People First, Profits Follow
If your heart is in the right place, everything will follow.
Keller Williams agents Dan and Julie Ihara of the Honolulu, Hawaii, market center certainly have found that to be true as they’ve grown their business from $28 million to $76 million in four years. The Iharas have achieved this by coming from contribution and using seminars as their chief real estate lead generation strategy.
While the seminars offer future clients educational value, the return on investment for the Iharas has been stunning.
“From each seminar, we get about a 25 percent appointment conversion rate,” Dan says. “Then those appointments typically lead to two or more transactions. Essentially, what we’ve built is a group listing appointment with a tag-along from the buyer side as well, because they’re going to sell as well as buy.”
With the help of their team of 27, the Iharas lead eight to 10 seminars per month.
“It’s a numbers game,” he explains. “On average, we’ll secure 25 appointments per month, leading to 15 transactions. The remainder feed the future pipeline. In our market, that’s $10 to $15 million a month just off one lever.”
The numbers may speak for themselves from a business perspective, but they don’t showcase the big why that fuels the Iharas’ lives.
“Our growth has come by pouring into other folks,” Dan says. “We end all of our seminars with the same thing: our mission is to honor God with the highest level of competency, care and compassion with uncompromising integrity.”
Twelve Years Ago
Evidence of this mission dates all the way back to Dan’s very first listing as a newly licensed real estate agent in 2002.
Dan was working with Anita, an 80-year-old woman whose house had been on the market for a year. “She had a trail home, which means there is a trail from the door to the sink to the toilet to the bed,” Dan says.
For six months, Dan, Julie and their family worked to clear the home out and, at the same time, found something that changed the course of their business.
“That experience said to us, ‘There’s a need here,’” Dan says. “Some of these older people want to move but are trapped by their stuff. So we partnered with a new retirement community who found out what we did and we said, ‘Why don’t you do these seminars with us?’ It helped feed our real estate business and provided a solution to older adults that didn’t have one.”
This happenstance ultimately led the Iharas to create a number of ancillary businesses – including senior move managers, decluttering and property management – to offer clients a seamless experience. It also opened their eyes to the fact that education could be used as a powerful lead generation tactic.
Starting with Seminars
Six months after becoming a licensed real estate agent, Dan put an advertorial in the newspaper to get the word out about his first seminar. He and Julie developed the material themselves, offering an explanation of all the contingencies involved in buying and selling a home.
“We wanted to educate people on best practices,” Dan says. “Nobody was really having seminars and educating folks, so we explained the process and how to protect themselves on the buying and selling side.”
The newspaper advertorial promoting that first seminar required a yearlong commitment – to the tune of $24,000. The Iharas had no idea how many attendees to expect, but when 35 people showed up, they realized there was a strong interest in the topic. That seminar had another lasting impact as well.
“From that first seminar, we cleared a $1.2 million transaction,” Dan says. “It was a miracle in the making, and we haven’t stopped yet.”
With the business taking off, it was soon apparent that Dan would need help. After 18 years in the banking industry, Julie left her career to become Dan’s full-time business partner.
Together, Dan and Julie began building strategic partnerships to draw future clients to their seminars. Some of the businesses they partnered with in their seminars over the years include financial planning firms, banks, credit unions, attorneys, retirement communities and senior clubs. Seniors, in particular, became a prosperous niche and led to a new seminar topic: “Senior Living Options,” inspired by individuals like Dan’s first client, Anita.
“It’s designed to help people understand what life looks like when we get older and need help – what care can be brought in and, if you decide to move, where to go,” Dan says.
As the Iharas perfected their seminar approach, they realized they could target their seminar topics to bring leads for listings, the most important foundation of any great real estate business.
“Our second seminar series covers 1031 exchanges and how we execute them. It was designed to get listings,” Dan says. “We target investors who want to do other things with their investments but are not sure how. Every client is two transactions or more, some with six to 15 properties that they’re doing 1031 exchanges with all over the country.”
In these transactions, the Iharas execute and then partner with agents in other parts of the country who also are versed in 1031 exchanges.
The 1031 exchange seminars led to buy and flip seminars in early 2017. Eighteen people showed up to the first presentation, and from it the team gained three clients and six transactions.
“From our very first one at our office, we had 18 people show up,” Dan says. “Of that, we had three clients and six transactions.” For agents who want to develop their own seminars, he recommends determining a niche and focusing on that. “The niches that we’ve selected are niches where it doesn’t matter what happens in the economy,” Dan says. “When the economy is down, people still invest who want to invest.”
For their latter two seminar topics, the Iharas position the main draw as strategies for creating generational wealth. In addition to relying on their strategic partnerships to draw attendees, they still run an advertorial in the newspaper.
The Iharas’ database grows exponentially with each session held. Currently 7,000 individuals strong, they’re able to market their seminars through the massive network they’ve built and often find that those who attend often tell others about the events. Additionally, they use social media and direct mailers to target markets based on demographics, geography, age and investment portfolio.
With a marketing strategy in place, the question becomes how to turn those potential clients into clients. The Iharas joined Keller Williams in August 2013 and are now part of Gary Keller’s Mastermind group. They credit some of the changes they’ve made to their seminar lead generation to their experience as members of this elite group.
First off, they now have an events director as part of their team. This person is responsible for planning all of the actual events. Secondly, they’ve made sweeping changes to their follow-up strategy for securing listings.
“We’re far more intentional now,” Dan says. “Before, we wouldn’t follow up at all because we were too busy. People would just call us. Now, at the beginning of the seminar, we say, ‘We know your situation is private, and what you’re going to hear today is going to raise a lot of questions. At the end of the seminar, we will give you the opportunity to secure an appointment.’ We put out a list of available appointment times, and the first five people that sign up get a gift. It’s highly intentional.”
The Iharas often work with seniors who are wealthy, but they haven’t forgotten the many older adults who may be facing uncertainty.
“We started a nonprofit – thanks to Gary’s inspiration – called Silver Spoons,” Dan says. The faith-based nonprofit connects older adults to resources and safe housing. “Our goal is to take care of older adults who can’t take care of themselves. We believe God called us to serve those folks.”