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For me is that I really love is helping businesses to generate revenue through digital marketing. And the stuff that is easy to track, I guess that's why I like digital, it's pretty clear whether you're doing a good job or not, it's in the sales numbers.

Episode 27

On cost per lead vs cost per sale, the future of ChatGPT and the potential of on-line property transactions

George Glover | CEO | Social Garden

George is a successful entrepreneur having founded several multi-million dollar revenue companies from scratch without any external investment alongside his business partner Mike Bird.

His current “day job” is being the CEO of the award-winning performance marketing agency Social Garden. The agency is home to 70+ employees across four countries and drives digital marketing and sales programs for many publicly listed property development companies as well large institutions such as Universities and Government organisations.

George is also a Non-Executive Director and major shareholder at two of his portfolio companies which include Australia’s largest off-the-plan property marketplace, Urban.com.au, and US tech-enabled brokerage and agency, Snaplistings.com

He recently closed a private share sale with carsales.com co-founder Steve Kloss which valued his companies at more than $40M (in the middle of a major downturn in tech company valuations).

George loves the process of growing a business from an idea into an enterprise. The sweat, the highs, the lows and the people who make the dream possible.

Outside of business, George spends his time obsessing over sport and enjoying the outdoors with his family. He’s an avid skier, golfer, basketballer, footy player and skateboarder.

George is highly engaged in the non-for-profit space and works closely to empower community organisations with skills, connections and capital via his partnership with Igniting Change.

In this episode George shares his wisdom – on the benefits cost per sale vs cost per lead, the future of ChatGPT and the potential of on-line property transactions, Enjoy.

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George Glover & Mike Bird
Necker Island
Transcript

Anthony Denman:
George, welcome to the Property Marketing Podcast.

George Glover:
Hello. Thanks for having me.

Anthony Denman:
Man, that’s a hell of a list there. How tall are you?

George Glover:
Six foot three.

Anthony Denman:
Six three, that’s every New Zealander I know. What is it with you dudes, why are you so fucking tall?

George Glover:
Tall and very loud is the other attribute that I’m often called out about.

Anthony Denman:
Well, it’s okay to be tall and loud because you can just about belt anyone else in the room?

George Glover:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
It’s very handy. You probably cop so much shit over Es and Is, so I’m not going to go there. But you guys are fucking tall, right? I’ve read something recently somewhere about you guys are on average the tallest people in the world. Did you know that?

George Glover:
I did not know that. But-

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, you guys are fucking tall. Is that why the All Blacks are so good?

George Glover:
Maybe that is why we’re so good. And maybe we’d be great at AFL as well then if we bothered to pick up the sport, maybe we’d also be really good at that as well as rugby, I’m not sure.

Anthony Denman:
Because you’re in Melbourne now, have you had any interest in playing AFL or watching AFL?

George Glover:
Look, funnily enough, I enjoyed the game, I love watching the game, and going to the game. I thought I would have a crack at it probably when I was three or four years trying to enter living here, and I quickly realized that I was going to be absolutely hopeless at it having never played it before and not knowing how the flow of the game works. And the constant fear of basically just getting absolutely smoked off the ball was not that appealing to me. At least with rugby you can see them coming, with AFL, you got no idea.

Anthony Denman:
What position did you play in rugby?

George Glover:
I played fullback when I played rugby. I don’t know, I can kick a decent rugby ball but I wasn’t a great rugby player, I wouldn’t say. Despite my height now, I was much shorter until I was probably 17, 18. I had a massive growth spurt, so I pretty much went from always being in the front row of my school photo to being in the back row of the school photo in the space of pretty much my final year of school. I used to get pretty smashed playing some pretty solid units.

Anthony Denman:
Hey, listen, I want to ask, how did you end up on Necker Island?

George Glover:
Yeah, so you mentioned in the introduction that I do a bit of work with or I’m involved in an organization called Igniting Change. So that was the connection that led me to Necker. Igniting Change are a not-for-profit based down here in Melbourne. They do work right across Australia, but they’re based here, founded by this incredible woman called Jane Tewson. We’ve been interested in the not-for-profit space and just we feel, I guess, it makes sense for us to be connected to our community and some of the not-for-profit organizations in Melbourne and throughout Australia doing some pretty epic work. So through our curiosity we got put onto Jane.
They have these visits and we started learning more about the projects and we started getting involved and providing digital marketing services and some donations and looking really where we could apply our skills and time to be able to help these amazing organizations, guys like Children’s Ground or indigenous organization or ASRC and other organizations that they’re involved in. Anyway, through that connection we got invited to attend a retreat at Necker, which is obviously Richard Branson’s Island, so that was how we ended up there. Yeah, it was a pretty special time.

Anthony Denman:
Was Richard Branson there?

George Glover:
He was there. We spent three days obviously in his home. Necker Island’s now more, I suppose, designed for retreats. It’s just really beautiful spot, Balinese huts. It’s got an exotic zoo just cruising through the island. He lives actually in an island opposite, but yeah, we spent three days hearing from all these epic speakers from throughout the world. The founder of Wikipedia was there, the founder of Oculus Rift and all these amazing impact people who lived through these crazy experiences, whether it was apartheid. Anthony Ray Hinton spent 25 years on death row, so hearing these stories and just being inspired and doing it with another… I think there was about maybe 20 of us, of which probably 15 were from Australia. So it was also just an amazing opportunity to meet some really successful entrepreneurs from Australia because most of the people there were from the business community. So pretty cool way for us to get connected to people like Paul Bassat who founded Seek and guys like Steve Kloss you mentioned from Car Sales

Anthony Denman:
Ah, that’s how you met Steve Kloss.

George Glover:
That’s how we met Steve Kloss, exactly.

Anthony Denman:
That was one of my questions. My other question was going to be, what was the biggest, most valuable lesson you learnt on said island?

George Glover:
I think just getting exposure to people like Anthony Ray Hinton. This is a guy who spent 25 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, was subject to just the most intense systematic racism you can imagine. And just he was in solitary confinement for… I can’t remember the amount of time, but it was just a crazy amount of time that he was on death row. The biggest takeaway wasn’t actually in terms of the business lessons and all that, it was more just about this idea of hope and self-worth and just the strength of the human mind and how this guy was able to go through that journey and keep his sanity. He spoke about how his imagination got himself through this time, was just to me just the strength of the mind and I guess just the demonstration of perseverance. Sometimes we all have our days where we feel like the sky’s falling and everything’s going wrong, that you can look back and be, I don’t know, inspired by a story like that and realise probably whatever I’m worried about and concerned about is probably pretty insignificant in the scheme of things.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, totally. The island itself, I did a bit of a Google tour of it, it looks fucking incredible. I mean, there’s no waves about, right, there’s no-

George Glover:
No, they’re all white waters.

Anthony Denman:
I take solace in the fact there’s no waves. You can stick that island up your ass, Branson, I’m not interested. But it looks so like I’m sure my Mrs would love it. It does look incredibly beautiful like pink flamingos and some crazy shit.

