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Bonnie Wells 🌊 How she grew her latest company to 8 figures in total sales, in less than 4 years (#1).

Episode 1 🍍90×9.co

Bonnie Wells is a licensed real estate broker and the sole founder of the Coastal Living Real Estate Group. She launched and grew her company to #10 in a highly sought after luxury market that had not seen a single new and successful entrant in more than two decades!





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An exclusive interview with Bonnie Wells, the founder of the Coastal Living Real Estate Group
The Coastal Living Real Estate Team 2019

Bonnie Wells 🌊 How she grew her latest company to 8 figures in total sales, in less than 4 years (#1).

Bonnie Wells is a licensed real estate broker and the sole founder of the Coastal Living Real Estate Group. She launched and grew her company to #10 in a highly sought after luxury market that had not seen a single new and successful entrant in more than two decades!

IN THIS EPISODE, SHE SHARES:

  • How she gained the knowledge and experience needed to launch her latest venture.
  • What life looked like her first year.
  • How she attracted and trained raw talent to grow her business cheaper and faster.
  • The most difficult lessons she was surprised to learn along the way.
  • The tactics she uses to lock in & keep new clients.
  • Her secrets to high customer retention rates.
  • How she uses automation to address passive shoppers.
  • How her team uses careful color choices in clothing as a competitive differentiator.
  • & MORE.




Share this episode

Listen to this podcast on your favorite platform:

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OvercastPocket CastsRadioPublic



Full transcript

Introduction

You’re listening to the 90×9 podcast, sponsored by The Million Dollar Pineapple. I’m your host Adi Fast Growth Executive at The Million Dollar Pineapple, the only growth hacking agency that grows startups to $1,000,000 in gross revenue within 2 years GUARANTEED. Welcome to the 90×9 podcast created by for and about female founders. 

Adi 🍍

Hello and welcome to another episode of 90×9’s podcast. Today we have a very special guest, Bonnie Wells is the founder of the Coastal Living Real Estate Group. Her company has seen explosive growth in what was supposed to be an over saturated, impenetrable market. Let’s hear more from her on this episode of 90×9’s podcast.

Bonnie, thank you so much for coming on the show. I know you’re pressed for time. So let’s dive right in, last year her company ended with …

Bonnie 🌊 

A little over 50 million in sales.

Adi 🍍

$50,000,000 in sales, and how old is the company? 

Bonnie 🌊 

Three years old. 

Adi 🍍

A three year old company with $50 million in sales 

Bonnie 🌊 

For the second year in a row. 

Adi 🍍

Wow. Okay. How did you get started?

Bonnie 🌊 

Well, I got my selling background right after college. I ended up working for a company that was part of Dun and Bradstreet. I was with their sales force for a few years, before entering into the real estate market.

Once I got my real estate license. I went to work for Coldwell Banker. Just so I was able to get the basics down from Coldwell Banker, I went to REMAX and then from REMAX I opened my own company.

Adi 🍍 

… and your first company that you opened was…

Bonnie 🌊

Sovereign Realty. 

Adi 🍍 

And, how many years did you on that for? 

Bonnie 🌊

I ran that for eight years. 

Adi 🍍 

With the second startup, what did you start out with? 

Bonnie 🌊

I had a computer. I had no experience in the market. I was new to the market. 

Adi 🍍 

How did you get your start your first year? 

Bonnie 🌊

The first year I approached someone who was looking to sell their property, and I said that I would work for free, just so we would be able to show our marketing package. I knew that I could do a better job marketing in that area, because most of the people on the island were not driven in the marketing sense. When I offered to do the parcel for free, it was actually subdivided lot. So I marketed it as three lots, a double lot and a triple lot. 

Adi 🍍 

What sort of effect did that have on your business?

Bonnie 🌊

With that our named got out there. It immediately looked like we had three to five listings which put us ahead of the game. 

Adi 🍍

So the first year, what did you manage yourself and what did you outsource? 

Bonnie 🌊

The first year I actually went on YouTube and learned how to code. So I was able to do a WordPress site, which was better than anything that I saw any other agencies offering. So step by step I did the WordPress site. 

I worked at least 10 hours a day, pretty much seven days a week. 

Adi 🍍 

A lot of successful founders talk about how they had to save up enough, to not only support themselves and their families, but also to self fund their startups for a few years before they could begin to take an income. How long did it take you to reach this point? And what were some of the tools and devices that you had to purchase to get you there?

