In this episode, Stacy sits down with Dr. Jeff Anzalone, a periodontist and the founder of DebtFreeDr.com, which is an online blog that advises other doctors and high-income professionals on how to create passive income from real estate. The two discuss his experience in launching a side business, and what lessons he has learned from his mistakes that have helped him find success.
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Transcript For This Episode:
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for topics for us to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you are doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.Speaker 2 (00:31):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them). Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones (00:36):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them). I’m Stacy Jones, and I’m so happy to be here with you all today, and want to give a very warm welcome to Dr. Jeff Anzalone. Dr. Jeff is a periodontist and the founder of debtfreedoctor.com, an online blog and platform offering insights and advice to helping other doctors and high-income professionals create passive income from real estate. Today we’re going to talk about Dr. Jeff’s experience and lunching and marketing a side business and what tools he has used to help find success. [inaudible 00:01:05] what has worked from his experience, what could be avoided and how some people can often be smart. Dr. Jeff, welcome. Thank you so much for being here today.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (01:14):
Okay. Thank you very much, Stacy. Pleasure being on the call with you today.
Stacy Jones (01:16):
Of course, we’re so happy to have you on the podcast. So to start off, can you share with our listeners how you got to where you are today? What got you here where you started on a very different career path, then what you have going right now on the side or in addition?
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (01:37):
That’s a good question and I could probably take a couple of hours to talk about that, but I know that we’re limited on time. So if I could sum it up, I would say it’s from a series of failures, I would say, and mishaps that has launched me here. So long story short, about two weeks before I was finishing my training in dental surgery at LSU, the job that I was supposed to take actually fell through. So between my wife and I, we had close to $300,000 of student loan debt, we had a two month old, was living in an 800 square foot apartment, which in California, that may not be a big deal, but in Louisiana, we like our space. This was before the 2008 housing crash so I had called up a friend of mine that his dad was a banker and this was before I lost the job and I said, “Hey, look, I want to move back home and there’s this house we like,” and he knew the group that I was supposed to be going in practice with.
So they was like, “Oh yeah, we’ll take care of it.” This was like two pages to sign and we have the house, interest only loan. Whenever can afford your down payment, that that’s fine. That’s how it was back then. So add that to our debt load. So long story short, that really changed my mindset regarding money because I didn’t really think about student loan debt too much because I was going to be getting into a practice, going to be having a decent income, I was going to be able to pay my bills, have a nice life, live happily ever after.
But when that happened, I guess I realized how quickly things can change just like with these things that happen now that we never thought would happen with pandemic, with the cronavirus, that sort of thing. And it took me a while really to get rid of that, I guess it was more kind of a scarcity type thinking instead of an abundance type thinking regarding money. So I was able to network with some people, they helped me, showed me the ropes, showed me how to start a practice, run a practice, and I had set some financial goals, had set some get out of debt goals, at that time was a pretty big Dave Ramsey follower so I’ve kind of followed some of his principles a little bit, helped us get out of debt.
And by the time I was 40, I looked up and had accomplished a lot of these things but I realized that up until that point, probably for the last 20, 25 years, I had always had some sort of goals I was trying to get to. Like I wanted to graduate and get into a good college. And then from college dental school, dental school to a residency program. So it was always something, get out and practice, get out of debt. And then once I got to be 40 and hit all these goals, it was kind of like now what? And about at the same time for 20, 25 years, Dave Ramsey had always talked about really focused on getting out of debt. And he started seeing a shift too because now all these callers that he was helping get out of debt, they were calling back in and go, okay, Dave, we’re debt free, now what?
And that’s kind of where I was and he actually being the good marketing person that he is, he actually pivoted and now has teamed up with Chris Hogan and his daughter to teach people how to become millionaires. So I knew that I had to do something so I started looking, okay, the next five to seven years, what do I want to accomplish? And I realized that as a healthcare provider, I only had one source of income and that was just from the practice. And I think most people that have jobs or own businesses many of them have that one, that earned income or active income, which as you know, Stacy, is the highest taxed income. Another thing is if you’ve read any, or if you ever heard of Robert Kiyosaki, the Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he talks about the cashflow quadrant and really the people that are what he calls on the left side of the quadrant that are employees or solo business owners like myself, you’re really just an employee, you have a job and that’s it because what? If I’m not seeing and treating patients, no money’s coming in.