George Glover:
I was going to say, the pink flamingos, when you wake up and you are standing in an outdoor shower looking at a pond full of plate flamingos is pretty wild. So yeah, it was pretty cool. One cool thing that’s no more, I’m glad I got to experience because they took it away because of safety I think, I don’t know, not long after we were there, but he had basically a driving range set up on the top of the roof of the main house. And so, you could smash these golf balls that were basically labeled biodegradable golf balls with fish food in them. And so, it was basically a floating golf hole way out in the ocean, which was so epic. But I think people were maybe punching a few too many cocktails and sending them down the island, so they had to move them.

Anthony Denman:
That’s awesome, man. So from a tropical bliss to Christchurch.

George Glover:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
I mean, I can’t even imagine really what it’d be like to be in an earthquake. I know you were in Christchurch when the earthquake hit, but exactly where were you and what were you doing and what did that experience feel like?

George Glover:
It was pretty wild. There was two earthquakes, the first one was pretty significant but there was no loss of life. That first one, I was in a place called Castle Hill, which was wild because it’s a little village in the mountains. I remember it’s just sonic boom and then everything started shaking. That was the first one. But the second one, I was in an office in the middle of the CBD three stories up right in the middle of the chaos. I remember at the time just thinking, “Wow, this is happening,” jumping under my desk and waiting for it to ride out. I mean it lasted for, I think it was close to a minute and felt like an eternity and just this violent horizontal movement thing, it shaking.
I was working in what was my first job out of uni in a small little agency. I think there was maybe one other person in the office with me. Yeah, it was a pretty wild experience the actual earthquake itself. Once I actually walked out of the office and onto the street, I remember really clearly coming out of the office. The office was in back of a laneway and there was a big glass roof over the laneway. I remember just before I was about to walk through this laneway, basically this massive piece of rock just falling off the side of a building and smashing the glass above me. That was a bit of a, “Whoa, this is really happening, this is wild. Everything around me is collapsing.” And then walking onto the street, walking down one of the main streets of Christchurch and looking to my right and seeing the cathedral basically, which is the epicenter of Christchurch and seeing that in rubble was pretty hard to imagine that I wasn’t in some weird nightmare type situation. So it was pretty wild.

Anthony Denman:
Fuck, getting shaken side to side physically, the whole building was moving, right?

George Glover:
It was crazy. When I was back in New Zealand just over the break, there was an earthquake when I was up in the North Islands which was a really short one, but just a reminder, obviously just no control and just the force of the whole thing. It feels like waves a little bit, like it comes in waves, but the horizontal movement is just very jarring and very intense.

Anthony Denman:
Must have been a big desk.

George Glover:
Yeah. I can’t really remember the dimensions for the desk, but I remember thinking afterwards being like, “Fuck, this desk is not going to do anything.” Basically if this roof falls down this desk is doing, “Shit.”

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. Do they train you in school, like, “Get under a desk if there’s an earthquake.”? Is that the-

George Glover:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I was thinking, I was like, “What do I do?” I guess I was just thinking jump under the desk or stand in a doorway or whatever. But I don’t know if that desk would’ve protected my head. Fortunately the building was in withstood the force, but funnily… well, not funnily enough, it was pulled down. Once the earthquake was done and dusted, that whole lane way was basically all pulled down because the structural integrity of all the buildings basically was compromised because of the earthquake. I don’t know, maybe it was a bit worse, maybe the building wouldn’t have withstood that, but here I am, fortunately.

Anthony Denman:
It was a huge pivot point, though, for you, wasn’t it, considering that that was the catalyst for you changing your life?

George Glover:
Yeah, definitely. I mentioned I was working in a small agency at the time. It was really one of the first… I studied advertising and design and got into web design. Once I finished up studying, I was working in this agency which was called Social Tier. There were a few agencies, it was a billboard agency, social media agency, and this experiential all wrapped up until one. But we were doing social media advertising for a lot of large brands when social advertising was just this little thing that people did on the side. A lot of the big agencies were actually outsourcing these social media to us, and we were doing bit of social media advertising, a bit of social media management. So I was really into that from a really early stage.
Once the earthquake occurred… Once that happened, so many people obviously no longer had their bricks-and-mortar stores or a place to conduct their business, so it was quite of this massive migration, if you like, into the online world. In terms of Christchurch, everyone was just quickly thinking about, “Well, how’s my business going to continue particularly in the retail environment?” I made the decision at that point, “Okay, well why don’t I start building websites and helping people get online.” I partnered up with Andrew Archibald, who was one of the founders of Social Garden when we came over here. We were helping people get onto Facebook and set themselves up and start communicating with their customers via Facebook and then building websites for people as well and building e-commerce websites. That was really, I guess, the first incarnation of Social Garden as an agency, was this little agency called Primal Screen that was basically me and Andrew.

Anthony Denman:
I love that, man. It’s a Primal Screen, it’s S-C-R double E-N…

George Glover:
Correct.

Anthony Denman:
… as opposed to scream as you would do if you were under your desk. Then one day your business partner turns up at your door with a one-way Jetstar flight to Melbourne.

George Glover:
Yeah. Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Tell me about that.

George Glover:
It was probably about just over 12 months after we set up our Primal Screen, so we’d been doing our thing. I had a little home office set up in my mum’s house, and he rolled around and turned up with that one-way ticket and said basically, “We’re moving to Melbourne. I’ve already booked us flights.” He’d actually come over to Melbourne for, I think it was Stereosonic or Future Music or some music festival. And he’s like, “Basically, we need to be living in Melbourne, it’s the best city in the world. Basically we’re having a shocker at 22 living here in Christchurch. There’s not much happening in the city, it’s in this rebuild phase.” I was like, “All right. Sweet.” It was leaving in a month’s time and that was it, the decision was made for me. We’ve probably spoken about it a little bit but, yeah, once we made that decision we definitely never looked back and the, I guess, Melbourne journey began.

Anthony Denman:
One-way ticket, what do you pack when you buy a one-way ticket?

George Glover:
I remember I had this real shit old-school suitcase that didn’t have wheels. I had one suitcase probably full of clothes and then probably my laptop. I was basically still doing work for these clients. As long as I had my laptop and some clothes, I was pretty much good to go.

Anthony Denman:
Melbourne’s like the fashion capital, isn’t it? It had to be.

George Glover:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
The further south you go, until you get to Tasmania of course, the further south you go, the more cultural this country becomes, I think.

George Glover:
The darker the clothing as well. Once you get to Melbourne it’s more just series of basic brown and black.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. Well, here’s the juxtaposition for those of you who can’t see us, which is all of you, I’m in Hawaiian shirt.

George Glover:
Which I very much enjoy.

Anthony Denman:
George, quite the opposite. All right, this is interesting, so you’ve arrived at nine o’clock at night, and then by 1:00 AM in the morning you had your first business opportunity. Talk about providence, right? How did that come about?

