Dan Keeley
Dan Keeley

By Toby Welch

Simon Payn, president of the real estate newsletter provider Ready to Go Newsletters, says, “It would be nice to be the best sales rep in the world but with hundreds of thousands of real estate agents competing for a smaller slice of the pie, it’s not possible to simply be ‘the best agent.’ However, it is still possible to be the number one sales rep in a specific niche – and that’s what real estate agents should be aiming at.”

A specialty differentiates you from other agents in the eyes of consumers and keeps you from getting lost in the shuffle. Even the bestselling business bible Good to Great acknowledges that people who are exceptional in their industry focus on being the best in the world at one thing and make their niche out of that one thing.

So how do you pick a niche? The most important factor is to choose something you love. Your niche has to be able to hold your interest. Mark Gauley, a sales rep with Re/Max St. Andrews in St. Andrews, N.B. has some advice: “If someone is looking for their own niche market, aside from specializing in a specific geographic area, I think one should explore their own interests outside of real estate and see if those can be applied to cultivate a niche market. Whether you are into gardening, horses, golfing, boating, or farming, likeminded people will have similar real estate needs and will belong to similar clubs, read similar magazines, and will tend to congregate together. So if one picks a suitable specialty and focuses their efforts there, over time they will become the go-to person in that specialty market. But it doesn’t happen overnight, so you may as well focus on something that you can be enthusiastic about.”

Mark Gauley and his dog Dexter
Mark Gauley and his dog Dexter

Gauley says that clients, both buyers and sellers, will seek him out if their own interest coincides with his specialties.

To inspire you, here are some niches sales reps have chosen:

* Baseball players
* Cooks
* Home-based businesses owners
* Nudists
* Skiers
* Boaters
* Motorcycle riders
* Pet lovers
* Horse enthusiasts
* Book club members
* Celebrities
* Lawyers
* Accountants
* Teachers
* Doctors and medical professionals
* Police officers
* Singles
* Newlyweds
* First-time homeowners
* Young families
* Downsizing empty nesters
* Widows and widowers
* Divorcees
* Military personnel
* Political or charitable supporters
* Disabled clients
* Senior citizens
* History buffs and/or historic home lovers
* Speakers of specific languages
* Urban renewal community buyers and sellers

By choosing a niche with a topic you love, chances are you’ll be having fun while you work!
Once you have chosen a niche, market the heck out of the fact that you are an expert in that area. Gauley says: “I think one has to market differently for a niche market, but perhaps this is becoming less important with the advent of the web, or more specifically Google, being the primary source of this sort of information for most people. If one wants to invest in traditional print advertising, then the appropriate niche match ups will be apparent (luxury, equestrian, boating periodicals) but online the most important thing will be to be linked to niche-specific sites or to place extra emphasis on appropriate search criteria.”

Agents who cater to horse enthusiasts market in horse magazines and in horse-loving communities. Those who cater to seniors may want to join CARP and advertise in places such as Zoomer magazine and 50Plus.com. When developing your marketing strategy, plan how you are going to reach out to your niche.

Focus on where your target audience is and what they are reading and where they are living, rather than doing a blanket marketing campaign. Find out where people in your niche get together; participate and/or advertise at those events and places. Subscribe and advertise in niche publications and on websites they visit. Mention your niche in your email signature and on business cards. Join Yahoo! or Google groups that discuss your niche. Stay on top of your specialty. By foregoing being a generalist, you will have a solid position in your marketing.

Dan Keeley, a sales rep with Re/Max Little Oak Realty in Abbotsford, B.C., wanted a niche when he started in real estate in 2005. His idea to differentiate himself is now his slogan:  “Buy or sell with me and move for free.” He offers clients a truck and trailer to help them move.

Keeley's rig to help clients move
Keeley's rig to help clients move

“I am a blue collar kind of guy (background is in heavy duty mechanics) and I sat down and really thought about what people want/need when they are moving. Do clients really need a weekend get away? Do they really need an expensive gift basket? Are they ever going to use the Home Depot gift card that I give them? The answer to all three questions is probably not,” he says.

“When someone is buying or selling, 99 per cent of the time they need to move. Renting a truck and finding friends with small brains and strong backs is hard, and movers can be expensive. I really want to give people something useful when they move, something to alleviate the stress and chaos surrounding a move. The second reason for having the truck and trailer is simple: a 53-foot billboard with my propaganda plastered down the side of it. Picture this – Jon Smith sells a house to my buyers. Are the neighbours going to remember Jon’s open house, or Jon’s sign on the lawn for a month, or are they going to remember the trailer that I conveniently have to leave overnight in front of the house?”

By picking a real estate niche, you’ll be able to set yourself apart from the 98 per cent of Realtors who are generalists and put yourself in a position for greater success.

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