Bonnie 🌊

I did not take anything from the company, for the first two years. The second I did make any

money, I reinvested it into the company. By the second year we became number one in the town and we really launched, just because at that point we had all the technology down. We had purchased three drones, we had the Matterport, we had all the computers, everything that we needed and we just took off. 

Adi 🍍 

Now let’s look at the human capital side of your company. I think what you did is a perfect example for first time founders to follow, because like them, you didn’t have a massive budget to go out and hire a top performance full stack team starting day one. You have make due with the resources you had available to you. So how many people did you have working for you by year two, and how to do track them?

Bonnie 🌊

Six. A very large office will only have 20. 

Adi 🍍 

… and so you attracted those six employees, how? 

Bonnie 🌊

By giving them incentives, a better commission structure, a lot of education. I was running Photoshop classes, ZipForm classes. I brought on a lot of agents that didn’t know real estate, so there was a lot of training involved to make them the best they could be. 

Adi 🍍 

Investing this time and energy into training them and mentoring them on how to do what you did, it really paid off. As we see in year three, you have phenomenal results with people who, barely knew the market a year ago.

Bonnie 🌊

Yes, year three we definitely saw the result of the fruits of our labor. In an area where they’d promised that no one gets in. We immediately, not only broke through, but rose to the top of the market.

Adi 🍍

One piece of advice that is consistently thrown around the startup space, is that you need to prioritize the needs and desires of your clients above everything else. Would you mind sharing an example, with our listeners, of have you and your team go the extra mile for your clients? 

Bonnie 🌊

The first thing I did was purchase the Billboard, and then I put people’s listings on that. “Look at where we have you, we have you in places that other people wouldn’t have you.” Since no one had houses on billboards, that’s what I did. 

A lot of our competitors will say, “We advertise on CNN, Fox News and the Weather Channel”. But they’re not advertising someone’s home, they’re advertising themselves. In each case, we were advertising them.  We were putting our client first and our logo second.

Adi 🍍

What are some things you were surprised to discover really made a difference with your clients? I know you mentioned before that you always have a human talking to them within a few minutes. Whereas competitors, don’t. 

Bonnie 🌊

The real estate process is a very turbulent process. And they usually want something that is seemingly uneventful.  So I think the biggest piece of wisdom that I always give to my agents when they’re working with clients, as well, is, “Always call with the solution. Never call with the problem.”

Adi 🍍

Could you give us an example what this looks like? 

Bonnie 🌊

For instance, let’s say a pipe breaks and the person’s house is leaking, when you call don’t just offer up what the problem is. Call and say these are the three people that I can contact for you that can have it fixed by day’s end and we can have this [solution] to address your issue. 

Adi 🍍

I would love a real estate who did that for us. When it comes retaining your clients base, your internal motto is ….

Bonnie 🌊

At every single stage of the contract, it’s best to always stay on step ahead. 

Adi 🍍 

I think this is a huge differentiator. What’s the client feedback that you get, at the end of their selling experience; with having this type of customer support offered by all of your agents? 

Bonnie 🌊

They will say that I’m the best in the business that I am easy to reach, whether it’s text …

Adi 🍍 

Going above and beyond with this, really paid off for you, because your company is less than five years old, and this morning you were reAdi 🍍ng the statistics and you’re ranked number 10?

Bonnie 🌊

Yes. Number 10 in the county for real estate sales this year.

Adi 🍍

How many deals did you have to close to be number 10? 

Bonnie 🌊

Fourteen deals with an average of $2.2 million per deal. 

Adi 🍍

And the people that competed against you, they closed how many? 

Bonnie 🌊

Over 100. 

Adi 🍍 

So they had to work on over 100 deals because they went for the smaller fish. 


Bonnie 🌊

Yes. 

Adi 🍍 

So you came into a market that was completely saturated. There were no new entrants for decades, and you blew your competition out of the water. How did you decide what you were going to include in your marketing package for the houses that were listing with your company, to differentiate yourself from your competition?

Bonnie 🌊

I would go through and investigate what homes that sold for $50 million offered as a marketing package and we would mimic that package even though the home we were selling was anywhere from $1.5 to $9 million.