So I really realized that a lot as I started getting older, I knew that I needed to make a change because I wanted to spend more time with my kids, some extended time with them before they move out. And then also I started looking at, well, what if something happened to me? I can’t work. So again, there’s a lot of things that happen. I never thought about this before, but what if we are hit by the pandemic and we can’t practice? So, that was just another reason that I started looking at ways to increase passive income. And one of the things that I kept seeing more and more people, more and more successful people that had in their portfolio was real estate investing. And that’s kind of what led me from where I was to sort of kind of now at this point.
Stacy Jones (07:41):
That’s awesome. And so you dove in feet first, real estate investing, now you had your side hustle, side gig that you were doing, you were still full-time practicing as well, what led you and what made you get to the point where you thought you could actually evolve this into a business of helping other people as well learn all the things that you’ve learned?
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (08:08):
Again, it goes back to something, a failure and when I first started out, I thought I wanted to be an active real estate investor, meaning owning physical property. And that’s really what I always thought, you had to own a house, you had to own a fourplex or a storage unit or whatever. But the more people that are talked to that did that for a living, the more I realized I didn’t want to be a landlord. And to me that was like taking on a second job having to take the calls from people that their toilet’s overflowing at two in the morning. I didn’t want to do that. I had to look at going back to the books [inaudible 00:08:54] start with the why, why am I doing this? Well, like I just told you, one of the reasons was I wanted more time to spend with my kids. Well, as an active investor, that didn’t help with that.
So I started hearing about something called crowdfunding and passive investing, and I started learning a little bit about that and then I started actually investing a little bit in these types of deals to where you could pull your money in with somebody, with many people invest like maybe in an apartment building or a house, kind of like a GoFundMe sort of thing. And I did a couple of those and that worked out well, and honestly, looking back, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I mean, it was just go to a website, oh, that’s a pretty picture of an apartment. Oh, those are pretty good returns, click, I’m going to invest there and that was it.
So I stepped it up. I did a deal in Tulsa, Oklahoma, apartment building. It was quite a large sum of money, $50,000. And they had promised to start giving out the distributions about three to four months after. Well, after about a year and no money coming in, we finally started getting these emails that website, which at that time was realtyshares.com had actually gone under. And another company took them over, well that other company, eventually they did what they could, but the deal fell through, it was in a seedy crime field, neighborhood, more people were moving out than moving in and the sponsors that put their money in that were rehabing the apartment they spent too much money too quickly. So basically every investor in that deal lost their money, their investment.
So that was quite a hard pill to swallow, but that really opened my eyes and it was totally on me. They really opened my eyes to Jeff, you didn’t know what you were doing, you had no business doing that. And that really was the catalyst to put me on the path to really learning and I’m still learning every day, but helped me to learn what I’m doing. Now, to answer your question about why I eventually started a website and started sort of a side hustle was as a doctor, most of us or other high income earner, we have like this target on our chest, like stupid or sucker or that sort of thing. So we’re always getting pitched people to buy their product or invest with them. So I really didn’t want other people to make the same mistakes.
So that’s really the simple reason why I started it. And all I had to do is basically just tell them what I just told you, stories of why I wanted to start doing this with the passive income and spending more time, the failures that I had, and now the starting to learn about it and the different successes that we’re having with getting into these passive income deals. But along the way, educating them so they know what they’re doing before they invest.
Stacy Jones (12:40):
And you started off by doing a lot of blogging. I mean, you’ve been consistently blogging since at least 2018 when I went back to your blog on a regular basis, it looks like you used to [inaudible 00:12:51] and now you’re often a couple of times a week. And where are you finding? Because this is one of the biggest things that we hear from, and with my agency, we blog four to five times a week with the blogs and it’s a lot, but it’s caused us to see such traction and to be able to build ourselves into being major thought leaders in the world of the space we work in, which is pop culture marketing. It’s a pretty specific area of marketing.
And most of our clients actually come to us because they’ve read something that we’ve written or they’ve heard about us from an article that was in the media and then they have gone in and now read something that we’ve written. Are you finding that most of your partnerships that you build and most of the people that you bring into your tribe are finding [inaudible 00:13:43] naturally and organically really through just seeing articles you’ve written when they’re Google searching and then they’re able to dive in a little bit [inaudible 00:13:52] learn who you are and build that trust factor?
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (13:55):
That’s a good question. And again, being from Louisiana, when I first started this as a redneck, I literally didn’t know anything about computers but how to turn it on, that’s it, and how to surf the web. So the task of starting a blog on my own was very daunting, as you can imagine. But, again, there’s so much information online that’s free to teach you and I did that for a while. So for like the first six months I started it and I was just writing this random stuff and I’m just like you know what, if you’re actually going to take the time to do something, the natural competitive nature that I had, I was like, well, don’t you want it to be where people could read it, rank on Google. So I luckily found a guy, I found a course that talk about how to make your blog successful.
