This week’s episode features Christina Alvino, owner and founder of FineView Marketing. A full service marketing agency within the storage and commercial real estate industry based in Austin, TX.
Christina has built a successful agency with a focus on giving back to her community and her team. Through building long lasting relationships over time, she has solidified herself as an expert in her industry of focus.
Enjoy the Story.
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[00:00:00] Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up, the first big sale. Passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth. Hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story.
[00:00:39] Russel: Hello. Welcome to another episode of An Agency Story podcast. I’m your host, Russel. Today’s guest on the show is Christina Alvino with FineView Marketing, a full service marketing agency focused on the self storage and commercial real estate industry based in Austin, Texas. Christina has leveraged the power of her niche by becoming a highly regarded expert within her particular space.
[00:00:59] On top [00:01:00] of running a successful agency, she has a strong desire to serve as a role model for female entrepreneurs. In addition to creating wealth opportunities for her entire team.
[00:01:08] Enjoy the story.
[00:01:13] Welcome to the show, everyone today, I have Christina Alveo with FineView Marketing. Thank you for being on the show today Christina.
[00:01:20] Christina: Thanks so much for having me.
[00:01:21] Russel: So start us off, tell us what is FineView? What do you do and who do you do it for?
[00:01:27] Christina: FineView Marketing is a full service marketing agency and we specialize in website development and creating marketing strategies for owner operators in the self storage and commercial real estate spaces.
[00:01:41] Russel: Very succinct and to the point. You’ve got your elevator pitch down.
[00:01:45] Christina: I’ve worked on that a lot over the years.
[00:01:48] Russel: Your practice has paid off. Yes. So was it your dream when you were young to start a marketing agency for the self storage and real estate industry?
[00:01:57] Christina: It was most definitely not my dream [00:02:00] to start an agency and or be in the self storage industry, so that would be a no.
[00:02:06] Russel: Okay. What did you think you were gonna do when you started your career and or maybe even going back to when you were young, what did Christina wanna be when she grew up?
[00:02:14] Christina: So, if you asked young teenage me or seventh grade me, I was probably gonna be a marine biologist because I loved dolphins. Nice. And then I learned what you had to do as a marine biologist and, you know, that went out the window.
[00:02:29] Russel: What was so bad? I don’t know enough about that.
[00:02:30] Christina: Just like having to give animals medication and different things. Like, it just, you know,
[00:02:35] Russel: Not just pet dolphins all day.
[00:02:38] Christina: Exactly. . Okay. Yeah. Very nice. For a long time I wanted to be a professional dancer. Okay. I don’t have the height for that. The audience out there can’t see me, but I am only five feet tall, so I do not have the height to be a professional dancer.
[00:02:53] Russel: The height doesn’t show up across Zoom, I can tell you that.
[00:02:55] Christina: In college I actually majored in interior design. I wanted to work for an [00:03:00] architecture firm and do the interior design thing. One of those moments where like you’re like, oh, I should have listened to my parents. My dad always said to me that I’d love marketing cuz he knew I loved creative side of things.
[00:03:12] And so that was how I ended up in interior design. And he was like, oh, you should really double major in marketing. I think you’d really like it. And I was like, what do my parents know? Yeah, right. They don’t know anything. And so after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, six months later, I went back and got a master’s degree in marketing.
[00:03:32] Russel: Well, this is why it pays to listen to your parents first time around. Always listen to mom and dad.
[00:03:38] Christina: Yeah. So when I was younger, no, I really didn’t think I would be in marketing. Didn’t really know much about it. Even when I went to college, didn’t think about it much.
[00:03:48] And here I am. 20 years later.
[00:03:51] Russel: So yeah, we’ve definitely established, being an agency owner wasn’t the initial plan. But it ended up you had a pretty natural transition from what you were doing in your [00:04:00] career to entrepreneurship and having your agency. When and where did you decide to get started?
