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How to Create a Geographic Farm and Win More Listings
By Joe Sesso, National Speaker for Homes.com
Stop spending your days weaving your way back and forth across town for showings, listing appointments, and open houses. Instead, shift your focus and marketing efforts to a geographic farm from which you can solicit the bulk of your business and make meeting your next client as simple as hopping over a few streets. This long-term lead generation strategy makes it easy to cut down on commute time and travel costs while freeing up time for other lead-generating and lead-converting activities.
 
Step 1: Choose a Location
 
Turnover rate, amenities, and your familiarity with an area can have a powerful impact on the success of your geographic farm. Take each of these factors into account when deciding where you want to build your farm.
 
Also keep in mind that while you could pick your neighborhood or the one packed with million dollar homes for your farm, if those neighborhoods have low turnover rates, you may not get the consistent, dependable business your company needs to grow. Make sure whichever area you choose has an annual turnover rate of at least 6 percent.
 
Another factor to consider is whether you can get to and from your farm quickly. After all, why drive 45 minutes to meet a client when there are plenty of people buying and selling homes just minutes from your home or office? So, if your neighborhood does have a good turnover rate, it may be a great place to consider farming. With geographic farming, you can work in the area of your choosing and avoid the tedious back-and-forth driving that many agents endure each day.
 
Choosing a farm in an area you're already familiar with will give you an immediate boost in credibility. The 2016 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that 80 percent of buyers consider knowledge of the local area a "very important" quality for an agent to have. An agent who can impress a buyer with their knowledge of the local schools, parks, events, businesses, traffic, etc. will be a more attractive listing option.
 
Once you find an easy-to-access area with a great turnover rate in an area you're familiar with, check the recent sales to ensure no one else is farming the area. Look for any agent with a large percentage of recent home sales in your chosen area. If there is such an agent, it doesn't mean you can't farm there, but it does mean that a greater investment of time and money may be required to win control of the area. Consider whether your area is worth the fight or if you would get better results farming a different area.
 
Step 2: Identify Your Audience
 
Every community is home to pocket niches. Identifying them will help you develop your marketing messages. For example, if you work extensively with local artists, highlighting businesses that showcase local art might be a good way to appeal to the artists in your community. If your farm is home to a lot of newlywed couples looking to grow their families, a focus on the great schools and community parks could make more sense.

Pocket niches you find may include:
  • First-time buyers
  • Move-up buyers
  • Military families
  • Veterans
  • Artists, musicians, writers
  • Specific professions (doctors, nurses, teachers, law enforcement, etc.)
  • Students
  • Single men/women
  • Athletes
  • Vacation homeowners
  • Urban farmers
  • Empty-nesters
  • Multigenerational households
  • Seniors
  • Renters 
Many of your niches can only be identified by pounding the pavement and getting to know your community. However, some of it can be garnered through county records, Census data, neighborhood associations, and local social networking groups. If these options don't appeal to you, or you need to supplement them, another way to find your niches is to create a neighborhood survey identifying them.
 
Step 3: Get Busy
 
Partnerships
An essential part of geographic farming is creating strategic partnerships with local businesses to help you build a reputation as the neighborhood expert. Do some research to find out which plumbers, electricians, painters, etc. have the best reputation in your area so you know who to recommend to your clients.
 
Coordinate with the businesses you've identified to get coupons or special discounts for people you refer to them. Also consider compiling a directory of recommended businesses in your area and remember to include your branding and contact information at the bottom of each page. Once ready, ask local businesses to let you leave a stack for their customers and share your directory via social media and on your website.
 
Connect With Your Community

Making connections door-to-door is an important part of geographic farming. Try to set aside time each month specifically for door-knocking and incorporate it into your other farming activities. For example, before an open house, knock on nearby homes and invite the residents to attend.
 
If your farm has a neighborhood association, see if you can capitalize on any mailings they send out; if the neighborhood already mails a monthly newsletter, offer to be a guest writer for them. If there isn't a neighborhood newsletter, consider creating and circulating your own newsletter filled with relevant local updates about new restaurants, upcoming events, or businesses that are opening or closing in the area.
 
Digital Farming
According to the 2016 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 86 percent of recent buyers found online resources to be the most useful source of information in their home search. Make sure you are reaching these buyers by incorporating your farming efforts throughout your website. Farming online can also help you connect with relocation clients looking to move into your area.
 
