01 December 2011

More than one way to skin a Santa

I'm not very imaginative when it comes to blog topics. My interests are fairly narrow, and my expertise even more so, limited to my town, my family, my profession, politics and anything automotive. Berna won't really let me blog on cars, so I'm often stuck with dry material. However, every now and then, a group of seemingly different events coagulates into something worth writing about. Whether it's worth reading about may be something else again!

A couple of days back, I was reading an Activerain thread debating the 80/20 rule in real estate. No, not the production one, this is the one that says you must spend 80% of your time prospecting for new business and 20% working for your clients. Then, I sat in a Strategic Planning meeting  yesterday, hearing complaints about why such a high percentage of new listings in Tooele County are listed by out of area agents. Then I picked up Berna, and we spent three hours bottling applesauce for the needy at the LDS Church's Bishop's Storehouse cannery. So, how do these things add up to anything worth writing about? Let's see...

First of all, prospecting is in the eye of the beholder. Is it only defined as knocking on doors, or making 100 "cold calls"? Could it also be defined as joining a civic or church organization full of the movers and shakers in your area, and building relationships with the people that know all the people? I've always struggled with the 80/20 here, because it seems to me that if you really do that, you are wasting the most efficient, cost effective book of business you have. Referrals from past clients. Because, if you are devoting all that time to generating new business, you aren't devoting enough time to your clients, meaning you won't be getting that referral business. You over-promised and under-delivered, so why should they come back to you?

There are a high percentage of listings in Tooele County listed by out of area agents. I haven't worked all the figures yet, but it appears to be upward of 70%. Banks have a tendency to list with the "big city" agents, and don't seem to recognize the mountain range separating us from Salt Lake. But even if I take those out, I'm going to find that more than half of the "regular" listings are still by out of area agents. I actually showed a commercial property last weekend listed by an agent in Moab, some 300 miles away! I won't even talk about the agent that thought she could give good service when she took it. I'm more concerned with why the clients would go there. What are we failing to do as "local" Realtors?

So, what do we have to do to set ourselves apart from the other 10,000 agents in the State. How does the 80/20 rule apply here? Do we act like agents that think that once the listing is signed and the sign planted we're done? Do we turn down showings because they involve an 80-90 mile round trip? What type of service defines what we do? Is there room for civic service under the name of prospecting?

I think there is. In this small town, there aren't many people that don't know us. They don't always know what we do for a living. Some of us know us as leaders in a County political Party. Some recognize Berna as the Vice-Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, or as the one that organizes the Chamber Easter Egg Hunt for 3500 kids each year. Maybe it's from sitting on Planning and Zoning in Tooele City. Maybe it's our service in our Church (Great applesauce, by the way!) Maybe it's the pumpkin bread that B bakes for our clients each Christmas. There are others, but I will tell you this. Each of these things has brought us  paying clients, clients we'll keep for life, at a relatively low cost.

What I'm getting at is that there are many ways to build your business, to set yourself apart from the average. Is it cold calling every day to get that new customer? It's obviously worked for a lot of people over the years. It doesn't work for us. We easily interact with 100 people every week, people that get a positive feel for how we do our business. That has been an investment of over a decade, so no quick payoff. However, the marketing budget seems to keep shrinking, while the client list seems to grow. Figure out a way for your farming area see you in a positive way, keep the quality of your work at it's best, and you will win in this tough economy. In the meantime, I'm staging the Chamber Santa Parade Saturday, and I can't find my Santa hat... 

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