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Property Management Brainstorm Podcast

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Episode 55: Standing Out in the Crowd, Featuring Nicki Callahan, Founder of Nest Publications

Bob Preston - Thursday, April 1, 2021

In the crowded space of the property management industry, making sure your company is standing out in the crowd is more important than ever. Tech savvy property managers are using digital media to snag single family owners with through their online presence. So, what about you? Are you putting your best foot forward with digital marketing?

On this episode of Property Management Brainstorm, Bob discusses the topic of digital marketing for property management companies with Nicki Callahan, Founder of Nest Publications. Nest Publications is a digital marketing group that is helping to drive property management business leads and revenue.

A time-stamped transcript of the episode is below. 

Topics Covered

[2:20] Nicki introduces herself and explains what Nest Publications is all about.

[3:40] The concept of a "digital magazine" for promoting property management companies and their rental listings.

[5:00]  Nest Publications is currently servicing 8 states, hopes to be nationwide soon.

[6:15] Branding and content for the digital magazine.

[8:10] How is the digital magazine for property management companies distributed?

[13:12] Showing off the customized and branded digital magazine as a demo.

[15:30] Nicki explains the pricing model for the digital marketing plans and provides information on the special discount offered to members of NARPM.

[16:25] Tracking the metrics and KPIs of the digital marketing program.

[18:25] Nicki shares a great story about her time growing up that shaped her approach to life and business.

Connect to Nest Publications

Special Nest Program for NARPM Members

Connect with Bob Preston
San Diego Property Manager 

This episode is always available for listening, sharing, or download at Property Management Brainstorm. Subscribe to Property Management Brainstorm on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify,  TunedIn,  iHeart Radio and YouTube.

Bob Preston:                     01:05                    Hello, and welcome to all you brainstormers who are listening in today. This is Bob Preston, your host of the show broadcasting from our studio at North County Property Group in Del Mar California. If you're new here, please subscribe. So, you have ongoing access to all of our great episodes. And if you like what you hear, please pay it forward with a positive review in today's property management industry, standing out in the crowd to grow your property management company and demonstrate your relevance is critical. There are innovative property managers out there all over the country that are snagging the tech savvy, single family homeowners with dazzling digital marketing. So, what about you in the online era? Having a digital marketing strategy has become an absolute necessity, not something that's a nice to have joining me as a guest on the show today is Nicki Callahan. The founder of Nest Publications, Nest Publications is a digital marketing group that is helping real estate agents and property managers stay relevant to their clients with online marketing designed to drive business leads and their revenue. Nicki, welcome to Property Management Brainstorm. Thanks so much for having me. Oh, absolutely. It's fun. Always to do these kinds of things and meet new people. And for starters, Nicki, it would be great if you could just introduce yourself, tell us what you do at the company and what Nest Publications is all about.

Nicki Callahan:                 02:23                    Sure, sure. So, my name is Nicki Callahan and I'm the founder of Nest Publications. Um, and I'm a property manager myself. Um, Nest Publications has been in business for about just a little over six years and it offers a digital magazine for real estate agents and property managers. Um, I started doing this magazine for myself when I was in sales. I looked everywhere for a digital product that I wanted to use to represent myself for marketing, something that was stylish and that I would feel proud to disperse and I couldn't find anything anywhere. So, I started doing magazine for myself and then other sales agents started seeing it and asking me if I could do one for them. And so, I did. And then when I moved over to property management, the same sort of thing happened. I, I just took my marketing tool, which was my main marketing tool and, um, did it for property management instead. And then property managers started seeing it and asking me if I could do one for them as well. Um, we have right now, we are in eight different States and I hope to go national within the next year before we didn't have the backend systems all set up, but now we do graphic designers, writers, all of that. So, so we're ready to expand. Wow,

Bob Preston:                     03:38                    That's interesting. Okay. So, let's focus on this concept of the digital magazine then, because I think that might require some extra attention. What exactly is that, that seems to be kind of the focus of your offering?

