I had the great pleasure of talking with Jeff Berger on today’s podcast. Jeff is the founder of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) and shared some great insights on more effective marketing to the LGBT community.
Here are some of the links he shared in the episode.
- National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals
- 2014 National LGBT Real Estate Conference
If you are interested in attending the conference he has given you, the listener, a code for $100 off. Just use ‘fortlauderdale’ when you check out and you’ll automatically save $100! You can’t go wrong with that. 😉
As always – check out when the next webinar is here.
Would you prefer to read the transcript than listen to the podcast? No problem! Read the transcript below.
AUDIO START: [0:00:00]
Jenn T Grace: You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, Episode 41.
Intro: Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Well hello and welcome to episode number 41 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn T. Grace. And today I have an interview with Jeff Berger, who is the founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. And we had a wonderful conversation that I’m going to let you all have a great listen to, and he had just a couple of really great tidbits, and- because conversation was just fantastic in general, but he made a comment about not being able to just take a hitchhike on the LGBT market. And that was the first time I’ve heard it phrased like that, but I highly encourage you to stick around and listen to the remainder of the episode so you can hear exactly what he was talking about and in what context.
But as always before we get into today’s interview, I just want to run down a couple of really super quick announcements; and I know a lot of times I say super quick and then they’re not really. But today, they will be. So the first thing that I want to mention is that in the last podcast, was episode forty, and that podcast was a really short episode, and the point of it was to ask you to help me get to number one on the Amazon Best Seller list. So I put out a plea to you, I put out blog posts, I was all over the place in terms of trying to get assistance in reaching my goal. I unfortunately did not make it to the number one slot, however I did reach number seven, which I’m really, really excited about. And I reached top ten status in three different categories. So I ended up hitting it in the consumer behavior category, the business etiquette category, and the sales and selling category. So it was a calculated risk of putting my book in the mainstream marketing categories that have a lot more competition than the smaller LGBT category. But ultimately I think the risk was way, way worth it because I sold a lot of books, many more than I was expecting to sell which is amazing. And I made it to number seven which is my lowest number, and then I had the other couple of categories that were all top ten. So I’m really excited by that outcome, and I’m very, very grateful for all of your support and assistance as we went through this together.
I am also very much delighted that this is the first week that my children have gone back to school. So I just feel a wonderful sense of being able to be productive once again. It’s been a long summer having them home, but I was able to at least get my book written, published, and sold during summer. So that’s I guess a big accomplishment in and of itself, so I’m really happy with that.
So the couple- let’s see, the only other thing I guess I wanted to mention was the next webinar. So there is a webinar coming up, so if you are interested in learning more about marketing to the LGBT community, of course please head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/webinars- or /webinar, either one will get you there. And you can check out when the next date is, the next time is, and hopefully I will see you on there.
So here is today’s interview with Jeff Berger as I mentioned before. If you want to check out any of the links we talk about, or get more information from the podcast or contact Jeff directly, you can do so from my website at www.JennTGrace.com/41 and that is for episode number 41. I hope you enjoy and I will talk to you on the other side.
I am pleased to be talking with Jeff Berger today, who is the founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. So Jeff, it is an absolute pleasure to have you on the show today.
Jeff Berger: Oh thank you.
Jenn T Grace: So before we get into some of the business and marketing type of stuff, I would love to hear your story. So would you take our listeners on your journey of where you’ve been, what you’re doing now, and basically what your path looked like that led you to where you are as the founder of this wonderful organization.
