From Solo Agent, to Team Lead, to Inc 500 Broker Owner ft. Kevin Markarian
(Click The Video Below To Play)
The Kevin Markarian Interview
How do you start over in a new market and compete with established top producers? Kevin Markarian did it by investing online leads and developing follow-up systems for high-level conversion. Eventually, Kevin built a team and then a brokerage to support the lead flow, and he continues to leverage the best available digital tools to manage his growing real estate empire.
Kevin is the Broker-Owner at Marker Real Estate, a wildly successful brokerage out of San Francisco with regional offices throughout California. Since its founding in 2014, Marker has become known as one of the nation’s most innovative companies and earned a spot on the Inc. 500. As a thought leader in the industry, Kevin is a regular contributor to RIS Media and Inman News, and he has served as a panelist and speaker for the National Association of Realtors.
On this episode of Founders Club, Kevin joins Oliver to explain how he got his start in real estate working for a developer in the Central Valley and what he did to start over in San Francisco after the crash. He shares what inspired him to go all-in on online leads, discussing how the Marker Real Estate systems empower agents to grow their business. Listen in for insight on Kevin’s 1985 Bears Defense approach to marketing and learn how he is outsourcing his proven model to support others.
Here is how the interview breaks down:
[1:48] How Kevin got his start in real estate
- Grew up in Modesto, introduced to broker at age 20
- Hired on with top developer in 2003 (became #1 agent)
[8:26] Kevin’s transition from Modesto to San Francisco
- Made decision to fail big in big city after crash
- Started buying leads, building SOI before move
[16:17] The AHA moment Kevin went all-in on online leads
- NAR session on managing high volume of leads
- Bought all of San Francisco County from Realtor.com
- Built team to handle lead flow, CRM to track
[27:50] What differentiates Marker Real Estate as a brokerage
- ISA team responds to online leads, sets appointments
- Long-term follow-up system = high conversion rate
[36:15] How Marker Real Estate is growing now
- Expand to other markets throughout California
- Partner with others to use model in their business
[42:25] Kevin’s strategy for growing his business
- Connect with hard-working, collaborative people
- Leverage digital tools to be everywhere all the time
[50:52] Kevin’s 1985 Bears Defense approach to marketing
- Blast target audience with email, text and calls
- Become celebrity to client base on social media
[59:43] The art of building duplicatable systems
- Keep it simple and battle test them yourself
- Ask others to document for your review
[1:04:50] What Kevin is investing in now
- Natural hazard disclosure, mortgage ventures
- Profit centers related to real estate business
How do you start over in a new market and compete with top producers? Kevin Markarian did it by investing online leads and developing follow-up systems for high-level conversion. Today, Kevin joins Oliver to share his journey from solo agent to broker-owner and explain how to dominate in a new market with your digital presence.
Links to your favorite other players:
🎧Listen on Itunes here.
🎧Listen on Spotify here.
🎧Listen on Sticher here.
🎧Listen on Iheart Radio here.
🎥Watch Full Video on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/C_6TEXctX38
Full Transcript Below:
Oliver Graf: Welcome to another episode of Founders Club. Today we are out here in beautiful San Clemente at the Marker Real Estate office, getting ready to talk to Kevin Markarian, the founder of the company of his incredible journey of how he went from single agent to team leader to broker owner, and in how just three short years he ended up with his company on the Inc 500.
Oliver Graf: You’ve said you set up your business like the ’85 Bears defense.
Kevin Markarian: Full blitz, full out. How we operate our marketing is Chicago Bears 46, hardest defense ever. We’re blasting emails, we’re sending out massive email campaigns to everyone, texting, calling. It’s just nonstop. People that we want to see us, they already know who I am. They know everything about us, so it makes the conversation so much easier.
Oliver Graf: He’s also the king of systems, and he’s going to be sharing all the amazing things that he does to run his business in multiple locations and how he’s turning a 10X ROI on internet leads from Realtor.com and Zillow and all of the amazing systems and automation that he has set up behind the scenes.
Kevin Markarian: So you can be saying whatever you want, like “F this, F that”-
Oliver Graf: Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Kevin Markarian: Hate the game. So while you’re hating the game and while you’re sitting on the sidelines, I’m making money.
Oliver Graf: We’re going to unpack all of it for you guys on this episode. If you have any questions, leave a question down below. Leave a comment in the comment box. Give us a like, subscribe to the show, and we’ll see you on the inside.
Oliver Graf: I just want to, before we kick this off, give a shout out to Michelle. She made a really awesome bloody Mary bar that we all got to take advantage of and she even cooked us bacon, which should make you feel extra special because she’s a vegetarian and she doesn’t cook bacon. So cheers to that.
Kevin Markarian: Yay. Thank you Michelle.
Oliver Graf: You’ve been on the Inc. 500. You’ve been named one of the top hundred most influential people in real estate. And I want to kind of take it back because I know that you came from really humble beginnings. So why don’t you just tell me a little bit about how you first got started into the business because you went from single agent to team leader to broker owner and I think that’s a goal for a lot of people in the real estate business. So I want to really kind of unpack how you were able to do that.
Kevin Markarian: So my family came from the Middle East. It’s a long story. They were involved with lots of traumatic experiences and they ended up coming to the United States. My dad was a big Hollywood fan and movie fan and loved all the movies and they ended up moving to Hollywood. And they moved to Hollywood, they came as refugees to the United States. They fled from religious persecution and I was born in Hollywood. And we grew up in a one bedroom apartment overlooking the Hollywood sign, which was kind of cool when we’d look out.
Kevin Markarian: And I remember, what caused to move up to Northern California, we ended up moving to Modesto, was my mom one day took us to a McDonald’s or something, some restaurant close by. I don’t remember where it was, but it was myself and two younger brothers, and my youngest brother was kidnapped, basically someone grabbed my brother. And we didn’t obviously in the greatest neighborhood and my mom was freaking out and it was really a scary, scary time. And she didn’t really speak English and it was crazy. And there was a man that was in line that ended up getting my brother back. And I remember even to this day, my mom talks about it and it was really, really scary.
Oliver Graf: Wow, Good Samaritan.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, it was insane. And so my mom ended up talking to my dad and we ended up moving to Northern California to get away from this really crazy neighborhood and crazy surroundings that we’re in in Hollywood at the time, which you think about Hollywood as being this glamorous, fancy place, but at the time it wasn’t so glamorous. It was kind of a rough place. So we ended up moving to Northern California and moved to this small agricultural town, Modesto, California, which is kind of where I was raised and I grew up.
Oliver Graf: Shout out, Modesto.
Kevin Markarian: Modesto, 209. So yeah, I mean, that’s kind of how it all started, started off really young and moved out there and it was a crazy experience.
Oliver Graf: How did that get you into the real estate space?
Kevin Markarian: So fast forward, being from seven or eight years old or whatever, and didn’t really have a whole lot going on as a kid. I mean there’s not a whole lot of opportunity in the Central Valley, believe it or not. Modesto, I’d say, is a harder place to come out of than Compton. Really.
Oliver Graf: Because it’s remote, it’s rural.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. If you have talent and you’re in Compton, you have Hollywood, you have LA, you have entertainment and all these things, where I know for a fact there’s tons of talented people that I knew growing up that didn’t make it and didn’t go anywhere because there was no, just the proximity factor.
Oliver Graf: Opportunity-
Kevin Markarian: Was a challenge in itself. So my dad ended up introducing me to a broker. He had a friend who was a broker and he asked me if I wanted to be a real estate agent. And I’m like, “Hell yeah.” I’m just 20 years old and been really …
Oliver Graf: What else am I doing?
Kevin Markarian: What else am I doing? So I ended up saying yes to that and the rest was history. And then from that point, I remember the first day, I get hired, we go into the office, and I’m like, “Okay, so what do I do? What do I do? How do I get business?”
Oliver Graf: How do I do this real estate thing?
Kevin Markarian: “How do I get customers? How do I get clients?” And he’s like, “All right, come with me.” He walks me over to this cupboard and it’s this old dusty cupboard. And he grabs this big old Yellowbook. If you remember what a Yellowbook …
Oliver Graf: The actual phone book.
Kevin Markarian: The actual phone book. He puts it on a desk and he like, “Start making phone calls.”
Oliver Graf: He’s like, “Here’s your leads.”
Kevin Markarian: And I’m like, “Okay, so I just have to make phone calls.” And so what I did, thinking back, was kind of innovative actually. So my background, I’m half Armenian and half Assyrian, right? There was a big Assyrian community in Modesto, so I’m like, “Okay, how can I shorten the distance from point A to point B?” And so I go through the phone book and I started looking for Assyrian last names like people that I could talk to that would relate to me, that wouldn’t cuss me out when I call them. So I ended up going through the phone book and calling all the Assyrian last names to try to connect with them, which resulted in absolutely zero business but it was a good effort nonetheless.
Oliver Graf: Built up your tough skin.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, built up the tough skin. And then from that point I got hired on with a developer and I started working with this developer and at the time it was like 2003, 2004 right before the boom happened. And I was really lucky to work with this top 10 builder.
