David Staley is the Co-founder and President of Digible, a company providing advanced digital marketing and technology solutions for the multifamily housing industry. He has extensive experience in digital strategy, has built businesses from the ground up at three start-up companies, and has led digital strategy initiatives for Hearst, Verizon, and Digital First Media.
David has worked with some of the largest multifamily portfolios in the industry to develop digital solutions that not only drive leasing velocity but also increase NOI. He has been recognized for several prestigious awards, including the 2021 Top Workplace Awards, AdWeek’s Fastest Growing Company, and the Guinness Book of World Records for the Greatest Distance Run on a Treadmill in 12 Hours.
Reid Wicoff is the Co-founder and CEO of Digible. He has rich expertise in digital media, organizational change, leadership development, and enterprise strategy. Before Digible, Reid held high-level leadership positions at several Fortune 500 companies, including CBS Radio, Cox Media Group, and Digital First Media. He has been recognized for several prestigious awards, including the 2021 Top Workplace Award, Adweek’s Fastest Growing Agency of 2021, and the Guinness Book of World Records for the Shortest Distance on a Treadmill in 12 hours.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [03:54] David Staley and Reid Wicoff introduce Digible, their typical clients, and what they offer
- [05:48] Digital marketing solutions for apartment buildings
- [07:48] Tech investment and outsourcing for real estate agencies
- [14:42] David and Reid explain why they niched down to tech and digital marketing for the multifamily housing industry
- [17:21] The experience of starting a business amidst legal challenges
- [23:11] Tips for resolving a legal dispute between companies
- [27:43] How does Digible hire and maintain employees?
- [36:58] The importance of involving multiple people in leadership development within a company
In this episode…
Do you want to thrive in the multifamily housing industry? What can make you stand out?
In today’s digitally driven world, effective tech and marketing strategies are essential for business growth. However, the efficacy of tech and marketing approaches applied varies by industry. Seasoned digital strategy professionals David Staley and Reid Wicoff share that for those in the multifamily housing industry, partnering with a marketing agency is vital for business growth. Marketing agencies cater to your company with an understanding of the unique needs and challenges of the multifamily housing space. They provide cutting-edge digital marketing and technology solutions exclusive to the industry, enhancing your success.
In this episode of Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with David Staley and Reid Wicoff, Co-founders of Digible, to discuss their journey of building a tech and digital marketing agency in the multifamily housing industry. They talk about digital marketing solutions for apartment buildings, tech investment and outsourcing for real estate agencies, the experience of starting a business amidst legal challenges, and how they hire and maintain employees.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Second Bite Podcast
- The Great Game of Business: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
- Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
- Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters
- “Building a Great Team and More Helpful Insights with Jason Swenk Host of The Smart Agency Master Class Podcast” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[Top Agency Series] Growth Through Acquisitions – What is Your KPI and Northstar? With Jason Swenk” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[Top Agency Series] Most Valuable Advice When Selling Your Agency With Todd Taskey of Potomac Business Capital” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “EO Tulsa | Real Estate Investment With Mat Zalk of Keyrenter Property Management” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “ApartmentList.com: Attracting A-List Advisors is Key -with John Kobs [Mentors & Big Lessons]” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Negotiation Tactics From FBI Agent Christopher Voss, Founder of Black Swan Ltd” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “The 4 Day Week : How the Flexible Work Revolution Can Increase Productivity, Profitability And Well-Being With Andrew Barnes Of 4DayWeek.com” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Leading with Passion with Gino Wickman Founder of EOS Worldwide” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “The Two Leadership Traits To Explode Your Business With Mark C. Winters Author and Founder of RocketFuelNow.com” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “I would say we rent first and then at some point it crosses over to where it makes more sense to build it in-house.”
- “You never pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel.”
- “People can truly see you for anything.”
- “If you have leverage, use it.”
Sponsor for this episode
At Rise25, we’re committed to helping you connect with your Dream 100 referral partners, clients, and strategic partners through our done-for-you podcast solution.
We’re a professional podcast production agency that makes creating a podcast effortless. Since 2009, our proven system has helped thousands of B2B businesses build strong relationships with referral partners, clients, and audiences without doing the hard work.
What do you need to start a podcast?
When you use our proven system, all you need is an idea and a voice. We handle the strategy, production, and distribution – you just need to show up and talk.
The Rise25 podcasting solution is designed to help you build a profitable podcast. This requires a specific strategy, and we’ve got that down pat. We focus on making sure you have a direct path to ROI, which is the most important component. Plus, our podcast production company takes any heavy lifting of production and distribution off your plate.
We make distribution easy.
We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.
Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90x, Atari, Einstein Bagels, Mattel, Rx Bars, YPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk, and many more.
The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.
Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:22
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspiredinsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Reid Wicoff and David Staley of Digible, and Reid and David, I always like to point out other people. Other episodes people should check out of the podcast since this is one of the prototype agency series. I’ve had some amazing interviews, I had Jason Swenk on, he talks about how he built his company agency to over eight figures and sold it and then how he’s buying up agencies now. Todd Taskey is another good one. He has a Second Bite Podcast, but he matches private equity with agencies to help sell agencies and he finds sometimes agencies make more on the second bite than they do on the first. Also at Matt Zalk. Since this is in the property management space, Matt Zalk runs key renter property management in Tulsa. And so check that episode out. And John Kobs who started Apartment List, check that one out that was probably, I don’t know, eight years old, or something like that. So it’s an oldie but a goodie. And check out more on inspiredinsider.com and this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise 25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast. We’re an easy button for a company to launch and run your podcasts we do strategy, accountability and the full execution. Reid and David, we call ourselves the magic elves that run in the background and make sure it makes it look easy for the host and everything else. So if you thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions go to rise25.com. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I have found no better way over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So you can check out rise25.com. And I’m excited to introduce David Staley and Reid Wicoff, they’re co-founders Digible. And Digible has helped to transform the apartment marketing industry. And we’ll talk a little bit more about what that means. David has helped businesses for the past 15 plus years at startup companies and leading digital strategy and partnerships for companies like Hearst, Verizon Digital First Media, he’s worked with some of the largest multifamily portfolios in the industry to develop digital solutions. And Reid has held senior leadership positions at multiple Fortune 500 companies, including Cox Media Group, Digital First Media and CBS radio. And one thing that sticks out to me, which you guys I think are proud of because it’s front and center on your LinkedIn profiles is even recognized as a top workplace Awards, which is really cool. So we’ll talk about culture and hiring all of that. So David Reid, thanks for joining me.
David Staley 3:03
Reid Wicoff 3:04
Thank you. And I have to ask, before we go any further, that intro that you just provided, is that something that is coming off a teleprompter or that you have to do each time on this agency? That was really impressive. You didn’t skip a beat.
Jeremy Weisz 3:18
For which, for yours,
Reid Wicoff 3:20
Just the Rise25, the connections, that was impressive.
Jeremy Weisz 3:26
After doing this for 15 years, I mean, I could recite it verbatim, but I do have a document in front of me with it in front of me. Okay, that makes me feel a little bit better. No fancy teleprompters. Like, I’m all about simplicity. So it’s just a Google doc on my screen here. Nice. Very good. Yeah. But thank you, because I know you guys have a podcast, I appreciate that. I want to start with talking about Digible and what you do.
David Staley 3:54
I get that one. Hot potato. So we are both a digital services company and an ad tech company in the multifamily space. So we service apartment buildings, our typical client would be a building of 200 units or so. And our typical buyer, the person purchasing us is usually the property management company, and usually a director of marketing at the property management company. So it’s a very franchise-like space, where you’ll have a director of marketing that may have 50 different buildings underneath them. And each of those buildings usually has their own website, their own ad campaigns, and they’re using a different tech stack or different series of vendors. So we would be one of those digital lead generation vendors who are running Google, Facebook, whatever on the paid media side, and they may also leverage our ad tech.
Jeremy Weisz 4:43
What are the pain points they’re experiencing? Is it more occupancy? They want just to fill the spaces?
Reid Wicoff 4:51
I would say the ownership group or the asset managers, yes, their pain point is get me leads so I can lease up for the highest but I will say, our direct client, it’s more of hair on fire, they on average, they work with seven different digital vendors per property. And then those different digital vendors per property are not consistent. So they may have a different seven on property one versus property 32. And so a lot of our success has come from being a single point of contact, that may take over four or five of those other vendors instead. So it just really helps make them more efficient and reduce some of the chaos.
Jeremy Weisz 5:34
Reid we were talking before we hit record about the real estate tech industry. And that kind of relates to condensing seven vendors into one talk a little bit about the ecosystem, and kind of the void, you’re filling.
Reid Wicoff 5:48
Yeah, so prop Tech has definitely been around for many years. But I have said, for the last several, it feels like a tsunami is it this industry, and a lot of it’s still pointed at the on-site, the operational elements, or needs, the owners and the operators, but it’s starting to hit more on the marketing and advertising, but I feel like it’s kind of tangential. And so that’s where we see a fit or opportunity for digital, a lot of what we’ve done to scale our business, we’re now finding opportunities to productize, either directly, or with partners, channel partners. And ultimately, we see ourselves as being the fuel behind advertising and marketing in the industry. And so, that all should come together for us, for more of a marketing operating system. So when you mentioned the seven getting down to one that that is definitely a big part of our roadmap, there’s still toggling back and forth between five, six platforms in any given day just to get their work done. And as we’re building this tech, we feel like it can and will ultimately present itself and one system that they can even avoid email, avoid Slack, they can communicate through there, they can get their contracts done, they can get their planning done, they can get the reporting done, you know, but it also makes me anxious, just to be candid about it, because you don’t see too many Swiss Army knives out there. And that’s what we’re acknowledging. But we feel like because we’re keeping it focused in one industry, that that gives us a better chance to actually fulfill that mission.
Jeremy Weisz 7:33
From an agency standpoint, how much should someone invest in tech investment, versus using third party? How do you make those decisions?