[00:04:06] Christina: Before starting the agency, I ran marketing and operations for a number of self storage owner operators. And they were larger companies with locations across the US. In multiple states. And so, really kind of fell in love with the industry itself. Moved around to a couple different places.
[00:04:27] I’m originally from Pittsburgh and I was working for a company there and decided that I needed to make a change and was offered a position with a company in Texas and they said, you can move to Austin or Houston. Whichever one you want. I picked Austin. Worked for them for a while, transitioned to another company and at that point I was like, I need to do something different.
[00:04:53] I need to do something for myself. Kind of was done working for somebody else. And got really [00:05:00] lucky that over the years I had built some relationships with other people in the industry who in the storage industry, I should say. That, had gone off on their own. To to start their own companies.
[00:05:12] Just looking and learning from them of what they were able to do for themselves. Kind of started thinking about what could I do for myself? And so I started marketing, consulting, freelancing on the side. Doing little things here and there, for different people that I knew needed.
[00:05:30] And so that’s when it really was oh, well I could maybe create a job for myself doing marketing consulting. That’s how it started, but then through conversations with my now business partners was real, where it really came to fruition that I could start my, own marketing agency with this niche focus of commercial real estate.
[00:05:53] And so when my partners had started their company, they were getting to the point that they needed [00:06:00] to bring on somebody in marketing on their team. They knew they couldn’t afford the level of person that they really wanted. I had done some work for them, just as they were getting up and running. And so they approached me and said, would you want to maybe go off and create something of your own in your own company and we’ll back you on it.
[00:06:22] We’ll help you finance as your first client essentially. To help you start this agency. I kind of always thought about it, but hadn’t really thought about being an entrepreneur and doing anything for myself.
[00:06:36] You grow up thinking, oh, W2 job, you know, make money, have a 401k, retire, and that’s your life. And so that was really the aha moment for me that I was like, oh, I, I can create something for myself instead of working for someone else.
[00:06:52] Russel: You mentioned in our previous conversation that having those partners and that having them give you that jumping off point was pretty [00:07:00] fortuitous for getting started in the business.
[00:07:02] Do you think if you hadn’t had that going, that’s, you know, maybe just your risk tolerance or something like that, that you maybe wouldn’t have even started the business. Or looking back, how do you view that for yourself?
[00:07:12] Christina: That’s a great question. I think I probably still would’ve tried to figure out a way to do something for myself, but I don’t know if it would’ve springboarded as quickly as it did without having that support from my partners.
[00:07:27] Right. So I think it’s a lot harder to go out and do something on your own without having that circle of trust and that circle of support to be there for you when you have the hard days or, you know, cheer you on when things are going really well.
[00:07:42] It’s hard to do that. Be that mental stability for yourself sometimes, especially when starting something from scratch and starting something new and taking that risk. Like you said, you have to be willing to take some risks. There were certain things I was not willing to [00:08:00] take risks on or was very concerned about taking risks on, and those are things that I negotiated with them to help me through.
[00:08:09] Making sure that I could pay my rent. Making sure that I could pay my car payment. Making sure I had health insurance. That was a huge one for me. Very important too, you know, as a, as a small business owner, you don’t really think about how do I have a health insurance? Like, how do I have these things?
[00:08:25] And so they helped me through a lot of that, that overcame the risk adverse pieces that I had concern about. So. I think it helped me get there a lot faster. Awesome. In having that.
[00:08:40] Russel: So when you started, did you jump right into the niche of the storage space or what were those early days like?
[00:08:47] What were you doing from a client work standpoint?
[00:08:50] Christina: So yes, jumped straight into the storage side of things, mostly because I had been in the storage industry at that point for[00:09:00] eight-ish years and so had a lot of contacts there. Had been speaking at some of the national conferences on and off. And so it was a very easy transition for me to go out and talk to these people that I’ve known for a long time and had relationships with and tell them that I was going out on my own.
