off the elevator to come on to the floor, if you were letting go.
John: Yes. I knew it was going to be like that, so I made a point to come as late as possible. So I get there probably about 9:15 or so.
The Voice Message
John: We typically started the day around 8:30, but I got there about 9:15. and on my phone there was a voice message waiting for me. There was no one waiting on the elevator when I came up, but there was a voice message, so I'm like, "Oh my goodness." In my head I'm just like, "I just talked to my boss last night, he told me I was good, don't worry about it. But he told me it was going to go down today." So I'm like, "Oh."
So about 15 seconds, man, my heart's pounding, I'm going through every scenario you can think of. I go from rage to, "I can't believe this dude lied to me. He set me up, he could have told me and gave me a chance," to, "Dude, just check the voicemail, you don't know what it is, pick it up." And there's not a lot of people there because everyone did the same thing I did. It was like, "Dude, we're not trying to be here for this." So I pick up the phone, checked the voicemail and it's from the guy who used to sit in front of me. He basically says, "I've been with this company for 22 years and I was just let go this morning."
He had some medical issues, so he had some medication, he had no idea how he was going to pay for that medication. And he felt hurt, betrayed, and he was extremely vulnerable and very upset in his voicemail. He sent this to everyone on the floor, so there's a button that you could push. I think in hindsight he probably wishes he could take it back, but I remember listening to that voicemail, my heart sank.
Two Big Takeaways
John: And I had two big takeaways, one was empathy for this guy who had dedicated his career to this company, had essentially planned on retiring. I think at 25 years in, you get a pension, 30 years, you get the full retirement and everything. So he was three years away from getting at least a pension and I think he got whatever his separation package was instead. So empathy was the first emotion I felt, how rough that must be for this person, what is he going to do, all that kind of stuff.
The second was I never wanted to feel like that. I never want to feel that caught off guard, hopeless, helpless, I don't want to be in that position. So in my head, I remember reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad some years prior and literally in that moment I made a decision. To say, "I don't know when, how, or what, but we're going to invest in real estate. And we're going to find other ways to make some income that is not tied to this W-2."
Darin: That's huge, man.
John: So I found a couple of things and it took a while to get going, but that moment cemented it for me. It made me say, "Hey, we need to invest, we need to figure out how in the world to do it." The only challenge for me was I was still in Detroit. At that time, again, everyone I knew who owned real estate in Detroit was trying to fire sell it. So I didn't feel comfortable buying stuff in Detroit at that moment. It took me a couple of years to actually get settled and move.
The Bad Experience That Shaped These Real Estate Marketing Ideas
John: That was a big lesson for me, that you don't actually have to live in the city you're investing in. I didn't know that at the time. We're talking 2008, 2009, I just assumed hey, you need to buy it, manage it, run it, whatever. I didn't know you could invest out of market. So that's obviously something that I'm aware of now and I try to make sure other people are aware of as well.
Darin: That's huge. I got chills when you were saying that story because it's like good and bad that you went through that. Because it forced you to come to that realization, and then you went and took action. It's not enough just to read the book, you actually have to go out and do it. But it starts with a decision and you decided in that moment, "I'm going to do something. I'm going to buy real estate. I don't know how to do it yet." And that's okay, not knowing, but you can still make that decision.
Then you went looking and actually started it. Now you have over 1,000 units. Not only are you helping yourself and your family, but you're helping other investors grow their wealth. It all was prompted by that fear, that uneasiness of being 100% dependent on the company for your job. I want listeners to understand that. Some people are on different parts of the journey, that they've already started and they're looking to scale up.
There are other people that are just in the beginning stages and they're like, "I want to do this, but I don't know how." Hearing stories like yourself is really inspiring for other people, so that's fantastic.
Benefits of Meetup Groups
Darin: It sounds like that prompted you to get into real estate. Since then, you have a Meetup group, you have your own podcast. Talk about why you started those and when and what the benefits are to you and to others.
