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By Bill Miles

RISMEDIA, April 16, 2007-All too often real estate agents focus their marketing efforts too broadly, and with little success or return on investment. The solution? Determine and develop your niche market.

Niche marketing is the process of focusing on a defined segment of a much larger market. Within Real Estate, there are thousands of different niche markets a real estate professional can identify and serve. Take for example, a specific neighborhood, horse farm owners, first time home-buyers or beach front properties. As a real estate professional, you run a very small business in comparison to the entire real estate market, so it is critical to your success to identify a niche and serve it properly. Alternatively, attempting to market yourself to an entire geographic region is the fastest way to waste money in real estate because you will never sufficiently differentiate yourself to any one market to be top of mind when the consumer looks for an agent.

So, how do you develop your niche?

Step 1: Identify your niche. Write down all the possible niches you could serve based on your location, expertise and interests. For instance, if you choose to focus on a neighborhood, write down the 20 or 30 neighborhoods (with approximately 500 homes each) closest to where you live and work. Consider your expertise. Do you speak a second language? Do you understand a new homeowner's issues? Are you also a mortgage broker? Do you love animals? Do you have a connection to senior citizens? What are your hobbies (music, cars, sports, traveling)? Every one of these things can evolve into a powerful niche for you.

Local school parents could be another great niche. For example, let's assume you have three kids in the local schools. The needs and concerns of parents with kids in the same school may be a great niche. It narrows down your focus from the whole town, to 500-1,000 families. You can easily get involved with the school and your target consumers by starting a parents' newsletter or being active in school functions. Over time, the community will begin relying on you for this information and understand you are a real estate agent with their best interests in mind. When these parents (consumers) consider buying or selling a home, or giving a referral, you will be at the top of their mind.

Step 2: Define your niche market as specifically as possible. Ideally you should be able to generate a list of addresses, resident names, phone numbers and e-mails for your niche market. In addition, you should write down as many of the niche market attributes as possible.

For instance:
 What are the homes like? (new, old, expensive)
 What are the residents' concerns? (safety, a new park)
 Where do buyers come from for these homes?
 Where do the residents get their information? (TV, magazine, HOA newsletter, online)
 Where do they go to school? (private, parochial or public)

This detailed description of your niche will help you reach them in an efficient, effective manner. If you don't know them, how can you deliver value? Additionally, by working on this definition, you will know what areas to educate yourself on to be effective. Remember, your goal is to add value to everyone in this niche through every interaction you have with them.

This strategy of marketing has been effective for thousands of businesses outside of real estate. For example, the store, Anthropologie, built their business by understanding their niche extremely well. From its founding days, Anthropologie created a detailed description of the exact customer they wanted to serve: 30-45 year-old women, with college or postgraduate education, married with kids or in a committed relationship, professional or ex-professional, annual household income of $150-$200,000, well-traveled and well-read. According to the company, the full description is pages long and everyone at the company is well versed in its details. This definition governs every decision made about their business, including who works there, products offered, the decorations, the advertising and branding. The individuals fitting this description feel an immediate connection upon entering this store, while those not fitting the description have probably never heard of this successful, national store. (Source: Mavericks at Work. William C. Taylor, Polly LaBarre (Harper Collins 2006) pp.149-157.)

Step 3: Develop A Marketing Plan. Before taking action, develop a marketing plan to serve this niche. Initially, you may ask yourself ‘what do I have to do to become valuable to this niche?' Maybe you need to attend HOA meetings, learn about local politics or learn about the tax advantages of a second home. Whatever it is, become an expert.

Next, determine how best to reach this niche. Where does this niche get its information? Is it through meetings, via e-mail, with a targeted Web site or postcards?

Third, develop the specific marketing materials that will appeal to this niche. You have to cut through the clutter, so be specific. Talk directly to their needs and concerns. Don't go for typical real estate marketing collateral and content. Be creative, push the envelope, give them something to remember. If designed successfully, your read and response rates will be much higher than anything you have sent out previously.

"Over my 18-year real estate career and 5 years as CEO of Myneighborhoodagent.com, when a real estate professional designs a postcard with an image from the community or on a topic relevant to the community, we typically see response rates ten times higher than those pieces that are more generic," Randy Ginn, CEO MyNeighborhoodAgent.

Finally, commit to two to three contacts per month for at least 18 months. Reach different segments of this target by varying the types of collateral and the messaging. Continue to educate yourself about this niche. Write down your plan and stick to it. Be in it for the long term.

Conclusion. Taking the time to work through these steps will pay huge dividends as you begin to execute. Your focus will help you clarify what steps you need to take, who you need to talk to, what you need to learn and how to improve your communication to this audience. You are on the right track when consumers begin to react positively to your messages. They will thank you for the information, pass it along to friends and, best of all, they will be happy to refer you to others for their real estate needs.

To further understand the benefits of niche marketing, read Niche Marketing Is Key For Real Estate Agents, visit http://rismedia.com/2007-03-15/niche-marketing-is-key-for-real-estate-agents/.

Bill Miles is EVP of Connecting Neighbors, a division of Reply! Inc. Contact Bill at bmiles@connectingneighbors.com.

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