And the key was finding the needles in the haystack as far as what people are searching for. So meaning for so like a key word, let’s say it’s “make money in real estate,” people are actually typing that in, well, if you can find a specific key word, that’s a high volume of people searching for, but a low results so there’s not a whole lot of results out there or websites. That’s kind of the key. The problem is most people don’t want to take the hours and hours it takes to find those so they just start writing something randomly. So to give you an example, after I took his course and started doing this, well, at that time, I went to something called FinCon, which is a financial conference for… I didn’t even know this existed for other financial quote bloggers.
So everybody was talking about, “Hey, what are you doing to rank on Google?” I’ve been blogging for years, I’m trying to get to number one. And I said, “Well, I took a course a couple months ago and I already ranked number one on Google on one thing.” And they were like, “What did you do?” And I was like, “It’s not hard. You just got to put in the work.” But once I started telling them about the work that it takes, it was like, no, we’re not going to do that. It’s got to be something easier. So it’s not. It’s not easy, like anything in life, you have to work at it. So that really helped me a lot. And going from, at that time posting, usually one article a week to everyone kept telling me, “At least two.” So I made a commitment so that after that year of doing two a week, that’s when I really started seeing my organic traffic going up.
But now I’m thinking about what’s my target audience? Yeah, it’s doctors and other high income earners, but you got to think about where those people go that are looking for this information. So, well, they’re not just going to be going to any random website, they’re going to be going to different investment websites that are geared towards them, they’re going to different forums, they may be searching for different terms. So you have to start thinking about, okay, if I’m a doctor wanting to earn more money, what would I do? Where would I go? And I’m sure about the Robert Collier principle, you want to enter the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind. That’s kind of marketing 101. But I started using that principle. And once I started doing that with getting on these forums and then getting on these podcasts, that’s when I really saw things start to boost for me.
Stacy Jones (17:57):
And I think, I don’t know if you’re doing it yet, the other area you might want to explore is on all those platforms that those doctors and high net worth professionals are on saying you can write on their platforms because there’s so many times that people actually who have blogs and who have access to those individuals, they’re looking for content. And if you can write and you can write something that’s structured good overview, it’s a great way to build some additional thought leadership, just [crosstalk 00:18:30].
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (18:28):
Yeah, that’s a good one, are you talking about like guests article?
Stacy Jones (18:31):
Yeah, like guest articles, guest contributing articles, and even looking at Huffington Post and Forbes and all of those platforms actually allow that if you submit yourself. Some are subscription models where you have to pay to do it. You’re like, yay, I get to pay to write for you, this sucks. A lot of people do that, but there’s plenty out there where you could actually write without paying where you’re getting a benefit and you’re still doing one link back to your own platform or additional articles that you’ve written so you can start building that.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (19:01):
That’s a good idea.
Stacy Jones (19:02):
Yeah. Just [inaudible 00:19:03] there. We do all things [inaudible 00:19:06] content marketing in my world so I love it whenever people are doing what you’re doing. We found a lot of success and we’ve built out a very robust blog with much like you having no idea what to do and just starting to write and then being like, oh, maybe we need to know long tail keywords and what people are actually looking for versus just stumbling across us. So it does take a lot of work, but that’s the nominal that you have. You’re not only a very schooled individual, obviously, you can’t become a periodontist without having a lot of education, but you’ve gone out and done a lot of self learning and you’ve sought experts, you’re great at name-dropping some of the biggest people out there who are into self-improvement and real estate, and embetterment, and you’ve read those books and you’ve been able to take it in and put it into practice for yourself.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (19:58):
Yeah. While trying to reinvent the wheel, there’s so many people that have done this, so you just kind of look at what they’ve done or who they’ve read and just take action. I think that’s the number one thing that people don’t do. I think it’s even worse now because as you know, there’s so much content and information, I mean you can literally just pick up your cell phone and ask Siri or whoever about something and you get it like that, where as I don’t know how old you are, but back in the day I had to go to the bookshelf and get the Britannica encyclopedia to do it or go to the library and my kids are like, ah, what’s an encyclopedia?