George Glover:
Yeah, it’s funny. It was classic Friday night flight, few beers on the flight over. Me and Andrew, we roll up to one of our friends who we grew up with in Christchurch was having a party. We must have turned up there at 9:30, 10:00. It was the perfect welcome to Melbourne basically, a whole bunch of Kiwis in this house party. Anyway, so just was meeting a whole bunch of people for the first time and got chatting to this guy called Gregor. He was saying, “Oh, what are you doing over here and what’s your background?” I said, “I build websites and design websites and do a bit of digital marketing.” He’s like, “We desperately need help designing and building this website for one of our companies. I work in this VC, and I’m working on this company called Bongo, and we desperately need some help building some digital assets. Could you come and give us a hand?” I was like, “Yeah, sounds great, why not?” He is like, “Cool, see you on Monday.” I was like, “Well, give me a couple of days to get my bearings, and I’ll come on Wednesday.” That was the first that I had that. Which really that was where the agency, I guess, evolved from there here in Melbourne.

Anthony Denman:
That’s nuts. Yeah, I love that idea of providence. It’s like you just open one door and then a whole bunch of other doors open that you never… There’s no way when you were packing your bag did you think that you’d be at 1:00 AM in some bar half tanked-

George Glover:
Exactly.

Anthony Denman:
… with your first job offer. So you studied design, which is interesting in advertising, and then you went from designing websites, coding, and then to strategy, and then to problem-solving. So that’s quite a journey. It’s interesting because your business model follows that exact journey. What do you enjoy the most and why?

George Glover:
Yeah, I think from a design perspective I’ve always been into creating things. That was probably what attracted to me to design in the first place, is this whole concept… It’s two things, being able to create something from scratch and probably the other thing was I always had aspirations of starting my own business, and I thought if I could learn the skills to be able to basically design a logo and everything you need to start a business, that would probably be quite helpful for me in the future. I don’t know, that’s how my brain works in terms of thinking this stuff through.
But then once I got into design I fell in love with web design, because I was like the whole idea of creating something and then having to go through the whole pre-press processes and stuff, I was not into it at all. The whole idea that a website was more a living organism in a way, you could create something, change it in an instant. If you made a spelling error, it’s you don’t need to go back to be reprinted and stuff, it was just a much easier, much more agile format, I suppose, than more traditional print advertising and design.
That was right why I really enjoyed web design, and then I was just fascinated with the fact that you could design something then use basically plain text coding to create something like a website I just found fascinating and just fell in love with that whole process. Yeah, I think from there that was really my passion, was designing and building websites. And then I suppose I became more transfixed on we have the biggest opportunity in terms of creating value for people, people who I was working for. I think that’s probably where my mindset shifted a little bit towards more advertising strategy, lead gen digital marketing. Obviously, creating a website is a great way to create value for someone, but I figured if I was able to create a website but also be able to generate customers and revenue for businesses that was going to be probably serve me pretty well and help scale the business and the work I was doing. So that was why I went more into digital marketing and strategy. I think that’s what I really love.
Fundamentally, the thing for me is that I really love is helping businesses to generate revenue through digital marketing. And the stuff that is easy to track, I guess that’s why I like digital, it’s pretty clear whether you’re doing a good job or not, it’s in the sales numbers. I think that’s why I really fell in love with that, the ability to just be able to measure everything and make changes and be able to see the impact of that and being able to go through that iteration process and just tune and change and move the one percenters to just get a better result and yield a better result for the people that we’re working with.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, totally. Think that’s the old adage in advertising, which was something like, “Before digital came along, you know 50% of your advertising works, you just don’t know which 50% it is.” I guess there’s also that frontier aspect of it too, isn’t it? It’s like, wow, it’s at the leading edge of this new technology that’s completely revolutionizing the way people advertise…

George Glover:
Definitely.

Anthony Denman:
… in a sense.

George Glover:
And just embracing that, just embracing the kind of change. I think particularly in this environment now where technology’s changing and evolving so much, it’s like this is what we love. The earthquake is an example of that. It’s like when there’s chaos and there’s change, there’s opportunity as well. It’s like there’s two ways of looking at chaos and change, is the thought the sky’s falling and panicking or it’s looking at the opportunity in the change. I think throughout this journey and the Social Garden journey and now Urban, I think that’s probably been something that we’ve been pretty good at, which is embracing new technology and innovations and applying it to our businesses.

Anthony Denman:
Totally. Social Garden, then, where did that name… Who came up with the name Primal Screen?

George Glover:
I think the Primal Screen was definitely me. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you how I came up… My old man was quite a fan of the band Primal Scream. I don’t know, it just came to my head one day when somehow it jogged in my memory. That was definitely came out of the band, and then I was like, “That’ll work for us.”

Anthony Denman:
It wasn’t a flashback from you under the desk.

George Glover:
No.

Anthony Denman:
So where did the name Social Garden come from?

George Glover:
It was similar in a way. I remember we were just sitting around… It’s funny, when we first moved here, my business partner, Andrew, and the co-founders of Social Garden, they were living in this penthouse apartment on Bourke Street in the middle of the city, absolutely epic apartment with absolutely no furniture. I remember it very clearly because we were all sitting on the floor talking about what we were going to call this agency.

Anthony Denman:
Oh, just tell me, if that is not a typical scene of a bunch of tech entrepreneurs, I don’t know what is.

George Glover:
Yeah. I wasn’t living in the apartment, they were, but there were beds and that was about it. It was like, “let’s just find the most epic place we can live in, work out how we’re going to pay the rent and just get a whole bunch of couples in there and then worry about furniture
So yeah, we were sitting around. I think we were just throwing out words. Obviously, one of the key things for us coming from… I guess we’ve got a bit of a background in SEO, particularly Mike Bird, and I think we were thinking about it’d be quite useful having a keyword in the name. So that’s why social was in there because it was really about if we had social in the name, naturally we would rank quite well for social media terms. It was what we were thinking about.
And garden, I don’t know, it was part obviously thinking about growth and helping businesses grow and all that stuff. And then it was just like a lot of the people we’re going to be selling to are going to be older marketing managers and maybe that’s something that’s relatable to them. We were just Social Garden, it could mean a whole bunch of different things. Obviously, growth works, but it got to also just be like you’re out in the garden having a good old time. I don’t know, it was kind of-

Anthony Denman:
I love it. No, I think it’s really good. I love the strategy and the thinking behind it. Why education and property?

George Glover:
I think for us, when we started the business, it was really important to us that we narrowed our focus and focused on a couple of industries. We just felt like agencies who tried to work across a whole myriad of different industries ended up being masters of none. We felt for us to be really successful, if we could be the best at digital marketing across a couple of industries, we felt like that would be a pretty successful strategy for us to grow the business. We were considering two or three. When we first started out, I might add, we were just working for whoever, we were doing a bit of everything, and then probably six months in, we made that real conscious decision, “Now, let’s focus our service offering in terms of what we’re trying to do for customers, and let’s really focus our efforts around a couple of industries.”
We’ve been doing a little bit of work, and we’d done a small amount of work in property and education, and we felt like, obviously, massive market, we’d seen a pretty large chunk of the GDP here in Australia. They’re quite similar in a sense that high value purchase, obviously you spend a lot of money in buying a home as you do in investing in your education. Because it’s such a high value purchase, the decision usually happens over a long period of time, so it lends itself really well to high touch, lead nurture, marketing automation, data-driven marketing. And so, the decision-making process and the customer journeys actually have a lot of similarities. But definitely the product and the people working in the industries are very different.
I would say the other point was just we that that it’d be quite counter cyclical, and we’re seeing that now, definitely now. Our education business is absolutely booming at the moment and property’s definitely tougher. We thought if the economy runs into some strife and some headwinds, probably there’s going to be more money put into education. So we thought that the whole countercyclical nature of the two industries might pay dividends in the future, and that’s definitely turned out to be the case.

