Insider Interview: Charlie Calise

I am thrilled to welcome Charlie Calise to the blog for my latest Insider Interview. Charlie lives in Dallas, TX where he is president of Calise Partners, an integrated marketing agency. In addition to this role, Charlie operates an independently owned HomeVestors® franchise and directs HomeVestors national advertising efforts through AdVestors®. Charlie’s unique position as both a franchisee and an advertiser gives him unparalleled insight into what makes HomeVestors successful.

For over 6 years, Charlie has built his home buying business while managing national multi-channel ad campaigns for the HomeVestors® national brand. Through this experience, Charlie and his team have developed a deep understanding of the customer journey using robust data analytics. Charlie, thank you for your time and our thought-provoking conversation!

When and how did you discover HomeVestors®?

I initially became involved with HomeVestors on a creative assignment. We were doing some television work together and I discovered that I had a real affinity for their business and their business model – and frankly for David and Ken as business leaders. My advertising and marketing agency, Calise Partners, took some initiatives to understand the business and generate some leads for them… One thing led to another and we formed an advertising relationship that continues to this day.

When I first started working with HomeVestors, I was thrilled about the opportunity from an advertising standpoint. I gained unprecedented access to the inner workings of the business as a result of my advertising relationship. As I spent more time with HomeVestors, I started to think, “Wow, I have to have a piece of this from a franchise standpoint.”

This year marks my 6th or 7th year as an independent HomeVestors business owner. I am a full franchise and it’s been awesome. My business buys about 15 – 20 houses a year and we have accumulated around 17 rental properties. I have my whole family involved, it is a terrific family business. It has also been invaluable in helping me understand the business for my agency work.

I am in the living room with our customers and this gives me unprecedented access to the customer in a way that an agency would typically never have. I go on a buy call or two a week and purchase around 1 – 2 houses a month. During these appointments, I listen to our customers, hear their challenges, and learn how HomeVestors can help them.

Did you have real estate investment experience prior to joining HomeVestors?

I did not and I say this all the time: if I can do this, anyone can. If you follow the HomeVestors® system, you should be successful. Prior to joining, I had purchased a few family homes, but had no real estate investing experience beyond that at all. I consider our franchise business to be successful and, as I mentioned, it’s a family business. My daughter is involved and my wife manages all of the rehabbing. I really enjoy having this investing business in addition to my job running the agency.

In your opinion, what makes the HomeVestors® franchise model successful across different states and markets?

We are successful in every market that we are in and there is a reason for this. What makes our model successful is that we are the most widely known and trusted brand in the industry. Another thing that supports this success is the affiliation of over 750 franchisees across the country. In each market, our new franchisees are walking into a system where they have anywhere from 2 to 30 franchises to collaborate with, work with, and learn from. So there is a strong support system in place.

Another thing that obviously works is that we are the largest lead generating machine in the professional home buying business. We have the most sophisticated data and analytics in the industry. There is really no one that is even close in terms of the level of sophistication and proven nature of this business model.

Everyone sees the billboards, but that is just the start. It’s also the Pay-Per-Click, the SEO, the web presence. We are a truly integrated media machine. Our ability to understand the customer and their customer journey (what they go through to make a decision to call us) is second to none. We have incredible data regarding who our customer is and how they go about making a decision.

Tell us a little bit about how the natural relationship between Calise Partners and HomeVestors came about.

Like any really good relationship, forming AdVestors® simply became a natural next step. We were doing a lot of work together and what Calise Partners (my agency and the one behind AdVestors®) brings to the party is the agency experience and the operating systems to help HomeVestors more cost effectively generate new leads and prospects. It just became natural to formalize this relationship after working together for a period of time.

You have an impressive marketing background, working with big name brands. How has this experience shaped your approach to advertising for HomeVestors?

Most importantly, I learned strategic discipline through working with big multi-national companies. These relationships taught me how to leverage the strength of a brand into a dominant position in the marketplace.