John: Yes, so before I answer that, I just want to fill in a little bit of the gap, because there's some context that I think is really important.
John: So that was 2009-ish, right? We really didn't start working with other investors raising capital, doing some of these bigger deals until 2016, '17. So we're talking almost eight years or so before we really scaled this business. I was working full time. And I think the big lesson for all the investors listening to this show, first of all, as you mentioned, you have to be aware.
The first piece is just being aware that this is an option. So you can get that from books, podcasts, attending events, whatever the case is. But you have to know this is an option. The second thing is, you have to be interested in it. It has to be a fit for you, but then you have to take action, you've got to commit to it.
The way I did it, is not the way I would recommend someone else to do it if they were in my same situation. I was a busy professional with a pretty demanding job. I left GM and went to an advertising agency where I was working a lot of hours a week. My wife was working a lot of hours a week.
Getting Started in Real Estate
John: Ultimately, I spent a lot of my time either working in my day job or working trying to figure out how to find and buy real estate properties. And that's before I had kids. Once I had kids, now I've got all three things and it started to become overwhelming.
Darin: You're juggling a lot.
John: It was overwhelming. It's hard to be great at your job, great as a father, great as a husband, great as a real estate investor. And by the way, I still have some personal interests. There's other things you want to do besides work and be a dad and all those things. One thing that I try to make sure I tell people now is that you can start by being a passive investor. You can start by joining a team like Darin's, joining a team like mine and investing in these kinds of deals to help you make money while you learn.
Because if you go through that process, you may realize that's enough, maybe you don't want to be active. I didn't really know that you couldn't be active and I wasn't super rich. Where I could just take half a million dollars and just invest it in different deals. So I felt like I had to be active, be hands-on. I bought a two-unit building, I bought a three-unit building, I bought an eight-unit building, I did some flips. And if I could go back, I probably would have invested passively.
Make sure that hey, this is something I'm really passionate about, I am interested, I do want to be hands-on. I understand how this works now. That's a great transition to be active as opposed to building it up brick by brick.
Playing With Real Estate Marketing Ideas Is a Cool Thing to Do
John: It helped me doing it by myself starting out, but I went the first five years of investing only using my own money. Saving up my money with my wife and we would go out. We'd tag team these properties completely unaware that we could work with other people. And I think once we realized we could work with other people, then we were still nervous about it.
We were still like, "Yeah, I don't want to take other people's money." I felt like I would be asking people to invest with me or asking people to help me. And I never wanted to be in that position. When it all clicked for me, it was when I realized I wasn't really asking people. I was providing an opportunity for people to join me. This is something a lot of people were interested in, they just weren't as obsessed as I was. Reading all these books and attending all these Meetups and going out to the REA events and all, they weren't obsessed with it. It was a cool thing to do.
They might look at it for 30 minutes, listen to a podcast episode, or read an article, but they weren't going to obsess over it. They would make mistakes if they tried to do it by themselves, so actually partnering was the best option for them. So that's an important thing, if you are interested in investing. You can certainly do it by yourself, but make sure you understand what you're trying to do. If you're not trying to build a career out of this, if you really just want another stream of income.
Doing Real Estate for the Right Reasons
John: A little bit of insulation from mishaps, or even vacation money, something to help with a retirement fund, whatever, don't make this your new full-time job. Because this is a job. It is not passive if you are actively doing this, I don't care what anyone says. You're going to have to deal with tenants, you're going to have to deal with all those things. So make sure you're doing it for the right reasons and you understand what you're getting yourself into.
Darin: I think that's a great point.
John: I know you asked me a question that I did not answer at all, so I'll come right back to your question.
Darin: No. I'll just add to that because I've done both. When I got involved, I started passively and then I started looking actively. But I only got involved three and a half years ago. It was a five-year business plan, but we're only in year three, but it's a good seller's market. And so I had one deal, I invested 50 grand. Well, they refinanced the property and gave me my 50 grand back and I still own the same percentage and I didn't have to do anything. I was a passive in that deal.
