Ask around. What are people saying in YOUR neighborhood farm area? Chances are, if you’re not staying in touch this month, this season – or even this year, what they won’t be saying is that you’re the agent to call for all their real estate needs! How can you turn that around and start making the right impression and earning the business of your farm area? Let’s take a look at what three top agents are consistently doing “right” to successfully brand themselves as the “Neighborhood Specialist” in their market areas.
In this article we catch up with veteran real estate professionals, Denise Buscemi, Antony Francis and Karen Marshall to learn some of their best practices (and throw in a few of our own) for becoming and staying the top “Neighborhood Specialist” in your market area.
What’s interesting to note is that our guests have a combined total of 55 years in the industry between them, so it’s safe to say they’ve probably walked in your shoes before, regardless of how long you’ve been in the business. They’re also some of the first to encourage agents of every business tenure to “keep learning, keep marketing and stay focused.”
Size of sphere or farm: How big of a farm or neighborhood should you market? Denise Buscemi, through most of her career kept tabs on a farm of about 5000, but has since pared that down to 2500 which includes her sphere of influence since taking over as managing broker for her Century 21 Sterling office in Port Jefferson Station, New York. She had this to share, “Most of my time is spent recruiting, training and managing now, but I still feel that it’s important to maintain and take care of my client base. I usually recommend new agents start building their farm area to about 250, and experienced, full-time agents should consider working towards maintaining a farm of at least 1,000.”
Tony Francis with Charles Rutenberg Realty, got his start back in 1990 and took a detour into the speaking industry from 1996-2003, speaking for the Floyd Wickman organization and Realtor.com. He’s since found himself back to his real estate roots in the great state of Florida and has branded himself as the turn-to agent for the Trinity area. “My main focus is the Foxwood area of about 900 homes. It’s part of Trinity which encompasses more than 10,000 homes. I always advise agents to find a core group to focus on, and expand from there where it makes geographic, demographic, and of course, economic sense for them to do so. That way, you can really create a presence in an area, with your signs, brochure boxes and advertising without trying to take that ‘shotgun’ approach to your marketing.”
Karen Marshall of Keller Williams in Pittsburgh and her team successfully navigate a database of more than 10,000, and uses a system of referral name recognition to effectively communicate with 500-1,000 regularly. In fact, contrary to the woes cried by agents across the nation, Karen has not seen a drop in production and she and her team are celebrating “a fabulous first half of the year.” What’s her secret to success? “Never stop marketing!”
Keep in mind you don’t have to start with a 500, 1,000, 2,000 or more – you just have to start! After all, as in wise words of Zig Ziglar, “If we don’t start, it’s certain we can’t arrive!”
How to find the right neighborhood or farm area: If you’re new, pick an area that REALLY interests you, dig in and learn about the community, the people, the surrounding businesses and the culture. Then make it your own and then start expanding. If you’ve been in the business for a while now and have NOT yet begun to build and maintain a working database/customer base – let today be the day you start. Too many in our industry leave with nothing to show for it – don’t let that be you!
Mrs. Buscemi recommends that agents target a town or part of a town they want to establish themselves in. “You have to be passionate about it. In order to really be successful, you have to really have a connection and a commitment to that community. I ask my agents to designate 75% of their efforts to the top 10% of that market share, and then blanket the rest for the lower tiered homes. Once you’ve established yourself in that top 10%, then everyone knows your name.”
It’s no surprise that Tony and Karen both echoed similar sentiments. As with any effective branding effort, becoming the neighborhood specialist means you have to jump in with both feet and commit to being the resource for those consumers who make up your target market. Not just to gain their business, but because you believe you are the best person for the job and able to provide a level of service like no other. “You have to be genuine,” said Mr. Francis. “If you’re not authentic in your purpose, it shows and especially in today’s market, people don’t want, nor do they have to work with people who are less than the real deal.”
