Jessa Claeys, Managing Editor at Bigger Pockets
The Art of Effective Real Estate Writing
Jessa Claeys, Managing Editor at Bigger Pockets
Today you are in for a very special treat. My guest is Jessa Claeys, the Managing Editor at BiggerPockets, a community membership platform that specializes in real estate investing education. They have over a million members and reach over 70 million people with their content. If you sign up for their newsletter, it will be Jessa’s name on many of the emails that you will get from BiggerPockets. I have been an avid collector of those emails because, among other things, I've found the subject lines that are the best in the real estate industry.
What you're going to learn in today's episode includes how to write real estate articles that build goodwill and propel your prospects forward in their relationship with you, why subject lines in emails are so important and how to write them so that your emails get opened, what it takes to communicate to mass audiences rather than individuals via the written word, and a whole lot more.
What You're Going to Learn
- The Art of Communication
- The 3 Key Skills You Need to be a Great Writer
- The Best Language Styles When Communicating on Social Media
- Write Better Online Content with These Tools
- Using News to Improve Engagement among Seasons Real Estate Investors
- The Art of Language in Content Marketing
- Why You Need to Learn Everything about Your Target Audience before Developing Content
- You Have to Have “A Big Idea” to Sell
- Why You Need a Great Email Subject Line
- How to Write a Great Email Subject Line
- How to be Recognized as an Expert
- And much more!
Listen To or Watch the Full Podcast Here
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The 3 Key Skills You Need to be a Great Writer
ADAM GOWER: So, what do you suppose are the skills that a good writer has. Is it something that can be learned and this is a bit of a leading question, because actually, I think it is. And I'll tell you why just briefly, because I am learning to speak English again. Sounds a bit wacky. I can explain that to you later. But, tell me something about your view of what it is that makes for a good writer.
JESSA CLAEYS: Okay, I mean, if I want to think about it very broadly, I think that people who read and write well, if you ask them if they grew up as an avid reader, they will always say yes. It's just something that you absorb at a young age, I believe, being a master of language or not. I think that's one thing. And then, in terms of, whether you can learn to be a great writer, sure. I think you can learn to be a great anything depending on how much practice you have, depending on how much you're focused on it determined, etc.. But, there is something underlying there that I haven't been able to necessarily pinpoint aside from what I just said about the avid reader thing. Some people are great writers and some people aren't. And sadly, few people are great writers. And I fear for the future with all of this abbreviated communication, you know, a text here, a text there and misspellings all along the way. Complete disregard for grammar, all over the internet and texts, emails, etc., tweets. If that's what you're reading, if that's what you're learning from a young age, I don't know where that's going, but I don't foresee it being a good place in terms of a solid grasp of the English language and grammar and spelling and so forth.
The Best Language Styles When Communicating on Social Media
ADAM GOWER: Talk to me about that aspect because, right, the aspect of sales and teaching when you write.
JESSA CLAEYS: Certainly the power of persuasion is important in every facet of life. That's huge. I fully agree with you.
ADAM GOWER: Like the style of language when you're writing to 600,000 people.
JESSA CLAEYS: Oh okay.
ADAM GOWER: What does that form look like? What should it look like, do you think?
JESSA CLAEYS: Well, I mean, in today's society, I feel it's getting ever more complicated, difficult. It seems like we live in a hyper-sensitive era, currently. So, that is something that has to be considered at all times, particularly if you're not just a human tweeting on your own Twitter, you know. If you are communicating with a bajillion people, what is unfortunate about that is, you're not looking at those people. You can't, in real time, gauge their responses. You can't clarify what you meant in real time, etc. So, it's like, you just have to carefully choose your words. You have to have the best intent. If you feel like, something that's great about Bigger Pockets is, I'm surrounded by all these extremely intelligent people and so if anything seems like it might be a gray area, like what do you think about this or that, could this be perceived in a negative light, in this way or that way? Bouncing those ideas off of people before you shoot it off into the ether is definitely for the best. At the same time, as someone who's been a writer and editor for several years, at this point, you also, and probably just as a human in general, have to develop a somewhat thick skin and also just a clear sense of self in that you're never going to be able to please everyone with what you say. Someone's always going to be offended. People might skew things in a way that you never intended and you can't even fault them for that, you know. Everyone is interpreting everything they encounter, whether it's written or, you know, out in the real world. They're interpreting everything through a lens of their experiences and you can't fault them for that. Everyone does it. So, you kind of have to have a thick skin and just know that, you have to be confident that you're coming from, you know, a good place. You had a good message. You had good intent behind it. And yeah, bouncing ideas off other people when you're questioning anything is absolutely for the best and something that anybody writing, editing, etc. probably has learned the hard way one or several times.
