I Don’t Have a Real Estate Specialist! What Are People in Your Farm Area Saying?

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!

Locating a Loft Conversion Specialist

A loft conversion is basically a process of converting a large space at the top of a house into fully functional and livable accommodation. If the work is completed to a high standard, the loft space is just waiting to be transformed into a spacious living room, bedroom, study or bathroom. If the attic space is big, then the loft conversion might often include a combination of these rooms.

Here are several points to consider when it comes to locating the loft conversion specialists:

Firstly, it is important to decide on the right construction company to help with planning such a significant home improvement project of this nature. If searching for the right builder, you don’t just want to rely on the large glossy ads in the local newspapers or Yellow Pages. It is often found that the best builders are found via personal referral or word of mouth. If you know anyone that has recently had a loft conversion completed on their property, then you can always ask them as to how the specialist loft company performed. If unable to get a personal referral, then you will need to go online and search the local companies that seem to have a lot of positive comments or testimonials next to their business name.

It helps to get multiple estimates. With several good estimates received, it often benefits to ask for at least three or four quotes from different companies, it will be possible to compare like-for-like to see which is able to offer the preferred service. It is important to consider several factors when it comes to deciding on the right estimate, and it is important to remember that the lowest quoted price doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the best. It will also help if you are able to determine that the figure quoted in the estimate is a fixed price, which means it is all-inclusive for the work that has acquired, and that no extras will be added on at a later date.

Any loft conversion company that has built up a reputation for offering quality service will be willing to supply a detailed estimate, which should lay out in detail the services that will be provided throughout the construction project. Beyond just the building stage of the loft conversion, many companies are able to also help in drawing up the necessary plans and to submit them to the local authorities for the planning consent, if applicable.

Getting Word-Of-Mouth Referrals for Your Therapy Or Coaching Practice – 5 Simple Tips to Remember

When was the last time you needed to find a service – plumber, accountant, dog-groomer, whatever? How did you go about it? If you’re like me, you turned to the web, but what do you do with all the results Google throws back to you? How do you choose the right one (or even a fairly good one)? Web searches are all very well, but it is even better when you can ask someone whose opinion you trust to recommend someone to you. And when you do and they enthuse about a service they have had, which way are you most likely to jump — the anonymous web search result, or the one recommended to you by someone who has had a positive experience of that service? That’s right, you go for the personal recommendation: the word-of-mouth referral.

When someone recommends a service to us, we feel relieved: we have someone’s personal experience of that service to guide us, and their positive experience can reassure us that when we choose to use them, our decision will be repaid by a similarly positive experience too.

That is great when it comes to that plumber or accountant. But how much better is it likely to be for someone feeling emotionally fragile or stuck in their life to be able to have a personalized recommendation that the therapist or coach they are thinking about approaching for help might be just the caring, empathetic and skilled professional they need? As you might imagine, the reassurance that a good word-of-mouth recommendation gives someone in this position is invaluable.

But how do you go about getting recommended?

Some will happen unprompted when former clients encounter family and friends who are looking for therapeutic support or coaching, but even in these circumstances, some people may not recommend you. Why? Well, they may not make the connection between their friend’s dilemma and your services, they may be of the opinion that clients have to be referred to you by a certain, circuitous route, or they simply do not wish to advertise the fact that they have had need for your services in the past. This latter point is understandable and one that you cannot do much about. But the other points can be addressed and it is worth building on the good therapeutic relationship you have with your clients to do so.

1. Just Ask

Quite simply, the best and easiest way to generate word-of-mouth referrals is to ask for them! Yes, even with therapy clients! If you have done a good piece of work and developed a good working relationship with your client, there is absolutely no reason for you not to bring your involvement to a close with this request: “If you know someone who you think might benefit from working with me, then please pass on my contact details.”

2. Happy clients want to give back

Satisfied clients often want to show their appreciation in some way, and if they think by passing your details on to others (which is a very easy thing for them to do), they can help you out, they will be delighted to do so. Let them know that you see clients with a range of concerns other than just whatever brought them to see you, and that you are happy to discuss things directly with potential clients in an initial contact call. Remind them also that all work they have done with you is confidential of course: this will reassure them that you are not going to discuss your work with them with anyone they refer.

3. Rewards

If you are working as a coach, you may want to encourage word of mouth referrals by offering discounts or extra sessions. For example, you might offer that anyone contacting you for coaching can benefit from a discount for their first session(s) if they say they have been referred by your former client, or you can suggest that for every word-of-mouth referral they make that turns into a client, you will offer the referrer an extra session free (or some variation on this). I would not offer this type of arrangement for therapy clients however as this is a very different type of interaction, and I do not believe that discounts or freebies are appropriate in the circumstances.

4. Spread the Word

It is not only former clients whose word-of-mouth is important. There are other situations where you can promote the fact that you are happy to receive enquiries based on recommendations. For example, if you attend networking meetings, always ensure that you give a brief explanation of the type of work you do, leave contacts with your business card and invite referrals.

Where you are present in an expert role, for example, if you are invited to speak to groups about your work (you can seek these out, by the way, you do not have to wait to be asked), this gives you a superb opportunity to promote your services. Make sure, as you bring your talk to a close, that you let your audience know that you are happy for them to recommend your work to anyone they encounter who might benefit from seeing you. It may sound obvious, but unless you ask explicitly, people may be reluctant to suggest your services if they think you might be too busy or too specialist. Make it clear that you are open to calls to discuss potential referrals.

5. Help Referrers feel they are helping others too

Help your former clients and/or audiences recognise that you can be a useful resource for them too. When they recommend your services, remind them that they are providing a really useful service and helping their friends or business contacts, which can allow them to feel good about themselves as facilitators.

Remember, ask and you will see those word-of-mouth referrals, the best kind, begin to grow.