Anthony Denman:
Tell me about the time you had a… you may not have realized, but at the time it was an incredibly pivotal conversation that you had early on with your business partner Mike.

George Glover:
Yeah, I think the comment that has stuck with me for a really long time was, “Cool doesn’t make money.” And it was like this whole-

Anthony Denman:
Cool doesn’t make money. Cool doesn’t make money.

George Glover:
Cool doesn’t make money. And it was a-

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, that’s exactly why I’m so fucking poor.

George Glover:
Especially when you study design-

Anthony Denman:
Sorry, sorry, sorry, not to say that I’m cool.

George Glover:
Yeah, I like that. I like that. I think particularly when you’re studying design and you’re around a bunch of designers, it’s like everyone at the age of 18 or 19 wants to start a t-shirt brand and is going to try and create the next Nike or something. People are transfixed on categories and products that are relevant to the masses and are what I would call cool. I think it was this switch in mindset that there’s a whole lot of, for lack of a better term, unattractive industries where you can do really cool work and engaging work and stuff, but it’s not necessarily working for Nike. And I think it was the shift in mindset around it’s not so much about the clients that you’re working for and getting all these champagne brands, it’s more about the work that you are doing. I think it was just this real pivotal change in terms of how we thought about who our target audience were, the types of customers we were going to be a good fit, and the types of brands that we were going to be a good fit for.
I see it so often now in design agencies where it’s like they produce this amazing work and a lot of them build massive successful businesses, and part of that is passion and wanting to do it and where you get your energy but, but a lot of the time you’ve just got these agencies that are really focused on working for the coolest project or the coolest brand, and it limits their capacity to scale and grow. I think for us, we have always wanted to build a big business where we can have a meaningful impact on a lot of people’s lives. In order to do that, we got to work with customers who aren’t necessarily Nike or whatever, so that was a pretty-

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, no really, it is a really good point. I mean, I’ve never really been able to scale my business, and I think that’s a very good example of the reason why. I mean, maybe the universe didn’t want it to play out that way, but also I think, you do, you invest… It’s a really interesting point, you talk about that creative energy that comes from wanting to tell a really engaging story. I think that that suits some people, right?

George Glover:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
I think that suits me, suits my business. We like to just work on those projects that we’re really into and that we can tell engaging stories for. I mean, it still pays the bills, I’m not complaining, but I totally get that, in terms of scaling, cool doesn’t make… Let me just write that down.

George Glover:
Cool doesn’t make money. That’s the beauty-

Anthony Denman:
As you can see by my gray hair, it’s probably a little bit too late anyway for me to pivot in that direction.

George Glover:
What you said there is the beauty of it, right? That’s the beauty of being a business owner and working for yourself is you get to choose, right? It’s like you get to choose what’s important to you. As I said, what is important for someone else might be it’s all about working with the brands who had a certain aesthetic or give you the freedom to create the certain aesthetic versus for me it’s been more probably about building a company that has a meaningful impact on a larger number of people’s lives. When I say that, I mean in particular the staff. That’s been a big part of, I guess, why for me I’ve wanted to scale our businesses.

Anthony Denman:
Thanks for that. That in some ways provides the answer to the next question I was going to ask, which is, over three years you went from 10 employees to 50, so that’s how, right?

George Glover:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
All right, let’s get into a little bit of the detail around how you did that and business model. Let’s talk about lead generation and marketing automation. I’ve got a quote here, and I got to say, for me, this is really interesting. It’s an area that as a writer and a owner of a creative agency business, I haven’t really naturally been able to embrace because it is very strategic, as we’ve just talked about. In my day, seriously when I first started, I shit you not, it was one black and white advertisement like mono, right, print.
I love what you were saying before actually about the whole digital journey versus the print journey. Opening that brochure that cost tens of thousands of dollars, you’re opening that brochure for the first time…

George Glover:
Yeah, correct.

Anthony Denman:
… for the first time absolutely shitting yourself because you’re expecting to see a spelling mistake in the headline or something and go, “Fuck.” So yeah, I love that aspect of digital, that it can be so agile. But no, yeah, back in the day, black and white ad in the Sydney Morning Herald was about the extent of strategy in terms of lead generation, and there was no such thing as databases. I’ve been really interested in the whole progression around lead gen, digital marketing strategy, and marketing automation, and we’re going to get into that now. I’ve got a quote actually from you, which is, “With prospects entering the journey earlier, how do we deliver an exceptional experience for the customer of tomorrow whilst actively converting the sales of today and keep our cost per acquisition down?” And then the answer to that question is, “By supporting prospects at all stages of the customer journey automatically and at scale.” How?

George Glover:
Yeah, it’s funny hearing that back. I think data-driven marketing or digital marketing has given us the ability to capture all this information and data about a prospect and where they’re at in their purchasing journey. If you think about how the customer journey has evolved, particularly the property customer journey, it’s more and more of obviously the customer journey is occurring online. Now I think it’s about 90% of the customer’s journey actually occurs online in terms of discovering new projects, obviously researching, comparing, and understanding different features and benefits of different products, whether it’s an apartment project, house, whatever it is, that’s happening online.
So your ability as a marketer, developer, salesperson, your ability to capture data to obviously understand who a potential purchaser is, so understanding the characteristics of that person,, we’ll just use property as an example, what are they purchasing property for? Are they an upgrader, downsizer, first home buyer? Obviously that in itself, understanding that and capturing that data point, gives you the ability to completely change the way you communicate with prospects through the funnel. Other things like a timeframe to purchase. As someone has illustrated before through that comment, someone who’s 12 months out versus someone who’s three months out from purchasing, the things that they’re considering and the steps that they’ve already taken in the journey, the information that’s relevant to them is so different. A first home buyer who’s 12 months out from purchasing versus an investor looking who wants to purchase something before the end of the tax year or has got a three-month horizon, they want to purchase property, like their motivations and the information that’s relevant to them is so different.
So the ability to capture and understand who your prospects are, and we do that through forms like the data that you capture and the questions that you ask people as they’re submitting an inquiry whether it’s on a website or on a landing page or some other digital asset. And then we also do it through… Once they’re in a database, we’re able to track and look at how they’re engaging with different content on the website. How much time they’re spending as well tells us about prospects and lets us categorise them and really personalise content based on who they are and where they’re in the journey.
If you’re successful in delivering that at scale and being able to personalise content based on things like those parameters I mentioned and those fields I mentioned, but also the stage of a CRM, being able to personalise content based on where a prospect sits in a CRM is hugely powerful in terms of your ability to increase the lead-to-sale conversion rate for developers. A lot of the work that we do is obviously attracting the right people into projects, and that’s all about targeting and personalising the message for different target audiences and then pushing them into an environment that’s personalised to them based on their click.
So again, if they fit into an audience that’s a downsizer audience, the ad’s going to be relevant to them as a downsizer, the landing page is going to be relevant to them as the downsizer, then the emails that they receive beyond inquiring is all going to be relevant to them, and it’s going to change as their behaviour changes. So the ability to personalize the customer journey now with technology and software is just a massive leverage point for people looking to increase their lead-to-sale conversion rates.

