Want to easily locate thousands of leads, pay next to nothing for them and have very little competition? You can do exactly that if you’re willing to jump on YouTube, create your own channel, and follow Jackson Wilkey’s advice about how to go about it.


In challenging times, it’s a smart idea to revisit the fundamentals of good business. This April, go Back to Basics with Inman.

Would you like to easily locate thousands of leads, pay next to nothing for them, and have virtually no competition from other agents? You can do exactly that if you’re willing to jump on YouTube, create your own channel, and follow Jackson Wilkey’s advice about how to go about it.

This week, Greg McDaniel and I interview Wilkey about how he unlocked the code for generating leads from YouTube. The first step, however, is having the right equipment to complement your cell phone. Here are McDaniel’s top two recommendations:

Upgrade your sound quality

Purchase a secondary mic for your phone to increase clarity and minimize background noise. McDaniel recommends the Rode smartLav + Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone for iPhone and smartphones. 

Eliminate shaky videos  

There are two approaches to this issue. First, there are numerous types of tripods.

The challenge occurs when you’re using your video to livestream or record while you’re moving. Unless you have a phone with image stabilization, the result is a shaky video. The DJI Osmo Mobile 3 Smartphone Gimbal Combo Kit functions as a tripod, but also has a handheld option that produces stable images while you are moving.

Mine for gold on YouTube

Wilkey and his partner Jesse Dau own the Living in Portland Oregon YouTube channel. While Dau did $12 million in sales his first year in the business, Wilkey has figured out how to consistently generate well-qualified leads from YouTube. Here’s what he learned:

1. What didn’t work

Wilkey first experimented with Gary Vaynerchuk’s strategies for becoming the “digital mayor of your neighborhood.” He interviewed business owners, did a segment called “30 of my favorite places in Portland,” and produced quality content. The police department, schools and numerous business owners loved his work, but he wasn’t generating any leads.

2. If you’re going to fish, go where the fish are

Wilkey realized he needed a strategy to reach people who were moving. Using Google Ads and SEO was an option, but costs are prohibitive due to the extreme competition for prime placement. At that point, Wilkey decided to look into the second largest search engine, where he soon discovered there was almost no competition there whatsoever.

3. Keywords are the key

When Wilkey discovered Keywords Everywhere, an extension for both Chrome and Firefox, everything changed. To use this tool, simply enter the various subjects related to moving to your area. It then generates how many searches there are per month for that search term. According to Wilkey:

This literally turns your Google bar into a goldmine. Once I typed in a search term, it brought up other related topics. For example, “Moving to Portland Oregon” generates 823,000 searches per month.

 I moved to Portland a few years ago, and I remember wanting to know how much it cost to live there. I discovered that “Cost of living in Portland” generates 5,500 searches per month.

 It only took me an hour to identify 27 search terms that generated 50,000 searches per month. I put them on an Excel spreadsheet — that spreadsheet is gold!

 I use a second tool called TubeBuddy (Tubebuddy.com), which is also a Chrome extension. I pay for the professional version, which generates additional related searches plus the appropriate tagging for your title. It  calculates the probability that your video will appear at the top of the search.

 For example, “Cost of living in Portland” usually ranked somewhere between 50-60. When I changed it to more like how people search, “How much is the cost of living in Portland?” it jumped to 98 percent! 

4. What Wilkey learned from top YouTubers

Wilkey also carefully studied what top YouTubers did to achieve results. Here’s what he discovered:

  • Use the first 3-5 seconds of the video to say what the video is about. For example, “Today you’re going to learn five pros and cons about living in Portland.” If you don’t grab the viewer’s attention immediately, they’re gone.
  • In terms of content, tell stories. When Wilkey first moved to Portland, it took his wife six months to find suitable day care. When he posted his personal experience on his channel, the views skyrocketed. He continues to receive calls from people who tell him what they experienced and how that video really helped them. The secret — be authentic, and provide useful information that people who are moving could use.
  • Avoid the “me-me-me” approach that focuses on how great you are.
  • Create a good “thumbnail.” What works best is a picture with no more than three to five words. Wilkey likens this to the way a billboard works — you only have a few seconds to grab people’s attention. Wilkey found PicMonkey to be extremely useful for creating thumbnails. You can add photos, place captions, change backgrounds (pro version), etc. You can also use PicMonkey for Facebook and Instagram. When he improved his thumbnail, his click-through rate doubled from 3.5 percent to 7 percent.
  • Capitalize on other experts, such as your lender, financial planner and homestager — there are plenty of ways you don’t have to be in front of the camera.
  • People want to know about the differences in neighborhoods, the age of the homes and the different types of lifestyles in various locations.

How to structure the opening of your videos to maximize results

If you look at Wilkey’s videos, you see a consistent opening sequence that follows this pattern.

  • What the video is about in 3-5 seconds, ending with “stay tuned.”
  • This is followed by a 10-12 second “lead-in” set to music. The lead-in includes several video clips of him and his partner having fun in Portland and about 3 seconds where a single image displays their brokerage name, team name, his and his partner’s name and the web address. (He doesn’t worry about a phone number or email address. His experience is that if they want to get a hold of you, they will find you.)
  • A greeting where Wilkey introduces himself and says he’s a Realtor right here in Portland, Oregon, and the name of his brokerage.
  • He then adds what has turned out to be the most important element in using a YouTube channel to generate leads — a call to action. Here’s an example of what he says next:

We do so many videos about what it’s like to live here in the Portland metro. If you want to know all about living here, make sure that you subscribe. Tap that little bell, and you’ll be notified every time we do a new video. We have so many people give us a call because they are moving here, and we absolutely love it. 

So, people, if you’re thinking about moving or relocating here, be sure you give us a call, send us a text, send an email or even send the pigeon carrier. However, you want to get a hold of us, we’ve got your back if you’re moving to Portland, Oregon. (The screen displays their “Call/Text Direct” number and their email information.) 

This whole sequence takes about 70-75 seconds, and you’ve shared what your video is about, how it can help the viewer, something fun about you or the area and how viewers who are moving to your area can reach you.

At the end of the video, he repeats the same call to action that he did at the beginning.

If you’re already using your phone to shoot personal or business videos, an excellent next step would be jumping into having a YouTube channel and following Wilkey’s recommendations. Visit his site, see what he’s doing, and then experiment with some of the keywords and strategies that he uses to see how it impacts your business.

Check out this week’s video at the top for an in-depth visit with Wilkey and more details about how he has built his business in such a short time using YouTube.

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