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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Sam Ashdown. She’s a UK based property marketing coach to independent estate agents, we would call them in the US real estate agents. But I think it’s about the same thing. So, Sam, thanks for joining us.
Sam Ashdown: Hey John, it’s great to be here.
John Jantsch: So you and I have known each other for a long time because you were one of those people that got out there and said, “I need to go learn about this new marketing stuff” and so you went to conferences and came across the ocean a few times. We bumped into each other there, didn’t we?
Sam Ashdown: Oh we did, yeah. I was your first fan girl, John. Your first fan girl from the UK and my first ever marketing book and I’m sure you hear this all the time and I know you did because I even heard you say this to other people or people say it to you that Duct Tape Marketing was their first marketing book and it absolutely changed my life from that moment on. It was amazing really, so thank you for that.
John Jantsch: I need to have people like you follow me around and tell people all about me. So tell me a little about your journey then because you talk about my first fan girl, that was 2005-06, so you have been doing this a little while. Tell me a little about your journey, you started out as an independent agent, I’m guessing, and things have evolved haven’t they?
Sam Ashdown: You know, you’d think so, because that would be very sensible, but I didn’t. I started off developing houses, I flipped houses as you Americans call it. I bought them, I flipped them, I sold them. I was a single mom, with three kids under 10 and I had no other way to earn money. What happened is I started being asked by friends and family, that’s what happens isn’t it? Then you start to build the business that way.
Sam Ashdown: But you know what you wrote Duct Tape Marketing at the right time for me, because I started my business in 2004. I hit “go” on my website and expected the crowds to flock, and they didn’t. I thought “Oh, there must be something I’m missing.” Then I read Duct Tape Marketing and found out what it was I was missing so I literally followed your book to the letter. I built my business on a consultancy basis really, helping people sell what actually turned out to be high value homes for the most amount of money in the shortest time.
Sam Ashdown: So I became a consultant to homeowners then following the crash, our crash was just a little later than yours, so about 2008 the property crash I started being approached by real estate agents saying “Can you help us build our business?” And I’m thinking “I need to go and read Duct Tape Marketing again. So I did and I followed the principles again and helped them build their businesses. That was really, really enjoyable to me.
Sam Ashdown: There is a third element to this trilogy of property businesses, because I am collecting them I still have business one and two. Business two is coaching for real estate agents. Business three, two years ago, my son-in-law who is married to my daughter Molly, came to me and said “Why don’t we open up a real estate business?” And I said “Because they work really, really hard.” And he goes “Yeah, but we’d be great.” I go “Yeah, but it’s a lot of hard work.” So anyway, we started selling real estate from my dining room with two laptops and not much else and have built it into a really credible business. We’ve got 8 staff, a beautiful office in the English lake district, which is kind of like a mini Canada, full of lakes and mountains. Two years later we’ve just had our second anniversary last week and it has been an incredible journey and one I’ve been really proud to be part of.
Sam Ashdown: So that is kind of my trilogy of three real estate companies in various different ways. Two B2Bs and one B2C. No, two B2Cs and one B2B. That is really how we built it.
John Jantsch: I would have to think, maybe there are other people, I’m sure there are other people because it’s a big world out there. There is probably very few people in the real estate business that are coming at the customer and market from those three distinct positions. In some ways, your business where you are consulting with homeowners could be to send them to your real estate business, so they can sell their home.
Sam Ashdown: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
John Jantsch: Then you are coaching a real estate agent. It’s like you are going to corner the market at some point.
Sam Ashdown: It’s like I planned it that way. Actually, no I didn’t. I wish I could say I had, but each one has been accidental. Each one has a beautifully harmonious relationship with the other two. I have lots more planned as well, so maybe in a future broadcast episode I can tell you about the other plans. But so far, so good. They all work together in harmony and it has been fantastic.
John Jantsch: That is a principle a lot of people underestimate the power of. I mean when you say they work together in harmony, you also have leverage. You have multipliers with that. I think that is similar to my business. I teach small business owners, that’s grown. We consult and coach small business owners that’s grown to then coaching and consultants themselves. Everything we do for one business works for the other or supports the others. I think a lot of people have that opportunity to find those other leverage points. It’s not like going after a new market, per se, and it’s not the same as an expansion. It’s more of finding those leverage points in doing more with what you are already doing.
