Want To Know What Works In Real Estate?  Spy On Your Competition!

Want To Know What Works In Real Estate? Spy On Your Competition!

6 min read
Chris Clothier

Chris Clothier began building his rental portfolio in 2003 as a successful entrepreneur looking to diversify his investments. He quickly gravitated toward passive investing, establishing a portfolio of over 50 single family homes in Memphis, Tenn. As an original client of his family’s firm Memphis Invest (now REI Nation), Chris experienced firsthand what a passive investor endures when purchasing out of state. In 2007, Chris moved his company and family back to Tennessee, wound down his brokering company, and joined REI Nation as a partner and director of sales and marketing.

Since joining REI Nation, the business has grown into the premier turnkey investment company in the country and a standard bearer for best practices in the industry, managing over 6,000 investment properties for 2,000 passive clients. In addition to managing the development and implementation of sales and marketing processes, Chris serves as an ambassador for the company, working with the team to help potential investors define their purpose for investing in real estate and educating peer companies on best practices.

REI Nation clients’ portfolios hold a value of close to $800 million in single family assets in seven cities. The company has been featured as a six-straight year honoree in Inc. magazine’s list of the 500/5,000 “Fastest Growing Companies in America.”

In 2019, Chris’ team assisted 600 investors with purchasing just under 1,000 fully-renovated and occupied turnkey homes. Chris led the re-brand of his family’s company on January 1, 2020, from Memphis Invest to REI Nation.

Chris is also an experienced real estate speaker and addresses small and large audiences of real estate investors and business professionals nationwide several times each year, including IMN single family conferences, the PM Grow property management conference, and the Ignite conference in Las Vegas each December.

Chris continues to hold a sizable single-family rental portfolio in both Tennessee and Texas. Along with his family, he owns several commercial buildings in the greater Memphis area.

When not working with the team at REI Nation, Chris is busy raising five kids, operating a racing company in Memphis, and serving as CEO for The Cancer Kickers Soccer Club, a Memphis-based 501c3 providing comfort and care for kids battling childhood cancers.

Founded in 2017 by Chris and Michelle Clothier, the non-profit organization focuses on providing a team environment for kids to find encouragement and strength in their battle. The company worked with over 500 children from six countries in 2019.

Chris has been featured in stories published in Money Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and DN News, as well as the Memphis Business Journal. In 2018, McGraw-Hill Publishing purchased Chris’ manuscript, The Turnkey Revolution, and worked with Chris to publish his first book in May 2018.

Chris also publishes two weekly blogs at ChrisClothier.com and REINation.com. Chris has also published articles on the BiggerPockets Blog since 2009.


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Nice title, huh!?  This will probably get more than a few looks and probably some who will not read past this point and think the article is about “spying” on your competition in the “dirty” sense of the word.  It is not.

If you want to know what is working when it comes to marketing, advertising and selling, then the best place to go is to any one of your fellow real estate professionals – either persons or businesses – that are having success and research what they are doing.  Very few companies are going to tell you exactly what they are doing, so picking up the phone and asking most people or business owners, “what are you doing to have success”, is going to be out of the question.  You will come across those in the community that are very open and will help out as much as possible, but I just think that is rare.

More than likely you are going to have to go about figuring out the successful strategies of other real estate companies the old fashioned way: by following their footprints and looking around at the clues.  There are more than a few websites out there that will help you figure out what your competition is doing.  And remember…it is not always about what they are doing to be successful, but just as important, what are they doing that is not working!  Pay attention to all of the tips below, because in some cases, the tip is about figuring out what not to do!

1.  Your Competitors Themselves

I want to be real clear on this one.  I have told countless numbers of entrepreneurs to go to my website and take some specific notes.  How is the site laid out?  Where is video used?  What offers are made on the site to encourage registrations which could be the start of a great relationship.  Take notes on what you like and don’t like and use those notes to develop your own site.

I have told investors to register for our offers and notice the educational nature of the offer and then take notes on the follow up.  What emails do you receive?  What phone calls do you receive?  What are the questions asked and what is the tone of the conversation?

Why would I do and say all of this?  Because that is how you learn what is working and not working.  The key to this process is to use the information and build a website or an offer or your follow up around your own personality and company.  DO NOT try to simply copy and paste because that will never work.  Learn to observe and take notes on the best companies out there and the processes they use.  Then duplicate it with your own flavor.