I've got another deal I put a 100 grand into, we're in contract now, I'm supposed to get that 100 grand back, plus another 100 grand. And again, there were other people that were managing that deal, so it's really surprising. I wish that I had known about this a long time ago. Because in different career paths, I had plenty of cash to invest in these deals, but I didn't even know that this opportunity existed.
Presenting Real Estate Marketing Ideas as Opportunities
Darin: So what you said I think is spot on. It's not you asking people for money, you're just presenting an opportunity. "Hey, if you want to make money alongside me, come join me, if not, no worries, I'll go on to the next person." So once you have that mindset shift, I think it changes things for you.
John: Yes, absolutely and I think you're spot on. So your previous question was about the Meetups and the podcast and some of those things, right?
Darin: Meetup and podcast and that sort of thing, yes.
John: Let me back up a little bit. So when I realized that hey, you know what? I bought an eight-unit building, I got to closing, I wrote a check for six figures for closing. And I wasn't as joyful as I thought I was going to be. I thought I was going to be excited and like, "Cool, we got another one. I got my first commercial deal," and I just sat there and what hit me was, "Man, now I've got to go through this again."
And going through this, what I meant is saving up six figures, me and my wife just saving up. I've got two kids now, saving up six figures so I have enough money to buy another one. I'm like, "Dude, I do not look forward to grinding out the saving process and just to get enough to buy another property." At that moment, I started to really use my network. I had a couple of folks I had met and within about a three-month period, one of them I sat down with, I asked her directly.
The 3 C’s of Real Estate Investing
John: I said, "Hey, you went from 9 units to 90 units in a matter of a year, how did you do it?" She said, "I brought on partners." And I said, "Well, there you go." Another guy I knew who bought a pretty large property, an apartment complex, I said, "How did you do it?" He said, "I brought on partners, I work with investors." And I said, "Okay, I'm starting to see a theme here, I'm starting to understand the process here."
So I asked them both, I said, "Well, my fear is that I take on partners, I take on investors and the deal doesn't work out, I lose their money." Well, that's why you want to align yourself with the right people, that's why you want to continue your education. That's why you want to continue to build your network. So I did a few things. The first thing I did was I started connecting with more people. I went on bigger pockets and I realized the markets I wanted to try to shift to. I tried to connect with people in those markets, sat down, got lunch with them, breakfast, whatever I could get.
One of those individuals ended up becoming my mentor and he really helped me understand how to leverage podcasts and other mediums. And because I had a marketing background, it all clicked. Not so much in the how, but the why. And the why for me really came down to this. I didn't really see myself as a product, a brand, any of that kind of stuff. What I ultimately realized was that multifamily is a business just like any other business.
Creating Sales and Real Estate Marketing Ideas and Perspective
John: We look at real estate as its own little separate thing that's different. And you've got contractors and you've got dry wall and all this other stuff, but it's still a business. In any good business you have to have a marketing side, you have to have sales, you have to have marketing. You have to have human relations or HR, you have to have your operations, you have to have your finance, right?
From a sales and marketing perspective, if you don't have the capital, then you need to raise capital. Or if you want to just build a business where you partner with other people, well, you have to attract that capital. You have to raise that capital, you have to have investor relations. And those meetups, those podcasts, they're ways to connect with other people.
Now, when I launched, in my head I was going to do one meetup and 10 people were going to run up to me with 50,000 dollars in their hand and say, "Here, John, here's my 50K, can't wait to get into your next deal." It didn't happen like that. When I launched my podcast, I expected to get emails just flooding my inbox. "Hey dude, can't wait to invest in your next deal. I've got 100K ready to go." Did not happen like that.
So I had to step back and one, understand what the real expectations should be, but then two, really commit. This is an important thing for anybody who's thinking about launching a Meetup, thinking about launching a podcast, a thought leadership platform as many will call it. You have to ask yourself why you are really doing this.