Sam Ashdown: Absolutely! Not only that, but you have such a deep insight into your clients minds and motivations. I can sit in front of a real estate agent and tell them exactly how their homeowner is feeling because I have sat in front of thousands of homeowners as a consultant that have told me A) why they chose that real estate agent, B) why they think the relationship has gone bad or well C) why they are moving in the first place and how that is going to effect their decision making process over the next weeks, months, and years. So all of those insights going toward a big jumbled strata of information allows me to be able to give the best advice to whoever my client is at that particular time knowing it is based on the best outcome for that client.
John Jantsch: I think it is interesting and probably a little backward, at least in the traditional sense, that you developed a knowledge for how the seller/homeowner feels and you turned that into coaching a real estate agent, although you have never been a real estate agent. Then you backed into being a real estate agent. I think it’s certainly not wrong, but not the path a lot of people take, is it?
Sam Ashdown: No. It’s kind of back to front. I think what it did give me was for years I’d be saying “Look, it doesn’t matter that I haven’t been where you are, because actually I can give you an outside perspective that you haven’t necessarily had before.” But actually now I have both sides of that. I have the consumer perspective and I’ve got running an agency and trying these ideas every single day. So I literally, as you do John, I try and I teach, and I try and I teach. It’s beautiful. It’s like a little dance.
John Jantsch: I’ve told people that all the time. All I do is I try stuff and I go tell people what worked.[inaudible 00:07:38] So one of the things that you did, and this maybe just supports the global picture I suppose, you created a pretty unique idea that you called the Success at Marketing Club. Those of you that are following along closely know that my guest’s name today is Sam and Success at Marketing spells SAM, a bit of brilliant branding there. Tell me about that. I mean obviously, we want to get in to what it is, but I’d like to hear your thinking on why you thought it was even a good idea.
Sam Ashdown: Absolutely. It started off purely selfishly, and has had two [inaudible 00:08:17]. The first time, I had just come out of a really difficult divorce. I had just moved with my three kids and everything was up in the air. I was moving to an area that although I’d lived in the past, I had only been around school gate moms. As much as I love school gate moms, I’m looking for entrepreneurial friendships and relationships to help me grow as a person, somebody that is not going to be bored to death as I tell them my hundredth story of my marketing successes that day.
Sam Ashdown: I wanted a place where I could come and meet other entrepreneurs and this very often happens, there is a gap for me therefore, there must be a gap for other people. Therefore, I create something to fill the gap. That is really what I did with the SAM club. It grew out of that and it grew very, very slowly for the first 2-3 years. It literally was me meeting up with entrepreneurial sort of solo preneurs once a month to talk about marketing. As my skills as a marketer grew, then so my teaching grew and I started being the teacher of the group.
John Jantsch: At that point it was no longer real estate, right? It was just anyone that had a business, right?
Sam Ashdown: No, it was nothing to do with real estate. Nobody there had anything to do with real estate at all which is why I learned what to cross with different businesses. I know you, John, have crossed all businesses, but I haven’t really done that before. I only really understood about property and marketing.
Sam Ashdown: So that was about six years ago, and I let it lag for a couple of years, much to my chagrin because I wish now I hadn’t. What happened when we decided, my co-director and I, to open up the estate agency, I said “I need some kind of networking system.” I had read your referral network, another plug for you. Referral Engine, sorry. I listened to it on Audible, which is even better and I thought “Well, what can I do to have a system? Not necessarily automated, I don’t mind doing it manually, but what is my system. What is my end result that I am looking to achieve?” I thought “I know, I’ll revive the SAM club, that will be a really good referral engine for me.”
