There are dozens of ways to generate leads for your business. One very effective method is geographic farming, a long-term lead generation strategy in which you focus primarily on a specific market or area from which you will solicit most of your business. Once you’ve established your brand identity and built relationships with those in your chosen community, the benefits of this approach are tremendous. Instead of weaving your way back and forth across your city each day on showings and listing appointments, you can simply hop over a few streets to your next client, cutting down on commute time and travel costs while also freeing up time for other lead-generating and lead-converting activities.
Step 1: Choose Your Farm
Factors such as turnover rate, physical location, and your familiarity with the area can have a powerful impact on your geographic farm’s success. Take each of these factors into account while setting up your geographic farm.
Look for a territory where the annual turnover is at least 6%. Sure, you could pick the neighborhood you live in or the one packed with million dollar homes, but if those neighborhoods have low turnover rates, you may not get the consistent, dependable business your company needs to grow.
When choosing a location for your farm, you should also try to pick somewhere you can quickly get to and from. If your neighborhood does have a good turnover rate, it may be a great place to consider farming. After all, why drive forty-five minutes to meet a client when there are plenty of people buying and selling homes just minutes from your home or office? With geographic farming, you can work in the area of your choosing and avoid the long, tedious back-and-forth driving that many agents endure on a day to day basis.
If possible, choose to farm an area you’re already familiar with. Doing so will give you an immediate boost in credibility. The 2016 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that 80% of buyers consider knowledge of the local area a “very important” quality for an agent to have. An agent who can impress a buyer with their knowledge of the local schools, parks, events, businesses, traffic, etc. will be a more attractive listing option.
Once you find a neighborhood with a great turnover rate that’s located in an area you’re familiar with, check the recent sales to ensure no-one else is farming the area. Look for any agent with a large percentage of recent home sales in your chosen area. If there is such an agent, it doesn’t mean you can’t farm there, but it does mean that a greater investment of time and money may be required to win control of the area. Consider whether your area is worth the fight or if you would be better off farming a different area.
Step 2: Identify Your Niches
There are pocket niches in every community. Identifying them will help you develop your marketing messages. For example, if you work extensively with local artists, highlighting businesses that showcase local art might be a good way to appeal to the artists in your community. If your farm is home to a lot of new couples looking to grow their families, a focus on the great schools and community parks could make more sense.
Niches you may find include…
- Military families
- Specific professions (doctors, nurses, teachers, law enforcement, etc.)
- Vacation home owners
- Empty nesters
- First time buyers
- Move-up buyers
- Single men/women
- Multi-generational households
- Urban farmers
- Artists, musicians, writers
A lot of this information can only be gained by pounding the pavement and getting to know your community. However, some of it can be garnered through county records, census data, neighborhood associations, and local social networking groups. If these options don’t appeal to you or you need to supplement them, another way to find your niches is to create a neighborhood survey identifying them.
Step 3: Get to Work
By creating strategic partnerships with local businesses, you can begin to build a reputation as the neighborhood expert—an essential part of geographic farming. Research which area businesses have the best reputation so you know who to recommend if someone needs a plumber, electrician, painter, etc.
Coordinate with the businesses you’ve identified to get special discounts or coupons for people you refer to them and consider compiling a directory of recommended businesses in your area, making sure to include your branding and contact information at the bottom of each page. Share your directory via social media and on your website. Consider asking local businesses to let you leave a stack for their customers as well.
Connect with Your Community
Very few people enjoy going door-to-door to find business. However, it’s an important part of geographic farming, and while setting aside time specifically for door knocking is important, you can also incorporate it into your other activities. For example, before an open house, knock on nearby homes and invite the residents to attend.
Sending out direct mail pieces is another effective way to get in touch with your community. If your farm has a neighborhood association, see if you can capitalize on any mailings they already send out. If the neighborhood already mails a monthly newsletter, offer to be a guest writer for them. If there isn’t a neighborhood newsletter, consider creating and circulating your own newsletter filled with relevant local updates about new restaurants, upcoming events, or businesses that are opening or closing in the area.
The 2016 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers asserts that 86% of recent buyers found online resources to be the most useful source of information in their home search. Incorporating your farming efforts throughout your website will help you reach these buyers. Farming online can also help you connect with relocation clients looking to move into your area.
