What’s the best way to look for new lead-generation strategies? Discovering what others are doing that’s working well. In this recurring column, agents and brokers share what they’re doing to change up their lead-gen strategies.

Several years ago, my business partner gave me a book title Blue Ocean Strategy that was written by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in 2004 that really gave me focus in terms of the way I approached various aspects of our business but particularly those related to marketing and lead generation. 

Granted, there were already many things we were doing in our business that were “blue ocean,” but I will admit it wasn’t the result of a definitive plan and focus but rather more just thinking out of the box for the most part.

What is the ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’?  

The authors of Blue Ocean Strategy define the strategy as “the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand.”  

The strategy suggests staying away from “red oceans,” which the authors define as “the known market space. In red oceans, industry boundaries are defined and accepted, and the competitive rules of the game are known.”

Opt instead to stay in “blue oceans,” which the authors define as “the industries not in existence today — the unknown market space, untainted by competition.”

An analogy I often use with our agents is the red ocean is like where there are large schools of fish that have been discovered by dozens of sharks, and a feeding frenzy is taking place. The water is red with blood and the largest, strongest and quickest sharks succeed, and the others fail.

Does that sound like something you want to immerse yourself in? I doubt it. In the real estate world, this would be the equivalent to an agent, brokerage or even franchise deciding to compete head to head with Zillow, I mean really? Zillow is a multibillion dollar company, and I think it’s safe to say if you try, you’ll end up in bloody waters.

Looking for that blue ocean

In our firm, we have fully embraced the blue ocean strategy and apply it literally every day. 

For example, even though we have a massive internet presence in our market, with hundreds of geo-targeted and topic-targeted websites, all of which are micro-IDX sites, and fight hard for placement on search engines, we acquiesce on address search. 

We realize that address searches are red ocean and the “known marketplace.” Zillow, realtor.com, Trulia and the other giants have massive traffic to their sites and have every address in the U.S. indexed, so there is no realistic way we are going to beat them or even come close to them for address searches by consumers. 

Therefore, we don’t focus on addresses when it comes to our SEO. Instead, our focus turns to “unknown market space,” areas that Zillow and the others are not focusing on.

It’s not hard finding blue water in your market, and a good starting point is a hyperlocal focus. I realize hyperlocal is quickly becoming an overused term today, but it is an approach that works.

When the focus of your marketing and lead generation becomes hyperlocal, you start differentiating yourself from the giants that take a much more macro-level approach as they are covering the entire country and all markets. 

Use this to your advantage, and focus on the aspects and nuances of your local market that, while Zillow and the others have the resources to focus on, they are not doing it and are not likely to.  

Remember, you’re not just competing with Zillow

Something to keep in mind is that Zillow and the other giants are not your only competition; you have plenty of other competition from agents and brokerages in your local market, and many of them are also looking for that blue ocean. 

As an indie broker, we also use a blue ocean mindset to compete with the larger brokers and franchises in our market. We look for ways to differentiate ourselves and stand out while taking advantage of our nimbleness and cashing in on limitations they might have due to their size, corporate structure, franchise rules, etc.

Here are a few examples

Give consumers what they want

Produce or publish market data that is important to consumers in your local market. Make sure that it’s either hard to obtain, or if the information is available, that you’re somehow improving upon it. 

In our local market, the St Louis metro area, subdivision and neighborhood home prices, sales and trends are very important and relevant to homeowners as well as buyers.

However, due to the nature of how data is entered by agents, you can’t perform reliable searches based upon subdivision name. Plus, it’s common for the same subdivision to have been developed in phases with slightly different names for each phase.

To address this, we developed our own proprietary software that makes it easy to pull market data at the subdivision level and produce easy to ready charts, tables and comp reports.

Look for niche markets

Create content on your website that is original and about topics that homeowners and buyers would be interested in. Focus primarily on topics that are more nuanced and less likely to be well-known outside of your market. 

In other words, use the “insider knowledge” you have from living there or perhaps as a result of an interest you have.

We have an agent in our firm, Shannon Howard, who loves mid-century modern homes as well as “vintage” homes, and she knows a lot about both. 

She uses this knowledge to create content on her blog that has resulted in her having a following of people interested in those types of homes.

Another of our agents, Ted Gottlieb, focuses his business on the senior community. He has obtained many relevant designations, produces podcasts on senior topics, and even hosts monthly community meetings about topics important to seniors and their children.  

Design a better mousetrap

Open houses are something used to sell homes since 1910, and the method and manner of doing them has not changed all that much over the years. 

Experience shows that open houses aren’t that likely to produce a buyer for that particular home, but they do produce opportunities for agents to meet new prospects who may become clients. 

A challenge is getting visitors to “sign-in” and give accurate information when they do. In our firm, we addressed this by developing a proprietary system for “Digital Open House Registration” that makes it easy for visitors to register, verifies their contact info, and rewards them with immediate access to lots of information on the property, the neighborhood, the surrounding area and more. 

As a result, our agents often have 100 percent of visitors’ register and, therefore, have the opportunity to follow up and nurture the relationship. We have also captured their info in our lead management system as well and established an account for them on our primary search site, StLouisRealEstateSearch.com.

The above are just a few examples of what we do in our firm, MORE, REALTORS, but all use the blue ocean strategy approach. 

Could Zillow or any of the other giants do the things I’ve described? Sure they could. They have the resources, and if they wanted to, they could get hyperlocal and really drill down to the “localness” that we do.

Can local competitors, other brokers and agents do this? Sure they can, and some do. However, everything I’ve described here takes a fair amount of work, focus and persistence, and a lot of people won’t do it. Or if they did, they wouldn’t stick with it long enough to succeed.

You’ll notice nothing I have mentioned is a “shiny thing” or “silver bullet” that you can just sign up, pay $97 a month for and be set.  

A blue ocean strategy isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Are you doing something to change up your lead generation strategy? We want to hear about it! Reach out, and let us know that you’d like to share in a future column. 

Dennis Norman is the broker-owner of MORE, REALTORS in St. Louis, Missouri. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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