Stacy Jones (20:43):
I hauled that encyclopedia all over, I think I finally, finally got rid of it. And if I didn’t get rid of it, it’s in our garage right now. I have to hauled that thing, we got in third grade, it was the pride and joy, I read so much of it, but that took up a lot of bookshelf space.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (20:56):
Absolutely. Yeah. But that’s the thing, we have so much information that we don’t do anything with it. And to give an example, I’ll have these calls with these doctors and they actually know as much or more about real estate than me, I mean, they’re spouting off cap rates and cash on cash return and what’s this and that. I was like, “Man, how long have you been investing in real estate?” Or, “How many deals have you done?” They’re like, “Well, none.” And so [inaudible 00:21:29] back? And it’s always they have so much information, I mean, you’ve heard the phrase paralysis by analysis.
And I tell them in a nice way, I said, “You know what? I’m just going to tell you right now. We’ll probably be talking another couple of years and you’re going to be in the same spot while I’m still investing in deals, making more money, you’re still talking about what if, what if this happens? What if this happens? And that’s fine. I’m not telling you what to do, but you’re going to look up one day and you’re going to not have any money and you’re going to be 65 years old and you’re still going to be saying, what if? So, if that’s what you want to do, that’s fine, but you got to take action.” And that’s the [inaudible 00:22:16]
Stacy Jones (22:17):
Yeah. There’s a big difference. I mean, you’re a risk taker in what you’ve done, but why you’re coaching and why you’re getting people attracted to what you have to say and wanting to work with you is you have not just schooled yourself. You’ve actually put it in practice and you’ve failed. Because the best way to learn in life is through our failures. And you’ve obviously had a few along the way and you’ve learned from them so you won’t do that again. And that’s the insight that no matter how much someone reads, until they actually understand where things can go wrong and actually can wrap their head around on how to avoid those things, the value is not there. So that is what I’m assuming people really enjoy working with you on because you have that insight as well.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (23:04):
Yeah. They really like the honesty that I tell them. And I just tell them my failures and I’ll tell them straight up whether or not they should pursue investing or not from an ethical standpoint. I actually went through the Dave Ramsey financial coaching certification last year, not to coach, but to ask some questions, to see if it is a good thing for them. So for instance, I spoke with a young dentist a few months ago from, I think Nebraska, and he wanted to start doing some real estate investing but after I asked him a bunch of questions between a student loan debt, his mortgage, his practice loan, equipment loan, he was like 900 and something thousand dollars in debt. And I could have easily told him, “Yeah, why don’t you start investing real estate in all this?” But I said, “The way that I answer the question, if I were you, would I do it knowing what I’ve gone through?” And I said, “No.” Once you get out of consumer debt and you’ve got these different things in place, then call me back and we can talk.
Stacy Jones (24:19):
Well, what are other things? If you had to give advice to other people who have a side hustle, they found something that’s their passion project. They love doing it, they’ve become good at doing it. And they want to actually start sharing what that passion is with others. What are some of the suggestions you would give them to maybe ramp it up faster than you have, or find more success than you have, not more success than you have, but find success faster than you found it, or just skip some of the things along the way that you learned from?
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (24:51):
It’s a good question. I probably would, if you could find a few people that not necessarily are in your space, but let’s say you want to do a podcast or a blog, find some people that you have a blog, a nice blog, or a podcast that you like and then pick their brains. And then they’re the ones that are going to usually tell you, “Hey, I did this and I did these three things, but I really should have focused on this.” So again, that would be the quickest way to shortcut it.
But once you do figure out your thought leadership platform, whether it’s a blog or a podcast or whatever, at the same time that you’re finding some mentors, again, all the information that you want is free online. And again, you may find somebody online after going through some material that you can reach out to as well, because most people like to… that I’ve contacted most people like to share their successes with other people and help people because they know what it was like back then. So I think that’s where I would spend most of my time focusing. But I wouldn’t start putting out information or anything like that until you get that down because you’d just be wasting your time.
Stacy Jones (26:11):
Yeah. I think all the topics that you touched on are relevant to everyone. What’s the biggest marketing mistake you think you’ve learned from?
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (26:19):
I think it was trying to be… from my practice initially, we get referrals from other dentist as a specialist, so for years and years, there was probably about 90 dentists in my area, I tried to be everything to all of them, I spent the same amount of time to all of them, but I didn’t know about the Pareto principle, the 20/80 rule that basically 80% of my business was coming from 20% of the dentist. So once I started focusing, oh man, I spent so many years and so much money to all of them and once I focused on that 20%, that’s when I started seeing results.