Sam Ashdown: I launched it again, the first time we launched it was February two years ago, so two years and two months ago as we are recording this now. I had eight people then. I thought “Woo! That’s good. That’s exciting!” Then slowly, slowly it grew. We did a different topic every month and what was unique is that I let them choose the topic. I said “If there is ever a time that I don’t know enough about this topic to teach, go figure, I will bring in an expert.” A couple of times I’ve done that, but most of the time these are people running shops, restaurants, very small businesses that I am probably enough ahead of them to teach them. They are a bit of a workshop environment so as long as I do a bit of research I get to kind of be able to teach it.
Sam Ashdown: This is now two years later, so we’ve gone from eight people to the last time we met we had sixty-three people in the room, which just blew me away. We’ve got over two hundred and sixty people in the Facebook group. Every single one of them is a local business owner. Our referrals have gone through the roof. Just in the last one we had four people there that were either selling or had sold their house with us out of sixty-three people.
John Jantsch: Right, because every business owner owns a house, go figure, right?
Sam Ashdown: Every business owner owns a house. Every business owner has a great online profile and they are trying to make it better that is a win-win. So this builds. You are the master of the know, like, trust, try, repeat. That is exactly what this is. I think networking in somebody else’s group is never going to be as powerful as me standing in front of the SAM club as Sam and teaching them something I am passionate about. As I’m seen as a leader, seen as an influencer, and that then attracts other leaders and other influencers in my area. It becomes this self building entity that is bigger than me, which is fantastic.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and again another sort of leverage tool that is feeding, serving several purposes at once.
Sam Ashdown: Yes.
John Jantsch: So let’s get into the logistics.
Sam Ashdown: Sure.
John Jantsch: You mentioned that you come, and you have a topic. How often do you meet? How long is it? I’m assuming people pay a little money to be in it?
Sam Ashdown: No, absolutely. First the money that I charged was [inaudible 00:12:48]. I wanted just to meet as many entrepreneurs and local business owners as I could and I thought I’m going to lower the barrier so it’s so low they can’t say “no.” Five pounds, which is about seven dollars is what I charged at first. I just put the price up, only because we moved to a new venue. Venue is my most difficult challenge, only because we live in a tourist area and all the hotels that would let us have a room in the Winter would not let us have the same room in the summer because of weddings and tourists.
Sam Ashdown: We are actually in a golf club and that brings a whole[inaudible 00:13:18] benefits because of the type of people that play golf. So the referral network to high value homeowners is fantastic. I’m talking about high value homes with the owners, not high value homeowners. We meet every month on a Friday morning. Something I did accidentally and if anyone is listening to this and wants to [inaudible] this. I am very happy to have messages about this and help set these up, because I am amazed at how well this has done and I’m passionate about people doing this in their local communities.
John Jantsch: Before we give away your email address, which we will do in the show notes. I was going to ask you, so save this question. This seems like something maybe you could teach as an offering.
Sam Ashdown: If I wasn’t running three businesses, John.
John Jantsch: I’m going to steal the idea then and do it.
Sam Ashdown: Please have it! Call it the John Club.
John Jantsch: Alright, so Friday morning. And we will put your contact information in the show notes. What was the sort of stroke of luck thing that you said?
Sam Ashdown: Yeah, the stroke of luck was I did it in school mom friendly time. Bear with me here, I don’t know if you have BNI there, I’m sure you do. Six thirty, seven o’clock start, nine o’clock finish. You get a lot of people suited and booted so the professionals with the ties. Some of them, sorry about this guys, have egos to bring to the rooms. The ladies get a little pushed out if they are in softer kind of industries, sometimes that is what happens.
Sam Ashdown: What I found was that I started club at half past nine in the morning because that was what suited me. Our school drop off time is just before nine so I got loads and loads of school moms and it was just accidental. The best thing about school moms is they refer like crazy and they are all great on Facebook. You ask a question on Facebook and you get one hundred answers and they are all women. They just are, that is what the ladies in my group are like. So, we are probably about 9 to 10, sorry, one out of ten people will probably be a guy and the other nine will be women. I’ll give you a picture of our club last month if you want to put it on the show notes, because you’ve got to see the mixture.