Oliver Graf: Great timing.
Kevin Markarian: They were super successful. They had all these developments all over the country and I learned so much because I got to do tons of deals. I got so many deals and so much volume that I got the experience early on and got exposed to lots of different situations. Actually to this day, thinking back, if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t … I just learned so much. I wouldn’t have had the knowledge and I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to take the step into starting my own brokerage if I hadn’t gone through all those transactions and all those situations-
Oliver Graf: And the experience and the challenges.
Kevin Markarian: And the problems, right? So, knowing the answers, and I knew at the time I had the resources to make the phone calls to answer the questions that I was dealing with at the time. And because of that experience, it allowed me to feel like, “Okay, I can do this. I could start my own brokerage and stuff like that.” Yeah, and then really early on this super big successful developer and being all over the United States, at 22 or 23, maybe 24, I became the number one agent in the country for them.
Oliver Graf: For the developer.
Kevin Markarian: For the developer, yeah.
Oliver Graf: And that’s sitting on the neighborhood with all the new homes and, “This one’s sold, this one’s still available” type thing?
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. And it was cool because I was so young, I was super young. And I remember after that they sent me out to go do these trainings and I was 23, 24 years old training these 50 year old super seasoned agents that just got hired on with this developer. And I was thinking to myself, “What am I doing training these people? They should be training me.” You know what I mean? But it was just a cool experience and yeah, it was big. It was awesome.
Oliver Graf: And then the crash hit.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. So then the crash hit, so I went from being this very successful, high flying young, I had this 911 convertible Porsche, driving around feeling great.
Oliver Graf: King of Modesto.
Kevin Markarian: And then, market crashes and so I had to make a decision. It went from being really successful to things changing fast. So I decided, “Well, San Francisco is 90 minutes away, not very far. I’m already failing, things aren’t going very well. If I’m going to fail, let me fail big. Let me go to the big city, let me fail in a big way.” So I took a chance.
Oliver Graf: Go big or go home.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. I literally hit the reset button on my career and I moved out to San Francisco and I started over again. Didn’t know anyone, didn’t know anything about San Francisco, just I knew that it was a good market. It was high price, high energy, a lot of life. It was a wonderfully alive place, and it still is to this day. And I love San Francisco. And so I made the move, I went out there.
Oliver Graf: Not knowing anyone, having no connections.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. And just relying on my ability, relying on my desire, relying on my historical performance. And maybe we’ve talked about it before, is there’s two things that are really important. I think two things matter most in anything that we do. And that’s, it comes down to desire and it comes down to ability, right?
Kevin Markarian: So if you have a desire and your desire outweighs your ability, that’s a problem because-
Oliver Graf: You’re out of balance.
Kevin Markarian: You’re out of balance. And then the opposite if you have too much ability, not enough desire. And I can remember people growing up and where I was from and everything, they had a lot of ability like they would’ve been … I remember people that were in the Junior Olympics and super successful athletically but just didn’t have the desire, didn’t have what it took to make it, the will. It’s really about having that balance and I believed in myself, knowing that I have desire and then I have ability because I’ve shown it.
Oliver Graf: Okay, so take me back. You’re the number one salesman at the company, then are you at that point thinking, “I want to go bigger than that”? Or are you comfortable? What happens next?
Kevin Markarian: I was comfortable. I felt good. I mean, that was the most successful I’d ever been, anyone that I knew had been up until that point, which is kind of crazy if you think about it. But then the market crashed and that was in the Central Valley of California and that was the epicenter of-
Oliver Graf: That was almost ground zero.
Kevin Markarian: Ground zero, right. It was the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis in the United States. And so I went from being this high-flying young guy doing really well selling all these houses and really successful to “Wow, things are changing, they’re changing fast.” And I remember showing these really dilapidated properties and it wasn’t very exciting. And I remember going home one night and I was talking with my wife, we were talking about other options and started looking at San Francisco being an hour and a half away, 90 miles or whatever, and looking at price points there.
Kevin Markarian: And it’s a really successful market and really great city, and I’d always admired San Francisco. So I was thinking to myself, “Well, I’m kind of failing here. It’s going in the wrong direction. It’s not the direction that I want to go. So if I’m already kind of failing, let me take a chance and let me to San Francisco. Let me go to the big city and let me fail big if I’m going to fail. So if I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail big.”
Oliver Graf: Go big or go home.
Kevin Markarian: Go big or go home. So we just took a chance, I hit the reset button on my career. And I moved out there because I believed in my ability and it was the desire. And I realized at a young age that I had ability.
Oliver Graf: So the market crashes, the home builder game pretty much comes to a grinding halt, Your business dries up. Then, at that point you’re thinking to yourself, “I should move to San Francisco and start fresh.”
Kevin Markarian: And try it. Yeah, because why not? What do I have to lose? You know? So I think a lot of times, and I remember at that time, it was 2008, people were saying, “You’re crazy. You’re going to move to San Francisco? You’re an idiot.”
Oliver Graf: I think most would be a lot of people’s first reactions, especially with how crazy times were at that time and going somewhere where you don’t know anybody, starting over. That gives a lot of people a lot of anxiety.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. But the way I answered that to people was I thought about my historical success or how I’ve performed historically in everything that I’ve ever done. And I think this can relate to a lot of people. Show me how you do anything and I’ll show you how to do everything. So I’ve always been at least average or better. And so why can’t I be average or better at anything I put my mind to? And that was what-
Oliver Graf: I love that. It’s a great perspective.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. And people would say, “I think per capita San Francisco has the most amount of real estate agents, too.” At the time at least-
Oliver Graf: Right. Most competitive or one of the most competitive.
Kevin Markarian: Most competitive. Super, super low inventory. I always block that stuff out and if I don’t block it out, then I look at it as, “I’m going to overcome this.” I want that challenge. I love it. So I think that’s the other thing that comes back down to desire and mindset, and not having like a, just get over it, the weak mindset.
Oliver Graf: It’s a big roll of the dice. But it sounds like you weren’t scared of it at all.
Kevin Markarian: Well, I mean it was definitely, I wouldn’t say I wasn’t scared because I felt like there’s a possibility that things don’t work out. But who cares?
Oliver Graf: So what happens? You go to San Francisco, you moved there right away or …
Kevin Markarian: Oh, so what I did was I started with leads, started buying leads, and got a list of contacts that I could reach out to. And I started calling people from San Francisco.
Oliver Graf: And this is before you moved?
Kevin Markarian: Before I moved.
Oliver Graf: So you’re trying to set a foundation.
Kevin Markarian: So it wasn’t like, “I’m just going to completely go and not know anyone, nothing.” No, I still had deals. I was doing deals in the Central Valley and I was still very successful and the nice part of it is that it wasn’t like I was moving to New York City, which is across the country. I can still have-
Oliver Graf: Still go home.
Kevin Markarian: Still go home, still drive. I mean, it was work. I had to put in a lot of extra work, but I was making calls and I was setting appointments and I was working with people in San Francisco while I was in Modesto and creating opportunities and I started setting appointments and actually closed some deals. What was really funny is I always liked to work with people from out of town because they didn’t know that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
Oliver Graf: It’s a good tip.
Kevin Markarian: But it worked out. It worked out really well and after a short time, I just ended up moving there. And what we ended up doing was, the majority of my business when I moved to San Francisco was still in the Central Valley, but the plan was to transition and so it was kind of like, “Let me”-
Oliver Graf: So it was a slower transition.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, I mean, it was a slower transition, but I was focusing on San Francisco while maintaining. And I was young and I didn’t have kids or anything so I could make those moves and drive back and forth if I had to. I remember, for a listing appointment, I’d drive two hours. And I know people always talk about in our business, focus on one thing and don’t … I think that’s bullshit. And I think that’s, if you can afford to do that, yes. But if you’re in a position where you can’t afford that, then don’t. Just go after everything. Raise your hand for every opportunity.
Oliver Graf: I think that’s the goal, right? Getting there is the goal. If you could just dominate one neighborhood near your house, whatever. But to your point, going to a new city, you’re not going to be able to just set up shop in a farm and start dominating.
Kevin Markarian: You’re going to fail if you do it that way because you don’t have the freedom or the liberty or you don’t have the … You haven’t earned it. Like you said, that’s the goal, right?
Oliver Graf: No reputation, yeah.
Kevin Markarian: So I would just raise my hand to every opportunity and jump after every opportunity and then it turned out really well.
Oliver Graf: I’m going to ask you two questions, but we can start with one. I’m curious about the leads thing, because I know that you’ve always been a big leads guy. You’re purchasing leads. Most people say, “Oh, the leads are weak.” Right? We hear the leads are weak all the time, but somehow you seem to be having success not only there, in multiple different markets. So I want to get to how you set all that up, but first I want to finish off on how you got yourself set up in San Francisco. So you’re in there, you’re starting to do deals, you’re doing part-time, the back and forth thing. Then what happens?
