If you’ve ever bought a home, you know how stressful the process can be -- even when everything goes smoothly. Your realtor leaves you spinning, as they throw around terms and conditions you’ve never heard before, while you’re signing stacks of legal documents that (hopefully) don’t require you to give up your first-born child.
Now, take the complexity of that scenario and quadruple it -- then you can begin to imagine what it’s like to do the same for a commercial property for your own small business. It’s terrifying.
Similar to a personal home purchase, however, you’d still have hundreds -- if not thousands -- of questions about how the process will work. So, you would want a great source of information that spells out everything you need to know in layman’s terms, and not jargon-ladened “legalese.” That single source of truth should answer all of the questions you have about buying, leasing, and renting commercial property in a way that’s simple and easy to understand.
And that is exactly what Aquila Commercial set out to become when they embraced a true culture of inbound.
Aquila is a commercial real estate company servicing property owners, investors, developers, and even tenants with their commercial property needs in Austin, Texas. However, as a small startup that began in 2006, Aquila has always struggled to compete against a number of larger firms that also operate in their area.
“We’ve always tried to look at deals a little differently than some of our competitors,” explains Aquila principal and co-founder, Bart Matheney. “Our competitors are buying up other competitors, and we’re trying to compete, even though we’re just a local startup.”
They play to their strengths. In Aquila’s case, they’re local to the Austin area, whereas some of these other companies are not. And in their own words, bannered across the homepage of their website, “No one knows Austin better.”
This gives them a critical advantage in their local market. But how? For that, they turned to IMPACT partner Marcus Sheridan’s philosophy of They Ask, You Answer.
Kendall Guinn, Aquila’s chief marketing officer and self-proclaimed “fangirl” of Marcus Sheridan, had been following Marcus’ career for some time. From attending his keynotes at conferences to listening to his podcast and watching his YouTube videos, Kendall knew the They Ask, You Answer approach to inbound and content marketing would work for Aquila.
“When the idea (of content marketing) was first presented to us, I was definitely hesitant,” admitted Aquila principal Jon Wheless. “I had done our sales process one way my whole career and it seemed to be working. I thought, ‘Why change something that isn’t broke?’ Over time, I was proved wrong.”
Kendall persisted and worked hard to prove to her company that an inbound culture workshop would help them see what she already knew.
“I tried to get others to watch his videos on YouTube, but it just wasn’t the same as seeing him in real life,” Kendall reflects. “We hired Marcus for a one-day workshop. Almost overnight we saw people in our company change – people really got it. Everyone was on board to try and make They Ask, You Answer part of our strategy.”
Shortly after the workshop, Aquila hired IMPACT as ongoing consultants on their new strategy. They followed our consultants’ curriculum on content marketing, video marketing, and HubSpot software to a tee, so the Aquila team could become the best educators for anyone wanting to unpackage the intricacies of commercial real estate, with a heavy focus on the Austin market.
“We learned the basics of SEO, how to write blog posts, how to put together YouTube videos that would rank well. It was an incredible education,” Kendall says. “It changed how we approached our process of content marketing, and how we were going about executing it.”
When Aquila first came to IMPACT, their organic website traffic had been fairly stagnant for years, with just under a 2,000 organic visits per month. However, once they started publishing genuinely helpful, easy-to-understand content, their traffic started to skyrocket from publishing two articles and one video per week.
Within a year, their organic traffic had shot up to 8,700 organic visits, a 350% increase. By February 2019, they recorded their highest month of traffic at over 23,000, an increase of 1,050%.
“Our digital content and what we’re doing really does put us out there in front of the marketplace,” Bart shares. “We’re the envy of all of our competitors.”
Beyond the competition, however, they also began seeing an exponential increase in engagement from potential customers. In May 2017, Aquila’s website received a total of 22 new organic contacts. As of the first quarter of 2019, the Aquila sales team is seeing an average of 200 leads come in per month.
“Before we were getting zero quality leads through our website,” said Kendall, “Today, we get two to four quality leads per week. And those leads are coming to us having already read a ton of our content.”
Video has also been a critical part of Aquila’s marketing efforts. But it wasn’t easy to get their team to adopt it at first.
“When you look at today’s marketing, it’s a natural progression that video is the next step you have to take,” says Aquila Video Producer, Patrick Morrison.
“Video is clearly the future, and once you can see somebody’s face and create that visual connection, you go into the sales process on a more trusting basis than you would have if you’d just had a phone call or email. A lot of our They Ask, You Answer content was huge for our sales prospecting. It took a lot of burden off the sales team so they didn’t have to spend so much time answering the same 30 questions over and over.”
Patrick Morrison Video Producer, Patrick Morrison
Since hiring IMPACT for a workshop and ongoing consultation, Aquila has shouldered their way to the forefront of the commercial real estate industry in Austin, Texas. Their website has seen nearly 400,000 sessions, they’ve made over 4,000 contacts, and closed 111 customers.
Kendall offers one piece of advice for companies considering taking the same leap of faith to become the best educators in their industry -- you can’t cut corners:
“My advice for people considering implementing [a They Ask, You Answer approach to inbound] is to really go all in. It’s better to host a workshop with IMPACT. It’s better to bring them on as consultants and hire the staff you need to do it the right way. You need to go all in or you’re not going to see the success it could bring you.”