Sam Ashdown: Two and a half hours in the morning, so the moms can do drop off. They get there, have a coffee, have a little chit chat, then they sit down learn about marketing for two and a half hours and they go and evangelize to everybody about how great the SAM club is. Obviously, by definition some of that spotlight falls on me, which is fantastic. I’m referring them, they’re referring me. A whole little referral engine.
Sam Ashdown: Something else that came out of it, just an accidental spark was we did a competition for AshdownJones on Facebook, just before Christmas 2018 to boost our likes a little. I needed twelve businesses to get to do a giveaway. Who am I going to approach? My SAM club members. So we do a little spotlight video every day for twelve days, they all get a big boost on their Facebook likes, we get a big boost on our Facebook likes. They love us, we love them, everybody loves each other. It’s just win-win-win. That group keeps getting bigger and bigger. I’ve gotten fantastic friendships out of it, fantastic referrals out of it. I couldn’t be more grateful for what I have received personally, but everybody seems to think that I’m giving to them.
John Jantsch: The beautiful thing is you have probably never asked once for a referral have you?
Sam Ashdown: No, never. Actually, when they bring referral to you, and I probably feel the same to them, they bring it like a gift. They are so excited. “Sam! Sam! I’ve got a referral for you!” It’s just lovely! I’m like “Oh, thank you! That’s so exciting!”
John Jantsch: Obviously, in the early days, like a lot of things, it was not paying off at all probably. You put in the effort, you went, you did your meeting for two and a half hours, and you went “Where did that day go?”
John Jantsch: Again, that’s like all things. That’s why it works, because that is the point where a lot of people give up. Like blogging, I wrote five blog posts and it’s not paying off so forget it.
John Jantsch: So today, other than the residual benefits that you have talked about, it’s pretty much self funding, even at seven pounds or whatever that pays for the coffee.
Sam Ashdown: Yeah! Well, now it’s ten pounds, about thirteen dollars, and it costs me about two thirds of that for the venue et cetera. I just give the rest to charity at the end of the year, that’s fine. To me as long as it’s cost neutral roughly either way then I am happy with that. After about a year Phil said to me, that’s my son-in-law, “Look, do you think this is worth it?” Friday morning two and a half hours, about four hours by the time I’ve chitchatted, had coffee et cetera. It’s only fifteen people, then seventeen people, then twenty people. It was painful.
Sam Ashdown: We reached about fourteen months and there was a tipping point and I actually suggested to everybody we had a bring a friend meeting. Because I thought every meeting is a bring a friend meeting I’m going to make it an official thing where they’re free and they’re friend is free and we swelled the numbers by about twenty percent on that day. It has never stopped since. It just keeps building momentum. We have a new member request every single day now.
John Jantsch: Talk a little about the topics you cover.
Sam Ashdown: They are just basic. Again, I just take a vote and I do it actually when we are in the club. That gets buy-in. I say “Okay, what do you want to know next time?” They just shout out all of these ideas. Then we take a vote and we go “Alright, next month we are going to do Facebook marketing.” Or Facebook Live, or Linked In, or blogging. This month, which is on Friday, we are doing one of your favorite topics, John. In fact, I need to get you to come over and speak if that’s okay, which is how to get Google to find your website in brackets SEO. Which they haven’t heard of.
John Jantsch: That’s great. I was doing a presentation one time to a group of business owners one time that probably should have known better and I was telling them “You need this element and this element. And SEO is so important because…” and about ten minutes in someone raised their hand and said “What is SEO?” Oops.
Sam Ashdown: Teaching really brings you down to Earth doesn’t it? It really does. When they say “Why’d you do it like that?” And you think “Why do we do it like that? That’s a really good question.” I really try to teach to the lowest in the room, but also give some really good tips for the highest in the room to go after. What I’ve also had to do is put together some advanced workshops for certain topics, Facebook ads for example. I’m pretty good at Facebook ads so I want to have a little advanced group. I charge separately for that, that’s fine. Mostly, it’s the main socials and content. All the stuff you and I talk about all day long. I do a bit of direct mail, because direct mail is one of my hot topics and I think it’s very underused. Content, I don’t really do website design, but I kind of do the customer journey. We did do campaign planning, that was a really good one because campaign planning can bring everything in.