A Change in Perspective
John: And you're going to raise money, I get that, what value are you providing to other people? Why would someone want to attend your meetup, why would someone want to listen to your podcast? What value are they going to get?
And I go back to my marketing days, if you have a brand, a product or a service, there's an expectation from the consumer. There's an expectation that if I attend this event, watch this commercial, watch this video, listen to whatever, watch this movie, I'm either going to be entertained. I'm going to get educated on something, something's going to make my life better. What is that sort of stuff we're doing?
When I changed my perspective on our meetup, the podcast, those kinds of things, that's when we really started to see more results. Because it was less about me and what I was hoping to get out of it. It was really focused on how I help people with the information they're looking for and truly be of value. Truly be of service to all these people who are looking to grow as real estate investors.
Darin: Yes, that's huge. It's a shift from what's in it for me to what's in it for them. When you start focusing on helping others, then, just kind of like life lessons, it comes back to you. So you help these 10 people, well, maybe those 10 people, some of them will invest with you. Maybe it's a completely different 10 people, because you help them and then all of a sudden out of nowhere these other people come flooding your way. But it's a way to connect with other people that you may not have connected with before and provide them value.
Doing Bigger Deals
Darin: I know that even just on social media, when I was getting started, people were like, "Hey, you should start an Instagram thing." I'm like, "Oh man, that's for my kids," and I was nervous to hit Post. Like what are people going to think, am I adding value to them. But then all of a sudden when you start talking to people, somebody DM's you from Las Vegas or Chicago or wherever, and you know that you wouldn't have talked to that person otherwise. You're like, "Hey, I'm connecting and I'm helping other people," and that's a big avenue.
So I love your why, that you shifted from what's in it for me to what's in it for them. You talked about losing a little bit of joy or not having a ton of joy at the eight-unit. Now that you're doing the bigger deals, are you excited about doing those deals?
John: I'm absolutely excited. The thing with the eight-unit was like climbing a mountain. You climb a mountain, you reach what you believe is the top and you look up and you're like, "Oh man, this isn't the top. I've got a lot more to go." So it was more of that. It's like you thought you were finished and you look up and you're like, "Man, I've got a long way to go."
And now, I appreciate the journey more. So for me, it's every deal, every time we're able to partner with people, every investor conversation, it's really about appreciating the journey. The gratitude I have for people believing in us and trusting us with their investments and really just helping people. So we get super excited about every deal we do.
Drawing Out Real Estate Marketing Ideas on Your Own
John: And even going back to the eight units, it's one of those things that was great to happen. Because I don't think I would have pivoted to helping other people if I didn't feel that way. And I felt that way because I was doing it by myself. It's this lonely journey when you're doing it by yourself. So when I was doing that, it was like, "All right, I've got to pick myself up and climb this hill." Now, I've got a team, now I have people to walk up this hill with me.
That's way more fun if you've got people that you're partnering with versus you managing your own portfolio, whether it be single families or small multifamilies. But doing it by yourself, you're a one man show and how much can you scale that? How many systems can you put in place before you have to at least get employees? So it's just not as fun and it's a job. I think at that point, I picked up a second job and hadn't really processed that. The way we're building this is actually not sustainable and not the best way to grow based on my goals and my objectives.
Darin: Man, a lot there. I love that you said that you're focused more on the journey now. Look, you hit a certain level and then you asked a great question to a number of people, how did you do it? You look at other people that are ahead of you and you're like, "How did you do it?" And you don't have to recreate the wheel.
Why We Need Mentors
Darin: All of a sudden you see a theme and you're like, "Oh, I could do that." And then the byproduct is you're not only helping your family, but you're helping all these other families as well. I have another business that I trade loan portfolios between banks. All the profit that comes into that business is for myself and my family. But the syndication deals, we're investing money into it, but we're also helping grow the wealth of all these other people.