I can’t, however, take credit for the sheer strength of the HomeVestors brand. These guys have poured a huge investment, both monetary and time, into building their brand. I was gifted the opportunity to be a part in the nurturing and management of the brand into the position it is in today.

In my opinion, we are currently in the most exciting era in the brand’s history with the expansion and growth of the real estate segment over the last 6 or 7 years. I am honored to be a part of this growth that this brand has experienced. I have simply been given a great opportunity to take something that was carefully crafted and be a part of a team to leverage it into something bigger.

How has your approach to advertising for HomeVestors® evolved since you started?

For us, the focus has been on creating the systems and data capabilities to better understand the journey. Calise Partners has invested a significant amount of money into the AdScience® data management platform. We have a deep understanding of the inter-relationship between TV and outdoor advertising with online media like PPC, SEO, and prospect display advertising. Our ability to leverage that offline media investment into online conversions is second to none.

Being able to measure and quantify the cross channel relationship is invaluable to us. I think HomeVestors is one of the most sophisticated advertisers in the country in terms of our ability to track and understand the customer journey. We have gone far beyond the surface data statistics (lead conversion) to the point where we can pinpoint which keywords will convert into contracts. Our ability to manage and understand the data is one of the things that sets us apart.

To manage the national HomeVestors advertising, AdVestors interfaces with nearly 150 different Ad Councils across the country. We visit their markets frequently. In some markets, we are there every month, in others every quarter. We are in constant phone communication to coordinate the efforts and manage advertising in each market.

For me, it isn’t about the most successful advertising medium changing, it is all about the customer journey, And this has certainly changed. What I think has changed the most over the past 6 years is the customer journey – how they find their way to us. People see our brand offline in formats like mail, which is an exceptional performer for us, which generally sends the customer directly to the HomeVestors websites. We are able to serve them with the right message as they come online.

How are HomeVestors and AdVestors staying ahead of the curve?

We are the largest professional home buyer in America by far. Additionally, we are the largest advertiser in this space nationally and we continue to invest in that heavily. HomeVestors has the most advanced technology in the professional home buying business, bar none. We have proprietary software to help the independently owned and operated HomeVestors franchise owners buy homes and estimate rehabs on a property. HomeVestors CRM system helps owners manage customer relationships. AdScience tracks the customer journey and enables us to optimize media plans. From a technology standpoint, HomeVestors is the most sophisticated company in the industry.

We also have the strongest network of franchisees in the business. We have 750+ people who are the very best professional home buyers in the business and they are learning new things every day. There are a lot of things that keep HomeVestors ahead of the curve. AdVestors is just one small part of it.

How has AdVestors evolved since you started it in 2011? Has AdVestors been a natural complement to your role as a HomeVestors franchisee?

Being a HomeVestors® franchisee has been a natural complement to my ability to run AdVestors® more effectively. The real driver in this relationship is me being a franchisee. First, I am in the living room with customers and I get a raw understanding of what the customer is going through and how HomeVestors is the solution for their ugly situation. This gives me clarity for our AdVestors strategy that I could not get any other way.

Second, I write the check as the franchisee and I know what it is like to get good leads or bad leads. I know what it is like to pay for advertising as a franchisee. From an Advestors standpoint, this is not just another media check being deposited into the bank. It is an individual’s hard earned money that they are entrusting us to spend for them. It is a much higher level of emotional connection to the advertising investment.

Third, my family is involved, just like many of our franchisees. We are making an investment into the advertising to provide for our families. My daughter is dependent on this business being successful. My wife is dependent on this business being successful. So, being one of its independently owned and operated franchisees has made me a better advertiser for HomeVestors.

Where do you see HomeVestors in the next 5 years?

HomeVestors will continue to be the gorilla in this industry. I believe that we will be even more technologically advanced 5 years from where we are today and that we will be even further ahead of the competition. I think this gap will continue to expand. I expect that our franchise community will continue to grow and mature into an even better professional home buying network. The future is nothing but bright for HomeVestors!

Thank you for joining us, Charlie!

Hungry for more? Browse my other Insider Interviews for even more inspiration, real life examples, and advice.

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