Anthony Denman:
How do you convince people to enter their details on profiling forms to create a good lead score and subsequent threshold?

George Glover:
Yeah, I think I would say this is something that I think we do really well. We live and die by lead quality. I would say in Urban, if you were to go onto urban.com.au and submit an inquiry on a project, it’s like a 12-step inquiry flow. We intentionally put a whole bunch of friction into the inquiry flow because the result of that is we get a better understanding of the customer, but we also… sorry, the prospect, but we also have a much better… There’s a whole lot of people that drop off through that process, so we produce a much highly qualified lead relative to if you’re on REA, you don’t even need a phone number, you just submit an email address.
So how do we do that? We do it in a way by, I guess, the promise of personalisation. It’s like you are comfortable providing additional information knowing that your experience is going to be tailored and personalised. It’s like the price of convenience almost is you’re, I guess, telling us more about you knowing that you are going to get a more relevant and it’s going to be more convenient for you because you’re going to get better information. I think there’s a massive opportunity. I think most people underdo it, to be honest, in terms of the data that they capture through the inquiry flow. I think a lot of developers could benefit from asking more questions and creating a little bit more friction to ensure they know more about their prospects and they get better quality leads.

Anthony Denman:
How do you adapt in real time, and what does that look like?

George Glover:
Yeah, so I mean that really comes down to probably the software that you’re using, so marketing automation tools like Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Marketo, HubSpot, which are all tools we use, they have the ability to change someone’s journey based on things like engagement scores. So when you are changing someone’s customer journey in real time, it’s really triggered by behaviour. It could be someone returning to the website and they’re engaging in high value content or content that you deem to be high value, or it could be a salesperson’s had a conversation with them on the phone and they’re updating the CRM and then the CRM’s connected to the marketing automation tool, and so that automatically basically changes the content and changes the content that they’re going to receive or the journey that they’re going to receive. So that’s how it works in real time.

Anthony Denman:
Let’s say somebody comes to you with a new project, they want to engage you, obviously got to get past the fee proposal stage, how does the process begin?

George Glover:
I mean, the first thing obviously is understanding the product and who the audience is. But we do quite a lot of research into what’s the size of the audience look like from a digital perspective, how are we going to reach the audience, and what’s the actual size of the audience to understand the pond that we are effectively going to be fishing in, because that’s really going to determine how challenging it’s going to be or how much it’s going to cost to generate inquiries. Obviously the smaller the pond, the more expensive they are to reach generally from a digital perspective. So starts with that, understanding the product, understanding the audience. We’ve got a pretty good process that we’ve developed around stage of development, so if it’s a brand new project, we’ve got a pretty robust strategy around how to launch a project really successfully and build momentum online.
That looks like obviously whispers and coming soon campaigns where it’s a little bit of information leading up to a VIP sales appointment type message dovetailing usually into some form of event. We have quite different strategies. We often have people coming to us with projects on market. It’s a different strategy for something that’s like we are releasing a versus something that’s on market but still early versus something that has maybe got 10 to 15% of the project left to sell. So different strategies for different stages will really dictate what we do for customers and how we do it.

Anthony Denman:
Want to talk about REA, and look, we talked about Urban before, we’ll get into that shortly. This is, I guess, heading in that direction. REA domain visa-vi social, correct me if I’m wrong… And then obviously REA and domain are fundamentally built to deal with completed, finished real estate versus off-the-plan property. I know that they’re both trying to get as much of that space as they can. I mean one of their initiatives, which is nearly every real estate agent utilises, is the audience extensions, into social, can you maybe talk a little bit about that?

George Glover:
Yeah. I think particularly with REA being the leader and the scope they have in terms of reach, I think they’ve got a really large audience which enables them to reach that audience beyond their ecosystem being REA kind of into the social world. Particularly from a Social Garden perspective, the key thing what we deliver versus what REA delivers is REA pretty much will create a series of ads and deliver those and just basically create retargeting audiences off the back of the platform and deliver usually almost always what’s called a lead ad, which is basically where someone sees an ad, they click on it, and then they can basically submit their details inside the Facebook ecosystem, and that ad’s delivered by REA. It’ll have the project, but it’s usually delivered by REA.
Domain are a little bit different. Domain I think allow developers to use their own brand, but REA is usually always delivered from REA. Where we’re different is our whole goal is to get prospects out of the Facebook ecosystem and into a landing page environment. So we’ll use some retargeting through audiences that we have access to, whether that’s via Urban or other data partnerships that we have with property platforms or data providers like Experian or Axicom. We’ll deliver ads to those prospective purchases and then get them to click into a landing page environment where we go through a process where we’re qualifying them on product, pricing. Obviously we’re delivering the USPs of the project, but really focusing on ensuring that the prospects actually understands what they’re submitting an inquiry on, and then we’ll push them into a lead flow where we ask series of questions. We always get prospects to SMS-verify their details on a landing page. So they need literally punch in a code that gets sent to them via SMS in order to submit a lead.
As a result, our leads are much more qualified on the product and in particular the price and location of the product. And the contactability of our leads is much higher because in order to submit a lead you need to go through that SMS verification process. Audience extension, it’s really retargeting and creating a lead ad usually and might make variations of the products can be a little bit different, whereas ours is more putting it in front of the right people and pushing them into this other ecosystem.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, exactly. And then being able to manage it effectively moving forward as opposed to just getting a spreadsheet of inquiry.

George Glover:
It’s like the constant thing you hear from salespeople, right, is like, “Oh yeah, social leads are shit.” It’s like, “Well, pretty confident the majority of real estate.com users also have an Instagram page, so it’s these different levels and different layers of social media advertising. Our version of it is very much data-driven, high quality approach versus if you’re doing lead ads, it’s just at a bit of a different level. So it’s understanding and educating people on how to use social in a more effective way. The net result is it costs more to generate a lead via our model, but it’s like we consistently outperform audience extension from a cost per sale perspective. And we see that in our data. So we are more cost effective from a cost-per-sale point of view, but the leads are cheaper via that channel, and you’re just looking at it a lead level, which I would say most marketers in this industry do.

Anthony Denman:
Exactly. That’s the crux of it right there. Because essentially it’s like, “Oh, we’ve got a thousand leads, no conversions, but it’s cost me a lot less to get to that point.” So whose fault is it? Is it the sales agent’s fault? Is it the marketing agency’s fault, the messaging, what is it? Whereas what you are saying is if they just bit the bullet, so to speak, spend a little bit more money and time upfront in procuring the right process, then they’d be better off for it in the long run.