Which is fantastic and gets me excited, because it's not just about all right, how much more can I get? It's about how I can add value to this property and then help grow our wealth, but help grow the wealth of so many other people as well. You mentioned a mentor, talk about mentors in your life and the impact of having a mentor or multiple mentors.
John: Yes, I think mentorship is so key because this is a difficult business. It's numbers, that's one part, but there are a lot of different components to it. I was of the belief that you can do this by yourself and you were supposed to, that's what the books are for. You're supposed to go out there, read a book, go out there, we just told you how to do it, go do it. And I just felt like, I don't know. I just felt like the people I knew, that's how they invested. The few folks I knew who invested, that's how they were doing it. Mentorship was something that people really didn't talk as much about, they weren't as proud to have paid someone to mentor them.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
John: What I found is, when I was at that point where I wanted to work with other people, it became less about me and more about how do I make sure I protect them. And hiring someone who has been down that road, who could help me shorten the learning curve, help me avoid big mistakes, that was valuable. That was a really important aspect for me to feel comfortable working with other investors. So that was absolutely paramount to me. And then I would say, beyond that, I have folks in all parts of my life that mentor me in various ways and I mentor other people in various ways.
So I just think it's really important to have people in your corner who can help you shorten the learning curve. Depending on where you're at, what your goals are, what your objectives are, it's really key because that's going to be the best thing. The best players in the world have coaches, they have mentors. They have people who are helping them get to the next level, get the most out of the skill, the talent, the resources they have available to them. And you should be no different.
I don't care where you're at, if you're a beginner, if you're an intermediate, if you're advanced. You should be trying to figure out how you take advantage of the skills you have. I have two active mentors right now, paid mentors. And I have a host of unofficial folks who mentor me and assist me. I get a chance to talk to people every week like you do on the podcast and get a couple of nuggets from every conversation.
Reimagined Real Estate Marketing Ideas
John: That'll help me in the business to help me reimagine some things and I just think it's key. If you really want to scale, if you really want to build a business, I think you have to approach it with a level of seriousness. And a level of commitment that is true to what your goals are.
If you just want to buy a couple of single family houses, by all means. You do not need to hire a mentor or a coach to teach you how to buy a couple of single family houses. But if you really want to understand how to scale a business, certainly you could do it yourself. And that may take you five, seven, eight years to do it. Or you could work with someone else who could shorten that learning curve and maybe you do it in a quarter of the time.
Darin: Man, that was great. You said everybody has coaches, all the best teams have coaches. I don't know why, but there's certain people that have a mindset of, "Oh, this mentor is charging me money and I want a guarantee that I'm going to get the return.". And I am puzzled by that. Because it's like well, if you do want to get to the next level and you know that that person has the experience and the skills to potentially get you there, there's still a responsibility to yourself. That once they provide guidance, you actually go out and take action and do it. But some people look at just the cost side and not the upside that you can get by learning from somebody that's already done it.
Mentors Are Not Magicians
John: Yes. Look, I like to tell people that mentors are not magicians, so they can't make you something that you're not. You can get the greatest coach in the world, you give him a 5'4" point guard, not a whole lot that he's going to be able to do from that standpoint. So I think part of what I've been able to see when I talk to people, prospects like that because we do some coaching as well. And I've hired coaches myself so I completely understand from both sides of that conversation. I think what we're really talking about is, is there a process and a system, are there tools available? So the first part of the conversation is, "Hey, will I get the systems, the resources, the tools that I need to be successful?" That's one.
The second is way more important, it’s about introspection. You have to look at yourself and ask yourself why you are not successful today. And if you think it's because you didn't have this tool and that's the only thing that's missing, great, easy. But for most people, that's not the case. There are other issues that are at bay. There's self doubt, there is self pity, there is a lack of resources, or more importantly, a lack of resourcefulness because there is a difference. Those are things that stop people from being successful because you'll get in your own way, you'll talk yourself out of things.
Darin: It's in your mind.