Kevin Markarian: Well first of all, what I did is really easy. It’s not hard. It’s really easy. It’s just a matter of taking the effort and actually doing it. And I know people are doing it right now, people that are transitioning to different markets, it’s not hard. It’s just about setting it up. So what I did was I had a brokerage in the Central Valley and we did a ton of flip properties actually that we sold through the brokerage in the Central Valley. And then I made a deal with a brokerage in San Francisco. I was a broker, ended up getting my broker’s license, and I did a deal with them where any transaction that I did in the Bay Area would go under this San Francisco brokerage. But I wanted to maintain my business in the Central Valley under my own company, so anything that we did outside was under my, and that was cool.
Kevin Markarian: That’s how we started off. And I worked with this independent company in San Francisco for about four years or so, started working. Then I’m going to tell you now how I got into the leads thing and the systems and the team and all that. I went to a seminar, I went to an event and it was really funny because at the time we lived in downtown San Francisco and I never was big on events ever. I just didn’t like going to them. I don’t know, I just felt like I was just not into them. And then I remember I was sitting on my couch and on the coffee table was a magazine and it was a bunch of magazines, your coffee table would have a bunch of magazines, and I’m just kind of flipping through.
Kevin Markarian: I remember I was watching TV or something and I flipped through and there was a NAR realtor magazine, and it was about NAR convention being at the Moscone center, which happened to be a 15 minute walk from my place.
Oliver Graf: So it was in your neighborhood?
Kevin Markarian: In my neighborhood. I was looking through it. I’m like, “Okay, I’m still not interested.” But at the time I’m buying leads and stuff like that. This was in the early days of online leads. And then I look through it, I looked at one of the sessions and it’s how to manage a high volume of online leads. I’m like, “Okay.” And it’s today at 2:00 and it’s 9:00 AM right now or something. So I’m like, “All right, I deal with a lot of leads and it’s 15 minutes away. It’s a couple hours from now, let me go check it out.”
Kevin Markarian: So I go, I end up buying a ticket, I check it out, and my mind is blown because at the time I’m buying like 15, 20 leads a month on my own as an individual agent. And I’m watching people on stage that are doing hundreds of thousands of dollars. They’re going insane. They’re spending tons of money and the people are up there, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I don’t even work anymore. I’m at the golf course more than I’m doing this and that.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute, what’s wrong with this picture?”
Oliver Graf: What am I doing wrong? Yeah.
Kevin Markarian: I’m like, “I have 15 showings. I have to meet with four sellers.” So, my mind is blown and I’m just thinking, “Okay, they’re doing the exact same thing that I’m doing but at a bigger scale, so all I have to do is just do what I’m doing, but bigger and just follow these people that are already doing it. And if they can do it, I can do it.” And that’s the case for anything. If I can do it, then you can do it. It doesn’t matter.
Kevin Markarian: So I remember I’d get calls all the time. We always get these calls from vendors that are trying to sell us stuff or whatever. And Realtor.com was calling me a crazy amount every day I felt like. And I was hanging up on them, I never wanted to talk to them. But I remember that day I was so inspired by the people on stage and what they were doing, I literally was having an anxiety attack because I felt like everyone in the room was going to go and make the call to buy all the leads in the whole city or whatever.
Oliver Graf: And then you’re out.
Kevin Markarian: And I’m out. So I literally leave before the event or before the session’s over, and I call the rep and I end up buying the entire county. I bought all of San Francisco County, just because I just clicked.
Oliver Graf: And what did that cost at the time?
Kevin Markarian: It was like $60,000.
Oliver Graf: Wow.
Kevin Markarian: It was a big investment, but it was the best thing that I ever did because I was already doing those things.
Oliver Graf: So you pushed in the chips.
Kevin Markarian: It was always kind of like shoot first, ask questions later with everything that I’ve always kind of done because the right way to do it would have been to plan it out, get your team ready, get your things ready, your CRM. I didn’t even have a CRM at that time. I didn’t have anything, I just had myself and I knew I wanted it. I wanted to get to another level and this just opened my eyes.
Kevin Markarian: So I think a lot of times we get caught up in setting things up and planning them out and talking to people and this, that. I don’t want to talk to people because they’re going to just get me confused a lot of times. It just depends. It depends on what-
Oliver Graf: You don’t want too many opinions.
Kevin Markarian: Don’t want too many opinions and just do it sometimes. And that’s kind of how I’ve always done it. It’s just kind of, do it and then solve it and then figure it out. And so I ended up buying the county, it was a big investment, and all of a sudden I went from having like 15 to 20 leads to like 400 leads. So it’s a big problem.
Oliver Graf: The next day.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, the next day. So I’m kind of a procrastinator. Unless there’s something that’s pushing me, I’m going to take my time. So now I’m spending this massive amount of money, to me at the time it was a lot of money, so I need to figure it out. So the first thing I did was I reached out to a couple of agents that I was working with that knew about how to work leads and I knew that they were familiar with technology and stuff like that. And I asked them if they’d be willing to help me. I have way too many and I can’t deal with it. And are you okay, would you like to help out? And so we could partner up on it. And of course the answer was yes. And so after a short period of time there was like, I don’t know, 15 people that I was working with and then it became up to a point where people were asking to be a part of it.
Kevin Markarian: And I was like, “Wow, this is interesting.” I couldn’t take any more people on because I didn’t have enough to feed them, not well, whatever, provide them. So that’s kind of how we built a team.
Oliver Graf: How did you handle that lead flow though, just going from nothing to all of a sudden 400 leads? That’s a huge transition. What did you do to figure it out?
Kevin Markarian: I just bought a CRM. And I told you it’s super easy, just bought a CRM and started really tracking the inquiries. Before I started buying leads, I just had chicken scratch and I’d be writing … Well, we’ve all done it.
Oliver Graf: We all do. Of course. Most people probably do that.
Kevin Markarian: We’re all guilty of it, right? You meet someone, you’re writing it down, you put it in your pocket, you never see it again. I can’t tell you how many houses I’ve sold because my desk is a very messy desk. I look at a Post-It Note from three months ago somebody’s name on it and I pick it up and I call them and next thing you know like they don’t want to transact. So how much business are we losing if we’re not condensing and confining and really putting everything in one place?
Oliver Graf: Organizing.
Kevin Markarian: So that was like the first thing I did was just get organized. It sounds very simple but I got a CRM and then-
Oliver Graf: What were you using back then?
Kevin Markarian: Top Producer. Used Top Producer at the time.
Oliver Graf: I’m sure you’re not using that anymore.
Kevin Markarian: No, we use Follow Up Boss now. I just had to figure out a system so we’d get … Now there’s ISAs and inside sales people, but I was the ISA, I was the sales rep, I was taking leads in, I was working the ones that I wanted to work and I was giving the ones out that I couldn’t deal with.
Kevin Markarian: And that’s how I did it. That’s how I kind of, I was learning.
Oliver Graf: So you were grinding?
Kevin Markarian: I was grinding hard. I’d get up, I mean, everything has been because I maxed myself out and I think a lot of times … I don’t know how other people do it, but that’s how I’ve always done it, is max yourself out, get to a point where you can’t do anymore and then you can take the next step. And I think with that, there’s a lot of respect that comes with that in my opinion. When you’re working with other people that know that you’ve done it and know that you’ve been there, that you’re not just making stuff up or you’re just-
Oliver Graf: Not just telling them what to do.
Kevin Markarian: There’s no theory in what I do. Everything I do is because of actual experience that I’ve done, that I’ve experienced myself. So then I can tell you how to handle a situation because I’ve been through it many times. So that’s all. And part of that is patience, or you could be crazy and just buy an entire county and spend $60,000 on one day.
Oliver Graf: I was going to say you’re making it sound awfully easy, but that’s kind of volume is a lot. So you’re obviously grinding, you’re obviously setting up systems with people and holding them accountable, right? How are you making sure those people were doing what they were supposed to do with those leads that you were spending money on?
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. So it’s really funny because … You ever play video games?
Oliver Graf: Of course.
Kevin Markarian: What was some of your favorite video games?
Oliver Graf: If we’re going old school, probably Zelda.
Kevin Markarian: I love Zelda.
Oliver Graf: Zelda, Street Fighter 2, which we’ve played a couple of times and I think you have the winning record on that.
Kevin Markarian: Were under a couple of drinks at that time, though.
Oliver Graf: Which we won’t talk about. Yeah, of course.
Kevin Markarian: So for me, what I always kind of compared it to was, I played Madden.
Oliver Graf: Okay, love Madden, love FIFA.
Kevin Markarian: So with these video games, you have to set up your lineups, you set up your system. You set up your plays, you set up all these things. And I was always really good at video games and I was good at playing Monopoly. That’s where the negotiation comes. So I didn’t go to college, I didn’t learn about business, I didn’t go to business school and all that. It was just about experience.
Oliver Graf: Monopoly and video games.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: There you go, kids.
Kevin Markarian: Don’t try it at home, kids. So I just kind of compared it to things I’d already done. And just putting the right people, the right team players in the right positions to create the best situation, best scenario for them to be successful. So you don’t want to put a wide receiver as a tight end. You don’t want to put a running back as an offensive lineman. So you find your people. Know your people. Know your personnel and understand who they are and what they’re good at and what they’re not good at yet. And that’s what I did.
Oliver Graf: And when you were handling that volume of leads, how many agents did you have versus admin staff? How were you set up at that time?
Kevin Markarian: Zero admin. Everything was right here and everything else was just agents and we’d send out leads. I kind of just did it all at first in the beginning, not to sound whatever-
Oliver Graf: No, that’s, we’ll say, earning your stripes.
Kevin Markarian: But, again, one step at a time, one step at a time. One of the concerns that I had was spending money on staff. It was always a fear.
Oliver Graf: Well, you’re already spending 60 Gs on leads, so there’s not going to be much left over for staff.
Kevin Markarian: I know, I know. But with leads it’s instant gratification, so you’re going to spend it and boom, you get the return.
Oliver Graf: And back then what were you flipping that for, 60k?
Kevin Markarian: At the time, man, it was like 10x.
Oliver Graf: 10x?
Kevin Markarian: 10x. 10x. It was insane. Gross.
Oliver Graf: So it was an absolute no-brainer.
Kevin Markarian: Gross. For a short time until they started realizing that they’re giving away too much. So now we’re down to like four. With the lead game, things have changed. And I’m probably one of the reasons why, I’d go out and talk about it, how great it is and everyone should do it and everyone buys it. And next thing you know, I have to pay more.
Oliver Graf: So your teams, you’re continuing to grow, right?
Kevin Markarian: We’re continuing to grow. And then this is how I started Marker Real Estate, why I started it. And it’s because I felt like I was bringing a lot, and I think this is the case with a lot of agents.
Oliver Graf: You’re at the crossroads.
Kevin Markarian: You’re at the crossroads. And I’m doing a lot of deals and I’m bringing a lot of business myself. And I think this is something that we always have to ask ourselves. And you’re a successful businessman, you’ve got lots of different businesses that you run. You have obviously a really great business with Big Block. The question we have to ask as agents is, what has my brokerage done for me lately? Sorry. But that’s the truth. And that’s what our clients should be asking about us. What has my agent done for me lately? And so I felt at the time that I was doing a lot more, I was bringing a lot more to the table. I was the one buying the leads. I was spending, I was putting in the effort and it’s all, with all due respect to the company that I was working with at the time, just didn’t really feel like a fair relationship.
Oliver Graf: With that kind of money going out, you’re taking on a lot of risk, right? And you’re the one on the hook for that.
Kevin Markarian: Right. So I just thought, “I had this company going in the Central Valley and why don’t I just bring it to San Francisco? I’ve already got people that want to work with me, I’m doing all these things.” And that’s what I did. But I just rebranded it and changed the name to Marker Real Estate, and then three years later we’re on the Inc. 500 list. Pretty crazy.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, that is crazy.
Kevin Markarian: It happened so fast but it was just more of the same. And then with the systems and the lead gen, all those things, is very easy to replicate and duplicate into a lot of anything. We have lots of different businesses now and it’s all, the foundation is lead generation. If you think about, there’s lots of books on this and lots of things you can find on this topic, which is, lead generation is the foundation of any business, any service-related business. So if you don’t have customers, you don’t have any business. And that’s a challenge that we face as real estate agents too, as individual agents, like, “Where’s my next deal coming from?”
Kevin Markarian: And so that’s the question that I think our company answers is we answer that question by providing those opportunities. And now we have a full staff, we have a full inside sales team. We have multiple call centers that we work with that we’re just, all they’re doing all day is setting appointments and creating opportunities for agents on our team to go out and do more business, which I think is a big challenge and a big problem in our industry. Because if you’re not in a hundred percent commission brokerage, you’re giving up a lot of money to your company that you’re working with. And what are they doing for you?
Oliver Graf: You need value in exchange.
Kevin Markarian: What’s the value? Like the brand, okay, cool. I have this nice logo, but what’s that logo really doing for me? I’m the logo, I’m the brand, I’m the business. People come to work with me. And I can tell you how many times, out of the thousands of transactions that I’ve been involved with, I could probably count less than five times probably that a person decided to work with me because of my company. They work with me because of me.
Oliver Graf: Right. No question about it. And on that note, because brokerages are kind of a dime a dozen, to your point, and how are you able to stand out as an independent broker? You don’t have the big brand name. It sounds like your value proposition was, “We’re going to help you grow your business, we’re going to give you leads.” And that was kind of what made you stand out.
Kevin Markarian: Absolutely. Yeah.
Oliver Graf: Okay. And then, walk me through what that looks like now. You’ve got the much bigger team. I want to get to the system stuff in a second cause I think that’s kind of like your super power. But I want to know, through your lead flow system right now, how are you all set up?
Kevin Markarian: So we have agents all over California, multiple offices, multiple locations. We’re down here in vacation land, right?
Oliver Graf: Beautiful San Clemente.
Kevin Markarian: San Clemente. But obviously based in San Francisco, we have agents everywhere. And the way that we operate is we don’t need to have an office. We have an office, but we don’t need it. You and I were talking earlier, you guys have a thousand agents. How many agents show up to your office every day?
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Small percentage.
Kevin Markarian: Can you count? Yeah, very small percentage. So my thing is, “Okay, well we’ve got the office space, we’ve got the basics, the foundations there. But what we’re doing is, the differentiator is, we’ve got the best, most robust platform to create opportunities for agents to do more deals.” So that’s what our value proposition is, we’re going to create opportunities for you to get out there and sell more homes.
Oliver Graf: How are you doing that?
Kevin Markarian: Through investing in online marketing, digital advertising …
Oliver Graf: But I mean I want to unpack it. So you’re buying leads, they come into your funnel. What does the funnel look like?
Kevin Markarian: So leads come in, we have an inside sales team that are responding to people immediately and often. We have multiple call centers that are-
Oliver Graf: And are those in-house, out-house?
Kevin Markarian: We have inside people that work for us that are reporting to us that are responding to inquiries as they come in. And we have thousands of inquiries. We have too many leads and not enough agents to work them.
Oliver Graf: Great problem to have. So if you need more leads, call this guy.
Kevin Markarian: But an inquiry comes in, someone from our team is going to respond immediately. Their objective is to set an appointment. They’re going to set an appointment for someone on our team to go either to a listing appointment, it’s a buyer consultation, or a showing appointment. That, very simply, is what we do.
Oliver Graf: So your agents aren’t even calling the leads. They’re calling them after they’ve been screened by the ISAs.
Kevin Markarian: Okay. So you want to get granular with it, when the lead comes in, it gets sent out, our inside sales team responds. But if it goes to agents as well, the agents have the ability to respond and our team is watching, so they’re going to give, if it goes to an agent, they’re going to give the agent an opportunity to reply. If there’s no reply for whatever reason, then we’re going to respond and we’re going to set an appointment and either assign it to that agent or somebody else and then it’s like … You know, but I don’t know if they know, it’s longterm followup. It’s longterm nurturing, nonstop forever.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. I think they say the average online lead conversion’s about 16 to 18 months.
Kevin Markarian: And the average attempts that it takes to connect with someone who’s inquiring online is about 13 according to NAR. And the average attempts that actual agents make is like 1.5 attempts. So there’s a big gap between 1.5 attempts to 13 attempts that it takes to create a relationship.
Oliver Graf: So they’re calling twice, “Nope, couldn’t get a hold of them. It’s a bad lead, put it to the side.”
Kevin Markarian: Absolutely.
Oliver Graf: And you’re putting them into your system and probably following up forever.
Kevin Markarian: Forever. And that’s why we have one of the highest conversion rates in the country.
Oliver Graf: What’s your conversion rate?
Kevin Markarian: Close to 6% but-
Oliver Graf: That’s fantastic.
Kevin Markarian: But the difference between that 1.5 attempts that people give up, the desire, to 13 attempts, that gap is a massive opportunity. That’s a huge opportunity. So that alone, if you’re just buying leads on your own, know that if you make three phone calls or four, you’re already beating everyone else for the most part. But we’re doing far more than that.
Oliver Graf: So, new lead comes in, they always say the first five minutes is the most critical. What happens in the first five minutes, because I’m sure you have all sorts of automated stuff going on?
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, we do. It’s kind of geeky. It’s just a nerdy thing. But yeah, first, immediately a phone call and if they don’t answer, call back. So there’s two back-to-back phone calls, and why is because the urgency is increased if there’s a call from the same number of back to back. Something’s up, something’s going on. We’ll actually try to call them even more. We’ll call it three times. And then if no response, we don’t leave a voicemail, we will send a text saying, “Hey, it’s Kevin, we just tried calling you, thank you for your inquiry, blah blah blah. Feel free to call me.” Then, no response, we’ll send an email. Still no response, then we’ll call back again and then we leave a voicemail this time.
Kevin Markarian: And then at this point after that is, throughout the day we’re making multiple attempts and I’m, I’m not like this super crack the whip, you need to do this this many times. But I leave it up to our people to make their own judgment. But they just know that they have to make multiple attempts throughout the day, in between things give this person a phone call. So we’re making numerous, numerous attempts. Our response rate is really, really good. People actually respond to us, which is great.