[00:09:22] And it really started more as the consulting side of things more than anything else. So I was helping, these different companies with their marketing strategies, making suggestions for them sometimes taking on, a monthly contract to help with certain pieces of their business.
[00:09:42] And so that was really the early days. It was me sitting at my dining room table in my apartment, by myself, just grinding away at whatever projects came my way. And I was saying yes to everything, whether it was something I really wanted to do or not. Because Very common. Yes. At that point you need [00:10:00] money, right?
[00:10:00] So you just say yes to everything .
[00:10:04] Russel: So I’m even curious about that because a lot of folks I talk to and have on the show say something similar when you first open your doors, it’s come everyone and come all. And then you start to figure out that’s maybe not the best strategy over time.
[00:10:16] Looking back, I always ask folks. Do you wish you would’ve just gone with the risk of less clients, but you know, more in, in what would made sense for you? Or do you think that was the right path? Just to to get up and running.
[00:10:29] Christina: So, honestly, no, I don’t think I would’ve changed anything.
[00:10:33] And the reason I say that is cuz even the hardships that we had and even some of the frustrations and issues that were there. They were such great learning experiences for you to then put different measures in place so that you don’t do it again. And without those experiences, you don’t have the ability to put different processes and metrics and different things in . Contracts and all of that without [00:11:00] knowing some of those pain points and living them.
[00:11:05] Russel: That’s a great perspective. So not terribly long into the business, a rather large world event hit via the pandemic. How did that affect what you were doing?
[00:11:15] Christina: So luckily for us, and I think in general marketing, there was a lot of money out there for marketing, but especially for the niche that we’re in, self storage is a recession resistant industry.
[00:11:30] So when the economy is doing great, storage is doing great. When the economy is in the tank, storage still does great. For us, we really had rapid growth through that whole time. We were able to take a step back and work on some things that we had been wanting to work on.
[00:11:49] I had started out more in that consulting side of it, but, slowly we started building out a website and marketing platform specifically for storage facility operators. And [00:12:00] so we were able to build out some proprietary integrations with the different softwares for online rentals and for some different things.
[00:12:08] The storage space has always historically been very behind the times in technology and the pandemic really accelerated all of that. There was a lot of rapid in the space and with the clients that we were working with from an implementation of technology. So that really helped us be able to implement some things that we’d been trying to do for a while , there was that accelerated growth.
[00:12:33] Russel: How do you pick up most of your clients and how has that evolved from maybe when you first started the business to where you’re at today?
[00:12:41] Christina: Some of it’s still very much the same in that it’s very relationship driven for us. As I mentioned earlier, I speak at a lot of national conferences and a lot of the state association conferences as well.
[00:12:53] And so that really helps to bring those clients in just being out there [00:13:00] networking. I’m very much the believer in selling through education versus through selling through telling somebody you know, what they’re doing wrong and what we can do for them. For us it’s really been great for me to be able to get out there and speak and I have a lot of support in the industry.
[00:13:16] I’ve built a lot of great relationships with people who want to support us. And who ask me to come out and help with with different educational conferences and events. That piece has not changed at all. Pre-pandemic, I think in 2019 I went to at least 15 conferences. Oh, that’s busy. And then, 2020, everything transitioned to digital.
[00:13:46] But now that everything’s back up in full swing, I think this year I’ve probably been to at least 15 conferences again. That piece really has just continued to grow for us. And then, in the last two months, I’ve [00:14:00] now hired a business development manager who will be helping to grow that piece of the business. She’s now responsible for any additional marketing that we wanna do through email marketing, social media, marketing, helping with some different marketing audits to show clients.
[00:14:19] Potential clients where they can improve their marketing strategies. And so she’s been on board with us since the beginning of September. Now I can take a step back and let her drive the business development side of things. Very cool.
[00:14:34] Russel: A lot of folks talk about wanting to use something like speaking as a way to develop business, and I’ve heard mixed reviews on folks that get a lot of leads and business out of that and those that don’t.