John: Yes, you will talk yourself out of it and a mentor can't help you with that. You may be in a state where you don't need a mentor or a coach, you really need somebody who can help you understand your psyche.
The Purpose of a Mentor
John: And get you from a psychological standpoint to understand that you can do it. You can't half-heartedly do this. You can't think you can do it and then give a 50% effort and be upset when you don't get the results you were looking for.
But if you follow a program, if you follow a success blueprint and you go hard, you will be successful. It may not be in the timeframe that you expect to be successful, but if you stick with it, you will be successful. And a great coach is able to help you stay on that path and help you understand where you're making mistakes. Or what you can do to shorten that learning curve, or adjust this or adjust that and you want someone like that in your corner.
I will tell you I remember I called my coach, I was supposed to analyze all these deals and I got about 20% into it and I was like, "Dude, I'm hitting a wall. I'm busy with my day job, I got the kids. I want to get through this, I know it's important, but I just feel like I …" And I've never quit anything and I wasn't going to quit, but I felt like I hit a wall and I just felt like it was taking me much longer than it should. So we had a conversation about it and he helped me get over that wall and be successful. To your point, you could hire a 100,000 dollar coach or a 5,000 dollar coach or 500 dollar coach for that matter. The results are going to be based on you and your efforts.
You Have to Put In the Work
John: So you're still going to have to put in work, you're still going to have to work hard. But you can get the guidance that you need to be successful. Again, whether you get Pat Riley in your corner, a great NBA basketball coach, or you get the local high school coach, either one can make you great. It depends on where you're at in your level.
If you get to the point where you need to level up, that's great, the best thing you could have is go from the level you're at to the level you want to be. And then once you get there, you address the next goal or the next obstacle. But you've got to get from where you're at to where you want to be.
Darin: It's like you're coaching some other people that probably are where you were before and then you've got a coach that's ahead of you. It doesn't stop, we're all trying to get to the next level. And you learn one thing and you get comfortable with that one thing. Then all of sudden you get tasked with, "Oh man, I've got this opportunity but I've never done that before.” Now you've got to learn it and you're uncomfortable again. It's the journey. You're a marketing guy. Talk about how you took some of your marketing stuff and how you leveraged that in the investing world.
John: Yes, you hit it right, I want to be real transparent here. For the first two years, I was not extremely confident because I just didn't know what I didn't know.
Effective Real Estate Marketing Ideas Require Super Skills
John: And while I had a coach and I had these things in my corner, I had this belief that I will get exposed. Or people will realize that yes, he's done some deals. I've been investing for some years, but he really doesn't know this, whatever financial term you want to throw at me or whatever. I didn't know what bps were for a long time, like what the hell's a bp. And so some of those things take time to really get acclimated and understand what people are talking about.
Where I got really confident was when I realized, you know what? You have to stop focusing on what you don't have and instead focus on what you do have. Where are the advantages you have, where do you have super skills that probably exceed what other people are bringing to the table? And for me it was the 15 years of marketing. We talked about my time at GM, but I also worked on the Coors Light brand, Nike, Mountain Dew.
Darin: All these no-name brands.
John: No-name brands, right? So big stuff. I mentioned we've done Super Bowl events, I've done huge parties, I've done work with Kevin Hart, Miller Lite. So I've worked on huge programs, things that people have seen, you've seen my commercials. We've done the Coors Light, Ice Cube commercials. The work that I've done has been seen by millions of people, the programs I've created, those kinds of things. So for me, the credibility aspect really came more from my business acumen than being a bricks and mortar kind of guy.
Finding the Right Partners
John: I'm not the guy to walk in, look up at a ceiling and tell you they used a quarter-inch round drill. I don't know. But I understand business. I understand a business plan, I understand how to model out, project management, those kinds of things.
And once I got comfortable with that and understanding we can find the right partners who are more heavy on the real estate side. The construction, all those things, that's how we actually build a business to scale. Because many of them have no clue how to actually build a business, do marketing and sales. So we bring that component to the table.
