In this advice column, Marketing Mastermind Christy Murdock Edgar answers three burning questions from the real estate industry at large. This time, we’ll look at some tried-and-true geographic farming methods and how to take them to the next level.

September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.

In this advice column, Marketing Mastermind Christy Murdock Edgar answers three burning questions from the real estate industry at large. This time, we’ll look at some tried-and-true geographic farming methods and how to take them to the next level.

Alvin Newton

In their Inman Connect Now session “Tips for Becoming a Neighborhood Expert,” REAL Marketing’s David Collins and Alvin Newton offered advice and insight on establishing and nurturing an effective geographic farming program. Their innovative strategies are valuable, whether you’re trying to establish yourself in a new market or just raise your profile in your current farming area.

What are homeowners looking for in a listing agent, and how can I differentiate myself effectively?

According to Collins, the National Association of Realtors recently interviewed almost 5,000 homeowners to get the answer to this question. Their top four responses?

  • No. 4: Effective communication that is client-centered. According to Collins, one of the worst mistakes agents make is calling from an office phone and leaving a cell phone number. That forces the potential client to write down the cell number rather than just calling back directly. That extra step can make leads more reluctant to return the call.
  • No. 3: International exposure. This is especially necessary when marketing luxury properties or properties in highly desirable metropolitan areas and resort communities.
  • No. 2: Negotiation skills. According to Collins, because this is a hard question to answer, homeowners might try to learn about your ability to negotiate in other ways. For example, when a potential client asks you to reduce your commission, he or she might be waiting to see how you will negotiate. If you readily agree, you might show them that you are unwilling to negotiate, even on your own behalf. Collins also suggests changing your language from “I sold a house” to “I negotiated a sale.” Remind the lead two or three times in the listing presentation that you value and are good at negotiation.
  • No. 1:  Neighborhood expert. The single most commonly asked question in listing presentations, according to Collins, is: “Have you ever sold anything in this neighborhood?” Being perceived as the neighborhood expert is essential to differentiating yourself from the competition.

How can I show my neighborhood focus online?

According to NAR’s statistics, only 5 percent of sellers choose an agent solely from an online search. Instead, 95 percent of sellers choose someone they know or are familiar with because of his or her work in their neighborhood, and then they validate their choice through an online search.

Collins says that agents should not emphasize their work all over their metro area. Instead, emphasize your work within your specific farming area. Similarly, your website should focus on the neighborhood or neighborhoods you serve most often, not the fact that you work in a number of different markets.

Rather than a home search function, it is more important to offer home valuations. That allows you to capture information from your target market and the sellers there. Because 67 percent of sellers buy their subsequent house with their listing agent, you will not miss out on buyers when you forego an IDX search platform.

On the social media front, REAL Marketing uses Facebook ad targeting to drive traffic to the agent’s website. Targeting can be narrowed down to the specific geographic area that you are attempting to reach, keeping you top-of-mind in the neighborhood where you are putting your farming efforts.

How can I use direct mail to position myself as a neighborhood expert?

David Collins

Collins says that direct mail is the most effective way to target potential sellers and position yourself as a neighborhood expert. Web and social media do not drive print; print drives them.

Here are the four qualities that an effective direct mail strategy will employ.

  1. Consistency: Consistent direct mail marketing over time works. If you’re not consistent, you are reduced to looking for a magic bullet to reach potential clients in your target market.
  2. Quality over quantity: Collins says that agents will spend money on a top-of-the-line automobile to make a great first impression, then buy the cheapest postcards possible for direct mail. Your real first impression is likely through your mailing, so buy the highest quality you can afford. Unprofessional mail gets unprofessional results.
  3. Relevant real estate information: Collins views gimmicky postcards — those with recipes, reminders or other content — as ineffective. So are postcards that are all about the agent. Mailers should focus on market reports with relevant information about real estate in the community you’re farming to position you as the neighborhood real estate expert.
  4. Variable data: Mailers should be personalized with the homeowner’s name. This makes marketing seven times more effective according to Collins.

Great direct mail will include a recognizably community-specific photo, the name of the neighborhood or community, and personalization for the homeowner. According to REAL Marketing, these elements can increase ROI by 500 percent.

Do you have questions for the Marketing Mastermind? Send them here.

Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on  FacebookTwitterInstagram  and YouTube.

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