George Glover:
I think the most important part, and I think that the level of sophistication is increasing quite a lot, particularly in the last couple of years, but I think there’s still a pretty big gap there from the market leaders relative to the rest of the market, is really understanding what it’s costing you to generate a sale at a channel level. So how much does it cost you to generate a sale at REA? And then it’s project profile, display advertising, audience extension, how much does it cost to deliver a sale from Google? How much does it cost from Instagram, if you’re using TechSoft, if you’re using other channels? How many sales are you generating from email, and what’s the cost of that? So measurement and understanding based on sales not just leads is the critical thing I think to doing digital really well. Because it’s like once you understand that, obviously your ability to optimise towards the sale is pretty powerful rather than just trying to optimise towards getting more leads at a cheaper cost, which a lot of the market does.

Anthony Denman:
Spot on. Very good. So then this is interesting. So at some point with your model, somebody needs to talk to someone, right? You’re taking that out of the agent’s hand, so to speak, not in terms of selling but in terms of qualifying, right? So you went and you established your own call center. What does that look like? Where’s it located?

George Glover:
It’s located here in Melbourne. I love the fact that we’re an agency with a call center. It’s obviously quite unique and probably speaks to our mentality around marketing as a function of sales. We’ve had the call center for about five years. It actually came off the back of a conversation with Steve Kloss. He spoke about the fact that early days in car sales days, they were sending all these leads out and they were getting all this feedback basically from the dealerships that the leads were poor quality or they couldn’t get onto the leads. What they did was they started surveying the dealers and I quickly realized basically that a very low percentage of the dealers were following up the leads in an effective time, and then, therefore, was resulting in obviously poor conversion because it’s like if you’re calling someone three days later when they’ve submitted an inquiry, it’s going to be pretty hard, A, to get them on the phone. And then once you’ve got them on the phone, obviously contextually it’s pretty hard for them to switch back into the mindset of purchasing a car or looking at cars or whatever.
Five years ago, we were seeing some similar patterns where we were getting this massive discrepancy in terms of quality. Some developers were just like, “Yeah, quality is awesome. How do we get more?” versus other developers being like, “Oh yeah, we can’t get the leads on the phone, and the lead qualities an issue.” Klossy’s’ advice was, “Basically, pick a client and call 30 of their leads, get permission obviously from the client to call 30 of their leads, and follow up to see when the agents called the leads.”
Very quickly did we realize basically that none of the leads have been called. This was one of the customers who was obviously making a bit of a song and dance about the quality. We realized at that point, it was like, in order from us to deliver an awesome product we need to at least have some flexibility for some of our customers to go further through the customer journey and actually be their first touchpoint and make contact. Our goal is to call the leads within an hour of the lead being generated. We’re open seven days a week. Our KPI’s is two hours, but internally we run at about 45 minutes on average. We’ve got a team of about 10 working across seven days a week. And really, as you pointed it out, our job isn’t to sell the property, our job is to sell the next step in the customer journey, which is the sales appointment. So our role is really understanding more about the prospects and capturing more data and entering that into the CRM and passing that over to the client, and then basically helping them in terms of the next step, which is either a sales appointment, a phone call with a sales agent if for some reason they’re not quite ready for an appointment but they want to speak to an agent, or if they’re more a marketing qualified lead, then we’ll push them into a nurture journey.
That’s how the call center works. We got a fair amount of scale in there. Well, last year we managed more 50,000 leads in that call center and made a fair amount of dials as a byproduct of that. The way we think about that is, for most developers as well, you’re spending all this money on generating the lead, right? So say like an REA, like project profile, you’re spending hundreds of dollars on generating a lead, hundreds and hundreds of dollars. It’s like surely for the cost, call it, $20 to ensure that the lead was followed up within an hour of the lead being generated, the impact that that has on downstream conversion is so significant that it’s such a no-brainer that you would effectively put an insurance policy on the cost of the marketing to generate the lead to make sure those leads are being followed up just really quickly. That’s what the call center is and what we deliver. We also do manage people’s inbound calling as well, so we we can do that. We do that for a few home builders. But most of what we do is calling leads that have submitted an inquiry by our products or by the website.

Anthony Denman:
Sure they’re located in me in Melbourne, but they’re from Sri Lanka or the Philippines, what’s the-

George Glover:
No, no, no, they’re all locals, quite a few Kiwis actually. Our call center manager is a Kiwi. No, we think it’s really important that the core center is based here locally. We think context and knowledge of the areas is super important and just the ability to support that customer service.

Anthony Denman:
Okay, so what about Sydney?

George Glover:
Yeah, so we route that all through our office here in Melbourne, but we’ve got people who have knowledge in different areas. In the past we’ve had Mandarin-speaking call center agents and we’ve experimented a little bit with that over the past. We’ve had mixed results, I would say, with that. But for the most part, yeah, it’s the people here in Melbourne.

Anthony Denman:
And tell me, so you’ve not any got a problem with Es and Is, you’ve also got one with As then by the sound of Melbourne, right?

George Glover:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Well, how did you establish, find, and recruit a team in Sri Lanka and the Philippines?

George Glover:
Again, we are massive believers and just the ability to tap into talent at a global scale. Long before COVID, our business was fully digitized. We’ve been working with people overseas pretty much. I’ve been working with people overseas since I’ve built my first website. So for us, we’ve got a team in the Philippines, we’ve got an office over there. We’ve got a team of about 15 there. They do all sorts of stuff for us. They’re marketers. They do a lot of analysis and reporting work for us. They’re pretty involved in our advertising products. And then we do a lot of our engineering, web development, they’re all based out of there. And then, Sri Lanka is where we have our engineers. A few of our engineers for the Urban team we have based out of Sri Lanka. Awesome education system in Sri Lanka. Obviously there’s a bit of instability in Sri Lanka at the moment, but generally speaking, very easy to work with, speak really good English. They are really well integrated into our team.
Yeah, we’ve got that. Given the nature of some of the platforms we work in a pretty specialised… There’s not a whole lot of people who can work for Salesforce Marketing Cloud in Australia. Part of it is training our employees and upskilling them in those tools. But then it’s also about tapping into talent. We’ve got a couple of people in Amsterdam, we’ve got people in the US, so it’s tapping into people who have experience in those tools and leveraging them to help us achieve the results we want for our clients.

Anthony Denman:
So back to Melbourne and your office in Melbourne, how important is the physical nature of your office to the culture of your business?

George Glover:
It’s an interesting one. I still think it’s pretty important, to be honest. I’m all for flexible working. I mean for how we have it set up now, we have people work at least three days a week in the office and we have it set up so teams are working together. We make sure we have a bit of crossover. I think the physical office is still really important as the heartbeat of our organization, but I think for some tasks and some jobs, I think people do work better at home and in some peace and quiet. But I think a big part of what makes Social Garden tick is the people in the office environment. I mentioned earlier, talked a little bit about in innovation being pretty core to what we do and embracing technology, and I think that what we notice through the lockdowns and stuff was just the rate of progress in innovation slowed down quite dramatically because you’re losing all those in-person interactions where you’ve got someone to hit the ball back when you are talking through problem solving or talking about adopting new technology.
In terms of innovation, I think physical office is really important to drive that. What that looks like, and I think is different for every company, but definitely for Social Garden, we think that’s pretty important to keep that learning and keep us together and unified and to be able to help each other to solve different problems and grow. I think, yeah, physical connection is important to that.

Anthony Denman:
Speaking of innovation, ChatGPT, what is ChatGPT?

