The residential real estate professional’s sole job is to market – either a home to potential purchasers, or a buyer to a homeowner. Isn’t it amazing, then, that there is almost a complete lack of creativity when it comes to how the typical real estate professional markets his or her own business?
The typical real estate agent starts her career with a box of business cards and a pat on the head from a broker who tells her to bounce down the street and make money. Granted, those first few years are tough. There’s little money and no training on how to run a business, so most agents fall into a trap of just doing what everyone else does.
The fear of alienating even one prospect keeps most real estate agents glued into a vanilla marketing plan that bears little, if any, difference to most of the other agents’ in town. The thought of stepping out into the spotlight is frightening – so much so that most agents are content to sit in the shadows.
Ken DeLeon knows what it takes to stand out from the crowd. The Wall Street Journal crowned him the number one agent in the country – out of one million agents – in 2011. DeLeon didn’t get there by being a wallflower, by blending in with the mass of other Silicon Valley real estate professionals.
In DeLeon’s city there are 700 agents clamoring to list and sell 400 to 500 houses. “I realized that since I wanted to be distinct, I needed to do something bold.” And bold he was. He took out a two-page ad in the local paper, dressed up as the Village People, and sang S-O-L-D to the tune of “Y-M-C-A.”
“I became so distinctive and memorable that people started calling,” DeLeon continues. This boldness led to him selling 12 percent of all available homes in his area.
DeLeon also provides potential clients massive, 200-page neighborhood guides, packed with market statistics. He holds what are arguably the best open houses in Northern California – fully catered affairs that include the services of a barista.
Overall, luxury homeowners in Silicon Valley know they’ll get an expert marketing plan for their homes, from an agent who doesn’t hesitate to spend the money required to attract the right buyers.
Be Quietly Effective
Don’t have an outrageous bone in your body? You might be surprised at what you can do to distinguish yourself from the other agents in your area –simple things, free things – that the majority of other agents just don’t do.
While you don’t have to dress up like a disco character, you do need to be willing to think differently or, as Emerson said, “Turn your eyes upside down, by looking at the landscape through your legs.”
Look around. Find a real estate task that you can perform better than everyone else in your area, and become amazing at it. For instance, other agents hold open houses – make yours more memorable. Some agents return phone calls, but you might make it a point to return them within an hour of receiving them and let everyone know that you do. Kick your broker’s opens into high gear to slow down agents as they tour a hard-to-sell listing.
While these seem tame, if done consistently, they’ll work as word-of-mouth marketing. Trust me – few agents return phone calls within an hour.
Make it a point to connect with prospects in a way that is convenient and meaningful to them, not you. Then do it consistently.
The Top Producer
Many new agents have no choice but to model their businesses after those of the other agents in their office. If I were to do it all over again, I’d sign up with the broker that oversees the number one agent in town. I’d glue myself to that agent until I had absorbed every last bit of marketing know-how she had.
We called that top agent “the listing pig” because of the sheer volume of listings she carried every month. You’ve got one of those in your town too – that agent who has his face plastered on billboards, bus backs and shopping carts. This is the agent whose name comes to mind first when someone thinks of real estate in your town. This is the agent who has successfully branded herself as the area expert and leader.
How did this happen? Typically, this agent is a veteran who has been serving your town for a long time – someone like Martin Levy, who works in the beautiful Sonoma County wine country, north of San Francisco.
Levy knew when he got his license that he’d need to stand out from all the other agents in town if he hoped to be successful. He toyed with a number of different marketing ideas and finally decided to do a mass mailing. With limited funds, it seemed to him to be the best use of his money. With his wife’s approval, he maxed out their sole credit card to pay for his initial marketing push. The mailing, of course, brought in enough clients to pay for itself several times over, and Levy has never looked back.
Flash forward 35 years. His face is splashed on local billboards and his name is a household word. He averages 135 transactions a year. During the tail end of the recession, however – from 2009 to 2011 – that number increased to 222 per year. Levy has produced $1.6 billion dollars during his entire real estate career.
I know what you’re thinking: What’s so creative about a direct mail campaign? The point isn’t the creativity of the campaign Levy chose, it’s the fact that he began thinking creatively right out of the gate.
He knew he needed to do something to get his name in front of consumers – something to make him stand out from all the other agents in Sonoma County. Not only did he understand this marketing fundamental, he wasn’t afraid to spend the money it took to do it, even down to his family’s last penny.
Don’t Be Average
Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta distills the traits of most successful people down to one: “the willingness to challenge mainstream ideas.” He goes on to explain that to be successful requires the ability to not only question what others do, but the courage to try new ideas, different ideas.
When you’re brave enough to stand out from the masses, eschewing the safe route, you avoid being average. Instead, you innovate, pioneer, discover and invent the real estate business of your dreams.
So what are you afraid of? What stops you from pushing the boundaries in your marketing efforts?