Fresh from their win in the Support Service Provider Award category at the MFAA National Excellence Awards, we sat down with Lisa and Daniel Baxter of First Home Buyer Buddy to find out the secrets to their success for this edition of Prospa Groundbreakers.
After starting out in real estate, the pair found they were regularly being approached by first home buyers looking for help in their journey towards home ownership. One thing led to another, and Lisa and Daniel decided to focus on this segment of the market, making it their niche to provide a wholistic service for first home buyer customers.
Since then, this dynamic duo has developed their offering with the goal of making sure first home buyers received the help they need to make the purchasing process easier and less stressful.
Despite having a moto of not being everything to everyone, these Brisbane based Groundbreakers are proving to be plenty to many thankful clients. Read more about their approach to business in this edition of Prospa Groundbreakers.
MFAA: Tell us how you got started in this industry?
LB & DB: We started our real estate agency in 2011 and it gradually morphed into helping people buy their next home too. Basically, what a buyer’s agent does back before it was popular. We’ve always had a love of marketing, particularly online marketing, and when creating different advertising campaigns, we realised that many of the people reaching out to us for help were first home buyers. However, we didn’t really have a service that fitted what they were looking for and would turn away a heap of business. It was then we realised why not specialise in first home buyers and help them have an amazing first home buying experience. With that we created Australia’s first and only dedicated e-learning programme for first home buyers, (The First Home Buyer Buddy). It had to be something they could afford and a price point that wouldn’t hurt their deposit. From there we looked at who else was servicing the first home buyer market. Having many friends who were brokers from our real estate days and hearing the challenges they faced with first home buyers, it seemed a natural fit. That’s when we decided to team up with some of Australia’s best brokers and offer the First Home Buyer Buddy as a value-add to their service - something that would help their client, and in turn help them too.
MFAA: How did you come up with the idea of First Home Buyer Buddy?
LB & DB: After changing direction with our business, we were taking a more active role with our clients and not only helping them sell, but also helping them buy their next property. However, we found that we were getting a lot of people approaching us, wanting help to buy and a lot of those people were first home buyers. The only problem was they couldn’t afford our service. So instead of turning them away, we sat down and tried to brainstorm a way we could still help them, but with a more affordable solution. Which is when we decided to package up everything we were doing for our clients and put it into an online programme so they could learn about what we do, but do it themselves. Really our main goal was to stop them from making all of the most common and costly mistakes we’d seen first home buyers make (when negotiating with us as selling agents).
MFAA: What are the advantages of focusing on assisting this one segment of the market?
LB & DB: When you focus on just one segment of the market, you become very good at identifying what they need and want, and what their challenges and fears are. You observe behaviours, patterns and trends which means you’re not only able to service that client better, you’re also able to attract the exact type of client you want to work with because you speak their language. Something that rings true is advice we received from one of our mentors. He said, ‘when you can articulate a client’s problem better than they can themselves, they immediately see you as the expert they need to work with’.
MFAA: What are the disadvantages? And how do you overcome them?
LB & DB: Sometimes when you’re so entrenched in a niche you start to think that you know everything you need to know about your ideal client, their dreams, their fears, their challenges. This can be dangerous as you should always approach every situation with an open mind. A way we overcome this is to never stop learning and always look outside our industry for inspiration. At the core all businesses are fundamentally the same. Going outside of your niche and speaking with other business owners who deal with your target market, but maybe in a different industry, can provide valuable insights and help you look at challenges and obstacles differently.
MFAA: How important is it, do you think, to specialise?
LB & DB: It’s very important, especially for your client. We live in a world where people have so much choice, not enough time to choose and want instant gratification. If you make it hard for them to decide whether you’re the ‘right’ person to help them, they’ll look elsewhere. They don’t want to scroll through your services to find one that fits their needs, they just want to know that you have helped someone in a similar position to themselves, meaning you’ll be able to deliver them the same outcome. If you’re a specialist in a certain field, this gives them their answer straight away.
But I think mindset plays a big role as to why people choose to stay away from a vertical market. There is a very real fear of turning people away, saying no to work or leaving money on the table (especially when you need the money). But like the saying goes, ‘if you try to be everything to everyone, you'll be nothing to no one’.
If we called ourselves Home Buyer Buddy, and said we help anyone who wants to buy a property, we’d probably have shut our doors by now. Why would someone feel compelled to work with us when they could choose from hundreds of buyer’s agents or advocates out there. However, when we say we only work with first home buyers, there is an immediate assumption that we must be an expert or specialist in that field and people start to seek you out.
MFAA: Besides focusing on first home buyers, what else do you do differently which makes your business stand out and perform better?
LB & DB: We know that a first home buyer needs the help of many different providers when going through the process of buying their first home, so we focus on connecting and introducing them to the best people to help them along their journey - such as mortgage brokers, builders, conveyancers etc. Because of our marketing background and our intimate understanding of the first home buyer market, we help brokers, builders, developers, etc attract more of their ideal clients (first home buyers), via our large-scale seminars, our first home buyer buddy programme, and our online lead generation.
MFAA: What’s it like working so closely with your significant other. Do you have any special strategies you utilise to ensure things run smoothly?
LB & DB: We have the same vision for the business and where we want to take it, professionally and personally, so that is the easy part. With regards to the strategies we have in place to ensure things run smoothly, that’s a tough one and I always wish I had a better response for this type of question, however, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know how we make it work - it just works. We’ve tried to implement rules like no discussing business at certain times of the night or weekends, but we just had to come to the realisation that our business forms a huge part of our life and accept the fact that some days will involve more business talk than others and that’s OK.
Also, we both have a pretty good understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are and we’re just very fortunate that we love doing different things in the business. I’m happy chatting and making sales calls and talking strategy, whereas Lisa takes care of the technical side of things (which is great as that would do my head in).
MFAA: What are you both working towards for the future of your business?
LB & DB: First home buyers are our vertical. We want to service that industry from top to bottom. At the moment, we have two main focuses. Firstly, to scale our online First Home Buyer Buddy programme so more first home buyers can have access to it through their brokers. We’ve turned it into an extremely affordable subscription model that will allow more mortgage brokers to refer it to their clients. Not only will it help them generate more leads, but it will help turn those leads into clients and better-quality clients!
Secondly, we’re big believers in collaboration and we’re always thinking of ways we can do things better. At present we’re looking to offer a more cohesive service to first home buyers - something that works from end-to-end. This involves working with a number of certified partners to ensure first home buyers have access to the best help and support for every stage of their first home buying journey. Our aim has always been to save our clients’ money, time and stress and we think this new model will not only do that for the first home buyer, but also the provider they’re working with, whether it be a mortgage broker, builder or conveyancer, etc. So, watch this space!