As the world continues to become smaller, many Realtors are finding themselves scrambling to add “global” expertise and designations to their professional profile. The first step to achieving that status is boosting your international client base. Here are four steps that’ll get you there.
1. Focus on one market
Going global — as in providing your service to the entire world — might be too big a bite to chew, and even the top brands and companies focus on one market at a time.
To help narrow down your target customer, analyze the people who are already buying in your market. This will give you an existing stream of potential buyers, which is much easier to access than an entirely new demographic.
Here are a couple ways to do this:
Look at non-stop international flights
What non-stop international flights arrive daily to your local airport? The airline has determined that there is enough traffic to warrant a regular flight route, and there will be existing marketing from both the airline and your local tourist bureau. This is the best place to focus your efforts — why not piggyback on the existing promotion?
Consider who you know
A market that you have contact and familiarity with is easy to access — and it’s a much better option than going in blindly.
If you have a choice of two potential markets based on flight frequency, the one that you have existing marketing collateral for (and can communicate with) is the best candidate for your efforts.
While this seems obvious, sometimes we over-complicate business as we go for the more exotic market (or pick a place that we would enjoy visiting). Remember: this is not about the glamour of being global, but rather getting the biggest bang for your buck and the fastest route to a sustainable source of clients.
Keep it simple and take the path of least resistance, then when you make lots of money from it, go on vacation to anywhere you choose — that is the glamorous part!
2. Create partnerships
According to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, 62 percent of Realtors reported that personal contacts, previous clients and business contacts were major sources of international clients and referrals.
You can spend all the marketing dollars in the world but you must always remember that real estate is a relationship-based business. Driving leads online can only get you so far, but it’s the human connection that takes a lead and transforms it into a real estate deal.
The easiest way to begin courting business initially is to reach out to potential partners in the target city. Begin with old-fashioned research — search the local real estate companies, accountants, financial advisers and lawyers, and then send a personalized and informative email with details about your market and how it relates to their clientele, a few statistics and a link for further information on you.
Be a genuine resource
Do not expect to get far with canned information. You begin as a stranger, and relationships take time to grow, so it is imperative that you stay in contact and provide interesting information every couple of weeks. And be sure to follow up on any responses immediately.
Do not go for a hard ask immediately — trust takes time to build. You can, however, have a paragraph in your email that states something similar to:
For information on partnering to offer exclusive property in “your market USA” to your existing clientele, please contact us as we are always looking for select partners and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this further.
Take your time. Be organized, knowledgeable, informative and patient. The most important first steps are designed to create partners out of local real estate agents, financial advisers, attorneys and other professionals who have trusted relationships with affluent clients. That’s how you get the ball rolling to start seeing referrals!
Meet your potential partners
Once you are well underway with your discussions (possibly three or four discussions that you are now building on), you will need to budget for a trip to meet them; after all, everything is relationship-based and you would be most uncomfortable sending your clients to someone in another country without meeting them first.
It is unlikely that you will generate an on-going stream of end clients without first putting in the effort to create partnerships.
3. Perfect your digital presence
Are you prepared for when potential partners and clients want to learn more about you? Is your online presence strong, up-to-date and professional? It should be.
Commit to sending regular newsletters with information relevant to international clients, and offer this information to international partners so they can send it to their clients.
Having a healthy online marketing budget helps, but budgets are often squandered if communication isn’t consistent. Many successful international Realtors do not have large marketing budgets, but they are resourceful and disciplined about investing time and energy to grow and foster a prominent online image, which even includes being consistent on social media.
International partners and potential clients will make judgments about you based on your online presence, so make sure your online identity is nothing less than professional perfection.
Make yourself accessible
Lastly, if you don’t have Whatsapp (or other apps that may be prevalent in your target market), then get it — you’ll soon find that global partners and clients will be much easier to communicate with on the app.
According to Hootsuite, messaging apps like WhatsApp have incredible engagement rates: 98 percent of mobile messages are opened and read, with 90 percent of them getting opened within three seconds of being received. Constant Contact reports 16.86 percent average open rates for real estate-related emails.
4. Have a plan
Budget, budget, budget. Take time to plan a 12-month budget and work backwards with monthly and weekly goals. Some elements will require money but most need consistency and time.
With a strong marketing plan, you can approach builders and other service professionals in your team about investing funds in your partnership with them, for example, to send you to a property show in the city that you are farming. And while there, you should book appointments with existing and potential partners. Any opportunity to meet in person will exponentially increase the odds of them sending you clients.
In short, skip the advertising and media (initially), focus on creating partnerships and diligently grow relationships. More than anything, consider what would make you trust someone in a different country to help you spend your savings. Become that professional and begin fostering the partnerships that will increase your international client base.
Justine Assal is president of About Global International Real Estate Marketing based in Orlando, Florida. Follow her on Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn.