Episode 4: Secrets of Successful Niches - Chuck Charlton
Intro: Hi! This is Glenn McQueenie, and welcome to 20 Minutes of Insider Secrets of Successful Niches. This is where you learn the insider secrets to dominate your target market. You’ll learn to work with high-margin, super-happy clients, and build a tribe of loyal, raving fans for your business. So excited to have you join me today, so sit back and enjoy 20 Minutes of Insider Secrets of Successful Niches.
Glenn: Well hello, and welcome to our Success Series. I’m just so thrilled today to have Chuck Charlton from The Charlton Advantage Real Estate Team. How are you doing, Chuck?
Chuck: I’m great, Glenn. How are you?
Glenn: Oh, so great. And thank you. Honestly, I know you run a very big, high-producing team. You’re a busy guy, but I just really want to thank you and acknowledge you for taking some time to share some of your insights with our audience today on how you built your niche market and have now expanded it to such an amazing real estate team. So before we get into that, I just want to give people some background. So The Charlton Advantage Real Estate Team is really run by Chuck and Melissa Charlton. They moved to Milton in 2004, didn’t know anybody, basically took all of their life savings, their $40,000, and started just building a real estate team, and became such an immediate success that they had paid off that loan by the end of the first year. And since then, Chuck and Melissa have become really nationally recognized as teachers and leaders in the industry. They’ve been guest speakers in Las Vegas, San Diego, Orlando, Toronto for various real estate conferences. What I love about them is they’re just so kind and giving, and they’ve worked hard to get their wisdom, but I think they just love to share it with everybody. I mean, they’ve helped over 1,000 families already, helped buy and sell homes. So I’m just so thrilled to have Chuck with us today. So Chuck, I gave a little bit of your bio, but is there something I missed there? Or can you just really just take us on a journey about how you started your own journey in real estate?
Chuck: Yeah. I mean, we’ve known each other for a long time, too, so we knew each other when neither one of us was a big deal, right? It’s been fun. I think the first thing you do is you start to master sales. And I remember hearing this at The McQueenie Method Conferences. You master the sales part, and then you start to go, “Okay, I’m getting overwhelmed here.” And so now you need to hire and leverage. And then after you get some hiring done, and you figure out what’s good and what doesn’t work, then you reach a point where now you become a leader. And I think that’s where I’m trying to go now, is to just really be a good leader to the people around us, going from “me” to “we,” to in some cases, “they.”
Glenn: Well I think you’ll find, and I know you’re probably already seeing this, is just the freedom you get when you’re not the one who has to do everything anymore. And when you stay in your Unique Ability 80% of the time, because you’re just good at doing this, then you get to leverage everyone else’s Unique Ability. But your team didn’t just go, “Poof!” and you had a team. I mean, tell us a little bit of your journey. You started as really just you and Melissa.
Chuck: It was a husband-wife team, and we had no kids. It was just the two of us. We worked 80-90 hours a week. We had a house that we worked out of, and it was three bedrooms. There was the master bedroom, and then there were two offices upstairs. And so, we just worked and worked and worked until we got so tired we had to take a vacation probably every 90 days. And what really changed for us was when we had our first daughter, Vivian, who’s now almost 8 years old. I mean, you can’t work like that when you have kids, when you have a family. It’s not balanced. So that was the prompting to start. We started with the assistant, went through that whole process. Our business went down when we got an assistant, funnily enough, which is not what’s supposed to happen, but it did, because I think we kind of put it on cruise control a bit, and you can’t really do that. You’ve got to stay focused; you’ve got to be hungry. One of the things that I’ve learned in my life is I either need something chasing me, or I need something that I’m striving towards in order to really be an effective human being. Because otherwise, I come from pretty humble beginnings, and I almost feel like I’m already in the bonus round. So I’ve learned that I need that discomfort. I need to feel like I’m moving in a direction in order to really just fill my day with the right things, and just to be on the bleeding edge of doing something positive.
Glenn: That is so amazing. What I heard you say there is you’re almost just striving to get better for the sake of getting better just to keep your interest going.
Chuck: Well, you do, because I think there comes a point with moving from survival, (and I’ve been in survival before), and then you get a little bit of success, and then you move to that significance, and the money doesn’t drive you, right? It just doesn’t. It reaches a point, and I’m still not at a point where I could live the rest of my life on what’s been saved up, but I think that it has to be about something more, which leads us into this whole conversation of niches, is: “Who do you want to be a hero for?” I think that’s a very enticing message for somebody, is that you can show up like that, versus “I need to get a commission cheque.”