2.  Google Keyword Planner

This is a great place to start if you want to see what your competition is doing with their website.  Be prepared to be let down though!  Very few actually understand how to prepare their website to be found online.  Most are not informed or surrounding themselves with really good SEO help to position their website to be found for the terms most important to them.  So, be prepared to go outside of just your competition and start looking at industry leaders and websites within your niche that you know are performing really well.  Use the Keyword Planner tool to investigate the site and see which keywords they are ranking for and how much traffic they get from those words.

You can also see how much competition there is for their top keywords and what it would cost you per day and the number of estimated site visits you could get if you wanted to advertise for those same keywords.  This is a great way to find out where visitors to that website are coming from and what budget you would have to have in order to get some of that traffic.

3.  Screaming Frog

This site might be a little advanced for some, but if you want to know what is making a site click on all cylinders, this is the site.  Using Screaming Frog you can research meta information, H tags, keywords, anchor test, follow and non-follow links as well as image descriptions and page depths.  Why does this matter?

If you want to know important keywords, H tags and the general layout of a website, then you need to know where to get all of this information.  Do not simply build a site from scratch and go into such an expensive endeavor blind.  Know the information on the best of the best sites and then share that with your developer.  Really good sites are not built haphazardly.  They are built to work and then when working they are left alone and monitored.  You should do the same – monitor the best sites and pull all the data that you need to give you a roadmap to what works.

4.  Alexa

Some people will tell you that Alexa is a waste of time – a paid platform that only a small percentage of companies are using.  I will tell you that unless you an expert in online marketing and advertising, Alexa is a good tool for measuring you AND your competition.  The great thing about Alexa is you can see spikes in traffic to a competitors site which indicates an increase in advertising.  Then you can see which keywords are driving that traffic so you know what keywords or long-tail phrases they are targeting.  Now you know what you need to concentrate on if you want that same traffic.

Related: BP Podcast 026: Building a Scalable Real Estate Business and Tenant Management Tips with Chris Clothier

5.  SEO Moz

I am a huge fan of SEO Moz because they have a ton of both free and paid platforms that you can use to dig into your competitors activity.  For me, I use the paid platform and the access to incredible videos, information, blogs and articles, tips and tricks for driving traffic are second to none.  But they have something else that is super useful and you can get access to it for free.  They have a tool that allows you to see a sites backlinks.  It allows you to see not only who is linking to your competitors site, but also are the links any good.  They might be linking to Money.com when you are concentrating on Highlights.com and, as that analogy shows, if you want to grow your business you need to run with the big boys and graduate to a higher level.  You would never know what that level was without the ability to dig into the backlinks and see what is happening behind the scenes.

6.  SocialAdNinja.com

Do you like Facebook?  I am not a fan…at all.  But as a business owner, I do not have a choice but to be on it and to be using it.  If you are nervous about social media ppc advertising, then check out SocialAdNinja.com.  It has a price tag -$147 a month.  But you may only need to use it for one month, so the cost may be minimal for what you can get.  It allows you to view over 1 million Facebook advertising campaigns.  You can look at the campaigns based on keywords (now that you know what keywords matter to your business) and view ads based on those keywords.  You can see who the ads targeted, how successful they were and how long they ran.  You can also see what the ad spend was so you know about what your budget would be.  This is a great site to get a little info into what is working and what is not working in social media ad space.

7.  Google

I list it last, but it really is the simplest way to know what is happening with your competition.  Google their name.  Look at what comes up.  What are the returns you get when you enter the name of other companies in Google.  What sites come up other than their sites?  That tells you where they are linking.  Look for customer comments both positive and negative.  Throw the best comments and the worst comments out and look for what is being said a majority of the team.  What are they known for?  What is their trademark?  That tells you what area of your business to concentrate on.  Whether it is follow through, constant updates, great management, high level of information available…whatever their trademark, that is what you want to emulate.  Spy on your competition by learning everything you can about them.

This is a great way to determine which direction to head as a person or a company.  You can do all of these things with the top Realtor, lender, insurance agent, whatever in any area.  You can also research on companies the same way regardless of industry.  The top performers and companies with great reputations and growing businesses did not get there by accident.  The great thing for each of us is they left the road map and clues along the way.  We just have to know where to look to find out how they are doing it!

Photo: ckaroli