So with that marketing background, really being able to, one, focus on how we do grow our deal flow, as well as our investor relations. That's really the biggest thing. From an investor relations standpoint, I tell people all the time that there are three Cs to attract capital for deals. The first is going to be confidence.
And confidence is not like fake hubris. It's not you just walking in and believing you can do it just because you listened to Tony Robbins this morning. Confidence comes from your experience, it comes from the repetitions. I don't care if you've never done a deal. If you've never done a deal, you can still build confidence, by what?
Hiring the right people in your corner, building that team, by underwriting dozens and dozens, if not a 100 deals. By analyzing the market, by talking to brokers, by networking with other professionals. You can build the confidence in what you're doing and what you're saying by surrounding yourself and putting in the work.
Real Estate Marketing Ideas From Actual Experience
John: So confidence comes from actual experience. It's not about how many units you have in your portfolio, it's about the steps you've taken to educate yourself and make sure you're prepared. So that's confidence, it comes from that preparation.
The second C is credibility. Credibility comes from the actual experience that you have, whether that's in the business world, whether that's the amount of units you've owned, you've managed, whatever it is there, but that's the credibility. Again, you don't have to have the experience managing business or managing real estate, but you need to demonstrate that you're actually capable of doing what you say you want to do. You have to have some credibility in that space.
The third is going to be connections. You have to have the folks that you need in your circle. Not just investors, but also the team, the partners, the property managers, the brokers, the lenders. You need to have those connections in place to truly attract capital. So those three Cs are paramount. The confidence, credibility, and connections. Those things right there will really put you in a position to grow and marketing is a key component to help you grow that.
Particularly on the connection side, if you're missing in one of those areas, I would really tell you to step back, think about it. Going back to what you said with coaching, what I find is most people lack confidence. So when you're asking those kinds of questions, what you're really saying is I'm not confident in my ability to make the right choices or to be successful.
The Emotional Side of Marketing
John: If you've been on a fence about a program or something like that, what you're really saying is I don't have confidence that I'm going to make the right decision. So I'm trying to find some other reasons, so I'm trying to rationalize it, but that's the emotional.
The emotional thing is you're scared you're going to pick the wrong thing. I think what you should be focusing on is what do I need to be successful. What do I need to change about myself or what I've been doing to be successful? And marketing can be a huge answer to that question. That's what I've found for a lot of people. My platform for the podcast is Target Market Insights: Multifamily and Marketing. Our coaching platform is really rooted in multifamily and marketing as well.
My multifamily background is probably average, I think there are a lot of guys who have great multifamily experience. But the marketing experience, 15 years working on these big brands, working with influencers, understanding search engine optimization. Understanding how to attract visitors to your website, understanding how to build a brand, those are the things where I've really excelled. I think I help other people learn how to leverage some of those tools to grow their business.
Darin: That's huge. I'm sure you've seen it, there are people from all walks of life that get into real estate investing. There are engineers, there are business owners, there are doctors and lawyers and guys that started in single family, fix and flip. So everybody comes at it with a different skill set. I love what you said that you partner with people to complement that.
Strong Real Estate Marketing Ideas
Darin: So you're really strong on the marketing side and then you find partners that are really strong in another area. Then the team is pretty darn strong all together, so that's fantastic. What makes you fearful now? You've already done all this stuff, do you still get scared of stuff?
John: Oh absolutely. Well, fearful is not the word for me. What I would say is there are things that I'm always cautious of and things that I'm always looking at. You're always going to have problems that you have to address. So for me, there are multiple things that never change, they're kind of the foundation. We talked about, this business is really a combination of deals and capital and then you've got the execution and management.
We're always looking at those three things, our deal flow, we're looking at the capital and our investor relations. And then we're looking at the management and execution. So we're always looking at those three things, we're always looking to adjust. We're always looking to scale. So every deal, you're kind of pushing a little bit. Maybe it's a bigger deal than you've done before, maybe the raise is a little bit more than you've done before. So there's always that, well, what if I don't hit it? What if investors don't really like this deal as much, what if, what if, what if.
