By Toby Welch

The statistics can be daunting. In Toronto, there are 45,000 brokers and sales representatives. Greater Vancouver has more than 13,000 real estate agents. Calgary totals around 5,200 while Greater Montreal comes in at over 9,000 brokers. With so many agents fighting for business, getting noticed can be challenging. On the upside, most salespeople settle for being mediocre, so standing out isn’t as hard as you may think.

Randy Book, the business development manager (with a focus on real estate agent recruitment and development) with Sutton West Coast Realty in Vancouver, says a niche market focus is the key to real estate professionals getting noticed.



“I can’t see anyone standing out in a crowded space long term without a specific commitment and focus, a core competency if you will. A specific target is selected – a strategy including a draft plan and possible ideas for actions, budget and most importantly, a lead capture system, otherwise known as a data base manager.”

Not sure how to pick a niche like Book recommends? Consider a particular property type (beach houses, acreages, mid-century homes, a specific postal code or a type of client such as veterans, empty nesters, nurses or divorcing couples).

Book says: “When newbie salespeople are getting started, I suggest an 18-month commitment to the strategies, stay on top of tracking the leads and relentless lead follow up. Once you get a few signs up, then you can tell where the tweaking is needed or find a selling partner to fill the gaps.”

Branding feels like an overused term these days but for a good reason – when done correctly, it works. Think of yourself as a concept that is unique in the industry. Differentiating yourself truly is the key. You just have to figure out what that is for you. Research agents you are in competition with and find out what they are doing. Then do the opposite to stand yourself apart. Or ask past clients why they used you. That will give you an idea of what makes you different. You aren’t just an agent, you are an experience.

Angela Langtry
Angela Langtry

Angela Langtry, a broker with Century 21 Immo-Plus in Montreal, has a three-tiered strategy for getting noticed.

“I have spent the last eight years of my career focusing on providing high-quality customer service to my clientele, whereby I provide them with all the information they need and I am quick to respond to their calls, texts and emails. In return, my clients write testimonials online about their experience of working with me. These testimonials become my online resume, which future clients read when shopping for an agent to work with.”

Langtry continues: “Having a visually appealing website with useful content is key. Real estate functions completely online now. Century 21 provides their agents with a free website template. The more content we put into our websites, the higher Google drives us up in the search engines.

“Third, get listings. If you don’t list, you don’t last. Have your photo on your signs. The more people see your signs, the more they recognize you. Photos take you a long way, especially when you’re someone like me working in Quebec with an English name.”

Jeffrey Kerr
Jeffrey Kerr

Like Book, Jeffrey Kerr, a broker with Re/Max Unique in Toronto, uses a niche to differentiate himself.

“One of the first pieces of advice I was given in 1999 when I started at Re/Max Unique was to become a specialist. In 2004, I was presented with an opportunity to sell a Toronto condominium that was partially wheelchair accessible. As a direct result of the contacts I made and the encouragement I received while selling that condo, I established my niche as a barrier-free real estate specialist.”

Some agents have gone to extreme lengths to get noticed. An agent in San Diego wrote and performed a rap song to garner more business. The video has been viewed over 100,000 times online. A video by The Corcoran Group in New York has been watched over a million times; the main draw is Marcel, a dog searching for a real estate agent. A Southern California agent posed in a bikini on a billboard and traffic to her website skyrocketed from 2,000 hits a day to 20,000.

Kerr went too far trying to stand out, in a different way. “I’ve worked hard to position myself as the (barrier-free) specialist. However, what I’ve noticed is that some people within my sphere of influence that are buying and selling traditional homes have not reached out to me for help. I have done too good a job positioning myself as the expert for wheelchair-accessible properties and some people think that is all I do. I need to remind people that I have 18 years of experience helping clients buy and sell traditional homes, too.”

More ways to differentiate yourself:
  • Have an unforgettable website with a blog and videos; that alone will catapult you over 90 per cent of your peers.
  • Become a resource to local media. Doing so gets your name noticed and labels you as local real estate expert.
  • Always under-promise but over-deliver.
  • Start your own station on YouTube to share your knowledge.
  • Offer seminars or workshops that the public will be interested in.
  • Share stories of inspiring clients on your social media sites, blog and/or through press releases.
  • Touch base regularly with clients, even long after you’ve worked with them.
  • Wear a positive, competent attitude like a second shirt.
  • Send handwritten notes; you’ll stand out among the flyers and bills in someone’s mail.
  • When hosting an open house, print off snazzy invitations, tie them with a fancy ribbon and hand deliver them to the neighbours of the open house.

Don’t let the fact that there are over 100,000 agents in Canada intimidate you. Crush the mediocre bar that has been set and stand yourself apart from the crowd.

  • Carolyne L

    Your ending “dot” notation that reads:

    === When hosting an open house, print off snazzy invitations, tie them with a fancy ribbon and hand deliver them to the neighbours of the open house.===

    The coloured ribbons, especially my corporate coloured ribbons being hot rose and teal, and later added sunshine yellow (not milquetoast) always caught attention, and worked well.

