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, 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.”
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.