Interesting Marketing Facts, Postcard Marketing, Real Estate Marketing 101

A Geographic Farm? Do it right the first time.

It is hard to deny that in many areas of the Country (especially the Silicon Valley market, where we reside), the Real Estate market has rebounded nicely and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Because of this, many Realtors® have decided to start a new postcard farming area, or fire up an old one that hasn’t had any action in a while. Many agents, contemplating such a move, call or email our office for best practice advice, tips on where and how to market, or even help carrying out a direct mail campaign.

Here are a few of the most common questions and/or pitfalls we encounter and how we advise our clients. Hopefully this helps you out as well:

1) How do I pick a farm area?

Selecting a farm area is one of the most important things you can do, when planning your campaign. Think about it: You are going to be marketing to this area, on a regular basis, for months (actually years) to come. You are going to be spending hundreds, and most likely thousands of dollars on this endeavor, throughout the course of your career. With those two things in mind, why would you take this decision lightly?

Whenever I speak with a client or prospective client about picking a farming area, I always bring up two things:

1) Location Location Location: I am betting you are thinking I’m talking about picking an area that is “desirable”, hot, or fashionable. Well, get ready for this….I’m not. What I mean is pick an area that you are in love with.  Human beings are smart animals. We pick things up based on our interactions with people. If you are at a listing appointment with a prospective client, or holding a home open, if you aren’t in love with the area, don’t like the houses, or would rather be somewhere else, it’s going to be evident. It might be slight little things, but people will see this and figure it out. Simply put, if you love what you do, it will shine, making those around you enthusiastic about what you are doing and therefore making you more successful.

Just because “everyone else” is focused on a certain price point of home, or certain geographic area of your marketplace, does not necessarily mean you have to also be focused on that area. Work where you love, and many things will work themselves out.

2) Do your homework, but don’t be afraid of competition: Another thing I ALWAYS suggest that Realtors® do before picking a farm area is running comps on the area. Run them for the last year or two. There are two reasons I have them do this:

-Make sure there is activity in the area: There are certain areas we find that have hardly any turnover. If you know anything about me, or my staff, you’ll quickly understand that this is something we find interesting, and our curiosity gets the better of us, until we go out in the area, with one of our clients, to find out why.

What did we find out? We found that in some areas (primarily areas that are predominantly inhabited by older citizens), they general consensus is, “The day I sell my home is the day they wheel me out of here, toes up!”

I’m not suggesting that you NEVER work in an area like this (especially if it is an area that you are in love with). But, I am suggesting that it may be a farm area you add AFTER you have started another area, had some success and have more discretionary cash to put into your marketing budget.

-Look at who is doing the deals- You need to know who your competition is going to be. Unlike what many agents think, the best strategy on picking a farm area is looking for one that falls in the extremes. Namely, look for areas that either have nobody in particular selling all the homes (e.g. there are 10-15 agents that sell the listings, none of them with market share), or for areas that have a Realtor® that has the market locked up (e.g. out of 15 deals in a farm area, that agent gets the majority, and the ones they didn’t get are single, one off deals from other agents).

Why look for these types of markets? Well, for the areas that have no one single area, since you’re going to be dedicated to this farm and market to it regularly, you have a GREAT opportunity to become visible, quickly and regularly, to get the attention of homeowners in the area.

But what about the areas that have a single agent that have everything locked down? Those are FANTASTIC opportunities as well. Why is this? It’s simple. There are all kinds of people in the world, and everybody gets along with, and responds to people/personalities differently. If only one agent has an area locked down, I bet my paycheck there are homeowners in that farm area that frankly don’t like that agent, but who else are they going to choose, since nobody has stepped up to the plate? The answer is simple. You are going to start religiously marketing to that area, they are going to be very familiar with who you are and what you and do for them, and they are going to choose you over “that other guy they don’t really like”.

2) How often should I mail to my farm?

While the quality of what you mail out to your farm is important, let me level with you. The MOST important thing of all, with any geographic marketing campaign is consistency. You have to bang away on your farm area, every 3-4 weeks, month after month, year after year, and you will dominate your marketplace. Literally every single agent we’ve ever come across that has been unsuccessful with geographic farming, has one single thing in common. They were not consistent.

Consistency in your geographic marketing IS EVERYTHING.

3) How many homes should be in my farm area?

Obviously, at the end of the day, marketing is a numbers game. You want to get in front of as many people as possible, thus improving your probability of getting a lead and therefore closing a deal. Keeping in mind tip #2 (Consistency) though, I find it very important to point out that while it is a numbers game, you only want to market to as many homes as you can afford to market to, every month, without fail, in a way that won’t make it a financial burden on you.

Postcard marketing to a geographic farm is a long term process. It is going to take you at least six to eight months to start to make a dent in your new marketplace. Mailing to too many homes will make your monthly costs high, and make you super frustrated in the beginning months, when not a lot of activity is coming in to you. The worst case in this is that you get frustrated, quit farming to that area, and then you’ve just wasted a bunch of your hard earned money.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do not bite off more than you can chew.

Every week, I sit in a conference room in a Real Estate office and suggest an agent choose 500 homes, instead of 1,000, or even 250 homes, instead of 500 (depending on their available long term budget). When I do this, the agent always looks at me as if I have two heads, or fire coming out of my ears or something.

I understand this. As a business owner and salesperson, they believe my job is to sell them as many postcards as I can possibly get them to buy, so I make the most money possible. This isn’t how it works though, and is not in our company culture or philosophy. You see, we aren’t in this game for the short term gains. We want to get you up and running in a farm area, have you get some sales and some commissions coming in, and then methodically and systematically grow your farm area.

Simply put, we know that the more we can help you succeed, the more you are going to want to reinvest in what we are doing for you, and therefore the more we will succeed. No matter who you work with, related to your marketing efforts, if they ever try to get you to buy more cards than you can comfortably afford, or try to get you to believe that geographic farming is an exercise in anything other than relentless consistency, FIRE THEM. They are not looking out for your best interests and you should not spend your hard earned money on them.

So there you have it. Those are just three of the most common questions we deal with, when setting a client up on a new geographic marketing campaign. As with all things, this is just the tip of the iceberg, considering the 15 years experience we have planing these campaigns for our clients.

Do you have some questions about a possible marketing campaign? Do you want to find out about other pitfalls you should be careful to avoid? Do you need help planning and executing a geographic marketing campaign? Contact us anytime and we would be more than happy to help you in any way we can.

Chris Leo

Chris Leo is a Silicon Valley, CA entrepreneur, complete workaholic, top notch inbound marketer, dad to the coolest kid on the planet, type “A” personality, shameless self-promoter and never ending “connector”.

Even though he is seemingly always working, when he does take breaks, the “work hard, play hard” motto takes on a whole new meaning. Most people talk about “wanting to do things”, Chris goes out and actually does them.

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Chris Leo

Chris Leo

Chris Leo is a Silicon Valley, CA entrepreneur, complete workaholic, top notch inbound marketer, dad to the coolest kid on the planet, type “A” personality, shameless self-promoter and never ending “connector”.

Even though he is seemingly always working, when he does take breaks, the “work hard, play hard” motto takes on a whole new meaning. Most people talk about "wanting to do things", Chris goes out and actually does them.

8 Comments

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  5. […] get tons of questions about this topic, so I thought today I would share an abridged version of the original article with you. […]

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  7. […] to mail to as many homes as you can, every single month, without it becoming a financial burden. I’ve written quite a few articles about this, because it is one of the most important “gotchas” we see that cause agents to fail in […]

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