Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy: #8
#8 Create an Innovative Prospecting Plan for Your Target Market (eighth in a series)
So, it is essential that you determine how to differentiate yourself from other real estate professionals in your marketplace. How can you make yourself more appealing to potential clients than the other guys are? How can you grab consumers’ attention?
I’ve organized my recommendations into a four-step approach. (I do like to be organized!) Naturally, you should make detailed notes, as you go along.
First Step: Who’s Your Audience?
Never be afraid of the obvious; sometimes, secrets are hidden there.
Where do you hope to find sellers and buyers? Your “farm” and your Sphere of Influence, of course. Anywhere else? For example, are you trying to focus on one particular type of property, such as new homes or luxury homes or starter homes? Or, are you specializing in one particular consumer category, such as seniors or singles? Analyze the audience for your marketing efforts in a variety of ways, to make sure you have identified all of their key characteristics.
For each distinct audience group, list a number of descriptors and needs that make them different from each of the other groups. For example, those looking for a starter home may be seeking smaller homes in the lower quartile of your market. Affordability is key for them, as is ready access to transportation – whether mass transit or good roads – and, possibly, good schools. Usually, these will now be young adults with the preferred buying styles of Millennials.
Second Step: Why Would Anyone Choose You?
This step often makes people cringe; they hate analyzing themselves. In particular, many of us were raised to not “brag” about our positive qualities and accomplishments. For this exercise, you must banish all such reticence and take honest stock of who you are and what you have to offer.
Create a “Why Work with Me?” list. Include an appraisal of your skills, your values, and your personality, as well as your community activities and the way you prefer to work. Consider also your previous work experience. For many of us, real estate is a second, third, or fourth career. What strengths did you develop through past jobs?
Don’t rush through this activity; it’s worth the time you invest in it.
I suggest that you show a draft of your “Why Work with Me?” list to a very good friend, or to your spouse. That person may be able to suggest other characteristics that you have overlooked.
Third Step: What Can You Do, That Is Different?
A number of companies offer branded, “frequent-touch” marketing programs, to which you can subscribe. This is a simple way to maintain constant contact with your Sphere of Influence and the people in the markets you are targeting. Drawbacks of using these programs include cost and the impersonal nature of the communications.
If you are willing to invest the time to design your own marketing program, you can put your personal mark on marketing materials that will be far more effective than what you purchase.
As you design your prospecting strategy, consider the image you want to portray: how do you want to appear in person, in print, and online? Do you want to portray yourself formally (suit & tie)? As a modern professional (business casual)? As the “girl next door” (casual)? Your answer should reflect your marketplace: what will work best in that context?
Ensure that you incorporate a mix of contact methods, with an emphasis on face-to-face and digital communication, rather than print. I make this recommendation for two reasons: (1) face-to-face communications are still the most effective, and remain the only form of communication trusted by many members of older segments of the population; (2) digital communications are favored by the younger generations. These methods are also the most economical.
For each of the audience segments you identified in Step One, specify from 6 to 12 communications. Communications may be in the form of market-specific newsletters, personal letters, or cards (whether digital or print), as well as in-person visits and phone calls. Some may be the same for all audiences; others will be targeted to the specific group.
Here are just a few communication ideas: current market reports; seasonal greetings; today’s buyer “hot buttons”; link to a new blog post; staging tips (potentially several communications, focusing on exterior, main rooms, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, garage, and basement); government mortgage-assistance programs; relocation services; when to consider a short sale; invitation to a neighborhood Open House; featured property flyer; link to a virtual tour; offer to conduct a CMA; birthday / anniversary cards; and a seasonal gift – flags for Memorial Day, pumpkins for Thanksgiving, etc. (Such gifts are “corny,” perhaps, but are cheerful and usually generate a smile.)
Determine the sequence in which you would like to communicate the marketing messages, throughout the year. The sequence will be affected by local market seasonality and special holidays, but can otherwise be up to you.
CAVEAT: Ensure that every marketing communication you create has been proofread by someone. All of your work will be in vain, if what you write is riddled with syntactical and typographical errors.
Fourth Step: How Can You Manage the Work?
The primary effective strategy for managing a marketing campaign is breaking it into bite-sized chunks.
Start by quartiling your markets – dividing them into four segments. A segment may be market-specific, alphabetical by last name, geographical, social, or source-based.
Implement step 1 of your marketing plan (for example, hand-delivering a seasonal gift) with one quartile each month, for four months. During the next four-month period, implement step 2 (for example, making a personal phone call). Implement subsequent steps, in successive four-month periods. By following this plan, every individual will receive some kind of communication from you, every four months.
If your audience is smaller, say 300 or less, you can use three-month periods, and step up the frequency of contact.