Welcome back to another episode of Become A Local Leader. Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Megan Micco, a Real Estate Broker Associate at Compass.
Megan Micco is a third-generation Berkeley native, raised by a single mom who got her Ph.D. at the University of California. Her mother became a professor of ethnic studies in Mills for 30 years. Interestingly enough, less than 2% of the general population in the United States will ever receive a Ph.D. and this number is astronomically lower for Native American women. So, that was a huge accomplishment and really changed the trajectory of her personal and family success story.
Megan Micco herself graduated from Cal with a bachelor’s in anthropology, she is of Irish and Native American descent and is a registered tribal member with the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Megan tells us that in the United State’s history, there was an event called a trail of tears, which was essentially and tragically a death march where her ancestors were forcibly removed from their native lands in Florida and relocated to Oklahoma. A huge part of Megan’s motivation and getting into real estate has been to help people with systemic racism and ongoing persecution, especially for people of color. Megan really wants to provide a ladder up so those people can access real estate in an equitable way.
Meet Megan Micco – Our Featured Local Leader
What do you love specifically about the community you work in now?
I love Berkeley. I’m such an evangelist for the East Bay. I mean, I joke that I know every butcher, baker, and mailman because my family’s been here for so long. And I went to Cal here and my kids went to public school here. So, in terms of helping my clients, I think those really deep multi-generational local roots are so helpful. So, not only understanding the market dynamics but giving flavor to the different communities that you might consider living in and making sure that that’s a fit is really key to helping people find their place in the world.
What did you do before you actually got into real estate? Is this your first career?
That is a great question. I actually came to real estate somewhat circuitously. After attending Cal, I worked in fine jewelry, luxury, jewelry, design, and curation for about 12 years. And then, I decided to go back to law school. I worked at a plaintiff law firm in San Francisco called Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who were some of the most amazing legal minds. Elizabeth Cabraser is just a powerhouse and it was so inspirational. But ultimately, I decided I wanted more flexibility to raise my kids, I was going to be going back to law school after I already had two children. And I also wanted more financial upside. And so, that’s when I started placing an eye on real estate and I have never looked back.
It’s been a wonderful career. I get to help people. I have a very consultative practice. And I just wake up motivated every day to do what I love.
What is your superpower as a real estate professional?
I would say precision. I mean, one of the metrics I have in my practice is that 83% of my buyers get into contract on the very first time we write an offer, which is very intense seller’s market barrier is, you know, quite an impressive metric. And the way I do that is by providing a lot of upfront education, forecasting obstacles, and working with my clients to achieve their goals.
How long have you been in the in the game entirely?
I started in 2012. When I first started, I was doing kind of a hybrid part-time while I was transitioning out of jewelry and moving into real estate. I just realized it’s not something you can do part-time. I probably work 60 hours a week now. Thank goodness, I’m passionate about it because I do it so often. But I’ve been doing it full time since 2012.
What’s the general overview of people you served per year?
I’ve had a big growth jump in my business in 2019. So just looking back, 2017, and 2018, I did a combination on average of 16 sides for just over $15 million in gross sales. And then in 2019, my business jumps an astronomical 60%. I close 26 sides for $27 million in gross sales.
I’m looking forward to this year. I’m on track to do 27 sides for this year at about $30 million.
How do you think COVID has affected your business?
COVID changed things. I mean, I had my first transaction on the buyer-side on March 15. So right before sheltering and lockdowns take into effect. And so, that was a really interesting landscape, appraisals, ground to a halt. We were told that desktop appraisals weren’t even being approved yet. I had a petition for desktop appraisals from the bank that my clients were working with so they wouldn’t get kicked out of contract.
Since shelter in place, I have done Ten million dollars in business across about 11 sides. So, I’ve been really active. Part of that is just understanding a digital landscape. So, because of the shelter in place orders, listing presentations, you know, first-time buyer interviews, everything has moved to zoom. And so, being familiar and facile with technology has really allowed me to stay active and continue to serve my clients.
What percentage of your business is repeat versus new clientele?
I would say it’s probably about 60% new business, 40%, repeat I think as my business grows and I get a larger clientele we’ll tend to see more of that. But I do a lot of thought leadership content marketing. I’m very active on different social channels. And so, a lot of my inbound comes from those channels.
Now, percentage-wise of your business relationships versus relationships and referrals versus advertising, people that are coming in from advertising, what’s that look like?
So before shelter in place, a lot of my business is often attained at open houses. It’s a great way to meet. Well, it basically functions as a mini-interview. So, whether it’s a seller or buyer, they can come to an open house, engage with you in a casual professional setting and see how you represent a home and also how you might interface with the buyer.
