No matter what digital tools you use, you’re probably not keeping up with the big-boy-backed tech. But there are some things that we “smaller guys” on the ground can do that these major players can’t. It’s time to focus on community building. Here’s how to get started.

Every day, I’m introduced to a new app or service that promises to make business boom.

It’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the new services, updates and what’s becoming obsolete. Plus, if you’ve been paying attention for the past few years, one thing should be perfectly clear: No matter what digital tools you use, you’re probably not keeping up with the big-boy backed tech.

You won’t beat their consumer data, and you’d be hard pressed to beat their digital reach.

All that said, there are some really clear things that we “smaller guys” on the ground can do that these major players can’t. Selling real estate is an activity and business that seriously impacts a community. Real estate is a tangible investment, a fixture within a real world community. 

The challenge — and important thing to keep sight of — is communicating the tremendous impact our work has. How can we modify our behavior to more proactively communicate the impact our activities have on the community? Simple: Stop worrying so much about technology.

We are not going to stop innovating in the tech space, and we shouldn’t do that. Technology tools can be tremendously useful for complementing and growing our work.

But the world would be hard pressed to find another industry with the potential (and the responsibility) to create a real world community impact.

I truly believe this makes us indispensable, but our customer relationship management (CRM) system isn’t going to do if for us. It’s time to focus on community building.

Here are five community-building “marketing” tips.

1. Go for a walk

I realize that sounds cheesy. But be honest, when was the last time you went on a walk in your community? Every Saturday, set an hour aside in the morning and go for a walk. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll see people you know, and they’ll see you.

I have people come up to me all the time asking if it was my family they saw walking around town. I make sure they know to say “hi” next time, and then they usually do.

It’s easy for people to get the idea that we are these ghosts that stick signs in the yard and pick them up 45 days later. They see our postcards and Facebook ads, but that doesn’t make them feel like we are part of their community.

I promise that if you do this for four weekends in a row, you will feel more connected to your community than ever before. Honestly that’s reward enough, but you might get the bonus of some business too.

2. Get involved with a non-Realtor nonprofit board

Be careful here. Don’t just join a board to join a board, and definitely don’t join a board because some knucklehead wrote an article about it.

If you are passionate about a subject or an organization within your community, find a way to get involved. Whatever you do, make sure you can uphold your commitments. If you’re not careful to avoid taking too much on, this tip becomes counterproductive.

Getting involved with a local nonprofit doesn’t necessarily mean attending a monthly meeting. If you are a donor, or even just a vocal ambassador for the organization, it will be majorly appreciated.

Note: If you’re a donor, don’t be a ghost. Don’t just throw money at an organization without showing your face when it’s important. Pick something you’re genuinely passionate about.

3. Find an opportunity to support your local school district

Schools form the backbone of a community. I’m admittedly biased as a child of two educators, but being biased doesn’t make you wrong.

Local schools are fostering the culture of your community. They’re growing future leaders, and they bolster the local economy in major ways. Take a second to recognize everything the school system does for your community, and find a way to give back.

Attend sporting events, sponsor arts activities, help pay for activity programs, participate in scholarship fundraising. Find something you can commit to, and be consistent about your support and involvement.

People will recognize that you care, and they’ll appreciate it. Parents, teachers and administrators all buy houses, and they care about their kids and schools.

Your acknowledgment that the school system has an impact on your community really does mean something to them.

4. Shop and eat local 

Get out into your community and support your local business owners. It comes off as a bit disingenuous for us to talk about the economic impact a home sale has on a community, and then not support locally owned businesses. They want and need your support!

They recognize that you know a ton of people and that your endorsement means the world to prospective clients. And, similarly, it’s not a bad thing for a business owner in your community to recognize you as a patron when you show up at a chamber meeting. They want to support those who support them and will send you referrals.

It comes down to mutual appreciation and respect. Developing that can take some time, and it requires making a serious effort to show you care.

5. Be seen 

All of the previous points boil down to one thing: Being seen.

We can’t hide behind a computer for our marketing efforts. Other companies do that and may be very successful at it. But it’s basically all that they do.

In real estate, we can be fairly successful in those efforts as well, but what really makes us stand out is our boots on local ground. No one can compete with that.

If people see you in their community, and see that you’re invested and care about the well-being of your neighbors, they will consider you the ultimate community resource. It takes a lot of time to do some of these things, and time is our most fleeting commodity. But there are worse things out there to invest it in than community goodwill. It is a win-win-win (with even more wins down the line).  

If you get to know more people and have a better understanding of your community, the community will have an advocate in you and trust you. Your clients will have more opportunities due to your increased connections. Most importantly, it benefits your community as a whole.

Think about how much more impactful your next digital marketing campaign will be if a prospect sees you walking your dog down Main Street, getting some work done in the local cafe, volunteering with a nonprofit or rooting for the home football team. I think that’s what it’s all about.

Make community involvement part of your business plan.

Alex Goering is team lead for the Goering Group at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Kansas City Homes. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram

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