Adi 🍍

You are literally modern day, 21st century, living proof that it is worth it, to put in those extra hours in the beginning, to become a major player and make yourself competitive within the luxury market. 

Bonnie 🌊

Exactly, and this is up against about 250 agents. The agents that did come in ahead of me have been there for decades. 

Adi 🍍

Any advice for somebody that’s looking to launch their first startup, not necessarily real estate but their first startup in general?

Bonnie 🌊

Success spells success. Anything from what you’re wearing, to what you’re driving, to the technology you’re using. When we deal so much with the internet these days, being very picky is key. 

When you compare sites, you can’t just be like an “ABC”. You need to be the A and everybody else’s has to be the CD level you just are such a cut above, that people are really able to notice the difference. 

I had to have the best photographer because we were going to be sending everything through to 189 sites. Mediocre photography doesn’t make sense to that market.

Adi 🍍

Aside from being picky about who you choose to outsource various tasks to, such as photography, do you have any other advice for first time founders?

Bonnie 🌊

The other necessity is that you find somebody who’s not going to be working your competition as well. 

Adi 🍍

The lesson you learned with this, with your web designer is crazy. Your first website was hacked…

Bonnie 🌊

Yes, that was my WordPress site, that was our initial site which was better than anything local, but didn’t measure up to the international [competition]. So then I looked up what the best real estate site was…

Adi 🍍 

You looked up the top international websites, you found one that you liked, you sent it to your designer. He made you your own version of this site, and then what happened? 

Bonnie 🌊

Within a short time, one of the agents from REMAX almost mimicked my site. 

Adi 🍍

How? 

Bonnie 🌊

He went right to my developer and bought the same exact site. 

Adi 🍍

I still cannot believe that this happened.

Adi 🍍 

One piece of advice that I hear a lot of successful founders repeat, is that to be successful, you must begin with the end in mind. And here you are another example of how well this works. When you built your site, you didn’t just emulate the best broker in your town, you followed the examples set by the top 10 in the world. And when you created the marketing packages for your clients, who are selling their own homes, you didn’t just follow the first free checklist you could find on Google.  You studied what much larger brokers were offering to their clients with $50 million homes and made that same package available, to sellers with homes priced below $10 million. With all that you are doing, could you just talk us through what it is like when you’re presenting your marketing package to prospective sellers? 

Bonnie 🌊

When I go into a listing presentation, they will say that I think out of the box. They will say that compared to the other agents that are doing the same exact thing and have been doing this for 25 years, on the island, I’m bringing out new ways of advertising their properties. 

So now when you go into a listing presentation, you’re not only telling them that you’re on 180 sites, whether their domestic and international. On top of that you’re giving them a four page brochure versus everyone else’s two page brochure, you’re giving them a 3-D tour, you’re giving them three websites, you’re in the Wall Street Journal, you’re in that Robb Report, Mansion Global, all of that. And then you continue, through Adi 🍍’s wisdom, adding even more ways that we are able to generate visibility, for that property, to get in front of a unique set of potential buyers.

Adi 🍍

When you first started in real estate, growth hacking wasn’t a thing, social media wasn’t even born. Can you tell our listeners what your experience has been like working with social media, using social media optimization tactics and trying out growth hacking for the first time? 

Bonnie 🌊

We were able to take each property and make something with each property, in these social media bursts, which gained us so much more visibility. It really was a surprise to me, because everything else was costing so much, and these were free options, that were able to be done very simply. 

Adi 🍍

Social media optimization really is the name of the game right now. But not a lot of people take the time to do it and really invest time into actually carrying it out.

Bonnie 🌊

Exactly. And you also got us to go with YouTube. You figure 6 million people supposedly go on YouTube a day, looking now, for our properties. That was something that we weren’t doing, but how simple to not just be on the regular real estate sites. But to then come in to YouTube, and then once you’re in YouTube, now you need to get the hashtag and you need everything to get the visibility and focus on specifically the investment person that you want to be able to have see your listing. 

Adi 🍍

At this point in the game we’ve been using growth hacking strategies with your company, for a few years. Which growth hack, would you say, brought in the most surprising results for your company? 

Bonnie 🌊

I really don’t know at this point. I just feel like every time there’s an opportunity that’s unique, I go ahead and take it and I rely on you give me the uniqueness. And then I rely on you to tell me statistically what that’s going to bring me. 