George Glover:
I’m very, very bullish on ChatGPT and open AI and AI across a lot of things, so happy to talk about this one. Look, I mean, ChatGPT is technology that’s built on an open source framework called OpenAI. I think the best way to describe it is effectively you’ve got a personal assistant who you can ask to perform tasks. You can ask questions and direct it to do things in a certain way, and it’s going to give you unique responses. That’s where it scours the web or a whole bunch of different information collected through the web to come up with original answers. A really easy example of that is say you’ve got an existing advertisement and you want variations of a headline. You can effectively put an ad and write a little bit of a brief about the audiences for who the ad’s going to be delivered to. And then you can ask for five variations of the ad, and it’ll give you five variations.
I think the best way to think about this whole space and AI and ChatGPT and this whole movement is leverage, it gives you leverage, and it gives you ability to move faster and use it as a way to iterate and just get ideas out faster. It’s a very powerful tool for that.

Anthony Denman:
I had to write some copy the other day. There was a cliff face, and it was about trying to create an emotional response to the view of a cliff face as the shadow moves down the cliff face as the sun sets behind it, likening it to a Manta Ray – So is ChatGPT going to take my job?

George Glover:
I don’t think it’s going to take your job. I think it’s definitely going to change your job, that’s for sure. I think this is going to be the biggest technological advancement since the internet, for sure. I think, yeah, it’s going to change the way we work. As I said, it’s going to give you leverage in your ability to just move faster and come up with ideas faster. Particularly for us, digital marketing’s all about speed and iteration. How we’re thinking about it at the moment is just like, “How does it help us to move faster, iterate faster?” Because we know we doing that and obviously learning and closing that loop is how we’re going to be able to yield better results. I think it’s definitely going to give you more scale and more leverage in your own time, and I think it’s going to change the way knowledge workers work. I think it’s definitely going to change the landscape. I don’t think AI’s coming for all of our jobs. Some fearmongers are talking, but it’s definitely going to change to the landscape, for sure.

Anthony Denman:
Does it exist in your live chat offer?

George Glover:
We use AI on the front end when we are profiling prospects, but we actually hand them over to a real agent pretty quickly because we’ve found we can get a better conversion rate using a real person up to a certain point. We use it a little bit, but we’re still using our call center agents and our live chat product.

Anthony Denman:
Cool. Okay, so let’s talk about urban.com.au. So just bit of context, so urban.com.au is off-the- plan media portal for selling off-the-plan real estate. So a little bit, for those of you who don’t know it, realestate.com but for off-the-plan purchases. First question is, how did it all come about to acquire?

George Glover:
Yeah, well, I think…

Anthony Denman:
Sorry, George, it was urban.melbourne, right, originally?

George Glover:
Yeah, it was, correct. Originally founded by four guys based here in Melbourne. Alice is still working in the business side, in the original founders. A large portion of what we do at the moment or what we’ve done historically right has been leveraging channels like Google and Facebook to generate leads. That’s obviously created a massive opportunity for us and we’ve been able to use those platforms to build our business and to generate results for our clients. But I think pretty early on we probably saw the risk of the fact that if we don’t own the audience, the ability for us to become commoditised and we don’t have control over those platforms like we saw what happened last year with Facebook basically turning off all of Australian media basically at the drop of a hat. Now, that’s an extreme example, but it’s probably a reminder that these platforms are privately owned and we don’t have a huge degree of control over how they develop.
So for us it was really important for us to have an environment or a platform where we own the audience and we could control the customer journey effectively for people looking to buy a property. We looked at the whole buy vs build. Originally we had a company called First Chance. This was particularly at a time where a lot of premium stock was being bought by offshore investors. So First Chance was all about getting access to premium stock that was usually going offshore onshore. And that worked for a period of time but was just too slow and that stuff changed and it changed the market pretty quickly. We looked at a few different platforms and met the guys from Urban Melbourne, really loved them, really loved the platform.
Originally it was really for B2B, architects, marketers, developers, using it more as a research tool. But we could tell looking at the profile of the traffic that tons of people were using it as a way to discover new projects or research projects because we could see heaps of people were coming to the website via Google search and typing in project names and typing in terms that were relevant to projects. We thought, “Well, if that is the case and a large portion of the traffic is actually consumers using it to research for property, it’s probably a pretty good opportunity to tune it into a more of a consumer-facing platform. We started off by putting some inquiry forms on the projects, they didn’t have that before, and pretty quickly we, A, could see that, yes, there were tons of property buyers using it as a tool to discover and research property and then we could tell that people were engaged enough to enquire on projects.
We made the decision to purchase that company four years ago. We went through the process of rebranding it as urban.com.au and changing it to being more of a consumer-facing website as opposed home and industry site which it had historically been positioned as.

Anthony Denman:
What’s the advantage for buyers to visit an off-the-plan site-

George Glover:
I mean-

Anthony Denman:
… as opposed to REA or Domain.

George Glover:
The biggest advantage we have is our goal is to list the entire market. We’ve got a team of researchers, we’ve got a whole bunch of relationships with different whether it’s industry people where we are able to access data and information about new projects. Our goal is to list the entire market. We have a premium product, so if you are a developer and you’ve got a project, we want to list it, basically, unlike REA and Domain where it’s pay to play. On urban.com.au we’ve got more than 15,000 projects on our site. Comparatively, REA at the moment have less than 600. So it’s like if you are looking to buy an off-the-plan apartment or townhouse, you come to Urban because there’s a whole bunch of projects you can’t find anywhere else. And pretty much anyone who’s looking at buying an apartment or townhouse is going to use us at some stage in the consumer journey because we’ve got a whole bunch of content that sits around projects.
We list projects at planning as well. We list them when they’re awaiting DA. We have them when they’ve got approval but they’re not yet at sales and marketing, and then obviously sales and marketing and complete. So if you’re a consumer who’s looking to purchase a home, say in Victoria straight out here, obviously you want to look at the projects that are on market now, but you also want an understanding of what projects might be coming up in the next five years. So for us it’s really about bringing more transparency to the market in terms of what’s actually available, what’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years. We believe by doing that we can provide a better experience than what you find on REA and Domain and other platforms.

Anthony Denman:
Is it fair to say the customer journey is a bit different too?

George Glover:
Yeah, really different. That’s the thesis of the business, right, is we think that the customer journey is unique enough that it warrants its own platform. Because obviously REA is a great platform, but as you mentioned earlier on, I know 80% of their revenue comes from established properties. I think 20% of their revenue, but more than 80% of their traffic comes from established properties. The product is very much catered to established properties. Obviously, if you’re buying an established property, it already exists. You’re buying usually via an agent. It’s not so much about who built the property and who the developer is and who the engineer is versus you’re buying an off-the-plan apartment. It’s really important that you understand the track record and credibility of the developer, the builder, and the people behind the project.
Our whole goal is to really provide that transparency to the consumer so they can understand, “Okay, this project isn’t built but, hey, I can see these five other projects that they’ve done, and this is what the story of those projects tell.” That’s one example. Obviously other examples like you might be waiting two years for the project before you move in. We provide developer updates, we regularly communicate with those purchases as well as prospects to tell the story of how the project’s evolving. The developer submits content to us via our customer portal, and we’re able to communicate out to prospects and purchasers and tell the story of how the projects developing and evolving.

