Blogger Spotlight; Jeff Brown

This is well overdue. I asked, and Jeff accepted the offer to do this interview months ago. Those fires in San Diego played their part. My own absentmindedness contributed as well. The biggest problem is that bloggers are busy people. That’s a good thing in my eyes. I want to have 100 bloggers interviewed by Blog Fiesta’s first birthday in July. I’m just over forty, with half a dozen in progress. That means I need to pick up the pace. If you are interested in this exercise, please don’t be bashful. Email me at todd@mariah.com.

In the mean time, my interview series kicks 2008 off with a bang. Jeff Brown is one of those people who come across to me as smarter than everyone else. It is indeed my honor to present this interview.

Hi Jeff, what led you to create BawldGuy Talking?

The people I listen to when it comes to marketing said it was a must. They explained what it was, and I took their word for it. I had just over zero confidence in blogging at first. That attitude was reflected in post frequency. When Chicago Liz put her foot down and said daily posts had to be the new rule, things changed. Liz also came up with the name, which was better than the one with which we started, Behind The Curtain. (my idea) If it hadn’t been for people around me, smarter people, I wouldn’t have started when I did. It turned out to be solid timing. Absolutely none of the credit goes to me — as in zero zip nada.

The marketing I’d been using had been steadily losing traction for reasons out of our control. I’d asked them to please come up with something new, and they did. Grandma was right again. “Surround yourself with the smartest people you can find.” When it comes to marketing I’m not exactly one of your ‘bleeding edge’ guys. Know what I mean, Verne?

From the beginning, you used your blog to distribute audio podcasts in addition to written content. In your experience, what are the biggest hurdles in distributing audio content on the net?

Here’s where everyone finds out ‘BawldGuy and HI-Tech’ is a nearly oxymoronic phrase. 🙂

I’ve recently decided to update my podcasts. The biggest hurdles now have to do with what format — me talking — interview — other? The subjects will of course be a challenge, as there are so many I’d like to get done, I could become PodcastGuy by spring. Fortunately I now have my son Josh to take up the tech slack. We figure a capital investment of several thousand dollars will be required this year on the tech side. Videos are also in this year’s plans.

As far as distribution goes, I’ve always relied on pros for advice. Frankly I don’t have a clue outside of the blog. Any suggestions? 🙂

Would you recommend it to other real estate agents?

Absolutely. You’re gonna laugh, but the main reason I’m dramatically increasing poscasts this year is due to a client’s comment during an office meeting. He said he’d love more of them as he makes them into CD’s and plays them while driving. I was flabbergasted to say the least. Turns out he wasn’t the Lone Ranger, as we found out with a quick client survey. Also, many people have emailed me asking for more. I’m hoping to begin a weekly podcast series sometime in the spring.

You’ve also received some acclaim for creating White Papers. What’s the difference between a blog post, and an online distributed white paper?

What a great question. The WP is so tightly defined, and meant to address more general issues I think. How do you have a general issue tightly defined? If I knew that I wouldn’t have hired the best WP writer in the country to help — Michael Stelzner. If it wasn’t for him I’m not sure what I would’ve done. Frankly, I don’t think I’m skilled enough as a writer to do a WP on my own. I know the content of course, and control the end product, but the structure and unique writing rules were daunting. Mike was indispensable.

A post is right up my alley. I can make mistakes and not feel too badly. Also, it’s ok to combine subjects, which isn’t recommended for white papers. The challenge I face daily with posting is the complexity of the subject matter. The advice I received as a beginning blogger said my posts were WAY too long, and I’m sure they are. Seriously though, am I supposed to say — Hey! Yer a real estate investor, right? Then go forth and buy low and sell high. Make sure to be really smart and watch out for bad guys?

I’ve tried short, and surely there are days and subjects for which brevity would fit. I keep saying I’ll start adding little ‘blip posts’, but haven’t yet. I don’t mean to sound flip, but what passes for real estate investment advice out there is sometimes scary. The stories I could tell. 🙂

Bottom line — each post tries to impart at least one main thought or concept. The feedback has consistently been positive, which has been a relief. Even The Boss gives me grief sometimes about post length. The other day I asked her for help with a title after reading her the post. Her suggestion? War and Peace. Ha ha ha. 😉

In originating loans for investment clients, it’s obvious that they are a very different client than a couple about to buy their dream home. It’s all about making the numbers work. You have some fun on your blog, but it’s also very cerebral. In your opinion, how should a blog that concentrates in investment real estate differ from one that specializes in traditional owner occupied real estate?

If I didn’t live in San Diego, where investment capital should be heading for the exits, my blog would at times look exactly like a house agent’s blog. I’d show everyone where the best tenants resided. Or where and why it made sense to use this or that loan. It’d read just like a blog aimed at local homeowners, only for local investors. Alas, telling folks to invest in San Diego income property would ruin my credibility. 🙂 But for that challenge, much of the time my blog would look like say, Kris Berg’s, Phil Hoover’s, or Jonathan Dalton’s.