After shelter in place that shifted. I have 7000 contacts in my database over my professional career. So, I keep in regular contact with those people and devote several hours a week to just you know, providing value, whether it’s small upgrades they can make to their property, answering questions about refi, talking about appraisal, just basically strategizing with them and supporting them. And some of these people aren’t my clients but I take a long view of my practice. And I want to support people if they have questions. So hopefully, if I add value, they’ll come to me when they’re ready to make a transition.
What are you doing right now to build new relationships outside of your database?
I’m really active in my local community. Prior to this, my husband and I would hold a taco truck party every summer, just invite neighbors. When we moved into our neighborhood, we door knocked. I think he was a little bit flipped some by that. But we met a ton of great friends and you know, really got to get out and see where the kids are. We have some really great long-lasting friendships. So, I’m really active in my community. And also, just with other agents, I try to collaborate with people without ego and learn from people and just really be open to learning new ways of advancing.
Have any business owners in your area referred your business in the past? And if not, who has referred your business in the past?
I actually did receive an inbound referral for someone that I know who was not real estate related, but I know in the community and see her for professional services. And oftentimes, those referrals take a long time. There’s a lot of real estate agents, and it takes time to develop trust. And when people are referring someone, they need to make sure that they’re going to be put in very good hands. So, I take very close care of those relationships, and it’s a huge honor. Even if someone gives me the opportunity to interview for business. If I don’t win it, I feel like I feel so blessed to have the chance to try.
What forms of advertising do you find work well for you and what do not work well for you?
I would say I initially started out doing some advertising in Zillow and Yelp. I just felt like those were very time intensive and diluted. There are other agents that are featured at the same time. I just felt that wasn’t the best path for me. I’ve since shifted. I do invest a bit in Google AdWords. And then, I talked earlier about my belief in content marketing and thought leadership. And so, I’m very active in publishing blogs. I read industry and market reports. And then, I actively contribute over multiple channels. I started pretty small. But at this point, I just hired a vice president of marketing so I had more bandwidth. And now I’m publishing to Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
So I would say, with a combination of those things, and you know, I’m constantly iterating looking at the analytics, figuring out what’s working even if it’s just responses, it’s really helpful if I get a text saying, “Hey, guess what, we’re painting our front door because we read your blog.” Or, “We just put on an automatic gas shutoff valve because you told us that was important for an earthquake.” So, you know, the combination of actual software analytics, and then just real-time responses from my clients informs what I do in the coming months.
What major mistakes have you made in your career that you think someone else could learn from?
I try to be very self-reflective in my practice. There’s a lot of rejection in this business. And I think you have to build a buffer and go into every situation knowing that you’re going to do your absolute best. If my practice is full, I don’t take on new clients because I want to have a level of service for my clients. And so, I would say the things that are helpful are becoming dejected and rigid when you lose an opportunity and not learning from it. For me, I always want to use that as a lily pad to figure out how I can iterate, what I can do better, what I can take from it, and move forward in my growth trajectory.
And another thing is just not staying in a comfort zone. It’s really easy to get comfortable with your technology stack or the way things are done, how you tour, how you spend your time. I think it’s important to challenge yourself to figure out new pathways. Talk to your colleagues about what they’re doing, search for new software solutions. Just really say stay fresh.
When it comes to your services, specifically, what do you think your clients are raving about? What do they love? What do they tell you that they love about you?
I think one of the main things I hear back is my responsiveness, how quickly I enter respond, and how comprehensive I am. I only work in the East Bay Area. So as far north is Richmond and Kensington and as far south as Oakland and every city in-between. And the reason I don’t work through the tunnel or across the bridge is I want a depth of knowledge for my clients. I’m very consultative and I want to talk to them about public schools and private schools, the community that might be a good fit for them. And so, I think the combination of deep knowledge of the local community as well as my relationships with other agents to help portray their offer in the very best light is something that helps me and my client’s homes stand out.
What are you doing to differentiate yourself? What is setting you apart right now, either in your opinion or in fact?
I’m competitive by nature, but the only person I’m really competing with is myself. I have colleagues that I really respect and look up to and model my practice on. Bebe McRae was a huge influence. In earlier decades, she really was, you know, kind of blazed a path for women entrepreneurs in real estate. And so, I really respect some of the women that came before us that created a space for us.
What are some of the things right now that you’re doing to give back to the people or to give value to the people who are living and working in that community right now?