Anthony Denman:
Why did you invest in the full funnel agency snaplistings.com and open an office in New York City?

George Glover:
Yeah, Snap Listings was another acquisition. It was really an entertainment… sort of a series of social media channels and a website where it was basically agents following agents around. It was like Luxe Listings, but not luxe, more just your run-of-the-mill New York apartments. It had built up this really awesome organic followings of people just interested in what does $1,000 a week buy you in Manhattan. This was started by a bunch of film producers and people from film. It was all video content, all user generated content. Again, we could see that they were getting a bunch of enquiries of people wanting to either purchase or a lot of them were renters wanting to rent the apartment. We saw that as an opportunity.
One of our employees who is a really great friend of ours, Erica Sachse, she was going back to the State. She’s from Detroit but spent a lot of time living in New York. We decided to partner up with her and purchase that business. That’s evolved into more of a real estate marketing agency, and we do a lot in the proptech space as well. I’d say the key difference probably between Social Garden and Snap Listings outside of obviously the location is probably more of the work we do is really integrated with the agents and just the nature of the market here as well. We’ll do a lot of work upfront and we’ll do everything from start to finish for a project like the brand, the placemaking, all that. And then we’re also involved in the actual selling of the project as well.
It’s pretty exciting. The business is going really well. New York is an absolute gun. We’re three and a half years into the journey, doubling in size very year, so she’s doing an amazing job growing that business. I play a role, I guess, by supporting her and supporting the team to develop that business and to help with the growing pains that come from having a business going from zero to one pretty quickly.

Anthony Denman:
You must be somehow tempted to apply that full funnel approach to Social Garden.

George Glover:
Yeah, we definitely thought about it a lot and considered having more of an end-to-end offering. I think we know what we are really good at. I think the placemaking, particularly the stuff up the front end, I think we need to build capability around being able to deliver that, and I think we’d rather partner with agencies like yourself to be able to deliver that component. I think the other end of the customer journey, the sales part, I think increasingly more and more of the customer journey is going to occur online, and I think naturally we are going to push more into that space.
When you look at the States, you look at companies like Compass, which is a tech-enabled brokerage, I think we are coming at it from a bit of a different angle, but I think definitely we are going to continue to push the envelope in terms of supporting the customer to go further through that journey. I think our products are probably going to evolve as a result of that. But what that looks like is hard to tell, but yeah, definitely it could mean doing more of the transaction or more of the transaction occurring online and us playing a bigger role in that place.

Anthony Denman:
In terms of mentors, obviously Klossy, Steve Kloss, he’s a big mentor of yours because he purchased a fair chunk of your business, right?

George Glover:
Kloss, I mentioned we met him five years ago on Necker and just someone who’s just an absolute legend. We’ve always gotten on really well, and he’s just given us really great advice. I use the call center example as just one of dozens of different examples where we’ve had the privilege of being able to sit down with him once every two or three months and just pick his brain around his experience working across the tech landscape here in Australia for so long and him being so successful. We’ve been trying to court him for a while and get him more involved in the company, and eventually over a dinner last year, he made the call that he was going to… keen to jump in and play, I guess, more of an official role, because he’s been playing the role anyway, just not officially and share in some of the upside of the advice that he’s delivering us.

Anthony Denman:
That’s awesome. Thanks so much, mate. We’re very, very much nearing the end now. This has been a really fascinating conversation, I’ve really enjoyed it. In terms of your purpose, the reason you kind of do what you do or what you get the biggest kick out of, what is it? What is it that floats your boat?

George Glover:
I think for me, I’m definitely a people person. I get my energy from people. I get energy from talking to people like yourself and having interesting conversations with people. But I think for me the thing that I’ve enjoyed the most out of the Social Garden journey in particular has been about helping people become the best versions of themselves and really finding confidence in themselves. We’ve got tons of examples where we’ve had people join the company who have this amazing talent and probably not had the confidence in themselves to be able to see that. I think my purpose is trying to help them see that and find that within themselves. I think I get a lot of joy out of just watching the people in the business grow. That comes, obviously, directly from our staff, but also our clients and the people that we work with as well.
There’s a bunch of people who have worked for us who have gone on to create businesses or be super successful in their own right. That brings me a lot of joy in terms of our ability to be able to just have a meaningful impact on these people’s life. I know that that sounds corny, but for me that’s the ship that actually gets me out of bed. I think increasingly as we scale and our reach grows, I think the ability for myself to be able to… I think that’s probably why I’m attracted to the not-for-profit stuff as well because it’s the ability to help people who have been dealt a shit hand and have been knocked around and be able to support them to find within them to be the best versions of themselves is really what keeps me interested and is the reason I get out of bed every day.

Anthony Denman:
That’s lovely, mate. That’s a beautiful purpose. If somebody, just on that, if they wanted to get started in the digital marketing space, what would be your advice to them?

George Glover:
I think the beauty of digital is there’s just so much content available online. I think obviously trying to find a passion within the digital space, whether it’s video editing, whether it’s producing content, copywriting, whether it’s design, whether it’s web, but trying to figure out where’s your passion and then going to the corners of the web to find content that enables you to learn the skills in that particular area of digital marketing. But I think really simply is thinking about leverage. I always say to people, I say, “If you want to get into digital, jump on Salesforce and do Salesforce Trailhead. There’s a massive shortage of people who are skilled in tools like Salesforce or HubSpot, and they literally have free programs for people to learn the tools. Or Facebook, you can jump in and get a baseline knowledge of Facebook advertising through their own training program.
So it’s be curious, invest the time in learning these platforms. We’ve got an internship program here called the Sprout Program. It’s like we’ve hired so many of our staff out of that internship program, and that’s like a 12-week program where we push people through a number of these areas and help people to find what their area expertise is. Is it client service, is it copywriting, whatever? I think all of that content is leveraging content that exists already up there. Outside of that I think probably become an expert in ChatGPT, it’s probably a pretty good place to be quite investing your time as well.

Anthony Denman:
Well, mate, we’re done. Thanks very much, I really appreciate it. That was a really great conversation. I’ve learnt a shitload, which is fundamentally one of the main reasons I do these things. You want a final word? Is there anything you want to say before you sign off?

George Glover:
Oh no, I’m pleased to hear you’ve learned some stuff. It’s definitely been an interesting conversation for me. I’m always interested in talking to people who are either trying to solve problems within the markets that we are across. So if you’ve got a business or a passion for solving problems across the property and education industries, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re looking to get into digital marketing or if you want to have a chat to me about anything, you can find me at george@socialgarden.com.au, and I’d love to hear from you. But I’ve really enjoyed the conversation and hopefully the listeners have gotten some value out of it.

Anthony Denman:
Cool, man. I’ll see you soon.

George Glover:
Awesome.

About Us

The Property Marketing Podcast is an original podcast hosted by Anthony Denman, co-founder of Our Agency. In each episode Anthony talks to Australia’s most experienced property professionals, exploring their personal & professional stories whilst unearthing insights on how to create the most successful property brands possible.

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