Here’s the blueprint for creating visibility, credibility and potential sales in your targeted areas
By Heather R. Johnson
Illustration by Jojo Ensslin
Farming – marketing yourself and your business to a specific area – has been a real estate staple for decades. Even in our fast-paced, social media world, some of the most basic elements – direct mail, community involvement, expertise, a smile – are as valuable as ever for agents of any experience level.
Meet three dynamic top-producers – two of them fairly new to the business – who’ve farmed their way to greater results.
• Wally Hughes, a Lifetime Achievement Award winner with RE/MAX Commonwealth in Richmond, Virginia, who joined the network in 1992
• Lisa Groth, a Platinum Club member with RE/MAX Professionals in Anthem, Arizona – near Phoenix – who joined the network in 2013, the year she was licensed; her sales have steadily climbed ever since, “mostly due to farming,” she says.
• David Pellettier, a Diamond Award Club and Hall of Fame member with RE/MAX Real Estate (Central) in Calgary, Alberta, who just completed his fifth year in the business; he joined the network in 2011, the year he was licensed
Here are their tips and insights:
1. Choose your farm wisely
Select an area you know and like, whether it’s your own neighborhood or a new subdivision. “You have to like your target area, because as you build your reputation, you’ll want to stay a long time and keep it going,” Hughes says.
Agents new to farming might start with an area of about 500 homes and plan to expand it as business increases. Pellettier’s first farm in 2013, was about 600 homes, and it grew pretty quickly as his visibility, sales and budget all increased. He now farms almost 8,000 homes in several areas where he maintains market share of 10 to 25 percent.
I’m a newer agent, but clients don’t ask how long I’ve been in the business. When they see my direct mail pieces, they know I’m a pro. Lisa Groth
Pelletier favors farm areas that have a 5-8 percent turnover rate. If the figure is lower than that, sales may not sustain a strong return on investment. He also measures the competition before he takes an area on. “If another agent has 10 or 12 percent of the market, it’s going to be more difficult to penetrate,” Pellettier says. “Sometimes it’s better to look elsewhere.”
2. Set your farming budget
Allocate enough marketing budget to hit your farm at least once a month. At first, Groth budgeted about 10 percent of her net for a color, two-page newsletter she mailed monthly to 600 households in a Phoenix neighborhood.
In her first year, Groth brought in $5 or $6 for every dollar she spent. And as her business grew, her ROI increased. “The longer you farm, the less you’re going to spend because more people start knowing your name,” she says. “And when they see it repeatedly, they know you’re there to stay.” The second year, she expanded to another key neighborhood, giving her 1,200 homes total.
3. Market yourself consistently
Connect regularly with the people in your farm. You’re building your personal brand and creating relationships. That takes time.
Pellettier became the dominant agent in his farms through communications that were consistent in both timing and message.
“Maintaining consistency can be a challenge; it’s harder than it might sound,” he says. “I want people to know me and know what they can expect from me.”
Like Groth and Hughes, Pellettier sends out high-quality monthly newsletters that include local market reports and information about featured listings information. People in the farms now expect them – and the regular cadence builds both credibility and visibility. Other efforts – postcards, open house and for-sale signs, targeted ads – supplement the newsletters.
Hughes makes the most of face-to-face time, too. He regularly bumps into current or prospective clients at the grocery store, and makes it a point to remember names and details. He also walks the area regularly, becoming a friendly face people know and trust. His exchanges are generally more social or personal, with no mention of real estate. But the question often comes: “How’s the market?” And he’s always ready with the answer.
4. Stand out from the crowd
You have to commit to your farming. And your touches – whatever they are – must stand out from the competition. “There’s no use doing it halfway,” Hughes says. “Spend your money on high-quality pieces.”
Groth’s newsletters give her an edge in listing presentations. “I show clients the high-quality advertising we use to promote our listings,” she says. “I’m a newer agent, but clients don’t ask how long I’ve been in the business. When they see my direct mail pieces, they know I’m a pro.”
Intimate knowledge about your farm also helps separate you from the pack. Groth is ready to assist farm residents with anything from remodeling decisions to finding a babysitter.
“I check inventory stats daily, and people know they can get great, reliable information from me,” she says. “Even if they just want to know what granite to buy for their kitchen, I’m happy to help. I know what will make a home stand out.”
With strategic thinking and a long-term commitment, you can cultivate a geographic farm that yields a bumper crop of sales.
“Farming increases my business and saves me a tremendous amount of time,” Groth says. “There’s nothing better than that.”