We Interviewed Nicki About Maison Magazine & Their Journey To 7-Figures In Revenue

Full Interview Transcription

Steven:

Hello again. I'm Steven and I'm here today with Nicki Callahan, the founder of Maison Magazine. Nicki, it's great to have you on. How are you?

Nicki Callahan:

I'm great. Thanks for having me.

Steven:

All right. So, hey Nicki, it's lovely to have you on. Could you just briefly high level tell us a little bit about Maison and a little bit about your work there?

Nicki Callahan:

Sure. So Maison Magazine is a community-specific, custom branded digital magazine that we do for real estate agents and property managers. We do it on their behalf and send it to their database, to their sphere of influence as it's called within the industry. And it accomplishes a couple of different points for the agent. It accomplishes what's called a touchpoint and that is keeping in front of their clients. Because a large majority of real estate business comes from referrals so it's great to keep top of mind on your past customers. And then also, because it is community-specific, it does brand them in their niche as an expert. An expert in their geographical area. They know what's going on in the area, they know about neighborhoods. So that's basically what it does.

Steven:

Okay. And obviously you're publishing this magazine now, but I understand that your background is more in real estate. Do I have that right?

Nicki Callahan:

Correct, correct. Yep, my grandfather was in real estate. He was a developer and I grew up in Utah. And so I was third generation in the real estate. He would buy land and develop it. And we were lucky enough, we would always live in new houses within that development. I moved away right after high school. I moved to Los Angeles and then I lived in New York City for a while. Then I moved back to L.A. and while living there, I was in a car accident so I moved back home to Utah. And during that time, when I was doing physical therapy, I got my real estate license. So then I started practicing real estate. And at the time I was selling my mom's friends' homes who were downsizing. And then I was selling homes to my friends who were just purchasing their first home.

Nicki Callahan:

And then I moved to Washington state and I realized how difficult it is to start over with no connections at all. So I started looking for marketing materials for myself. And I didn't want to do pens or calendars or magnets. I wanted something that was more contemporary and modern and of the now and I couldn't find anything. I couldn't find anything that I would've been proud to put my name on. So I developed this product for myself, this magazine, and started sending it out. And then other agents in the area started noticing it and started coming to me and saying, "Hey, can you do one for me?" And that is sort of how this was born.

Steven:

That's interesting. So it was born out of an idea that you had for your own marketing purposes. The original intent was not for it to be something for other people to use.

Nicki Callahan:

Correct. Yep, yep. And it worked out great because I did two things with it. I was able to build a database where I didn't know anyone in the beginning. I was able to build a database within Washington state. And then I was also able to use this marketing magazine as a creative outlet for myself, because I had previously been involved in more creative endeavors. Not that real estate can't be creative, but writing and photography and things like that. And so it helped me, those two different points.

Steven:

Okay, yeah. Very, very cool. And you said that people were coming to you and asking for this. So yeah, I mean, I guess what were you hearing from them? What were their needs and how were you able to fulfill them?

Nicki Callahan:

Sure. So they were seeking for the same sort of thing that I was seeking. Something creative, something digital, more cost-effective than other forms of marketing and less wasteful, obviously, because it's green. And also it casts a wide net. And certainly when I started it five and a half, six years ago, it was definitely... And it still is, it was definitely a unique and one of a kind product. And now it still is. We have one main competitor and they do a magazine that's branded to the agent. But it's basically the agent's photo on the inside cover and a tear out recipe card.

Nicki Callahan:

I think they do a little bit of digital, but it's certainly not their main source for that product. But they don't have any community-specific articles in it. I did it for a while. And I remember at the time I was servicing the Seattle area and my paper publication that I received, and that went out to my database, had articles about the Canadian Rockies and southwest cooking. And I thought, well, this is great, but it's like a magazine that you read on an airplane. A generic magazine that was put together to be applicable to anybody that picked it up.

Nicki Callahan:

And in real estate, it's very location-specific. So people were really liking that it was location-specific and that one main article in each publication was focused on the geographical area that they serviced. And so that's kind of how we built around that being community-specific. Also, because it's able to be shared, it's able to be forwarded and it can be very, very custom branded to the agent. We can put their listings sold and pendings in there with links that all lead back to their website. So besides walking next door to your neighbor with a tear out recipe card, this is just much more beneficial in getting the word out and spreading brand awareness for the agent.

Steven:

Yeah, for sure. I definitely see that distinction. And another that I wanted to ask about is, can you explain how the benefit that you provide to your clients differs depending on if they're a real estate agent or a property manager?

