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The importance of targeting the right market is a key ingredient to a successful career in real estate. As our industry has changed and the challenges within the economy have forced us to constantly reassess our strengths and weaknesses, it’s important that we create a marketing strategy that effectively reaches a large pool of ideal clients.

While an effective marketing plan is only one ingredient to a successful real estate career, it’s important to note that creating a marketing strategy is a waste of money and effort if you don’t have the systems and procedures to convert and close the leads in your skill set.

That being said, the dynamics of the real estate market are forcing us to adapt our skills and tempting us to branch out in new directions. Economic conditions have caused a rapid expansion and contraction of numerous segments of the real estate market, from short sales, foreclosures and auctions, to traditional sales, investments and luxury homes. The simple fact is that it’s impossible to reach every segment of the market.

Understanding how to attract the right customer and when to walk away from the wrong customer will make you happier and more successful in your professional life. By learning more about who you are, who you want to be, and who you want your customers to be, it will be easier to pinpoint your ideal clients and reach them with a specialized marketing plan.

First, define your ideal customer. Many of us feel more comfortable around people our own age with similar income levels, interests and hobbies. Take this into consideration by asking yourself the following questions: What is the average age of my ideal client? How old are their children? What kind of income do they earn? What kind of home do they want to buy or sell? Who are their friends? What kinds of hobbies do they have and where do they spend their non-working hours?

Second, ask yourself how your ideal client makes decisions. Do they go with their feelings, or do they go with their spreadsheet? Do they value service above a discounted rate? Do they value an advisor, or do they want to make all of their own decisions based on what they’ve read on the Internet?

Third, ask yourself how to reach these potential clients. Will you advertise in the paper or on the Internet? Will you choose a farm and knock on doors? Will you connect on Facebook or become a member of a social club? Will you volunteer for a local charity or focus on forming relationships with people who are interested in your favorite hobby? The point is to find out what works for you and then do it.

Developing a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is critical to success in real estate. If you want your USP to be effective, it will take some deep thought and a strong commitment on your part. Your USP will define who you are professionally, so it should be a reflection of your experience, knowledge and skills. Eventually, you will want to take this USP and make it your brand by including it on all of your printed marketing material as well as your website and electronic advertisements.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to refining your business image and creating a coherent, successful marketing strategy that will help you reach out and find your ideal client with great success.

Alan Shafran is the No. 1 REALTOR® in San Diego for Prudential California Realty, President of and author of Blueprint for 100 Deals Per Year in Real Estate. For more information, please visit