Jeff Berger: Sure, sure my pleasure. And you know I guess as I often say to make a long story short, well I grew up on Long Island, a suburb outside of Manhattan, studied marketing later at Boston University, and after college I moved back to New York and took a job on Wall Street as a stock broker, and I moved to Manhattan. So culturally I’d always been around LGBT people, and that’s who I associated with, identified with as myself of course. So I was always surrounded by the arts, fashion, things that I was close to personally. And later I found my career path was just really not about Wall Street, and that lifestyle. It was more cultural- just found myself really looking for something different I think which is very common with people that go to work on Wall Street. And I found myself actually not enjoying the city life that much anymore. I found myself really looking for something else, so I relocated to Florida, I live in Jupiter, Florida now. Found myself doing a few entrepreneurial things from here and there, and that was between the mid-’90s and early 2000’s, and really I guess my calling to the LGBT advocacy and marketing to clients. In 2004, the presidential election when the Republican Party got involved with using gay marriage as something that was bad, or it’s hard to even describe the way it was played out. But I basically looked to make a change, and what I had done is I founded a website called www.GayMarriageLawyers.com, and that was a partner planning website to assist LGBT persons in finding professionals to help them with partner planning- which I knew eventually would lead to same sex marriage. You know to me it was eventual and I wanted to be involved. So after that, you know, I just said you know there’s got to be more and got involved seeking things online, Google was a great help of course at the time. And I found that real estate was an untapped market for the LGBT community more or less, and that there wasn’t necessarily an organization that was serving the LGBT market and community. So I founded the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, that was in 2007. And that was in an effort to bring advocacy and business- a mission that is to the LGBT real estate community of both individuals seeking a real estate advisor to help them work fairly, and be treated fairly in housing without discrimination. And also for professionals that wanted to network with one another, and be involved with one another, and share referrals with one another. So to me it was really a great experience, and the path has been a lot of fun.
Jenn T Grace: Excellent. So you’ve said that you founded in 2007, and I know that you have a big conference coming up, which we are going to get to towards the end of the interview. But why don’t you kind of share if at any point while you- back in 2007 when you had founded your organization; during that time or even now, did you have any type of moment that was an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Where you just realized that this is what you were meant to be doing?
Jeff Berger: Oh, yes. Yes, actually I did. Yeah well we were founded in 2007, I would say our greatest success at this point was an advocacy one because we brought forward the proposal to the National Association of Realtors to include both sexual orientation and gender identity to the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics, which includes both realtor to customer conduct, and also workplace conduct. So it was discrimination to- or anti-discrimination to a whole new level in real estate. And it was just so exciting to see it happiness and the thankfulness of the organization, what it brought to people, both individuals and professionals in the field. And the ‘ah-ha’ moment really was I could say I didn’t really think about an ‘ah-ha’ moment, but I actually was invited to the White House for the 2013 LGBT Pride Month Reception, and that was an ‘ah-ha’ moment. It was just overwhelming that I received the invite, I received it in the email and a couple days later by regular mail, and I had really made a difference. And it was acknowledged, and the fact that I was able to go to D.C. for the day, and go to the White House and meet amazing people, and other advocates in the community that had also been invited. It was just very exciting and I would say that was an ‘ah-ha’ moment, and something I’ll never forget. It was very humbling, I’m really more of a quiet reserved person, and just to be able to go there and meet everybody, and shake President Obama’s hand, and Vice President Biden’s hand, and it was really an ‘ah-ha’ moment I would say.
Jenn T Grace: That’s awesome, that’s really cool. It’s nice when you’re recognized in such a profound way in terms of the work that you’re doing. And I would imagine that there’s some level of inspiration around even that particular event. But do you have anything just in your day-to-day life, or just something that you look toward that does inspire you, and keeps you motivated to do this every day?
Jeff Berger: Yes every day I would say is that people always have great expectations of something that they’re involved with. And you know there’s that phrase, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ And you really always have to keep up, and the members of the organization, they’re always expecting- whether it’s events, or networking opportunities; there’s always something. You can’t just sit back because once you do people think, ‘Oh well the organization really isn’t doing much lately. And do I really need to be part of this right now?’ So to me it’s one of those things where people always want more, they always expect more because when you do perform, they expect something more in the future. So to me it’s keeping up with the latest technology, and networking, and how I can assist the members and their goals of reaching out to LGBT home buyers and sellers.
Jenn T Grace: Along those lines, I know that we’ve stated the organization that you founded, but could you do like a sixty second elevator pitch of what your organization does for real estate agents, or realtors, or I guess anybody that’s in the real estate industry?
Jeff Berger: Sure, sure my pleasure. The National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, our acronym is NAGLREP. And our website www.NAGLREP.com received this month the most traffic it had ever had, which was close to 70,000 unique visits. And that was really great because our organization assists LGBT home buyers and sellers with finding an LGBT or gay-friendly realtor that will treat them fairly. Because there’s a big concern out there, especially in today’s political climate, things are kind of polarized, some people are for same-sex marriage, some people not for same-sex marriage, and to me what I’ve found with the LGBT community is they’re seeking someone who understands their lifestyle. That’s why they come to our website and they want to be treated fairly. So if you are a real estate professional, you may consider joining the organization because the LGBT community is very actively seeking your services in their local area. And if you are a member, you become part of our database which is searchable on our website, and consumers will find you to buy and sell real estate.