Oliver Graf: That’s great. So all that happens in the first five minutes. How are you comping your ISAs? Are they in on a percentage of the deal? Is it a flat thing per appointment?
Kevin Markarian: It’s hourly.
Oliver Graf: Hourly?
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. Hourly, and then there’s a compensation once deals close.
Oliver Graf: So they get little bonuses, so hourly plus bonuses, and they get to choose what agent they’re sending each lead to?
Kevin Markarian: This is now the operation side. This is gold right here. We have multiple chats that are going all day, so all the communication’s happening nonstop. And so when, let’s say, an inside salesperson connects with someone, they’re going to post it in the chat, which is myself, our operations manager, all the other inside salespeople, our lenders are on that chat and they’re going to say, “Hey, I just talked to this person. They want to do this. They want to sell their home on this date. They want to have a listing, they want to meet with someone to list or talk about listing their home on this time, this day. Who should I send it to?” And so then all of us, it’s a collaboration, so we just say, “Okay, well let’s send it to this person because they live nearby or they just sold a house down the street. Let’s do this.” So it’s always, it’s just-
Oliver Graf: So who’s in on that management chat? Your lenders, yourself, your ISAs-
Kevin Markarian: It’s myself, my lenders are in on it, but the decisions are usually made among myself, our operations manager, and then the other inside salespeople. So I want to give them power.
Oliver Graf: So they feel like they have some control over who’s taking their leads and-
Kevin Markarian: And rightfully so, because they’re in there every day in the trenches far more than I am. They’re in there, they’re talking to people all day. They’re the unsung heroes. And I’ll say it, they’re the backbone, they have the heartbeat of our company. All agents at our company should be best friends with our inside sales person. And again, it’s just every meeting, every conversation is always about how are we going to make our agents’ business grow? What are we doing today to help our business, our agents’ business, go to the next level? How are we helping them work with more clients? That’s our objective every day, all day. That’s it. So that’s our focus. And again, it goes back to “What has my brokerage done for me lately?” We’re doing things every day, all day, non-stop for agents.
Oliver Graf: If your broker is handing you appointments, then that’s obviously a very high value in comparison to a broker that just provides a desk and a phone. Right?
Kevin Markarian: Right. That’s over, man.
Oliver Graf: That’s great.
Kevin Markarian: So it’s just all about creating opportunities, but what’s nice about it is now, well first is we’re also teaching agents how to do that, our agents, our own agents, and we’ve now started expanding into other markets with team leaders, brokers and people from all over the country that are now reaching out to us, that have found out about us, that want to kind of take our model and use it in their own business and partner up.
Kevin Markarian: And we started something called Market Advantage and it allows us to, basically it’s a platform where people that are heavy producers or like I said, team leaders, brokers that want to implement this model into their own business can do that. And we just partner up on that.
Oliver Graf: So, you’re outsourcing the system.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: So what does that look like? Someone say has, I don’t know, I have a database with 3000 names in it. I come to you and you release the hounds and start prospecting them, texting, emailing, following up and there’s a rev share or-
Kevin Markarian: That, even further, because like I said earlier, we’ve taken this model and implemented it into multiple businesses. We’re helping them recruit as well because this can be implemented into anything. It’s the same concept, just different wording. So we’re helping them recruit, we’re helping them with marketing, we’re helping them with systems, with growing their businesses, and we’re partnering with them.
Kevin Markarian: So basically, let’s just say you came to me, you wanted to do this. You keep everything you already have, your own deals, your own business, your own team, whatever you’re already doing. Cool, that’s yours. But anything we do together mutually, we benefit from mutually. So you get our staff, you get our systems, you get our model, you get everything. And anything we do that we build beyond what you’ve already had in place is what we work on together, what we benefit. That’s where we kind of get involved.
Oliver Graf: That’s great.
Kevin Markarian: And it’s been good.
Oliver Graf: Smart.
Kevin Markarian: I mean, we’ve reached out, we’re working with lots of great people right now. It’s really exciting.
Oliver Graf: Because a lot of people have the database, but they don’t have the tools. They don’t have the systems, they don’t have the automation, they don’t know how to do it. They don’t have the web developers and all the stuff that you need to kind of make that happen.
Kevin Markarian: I mean, it’s taken 15 years to build this. You don’t do it overnight. It sounds like I said, it is easy. I mean, I want to say it’s easy because I built it. It’s all from what’s easy to me, but it’s like, if I go into your business and what you find easy is probably super hard for me. So it’s the same thing. But yeah, it’s been great. We’ve really helped a lot of people and that’s what it’s about. Initially, when we started with leads and all that, it’s really about empowering other people. That’s what drives me. That’s what makes me really go is, I love seeing, I have text messages from people that tell me their biggest check they’ve ever received, like, “Wow, this is the biggest thing for my family.”
Oliver Graf: Life changing.
Kevin Markarian: Life changing. “I’ve done more deals than ever. Thank you.” Those are the things that get me going. And really if you think about what all of this entails is giving people freedom, giving people options, and helping them achieve their goals. That’s what’s exciting to me.
Oliver Graf: That is exciting. It’s very cool, man. It’s a great opportunity, great little niche that you’ve carved out for yourself in terms of how you’re competing against other brokers and your own value proposition. And then not only that, but almost franchising it to now being able to offer the system to other brokers.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. And working with this company because of their logo or brand, that’s, I mean, to me, go ahead.
Oliver Graf: That’s old school.
Kevin Markarian: I mean, you’re really missing out, I’m sorry. Really. Truly.
Oliver Graf: You gave some great insight as to your team’s value proposition, how you’re attracting them, how you’re keeping them, how your team’s set up with ISAs, setting them appointments and all that stuff. What are you doing now to grow? Because you got on the Inc. 500 which is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations.
Kevin Markarian: Thank you.
Oliver Graf: What does your growth strategy look like now?
Kevin Markarian: It’s all about growing with the right people, so no end in sight in terms of growth, but just growing with the right people. And three things that we always look for in individuals that we want to grow with and want to join our team is someone who’s willing to work extremely hard. Someone who’s collaborative, transparent, willing to share, because we’re on chats, we’re sharing, we’re talking about ideas. You and I, we’re always giving each other our secrets and stuff like that. And then someone who’s nice, someone I want to talk to, someone I want to deal with. So it’s really-
Oliver Graf: What are the three?
Kevin Markarian: Someone who’s willing to work hard, extremely hard.
Oliver Graf: Okay, hardworking.
Kevin Markarian: Transparent and collaborative.
Oliver Graf: Collaborative.
Kevin Markarian: And nice.
Oliver Graf: And nice.
Kevin Markarian: And that’s it.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, no a-holes.
Kevin Markarian: No a-holes. So that’s really what we look for. And then in terms of growth it’s just, The nice part of what about what we do is there’s no border. Digitally, we can be anywhere, it can be everywhere. And that’s our objective is to be everywhere all the time. We talk about that. And now with sharing our business model with people, other agents that we want to provide this opportunity to, we’ve been really focusing on digital marketing. We’ve been focusing on demographic targeting like on social media and being visible and just sharing the opportunity. And that’s really what we’ve been doing and actually been very successful in doing that as well. And again, it comes back down to the foundation, which is the system, the model. It can be implemented into any business, any business. So it’s just really ultimately where we can provide the most opportunity. If there’s a market that looks interesting, it’s just a matter of turning it on and everything’s in place to convert and to create opportunities.
Oliver Graf: So, let’s talk about that, because you just recently came into Orange County and turned it on. So how are you managing that being in NorCal and Southern California, and then how are you making sure that the agents here are getting the same experience that they’re getting in San Francisco?
Kevin Markarian: It’s very, very easy. Again, because of our value proposition and our business model, it’s kind of digital anyway. So I mean, we do have office meetings, we have events that we do and we’re having an event on January 31st where we bring people in and we do that kind of thing. But we just run it from here. We’re creating opportunities. It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you’re willing to get out and meet with clients, that’s what’s important. So we have lots of little drop-in spaces all over.
Oliver Graf: And how are you giving agents the personal one-on-one attention that they need, splitting your time between the two markets?
Kevin Markarian: I mean, we do trainings every day. A lot of our communication is done. I mean, we make phone calls. Even like you said, you guys have a thousand agents and the number of agents that actually come into the office every day physically is a very small percentage. So a lot of phone calls, a lot of video conferencing. If we need to have a meeting face-to-face, it’s easy. I’ll just get on a flight, it’s an hour away. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a problem. But we do training every single day and we do it on Zoom. So we do a lot of video conferencing, daily training, daily education that’s being provided.
Oliver Graf: And what do those daily trainings look like for your team? Is that a 15 minute power huddle or is it full-on in-depth stuff or is it a mix of both?
Kevin Markarian: We’re on the go all the time. I mean, I remember going to office meetings, it was just a nightmare. I personally did not enjoy-
Oliver Graf: No one likes office meetings.
Kevin Markarian: It was just not enjoyable. And then a lot of the content sucked, and at the time, thinking back to some of the meetings I went to around like 2008 and 2009, they’re always negative, how the market’s down. And that just, I left there feeling deflated. I don’t ever want to ever have an agent on my team or anyone feeling deflated. I want always positive, feeling good, feeling positive, feeling confident. That’s what we’re, we need that as salespeople.