I feel really strongly about philanthropy, it’s a personal value of my family. I grew up again, as I said, with a single mom. So, I definitely benefited from some government programs. We had food stamps for a while. I received free lunches. And we generally just had very few financial resources. I make it a regular and consistent practice to give back to those less fortunate than I am. I make charitable contributions for every single side that I close.
I’ll sometimes ask clients if they have an organization that’s important to them, and I’m happy to, you know, make a contribution in their name. But I would say the ones that I highlight that I feel really personally connected to include social-environmental justice, childhood education, Animal Rescue, and women’s reproductive rights. And if you look at my website, I have a list of every charity that I contribute to regularly so people can kind of see if we’re a fit.
What would you like to do for your community that you maybe have thought of but haven’t started yet?
I started off doing a lot of grassroots fundraising when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. As life progressed and I got busier, it’s just harder to maintain a balance or what I call a work-life integration between really pushing my business forward. So, I would like to mentor more native women. It’s really important to see other successful native women that have degrees from important universities that are giving back to the community. I am part of the League of Women Voters and I’m affiliated with other different organizations, but specifically finding a native community in the bay area that I can contribute on a more active basis is something that is on the horizon.
What are some of your goals for your business moving forward in the next three to five or five to ten years?
Well, I have to say, I have pretty lofty goals. I think I set a high bar for myself. So, we’ll see. But, you know, the basic goals are to continue to grow my business, secure my role as a top real estate producer and thought leader, which is really important. And then, just a model for other entrepreneurial women. I’ve been entrepreneurial since I was really young. I helped my mom negotiate her contract when she was a professor in Mills. I just always had an eye on business. And then, I take a long-term view of the industry.
As I’ve talked about before, I embrace technology to ensure my longevity in an industry that is ripe for disruption and is changing every day. So then, just in terms of volume, I plan to double my volume in the next three years to 60 million. And then, I’d really love to hit 100 million in five years.
What are some of the major challenges and roadblocks you’re facing not only achieving these goals but just in general?
I think one of the really hard things is I’m a sole proprietress. Scaling operations as a single entrepreneur can be really difficult. I just mentioned earlier that I got marketing help. That has really been a lifesaver. So, in this new, what I’m calling POCO, or post COVID environment, there’s a lot more administrative detail. And it’s just very difficult unless you have an assistant or someone to support you on the administrative side to move as quickly as I like. That’s a challenge.
And then, adapting to the introduction of new technologies and just making sure that you’re always practicing and taking advantage of those advances. And then finding my voice as an industry leader. Kind of what makes my story unique, how my buyers connect with me on a personal level. I think it’s really important when you’re working with a professional that you feel some sort of professional chemistry.
So, when I’m on social media, especially Facebook or Instagram, I’m sharing bits about my life. I’ll invite people into my kitchen and show them what I’m cooking or I ride road bikes with some other friends and other real estate agents on the weekend. I’m going to take a clip of us out riding on Grizzly peak. Because I think people are looking for people that resonate with their lifestyle, not just their professional goals. And so, I like to shine a light on that.
Do you buy leads at all from any of the following websites; Zillow, realtor.com, homes.com, etc.?
Do you pay for Facebook ads?
Not right now. I’ve suspended that. I have some questions and concerns about Facebook, but I do place Google AdWords.
Do you get a positive ROI from that? And if so, how much are you spending on a regular basis? Or were you spending?
Yeah, that’s such a complicated question. I mean, I think it’s really hard. The way I view that type of marketing in terms of Google AdWords is really brand impressions. And so, it’s hard to really act accurately tracking ROI. Someone may see my ad 5-10-50 times. And then, on the right day, they’re like, “Oh, I should call Megan because we’re thinking about selling our house and I want to get some information.” Or, “We’re going to do a refinance. We should reach out to her.” So, I find it difficult to track this. But in general, I’m just, you know, investing on a really consistent basis to try to stay top of mind.
Do you advertise at all on any sort of bus benches? Basically, any sort of display advertising around your community?
I have not done that. I’ve considered doing a big billboard ad but Shelter-in-Place came into effect and I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to impact my business so I haven’t done it. I’m running a pretty unique campaign right now, you know, those posters that you see tree services put on an actual tree and they have those little pull-off tabs. I have my daughter go around the area with my husband actually as a weekend activity and just post them on trees so people can pull it out. It’s sort of hazy. It basically says, who’s the best Berkeley real estate agent? How are you navigating? COVID? She knows. It’s just something fun and fresh. I just try to keep it light and fun and energetic.
Do you do any direct mailers, flyers, door hangers, and you sort of print marketing?
