This week is all about marketing methods that work today. These might not be the same methods that our parents used.
I started a career selling real estate in arguably one of the most difficult markets to penetrate in the country. My feet lead me to Sotheby’s International Realty in Brentwood, CA, a small community on the west side of Los Angeles, flanked by Bel Air, Santa Monica, and the Pacific Palisades.
I wasn’t married to an actress, I did not attend Beverly Hills High School, and my father wasn’t an entertainment agent, like many of my colleagues. I literally knew about 20 people in the city when I got licensed and those folks were my buddies from the rugby team, thus were probably not going to buying any homes in Brentwood or otherwise any time soon. Sure, some have gone on to get in the mix since, but when I started at 27, my circle of influence was quite small.
I needed new business. I needed to find people that I did not know that would appreciate me, my enthusiasm, and my expertise.
I found them on Craigslist and it started with leases. Thats right, I started my career with rentals.
Leases may not be the best route if you work in a market with a lower price point, by virtue of the fact that the commission might not warrant the effort, but the method can be applied to sales as well. The key is engage with people where they have low risk. By offering to be a lesee or buyers agent, they can always go in another direction if they are not satisfied with your level of service, contrary to being in contract when representing a seller. Manage the expectations of a lessee or buyer, as to avoid them leaving you without reason or because they feel they may be able to get a better deal without you is a post for another day, so for now, read on to get a tool that you can use today to create business.
I learned how to articulate my value. I refined my ability to valuate property using comps and connecting with other brokers. I taught myself the contract and all of the supporting documents (which there are tons!).
Most importantly, I was able to create new business. Perhaps it was only a lease, but those that were leasing may ultimately go on to make a purchase or even better…refer me to someone that might be even sooner.
How did I do it?
1 – I went to every other broker’s desk at my office and asked if they had a lease that I might be able to put on Craigslist. See, if you have a big book of business, leases can be frowned upon. It requires nearly the same amount of paper work and effort to show and market, all for a much lower commission. Most were happy to oblige. If I leased it up, they represented the lessor and I usually got the lessee. I made a small nugget and I learned my craft. Everyone won.
2 – While I started with just one property, I quickly began to acquire a nice pool of clients that were actively looking for a lease. I needed to find them something. This was opportunity. I then scoured the MLS for listed leases that might suit their needs. Here, I learned how to negotiate and how best to explain the contract.
3 – I contacted folks that had listed themselves as looking for a lease and explained the value I could provide them. Did you know that there is a section of Craigslist where people list what they are looking for? I honed my telephone skills. It was fun. Their are tons and tons of them, so if I messed up and got my words jumbled, it was ok. I set appointments to see real clients, thus was forced to create a packet about myself and my company to leave behind. Not such a bad thing, however it was a much better to test with low end leases than $2,000,000 homes. Trust me when I tell you that it is much easier on the psych to lose a 6 month apartment lease than a 4 bedroom house with a pool that may be for sale.
My client pool began to grow, both of lessees and lessors. Aaron was a happy boy.
4 – I posted ads on Craigslist that I could be a resource to those looking for a lease.
I used this simple ad:
I am a broker with Sotheby’s International Realty in Brentwood. Sotheby’s lists many of the nicest homes and condos on the Westside. As a potential tenant, my services cost you nothing.
I specialize in properties in the Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, and Malibu. With that in mind, if you are looking in another part of town, I can probably refer you to a competent broker to help you out.
In order for me to assist you with your search for the ideal property, I will need the following information:
- How much square footage and number of bedrooms/ bathrooms are you interested in?
- What is your budget?
- Where would you like to live?
- When do you plan on moving?
- When are you available to view properties?
I can take this information and start searching for the properties that would best fit your needs.
Oh by the way…If you know of someone that is thinking of renting, buying, selling, or investing in property who would appreciate the level of service I offer, I’d love to help them. So, as these people come to mind, just give me a call with their name and business number. I’ll be happy to follow up and take good care of them.
If the person was looking for something that was out of area of expertise, I would refer them to someone that I knew could help, creating goodwill with my clients and other brokers (this created reciprocal referrals, which are quite nice). It was awesome!
I made a point to advertise this ad at a price point that would allow me to actually make a bit of money, and I got responses from all sorts of folks. I got requests from people looking for leases at $550/month all the way to folks looking to sell their homes at price points well into the millions. Owners told me that they appreciated my drive and creativity. It was something that they wanted in a broker.
Ultimately, I found that as the price point and level of sophistication went up, so did their desire for me to have help. That was easy. I just brought on a partner to help, to bring what my dad likes to call “grey equity” or expertise from a fossil (ha). I went to several brokers in my office and really meshed well with one of them and we work together to this day. I bring clients that he may not have reached and he helps provide the experience to close the sale. We share in the proceeds.
Craigslist was the catalyst for my learning my trade and it was….free! Read that again. FREE! Sure, I had to put in a little time to write the ads and test which ones worked best, but it cost nothing. The nice thing is that while Craigslist will only allow an ad to be up for a 7 days, it is saved and reposting is a 4 click process…now your back in business for another week.
Onward and upward!