After identifying the niche you want to develop, it's time to pull together specific business-building activities to back up your plan. Here are 10 different techniques to consider. Focus on the tactics that will work best for your situation—create a complete action plan, track your results, and make any appropriate adjustments.
Laying a Solid Foundation
1. Hone your credentials.
Marketing your area of expertise starts with demonstrating that you have the right credentials. Beyond your CIPS designation, explore additional training specific to your niche. For example, specialists in luxury properties should investigate NAR's RSPS (Resort & Second Home Property Specialist) certification. If you specialize in commercial properties, explore earning the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation or joining the Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS® (SIOR).
2. Update your CIPS profile.
Every CIPS designee should be taking full advantage of their online profile on the CIPS Network. If you specialize in overseas retirement and represent a particular community in Costa Rica, for example, make sure details about this area of specialization appear in your profile so other members—and the public— can find you and leverage your expertise. Likewise, if you need to find agents already doing business in a particular niche, search for them on the CIPS Network.
3. Promote your expertise.
On your website, it's less important to list every designation you've earned than to emphasize the ones most relevant to your niche. Unlike real estate professionals, most consumers aren't familiar with various designations and won't necessarily understand or respect your efforts.
You need to spell it out for them. Include your CIPS designation, and the logo, but don't assume that's enough. For example, explain that you're "a global agent connected to a network of other highly-trained global agents from around the world." Consumers understand and react positively to this kind of language.
Demonstrate Your Knowledge
4. Publish original content.
As a global specialist, it's important to share your knowledge and expertise with others. This will have significantly stronger marketing value if you take time to create your own content and publish it on your own website.
There are several reasons why: First, any visitors to your site will gain a much better understanding of your specialized knowledge than they would from a more general "I'm a real estate agent" website. Second, original content scores big points with search engines, helping you earn higher rankings when buyers and sellers search online using keywords related to your niche.
There are many ways to simplify your efforts. Start by perusing past issues of this newsletter for ideas. For example, the February 2014 issue provided an update on the U.S. EB-5 visa program, in addition to popular investment visas in other countries. If your niche involves wealthy cross-border investors, look at these articles for ideas or sources of relevant information.
5. Engage with thought leaders.
Who are the "celebrities" in fields related to your specialized niche? Global agents working with investors, for example, may be keen to follow the opinions of certain research analysts, bloggers, or columnists in property investment journals. Start following them on social media and reading the articles they publish online. (You'll also get lots of ideas for your own blog posts!)
Interact with them, expressing your appreciation for the material they produce, asking follow-up questions, and offering suggestions specific to your niche market. Over time, your visibility will be noticed by others, helping spark additional connections within your specialized niche.
Leverage Social Networks
6. Share valuable content.
Be sure to share any original content on your social networks, as well as articles from other sources that provide solid information related to your niche market. When posting updates on social networks, always ask yourself, "Is this something my clients would be interested in seeing?" If so, why? The answer to that question should form the basis of your comment.
For maximum impact, choose your words carefully. For example, instead of saying "Here's a great article on overseas retirement," post something more interesting and engaging, such as "Ready to retire Certified International Property Specialist 04.2015 Global Perspectives ~ 7 overseas? Ask yourself these questions first." Don't forget to add one or two relevant hashtags, which will improve the odds that people interested in and searching for the same topics will find your content.
If you're publishing original blog posts, be sure to take advantage of a new LinkedIn feature that allows you to republish your content in long-form updates. (In other words, you copy, paste and repost the entire content of your article instead of just sharing a link to it.) This is a great way to pump up your special area of expertise on the world's largest professional network by adding searchable, keyword-rich content to your professional profile.
7. Participate in CIPS referrals.
The CIPS private networking group on Facebook (called Official Group: NAR CIPS Designees) was designed to support referral exchanges between designees. Reach out to other agents with specific opportunities that might attract their interest—the best way to receive referrals, in exchange.
8. Explore other niche forums.
Depending on your area of expertise, there are many other ways to interact online with various specialists. On LinkedIn, for example, you'll find everything from the broad-based Global Relocation & Real Estate Networking group to the highly-focused Global Network for Turkish Real Estate group—and everything in between.
Map Out a Networking Strategy
9. Select the best events.
There are literally hundreds of opportunities to network with other agents—and with buyers and sellers—in various property niches. For example, the premier event for commercial/investment specialists is MIPIM (Le marché international des professionnels de l'immobilier), held each year in Cannes, France. On the other hand, residential specialists in and around Spain won't want to miss SIMA (Salon Immobiliario De Madrid, or Madrid International Real Estate Exhibition).
Global agents can search for all the best networking events (and special discounts for CIPS designees) on NAR's Global Calendar (realtor.org/global/global-meetings-andevents). Don't forget the premier U.S. forum for global agents—the next REALTORS® Conference & Expo, November 13-16, 2015, in San Diego—which includes several prime networking opportunities.
10. Plan ahead.
Your ability to generate business from networking events requires much more than exchanging business cards. Before you go, research who's attending and identify specific people who would be valuable additions to your professional network. (For example, an international relocation specialist who's seeing an uptick in transfers to Tokyo may want to meet and personally vet agents and related professionals from this market.) Touch base in advance via LinkedIn or a phone call, explain your own area of expertise and make plans to connect with one another at the event.
All aspects of your marketing and business development activities require thoughtful attention and planning—networking is no exception. If you'd like additional suggestions on honing your networking strategy, refer to the October 2013 issue of Global Perspectives.