Jenn T Grace: Excellent, that helps tremendously. I know of at least a dozen folks who are in your industry who listen to this podcast. So now hopefully they now have more information, and they can of course head over to your website. And for anyone who is listening to this interview and wants any information that we’re talking about, you can head over to the website at www.JennTGrace.com/41 and that’s for episode number 41. So Jeff, why don’t you share with us a piece of business advice that you’ve been given that’s just one of those things that just has kind of always stuck with you?
Jeff Berger: Sure. Sure. What has really stuck with me is advice that overnight success takes ten years. And that didn’t really- I didn’t really get that when I was first told it, and it was someone close to me that repeated it over and over. And I thought you go to work on a project, and a year later, two years later, you find that success. But I believe that overnight success does take ten years; I’m a firm believer in that because you have to stick with something, and these days there is so much noise out there from organizations, and media, and it’s so easy to get lost in that noise. But when you’re around and doing business with people for four, five, six, seven years, that’s when you really start to get noticed and it’s that tenth year I believe, and thereafter that you’ll actually enjoy that success where you can just feel that the hard work and everything was worth it. I think that’s critical. Really staying with something for the long term and being patient.
Jenn T Grace: That’s really good advice. Of all the times that I’ve asked this question on the podcast, that hasn’t come up. So yeah I think that’s really, really important for people to remember. That ten years does seem like a pivotal mark. That’s excellent advice, thank you for that. So before we get into the second half of the show, I’m going to pause for just a moment to have a quick commercial break, and then we will be right back.
Okay so we are back with Jeff Berger today, who is talking to us about his story, and his founding of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. And Jeff, since you have a marketing background, I’m looking forward to what your potential answers to the following couple of questions could be. And now we’re going to get into the marketing section of today’s show. So for someone who’s listening to this interview right now, and hearing this conversation, and their primary focus is to figure out how to market themselves to the LGBT community. If you had to give them one piece of advice that you think would help them be successful, what do you think that would be?
Jeff Berger: My best advice would be if you have made this decision to market to the LGBT community, stay with it because it’s a long term commitment. And what I mean by that is you want to brand yourself as an advocate, as someone who’s a leader in the community, or someone that cares about the community. You don’t have to be the biggest leader, but at least be someone that’s involved in the community and feels the same as you do. And stay with it would be my advice because a lot of professionals that I meet through social networking, through physical networking events and things of that sort, they decide that, ‘Oh the LGBT niche is going to be great for me, I’m going to get involved in it,’ and they throw a couple dollars at the marketing opportunities, and if they don’t receive immediate gratification, they just decide, ‘This just didn’t work for me.’ And not every day is someone looking to work with a professional. But if you keep branding yourself in your community, when that person is ready to work with you, you’re going to be that go-to person, or one of the go-to people in the community. And that’s when you’re really going to see the benefits. And it could take two, three, four years to really develop that business model, but if you stay with it I’m pretty sure it’s going to work.
Jenn T Grace: That is such good advice, it really is a long term game. You can’t just throw- have a one and done type of approach, and I actually just recently had a client that I ended up dissolving the relationship with because they put an ad in an LGBT publication, and they got one phone call from having put this ad in, and it has a pretty large distribution. And they were upset that that’s all they got from it. And I was like, “We just started working in the spring, you are now putting this ad out in the summer, this is a long term game. You can’t just throw your brand out there and just expect the LGBT community to flock to you without any type of context or anything,” and that’s not what they wanted to hear, and ultimately that’s not the kind of client I want to work with. So it just doesn’t make sense to me that why would you throw so much money into something and then when you don’t get that immediate gratification just walk away from it? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Jeff Berger: Well Jenn, what I would like to stress is that the LGBT community nationwide is an $830 billion market. So you can’t just hitchhike on that market, you’ve got to position yourself. So if you position yourself well, and continue branding yourself, you’re going to get a piece of the pie.
Jenn T Grace: I think that is the most brilliant phrase, ‘You can’t just hitchhike on the market.’ That’s a great phrase. That’s so true though, that’s exactly it.