Nicki Callahan:                 03:48                    Sure, sure. So, um, there's, there's two ways that we differentiate ourselves from other, uh, digital marketing tools. It's digital. So, it's green, it's all online. It's not paper. Um, one is that we allow the agents and the property managers to customize a page in the magazine. Usually, they put in their listings or sold or rented as the case may be. Um, and we have live links throughout the magazine to lead readers back to the property manager. That's really the end goal is just to, to do that touch and get them back to the property manager. Um, we link social sites, email website, uh, and then the other way that we differentiate ourselves from other digital marketing pools out there is that we are community specific. So, in every issue for property managers, we do one issue a month. And in every issue, we have something that's community based. Um, an article maybe about farmer's markets in the area or, um, happenings for the summer. We, we usually not last summer, but, um, summers before we've done summer bucket lists and fun things to do in the area. So those are the main areas that we differentiate ourselves.

Bob Preston:                     04:58                    Okay. So, what are the States you're in? You mentioned you're in eight States?

Nicki Callahan:                 05:02                    We're in eight States. We're in California. We are in Washington, primarily in Washington, which is where I'm based. We're in Texas, we're in Florida, we're in Virginia, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Montana.

Bob Preston:                     05:14                    Okay, cool. So, I'm in the state of California, I'm in Del Mar to be specific. So, if I were to subscribe or be one of your partners, then it sounds like there's kind of blanket content that each property manager or each real estate agent gets. And then there's a certain level of customization. Some of that might be specific to the Del Mar or San Diego market. Is it, am I getting that right?

Nicki Callahan:                 05:33                    That is exactly correct. Yep. The, the title of the magazine also, um, alternates between areas. So, uh, in Seattle we have two very different areas, although it is all King County, but we have Seattle sort of proper. And then we have the East side and it's very, very different. Seattle is more liberal than, um, like Bellevue and Kirkland, which is East side. So, we would title one magazine, Seattle may zone, and then the other magazine East side may zone for those agents over there.

Bob Preston:                     06:03                    Terrific. So, the focus seems to be on kind of two aspects, right? That I'm getting one is about the brand, the brand of the particular maybe agent or property management company. And of course, the other is.

Nicki Callahan:                 06:14                    That is correct. So, um, we custom brand each publication in three different areas to the agents. So, the inside front cover, there's, uh, a note that's written, it's written in the voice of the agent or property manager. So, it makes it very personal. Um, and then in the middle of the magazine with the after mentioned, uh, custom agent page, which the property manager can insert with anything they want it, and it could be a seasoned greeting. It could be a short blurb about market happenings. It doesn't have to be properties that, that they have. Um, and then the third area that the agent is branded in is the back cover and that sort of a business card, um, agent contact photos, social media links, logos are, are all displayed and linked throughout the magazine. Um, the content is, uh, it's the décor lifestyle, real estate based, um, rental articles for property managers, such as getting your deposit back or holiday décor. Um, and then of course, a community specific aspect that I mentioned as well.

Bob Preston:                     07:11                    Okay. And who writes the content? I mean, do you have a team of writers?

Nicki Callahan:                 07:15                    Yep. Um, for the first four years I wrote almost all of it, myself. It got to be a lot. So, uh, we do have, um, writers now that write the articles for the community specific articles. We have community specific writers in Seattle. We have a writer from the Seattle times, and then we also have a writer from, um, Seattle magazine and Houston. We have a writer from Houstonian magazine. We really like to use local writers to write the local content. They just give it an insight and a flavor that somebody in Washington couldn't provide for the Texas area.

Bob Preston:                     07:48                    And do your property managers or your agents get to prove it or take a look before it goes out, or how does that work?

Nicki Callahan:                 07:55                    Because we have, you know, we represent 600 agents, um, that would be a lot. And then somebody wants their logo moved up two centimeters and, and we just don't have the bandwidth to do that. It's pretty much manual. None. None of this is automated except for how we send it out.

Bob Preston:                     08:10                    How has the magazine delivered them? And how often does it go? You said monthly, is there a specific time of the month that goes and how, I guess, how does it go out?

Nicki Callahan:                 08:19                    We are in a partnership with constant contact. So, what would happen is the property manager or, or the sales agent would open an account with constant contact. They would input all of their database. And then we have a managerial authority, and we can go in and work the template, put everything in that we need to put the link to the magazine and a photo of the magazine cover and then send it out to their audience that way. And it, and it works great in two ways. One that the property manager doesn't have to keep updating with, um, omissions and additions to their database, which takes manpower, of course. And then another is that they can, they can add and delete as they want. And they can also see the analytics so they can see how many clicks, how many opens for each mailing. And that's been really, really beneficial. Uh, they can also use it, how, how I use it is, uh, a multi-prong approach to marketing. So, say the magazine goes out. Usually, it goes out the first week of the month, then they can see how many people open it, who click on it and they can customize segments of their database. And they can also set up automation so that, uh, maybe they want to do a drip campaign for their most active or their least active. And they can tailor content to that segment.