Try to include information about events, restaurants, median sales prices, area testimonials from local residents, video tours of local attractions, and the various other things that make your area a great place to live.
 
Don't forget to create a lead capture strategy when planning your digital farming strategy. Landing pages are a great way to capture online leads; instead of sending potential buyers and sellers to your website's home page, where they can be distracted by all your great content and listings, send them to a landing page. Create a landing page for each of your major niches and for each campaign you run. For example, if you run an ad offering a free CMA, send anyone who clicks your ad to a landing page dedicated to collecting leads who want a CMA. If it's a military buyer clicking on an ad for homes for sale 15 minutes off base, the page they go to should reflect that. Check out Chris Smith's Landing Page Tips to Help You Generate More Leads for more landing page tips.
 
Social Media

In 2016, 69 percent of U.S. adults used at least one social media site, and that percentage is growing each year. Make sure your farming strategy involves active social media usage. Join local groups to find out what's happening in your area and consider starting your own group or page to highlight local businesses and events. Posting events such as community theater shows, farmers markets, and concerts can build your reputation as the go-to person for all things local.
 
As the largest social media site, Facebook should be a large part of your social strategy. Grow your presence with Facebook Ads, post local content, and actively engage with commenters. If you need help, Homes.com Social Fuel can create your Facebook business page, optimize your account, post relevant regional content each week, and manage your ads to take your social strategy to the next level.
 
Facebook is the biggest social network, but it's far from the only one. Twitter is a long-time favorite for those looking for quick updates or to catch up on goings-on in the area. Snapchat and Instagram are image-oriented social sites that are rising rapidly in popularity, especially with millennials (the largest group of homebuyers). Having an active Google+ account connected to your website may help your website show up higher in Google results, and LinkedIn is a great source for connecting with local businesses and service providers. Research the different social accounts to find out which ones will be the most beneficial in your farm, pick a few to actively engage in, then buy ads and stake your claim on your digital farm. Regardless of which sites you choose to use, remember to incorporate local photos in all of your marketing efforts. Nothing grabs a person's attention like pictures from their community; seeing a location they're familiar with will make your posts more effective.
 
Local Love
Get involved and show your community that you're more than just the local real estate expert—you're a part of the community. As Steve Jobs pointed out, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do." Figure out what you can do to make yourself and your farm's residents feel passionate about your area. For example, hosting a neighborhood food drive, volunteering at a retirement center, sponsoring a scout troop, helping rebuild a local park, recruiting volunteers to help neighbors repaint their homes, or organizing the largest block party your city has ever seen. Whatever ideas you have, use. Events like this can turn a neighborhood into a community, help residents to see you as their real estate agent, and make your area a more desirable place to live.
 
Housewarming gifts are another way to show some local love. Consider your community's amenities and give people you help buy a home in your farm something that they'll be able to use time and time again. For example, if your farm is situated on the water, monogrammed beach towels may be a perfect gift! This is a great way to show your appreciation for their business while simultaneously giving them another reason to enjoy their community and refer you to their family and friends.
 
The leading driver of real estate referrals is word-of-mouth; people like to know they're working with someone they can trust. This is why building relationships with members of your community is crucial to creating new business opportunities. Get more face-time with more people by participating in local events, showing local love, and joining various groups or associations in your area.
 
Step 4: Reap the Rewards
 
A geographic farm can help you win more sales, cut down on travel time and expenses, and generate referrals; however, that's not all it can do. Many of the farming techniques listed above can also help your website rank better in search results. Popular search engines like Google look for websites with lots of local content, links to and from respected businesses, and keywords that will naturally appear in your social and website content. Homes.com SEO Fuel can give your website an additional boost to get even higher in search results.
 
Blogs, lists, directories, eBooks, videos, and other content you make while working your farm can all generate leads for years after they're made, and their reach may surprise you. After all, videos highlighting local landmarks, businesses, attractions and amenities are much more likely to be shared than a property video. Anyone in the area may be interested in the top 10 local burger joints in your area, but significantly fewer people are looking for a $265K condo (or are willing to start a bidding war by sharing the video).
 
Another great way to attract potential sellers in your geographic farm and win their listings is to show them that you will market their home with Homes.com's Featured Ads, putting their home just one click from Google and other search engines! Buyers agents, this can work for you, too!
 
For more information, please visit connect.homes.com.

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