Kevin Markarian: We need the confidence, we need the support, we need to feel emotionally strong, so our meetings and plus with everyone being on the go these days, they’re very short maybe between … The daily meetings are on Zoom, so you can be on your way to an appointment or what have you. You can be on your phone, you can be driving, listening in on your Bluetooth or whatever. And it’s between 15 to 25 minutes and we actually leverage and reach out to our vendors and ask our vendors and our business to run the meetings for us. So I’m not involved.
Oliver Graf: And is that same time every day, just-
Kevin Markarian: It’s nine o’clock every day. And then-
Oliver Graf: And they’re optional, just listen if you can?
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. So everything’s optional. The opportunity is being provided to you. If you want to take advantage of it, there’s no end. You can take advantage of, I mean, we’re going to do it all for you. We have something called Marker Concierge, which I actually picked up from you guys, which is basically do anything for any agent in our company outside of paying their bills.
Oliver Graf: Right.
Kevin Markarian: So we’ll do it all. So you want a table booked at a restaurant, we got it. Book dog grooming, we will do dog grooming, whatever.
Oliver Graf: We always say the same thing. Yes is always the right answer as long as it’s legal and ethical.
Kevin Markarian: Exactly. So we have that available to our agents. But yeah, the trainings every day we do, we bring in speakers from all over the country. And again, it’s brand agnostic. Again, it’s a collaborative, transparent mindset. It’s an abundant mindset. I’m not afraid. I don’t care what company you work with. I know what you’re about. I know you’re a solid business person. I want to learn from you.
Oliver Graf: And that’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about you, and I think that we look at it the same way, is that you’re always very open with sharing your ideas. You’re very transparent. You’re not trying to hide what you’re doing over here like a lot of people do that are scarcity mindset. And I think that we all win together by sharing. Google calls it coopertition. Even though we’re competitors, we can still learn from each other. We can still share, we can still build each other up to make the overall experience better for the whole industry.
Kevin Markarian: And we can benefit from each other. Now you and I are business partners, because of this mentality. And we’re competitors at the same time. I don’t consider it competition.
Oliver Graf: No, exactly.
Kevin Markarian: I consider it as a learning experience. And then what ends up happening is, I’ve got this bubble situation where all the people, a lot of people that I know, the majority of them, think like me, they think with this abundant mindset. So it’s unusual when I find people that don’t.
Oliver Graf: And you don’t want to hang out with them.
Kevin Markarian: But that’s the majority. The majority of people are that way. But what I find is the most successful people are the most abundant, are the most willing to share, are the most willing to get on a phone call. And that’s something else that I did really early on was I’d pick up the phone, if I go to an event or if I’d watch something on YouTube or whatever, I see a successful person, I’ll reach out to them. It’s okay. I don’t care. Maybe you feel like they’re unapproachable or unattainable, but just call them. In the end, you’d be surprised. So that’s just a big part of the mindset, is just having an abundant mindset. If you think about people that hold back and don’t want to share and all that, I can find out what you’re doing, I’ll just Google it.
Oliver Graf: There’s lots of spy tools out there to find out what people are doing.
Kevin Markarian: So I might as well just work with other people that are doing things at a high level. And you’ll be surprised what you might find.
Oliver Graf: I love it and couldn’t agree more. I think that, to your point, the more we all share in the real estate industry, we’re all in this together. There’s a lot to learn from each other and there’s plenty of business to go around.
Kevin Markarian: Absolutely. Yeah.
Oliver Graf: So now I want to ask you something that you said the other day that made me laugh. You said you set up your business like the ’85 bears defense.
Kevin Markarian: Blitz.
Oliver Graf: And I love that. I love that because it paints a perfect picture. It just sounds cool. So tell me about how you do that and what that means to you.
Kevin Markarian: Well, if you think about the ’85 bears, the 1985 Chicago bears, it was one of the best teams ever assembled in NFL history. And one of the things with that team, why they were so great, is they had the best defense and what they did on their defense is that they would blitz and blitzing is where you just kind of go all out. You bring all your people in and go after the quarterback. And it’s a mentality of very high pressure, high … Give me, help me out, it’s just intensity.
Oliver Graf: You got to move fast. You got to make a play or you’re toast. Immediately.
Kevin Markarian: Full blitz, full wall, full out-
Oliver Graf: High press.
Kevin Markarian: High press, full-court press. That’s our business. How we operate our marketing is very much like if you compare it to the Chicago Bears 46, hardest defense ever is just all-out digital marketing. So we’re blasting emails, we’re sending out massive email campaigns to everyone and we’re going all out with our Facebook and our social media blasts and we’re doing texting, calling. It’s just nonstop. So it’s constant and it’s full press and it’s very in your face. But what ends up happening with that is if somebody gets like, imagine you’re a quarterback and you have this team that’s running at you nonstop.
Oliver Graf: Nonstop.
Kevin Markarian: After a while you’re going to get to know who that person is if they’re destroying you on every down. So it’s the same thing with our marketing. By the time the people that we want to see us get to meet us, they already know who I am, they know everything about us. So it makes the conversation so much easier.
Oliver Graf: Because you’re in their face all the time.
Kevin Markarian: In their face all the time. They know my logo. Like you said, we’re a boutique brokerage, it’s funded yours truly. You know what I mean? There’s nothing going on behind the scenes. It’s an independent company. We’re competing against the most highly-funded companies, some of them in the world, like with, some of them you know who they are, right?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Kevin Markarian: But we’re winning. We’re doing well, we’re holding our own and it’s because we’re visible. You might be able to beat me with stakes in the ground with listings, but you’re not going to beat me digitally. And guess what? People are spending more time digital. So I’m going to be more visible. I can compete with anyone. If I want you to see who we are, we can do that very easily, and by the time you come and get in front of me, you’re already going to know my story.
Kevin Markarian: You’re going to know everything about me. You’re already convinced. And so these are the things that we can do as individuals, as agents, as teams or whatever to our client base. We can become celebrities to a very small group of people. It’s not difficult. It’s just knowing what to do, which buttons to press. And that’s another thing that we offer at our company is, these are things that we would offer to an agent that joins our team.
Oliver Graf: Plug in. We’ve got the blitz machine.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. So, if you’re focusing on a farm, that’s how I leveled the playing field is digitally. Even when we moved to San Francisco it was like, “How do I compete with an agent that’s been farming and dominating this market for 20 years?” We do it digitally and that’s where people are spending most of their time anyway. That’s where I want to be anyway.
Oliver Graf: I love that. And it makes perfect sense. Because the other day you said something about blitz marketing and I didn’t really understand what you meant at the time, but now that we’re bringing it full-circle with the Bears analogy, now it makes total sense cause you’re just blitzing in terms of being in their face. Whether they look left, right, forward, you’re always there.
Kevin Markarian: And what’s great about it is that anyone can do it. Again, it comes back down to the ease of this. It’s so easy. Anyone can do it. I’m not the most educated person in the world, but I can do it. It’s easy. It’s just knowing what to do and pushing the right buttons and make it happen.
Oliver Graf: So what does that look like to you? What does the blitz marketing campaign look like?
Kevin Markarian: Last month we sent out probably 275,000 emails. Someone looking at that might think that we’re stupidly low, and sorry for making this seem like it’s a big deal.
Oliver Graf: That seems ridiculously high to me.
Kevin Markarian: But 275,000 emails, let’s say, probably double that in text messages, phone calls. And then hundreds of thousands of people that we’re targeting, and these are people that we want to be in front of them. If I want you to see what I’m doing, I can make that happen.
Oliver Graf: It’s pretty easy to find people these days.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. So it’s not hard. And it’s-
Oliver Graf: And where are you spending most of your money right now? What’s your best lead source in terms of ROI?
Kevin Markarian: Well, we’re doing a lot with online lead generation in terms of clicking and stuff like that. So we spent a ton on realtor.com. They’re a great partner of ours. They’ve been phenomenal. A lot of, again, back down to Facebook, we do a ton of Facebook ads. We’ve been working actually with Zillow too. And so here’s my thing on this. So I know people are like, “Oh fuck Zillow.” So my thing with that is, I’m not here to change the world, right? I’m just going to thrive in the world that exists and I’m going to benefit from it. So you can be saying whatever you want. Like F this, F that.
Oliver Graf: Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Kevin Markarian: Hate the game. So while your hating the game and while you’re sitting on the sidelines, I’m making money. So that’s what we do. That’s my opinion on that and whatever happens down the road, we’ll see what happens. But in the meantime, I’m cashing checks.
Oliver Graf: So realtor.com is your best lead source right now?
Kevin Markarian: I like realtor.com.
Oliver Graf: That’s great.
Kevin Markarian: I like realtor.com. They’re doing some really interesting things right now.
Oliver Graf: I keep hearing you say social. How are you backing it all up with social? Is social more of a, once you’ve got the lead then you target them or are you cold? Are you going cold on the social channels as well or what does your social look like?
