by Mark Deal
Disruption is all the rage. We see it all around us. Whether it is through the growth of the global shared economy such as AirBnB and Uber, or the cheaper and faster delivery of traditional products and services such as Voice over IP or Skype. Disruption may not come as a drastic game changer, but a series of more subtle changes. This, over time, allows for significant leaps forward in the way we interact with the world around us. This can be seen by the use of Twitter leveraging the concepts of simple cellular text messages and distribution lists historically found in e-mail.
These ‘disruptive’ changes may just mean that the world is more open to doing business the way you and your clients prefer, and this is no different for EB-5. The world of EB-5 is, inherently, a globalized one—funneling international capital from nearly anywhere in the world to projects all over the United States. It is an industry that meets at the intersection of diverse cultures, business practices, languages and time zones. It is no wonder that an industry that relies so heavily on marketing to diverse groups of people is turning to more creative strategies. In the fast-paced world of EB-5, with projects looking for funding and investors seeking green cards as soon as possible, traditional marketing techniques may no longer be enough. Let’s look at how the power of your voice can be leveraged over the globe and around the clock to supplement your EB-5 outreach efforts.
The power of the podcast
What is a podcast? Well essentially it is just like a blog, but is typically delivered in an audio format. And like a blog, people can subscribe and receive new updates automatically. A podcast can allow you to create the same, if not better, content than a blog, and in a more accessible format. With the proliferation of smart phones, Bluetooth audio integrated into everything, and our increasing trend to make the most use out of idle time (such as driving or washing dishes), podcast consumption is on the rise. According to a recent report from Edison Research, as many as 39 million Americans will listen to a podcast in the next month. Since launching my own podcast, my audience has grown, connections have become deeper, and engagements became easier in a way that they could not have previously.
Why you should consider using your voice
Using your voice, and building and media platform around your voice, is about building relationships. I urge you to stop thinking of business relationships as B2B or B2C—I want you to start thinking in person-to-person (P2P) format. If you cannot engage someone at a personal level using your own a unique characteristics and personality, then you run the risk of presenting yourself as a commodity—especially in an industry where investors prize trust above all. If you are managing your professional persona as a separation of who you really are, take a step back and reevaluate what you’re doing. Business is at its core - P2P connections with targeted and specific results for mutually shared value based goals.
Creating a media platform around your voice lets you cultivate relationships from initial awareness to final engagement (and beyond to create customer advocates and referrals). It can be very scalable; it can also be very personal. It also gives you the opportunity to create a community. Think of it as a campfire for which you are the person telling the stories. We all love a good story.
If you are thinking there is a lot to this, there is, but I’ll make it simple as possible
Content is King. Yes, this is a requirement, because if you have nothing to share read no further. Work on yourself and your personal story, and then begin to build up your personal/professional presentation acumen. You can share your own personal journey into immigration-based investments or your unique viewpoint or case handling. The next steps will demonstrate a low-risk way to develop your story.
Skype. If you’re not already using a service such as Skype, find one and register. A majority of the functionality you need is free. This will allow you to remotely connect with clients and other industry leaders around the world in a high fidelity and with visual presence.
A good webcam and microphone. I recommend the Logitech C920 webcam and the ATR-2100 microphone. Both of these pack a lot of features at a reasonable price and also leave the room for future integration with much more expensive equipment. You don’t need much to get started, but you do want to make sure that reception and presentation are clear and professional when interfacing with your listeners.
Software. As far as software goes, this too is quite simple. Windows and Macintosh computers both have free basic video editing software. If you want to treat audio editing like word processing, Audacity is available as a free download and works on both platforms above. My recommendation is not to dive deep into editing. If you really want this, hire someone else or find an intern to assist.
The next steps
Start recording your thoughts on EB-5. You can use a program like Evernote to record your personal videos or audio recordings across all of your devices. These will be private and only for yourself or others that you trust, such as a spouse or business partner. Become comfortable with sharing a personal view on the EB-5 program or the specific service in EB-5 that you are familiar with.
Offer one free consultation per week. Limit this free and private conversation in time, but not in scope. Do not try to sell your services. In fact, if you draw upon a prospect that would normally not pay for your services, that may be even better. This could be the opportunity to gain an unrepresented opinion in the EB-5 industry.
Appear on other voice or video outlets. If you have an iPhone, you may notice that Apple quietly installed the podcast app during the iOS8 update in September 2014. You can’t delete it, so you had better figure out what it is there for. Search for other shows that you can lend your EB-5 experience on. Perhaps real estate, investing, or venture capital…I even know of a great one on business immigration. Let your knowledge sell itself.
Host your own show. Identify and start a media platform that you are comfortable with. You may decide to do your own podcast, a channel on YouTube, or host public or private media files on your website. The point is to create a platform that you can build a community around.
Build and cultivate your community. I have found this to be the most important part. Unlike the popular movie claim that “if you build it, they will come,” you need to tell others about your platform. This can be done with your website, email newsletter and social media. As you build your community, make sure you engage and follow up. Building good relationships is a practical business strategy, especially in an industry where successful deals rely on a network of qualified individuals.
Now that you know how to get started, here are some tips on talking EB-5.
Stop talking about the EB-5 program as if it were new. Truth be told, most investors have already researched the program or are working with agents that have given them a decent overview of the program. Promise me that your developing voice will not be of general information—such information is easy to find and will not distinguish you. The regional centers that leverage their voice in the best possible way are those that highlight their expertise and unique advantages. Also true in other forms of media such as blogging, highlighting your distinctiveness, rather than focusing on general information, is technique you want to rely on.
On the other hand, I also want you to know that you know too much. Do not assume that everyone cares about each tactical step and understands the acronyms that you are using. It is not necessary for you to show off your knowledge and dive deep into the tactical steps if they are not the steps your audience is able to take. Focus on major milestones and outcomes (both positive and negative) so listeners can understand the big picture and the details that are important to them. It is no use for a developer to understand the intricate details of disclosures, if they are going to hire a securities attorney to do the work for them. Too much detail can turn people off and discourage them from engaging with the EB-5 industry.
Striking a proper balance can be difficult, but you likely already understand these challenges from your encounters with attorneys, developers, service providers and investors. Trust yourself and turn on the mic. No one can be a better you that you. Your voice and personality is your own a competitive edge.
 The Infinite Dial 2014: Edison Research & Triton Digital, 2014.