No cash? Don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to establish yourself as a new agent and make connections without spending a lot. Coach Darryl Davis shares his top ideas.

This April, one of Inman’s most popular recurring theme months returns: Back to Basics. All month, real estate professionals from across the country share what’s working for them, how they’ve evolved their systems and tools, and where they’re investing personally and professionally to drive growth in 2022. It’s always smart to go Back to Basics with Inman.

Looking for more advice? Check out Inman’s New Agent Essentials.

Building a brand isn’t easy. Building a brand with little to no budget feels almost impossible. When I started in this business, I was 19 with little to my name, not a whole lot of faith in myself, and certainly not a stash of cash.

What I did have was time, a belief in our industry, and a commitment to helping as many people as I could. In my head and heart, I knew that was the foundation for a career. As your business grows, your budget will as well. Until then, let’s look at some things you can do to help you build a brand, cultivate customer and community relationships, and initiate influence in your market area. 

7 ideas to get you started 

1. Door-knocking

Not every agent is a fan, and that’s good news for you. Door-knocking takes work, time and courage. It’s not easy for some people to knock on a door and introduce themselves. Remember to practice door-knocking in a safe and organized way. 

When you come from a place of service and decide to commit an afternoon to walk your farm, you might be surprised by the results. One of our coaching members did this recently and came away with four listing appointments. 

Introduction Option 1:

“Hi! My name is _____. This is the community I serve, and I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know that I am here to serve you.”

Introduction Option 2:

“Market changes have spurred a lot of questions about home value, and I am happy to answer any questions you might have and provide you with a market analysis if you like. I care about this community and all of its homeowners. What do you need? How can I help?” 

2. Sphere of influence calls

 It costs you nothing extra to contact the people that already know you, trust you, and would do business with you. From past clients to friends to family, now is the time to reach out with phone calls to let people know that markets are shifting and that you are there for them.

The conversation might sound something like this:

“Hi It’s Darryl Davis, how are you? I just wanted to take a minute to call and see how you’re doing.”

There’s so much change in the market which has a lot of people asking what that change means for them, for their real estate investments, and their buying and selling power.

“If you have any of those questions, or if there is anything I can do for you during these crazy times, I’m here to help.”

Then let the conversation unfold. You’re not calling to get an appointment. You’re calling to cultivate connection, build relationships and let people know you are at their service. That will go a long way to establishing your reputation and making you memorable, and the added bonus will be the extra business it will produce. 

3. Market presence

I love when I see agents getting out and about in their markets. From the agent who spotlights local restaurants in social media live videos or posts to the one in Starbucks with an “Ask Me About Real Estate” sticker on their laptop.  Other agents always wear their name tags and get stopped by a stranger in the grocery store with a question, and then many agents take part in local events such as park days, 5Ks or school spring festivals — these agents get that they are their brand.

Local restaurants and business owners will appreciate the gesture and often return the favor. Local coffee shops are a great part-time “office” with foot traffic. Wearing your name badge gives you brand recognition anywhere you go. Participating in and supporting local events and schools creates an inside track that can help you expedite your brand awareness.

 Get out there. Let people see your face, get to know your name, and connect the dots that you are the real estate resource to contact.   

4. Digital farming

I love “Facebook farming.”  Facebook farming is free, sets you up as an expert and service-minded professional, and helps to make you a local hero. Here’s how it works: Find the community page of the farm area you are marketing to. For example, I live in Wading River, New York. There’s a Wading River Shoreham Facebook Group that I belong to. Just like there is probably a [fill in your community name] Facebook Group that you can belong to. Search for it. Join it.

Then take 10-15 minutes every morning or evening or when it’s convenient for you and participate in it. Someone’s dog is missing? Offer to help. Someone needs the number for a trusted plumber/landscaper/whatever — share your sources. Someone’s kid is having a lemonade stand — head over and buy the whole pitcher’s worth.

My rule of thumb is that for every six to eight shares, help you offer, and social post you do, you can share something about real estate. Don’t flood it with new listings or sales, but instead offer items of value like a Neighborhood Market Report, Over the Phone Market Analysis, Buying Guide or Selling Guide.

5. Open houses

This proven real estate marketing method is more valuable than ever.  One of our coaching members, Joanne Mills, likened open houses to “auditions.” A chance to make a positive impression on potential buyers and sellers and get noticed in a neighborhood farm. It’s a staple in her marketing plan, and even as a top producer, she still loves to host them herself.

I always recommend doing two versions. One for the neighbors, for which you would send a more formal-type invitation and assure neighbors that the owner won’t be home and you’ll be there to represent and answer any questions. This is a great way to weed out the “lookers” and “nosy neighbors” and more importantly, a chance to connect with those in the neighborhood who may be considering selling themselves and offering a free seller’s guide or market analysis or both.

For the community open house, be sure to have lots of signage, schedule your times to be different than every other open house, and consider teaming up with another agent so that you can create an elevated experience for visitors. 

6. Community outreach  

One very powerful way to get connected in your community is to get involved in charitable work. It provides a terrific opportunity to network with others, be active in your area in a positive and visible way, and even support your cause by donating a set fee or percentage of your commission for every transaction.  

7. Letters

While not zero budget, letters are an inexpensive yet effective way to “warm” what would otherwise be cold calls. When done in small batches, the cost is minimal and with the right follow-up, the rewards can be high.  Consider checking your MLS for Expireds every morning and sending letters to those homeowners three mornings a week. Then schedule a time to follow up on those letters three days later.

You can also send an introduction letter to the people in your farm area. Instead of sending to all, say, 400 in a community, send just 20 at a time so that you can follow up.  It would be the same with sending handwritten notes to your sphere.

One key to managing direct-mail results is following up. A mistake many agents make is sending one piece of mail to thousands at once with no ability or plan to follow up after. One and done doesn’t work. It never has. Instead, when your budget is low, consider small-batch mailings and calendar your follow-up calls. You’ll see far more results that way with a minimal output of cash. 

I have been coaching and training agents for more than 30 years, and I have always taught that agents shouldn’t spend money they can’t afford to — especially early on. I understand the concept of “you have to spend money to make money,” and I completely agree that it takes an investment of both time and money when you are growing your business to each new level.

I also believe that there are so many ways (like the seven above) to generate new business and spur growth without breaking the bank.  Get creative with your ideas, get courageous with your prospecting, and be consistent in your approach to building and branding. 

Darryl Davis is a speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of How to Become a Power Agent in Real Estate, as well as the CEO of Darryl Davis Seminars. He currently hosts weekly free webinars to help agents navigate market change and design careers worth smiling about. Learn more at his website or connect with him on Facebook or YouTube.

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