The difference is probably the number of relatively sophisticated subjects about which one can write about investing vs home buying/selling. As a house agent you’re in either a couple neighborhoods, or a city. Your target audience lives there for the most part. They know the places you’re writing about, and many times who you write about. Investment real estate requires knowledge in so many areas. First there are the numbers, as you mentioned. Take ROI (return on investment) for example. It may be the most bastardized concept around. Put 10 folks in a room and you might hear 11 definitions. I’ve heard at least that many.

As a former house agent, I’d be writing several hyper-local blogs — neighborhood specific. I’d probably be the least known blogger outside those areas, but the folks living there would sure know who I was. I’ve been trying in vain for over a year now to figure how to do that myself on the investment side of real estate. I’ve failed to come up with anything that makes sense. Again, pretty please, any suggestions are more than welcome. 🙂

What are some of your favorite blogs?

The Dirt Lawyer, San Diego Home Blog, The Mortgage Cicerone, Motivational Speaker (mis-titled in my opinion). Bloodhound, Lenderama, and Agent Genius because of the group writing approach. America’s Mortgage Broker not only because he’s so good, but he buys lunch every now and then. 🙂

Actually, I have about 20 more I read daily, unless I’m in a coma or in the air. Violent Acres is one of my new favorites, as is RE Revealed, Liz Strauss, Athol Kay, and Chris Smith. There are more, but like most of us, my reader is jam packed. There are so many truly excellent blogs.

Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?

Surely you jest! Everything I’ve learned about blogging somebody told me, I read about it, or simply learned by doing.

I’d feel safe advising newbies to avoid being brief for brief’s sake. Showing folks how to bake a cake can’t be done by saying, ‘Well, you’ll need some flour, butter, eggs, sugar, a bowl, and an oven.’ Also, and this is a sore point with me — for the most part there just aren’t hard and fast rules. You think Russell Shaw goes by the ‘rules’? Yet when he writes anything on Bloodhound, it’s my guess readership rises. Liz Strauss knows blogging better than anyone I’ve ever met. (check her ranking and authority, cuz they’re sick) She admits breaking so called blogging commandments regularly.

Be yourself — don’t laugh, just take it literally. If your mom can’t read your blog and know you wrote it, something probably isn’t just right.

I should be the guy folks should be asking for tips. I do this by instinct every day. I’m the furthest thing from an expert blogger you’ll ever know. I rest on content and let the chips fall.

What’s in store for real estate in 2008?

There is evidence in our house, anecdotal to be sure, that attitudes are changing. We’re seeing a relatively large (25% or so) increase in calls, referrals, and blog queries. This has been going on now for about three months. The percentage of serious folks has increased as well. When this has happened in past corrections, or down times, it took another year or so before everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. Lenders and their suitors on Wall Street sense this too I think.

Want empirical evidence? Though it may or may not mean much, two of the markets hit hardest, San Diego and Phoenix, are now showing up in the top five areas for shortest listing market time. Even I was more than a little surprised by that one.

Of course, that opinion plus my heavily armed Starbucks card will get us some coffee and cookies. 🙂

Thanks for the opportunity, Todd.

0 thoughts on “Blogger Spotlight; Jeff Brown

  1. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    Who let Jeff into the Fiesta???? (just teasing)

    It’s no secret now that I’ve worked personally with Jeff (in fact, we’re kind of working right now as I type) and can say firsthandedly that he is not only an incredibly intelligent person, but he’s a caring person. Most people on the investment side are very black & white calculating jerks that have had their souls surgically removed, but Jeff is a great relater which certainly makes him stand out from the pack of dementors (that’s a Harry Potter reference, Jeff; I’m sure you haven’t seen that movie either).

    But Jeff already knows I luvs him, and if I go on any further, he’ll get an Athol-sized ego and Lord knows we don’t need that! 🙂

    Great pick, Todd!

    Reply
  2. Athol Kay

    My ego percieves your criticism as a compliment Lani. You are such a sweetie!

    Thanks of course to Jeff for the link love. Jeff is an inspiration and I’m always somewhat bewildered that Jeff thinks highly of me.

    Reply
  3. Jeff Brown

    Todd — Sorry for being a day late to the party. I kept looking at the wrong dang blog! You’re so popular as a writer, it confuses poor investment guys like me. 🙂

    Lani is literally one of a kind in my experience. Fearless, way smart, and regular folk all the way. In fact, I’d go as far to say Lani is braver than is safe. 🙂

    Athol? Anyone who has spoken with you once knows you’re the real deal. You’re the one they were talking about in the old saying. You know the one.

    They broke the mold, then they made Athol. 🙂

    Thanks again Todd.

    Reply
  4. Tony Gallegos

    What a great interview of Jeff Brown. I first discovered Jeff about six months ago and the more I read his blog, the more I love his writing style. Jeff is smart and as Lani points out above, he also cares about people.

    Athol – I didn’t know you had a big head?

    Lani – Being from Texas, we know you have big hair.

    Reply

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