Kevin Markarian: All of the above. So if you already have a list that you’ve paid for, you might as well maximize that list. You might as well maximize the dollars that you’ve spent, so we’re targeting people that we’ve already engaged with and were reaching out to cold lists and that’s okay. We’re introducing ourselves, saying hello. So there’s nothing wrong with saying hello. Hello. That’s how we’ve really thrived in markets where, like San Clemente, nobody knows, we’re brand new. So we’re reaching out. And so by the time again, people come to, I meet people and they’re like, “Oh, I saw your video, I saw this, I saw your marketing. I know that logo. Oh wait, I’ve seen that before. Oh my God, yeah, okay. Great.”
Kevin Markarian: I’m like, “Yeah, I know. We do way more better marketing than the company that you’re with.” And then we put on events and just become-
Oliver Graf: Get out there.
Kevin Markarian: Get out there. Just put yourself out there. But a lot of it can be done just from your bedroom.
Oliver Graf: And what’s all the tech that you’re using to run all these systems? Follow Up Boss is obviously your CRM. Are you using any other tools that are helping you facilitate this lead conversion machine that you’ve built?
Kevin Markarian: Verse. We’ve been working with Verse.
Oliver Graf: Okay, Verse, that was formerly Agentology.
Kevin Markarian: Formerly Agentology.
Oliver Graf: Cool. Shout out to David Tall and his brother, Avi.
Kevin Markarian: David Tall. Yep.
Oliver Graf: Good dudes.
Kevin Markarian: Really good dudes.
Oliver Graf: Very successful.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: Started in the real estate niche and then saw it working and then branched out to other businesses, which is what we love to see.
Kevin Markarian: They’re now in the everything niche.
Oliver Graf: Everything space. So if you’ve got leads, they can help convert.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. So we work with them. We work with Call Action. RealScout’s been a great partner.
Oliver Graf: RealScout.
Kevin Markarian: RealScout’s been tremendous in our success and helping with our growth and response. So it’s really about creating leverage where things happen when I’m not there, where messages are going out, responses are happening. So Follow Up Boss, RealScout, Call Action, Verse, PowerISA has been great. A lot of the virtual assistant companies from the Philippines, virtue desk been good. MyOutDesk has been good.
Oliver Graf: Nice. Dropping some gems right now.
Kevin Markarian: Dropping some gems, yeah. So, so like agent … one of the other ones. Lion desk is cool. I like LionDesk. So, LionDesk, let’s say for example as a CRM, you don’t have to use it as a CRM. We don’t, we use it for something else. It’s just playing around.
Oliver Graf: We talked about this a little bit earlier, but I think one of your superpowers is setting up systems and getting all of these systems to work within your system and then also getting all your staff to work within your system. So why don’t you tell me a little bit about just how you’re building these systems and then how you’re building them so that they can be plug and play so that anybody can follow it.
Kevin Markarian: Well, the way we built the platform is not just me. We have people that are involved that give us feedback, that give me feedback. We’ll put an idea out and then everyone gets their little-
Oliver Graf: They get to shoot holes in it.
Kevin Markarian: Shoot holes in it or give us better ideas. Ashley is the Operations Manager. She’s always really giving great ideas and Justin and we’re just playing back and forth. But it’s all about just kind of looking at it as an art form. It’s weird, a lot of my family members are artists and musicians-
Oliver Graf: I like that, I’m a big art guy. So tell me more about what you mean by that.
Kevin Markarian: If you think about in business, I’ve always considered it, it’s weird to say, but it’s like I’m making art. And there’s no limit. Just create whatever you want. There’s no one to say you can’t do it a certain way.
Oliver Graf: I love that analogy and I actually couldn’t agree more because as you paint something, you build the foundation, and then you start filling in the color and filling in the contrast and making it beautiful at the end, which is just like building a business. You build the foundation, then you build the pieces around the foundation and then you color it all in and make it look beautiful.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, I have uncles and cousins that are beautiful musicians and beautiful artists, but I suck at all that. But I’ve taken, I think, that part of my DNA-
Oliver Graf: The creative side.
Kevin Markarian: The creative side is, I’ve been able to implement it into business and it’s just creating a model with no limits and there’s no reason to say no or just try different things and not be afraid and, and that’s a big part of what we do.
Oliver Graf: And then how are you building the systems to make them duplicatable so that if Tom leaves, Joe can just take over?
Kevin Markarian: Simplicity.
Oliver Graf: No idea who Tom and Joe are.
Kevin Markarian: Just try to keep things simple. I remember starting out, and this is really important, whatever you build, if you leave, somebody should be able to pick up where you left off. That’s how you know you’ve grown something good, because the more complicated, the more intricate and all that, the harder it really becomes.
Oliver Graf: Totally agree.
Kevin Markarian: If you make it simple so that anyone can pick up where you left off-
Oliver Graf: Not only simple, we always say you got to make it so simple that Homer Simpson could understand it.
Kevin Markarian: Totally. And so that’s what we try to do. And in terms of how we’ve built it so it’s replicatable, I mean, it’s kind of hard to answer, but … I don’t know how to answer.
Oliver Graf: How do you approach it to make it duplicatable though? I mean, is it because you have great software? Is it because you have great people?
Kevin Markarian: Interesting. I mean all those things, definitely. But I think it has to work for us first. I mean, it has to work for us first before it can work for anyone else. So we just do our best to make it work for us. And then once we’ve kind of got it down, then it’s really just about writing it out.
Oliver Graf: So you’re really battle testing it all first, making sure it’s the way you like it, then turning it into a system.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, and I mean everything that we’ve done for the most part is easy to replicate, I think. Not I think, I know. We have replicated it and that’s how we’ve moved from San Francisco to San Clemente.
Oliver Graf: Multiple markets, yeah.
Kevin Markarian: Multiple markets and all these things. It’s just trying. Trial and error and experiencing it and then packaging it. The hardest part for me has been to write it all out, put it all down because everything’s here, so you put it all out and write it out so that somebody else can understand it. And the way we’ve done that is I’ve asked other people to write it out. I’ve asked other people that we work with that are very involved in what we do to write it out. I don’t want to be the one to write it out because then I don’t know if somebody else will understand it. So if somebody else-
Oliver Graf: Someone else, that’s actually a really good tip. Someone else writes it out, you verify it, knowing the information, and then you can decide if it makes sense or not. Make whatever tweaks to massage it. And then you’ve got yourself assisted.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So it’s just really about recruiting. It’s about lead generation, it’s about creating opportunities for agents. It’s so many things and I’ve learned a lot from you as well and with Sam. You guys have it dialed in as well and really it’s just about taking from lots of different things and you have your way of doing things and you’ve probably, I’m sure you’ve done it too, is just learning from other people and then playing around and trying different things.
Oliver Graf: It’s back to the art thing, right? Take your different inspirations and then paint your own picture. That’s how I look at it anyway. You’re doing well, you’re successful, you have a great company, great brokerage. What are you investing in these days?
Kevin Markarian: More businesses.
Oliver Graf: Okay. I love that answer. What type of business, specifically?
Kevin Markarian: Businesses that are related to my existing business. We’re working with, just started an HD company, so a recording company, that’s required on every transaction in California. Mortgage, other real estate brokerages, we actually just partnered with you guys up in Sacramento.
Oliver Graf: Right. So profit centers that you can bolt on to the business that you already have is basically-
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, easy stuff. I mean, these are things you’re not reinventing.
Oliver Graf: You’re not opening a restaurant.
Kevin Markarian: No. Every transaction, if you think about how much commerce takes place around every transaction, those are pieces of the business that we need to be taking advantage of. And as agents or brokers, we’re the rainmakers on those businesses, so we might as well just own them, so those are things that I’ve been investing in. Really just focusing on that, and being approached by people from, we’re really honored to work with these people from all over that are reaching out and asking to partner up or start brokerages. We just partnered with, like I said, my manager when I was 22 years old, she and I just started something in Oklahoma City.
Oliver Graf: That’s great.
Kevin Markarian: Which is cool. So doing things like that.
Oliver Graf: I was going to ask you this question, but I think that you already answered it and it’s, if you were to go into a new market where you didn’t know anyone and you had to start over, what would you do?
Kevin Markarian: What do you think I would do?
Oliver Graf: But I’m guessing that you would start buying internet leads, plug them into your system, and then start transitioning halfway and do a slow transition just like you did to San Francisco.
Kevin Markarian: So easy, anyone can do it in any market, can level the playing field with the top person in any market. I mean, it takes dollars, but if you can do it, I mean if you’ve got the dollars and you’ve got the little bit of knowhow, I can compete with anyone in any market.
Oliver Graf: Are you running all that stuff yourself, your Facebook ads and all your stuff?
Kevin Markarian: No, no, no.
Oliver Graf: Do you hire an agency for that?
Kevin Markarian: We kind of are an agency now with the Marker Advantage Platform that we’re offering to people all over the country, but we have people on staff that are running the ads that are doing the entire blast.
Oliver Graf: So, you brought it all in-house.
Kevin Markarian: With regards to the tech that we’re using, we’re using LionDesk, we’re using Facebook, we’re using RealScout, we’re using Call Action, Agent Legend.