Adi 🍍

No pressure.

All right. So for a first time founder who cannot afford to hire of growth hacker or full stack marketing team, what are some things that you’ve done that you’ve really benefited from, that they could try to do on their own? 

Bonnie 🌊

You can be in the middle of a book or you can instead take the cover. I’ve gotten to the point where I find out what covers of magazines are available, and now for Homes & Land I take every April and October issue. Now as I’m dealing with people, I know that I’m going to have those two covers. 

A brand new magazine just took off down on the island, and I immediately bought the inside cover. Now we’re talking $6,000 for that one inside that they immediately opened, but that’s my cover until I decide to sell it. I grabbed the grocery cart, that cart is mine until I decide to sell it. 

Adi 🍍

What she means by grab the grocery cart, she put a photo of her team with her company’s logo and contact information, on the inside panel of every single grocery cart, at the grocery store in her local area. If somebody grabs a grocery cart to go shopping, every time they look down at their cart, they see her logo and her team smiling

Bonnie 🌊

… and they will make jokes like “We went shopping with you today.”  But based on that, they’re also using us and we’re number one in that town. On that grocery cart it specifically says, in this town alone, we sold 50 million last year.  We were number 1 by about $20 million and it averaged about a million dollars a week.  

Adi 🍍

You are really hitting with six cylinders. 

Bonnie 🌊

Yes. Always knowing that somebody is right on our heels. So that’s where I have to go back to you and say what’s next, we have to stay ahead. No pressure. 

Adi 🍍

You have me on speed dial. 

Something that’s pretty common in the real estate market is passive buyers. People who are looking to buy at some point in the future, but they’re not going to make the move until they see something that really excites them. How do you handle these types of people, who may be in your sales funnel for quite a long time, before they make a purchase? 

Bonnie 🌊

When you’re dealing with somebody who’s just looking for a sale, they might not buy for a few years. But you want to be able to have an organization within your structure that you’re able to reach out to them constantly, that they’re on auto feeds and things like that, where you’re sometimes weighing in on the email like this is a good one to look at.

Adi 🍍

You don’t just put them on to an email marketing automation workflow, and let them sit there until they reach out to you.

Bonnie 🌊

It’s really a lot of hand holding, that you end up dealing with. But that’s usually what people like to see. They want to be able to know that their agent is always actively with them. 

Adi 🍍

Now let’s cover something that very few people talk about, physical appearance. Everyone says that appearances don’t matter, but when you walk in wearing the right clothing and speaking like professional the difference between that and somebody walking in, in jeans and a T-shirt is monumental. Who did you pick to where? 

Bonnie 🌊

They know us on the island is the blue people, and when we went with our colors, we went with a very strong, very dark navy blue. Just because our Yacht Club attire is the navy blue blazer with khaki pants. So our men wear the navy blue blazer with a yellow tie, which is like a Vineyard Vines tie and the girls are all in a Lilly Pulitzer [navy] blue dress. 

We are always dressed to present a home. A lot of the agents on the island, you’ll see them in anything from a flannel shirt to jeans and they’re not producers. When you’re trying to sell a property that is over a million dollars, you should really be pretty prepare to look as professional as possible, in that environment.

Adi 🍍

All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast and for taking time out of your hectic schedule to join us for this.

Bonnie 🌊

Well, thank you for having me.

Adi 🍍

I will see all of you on social media. Have a good day.

Outro

Hi All, thanks so much for joining us for another episode of 90×9, the female founder’s knowledge base which is sponsored by The Million Dollar Pineapple if you enjoy this content and would like to hear more, don’t forget to rate & review this podcast. It helps us to get more amazing guests on here to share their knowledge and experience. After you rate & review we have a special gift for you. visit 90×9.co/resources and confirm your review to gain access to some exclusive resources curated and created just for you and if you’d like to suggest a guest, simply head over to 90×9.co/suggest 




About your host Adi Pineapple 🍍

Adi Soozin, Adi Vaughn Soozin

Adi Soozin recently transitioned from working as the Fast Growth Executive at The Million Dollar Pineapple to the Head of Growth & Operations at 90×9. Over the past decade she has worked as an on-call consultant and marketing freelancer for more than 300 companies throughout 48 countries, across 6 continents. The fastest she has grown a company is from $0 to more than $100,000,000 in sales in less than 5 years.

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