Back in 2008, Seth Godin, “America’s Greatest Marketer,” spoke to a group of real estate agents and offered a way to build assets for the long term. He calls it “micro-specialization.”
The days of the generalist – being everything to everyone – are over, he claims, and it’s time for real estate agents to start taking marketing cues from the big guns in corporate America.
The most effective weapon of all is target marketing – identifying, targeting and owning a smaller and more profitable clientele. It’s not an easy process and it doesn’t yield overnight results. But if you’re looking for long-term success and a chance to get off the “chasing after business” wheel, choosing a real estate specialty might be the answer for you.
Consider the size of your market and whether you need to specialize to stand out. Focusing on a very specific niche may work well in Boston or San Francisco, but if you work in Albuquerque or Cheyenne it may narrow the top of your funnel too much, and the brand benefit you get may be washed out by shrinking the size of your potential audience.
Historically, real estate agents have had a pack mentality. Although this has lessened in the past few years, it’s still largely true. They drive the same cars, have similar, vanilla business cards with vague taglines and advertise their listings the same way. Stepping away from the herd is frightening to many agents – especially veterans. The fear of alienating even one client by being boldly different is what keeps so many agents in the middle of the pack.
The fear also comes from the thought of, as Godin says, burning all other bridges but one or two. In other words, instead of being a jack of all trades and master of none, you’ll focus on one (maybe two) specialties within the real estate industry, to the exclusion of all others. Yup, you’ll need to step away from the masses and become memorable.
Panicked? That’s ok. Let’s take a walk through niche-land and see if we can’t take some of the fear out of the prospect of micro-specialization.
Here’s the scenario: You’re an agent who specializes in condos in south Boston. Last year, 465 condo units sold, with an average sales price of $382,283. This represents an average commission of about $11,469 per side.
Assume you’re a generalist, chasing after every lead you can. What are the chances that you’ll get even one of these condo sides? What are the chances that someone seeking a condo agent will find you in the sea of other agents? Hit or miss, right?
But what if condos were the sole focus of your business and you owned the brand as the condo expert in the area? What if you targeted condo owners and buyers to the exclusion of everyone else?
Let’s be conservative and say that you only close one condo deal a month. That’s about $11,000 a month, give or take a few dollars. Of course, the more you become known as the condo expert, the more buyers and sellers will seek you out and you’ll do far more than one side a month.
The sweet spot here is that your days of chasing leads are over.
Ken DeLeon is the top real estate agent in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal and Real Trends, Inc. He reached this pinnacle by understanding that, in order to compete with the other 700 agents in his city for the 400 to 500 homes that sold each year, he needed to stand out. He became the leading luxury home agent in his area with a specific clientele (a double niche). His efforts paid off and he figures he sells about 12 percent of available homes.
A sort of back-end advantage with specializing in a niche is how it helps you get clear on your brand and the ease it provides in building and reinforcing it. Immediately upon settling on a niche, you know who your audience is. That’s almost three-fourths the battle in branding.
Let’s suppose you’ve decided to specialize in real estate for veterans. Wham! Instantly you’ve got your target audience, right down to the age range. You know that most of them are men, you know that most of them are easy to finance, and you know that many new veterans are eager to use their benefits.
Instead of marketing yourself as “Your-Hometown- Realtor®-Who-Blends-in-with-Everyone-Else,” you are now the area’s “VA Specialist.” Now you’re attracting prospects instead of chasing leads.
Longtime blogger and real estate broker Geordie Romer says that “If you serve five counties, four congressional districts and three area codes, I would argue that you aren’t a ‘local expert’ in much of anything.”
He found his niche by looking around at who wasn’t being served in his small community (golf course homes), bought a few “relevant URLs” and plastered them with content.
He now shows up on the first page of Google results for that particular community. For the first five years in the niche, he and his wife sold one-third of the properties in the golf community. For the past two years, they’ve sold two-thirds of them.
You can follow Romer’s lead and look around for an underserved market, or approach it more methodically. Make a list of all the niches that come to mind. Here are a few examples you might want to consider:
It helps if the niche you choose is also something you’re passionate about or feel that you can develop a passion for.
To stay top-of-mind with your target client requires consistent, focused marketing. Build an entire brand around your chosen niche so that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that you are the expert. Here are a few items that should be done right away:
Blending in with all the other real estate general practitioners in your area makes you invisible, according to Godin. Choose a niche, establish yourself as the expert and dominate it.
Real life examples always make these articles so much better. Thanks for sharing the inspiring story, it’s motivating!
Thank you Shannon for this great article. I’m a brand new agent trying to figure out where to start rather than blindly follow the typical approaches.
The niche concept really resonates with me. I had come across it while I was studying to become a Realtor and came across your article today while digging for more on the subject.
I especially liked the examples of niches you site and the branding aspects you suggest.
Niches are truly where its at, and one of the easiest ways to rise to the top–both in your field and in SEO.
Great article. Have been preaching this for years. Nobody listens. They are afraid of not appealing to somebody that they will never do business with any way.