Jeff Berger: Yes, it’s like the people that come into LGBT groups on Facebook, and they throw something up on the wall, and that’s what I call they hitchhike off a story or something. It’s not really going to cut the mustard. You’ve got to position yourself as someone that’s there, and is continuously there. You’ve got to put the time and effort in.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely. And someone with a genuine level of caring has to go into it as well. Because if you’re just coming into it for just to tap into that $830 billion piece of pie, then the LGBT community is going to sniff that you, and they’re certainly not going to want to do business with you because of it.
Jeff Berger: That’s correct. Some of them may not look between the lines, you may get some business, but I think the success that NAGLREP has had, is our advocacy mission. We’re involved with HUD, we’re stakeholders at HUD. Past HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke at our meeting last year in Washington D.C. We’re involved. You have to show yourself being involved, whether it’s getting involved in the Pride month activities, get involved in your community, that’s really what people want. That’s really- be genuine.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, absolutely. And I would imagine if we think about any other type of target audience for marketing, the same principles apply. I think that this is something that does carry over to other niche audiences, is that you just have to get involved in whatever that audience is that you’re trying to market to. Because coming into it uneducated is certainly not going to help your chances of getting additional business.
Jeff Berger: Sure.
Jenn T Grace: So this is a good segue into my next question, which is have you- or how have you been able to leverage your status as an LGBT person?
Jeff Berger: Well I guess that’s an interesting question. I have I guess leveraged my status just what the organization has enabled me to do is just to reach out on a greater scale. Using the Internet to leverage the organization and the advocacy that we do. So we’ve reached out to realtor organizations nationwide. The organization has approximately 35 chapters, local chapters. So for example we have a chapter here in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a chapter in Orlando, Florida for example, and many, many different states around the country. So we’ve been able to leverage ourselves and reach out locally. And the beauty of it as a real estate professional is it’s not only your local community that you’re working in. It’s really a national community because referrals is a very big part of your business when you’re in real estate. So reaching out nationally, even globally is very important, because getting a name for yourself and leveraging your position with technology is just very, very important. Sometimes people reach me from California, from Texas, from all over, and they have clients on [Inaudible 00:27:08] and they will refer them to me because they know that I have their client’s interest involved- or their interest at hand, and it really works. So I would say the- leveraging technology has really been the greatest asset.
Jenn T Grace: That’s really interesting, and I know that when you and I were having a phone call a couple of weeks ago and I invited you to be a guest on the show, we were talking about the- just kind of like that referral between realtors, and how it’s just kind of one of those- whether it’s spoken or unspoken things, it’s just easier to refer to someone that you- there’s the whole Know, Like, and Trust principle that can be applied in business in general. But there’s something even deeper when it comes to being able to say that I’m in the Hartford, Connecticut area, so for me to be able to refer- if I were a realtor, to refer to somebody that happens to be in Fairfield which is near New York City, to say that I am putting my trust and recommendation behind this person who is LGBT, and I know is going to treat you the way that you need to be treated. So the fact that technology is able to create those conversations and build those connections across the country is absolutely amazing.
Jeff Berger: Yes, for sure.
Jenn T Grace: That is really good stuff. So speaking of technology, and your website I would imagine has a lot of ways that it’s connecting things, but my next question is, is there some sort of book or a program, or some kind of tool, or anything really that’s just transformed the way that you go about your business?
Jeff Berger: If there was one thing I would say it would be Google. Because what I’ve done, and I continue to do always, is I’m searching, and searching, and searching, and more as of late I’ll also go to social media. But when you ask me one tool, it’s always important to see what your peers are doing, because it’s easy to have tunnel vision and say, “I think this is a great idea and I’m just going to go with it.” But more importantly what I’ve found is over time, rather than working on one single idea and going with it, see what your peers are doing. So search around and see what your competitors, what your peers, what your neighbors in your business, in your industry are doing. And if they are having success, try and model your business along that line, because if you get involved in one path that you think may be the path of success and it doesn’t work out, you only have yourself to blame. So what I’ve found is constantly searching your peers, your competitors, understanding the marketplace that you’re in rather than not looking over your shoulder really helps a lot. And I think that it’s helped my career a lot.
Jenn T Grace: That’s really an interesting piece of advice when you think about, and one of the reasons why I actually started this podcast was to have the opportunity to allow listeners be a fly on the wall with conversations I’m having with people who are doing this for a living, and who are actively looking to market to the LGBT community, or doing it in a really successful way. So it’s very much what you were just talking about where the purpose of this podcast is essentially for people to know what you’re up to, and be able to model that, and hopefully help make their business grow more and more successfully. So it’s a really interesting way that you framed that, thank you.
