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What's in a Niche?  
By Wintress Odom

The vast majority of real estate agents become accustomed to dealing with--and attempting to accommodate--whatever business shows up at their doorstep.  This naturally provides a wide market.  But it also creates a market in which many prospects are likely to fall through.  Why?  Because nobody can please everybody. 

Buyers and sellers are likely to shop real estate agents, and when they do, they will pick the one they are most comfortable with--the one that fits their niche.  So, instead of waiting for unreturned phone calls, it makes sense to find the buyers whose niche fits you.  This solves a lot of hassle, paperwork, and time.

The trick is finding the right niche.  It has to be a niche in which you are naturally comfortable.  Don't pick a niche out of a hat and try to fit your life to match it.  To carve a niche, start with what you already spend time doing.  Then, expand.  

For example, if you drop by your local pub from five to six every day, you're in a perfect location to start drumming-up some business.  If you play tennis, walk your dog at the local park, play bingo on Sundays or attend your daughter's soccer games every week, you are around potential niche-customers.  If you know a neighborhood or subdivision well, if you are part of a particular ethnic group or social circle, if you work with a charity, or if you enjoy working with a particular segment of buyers or sellers (such as first-time homebuyers or investors), you have a good basis for starting a niche.

10 Tips for Carving Your Real Estate Niche  

  • Get Another Set of Business Cards
    Get another set of business cards to hand out to niche-clients.  Have them state your specialty:  "The Expert at Downtown Living",  "Specializing in Flats, Condos and Time-Shares", "Finding Best Buys for All-Incomes", "I Know Fixer-Uppers", or  "The Authority on Lakeside Property".  

  • Develop a Referral Base from Past Clients
    Your past clients are your most valuable asset.  Let them know you'll remember them if they refer you.  Send them Christmas cards and--for that extra special touch--birthday cards.  Send them a nice gift when they've sent you a referral, even if the referral doesn't pan out.    

  • Develop a Referral Program
    Hand out business cards with a blank line for your referrers to pencil-in their name.  Offer them something when the card comes back to you.  If you don't want to give out cash, offer to work for free on their next transaction (after five referrals or so).  Send them a nice bottle of wine or tickets to a sporting event if one of their referrals works out.  For those who have the opportunity to offer you multiple referrals, create a point system where rewards are greater the more referrals you receive.      

  • Exchange Referrals with other Agents
    Establish a relationship with other agents who work in niche markets.  Send clients that fit their niche to them, and they'll happily send clients that fit your niche to you.  This works especially well if you've picked a niche that others generally don't want, such as a bad-credit or low-income niche.

    Client Information to Maintain in Your Database

    First Name
    Last Name
    Phone Number
    Email Address
    Date of First Contact
    (Go the extra mile.  Send anniversary cards.)
    Referrer Name
    When They Want to Buy
    Where They Want to Buy
    How Much they Want to Spend
    Type of House they Want
    Notes on Their Special Situation

  • Develop a Database
    You can do this in any spreadsheet program.  Maintain a list of current prospects and old customers.  Keep it up-to-date and comprehensive.  
  • Keep a Calendar
    Particularly for prospects who may not be looking to buy for several months, it's helpful to keep a calendar reminding you when to re-call those older leads.  You can keep track of important dates for clients that are going through the purchasing process as well.   Then you can call them on their move-in date, or send them a housewarming present.

  • Get Local Establishments on Your Side 
    You're sending mail anyway, so offer to do some free advertising for local businesses while you're at it.  Most will be more than happy to provide you with coupons to mail out.  This increases the value of the mailings to your clients and local business owners will love you.  You'll increase referrals all around.

  • Survey Your Old Customers
    Soon after you've closed a purchase, send out a customer survey.  Ask them what you did right, what you did wrong and whether they would refer you to anyone else.  Ask specifics about how you performed in your niche market:  "On a scale of  1 to 10, how knowledgeable did you find me on the Lower-Metropolitan Area."  This will help you better your service and better understand the needs of your niche-clientele.  

  • Start Conversations and Make Friends
    Talk to people in your community.  Initiate conversations and always have a stack of business cards handy.  Eventually people will ask you what you do.   Talk to everybody, but especially talk to people who see members of your niche-community every day:  convenience store tellers, dog groomers, hairstylists, teachers and waitstaff.  Let them know who you are, greet them when you see them, exchange some small-talk, and they'll remember you when they or their friends are looking to buy a home.   

  • Know Your Niche
    And, of course, know your niche.  Keep updated and strive to improve yourself.  Take training courses, and read local publications.  



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