Bob Preston:                     09:43                    Okay. So, they could use the same constant contact database to do other things, then maybe a company newsletter or something like that. Wow. That's very cool. And then they can see who maybe their most active participants are now, does the magazine go to existing clients or to lead like a lead network?

Nicki Callahan:                 09:59                    It really depends on what the property manager wants to do or, or the agent wants to do how I do it is I, I have, um, I send it to leads. So, I send it to people that have inquired about property management, I get their name and then I keep updating them until they, you know, say stop or, or they eventually decided to use me as a property manager. Um, I also, uh, send it to sales agents in our office. We don't do sales, we don't have the correct, um, insurance errors and omissions to do sales. We only do property management. Most of my business comes from referrals. So, what I'll do is I'll use my agent page to highlight the agent that gave me a referral, my database, because I've been building it for quite some time is 27,000. So, I'll put the agent in there.

Nicki Callahan:                 10:48                    I'll, I'll do a blurb about them link to their social media. So, it's extra marketing for them to 27,000 and, and these are all renters and that database of 27,000. Um, so I'll send it to the renters and then the leads, and then I'll also send it to sales agents as well. And I'm pretty picky about what I put on my agent page. Um, even though it is extra marketing for properties, I, I really am wanting to, and, and have had moderate success in tailoring my business to higher end properties. So, I'll only feature those.

Bob Preston:                     11:23                    Sure. Very interesting. And then can it be pushed out other ways, for example, in social media or any other means maybe featured on the company's website? I'm just thinking out loud here.

Nicki Callahan:                 11:34                    Absolutely. Can we have an agent in Houston, and she extracts some of the articles. She puts them on her blog and then she also puts the entire magazine on her blog as well and posts it to all of her social media and any property manager or agent can do that. We don't do that, but we give you the content in which to do that. And really you, if you dissect the publication that way you can probably get eight different posts a month from that one magazine.

Bob Preston:                     12:01                    Yeah. If you take the content and maybe repurpose it a little bit. All right. So, being, um, being digital, is it all about written texts and images? Could you put video into it?

Nicki Callahan:                 12:12                    Video's not included. That's something that we want to incorporate in the near future, but we haven't done that yet, but the property manager or the agent can absolutely do that. And we do have an agent in Seattle that does a sort of a cooking show. So, she has a beautiful home in, in a, an affluent area. And she knows a lot of celeb chefs for some reason. I'm not sure why, but she asked him to come over and, uh, she hires a videographer, and they do a whole segment and she usually cooks seasonal food hamburgers in the summer. And the whole premise of, of this kind of shtick really is, let me help you find you a home. So, you can cook with your friends and family. So, she does about three-minute videos. It's beautiful lighting, its great music, the whole thing, she puts that on her website. And then she sends us the link and we do a thumbnail and insert it in her magazine for her. So, if property managers do a video of one of their listings, or even if they just want to tape themselves talking about market stats or market trends, we can absolutely insert that for them.

Bob Preston:                     13:11                    So if I'm then maybe meeting with a new client, right. If I'm out doing a pitch for a new prospective property management client, how would I show this as a demo to kind of say, Hey, if you sign with us, you get this bonus. We have this publication that goes out, let me show it to you. How would that be done?

Nicki Callahan:                 13:27                    Absolutely. Take an iPad and show them in real time, thumb through the magazine show, how the interactive leaks work, how it all comes back to you, how you market the properties on your agent page. What I also do is I send something beforehand. I designed a very, very simple PDF and, um, in that PDF as a marketing page and I linked the magazine and I talk about the magazine. So, I kind of send that beforehand. So, they, they know this extra marketing tool that I do that really very, very, very few property managers have that kind of sets me apart from all of the competition that advertises in the same area as truly a Zillow Craigslist website. Um, so that's absolutely how you can do it. Yeah.

Bob Preston:                     14:10                    Interesting. Yeah. I remember in the old, in the old days, you used to, you know, pick these magazines up outside the grocery store and stuff like that. And today, I mean, it's become so much more sophisticated. It almost seems like it's a must have, right. I mean, to be digital savvy, I mean, you've got to do it right.