Stacy Jones (27:01):
Yeah. And that applies to literally every type of business out there. It doesn’t matter if you’re a service business or any level of business, that’s going to be the same result.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (27:16):
And we’ve really had to change a lot especially in LA, just about every dentist now is placing implants and doing the types of procedures that we were trained on. So, I used to have 95% of my business come from dentists and now maybe 40% comes from dentist and it decreases every year. So I had to start learning about Google ads, Facebook ads, that sort of stuff, because before we got maybe 10 patients a year from the internet, and now the bulk of our patients come from the web and then how to handle them with the phone calls when they call and stuff. So it’s really evolved a lot just in 15 years, for sure.
Stacy Jones (28:06):
And as being the dentist, as being the professional owner of the company, you haven’t been relying on a manager on your staff or someone on your team to have to learn all of these things, you’ve decided to do this on under yourself to learn how to grow your business.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (28:23):
Yeah. Have you heard of Dan Kennedy?
Stacy Jones (28:26):
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (28:26):
Okay. That’s where I kind of started all of the No BS marketing world and actually back in 20, I think 15 or 16, I looked up and was one of the marketer of the year finalist at their annual event. So I got to present in front of like 1,000 people and then got to spend a weekend with Dan at Disney World and all of that. And being around those people, there was really, really smart people, there was attorneys and financial planners and other people, engineers, and listening to what they were doing, but everything, like you said, boiled down to the same principles that they were all using.
Stacy Jones (29:15):
Yeah. I think that’s what’s so interesting is that private practitioners of any sort service organizers or owners of any sort actually have to learn fundamentals of not only doing what they specialize in now, but also learning how to market what they specialize in so that they can ensure business success. It is no longer enough just to be good at what you do.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (29:37):
I was actually having this conversation with my wife yesterday, I said, ‘Who right now in this era is the number one marketing person in the world? Who has the best marketing plan?” And it’s our president. Whether you like him or not, he is the best marketer. And that’s why he won is because… and you can read all about the guy that actually leads his… why this is a great story of what he did and how he did it and now how they’re changing their approach now to getting reelected. So if you want to win really in anything, it’s the best marketer wins.
Stacy Jones (30:16):
Yeah. It’s true. It’s not necessarily the best man at the job. Yeah. So, well, I’m glad in your case you’re doing successfully on both fronts.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (30:26):
Well, thank you.
Stacy Jones (30:27):
You’re welcome. So if someone wants to learn more about working with you and obviously they can come and read your blogs, but where do they go? Can you share some insight? How can they find out more, get in touch with you and learn all about passive real estate investing?
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (30:43):
Well, the main website that I have is the debtfree… I wanted to get debtfreedoctor.com, but that domain was already taken. So I had to settle with debtfreedr.com. But if they’re wanting to just to see what the website looks like, then they could go there, but if they’re interested in learning more about passive income, they could go to debtfreedr.com/freeguide and they can download a free guide that I wrote about the different ways that you can look into starting to learn about creating passive income to free you up.
Stacy Jones (31:22):
That’s awesome. We’ll share that in the show notes as well so that everyone can easily access that. Do you have any, as we’re wrapping this up, because I know we could dive in even more, but do you have any more last parting words of advice to our listeners today?
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (31:37):
I would say you could take what we’re talking about and it really doesn’t matter what business that you’re in. Probably most of the marketing and sales that I’ve learned initially it was from just dental only type courses but now I learn more from Disney, Zappos all these other companies, and it’s all about becoming an authority, putting out the content, and I have a, I don’t know if people are going to see this video or not, but we send out this package to our patients that I’ve got a couple of books that I’ve written, some interviews that I’ve done.
So anything that you have laying around that you could put together, whether if you have an online business it could be a download, something that you can download, or if you have a brick and mortar business, something you can physically hand out to people, just to… Because people want to know that where they’re going they’re getting good value and they want to be able to trust that person and once you have some stuff like that, you’re kind of quote seen as the expert or the authority, and I think that’s the key.
Stacy Jones (32:51):
Yeah. I 100% agree. And your awesome toy story background made it hard for everyone to see what you were showing, but I think that you do have a book, you do have the overview. Again, that’s so much about establishing thought leadership today and it’s changed. Even five years ago, it was less about the giving away everything that you know for free and it’s evolved into providing this type of insight, providing these types of details to people. They want it and they’re just going to think of you as more of an expert and want to work with you even more.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (33:33):
It’s true. Hit the nail on the head.
Stacy Jones (33:35):
Well, Dr. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciated your time.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone (33:40):
Yeah, I enjoyed it very much, Stacy, thank you.
Stacy Jones (33:42):
Of course. And to all of our listeners tuning into Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), thank you. And I look forward to chatting with you on our next podcast and until then, stay safe.
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