Glenn: Right. So how did you discover your niche? I know a lot of people will kind of flip back and forth and chase the next shiny object, and I find people like yourself, they tend to almost just line up what they’re really interested in and their natural strengths to find their niche. So how did you discover about Milton Daily Homes niche? And if you can, tell everybody about what that is.
Chuck: Yeah. So we started back in 2010. We started a daily video called “Milton Daily Homes” and we talked about all the homes that have listed in the last 24 hours in Milton. We do it Monday-Friday. So I think there’s like 1,400 episodes up at Milton Daily Homes. And where that started was, we had a pile of leads that we weren’t getting to – which is a problem, by the way. I think a lot of people listening would say “Well that’s a good problem to have.” It’s still a problem, because it’s like you’re burning money. You’re generating leads, and they’re not being cared for properly. So I looked at it and I said, “All of these people want the same thing. They want to receive listings by email.” So then I started talking with our mutual friend, Dean Jackson, and we came up with this idea. Originally, the first idea was, “Well every home that’s listed, why don’t we go and see the home, and then we can film it, and say ‘Look, I’ve been in here. Here’s what I like about it, here’s what I don’t like in some cases.’” But then I thought, logistically, that would take so much time. But what I do every morning is I wake up and I see what’s come new on the market, and I thought, “Could I just make something where it’s almost like someone looking over my shoulder?” And all I need to do is just say the things that are going on in my brain, because I think all realtors are going to look at a list of homes that come out, and there’s going to be a list that they really love, and there’s going to be a list that’s just okay, and there’s going to be a list that really they’re not that into, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a bad location. Maybe the price is high. And so I started looking into the technology of how I could make that happen, and we use a program called ScreenFlow for Mac. It’s only for the Mac. I think Camtasia would work for a PC, but you can actually just record what’s on your computer screen, you can record through a webcam, yourself in front of the computer, and then you just grab a microphone and get the audio. And that’s how it started. So Milton Daily Homes was just me telling people my thoughts on what’s been listed in Milton. And that list – at the time we were already building a list of about 6,000 people – it’s now up to almost 15,000 that we send an email saying a new episode’s up.
Glenn: That is, just, one of the best leverage examples I think I’ve ever heard. You can actually record once and distribute it, at really no cost, to 15,000 people in your community.
Chuck: Right. And how we get that list is we offer something. The only way anyone’s going to fill in a form on a website is if they believe it’s of benefit to them. So we have a lot of squeeze pages and landing pages and things that we’ve set up so that people would fill in that form. I think sometimes people try and do too much with their websites. So Milton Daily Homes is a bonding tool to help us move the relationship along. We don’t believe we can make someone move faster than they want to, but we’re always there saying “By the way, here’s the new episode.” But I think that if you can get that name and email from the website, (and this goes for whatever their niche is). So if you can get their contact information and you build that list, and the list is all of a common interest. So in our case, it’s people that want to hear about listings in Milton. For other people, it may be first-time buyers. For other people, it may be downsizers. But that list all shares the common thread, that they want to buy, and in some cases, sell a home in Milton, and they want to be informed about their decision. So that’s the fun thing. That list, when it’s congruent like that, we can start to make offers to the list, saying “Would you like to come on a tour of homes?” “Would you like to come to a buyer class?” And they’ve already said that they’re interested in some kind of real estate. So oftentimes, it’s just a matter of if they’re ready, and if they’re free on that day. So we always get good responses when we put those offers out to the list.
Glenn: What I love is you’re just in perfect alignment with what the consumer wants, right? And the consumer can search MLS by themselves, or they can have a bit of a coach, with you sending out your feedback on every listing. And I love how you’re edgy on it, too. You don’t just say, “Oh, and here’s another beautiful house.” You’re like, “This one is really great.” “This one, not so much.” “Here’s my top pick.” And you’re really building trust and rapport, and you’re really allowing them to move when they’re ready to move. It’s so interesting. So many agents are like, “Oh, I’ve got to get a deal this month” or “My buyers aren’t buying.” And it’s kind of like, “You know what? People are going to move on their own schedule, and the more that you can scale up your numbers, then the law of numbers and percentages just starts working in your favour.” And I love how you started, and you’ve just built it. And I’d love to know, really, what the payoff has been just over the last couple years? It’s gone from you and Melissa, to what does your business look like now?