Jeff Berger: Oh my pleasure.
Jenn T Grace: So my last question for you is what is one thing that is just really exciting for you right now? And here I thought we could talk about your upcoming conference. So if you could provide as many or as little amount of detail as you would like to listeners, that would be fantastic.
Jeff Berger: Sure, yeah thank you for thinking of that. We are hosting our [Inaudible 00:31:30] National LGBT Real Estate Conference in Fort Lauderdale October 14th to the 16th, and it’s a two day conference- a three day event actually because we have some after-hours events, some great networking events, and it’s really going to be an amazing time. The instructors that we have are phenomenal. I know Jenn, you’re going to try and make it. The instructors that we have, the breakout sessions, are really phenomenal. For example, Tom Roth, the Founder and President of Community Marketing will be doing a breakout session along with Jim Schiefelbein, one of the top LGBT and real estate professionals in the country- a consultant that is. And we just have some phenomenal people involved. Matt Skallerud from Pink Banana Media will be doing a breakout session, and we have two days of breakout sessions actually. And then we’ll be having some great networking events. For example the opening night, we’ll do an opening reception, the Gay Man’s Chorus of South Florida will be performing there, so that’s going to be an amazing time. The following night, our after-hours event is a cruise along the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal, so that’s going to be an amazing events. We’ve got Latrice Royale and Morgan McMichaels who are from RuPaul’s Drag Race; they are going to be performing. So it’s really, really going to be a lot of fun. And then the following evening after the conference ends- oh and by the way we have Billy Bean has been invited as the keynote speaker. Billy Bean is recently appointed as the Ambassador of Inclusion for major league baseball. He’s the only living baseball player to have come out after his career. So Billy is going to be an exciting voice of encouragement and leadership at the conference. And then the following night we’ll close the conference out and we’ll do a night in Wilton Manors, which will be a bar crawl type of thing where more networking. These events are really important for networking because you can meet some great people, and get referrals from them. That’s what a lot of these conferences are about, meeting people and networking with them thereafter for business. If anyone would like to know more about the conference, they can visit our website, www.NAGLREP.com. And on the home page there’s a banner for the conference and you can visit that. And you can register online, and as a courtesy to your listeners, it’s our pleasure to offer a $100 off coupon code which is FORTLAUDERDALE no spaces, just FORTLAUDERDALE.
Jenn T Grace: Excellent.
Jeff Berger: And that’s our pleasure.
Jenn T Grace: Oh thank you so much, I’m hoping that we can get a couple of listeners to take advantage of that, because it does seem like it’s going to be a fantastic conference. And I don’t know if you said the exact dates or not, you may have, but could you just repeat the exact time in October that it is?
Jeff Berger: Yes it’s October 14th to the 16th in Fort Lauderdale. Our host hotel is the Embassy Suites at the 17th Street Causeway. And again, listeners can visit www.NAGLREP.com, and on the home page there’s a banner for the event.
Jenn T Grace: Perfect, that is amazing. Excellent. Well thank you so much for talking with us today. Why don’t you let everyone know- I’m sure they can get in touch with you via your website. But if there’s any other way for them to get in touch with you, feel free to mention it now.
Jeff Berger: Sure, they’re welcome to email me via NAGLREP@gmail.com. Or they’re also welcome to call me direct at my office which is (561) 865-6117. Again that’s (561) 865-6117.
Jenn T Grace: Perfect. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day today, this was an excellent conversation, I appreciate it.
Jeff Berger: Oh my pleasure, and thanks for having me on your show.
Jenn T Grace: You are very welcome.
Alright I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Jeff. He had some great insights to share around the LGBT community, he has a long history of LGBT advocacy. So again, I hope you enjoyed today’s interview, and I look forward to talking with you again. And the next handful of episodes that I do are all going to be interview-based. So there’s a lot of people to hear from in the next coming months. So stick around, and of course if you have any questions, comments, want to just say hey, please, please reach out to me and you- at this point I feel like you know how to find me. But at the very least just head on over to my website and you can contact me any way possible once you get there. Thank you so much and I will talk to you in the next episode. Bye bye.