Nicki Callahan:                 14:26                    I think so. And by showing it, I'm kind of showing and not telling, you know, I don't have to toot my own horn and say, look, how savvy I am. I just say, this is another tool that I use that not very many people do, and it's getting a great response and it does help properties rent faster. And it does help me build my brand and my following

Bob Preston:                     14:44                    Imagining that if I'm on the side of maybe being a prospect of yours as a property management client, you know, I would get on a regular basis and maybe I would look at them, maybe I wouldn't, but it's just, you know, that mind share, right? Getting face time with that particular prospect over and over and over again, consistently.

Nicki Callahan:                 15:02                    Absolutely. It's all about the touches. So, when we send it out, uh, on behalf of the property managers or the agents we can of course see who opens and clicks it, and the clicks are less than the opens, but the template that we send out has the agent's photo. It has all of their live links to their contact. So even if they don't go through the magazine, our, our goal is achieved just by that person is looking at the agent's face.

Bob Preston:                     15:28                    Okay. I'd like to understand more about your pricing structure. And I also understand that you have a special program with NARPM, is that correct? Yep. So, tell us about that.

Nicki Callahan:                 15:37                    Sure. So, uh, the, the property managers, publications are sent out once a month, usually in the first week of the month, the price is $1,800 and that's for the entire year and NARPM gets a $200 discount. Okay. Now we don't ever want price to be a barrier to entry. So, we do have a monthly option as well. It's a little higher priced, um, it's two 25 per month, but then you can spread out the payments.

Bob Preston:                     16:04                    Okay. So, if someone wanted to try it, that might be a way to do it.

Nicki Callahan:                 16:09                    Could we ask for a one year commitment just because there's a lot of work upfront in onboarding with logos and photos and social media links and all of that.

Bob Preston:                     16:18                    Of course I can, I can imagine. Okay. And then you mentioned that they can track some of the metrics and analytics through constant contact. How else would a property management company decide, Hey, this is really great. This is, you know, bringing in X number of clients a month or helping me rent properties faster. How would they track that? I'm a big believer in, you know, marketing spends, you should be able to have KPIs that show it's worth, right. How would they do that with Nest Publications?

Nicki Callahan:                 16:43                    The only way to really do that would be to gauge, um, how involved your readers are, because, you know, with, um, with paper products and paper marketing, unless they come right out and say, we saw your ad here. You really don't know, you know, if you're getting a bang for your buck there or not, but I can say that with our, with our product and the agents that we represent right now, that the average open rate for real estate email is 19 point 17%. And our average is 42% across all of the agents that we represent, the average click rate. And this is taken from MailChimp by by industry. The average click rate for real estate emails is 1.77, and ours is 23%. So, people are engaged in the content they are clicking through. And I think that's a really good indicator of getting a bang for your buck, because you're getting out there, people are interested in it. And then whether they use you or not, who knows, but for sure, they'll tell somebody else about you and probably forward the publication, which is another great thing about digital is that it's so easy to forward. No, those are really good.

Bob Preston:                     17:50                    Click-through and open rates. I mean, that's, that's astonishing because, I mean, I know we, we do some amount of digital marketing ourselves mainly in touch with new potential clients, realtors, as you mentioned, but it's kind of our own product, right? It's not really the degree of sophistication that you do at nest and we never get those kinds of numbers. So that's fantastic. That's really, that's really, really good. Nicki. I always like my guests to tell the story about themselves. I prepped you on this one ahead of time, and I just think it adds kind of a personal touch. So, we get to know a little bit more about you. You know, you've told us a little bit, like you live in the, you know, you're in the Washington state area, you have a story you'd like to share today.

Nicki Callahan:                 18:27                    Sure. So, this is a story that's kind of, it's kind of a while in the making and it sort of shaped me. Um, my mom was a big inspiration to me, and she got divorced when I was 12 and my sister and I mostly lived with her. Um, my grandfather, my mom was a secretary. My grandfather was a developer in the city that I grew up in. So, we were able to live in houses that my mom couldn't afford to buy. So, we lived in fairly affluent areas and my mom was a single mom would do everything. She'd mow the lawn; she'd shovel the snow where other dads were usually tasked with those chores. My mom was out there doing that, and I didn't, it was just kind of how I grew up when I was 19. I moved to Los Angeles with used furniture that we had painted my mom and I moved everything out there.