    No one else did it back in the 80’s and 90’s. So when I opened my own boutique real estate company in 1991, it was just a creative “moment” that fit a need in a particular property instance. But it worked so well, I intermittently continued using my coloured ribbons for more than 25 years, as I had posted in a comment at REM previously. Such a simple thing. Costs next to nothing to create subliminal advertising, tying (pardon the pun) to all my other marketing using my repetitive rememberable colours. Consistency is so important.

    Some people giggled and thought it was childlike or too girlie, but heck, they “talked” about it amongst themselves and at their places of work even. How do I know? Because when they called me to sell their house or buy through me, they told me, and some oddly enough kept my marketing pieces as souvenirs. How funny is that?

    Why did some of the things I did attract attention, or cause giggles? I believe it’s mostly because I was simply stepping outside the (expected, historical) box is all, applying marketing ideas that no one in the area had experimented with.

    No one in real estate marketing in my specific trading area had done anything unusual it seemed, so my doings were considered unusual and stood out as memorable; even the simplest things, often referred to as “unconventional.”

    My marketing was always high class (that’s not the same thing as expensive), even when ‘different.’ And always positive. There’s always something interesting about each property whether the market is normal or up or down. Sometimes you have to look a little harder to find it. But it’s vital to market listings to someone who wants and needs whatever it is that your seller is offering for sale.

    A few times, when marketing a particularly unusual but well-done property (big or small), I actually ordered plain white old-fashioned engraved wedding invitations, requiring a “rsvp” (“call to action???” call to book a private appointment).

    A thousand or five hundred of them went out to local businesses, hand addressed in bright white wedding envelopes, to the office of the president, or sometimes to HR dept, or even to the receptionist, with a personal thank you note inside with a small denomination grocery store chain gift certificate, asking if possible to post to their office message board, along with a picture of the property with no address (to get the address they had to call).

    Of course this was pre-computer days. And be careful not to overuse this. Maybe even just once a year. Or rotate the geographical company list.

    Instead of sealing the envelopes, I bought tapes of gold or silver coins peel and stick seals. And later I had my own customized ones printed. at a label-making company. Small thing that kept the marketing classy.

    For the men reading this: if you are sports inclined, or maybe play chess, or badminton, or belong to a team that is known in your trading area, use those ribbons, in those colours, or related stickers, in your marketing if permissible, but “do not” use their name. Maybe your kids play hockey or belong to yacht clubs, or have special school colours (remember: no names). If your real estate trading area is in their school area, surely the colours will be noticed).

    The point is the public in your trading area will recognize those colours without your having said a word. Some might say: hey, that’s the fellow on the local soccer team, or he’s our kids’ hockey coach. The point is just to be remembered, not flaunt your association with the team or group.

    Maybe in late winter, preparing for early spring, send out gardening tips. Or offer free garage sale signs. (The first year I did this, I was astounded by the response, and got “several” new listings. And of course the garage sale signs “were in my colours,” and marketed in areas contiguous to my farm areas. I had them custom printed, and soon they appeared on many intersections.

    You work the condo apt market? Send out tips on balcony container gardening. Or even enclose your wife’s or your favourite recipe. Have her sign it, saying some such: “Joe loves this, you might enjoy it, too.” Involve your family in helping market your business.

    I envisioned a wrapped SUV that said: “I’m Mary. It’s my husband Bob who is the real estate agent. I do his staging.” (Or add: “Ask me about — ”
    “I own a dog kennel,” or “I make wedding cakes,” or “I own Sally’s Hairdressing Shop,” whatever; but my spouse is the real estate agent.) Like the old expression: killing two birds with one stone. Crossover marketing. Or print back to back business cards, crossover.

    Or, “only when parked at the grocery store,” no other time, put an enlarged copy of the MLS listing with a large picture in a side window, and how to contact you to view. This subtle way of marketing doesn’t mess up your Mercedes.

    I gave away car windshield sun screens, customized in “my” colours (no big name needed – subliminal advertising) with my tiny respectable ID in one corner, for parked car use. People would call to see if they could have one. (Intro-giant)
    And toss-away inexpensive collapsible umbrellas (in my colours, of course) with my first name corp label, just on the handle. And don’t forget children’s umbrellas. You can buy small children’s umbrellas at the dollar store. I sometimes even put those in Halloween bags for little children. Buy white ones and label the handles, or punch your business card and tie with coloured ribbons so parents know who gave “that safe bag.” Bicycle horns are useful also.

    There’s no end to marketing ideas. Just make yours different in order to be remembered. Fridge magnets and office standard calendars seem to be useless. But carefully colour-customized professional day timers might still find a spot to be used, even in the computer world.

    And grocery lists are always welcome. (Custom-printed in YOUR colours, of course.) and they get left by shoppers in store buggies everywhere. Don’t put them in store buggies! yourself. Bad idea. Bookmarks and scratchpads are always welcome.

    The secret is in “being different,” but consistently so, repetitively using “your colours.”

    And be specific: several times I had to refuse print orders when I had ordered my hot rose and it got delivered as “purple-grape,” and my special friendly eye-candy teal got delivered as Christmas tree dark fir-green, neither of which were “my” beautiful, never before used in real estate, colours.

    Carolyne L 🍁