Write Better Online Content with These Tools
ADAM GOWER: I have to ask you this, and you know it when you see it. But, you've said this a few times, please tell me, when you talk about organizing, you organize your thoughts. Can you give me some tactics for how one might set about organizing one's thoughts prior to writing an article for Bigger Pockets or for anybody else, for that matter?
JESSA CLAEYS: Absolutely. I mean, I highly recommend, we just have infinite resources available to us at this point via the internet. I highly recommend googling and reading so much prior to even beginning writing anything. And again, you'll know it when you see it. You'll notice the structure of articles that make sense, that flow well, that are easily digestible, etc. Do that. Do tons of research, just like you would any other writing endeavor. The next thing I would do is, I would create an outline. And again, to inform your outline, look at other writers that have done really well and don't copy them directly but, I mean.
ADAM GOWER: The one thing you can do, is you can run a Google search and Google will actually give you a bunch of questions.
JESSA CLAEYS: I was just going to say, particularly if publishing online, you would be foolish if you typed in a phrase in Google and it spits out all of their search results as well as that box of frequently asked questions. You would be a fool if you didn't incorporate those questions and the answers to them in whatever you're writing, because that's exactly what search engine optimization is, yeah.
ADAM GOWER: That's your outline. I mean, it's basically there for you.
JESSA CLAEYS: Totally. I fully agree with that. Yes.
Using News to Improve Engagement among Seasons Real Estate Investors
ADAM GOWER: But what you're describing is news, which is a little bit different, isn't it?
JESSA CLAEYS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this whole user-generated content phenomenon is absolutely, I mean it's brilliant in so many ways, for sure. And it's obviously a strategy that many platforms have capitalized on, even these social media platforms. That's 100% user-generated content.
ADAM GOWER: By definition, exactly.
JESSA CLAEYS: Yeah, it's wild. And, the great thing about that is, really meeting people where they are. So, you have an investor who's been investing for 1-2 years, speaking to investors who maybe have invested 0-2 years. That's great. Nothing's more relatable. No lens is more accurate than that, you know, whether you're writing from that perspective or reading it, from that perspective. That's really like niching down to people and that's all great and something that Bigger Pockets has just done extraordinarily well for several years. I think like 15, this is our 16th birthday.
ADAM GOWER: Oh my.
JESSA CLAEYS: But we're really looking at, in the last couple of years and right this second, what else can we do? What are we missing? What are we not covering? And so to me, to recapture or just to improve engagement among those seasoned investors, I really think that the news thing is where it's at in that, what technically can I tell someone who's been in real estate for 30 years? Not much, you know.
ADAM GOWER: You would be surprised. Don't imagine for a second that anybody that has 30 years experience, has a clue. Because I'll tell you this, seriously, because what happens is, and I know this because I've been in real estate for about 400 years, as I told you when we started. What happens is that, you get, kind of, locked into a way of doing things and a way of seeing things based on your most formative experience and lessons very early on and it becomes very difficult to migrate away from those things, right?
JESSA CLAEYS: Yeah.
ADAM GOWER: Right?
JESSA CLAEYS: I do agree with you.
The Art of Language in Content Marketing
ADAM GOWER: But let's, kind of, pivot away from the strategic stuff, of Bigger Pockets, which I'm actually fascinated in. I'd love to talk more about that, but I'm really interested in, is the art of language, if you don't mind and the way of writing. And I'm more than happy to go back and talk about Bigger Pockets, as much as you want, but there was something that you said right at the beginning, and that was that you became delighted, I think you said obsessed with, but I'm going to use the word delighted by magazines. So what have you learned? What do you think you learned or took from reading magazines and seeing them and the structure of them and headlines and text and body and pictures and etc, etc.