Yes, I used to do that pre-COVID. If I had an open house, it’s a private neighborhood exclusive party and I’ll cater a party to have the neighbors come through and take a look. I think that’s always a nice way to make a connection for people that might want to sell their home. And then, I used to send just sold postcards, but now with COVID is very sensitive to health concerns. And so, I’ve moved everything to digital.
What type did you find more effective than others in the sense of print marketing?
I always want to track things. I don’t really want to send out things I don’t have a sense of the ROI, basically. So as much as I like the analytics on it, I like to do that. And I also feel like there’s a better opportunity for engagement once it’s on social media. People are more likely to just drop a comment on Instagram or send you a quick note on LinkedIn. So, that’s my preference.
Do you write any blogs, either about your personal life or about your business?
My husband told me that he thinks it’s really important that I start with thought leadership and writing a blog and sharing insights. I just thought everyone does blogs. How am I going to spend out and why would I do that? But yeah, I get a lot of questions from my buyers and sellers. And so, if I get more than three questions, generally on a certain topic, then I write a blog post about it. And so, I post those articles to LinkedIn. I also put them on my website. A lot of it is evergreen content so I can just send that off. It’s really helpful for people that are buying, you know, navigating buying or selling for the first time.
So, I do write a blog. I don’t know two articles, maybe two or four a month depending. I can do it a little bit more now that I have marketing support. But yeah, I am an active contributor now.
What channels in social media are you active on and what do you post about?
I’m active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I would say Instagram tends to be the most curated and sort of personal out of all of them. But use all four platforms. I have my marketing team help me with LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. That tends to be more market insights and what’s going on in the local market, a little bit on activities. So, the combination of those you kind of get a window into my personal life, and then also my insights on the real estate market.
Do you have an email newsletter that you send out to your database? If so, what’s the frequency on that?
That is something I’m working on for this year, I have been reticent to do it because consistency is the most important thing. And so, I haven’t wanted to commit to something before knowing I could really do it. And without having an assistant or marketing help previous to this year, I just didn’t have the bandwidth to take them on. So, TBD, you will have to keep your eye out. But it’ll probably be coming this year.
Do you still do open houses? Are they done virtually?
Everything is done virtually. When I’m representing a seller, I do a virtual open house and then I just Livestream on Instagram, and people can pop in and ask questions. And then, I save that to IGTV and it lives on my profile so people can access it. I think it’s incredibly important and I know not all agents think of it that way, but I think it’s vital that you’re doing everything you can to market the property for your seller. I also think it’s really important to feel comfortable on video, not everyone does. And I think the more you can differentiate, that’s a really important part.
When representing buyers, everything has to be viewed virtually first. And if it’s not visible to view it virtually, or after you’ve reviewed everything online, if you want to take a look at the property, it can be done but you have to sign disclosure paperwork, and in some cases, you also need to provide proof of funds and a pre-approval. So, it’s stringent. And then obviously, you have to follow all the CDC guidelines on appropriate social distancing. Only two people can come with one agent at a time. So, it’s quite stringent.
What do you do to follow up with your database?
I do a combination of all of them. I try to connect with my clients on different channels. Everyone that I work with, I connect with on LinkedIn and Instagram. Some people don’t like Instagram or on it, or they have private accounts. And so, if they don’t want to be friends, I obviously did not impress them. But the benefit of me getting some insight into their lives is that I can see if someone’s adopted a puppy or if they’re pregnant. And then obviously in sending gifts to them, I recently sent birth boxes to my clients who just adopted dogs. I send gifts when there’s the birth of a baby.
I’m just actively monitoring. I love my clients. I was so lucky to work with them. We develop really close personal relationships. I like to stay present. And it’s fun to celebrate them as they go through life changes. And then in terms of my CRM, I use HubSpot for my CRM. So, I’m sending out regular business communications and just checking in and seeing if people need support now, but I try to personalize it too.
I would say some of my key points for wrapping up is don’t be afraid to learn and change. Take the time to explore new technologies and practice, practice, practice. It’s always beneficial. There is no downside to jumping on zoom and practicing with a friend before you go live. If you’re going to have your first listing presentation, you want to be seamless, you want to just be able to screen share really easily. And so, even though I do it all the time now, I’ll still practice if I have a big listing presentation. So, no shame in your game. That’s the way we all improve.
Second, to that, I would say, take a position. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Really define your brand, come up with brand guidelines and standards, and then stick to them. You’ll ultimately find people that are right for your practice.
And then just my last thing I would say is, if you’re not constantly learning and finding a way to move forward, you’re not going to survive in the industry. Like I mentioned before, ripe for disruption, a lot of things are changing. And I’m just so fortunate to have found a career that fits my skills and I get to wake up every day doing what I love.
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