Cheryl Spangler is the principal broker and co-owner of FORBZ Real Estate Group located in Alexandria, Virginia (serving Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland). You can follow hexr on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Do you think your clients and prospects really understand what you do? Do they know what kind of clients you work best with or what type of referrals you’d appreciate?
To have a successful real estate business, you must establish yourself as a niche real estate service provider. Without zeroing in on a very specific market, you won’t get the massive growth you’re looking for. In fact, focusing on a micro-niche is the best way to guarantee referrals and double your sales in 12 months.
The value of niche
When real estate agents vent about not getting enough business, referral or otherwise, I ask them this: “What is your specialty — the super-specific market or area you serve — and what do you do to showcase how you are better than everyone else working within that market?
If people don’t know exactly what you do and who you serve, they will be very unsure about sending business your way. It’s not their fault really — they know a lot about the wants, needs and personality types of their family, friends and clients, but they just don’t know whether you’d be a good fit with their tribe. You just don’t stand out to them.
Expecting a current or past client to refer business to you automatically is an assumption that could make you broke. Get specific about the clients you serve, become an expert for them, build your real estate business around them and make sure your sphere knows where you stand.
Doing this takes three steps:
- Get to know yourself a little, and decide who it is you are going to serve.
- Identify your customers’ hot buttons (i.e. their internal and external problems).
- Create an easy-to-follow solution to their internal problems.
If you are wondering (or worrying) about what you can do to guarantee a successful long-term real estate career, you must realize it’s not about trying to be the best in the world, state or city; it’s about being the best at delivering a message consumers can understand.
The more competition there is, the more specific you’ll be forced to get in order to grow your business. This has been validated for years by agents establishing their niche market, no matter what stage of growth they’ve been in.
The 4 stages of establishing your niche
1. Building a foundation
Build a foundation for your business that focuses on three things:
- Identifying what your strengths and weaknesses are.
- Deciding who your ideal client is going to be.
- Discovering what you have that makes you perfect for your niche clientele.
When I meet, train or guide agents, I ask the question: “What makes you different than the 20 other agents in your area?” A long pause usually follows as agents start to run several more questions through their mind:
- How am I different?
- What unique selling proposition do I offer my customers?
- Why would someone call me versus the other agents in the local market area?
Usually, they realize they aren’t really serving a specific market, and if they were, answering these questions would be a cinch; they would be the absolute best at serving there market because they took time to understand the consumer on a deeper level.
As long as consumers know you’ve done your research, you can transform into the go-to agent regardless of whether you’re a rookie or a real estate veteran.
2. Creating clarity
This doesn’t mean spending a ton of money, putting yourself on a billboard or using complex words that sound way bigger than they really are. On the contrary, less is more: When consumers read your content, whether it’s coming across their Facebook feed or in an online advertisement, you have about three to five seconds to grab their attention and keep it.
When the message is long and confusing, they pass right by it; when the message is clear, short and to-the-point, they get hooked — and they immediately understand who you are and how you can help them. Better yet, they quickly realize whether or not they are the ideal client for you,
3. Updating systems and processes
At this point, you should be building systems and implementing processes that foster growth in your niche market and make life easier for you and your team.
With each new year, it seems our industry welcomes new and improved technology used to easily cultivate, nurture and retain clients and referrals. If this is not your reality — meaning, if you feel the systems have gotten more difficult, more complex or exhausting — you might want to consider a new approach. Reevaluate the role you play in your business, figure out what works best for you and outsource the rest.
Focus on what you do best — working with clients — rather than fighting through headaches brought on by poor systems. A solid system will make it easy to reach and nurture your niche clients and referrals.
4. Automating systems and processes
Learn to automate your business so you can step away without sacrificing growth. Burnout and overwhelm are very real, and you don’t want to reach that point.
Finding solutions to your own problems while providing solutions for your clients is always a juggling act, but knowing what processes to automate first is key. Some things to consider are:
- Deciding what team members to hire first.
- Hiring highly engaged team members.
- Going 100-percent virtual (and actually being able to work from a laptop without having to go back to your desk if you choose not to).
- Becoming your own promoter within the media (learning how to write press releases).
- Becoming the authority in your market (writing a book or regular blog posts).
- Devising a retention strategy that will practically guarantee current and past clients call you.
What agents say about establishing their niche
Bruce Ailion, RE/MAX Town and Country
“Over the years, I have worked many niches, new homes, REOs, short sales, investors, commercial, foreign investors and first-time buyers. The most important component of being successful over nearly 40 years is education …”
Beth Gittleman, Bohemia Realty Group
“I created boundaries (and apart from referrals) I kept them. If you pick a niche market, you have to stand by your choice. Always think like an entrepreneur.”
Wei Min Tan, Castle Avenue Team at Rutenberg
“When I became a property agent in Manhattan (previously, I spent 10 years at Citigroup and also owned a property management business in Syracuse, New York), the contacts I had were all finance types. So the niche of serving investor buyers that are numbers-focused was a natural progression for me.
“Go view 500 properties — this is the only way to learn about a market or niche …”
Ron Goldstein, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty
“My niche is as Beach House Guy, bringing professional and trusted advisor-level service to friends/clients from all over the world. My niche has been ever evolving as I’m now in Chapter 3 of my professional life as an entrepreneur.
“I have been leveraging social media for seven years in my business. I actively do promotions on Facebook, Facebook Groups, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Using CRMs [customer relationship managers] like Rezora has enabled me to have tremendous automation and larger reach to my target audiences.
“I would tell a new agent to not negate the interpersonal needs of their clients and realize it’s a human transaction. We are also the matchmakers and therapists.”
Ari Meridy, Brown, Harris, Stephens
“[I focus] on first-time homeowners in New York City (especially people moving from out of state). It’s still a hustle every day, but if you keep focused on the top 20 percent of what brings in the most business, you will succeed.
“Get organized and put systems in place that will help you propel your business. Trust the process.”
Carol Haaz, Pinnacle Estate Properties, Inc.
“The first thing I did to grow my niche business was to get certified and learn as much as I could to be able to help. No matter what area of the business you chose to specialize in, you need to network, network, network, be with people and be kind.
“Also, be a resource of people you can trust, that you can refer to your clients.”
If you’re wondering why your business growth hasn’t met your expectations, ask yourself if you’re focusing on the right clients. Establishing a niche — getting specific with the clientele you work with — will grow your business 10-fold, no doubt.