[00:14:46] It sounds like you’ve really been able to make that a really effective tool for you. Any tips for the folks at home on how to maximize that as a lead generation source for businesses?
[00:14:54] Christina: So honestly, I think for us it’s been that we’ve stayed in the [00:15:00] same niche space.
[00:15:02] The whole time, right? So you’re in front of the same people over and over again. It’s definitely not a quick turn of getting clients. So if it’s something that need to go get a client tomorrow, it’s probably not the best option for you. If you’re looking for the long term of building relationships with somebody and you can put the time in and have the time for a sales cycle to take 6, 7, 8 months. That’s really where the networking and speaking piece can come into play. But it’s really been the being able to be in front of a lot of the same people multiple times has really been the biggest benefit from that.
[00:15:43] Russel: Good takeaways there. Thank you for that.
[00:15:46] What does success look like for you? What’s the big game plan for all this?
[00:15:50] Christina: Financial independence. I think a lot of people start, and I may be speaking out of turn. It’s just what I’ve seen is a lot of people start [00:16:00] advertising and marketing agencies to create a job for themselves because it’s something that they think they can do.
[00:16:05] And I didn’t really create this to create a job for myself. I created it more so that I knew in 10 years I might sell it to somebody else. And be able to use that money for my retirement. Being in the commercial real estate space, there’s so many other things that I’ve learned over the last eight years about how money works and how you can then take that money and have it work for you and live off of the residuals of your investments.
[00:16:31] And so that really, that financial independence piece, and then honestly helping my team. And others achieve that same goal. I’m a big believer in helping those around us that have helped us get to where we are. For me, that’s also a big piece of it. And if I ever was to sell the agency, my team all gets a small piece of that pie of whatever is made off of it.
[00:16:57] That, for me would be a huge success in [00:17:00] this process.
[00:17:02] Russel: Given that you arrived at a niche rather quickly in your business, do you have any recommendations to help people assert themselves as experts in their particular niche, or especially as it relates to conferences?
[00:17:12] Christina: One thing that I did was involve myself, so if they needed volunteers for something, volunteer to go help board members.
[00:17:24] Whatever it might be. So I actually volunteered at a number of the conferences to help with random things that they needed help with, like at registration, cuz then you meet everybody. At the same time, right? You meet all of these potential clients, but then you’re also helping the board and the organization.
[00:17:42] So then they’ll recommend you when somebody a, cuz they become the go-to for people in the industry to say, you know, who would you use for X, Y, Z? Who would you use for marketing? Who would you use for? And so then you become one of those top of mind.[00:18:00] So that was one thing that I did was get involved.
[00:18:03] You have to give of your time instead of knowing that there’s gonna be a financial reward on the other side. When you do get the opportunity to speak, make it educational. Don’t try to sell yourself. And that’s one of the reasons that I get asked back to speak over and over is because, I make it very educational, and I try very hard not to talk about what we do as a company.
[00:18:30] Russel: If you could go back in time to young Christina at any point and give yourself some advice. Do you know when and where you’d go back to and what is that advice?
[00:18:39] Christina: I don’t know when I would go back to. That’s a good question. But I think the biggest piece of advice would be don’t feel like you have to get stuck in the social norms of what society tells you of having to have that nine to five job and work for somebody else.
[00:18:58] There are so many other ways [00:19:00] for you to be creative in how you can create a living for yourself and create a life for yourself outside of just work. I don’t know if I ever would’ve listened to myself to be completely honest. But that for me, and really understanding how money works and how to build wealth for myself outside of that W-2, nine to five job.
[00:19:24] Russel: You can take this podcast now back to young Christina and say. Look, I’m not just saying this to you. I’m saying this to everybody. Mm-hmm. We’ll make sure that happens when we invent the time machine, which is hopefully soon.
[00:19:34] Christina: I think I want teleportation first.