Darin: All those things in your head.
John: All the things in your head.
Darin: You still have to battle them.
John: And you may be right, the key is really to be resourceful. I kind of alluded to this earlier. But the key is to be resourceful enough to figure out what happens if that scenario does pop up.
Real Estate Marketing Ideas From a Strategic Standpoint
John: That's one of the things you always want to look into, if this, then that. And if you have those scenarios played out from a strategic standpoint, you don't have to worry about the what ifs as much. If this happens, we do this, if this happens, we do that. It's less emotional, it's less of an emotional strain, and it's more matter of fact.
I used to love playing chess, I don't play as much now, but it's like chess, you want to be three to five moves ahead. And you're playing, okay, if he moves this piece, then we're going to do this. So you really have to think about it from that standpoint. And I go back to networking, that's why networking is so key because if you run into any jam to have someone you can call, it's golden. I'll give you a quick example. We had a deal we were working on forever. We did a HUD loan. It was the HUD process.
Darin: Those take like six, nine months, right?
John: This was a nightmare, it took even longer than that. In short, it became clear that we may not ever get it done with that approach, with the HUD loan. I sent out an update and then I got a response from one of my guys, my mentor actually. And he said, "Hey, you should try this guy, they have some other loan products that may fit." Made a phone call, went back and forth for a little bit and boom, we got it situated and ready for closing.
Darin: So you want to have the right people and who to call?
John: You've got to have those relationships. The more you network, the easier all those things are because you don't have to panic. It's just a matter of okay, we need to call such and such, we need to do this, we need to do that. That makes it so much easier because now I don't have that pressure where I'm scrambling. And even if you are scrambling, you have your, in case of emergency call such and such numbers too, right? So that helps you sleep at night and figure it out.
But we're always looking at the market, we're always trying to make sure we're making the right decision. So I think a little bit of paranoia is great for an operator to be thinking about their investor's capital. And asking themselves, "Hey, are we making the right decision here, is there something else we could be doing? Is there something else we should be doing?" I think there's a healthy amount of that that every operator should have just to ensure they're doing the best thing for their investors.
Darin: Absolutely. Earlier you alluded to having some of your own interests too. What do you like to do outside of work?
John: So my boys, they'll be seven and my youngest will be five very soon, so seven and five.
Darin: That would keep you busy.
John: Yes, so I stay pretty busy with them, but a couple of things. I'm a big Browns fan. I'm from Cleveland, a big Browns fan, so I try to just stay on top of what's going on with those guys. And a lot of my friends back home and a lot of my connections are fans as well.
Life Outside Real Estate
John: From a personal standpoint, I've been hitting the gym pretty hard, so I really do enjoy working out. I used to wrestle in high school and I think something kicked in around COVID. Where I think just working out became a real big priority for me.
So that's something that's been really important. And really just travel, man, and just leisure, trying to make sure we take a moment, enjoy what we have here. Taking the time with my wife to relax, to do date nights and things like that. And just trying to see the world and just really enjoying what we do have in front of us.
Darin: Fantastic. If people want to reach out to you and get to know you better, what's the best way for them to do that?
John: The best thing to do is we've got a sample deal package on our website. If you are interested in investing, either being an active investor or you're interested in being passive, check out our sample deal. It's casmoncapital.com/sampledeal. That'll also put you on our newsletter. You'll get updates as far as our podcast, as well as any deals that we're working on. So just go to casmoncapital.com/sampledeal.
Darin: And if they just went to casmoncapital.com, is the sample deal visible?
John: It's visible, you'll see it.
Darin: Okay, very good. I just wanted to make sure they get access to it. So John, I really appreciate you coming on, I love your background. I don't meet too many people that are marketing gurus, so it's nice to have somebody in that corner that I know. Listeners, I hope you enjoyed that one. Until next week, signing off.