Reid Wicoff 7:48
Well, we’re big fans of Tim Collins, I’m sure you know him very well. But he talks about bullets and cannons, or cannon balls. And so we just tried to be really responsible to kind of prove things out internally, do a lot of testing before we make bigger decisions on where we want to park our money. But it’s funny, you asked that, because that’s now evolved into what we call our DIP, which is digital investment paradigm. And that is a chance for us as owners and with the rest of our operating committee to sit down and really talk about where we want to spend our money, we hit profitability last year, we said we’d be an open book. So in that spirit, and we’re gonna 3x that this year. And I think we’re on pace to do that again next year. So that’s definitely left us in a different position than we were used to the first five years of the business. So it’s very different when you’re running a profitable company. And David and I both are big, big believers and reinvesting. And a lot of that is going to be in technology. But we want to make sure we’re still doing the proper kind of testing, learning validation before we go ahead and make those bets. Sometimes that third party can be a great solution and isn’t something that we need to overthink or potentially put our own money into.
David Staley 9:03
And to add context to that. One, I don’t think we really talked about like help set size, but we’re about 90 employees today. And so some of that is on the well, I’d say two-thirds of that is on the services side. And then a third is on the tech side. As far as on the investment side, we’re following Great Game of Business loosely like directionally so for example, we really like their benchmark of 4% the company needs to net and then above 4%, you can start reinvesting and giving some back to the employees so we’re following that model. And so anything above 4%, employees keep a portion we reinvest some of it and then that’s where as far as bullets in cannon balls, as well as like as Reid’s saying, almost like test and learn. What we have typically done is we will rent like a system, for example, I call tracking and then when we get to a certain scale, we’re like, okay, could we do this better and less expensive. And then then we’ll decide to build it there. So, for example, we went from call rail to dialogue tech and invoca, to then eventually building our own call tracking and house. So yeah, I would say we rent first and then at some point it crosses over to where it makes more sense to build it in-house. And that’s less for cost savings, it tends to be more for capability, specific to our industry, but cost savings is definitely a factor.
Reid Wicoff 10:22
I think the hardest part of those decisions, though, is sizing the opportunity cost. Because if you look at things in a vacuum, it’s like, well, we could save money here, but you don’t know what you’re potentially giving up by not putting those resources somewhere else. And that’s where you have to get better and better at forecasting. And again, those kind of micro tests, bubble test, as we say, to validate whatever assumptions we might be making, because I think for most agencies, especially kind of in our stage, you’re always looking at should you build or should you outsource third party, but how many really have that opportunity cost nailed down, like into that formula? So that’s something we’re just trying to get better at each year.
Jeremy Weisz 11:07
Yeah, the build versus buy conversation affects all of us. Right? Even when someone’s thinking of hiring you, right, they could just should I cobble something together? Or what do you tell a company coming to you that is making that decision to make, whether they say it or not, they’re thinking it? Right? What do you say to them? Listen, here’s the value we provide, because there’s an opportunity cost for even a big company, property management company to keep it in-house versus hire another company to do it.
David Staley 11:44
Well, for us, we really lean on being the trusted adviser for our clients. So we don’t have a sales team. We’ve never had a sales team. And yet we’re growing very quickly. And that all comes from our reputation. And our reputation is led by let’s even turn down business. So yesterday, I got a lead that called me directly, and was like, hey, I want to build a website. And I quickly did some needs analysis on them. I was like, we’re the most affordable solution, but you shouldn’t use us, you should go with the free option. If you buy this tech stack, I advised him on buying another tech stack and going with that free website. And she immediately asked, well, how the heck do you guys make money, it’s like, look, we’re here for the long game, we are not here to make, like one sale to you now we’re here to earn your business and your referral business for years to come. And so that’s how we can get away with it without having a sales team. But it’s definitely stepping over those sales frequently. So we almost are always recommending that they spend less money, or that they use something else. And then that just almost, it’s magnetic for them.
Reid Wicoff 12:50
I joke, but I don’t, but we actually have a podcast, like dedicated to that exact scenario. But it is happening more and more these days in property management. And this is what we’ve heard from owners presidents, saying that they’re getting squeezed themselves on margins. And so they’re trying to find not just cost savings, but potentially revenue opportunities. And they see marketing as one of those opportunities. So it’s like, hey, you guys have been doing this had built a successful business, why can’t I? And I’m not trying to serve a whole industry, I’m just trying to serve my ecosystem, my universe. And so instead of fighting it back to David’s like trusted advisor, we will help coach them, and it’s easy, because we have built this business and we know it so well to I guess fully project, talk them through the economics, the numbers, the opportunity cost that they’re probably going to be facing, with no intent of scaring them away from the opportunity or trying to convince them to stay on just giving them as much as we can and impartial, look at what that might mean for them. Because that opportunity cost is harder for us to see for that use case, where it’s like, hey, there’s other mechanisms that you could make money on in multifamily, or with third-party management. So they kind of need to figure that part out for themselves. But we are very transparent about what those numbers might look like if they were to take it in-house.