Chuck: So there are 10 of us on the team now. There’s eight licensed, two admin, although my wife doesn’t really sell anymore. That was one of the results of having kids, is that one of us needed to step back a little bit. But she runs the team. She’s incredibly talented at being a leader on the team. And I still do some team leadership. I’ll sell my 30 homes a year kind of thing. I’m not going full tilt at the business, but my job is to really mentor and to help the agents become, in my eyes, even better than me. I think a lot of people, when they grow a team, they’re afraid of that, right? Some people feel like they need to almost hold people back. But I think, and you and I have talked a lot about hiring and finding talent, I think you can’t hold talent back. You’ve got to just boost them up. You’ve got to give them rocket fuel, you know? That’s what they want.
Glenn: The moment you put a lid on talent, it’s just like anyone saying, “Okay, Chuck. You’re not allowed to do anything more right now in your life.” That’s the moment when you’re out of there. You’re like, “No one’s putting a limit on me.” And talent just wants the opportunity.
Chuck: Yeah. Talent wants to go big, right? Yeah. So, I mean, when you talked about edgy, I mean, it’s just, we try and have fun. You have to have some kind of personality to show up and to talk to people about what’s going on in the market. But I think the missing link, and the thing that as the real estate industry changes, and you’ve talked about in The McQueenie Method, a lot of the trends, you know, the move towards teams and the move towards niches, but I think the other thing that’s going to happen in the future is the information is almost going to become ubiquitous. It’s not going to be anything special to have information. But I think the interpretation, I think the curating of information, so, for example, the 5 best homes with pools in Milton – that’s something you can’t Google. Being inside of the last house that sold and knowing what that’s about – you can’t Google that. Knowing that 50 of your past clients live in a very small area, and to have in-depth knowledge of schools – those are things that you just can’t put in an algorithm. So there’s a guy named Dave Pell who writes a great blog called “Next Draft,” and I love what he put on his website. He said, “I am the algorithm.” I love that thought that I’m the algorithm.
Glenn: Well you are. Because everyone can Google the general, and even sometimes some specific, limited information. Then what’s the perceived value of a realtor now? But the more you can create, and I love what you’re doing, is creating, it’s almost like that hyper-local, organic knowledge and wisdom that will never be able to be Googled.
Chuck: Right. And there’s the whole idea of competition. It’s very hard to come second after I’ve created the space. There’s value in being the pioneer. There’s a little bit of that celebrity factor where people kind of meet you and they’re like, “Oh my God. You’re Chuck! I’ve watched you.” And I’ve had people say that we watch you in bed together, and it’s really funny to see the real human connection that’s there. But I think after doing this for six years, I still believe that the videos will build the relationship with somebody, but I think it’s not the money-maker. And so all those fundamentals still have to be there. Like I think you’ve got to follow-up thoroughly with people. You’ve got to make sure that you’re responding in a timely manner. You’ve got to put lots of calls to action around the video. You’ve got to move that forward. Like I said, come on a tour of homes, come to a class, get a copy of this guide. You’ve got to have good conversation skills, right? And I mean, even the fact that I send an email 14,000 times, or basically every day 14-15,000 times, that’s that leverage thing. I mean, if you’re going to do videos, because I’ve had people that have asked me, “Can I do Barrie Daily Homes?” or “Toronto Daily Homes?” But you’ve got to build that list first, because if you don’t have the audience, it’s just not worth your time.
Glenn: I was just going to say, your business is your database. And that’s what you’ve got. You’ve got a massive database. And I’m always, not surprised, but amazed when agents are like, “Well Chuck, I want what you’ve got. But I don’t really want to do what you had to do to get it.”
Chuck: Right. Well that’s the thing. I mean, if you look at how much we’ve spent, like we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get that list together. It’s still multiplied the investment many times over, but it’s a business. Money goes in one side and then more money should pop out the other end. And my involvement is pretty much about a half hour a day to make that happen.
Glenn: That’s great. So why do you think the conventional wisdom of two hours of lead-generation, like cold calling, door-knocking, is so prevalent in our industry right now, rather than your more targeted, niche-based approach? Why do you think that is?