Nicki Callahan:                 19:19                    And I was able to live in a pretty nice area. And when I got there three days before the Rodney King riots, as it were this little girl from Utah, um, when I arrived, we had a truck full of belongings and I saw all these moving people moving other people's belongings in. And I was just deflated. I was like, I can't believe we have to move all this stuff in. So, one of the last items on the truck was a mattress and mattresses are really, really hard to move. They're flimsy and awkward. And I just started complaining right away. I just, I was just bemoaning the fact that we couldn't have movers, move it in. And my mom looked at me and she said, pick it up. Nobody else is going to do it. We gotta do this. Let's go. And she was so stern and so adamant about it.

Nicki Callahan:                 20:04                    And I, I looked around and I thought, nobody else is going to do it. I suck it up and let's get going. So that really stayed with me in that nobody's going to do it for you, pick it up and do it yourself. And I hope now that my daughter, and I'm a single mom, that my daughter now sees me mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow with all the other dads in the neighborhood, or when people hire it out, it's me out there doing it. And I hope that that provides her some inspiration and, and gumption to just, you got to do it. Nobody's going to do it for you.

Bob Preston:                     20:36                    That's a very cool story and inspiring one too, hopefully for not only your daughter, but maybe the people at your company like, like, are you, I'm the type who rolls up their sleeves and jumps. 

Nicki Callahan:                 20:48                    I’ll tell you nobody else in my company does any marketing. And since I've been there, I I've grown 30 to 47% year over year since I've been there. And I attribute a lot of that to this magazine, which of course I founded. So, I think it does seep into other areas of your life. Just that nobody's going to do it for you.

Bob Preston:                     21:11                    That's a really good message for our property management listeners too, or even our landlords that are, that are, do it yourselfers. You know, sometimes when you spot something inside the company, I know I have this at North County property group. I'll spot something in the company, and I'll be thinking, you know, why are we still doing it that way? You know, when people are just kind of plugging along doing their dribble, that's because that's how you taught me to, you know, five years ago or something like that. And so, it's kind of like, just always reminds me that I got, I still need to this day to really, really watch and pay attention because sometimes I'm the only one who can spot things and I'm sometimes the only one who can really fix it, you know? So, you know what I'm saying? Uh, okay. That was a great story and a great episode too. Thanks so much for coming on the show today. I'd love to continue. We could probably talk about this stuff all day long. I'm a former chief marketing officer from Silicon Valley. Yeah. So, I love this kind of stuff. Anyway, any last words or things you'd like to say about digital marketing and about Nest Publications, about how property managers can take advantage of this? What do you, what would you like to wrap up with?

Nicki Callahan:                 22:12                    I would say if you are still stuck in paper products and pens and calendars or heaven forbid, you're taking around poinsettias at Christmas time door to door. I would just say that the digital marketing space has changed so much in six years. And you can really, really cast a wide net with, with very few products. So, view this magazine as a multi-prong approach to marketing and, and let us do the heavy lifting for you, um, and get out there and, and show yourself in a unique light that maybe other property managers aren't. And then, you know, like my mom says nobody's going to do it.

Bob Preston:                     22:52                    That's awesome. Really good advice. Okay. And how would they get in touch with Nest Publications if they wanted to learn more?

Nicki Callahan:                 22:58                    Sure. So, they could send an email at info or info at Nest Publications, and it's plural with an s, Our website is, and I can send back a Calendly link, and then I'm happy to set up a 15, 20-minute phone call and take people through the product and show them how I use the product and how other agents use the product as well to give them sort of a kickstart.

Bob Preston:                     23:23                    For NARPM members. Don't forget, there's a discount here. And there is a link on the NARPM affiliate page where these discounts, and I'll put that in the episode notes so people can find it. That'd be great. Thank you. Hey, Nicki, thanks so much for coming on the show today. Really great episode. And as we wrap up today, I'd like to make another quick plug to our listeners to click on the subscribe button and give us a like also pay it forward with a positive review to help encourage more great guests like Nicki to come on our show. And that concludes today's episode. Thank you for joining the property management brainstorm show. Until next time we will be in the field, working hard for our clients to maximize a rental income and maintain top tenant relations. And we'll catch you next time.

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