Tap ideas from seasoned pros to earn more business and boost your income.
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Key Takeaways:

  • As new market opportunities emerge from the pandemic, look for niche audiences that need your help.
  • Focus on reengaging with the clients who are most responsive to your social media content; they can help spread your message to more prospects.
  • Now’s the time to expand your referral network to capture some of the increasing business from relocation clients.

If you want to make more money this year, switch up your tactics for earning new business. Test new marketing ideas, seek out referral opportunities, and reach out to underserved markets. Learn new strategies from seasoned practitioners who have capitalized on emerging trends to elevate their productivity and business results.

1. Be Ready to Work With First-Time Investors

Increased demand for second homes signals more property investment opportunities for you or your clients, says Piper Knoll, CRS, a sales associate with Madison & Company Properties in Denver.

“A lot of buyers are probably going to use their second home for a number of purposes—including income,” she says.

Knoll has noticed a trend in recent months as move-up buyers want to hold onto their starter home as a rental property. She worked with five such clients in the third quarter of 2020.

“The biggest issue with inexperienced investors is education,” Knoll says. “They need information about saving for maintenance costs, writing a lawful lease, and their rights as a landlord.”

You’ll need to connect these would-be landlords with important resources, such as the Institute of Real Estate Management, which offers property investment courses.

What if you want to get in on the game? Jef Conn, CCIM, SIOR, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Trusted Advisors in Lubbock, Texas, says the strong rental market promises good returns for real estate pros who purchase investment property. Keep in mind that one of the biggest hurdles for the self-employed when qualifying for a mortgage is showing proof of income, says Conn, who has owned rental property for 13 years.

“Make sure your finances are in order and your debt-to-income ratio is in line,” meaning 36% or less for many lenders, he says. “You’ve got to show income to the bank.”

Also, consult with other sources: experienced local brokers, including your managing broker, as well as your accountant or other financial adviser, about the income potential of listings you’re interested in.

2. Give Clients a Role in Your Philanthropy

Good deeds have deep meaning right now, and your charitable contributions can be a powerful marketing tool to earn new clients. Harrison Beacher, a sales associate with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, D.C., aims to make philanthropy part of the customer experience, fostering a deeper connection with clients and building loyalty.

Beacher donates 1% of every commission check he receives to a charity of the client’s choosing. Knowing that they’ve contributed to an act of kindness deepens the positive feelings clients have about you, Beacher says.

“We have language in our buyer and seller guides to let us know what charities you support,” he explains. “It galvanizes people into action. Some clients become even more determined to buy or sell.”

Not every homebuying consumer can say their home sales contract went toward eradicating homelessness, says Ashton Ernst, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty Intown in Atlanta. Her company in mid-November was doubling down on its “Home for the Holidays” program, in which every agent contributes $500 per transaction to support the Atlanta Mission, the city’s largest shelter.

“It’s critical that you get the word out about your efforts,” Ernst says. “You can attract new clients while getting them involved in causes you care about.”

3. Build Your Out-of-State Referral Network

With the flexibility of remote work, more people are making long-distance moves, and you want to capture referral business potentially coming from across the country. But with in-person industry networking events canceled, where do you meet peers in other markets?

Sarah Messali, a sales associate with eXp Realty in San Ramon, Calif., whose business is exclusively referral-based, says that before the pandemic, she attended a major industry event every quarter. Now she maintains that schedule with virtual gatherings, often engaging in smaller online meetings with a greater chance of making a one-on-one connection. Messali suggests attending virtual coaching events where you have the opportunity to spark individual conversations and contribute to a group discussion.

She’s also investing more in building relationships with the contacts she made at previous in-person events.

“I’ve spent 2020 following up and getting to know them over the year,” Messali says, “moving the connection offline with handwritten notes or a gift if they send me a referral. I’ve connected two agents who can be helpful to each other, even when there’s no money in it for me.

“Your generosity comes back to you,” she says.

4. Narrow Your Target Audience

Stop sending mass mailers to a wide farming area. Large-scale direct mail programs can be expensive and often don’t generate enough leads to be worth the cost, says Michelle Doherty, a sales associate with RLAH Real Estate in Arlington, Va.

In 2020, she decided to focus entirely on marketing to three neighborhoods, each with fewer than 800 homes, where property turnover is high. She created buzz with hyperlocal, socially distanced events, such as an ice cream social with a truck stopping in front of every house on the block, meant to encourage neighbors’ sense of community during the pandemic. The strategy earned Doherty nine new listings in three months.

“No other agents are that in touch with their neighborhoods that they know the renovations that were made to the house down the street,” she says. “Business will be so much easier if you find a niche you enjoy and keep working it.”

You can also strengthen online bonds by targeting your most engaged audience—those who share your social media content, respond to your posts, and tag your brand—with a so-called “nurture plan.” Eric Rollo, leader of the Eric Rollo Real Estate Team with William Raveis Real Estate in Boston, and his five-agent team market heavily to the 200 most responsive clients in their database of 24,000. They’ve tripled their touch points with these customers through virtual one-on-one meetings, quarterly gifts, and personalized video.

“Within 90 days, we started to see more valuable contact with people we were reaching out to,” Rollo says.

Now every agent on Rollo’s team is landing two or three listing referrals a month. One closed $12 million in volume in September—equal to his annual total in 2019.

“When I started in real estate, we thought we needed to get people signed up for all these newsletters,” Rollo says. “I used to spend $8,000 on a huge mailer program. Now I’m being much more intentional and thoughtful about who I contact and how.”

5. Partner With an REO Specialist

Inventory of distressed properties is likely to increase, so get educated now about the foreclosure and short sale processes. You can start by earning the Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) certification through the National Association of REALTORS®.

Greg Pekarsky, co-owner of Vesta Preferred Realty in Chicago, believes many people in the initial wave of 4 million homeowners who took mortgage forbearance last summer will be forced to enter a short sale or go into foreclosure this year. These transactions have a lot of referral potential, yet there’s low competition for them, Pekarsky says. “Call a local expert and quiz them on the particulars of your market.”

Connect the homeowners with resources and services that can help them repair their credit. “When people learn they can still buy again in the future, they’re so grateful—that’s a client for life,” Pekarsky says.