John Jantsch: Yeah, absolutely. Have you ever considered or with all the technology we have now, brought anybody in via Skype or something like that?
Sam Ashdown: No. You know why, the wifi in the golf club is terrible. If you’re offering, John, I’ll see if I can get them to upgrade.
John Jantsch: No, no I want the first class plane ticket.
Sam Ashdown: I’m sure something can be arranged.
John Jantsch: What’s funny is, you are doing this for a specific purpose and it is serving its purpose, but I can envision somebody out there going “Okay, I’m going to do the seven pound one and the seventy pound one and then they’ll be a seven hundred dollar group.” It wouldn’t be that hard to do it would it?
Sam Ashdown: No, it wouldn’t. Actually, I think that is absolutely credible to build up a business like that based on a club, but I think if every single local business owner thinks about how they could use this, it doesn’t matter if you are a restaurateur, shop owners, any kind of services owner they could do this. They don’t have to call it a marketing club, it could be a business club, and it could bring an expert each time. They could top and tail it, do the intro and outro, and it would be their club. They’re bringing everybody together and it’s not a networking club, it’s a learning and discovery club.
John Jantsch: I think that is a real key. Like you mentioned BNI, BNI serves a purpose for a lot of people, but a lot of people also feel like I don’t want to go there and be beat to death if I didn’t bring referrals.
Sam Ashdown: I think you have to be a very outgoing person to make BNI work for you effectively. You don’t have to be a very outgoing person to come alone, sit at the back, be shy with a notebook, and not even raise your hand and learn about Facebook marketing for two and half hours. You get a huge amount of value after that.
John Jantsch: I will say, I know you better than my listeners do at this point, but you bring a couple attributes to make this work. You are terribly giving, you are a connector, you chitchat for an hour and a half after the thing with some people that want to and that is really what made it work. I think if someone is listening and thinking “This is brilliant. I’ll put together a club and just get a bunch of people together and make money for me.” You invested significantly before it ever made any money for you.
Sam Ashdown: I think even if somebody does want to make money out of this, it is possible. I think that they are going to have to put the leg work in it first and it will feel like it’s not working. Suddenly, as long as you give, give, give, give, it will just work. You’ll like this John, you are a very generous person. You give, give and you don’t ask for anything back, but those things come back to you anyway.
John Jantsch: I do think that it’s one of those sort of non intuitive facts of life that you are going to make a bunch of money if you don’t try to make a bunch of money off of this.
Sam Ashdown: I know. When will people realize this? I’m fifty it’s taken me till forty-nine and a half to realize this truth. The people that I really respect and listen to, like your podcast, the marketers that are really successful on lots of levels, they are all givers. It’s not coincidence.
John Jantsch: I bet you’re going to listen to this episode.
Sam Ashdown: Oh yeah.
John Jantsch: So Sam, tell us where people can find out more about you? As I said, we’ll put the contact info in the show notes because I do know that your offer to tell anybody about how to do this is genuine.
Sam Ashdown: Absolutely, thank you!
Sam Ashdown: If you are in the North of England and selling your house, please come to AshdownJones which is my little agency. Although, that seems probably a little bit unlikely. I suggest that if you are a real estate agent you follow me on Marketing Magic for estate agents, which is on Facebook.
Sam Ashdown: My main site is home-truths.co.uk, unlike your dot coms, I couldn’t get the dot com, and that is where you will find all manner of home selling advice. One of those three places is where you will catch me, but you’ll put the best email address in the show notes for people. I’d love to hear from people thinking about doing this in their area.
John Jantsch: AshdownJones sounds like a car that James Bond would drive.
Sam Ashdown: Well, it is. That is exactly what it should be. No, I’m the Ashdown and he’s the Jones. It’s a beautiful partnership.
John Jantsch: Sam, thanks so much for joining and sharing so willingly. Hopefully we’ll see you somewhere out on the road, or I’ll get to the UK, who knows.
Sam Ashdown: Oh I really hope so John. It’s been my pleasure, thank you so much!