Nicki Callahan:

Sure. The only real difference is the articles. So the articles that we put in the magazine are lifestyle, decor and real estate. There's no politics, there's no makeup, there's no fashion. We just keep it entertaining and relevant. The only difference between a real estate agent and a property manager would be the type of real estate article that we would put in there.

Nicki Callahan:

So for a real estate agent, we might put in there something about location, location, location or what every first time home buyer needs to know or mortgage tips. Things like that. And then for the property managers, we would put in how to get your security deposit back, how to decorate for the holidays in a small space. Assuming that a lot of them are condos or town homes and not palatial estates for rentals. So that's how it would differ. But the same thing with property managers, we can put in their listings and link it all back to their website.

Steven:

Okay. So I'm wondering, could you just maybe just take me through? I don't know if you have a recent example or an example that you're particularly proud of. But yeah, I mean, if you send someone a link to this or if they just find the page, what do they see? How are things presented to the reader?

Nicki Callahan:

So there's the cover and it's usually seasonal or it has something to do with what is inside the magazine. I'm working on an issue right now. And specifically for real estate agents, what we're working on right now, this probably isn't evergreen, but I'm going to say it anyway, is how difficult it is to get furniture right now because of the pandemic. It takes months and months and furniture's on back order and people are frustrated. And there's shortages of everything, right? Food, automobiles, lumber, but especially in decor, there's shortages of furniture.

Nicki Callahan:

So we talk about in this issue the best online places to buy furniture. And we highlight that vintage furniture is ironically making a comeback right now because it is readily available. So we're seeing an uptick of decor trends that center around vintage furniture. So that would be the decor piece that we talk about there. The other article that we're working on is spring migration, where we talk about different migrations of animals and where to see those because you're removed from crowds. We're not talking about going to clubs or crowded restaurants right now, we're talking about being outdoors and animal watching.

Nicki Callahan:

So to break down how the magazine is laid out, we will have a cover and this cover will be furniture because we have that furniture article that's running. And then on the inside cover is an intro letter from the agent or property manager. And it's basically talking about what's in the magazine and hopes and wishes for the future, and some sort of a greeting and tying the magazine all together in that intro letter. And we write the intro letter for the agent. So it might talk about wishing for peace and happiness and a speedy recovery or wishing you a great summer outdoors with an article inside about getting outdoors and walking and how beneficial that is for people at this time.

Nicki Callahan:

Then on the opposite page of that, we have the contents and then we get right into the articles. And then in the middle of the magazine, we have an agent page. And that agent page is branded again to the agent with their photo and contact information and social media links. And then underneath that are the property info that they might want to list. They might want to list their recently pendings or solds and that is linked back to their website. And then on the opposite page of that are statistics.

Nicki Callahan:

So specifically for the real estate agents, we will have market stats and if it's a buyer's or seller's market. And we get those market stats from Alto. So it's not me saying, "I wonder if it's a buyer's market or a seller's market in Houston?" It's actually scientific. And there is a rhyme to the reason and it is from Alto. So we put that in there and then more articles. And then at the back, it's branded again to the agent with a sort of business card-type layout. It has their photo again and then their address and social media links. And that's kind of the layout of the magazine.

Steven:

Okay, great. Yeah, that's good to be able to visualize. And yeah, I mean, not that your opinions I'm sure wouldn't also be very interesting, but probably good to have someone else's expert sense in there.

Nicki Callahan:

Yeah.

Steven:

But I do see what you mean about being able to have some more creative content in there right alongside the listings and everything. And I think that's very cool. Yeah, I wanted to ask, this was founded as Nest Publications and has now become Maison? Or can you tell me about that transition?

Nicki Callahan:

Sure. So it was founded as Nest Publications and it still is Nest Publications. That is the parent company. But as we've expanded, we have the goal of writing different publications for different professions. So right now we are only in real estate because that's what I know best in sales and property management. But eventually we have plans to expand and do wellness and market for chiropractors and dentists and doctors. And then later on, we might do insurance or attorneys. So we will change the name on the cover to depict whatever industry we are writing for in that particular issue.

Nicki Callahan:

So Maison, which means home in French, is for the real estate sector right now. And then eventually we'll add other titles as we build out the company. We also had a funny thing in that I started this company five and a half, six years ago... Well, in 2015. So I guess it's maybe more like six or seven. And I had a designer do the logo. And then I went to the National Association of Realtors Convention and I had a big booth the first year. And we got a ton of visitors and I had little mints. And people would come by and look at the booth and talk to me for a minute or not and just come by and snag some mints.

