Mark Choey

Meet Mark, the founder, and CEO of Highnote, a presentation and proposal platform designed specifically for service providers. With a background as a top-producing salesperson, team and brokerage leader, computer engineer, and product designer, Mark has a unique insight into what it takes to create great software for service providers who don’t have time to design.


Dan Gandee, Liftoff Agent’s VP Of Growth, On Why Agents Should Carve Out A Specialist Niche 

Dan Gandee

In the early days of their career, most agents are focused on closing all the deals they can, working with everyone from first-time homebuyers to investors. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it pays to be a specialist in one area, acting as an expert in that niche and learning how to attract the right kind of client. That’s where Liftoff Agent comes in. It’s a customized service that provides agents with a targeted game plan for success. We spoke with Liftoff Agent’s VP of growth, Dan Gandee, about the company and his own strategy as a real estate broker. 

Hi, Dan! Thanks for joining me today. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into real estate?

Sure, that’s a great question. When I was growing up, my grandfather was a small-time landlord. I used to help him clean out rentals and do odds and ends, as well as construction and maintenance projects. Then I really started seeing all the negatives of being a small-time landlord and dealing with bad tenants. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to become a landlord, but it was always on the back burner. It was something I had familiarity with, and I enjoyed homes and construction. 

Then I went to college and got a bachelor’s degree in advertising. I kept working in the construction/landscape design/building business. I made a lot of good connections with real estate agents, but I never really thought I would get into real estate myself until someone told me that they thought I’d be really good at it. I kept putting it on the back burner and then by chance I landed a job in Silicon Valley with one of the top five real estate teams in the country, as director of operations and marketing. 

“I never thought I would get into real estate, until someone said I’d be really good at it.”

Then I met the CEO and co-founder of Liftoff Agent. He suggested we team up, since I had done so much marketing for real estate agents. So we started out building custom IDX websites, and since then we’ve grown so much, working with hundreds of agents – most of whom are in the top 10% of real estate professionals.

In addition to your work with LiftOff Agent, you’re also a real estate broker, right?

I am. I was an investor first. I would invest, flip houses, and buy multi-family units. Then I had a transaction go wrong out of state, and that was when I decided I was done dealing with other agents, I was going to get my own real estate license. So myself and my partner on the investment side started to build a real estate team here in Eugene, Oregon, and it’s been really great. 

That’s awesome. Now I want to jump right in with Liftoff Agent, because I think it could benefit a lot of agents who are reading this. 

Sure. I’ll start by saying that Liftoff Agent exists because we realized that most real estate agents don’t know who their ideal client is, or where they should be marketing or targeting buyers and sellers. After working with some of the best real estate agents in the country, I saw how they operated – they had a niche, they had a repeatable and predictable process. They knew where to spend their marketing dollars, where to get certifications, they knew where to educate themselves.

“Most real estate agents don’t know who their ideal client is, or where they should be marketing.”

It became obvious to us that there were no marketing agencies that were specific to helping agents go from generalists to specialists. No one was creating lead funnels or strategies for them to implement on their own. And as social media evolved, no one was focused on the trajectory of an agent and their ability to put out content and attract the right buyers. 

There were companies that were generating leads, and ones that would work with really high-end custom branding pieces, but no one was focusing on helping agents who wanted to see either a geographical advantage or a specialization advantage. 

So that’s what Liftoff Agent does. We go from start to finish and we build a game plan, we give the agent a playbook that tells them what they need to do. We can’t do everything for them, but if they follow the playbook, they’ll immerse and educate themselves. They’ll become experts and shoot the right content and videos which will lead to a more predictable client that they can attract to their business. 

“We build a game plan for agents, we give them a playbook.”

I’m actually a great testimonial for the Liftoff Agent strategy. About 85% or 90% of my clients are investors because I shoot seminars about investing and I stick to that trajectory.

That sounds like a really valuable service! Let’s dig a little deeper into the nitty gritty details. What exactly can an agent expect after hiring Liftoff Agent?

Well, first we look at the agent’s branding kit. Do they have a brand? Do they have a logo? What’s their strategy? Who are they trying to attract? Have they thought about color schemes? We take that information and we build a custom IDX website with the right pages, the right types of funnels – whether it be a direct mail capture page or a review capture page that they can send to their clients post-transaction, or whether it’s integrating other tools within the industry like Altos Research or HighNote. We make sure they can stream their YouTube videos and their Instagram right from their homepage, and we start to create a website that’s like a library for their business, versus a standard landing page. 

But why is it important for agents to develop a niche? Many agents are happy to accept a wide range of clients. 

There’s no problem with being a generalist, but there are also many problems with being a generalist! Imagine taking a $100 bill and cutting it up into a million pieces, and then you just throw it in the middle of the Bay Area. How do you build reach, frequency, brand awareness, or name recognition within any type of geo-specific area, or specialized niche in real estate? 

“There’s no problem with being a generalist, but there are also many problems with being a generalist.”

It would be very hard, because an agent can’t be in seven different cities at once and get his sign in seven different neighborhoods and start to build the traction of referrals and traditional marketing without being able to take a large amount of marketing dollars and spread it over those areas. Big real estate teams who have developed their brand, like Kenny Truong and #TEAMFAST, can do that in multiple cities – but most agents aren’t at his level. 

So how do you specialize and create that laser focus to start building some traction? That’s where your referral generation really starts to happen; as you work with one homeowner or neighbor, it turns into reviews in that area, people start Google searching you in that area, they start seeing your signs in that area, they start to see you online in that area. You can start focusing on one area and people will start knowing you as an expert, and all of a sudden you have a positioning strategy that works. You’re not trying to compete with everybody, you’re trying to either compete in a very specific area or a very specific specialization that allows you to build more repeat customers, as well as track the right vendor relationships and referrals from vendors. For example, if you’re an investor agent and you deal with a lot of house flippers, now you have contractors sending you other investors and you have landscaping companies sending you other investors. Everyone knows that you’re in that ecosystem and you’re building that community, and you’re a leader there. 