Oliver Graf: And I just love the way you see it. You see it very simply, you don’t overcomplicate things, you automate everything. And I think ultimately that’s the name of the game. And that’s why you’re winning at such a high level.
Kevin Markarian: Automate, leverage, and create opportunities and empower other people to take over where I was. And it’s hard for me, I feel weird.
Oliver Graf: Duplicate yourself. You’re almost duplicating yourself over and over and over again.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, exactly.
Oliver Graf: And that’s how you can scale.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah. One of my problems is, I don’t want to feel like I’m above anything or anyone or whatever, but I just think of myself, if I was younger and I looked at someone that was doing well, I’d want to be in their spot. So I’m just creating new spots for people, and they can go into those slots and I can do other things.
Oliver Graf: And then helping people level up.
Kevin Markarian: Helping them level up, helping me level up and do different things and freedom. It’s creating freedom, creating opportunity.
Oliver Graf: I love it, man. It’s been a great conversation, very insightful. Me and Kevin also run the Real Closers Facebook group with a couple of our good friends. It’s totally free to join. If you’d like to connect with us, go on facebook.com, Real Closers. If you like the show, subscribe. If you have any questions, leave us a comment down below and Kevin will get back. He’s really good about following up with people and making sure there’s no unanswered questions. Give us a like and we’ll look forward to seeing you on the next one. Thanks a lot. Cheers.
Kevin Markarian: For what you guys are doing. Like the hundred percent model and there’s obviously a value within your model that’s very attractive to people because they don’t have to pay a big commission and that’s something that’s huge, right?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Kevin Markarian: It’s a big reason why people join your company. How do you see brokerages? How do you see brokerages competing against a company like yours? I mean, how do they compete against a hundred percent model?
Oliver Graf: I mean ultimately this is something we talk a lot with one of our mentors, Mike Ferry, and ultimately at the end of the day it’s about the value proposition. If you think that you’re going to put agents on a 70/ 30 split and all you’re doing is offering an office and floor time and stuff that really no one cares about, we’re going to eat you alive, but someone like yourself that has, you’re taking a split but you’re actually earning that split, I think that’s going to be the name of the game. It’s really, is adding the value for the amount that you’re taking and not only adding value, but over delivering on the value in terms of what you’re asking for in return.
Kevin Markarian: So how can those companies compete then? If there’s a company like yours that’s doing a hundred percent, company like ours that’s doing lead gen and creating opportunities, how can a quote unquote traditional, where do you see those guys in the next five years?
Oliver Graf: I see them needing to step up their game in a major way or they’re, it’s like Blockbuster. The industry is changing. You’re either going to change with it or you’re going to go extinct.
Kevin Markarian: I love that, dude. Straight up.
Oliver Graf: Blockbuster. I’m going to start using that, I swear.
Kevin Markarian: That’s such a great analogy.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, man. Things are changing …
Kevin Markarian: Those companies are the Blockbuster of our industry, and if you’re working at a Blockbuster company, really think about that because what is the value? What is the value proposition? What’s the value that’s being provided by the broker and you guys solved it, man, and you’re doing it in a major way. There’s not a lot of companies out there that, not only will you give the agents 100% of their commission, but I know what’s important. I know concierge and service and support is a big part of your business model. So it’s like, how does anyone compete with that? That’s huge.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, man. I mean that’s what us and probably everybody else is trying to do. They’re trying to build a business that can’t be competed with. The harder you make it for your competitors, I think the better.
Oliver Graf: I got a question for you.
Kevin Markarian: Go ahead.
Oliver Graf: I’m going to flip the script on you.
Kevin Markarian: Do it, flip it.
Oliver Graf: If you could carpool karaoke one song, what would it be?
Kevin Markarian: Carpool karaoke one song?
Michelle: Oh, we’ve got to do this.
Kevin Markarian: Well, since I’m from Northern California and I’m from the Bay Area, I’d say Mac Dre, Feelin’ Myself.
Oliver Graf: Mac Dre. Ooh. That’s hard.
Kevin Markarian: That’s some old school.
Oliver Graf: That’s old school. I like it.
Kevin Markarian: What about you?
Oliver Graf: Michelle, what would yours be?
Michelle: My carpool karaoke? Probably more like some Earth, Wind, and Fire or something old school like that.
Oliver Graf: Wow.
Kevin Markarian: That’s way old school.
Oliver Graf: Wow.
Kevin Markarian: That might be as old as this car.
Oliver Graf: It probably is. 1964.
Kevin Markarian: Dude, this car’s bad ass, by the way.
Michelle: Is it just me, or does he drive this thing like he drives his Maserati?
Oliver Graf: Yeah, it’s dope. I like it.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, we’re going fast.
Oliver Graf: His dead Maserati.
Kevin Markarian: The only problem is this car has got like 32 horsepower, when the Maserati had like 700 or 500 or something crazy.
Oliver Graf: It doesn’t quite compete.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, it doesn’t quite compete. So what would yours be?
Michelle: Yeah, what would yours be?
Oliver Graf: Man, to be honest, it would probably be like some old school Snoop and Dre.
Kevin Markarian: Gin and Juice?
Oliver Graf: Maybe some Gin and Juice.
Kevin Markarian: Some Ain’t No Fun?
Oliver Graf: Maybe some Ain’t No Fun. Yeah, you know. All those.
Kevin Markarian: I love it.
Oliver Graf: Love it. Hell yeah. What do you think about iBuyers and how they’re going to affect what we’ve got going on in this industry?
Kevin Markarian: Well, I think if you can take advantage of it, and if you’re in the small percentage of people, like the person you just partnered up with and others who have benefited from it, good for you, that’s great. Again, it comes back to don’t hate the player, hate the game. It’s part of the game. It’s where it’s going. So, either adjust and adapt or you’re going to get left behind. And if you’re not a part of it, it’s okay because there’s plenty to go around. Every person’s not going to want to be involved with iBuyer. So, there’s another little competitor that you have to deal with.
Oliver Graf: That’s a good way to look at it. And to be honest, they are just another competitor and an easy way for you to be able to compete with that as an agent would be to partner with any investor in your market that’s doing five to ten closings a month, which in any major market there’s going to be a lot of those types of people. It’s really about just going to them and saying, “Hey, I want to create an instant offer program. Will you be my investor? And I’m sure they’ll say yes because that’s what they’re in the business of doing. And now all of a sudden you can compete and you can go into any listing appointment to say, “Hey, I can get you an all cash offer on your listings within 24 hours.” And now all of a sudden you’re on the same playing field.
Kevin Markarian: Well, that option has been available forever, but now Zillow just gave you an idea that you could rip off and duplicate so you can take advantage of it. And it’s easy.
Oliver Graf: I think it used to be an option and now it’s no longer an option. It’s something that you need to have as part of your tool belt.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, as a part of your arsenal. Absolutely. And there’s plenty of ambassadors out there that would love to partner up with you as an agent to take advantage of those opportunities. So yeah, I mean, it’s fine. There’s always going to be a disruption. There’s always going to be people trying to take market share, but are they going to take all of it? No.
Oliver Graf: No.
Kevin Markarian: And there’s too many. I think there’s too many doom and gloomers out there, way too many doom and gloomers out there that are thinking the sky is falling. It’s not falling. Just stop fucking complaining.
Oliver Graf: Some days are just more cloudy than others.
Kevin Markarian: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. And this is where I ended up crashing, dude, right over here.
Kevin Markarian: Bro. We should start a reality show.
Oliver Graf: Let’s do it.
Kevin Markarian: Should we start a reality show?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Kevin Markarian: Would you watch if we did it?
Oliver Graf: Yeah, would you do it? Should we do it?
Kevin Markarian: We should do it.
Michelle: You should.
Kevin Markarian: We’ll just drive around this Beetle all day and just be like, “What’s up guys?”
“Two things matter most in anything that we do: It comes down to desire, and it comes down to ability.”
“Show me how you do anything, and I’ll show you how you do everything.”
“Know your personnel and understand who they are and what they’re good at.”
“Lead generation is the foundation of any service-related business.”
“The differentiator is we’ve got the best, most robust platform to create opportunities for agents to do more deals.”
“There’s no theory in what I do. Everything I do is because of actual experience. I can tell you how to handle a situation because I’ve been through it.”
“The question we have to ask as agents is, ‘What has my brokerage done for me lately?’”
“It’s really about empowering other people. That’s what drives me.”
“The most successful people are the most abundant, are the most willing to share, are the most willing to get on a phone call.”
“You might be able to beat me with stakes in the ground, with listings, but you’re not going to beat me digitally. And guess what? People are spending more time [on] digital.”
“I’m not here to change the world. I’m just going to thrive in the world that exists.”
“Whatever you build, if you leave, somebody should be able to pick up where you left off. That’s how you know you’ve built something good.”
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Connect with Kevin
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Other episodes of founders club you might like:
How to Invest In (and Flip) Multi-Family Apartment Buildings ft. Kevin Easterly
Cory Boatright – How to Make Big Profits Wholesaling Real Estate
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