Try including information about things to do, places to eat, median sales prices, area testimonials from local residents, video tours of local attractions, and the various things that make your area a great place to live.
An important question to consider when planning your online farming is how you intend to capture leads. Landing pages are a good option; instead of sending the leads you generate to your website’s home page, where they can be distracted by all your great content and listings, send them to a landing page. Create a different landing page for each of your major niches and each campaign you run. For example, if you run an ad offering a free CMA, send anyone who clicks your ad to a landing page dedicated to collecting leads who want a CMA. If it’s a military buyer clicking on an ad for “homes for sale 15 minutes off base,” the page they go to should reflect that. Check out Chris Smith’s Landing Page Tips to Help You Generate More Leads for more landing page tips.
In 2016, 69% of U.S. adults used at least one social media site, and that percentage is growing each year. Make sure your farming strategy involves active social media usage. Join a few local groups to find out what’s happening in your area and consider starting your own group or page to highlight local events and businesses. Posting events such as community theater shows, farmer’s markets, and concerts can build your reputation as the go-to person for all things local.
Facebook is the largest social media site and should be a large part of your social strategy. Post local content, actively engage with commenters, and grow your presence with Facebook ads. If you need help, Homes.com Social Fuel can create your Facebook business page, optimize your account, post relevant regional content each week, and manage your ads to take your social strategy to the next level.
Facebook is the most popular social network, but it’s far from the only one. Twitter is a long-time favorite for those looking for quick updates or to catch up on goings-on in the area. Snapchat and Instagram are image-oriented social sites that are rising rapidly in popularity, especially with millennials (the largest group of home buyers). Having an active Google+ account connected to your website may help your website show up higher in Google results, and LinkedIn is a great source for connecting with local businesses and service providers. Research the different social accounts and pick a few to actively engage in, then buy ads and stake your claim on your digital farm. Regardless of which sites you choose to use, try to incorporate local photos in all of your marketing efforts. Nothing grabs a person’s attention like pictures from their community. Seeing a location they’re familiar with will make your posts more effective.
Local love is about getting involved and showing that you’re more than just the local real estate expert—it’s about showing you’re a part of the community. As Steve Jobs pointed out, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Figure out how to make you and your farm’s residents feel passionate about your area. Host a neighborhood food drive, volunteer at a retirement center, sponsor a scout troop, help rebuild a local park, recruit volunteers to help neighbors repaint their homes, organize the largest block party your city has ever seen. Whatever ideas you have, use. Events like this can turn a neighborhood into a community, help residents to see you as their real estate agent, and make your area a more desirable place to live.
Housewarming gifts are another way to show some local love. Consider the amenities your community offers and give people who buy into your farm something that they’ll be able to use time and time again. For example, if your farm is situated on the water, monogrammed beach towels may be a perfect gift! This is a great way to show your appreciation for their business while simultaneously giving them another reason to enjoy their community and refer you to their family and friends.
Word-of-mouth is the leading driver of real estate referrals because people like to know they’re working with someone they can trust. This is why building relationships with members of your community is so crucial to creating new business opportunities. Participating in local events, showing local love, and joining various groups or associations can help you get more face-time with more people.
Step 4: Reap Your Rewards
Having a geographic farm can help you win more sales, cut down on travel time and expenses, and generate referrals. However, that’s not all it can do. Many of the farming techniques listed above can help your website rank better in search results. Big search engines like Google look for websites with lots of local content, links to and from respected businesses, and keywords that will naturally appear in your social and website content. Homes.com SEO Fuel can give your website an additional boost to get even higher in search results.
Blogs, lists, directories, eBooks, videos and other content you make while working your farm can all generate leads for years after they’re made, and their reach may surprise you. After all, videos highlighting local landmarks, businesses, attractions, and amenities are much more likely to be shared than a property video. Anyone in the area could be interested in the top 10 local burger joints in your area, but significantly fewer people are looking for a $235K Condo (or are willing to start a bidding war over the property by sharing the video).
Another great way to connect with buyers and sellers in your area is through zip code advertising. Local Connect shows your information on active listing and property value pages to help you connect with quality leads in your zip code. Call us at 888-651-8956 or email us at email@example.com to discuss how Homes.com can help you meet your business goals.
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