Chuck: Well I still think that it’s indisputable that more efforts toward lead conversion is going to be a good thing for any business, and that includes ours. But I think the game is, can you somehow make it so that if you’re going to make 100 phone calls in a day, or speak to 100 people, how can you make sure that list is as concentrated as possible? And the whole game of Internet lead-generation is: provide something, a form or some information where they leave their contact information. And maybe 10% of those people out of the calls you make are going to be ready. When you’re door-knocking, the same kind of thing. But the nice thing about a niche is that if you could line it up so that they’re all responding or they’re all coming to you, and let’s say 50 of those people are ready out of the 100. Because time is finite, right? If you only have 100 attempts to make, you want to make sure that concentration is as high as possible. I mean, the example everyone thinks of is like a referral-based business, where almost every time your phone rings, it’s somebody who’s like, “Yeah, my brother told me about you.” That’s a very high probability piece of business right there. That’s why people that run referral-based businesses have such a good life. And you can do that with a niche as well.
Glenn: Yeah. Well it’s high-margin, right? And it’s also working with people who like, trust, already know you, probably have a similar mindset to you. It’s more friction-free. It’s just a much easier, high-margin business than, you know, this model of everyone trying to be everything to everyone, you know? It just amazes me that sometimes we even have to argue that, right? Because to me, I’m like, “Just look around. The whole world’s gone niche.” And the Internet really created a lot of these niche markets, because that’s where people who like purple poodles wearing polka dot hats – there’s going to be a site for that, because that’s what they’re all interested in. And I think that’s what you’ve done. So what advice, or specific action steps, would you tell someone who’s listening to this podcast to take? What would be the first step if they wanted to get into their niche and find their niche? What would you tell them?
Chuck: Well I saw at the conference that one of the hardest things for people to do is to choose the niche, is just make a decision. But I think one of the things is, you can’t be too specific, right? I mean, I hear people saying that they want to work with doctors who are pet owners in a particular building. And there are maybe five of those that exist in the world. It needs to be small enough that you can define it in its edges, but it also has to be big enough that you could run a business of significance. And one of the reasons we moved to Milton is because it was just kind of a smaller pond, and I think one of the dilemmas in a bigger city like Toronto is, it’s almost like you become this “from sea to shining sea” agent, where you’re driving an hour to get to your next appointment. And I love the purity of saying, “What if I could only drive 10 minutes in either direction to do business?”
Glenn: Right. Well it’s just more effective in higher margin, isn’t it?
Chuck: It is. Yeah, absolutely. I love the geography of being in a town that’s just over 100,000 people. And that doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to work in other areas, but we’ve really kind of carved out and said, “This is where we want to do business.” And just in creating that trusted relationship through Daily Homes, gives us, I think, an advantage that no other agent is doing. I think that while they’re doing their whatever it is, magazine ads or billboards, we’re sitting here online, saying, “Look. Come into our house, and we’re going to make sure that you’re taken care of really, really well, and we’re going to tell you everything we know. And when you’re ready, all you need to do is ring the bell.”
Glenn: What an amazing system you’ve developed, Chuck. Is there anything else that you’d like to add, or a question that I did not ask you? I know you’re a really big deal, and a busy guy, so just before we wrap up, is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Chuck: You know, I’m just thankful to even be a part of the conversation around niche markets, and I love what you’re doing. I love the course. The conference that you created is amazing. And I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my life, and I kind of show up a little bit sceptical now, saying, “Okay, how much am I really going to learn at this point?” because it’s a point of diminishing returns. But I was drinking from the fire hose at your conference, so that’s one of the highest compliments I could give you, is that you’ve hung around with really smart people. I hung around with you, and we talk on a semi-regular basis. But the course, the book, everything is amazing that you’ve created, and my advice is hang around with smart people, and good things happen.
Glenn: Wow. You’re the best, Chuck. And thanks for the plug, too. That was amazing. Well, thank you. And I’m grateful to you, and I’m grateful for our friendship, and I’m really grateful that you took some time to share your wisdom with the people on this podcast. So thank you very much, Chuck, and have a great day. Thank you.
Chuck: Thank you.
Glenn: Okay, bye bye.
Closing: Thank you for listening to my 20-minute podcast on Insights of Successful Niches. My goal is to give you more financial freedom by helping you take your natural strengths to a target market of people you’d love to work with. You could find out more information by downloading my book for free for a limited time. The book’s called “The McQueenie Method: Own Your Niche, Own Your Market” and you can download it at TheMcQueenieMethodbook.com. That’s TheMcQueenieMethodbook.com. Imagine what it’d be like to spend two days with me in person to help you find your niche market. I will help you take your natural strengths and unique abilities to a target market of people you’d love to work with. You’ll build a tribe of happy clients who become raving fans of your business. So, just go to TheMcQueenieMethod.com for upcoming dates. Thanks again and have a great day.