Now let’s talk about technology. A lot of agents tell me that it’s impossible to truly succeed without technology these days. Do you agree?

I agree with that statement 100%. If you search on Google for “Eugene Realtors,” I’m on the very first page, using Google local services. It’s just about being ahead of that curve and using it as an advantage.

“I invest 25% of every commission check back into my business.” 

Marketing is also so important. Some people may think this is crazy, but with every commission check that comes in, I take 75% of it and put it in my bank account, and 25% of it goes right back into direct mail, right back into marketing. I just keep recycling that money back into the business, because I believe it’s important to do that.

While we’re on the topic of technology, I’d love to hear how you use HighNote – both in your own real estate business and with LiftOff Agent. 

As VP of growth for Liftoff Agent, one of my key responsibilities is finding other technologies that mesh well or can be plugged into the system of how our positioning agency works. So I test a lot of different tools within my own real estate business. Then I also ask myself how we can implement those tools within our marketing suggestions for our own customers.

I use HighNote for recruiting for eXp. It’s been great because I needed something that could streamline answering questions, sharing videos, showing the process, and being able to share that information quickly to someone who wants to come to eXp or is interested in learning more. So that was the first HighNote that I set up. 

The second HighNote I set up was a relocation guide for Eugene, Oregon, because I kept getting a lot of buyers from out-of-state that were coming here, or calling me and saying they weren’t very familiar with the area. So I built this very comprehensive relocation guide. As soon as I speak to them on the phone, I get their email and shoot it over to them. Two or three minutes later, I get a notification that they’re viewing the guide. 

The third thing I built was my homebuyer resource guide. I built out a very robust home buying process guide with articles, my preferred lenders, things to think about, the escrow process, and common problems that come up. It’s a very well oiled machine. When a buyer comes to me, I listen to what they’re trying to accomplish, what they’re trying to buy, and what their budget is. Then I send over the HighNote and every single one of them says how much they appreciate it, that they don’t have to search Google in a million different directions for that information. 

“I send a homebuyer resource guide to all my buyers through HighNote, and they all say how much they appreciate it.” 

I also use it to attract seller leads, when they fill out a “what’s your home worth” valuation request. I drop that a postcard form with a QR code that gets a lead capture once that lead comes in. Then I turn around and I drop a HighNote which has a picture of their house. It has what Zillow thinks their home is worth, what Trulia thinks their home is worth, what the RPR thinks their home is worth, and then a video of me and what I think their home is worth. They receive this and they’re like “Holy smokes, this team is really dialed in, they spent a lot of time putting in the effort to make this for my house and send it directly to me.” 

And then I also use it to send offers over. Those HighNotes have a picture of the property, proof of funds, the offer, disclosures, the agency disclosure. In one instance, the seller’s side said they were so impressed with my HighNote – and then my own client called me and was like “I’ve never seen this tool you’re using, I can see the difference between what you’re doing and other agents I’ve worked with.” He said he really appreciated that I was putting my best foot forward and presenting the offer in the best way possible. That meant a lot because it was coming from an investor who had bought and sold with a lot of different real estate agents over the past 20 or 30 years. The seller chose our offer, even though we weren’t the highest one.

“We sent over a HighNote and our offer won, even though we weren’t the highest bid.”

In another situation, my buyer was competing in a highly desirable location in Eugene, right by the university and the football stadium. The thing to know about Eugene is that it’s a very fast paced Airbnb market, as well as a rental market. So a lot of people were competing for this property. If I would have sent my buyer’s offer in a regular email, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have considered us because it wasn’t an all-cash offer. It was conventional financing. But when I sent it in HighNote, it made them stop. We won the offer, a half million dollar duplex, because we came with the best terms, the best technology, and the best presentation. 

You’re also very forward-thinking with your use of HighNote!

I am. With those seller leads I was talking about earlier, I have a massive pipeline of relationships being built. And when the time is right, those are going to turn into dozens of listings, just because I have kept in touch with them and I’m making sure I use HighNote to the best of my ability. I think that’s the biggest value that HighNote offers. Agents can brag about winning a $3 million dollar deal using HighNote, and that’s great, but I’d rather have a massive CRM pipeline full of sellers, just growing like little carrots, ready to be harvested in the next few years. 

“I have a pipeline of sellers growing like carrots, ready to be harvested in the next few years.”

You mentioned earlier that your buyer was chosen in a transaction even though they didn’t bring the highest offer. A lot of people tend to assume that whoever offers the most money always wins the deal, but that isn’t always the case…

No, that’s not always the case. It’s not always about money – sometimes sellers have other problems they need to solve. It’s often about creating the most seamless transaction possible for the seller. It’s about negotiating around the other parts of the transaction, like the timeline to close. Maybe they need more time, or maybe they haven’t found a new home yet and you offer to rent the home back to them for 30 days after closing. The power of negotiation can be really strong in those situations. 

That makes perfect sense, and I’m sure it will serve as a source of encouragement to any homebuyers who might be reading this! Thank you so much for your time, Dan! 

Are you looking to buy or sell a home in the Eugene area? If so, be sure to contact Dan at The Exit Agents Team, and follow the team on Facebook and YouTube!

If you’re an agent who needs a little help with their business strategy and targeting the right clients, contact Liftoff Agent today!

…And if you’re a real estate agent looking to take your business to the next level, click here to get started with HighNote!