Little things mean a lot – and add up to big business: I am always thrilled to see agents putting best practices into play, showing true tenacity and taking a walk on the creative side! When it comes to building trust, increasing your image, and really getting to know the community members in your farm, little things really do mean a lot. “In addition to our monthly mailings,” shared Denise, “we also get the kids and actually ‘walk the farm’ about four times a year with a gift, a giveaway or some small token and a chance to meet and talk to people one-on-one. We tape flyers to mailboxes, put flags in the yard for holidays such as Flag Day or Independence Day, and in the summer I like to use the Neighborhood Update flyer from my software and tape it to those neon colored plastic sand shovels I can get from the novelty store with a note saying, ‘here’s the scoop from your 110% Realtor!’ That ALWAYS gets calls! Some agents use seed packets in the spring for their farms, or trick or treat bags at Halloween. Whatever you do, it’s important to just get out there, have fun, be creative and meet the people!”
Tony Francis takes that to heart as well. “I look at starting a new farm much like you would if you were opening up a restaurant or a new store. Your job the first few years is to really get noticed and make a name for yourself. It’s then when you have to use bigger ads, contact the homeowners more, and be very visible. For example, I put ads in the Homes magazines, featured the properties on Realtor.com, and put ads and information in the community newsletters as well as my monthly mailings to the homeowners. I make sure the magnets are always on the car, and people see me and my brand every day as I’m out and about! I also believe you really have to GET INVOLVED. It goes back to that genuineness. Get involved in the kid’s schools, become a business partner. That’s good for them and for you. Every year I do the Spring Fling or the Fall Festival or the Winter Carnival – whatever event needs sponsoring. It’s great exposure, and an opportunity to open lines of communication with people. Holding buyer’s and seller’s workshops is another great way to offer valuable information to your farm area and get tremendous results in return. We used to hold them every two weeks and we’d have around 30 people at each event. We’d convert about 30% of those. Another good idea is to work with those people other agents are unwilling or unable to work with. How many agents do you know that DON’T follow up on open house leads? Offer them $100 for every lead that turns into something. It’s a great way to build your business, and make sure that the customer is getting the service they want and deserve!” Tony took it a step further as well. He jumped in and organized the Trinity Business Association for those people who live and work in his farm area. He’s created the neighborhood groups on Facebook and has seen his “friendships” really grow as he helps everyone stay better connected in his community!
Consider helping out at block parties, community block parties, firework celebrations and more. Send out newsletters that offer ideas and solutions people can use as well as present yourself as the expert they can turn to with current, relevant and timely information each and every month.
Best advice for agents? “Make a plan and commit to the plan,” said Denise. “Then invest a little money in smart tools that help you get where you need to go. It’s really amazing how much you can lose when you STOP doing all these things. I used to maintain 25% of that market area using this program, and I stopped doing all these important things for a while when I took over management. It’s funny, getting back to it now I’ve just picked up ten new listings in the last couple weeks because of it. So, just do it!” Karen shared that sentiment, “Stop talking about what you need to do and just do it! There’s enough business out there for everyone! Invest in yourself and your business. This makes it simple, easy to do and really, you can’t afford NOT to!” Tony added, “Just get involved. Become a member of the association, join the PTA, get out in the neighborhoods, talk to people and start building those relationships. They really will follow you throughout your career!”
Please join me in giving a big THANK YOU to our guest specialists this month, Denise Buscemi in Port Jefferson Station, NY, Antony Francis in Palm Harbor/Tampa, Florida, and Karen Marshall in the Pittsburgh area! If you’ve got a referral in any of those areas that need EXTRA special attention, these three are the agents to call!
Now get out there and start branding yourself as the turn-to agent in your neighborhood of choice so that next time someone is asked, “Who’s your neighborhood specialist?” They’ll know EXACTLY who to name!
Julie Escobar, Director of Corporate Marketing for ProspectsPLUS! has more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience in the sales, marketing and speaking industries. With access to some of the top speakers in the industry and a belief that with the right attitude, tools, techniques and strategies, almost anyone can succeed, she’s happy to help you determine what the right course of action is for you or your organization.