JESSA CLAEYS: Yeah. So, if we're talking about here, primarily or what I'm doing now is working with people who are doing content marketing. It seems like that is a tale as old as time. It's a concept that's been used for so long and magazines are a terrific example of it, as are newspapers. It's sort of, meeting people where they already are. It's meeting people. It's, in terms of creating the magazine or creating a content marketing piece, so a blogger, social media post, you are providing people valuable content that they're seeking anyways, and then you're placing your message in there. And as opposed to a commercial where it's blatant, it's much more delicate than that, you know, it's much more subtle. And in a magazine, how they would do that is, you know, rope readers into whatever their niche is via the publication itself and then place articles in there that are of interest, of value to their readers, that are captivating to their audience and then complement that with products, services, etc, that are tied into the content within. That's exactly what content marketing does. So, in magazines and newspapers, I think that they, and other mediums, perfected the art of that and we're just iterating on it in a technological era.
Why You Need to Learn Everything about Your Target Audience before Developing Content
ADAM GOWER: What kind of connection do you see between the language of advertising, in a magazine or online, which is kind of similar, and the language of the way you might structure or write an article?
JESSA CLAEYS: I think in all instances, if you want to have the most effective form of communication, you really need to do everything you can to learn about, know about your target audience. You want to know how they talk to each other, you want to know how they talk in general, vernacular, jargon, etc. You want to speak within your articles, speak within your social media, how those people speak, that's appealing to them. I think that's the most effective form of getting your, drawing in your audience, so being captivating and then conveying your message in the most effective way. Like a, kind of, funny example of this is McDonald's. Like, they are now finding these obscure pop stars, I've never heard of, but maybe I'm just not, not another cohort that they're targeting, but, they're attracting these people and they're using weird words I've never heard before, on TV and stuff and...
ADAM GOWER: The mind boggles.
JESSA CLAEYS: I think that they're meeting their audience where they already are. They're speaking to them using the strange vocabulary that has emerged in this, you know, in the 2000s, and it's smart.
You Have to Have “A Big Idea” to Sell
ADAM GOWER: And some of the really amazing concepts, they call the "big idea". You have to have the big idea to sell a concept and the evolution of, for example, Nike's Just Do It. Impact that that had. It had an impact on a generation. Think different. It wasn't just the product. It was how the product was delivered and characterized that was just so enormously powerful.
JESSA CLAEYS: Yeah, I think that the more that you can get to know your audience and use that to your favor, the better off you're going to be, the more relatable you can be. Yeah, that's powerful.
Why You Need a Great Email Subject Line
ADAM GOWER: I am utterly grateful to you specifically for, are your subject lines, which I consider, in your emails, to be the best in the industry, period. I am, seriously, I'm not like overexaggerating. I am signed up to just about every single newsletter in the real estate industry you can possibly imagine and in social media. And they all go into a folder in my Outlook and whenever I'm looking for a subject line, I look, I put all yours in one place, right so I just scan through, that one looks good. I'm going to adapt that one. That's how I do it. So tell, not only how do you do that, because I know you have a secret, don't you. I'm dying for you to tell everybody your secret. But, tell me also the importance of the subject line and why it's important.
JESSA CLAEYS: Yeah. So, I feel, as with anything, you know, practice makes perfect. And like I've been preaching, there's a lot to say for experience and just observing and listening to your readers and noticing what resonates with them. And then, your job is to give them more of that. And, what's awesome about the internet, on top of that, there are certainly so many mechanisms out there people can use if they, you know, do email marketing, do newsletters, etc. to up their odds of delivering what their audience wants. I've discussed with you before. I use a subject line grader to craft high performing subject lines. And, you know, the subject line, it's one of the most important parts of getting your email opened. Step one, it needs to be opened. It needs to be noticed. And then, that leads to being read and then what all your, you know, upper management wants to see is the clicks. And without being opened, it's never going to be clicked on. So, that's your first barrier to entry and so you really have to crush it. So things like the subject line grader are awesome. They're free online. There's a bunch of them available. The one I use is called Send Check It, but there are a ton. I also preliminarily test two subject lines against one another with every email that I send. So, I send two subject lines of identical, with identical emails, you know, enclosed out to a small segment of our subscriber base and then I wait 4 hours and the winner is determined by clicks and at that point in time, the final version of the newsletter is deployed to the bulk of our subscriber list, with the winning subject line in place. What's awesome is, thank you technology so much for everything but, this is all automated, so it's not a ton of work for me. My sends, we use Iterable, but I used MailChimp prior, has the same functionality, as I'm sure tons of other email service providers have. So, my main tips are just, yeah, concentrate so hard, try so hard for those subject lines, as with anything else, do a bunch of research before shooting off an email and use those tools that are available to you, like the subject line tester and like the testing capabilities, the A/B testing tools that are part of your email service provider's functions to your advantage. It's truly powerful.
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