Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on specializing in the real estate industry. Read Part 1 here.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
When Robert Frost penned those iconic words, he most likely he wasn’t referring to the real estate industry … though Frost was friends with many Massachusetts-area real estate agents at the time. Indeed, he once wrote in his notebook the story of a pair from Greenwich Village who rode with a real estate agent pretending to look for farmland to purchase but who were “in reality looking for fine old New England interior to admire,” but I will save that for a future story on prequalifying buyers.
In part one of this three part series on real estate branding, I examined the pros and cons of both the generalist and specialist approaches. The fact is that when it comes to branding and strategic business planning, the majority of real estate agents choose a generalist approach rather than opting to be a specialist. As such, for part two let’s take a walk down the road less traveled by — the specialist route.
Everyone is unique, but some are more unique than others
Congratulations! You’ve decided to become a specialist. Real estate is about location, location, location, so it’s unsurprising that most specializing agents choose to become an “expert” in their neighborhood of choice. Meanwhile, agents who have been licensed for a few years should look at their past history of sales to determine how to specialize. However, if you’re new in the business, choosing a specialty can be an extremely daunting task. In the majority of markets, neighborhoods already have their “expert” … or at least someone advertising themselves to be. What then? Opportunity, in many cases.
As human beings we are all inherently unique, but we do have tendencies to follow the herd. Simply saying you’re unique won’t have impact if it’s not truly the case: Did you ever notice many nonconformists dress the same way? Exactly. Likewise, having a website with a page featuring a neighborhood summary written a few years ago does not an expert make. Having the road map is essential for everything that follows to pay off. Research. Plan. Craft. Execute. Then monitor the results.
Your goal shouldn’t be to become a specialist, it should be to become a Specialist2. A Specialist2 takes his planning to another level from the textbook methods agents have used to be an area expert for decades (direct mail pieces to a “farm area,” cold calls, etc). Those methods do still work well, but a Specialist2 will embrace new technologies, new ideas and think outside the proverbial box to really set himself apart.
Don’t be content with run-of-the-mill content
When working with new agents, I’ll suggest that when they’re on a listing consultation, the first question they should ask the seller is why they purchased that particular property. If they love the kitchen, chances are that’s why the next person will buy the same home. Ask yourself, “Why would I want to live in X neighborhood?” Picking a neighborhood where you live is a huge plus, as it not only gives you instant credibility, it makes the content curation process much easier.
Once you’ve asked the question, “Why would I want to live here?” it’s time to go to work! Craft content that will tell clients and prospective clients about that area. Here are some ideas:
- Statistics about the real estate market in that community are a good place to start, as real estate is an investment. Know the history, the hot price bands, types of properties and determine where you expect the market to go going forward.
- Take that data and create bite-sized pieces of content. Infographics are a fantastic method of doing this … highlight the top five neighborhoods in the market area you’re specializing in, the top five price categories, etc. Then do it next month, and the next month, etc. Cross-promote this data by adding these to your Pinterest account and then sharing those posts across various social networks. You don’t have to just use stats — create infographics for your own personal market area “best of” awards featuring local businesses.
- Video is extremely powerful. Create a YouTube account with a channel focusing on each neighborhood. Fill the channel with videos from local news outlets, area bloggers, community websites, etc., that highlight the neighborhood or the schools and businesses within it.
- If you can’t find videos, create your own! Apps like Videolicious and YouTube Capture make this incredibly easy. Show off the neighborhood by creating local restaurant reviews, news updates, video tours of the area parks, footage showing off neighborhood festivals, or video testimonials you’ve captured of happy clients saying why THEY chose to live there.
- Having a Facebook business page that is focused on the community has propelled many agents’ incomes. Often these pages are created to be a one-stop source for information that at first glance doesn’t appear to be curated by a real estate professional. As Facebook tightens organic reach, I expect we will see less of this strategy, but there are still good opportunities to be had if you do elect to advertise. Share discounts from area businesses, upcoming event information, hyperlocal news and information with the occasional real estate post (remember the 80-20 rule). If you don’t wish to go “all in” with a community page, you can certainly share the same types of content on your “regular” real estate business page.
Give more, ask for less
How you craft and deliver your messaging and content is extremely important, but don’t neglect the human element. Volunteer in the community. It will make you feel good, you’ll meet a lot of people, and it shows that you care about the market you serve.
Budget for sponsorships when crafting your business plan. Put your money where your message is, then cheer on the people benefiting from that sponsorship. Be careful how you publicize these civic good deeds, however, as you want the public’s voice — not just your own voice — singing your praises.
You can make being a local expert more than a phrase on your business cards. Specialization by market area is not a new concept, but the opportunities for you to do it better than anyone else are limited only by your imagination. If you don’t feel this approach is right for you, then stay tuned for part three where we’ll look at how to turn your passions into profit by expanding your horizons on what specialization can mean.
Bret Calltharp works as business development specialist for the Metro Vancouver Properties Group, a 10-office Re/Max franchise in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can connect with him on Google Plus, Twitter or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.