Nicki Callahan:

But inevitably a majority of the people saw the logo and it looked a lot like the Nest Thermostat. The logo did, the name did. So they would come by and take it and say, "I love the thermostat." And I was like, "Oh no, this is not great at all." And I'd spent all this money on the booth. And so that particularly was a reason that we segued from Nest Publications to Maison Magazine. Especially for the real estate industry, because they are hyper aware of thermostats and things like that.

Steven:

Yeah, right. Yeah, well, I'm glad that you were able to successfully pivot. And I hope nobody comes up with a new Maison line of thermostats.

Nicki Callahan:

Me too, me too.

Steven:

Okay. So I wanted to ask how you got in touch with Paul and his team at We Advertise Your Business. And yeah, how have they been able to help you with marketing?

Nicki Callahan:

Sure. So in the last, oh gosh, probably four months, it's mostly been word of mouth. How we've built our business has been word of mouth and that's not always consistent or predictable. So I thought I need to start marketing, but marketing in a smart way, marketing in a way that makes sense based on what we do. And that would be digital marketing and finding clients in a way that we don't have a huge outlay of cash. And so I was, as a lot of people do, just looking on Instagram and I had been clicking on a lot of different ads. And then of course, with the algorithm, they send you more ads for the ads that are related to what you've been clicking on and one of Paul's ads came up.

Nicki Callahan:

So I reached out to Paul and I had talked to several different marketing agencies before that. And I had reached out to Paul and he took a long time with me, maybe an hour, and walked me through his program. And he was the only one that wasn't pushy. And one marketing company wanted me to start selling something completely different from what I sell. They wanted me to start selling for other small businesses. And I said, "But that's not what I do. That's not my product." And they said, "Well, that's what we deal in so that's what you should do." And I was like, "Well, that's not good."

Nicki Callahan:

And then the next day I talked to Paul and Paul said, "I like your product. I think it's a great product. And these are the things that we can do." So I was encouraged about working with Paul from our conversation. He seemed to grasp the product and he seemed to have good systems in place in order to get the marketing to where I think it needs to be to start generating extra sales.

Steven:

Great. Well, I'm glad to hear that. And yeah, I mean, as we wrap up, you alluded earlier to some interesting directions where your company might go or is gearing up to go. What is on the horizon for you? We're talking here in early March of 2022. Yeah, what are you excited about in the coming months or maybe for the rest of this year?

Nicki Callahan:

Yeah. I'm really excited for the marketing and to see the possibilities there. I'm learning a ton of new things. I'm learning how to do video and I'm trying to do some of it myself and then some of it I'm outsourcing. But I'm excited to kind of open my mind to all of these possibilities that, having gotten all of our clients from word of mouth up until this point, I've never really dived into. So I'm excited about that. And I'm excited to branch out. Right now we are in five different areas and I'm excited to branch out and hopefully go national maybe by the end of this year.

Steven:

Cool, that would be a big step. Can you tell me a little bit more about your plans to expand?

Nicki Callahan:

Yeah. As I mentioned before, when I went to the National Association of Realtors Convention, I got a lot of interest. But I got interest from one agent in Phoenix, one agent in Miami, one agent in Austin and that's not scalable for our business model because we do put a community-specific article in each magazine. So I can't do 97 individual articles or only 97 agents. It's just not scalable. So we have had to build up gradually area by area. And ideally we have 20 agents in each metropolitan area. 20 agents in Seattle, 20 agents in Houston. We don't want to oversaturate the market because we really don't have a way of knowing where the magazines go. And for agents, it's important that they have marketing that is semi-unique and tailored to them. That not everybody else is going to have the same marketing with the same articles. So we try not to oversaturate each area.

Nicki Callahan:

So it has taken a while to build up, especially with only word of mouth. So we're hoping to get those hundred agents in different segments. And the ideas that Paul has put forward about how we can hyper-target for individual areas, I think that that will be achieved relatively soon. So that's what I'm hopeful for.

Steven:

All right. Well yeah, that's very exciting. And yeah, I mean, my last question is just where can people go if they want to get in touch with you or want to learn more about Nest Publications and Maison Magazine?

Nicki Callahan:

Sure. So the Maison Magazine website is www.maison-magazine.com and my email is nicki@nestpublications.com.