Client Referral Generation – How To Get Automatic Leads

Client referrals have always formed the backbone of any successful financial planners strategy. A good method for referral generating can save you large amounts of money that would otherwise spent for advertising. There are proven strategies, sometimes specific, sometimes borrowed from other professions which will guarantee better results, and I’ll share some of them in this guide.

Remember to help – A large part of success is due to being sincere and honest. Focus on helping your clients, give them meaningful information, assist in creating bonds between them and getting them extra exposure.

Keep the referrer in the loop – You should look at your client relationships as lifetime partnerships. Keep in touch, know what are they doing at the present moment and keep them informed with your own undertakings as well. Make sure you always have a reason for contacting them, such as an advice or a recently acquired contact that they can benefit from. This way you’ll keep yourself in the picture and pave the way for getting a constant stream of referrals from many sources.

Ask the referrer to contact your prospect first – You’re much more likely to succeed if your prospect knows that you’ll be calling. This is not easy to achieve, as it involves active participation on the client’s side. A good way to break the ice in these situations is to ask for sending an e-mail or text message instead – electronic correspondence isn’t hardwired in people’s psyche as much as phone calls, and seems like much less effort in comparison – which it is.

Always carry a pen – You’ll notice many opportunities for new contacts through your daily business and personal life. Always have a pen and paper ready, and you’ll gain valuable leads. This practise alone is one of the biggest time savers and can lead to surprisingly rich outcomes.

Give meaningful, non-monetary gifts to be remembered – combine your promotion efforts with a referral generating strategy – give out personalized gifts such as pens, mugs, mouse pads etc. to your clients which will keep your name in front of them daily. Go one step further and personalise these – keep track of birthdays, anniversaries and notable events in your clients life. A warm and sincere congratulation engraved on these small gift can do wonders to the relationship, and it’s a smart way get yourself remembered.

Tell success stories – Your clients need to know that their help is going to be meaningful and will lead to a win-win situation for everyone involved. Voice your latest efforts and how they helped others. A subtle way of getting these messages through is via a newsletter or a recent client related success story on your website.

Remind the benefits – How does your client benefit from doing business with you? Make sure your clients will be able to answer this question to themselves in a matter of thought. Remind them about all the positives of your relationship, such as bringing up the topic of recent happenings with someone who you introduced them to or other related success.

Set up alliances with other professionals – Strive to become a one stop shop for your clients and have contact information ready for introducting other professionals. You’ll see that many of your clients will be looking for lawyers, mortgage specialists, real estate agents or other business owners whose work is largely based on referrals. Set up these alliances early and you’ll gain a huge stream of new contacts on a regular, day-to-day basis – you’d be a fool to pass such an opportunity.

Hold Client Appreciation Events – It’s a good way to introduce your clients to each other and create new business opportunities for them. Your best shot is to make the event pleasant, fun and constructive in character. If you can, bring a top-name speaker who will be addressing a memorable and useful topic. At the gathering, be the life of the party and give all your attention to your guests.

Get The Referrals You Want

From running business networking groups over the last few of years I have observed how the best networkers get the referrals they are looking for and how even good networkers fail on this front.

Some networking events give you the air time to deliver a 60 second or elevator pitch, your chance to state what contacts you are looking for. It is this opportunity that can make all the difference between you getting what you want or you leaving empty handed.

My first piece of business networking advice is consider some of the challenges you are faced with:

  • You have a very short time in which to capture the attention of your audience and motivate them to take action
  • There will be others presenting their own pitches who will in effect be ‘competing’ with you to get the to get the commitment of others round the table to spend their time helping you
  • People are always busy and are generally thinking about their own businesses
  • People need to have confidence in you or your services to refer you

So, in short you need to make it easy for others to help you

So, how do you make it easy for people to help you?

Quite simply, when you ask for a referral you need to be specific about the referral you want. This will focuses your audience’s attention and prompt them to take action.

And the more specific you can be the better. You may have an offering which could be bought by anyone, however, if you say ‘I am looking for anyone’ then this will not capture your audiences attention, will not focus their mind and is unlikely to generate a response.

Just for a moment think about this dating example…if you were placing an advert in a lonely hearts column saying ‘I am looking for anyone’ how many people do you think you would attract, and if you did what would the quality be like? If, however you specified the age, interests and characteristics you are looking for I think you might get a more positive response.

So back to a work example instead of ‘I am looking for any contacts who might be interested in my service,’ you might say ‘I am looking for contacts with builders.’

One stage better is to say ‘I am looking for contacts with builders in x area’ as this further focuses your audience’s thought.

Better still though is to say ‘I am looking for contacts with a, b and c builders in x area.’ Whilst the majority of people may not have the contact you are looking for, those who do have are far more likely to say so and therefore will be compelled to help you.

Being a specialist can help you to attract more referrals

The other advantage to being specific is that it can help you to be perceived as an expert in a particular area. So, keeping with the above example, if you have already have builders who are satisfied customers you can say so and explain how you have specifically helped them. This will help to reassure your potential referrers that you have expertise in serving this customer base and they are more likely to be motivated to refer your services to other businesses.

Specifics which work less well

I have heard some people be specific by asking for contacts with ‘companies with a turnover of say $2m+ or companies employing more than 20 people. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t always work so well as people don’t necessarily know the turnover of businesses around them or the number of employees unless they work very closely with them.

It is your responsibility to do the research for your business

If you can’t identify exactly what businesses you would like to target then you need to do some research. This is your job, not the job of your potential referrers. How can you expect others to know what contacts you want if you don’t know yourself?

So, the next time you have the opportunity to ask for a referral, do your research, prepare well and ensure that you have identified 2 or 3 potential contacts you would like an introduction to. Try this business networking tip… it does work!