[00:19:37] Russel: Ooh. Oh. All right.
[00:19:38] Christina: We were talking about that in the office the other day, and I was like, oh, it would be great if I had to go to a, like, I was invited to a conference in North Dakota, had to decline because it overlapped with another conference. And I was like, man, if I could have teleported, I could have been there.
[00:19:53] That would’ve been easy.
[00:19:54] Russel: Yeah. All right. Well see, that’s very practical. I’m a history major. I gotta go see the dinosaurs [00:20:00] and I got a whole slew of events I gotta go back and take a look at. Alright, all you scientists out in the world, I need to get on this teleportation for Christina and a time machine for me please.
[00:20:09] Thank you. Perfect. Christmas is just around the corner, so I guess with that I gotta launch this before Christmas now or else that’ll fall flat. There you go. There’s motivation.
[00:20:19] The question I ask everybody, are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
[00:20:22] Tell us your answer, Christina.
[00:20:24] Christina: If I had to pick one, I would say made. But I think there’s a little mixture of both in that I think you are born with some of the internal factors that translate really well into entrepreneurship.
[00:20:41] Natural charisma or creativity or that not being afraid of taking risks. I mean, entrepreneurs have to have some type of ability to take risks and some of those traits are things that you are innately born with, but you also have to learn how to [00:21:00] channel them and use them to become a really successful entrepreneur.
[00:21:04] There’s that journey and the trial and error and learning over time. So you can’t just say that, at least to me, you can’t just say that an entrepreneur is born. They’re really made with those trial and errors and that journey over time.
[00:21:19] Russel: Can’t disagree with that on any front.
[00:21:21] If people wanna know more about FineView, where can they go?
[00:21:25] Christina: You can go to our website, which is just fineviewmarketing.com, which is probably very boring, although we do have a lot of blogs. Us on social media, so LinkedIn. Facebook, Instagram. And we’ve, we’ve been saying for months now, we were gonna start a TikTok, but we haven’t done it yet.
[00:21:44] So maybe this will be the motivation to get us started.
[00:21:47] Russel: You put it out to the universe now, so I think everybody’s gonna expect it. So, yeah. Mm-hmm. , there you go. I love TikTok. It’s such a great app and always spend too much time on it, but…
[00:21:57] Well, thank you so much for being on the show today, Christina.
[00:21:59] It’s [00:22:00] absolute pleasure to get to hear your story and best of luck to you towards your dreams and goals and that teleportation machine .
[00:22:06] Christina: Thanks. Well thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. That was fun and I hope you also get your time machine.
[00:22:14] Russel: Thank you. I appreciate that
[00:22:19] We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to email@example.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction.
[00:22:40] Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to $5 million and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.
[00:22:54] Christina: So we were working on a branding project for a client. We’re [00:23:00] redoing their logo and their website and we were coming up with a new color palette for them. And so we had the whole team looking at it and telling us what they thought. And making sure that like visually it would work. Well, we found out that one of the individuals on our team is Red Green colorblind, and he didn’t know until we did this project and we had him take a test cuz he was giving us all this weird feedback and we were like, those aren’t the colors we’re using.
[00:23:27] Like, I don’t, what are you talking about? So he’s 27 years old and did not know he was red green color blind. Wow. So then we went to a conference recently and they had a charity poker tournament and he was like, I really hope that the, what are they that they give you, the tokens that they give you.
[00:23:45] Oh, yes. Or the chips. He was like, I really hope the chips aren’t red and green. Next thing you know, he sends the team a picture, red and green, and I just replied, the red ones are on the left.
[00:23:53] Russel: I imagine a lot of people would like to argue that a lot of clients are colorblind at times, but it’s good that you guys found that out for him.
[00:23:59] Christina: [00:24:00] Yeah. So he’s no longer allowed to create any designs or social media, like the design side of it.
[00:24:06] Russel: Makes sense. That is funny. Thank you for sharing that.