|This article was published on: 09/01/2006|
21 Spectacular Prospecting Ideas
To ensure that you never run out of ideas, we provide a list of readers’ most successful strategies for drawing in new business.
We asked, you answered. In recent issues of the Business Tips Newsletter, REALTOR® Magazine Online asked you for your very best prospecting ideas. Our goal was to showcase successful strategies for ramping up business at a time when many U.S. markets are experiencing a slowdown.
Dozens upon dozens of ideas poured in, ranging from the old-fashioned to the truly original. Here, we include 21 ideas that represent the breadth of tips we received. We hope you enjoy reading how your peers are attracting clients in their markets, and that you’ll be inspired to incorporate some new ideas into your own business.
Create Walking Billboards
I give out t-shirts that have my company’s logo on the front and my contact information on the back. The most effective people to target for my giveaway are those who work outside in the public eye. Gas station attendants, ice-cream stand workers, landscapers, and others who do outdoor work are the best. I also give t-shirts to all of those nice people who allow me to place my “directional” signs on their front lawn; not only do they let me use their lawn for my sign, but they get a free shirt … and I get more free advertising! — Kurt H. Krug, Coldwell Banker McMahan Co., Bardstown, Ky.
Find Garage-Sale Gems
One of my favorite prospecting ideas is to coordinate the community garage sale. The participating home owners e-mail me all of their contact information, and I provide the county permit, ad in the paper, garage sale maps, and signage. The whole event costs me less than $50. On the day of the event, I stand in front of the community handing out maps to the homes, with the goal of meeting every home owner face to face. Often, people have a garage sale when they’re preparing to sell their home, so it makes for the perfect opportunity to further your brand, build your data base, and flush out the listing leads. — Jenny Wemert, Keller Williams Advantage Realty, Oveido, Fla.
Make Grandparents Smile
My best and newest prospecting idea developed on March 7 when I became a grandmother for the first time! I had been searching for a unique way to market my services to seniors within my community, as well as others outside the area, and I think I found it.
I created this 4-inch by 6-inch postcard featuring my grandson. The first batch was sent to 1,000 residences in adult communities within my farm territory. I am currently working on a second batch for the same group with an updated photo. I will definitely be in their mailbox a minimum of four times a year offering my services with the “personal touch” of a proud grandmother! It’s a great tool to meet and relate to other grandparents. — Millie Gil, New Home Sales Realty, Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
Know Friends in the Right Places
Without a doubt, the best thing I have done for my business is to get involved and stay involved in a formal, recognized networking group. I am a charter member of the Central Berkshire Chapter of Business Network International. I have 30 people who know me and are watching out every day for potential sources of business for me. They will gladly dial the phone for a potential client to speak to me on the spot! It’s like having 30 salespeople working on my behalf!
Being part of a formal networking group isn’t effortless, however. I have made a time and financial commitment to my group and have served in several leadership positions, including as president. Most important, I also watch for potential business for fellow members. It’s an added benefit to my clients, however, when I can easily refer them to a great carpenter, loan officer, insurance company, electrician, florist, or massage therapist! — Anne Meczywor, CBR®, Roberts and Associates Realty Inc., Lenox, Mass.
Hit the Airwaves
My best prospecting idea was to become a familiar and trusted real estate practitioner that prospective clients will want to listen to. That’s why I started the only talk radio real estate show in Kansas City. My show is called “Real Talk with Dave” and it’s broadcast live each Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon on 710 KCMO talk radio. Most of my fellow real estate practitioners in the Kansas City area use mail and Internet marketing to reach out to their circle of influence, which may include anywhere from 25 to 200 individuals. My show goes out every week to more than 5 million prospects. — Dave Pleskac, Reece & Nichols, REALTORS®, Leawood, Kan.
Do Good Deeds
I held a food drive to benefit my local emergency food bank. I called everyone on my mailing list a couple of weeks before the donation pick up. I called again two days ahead of pick up. The response was so great that it took me two days to pick up all of the donations. I had great conversations with clients and people on my list who hadn't yet used my services. The food bank received over 500 pounds of food. I received follow-up calls of appreciation plus two listings and several referrals. — Carole Carr, Carole Carr Realty LLC, Portland, Ore.
Sometimes when I go through a fast-food restaurant drive through, I will pay for the car behind me and ask the cashier to give them my business card and tell them to have a great day. I love to look in my rear view mirror at their shocked expression as I pull away! It puts a smile on my face and on theirs, too. — Carol Prose, Schneider Real Estate, St. Charles, Mo.
Give Away Money
One of my favorite prospecting techniques involves a short personalized letter mailed to home owners in a targeted neighborhood. The letter is titled “First of Many,” beneath which is taped a crisp new $1 bill and my message: “When you’re ready to sell, I have hundreds of thousands more of these dollar bills to give you from my highly qualified and serious buyers.” I give my contact information and humorously ask them to respond as soon as possible to let me know their preference: “Do you prefer the balance of the money in small bills or in large denominations?”
The cost of doing this is generally less than that of a novelty gift such as a pen, calendar, or magnet, and it has a dramatic impact. Most people will remember who sent them free money, and many of them have felt a need to reciprocate by listing their home with me. — Gary D. Singer, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Springfield, N.J.
Get to Know Lawyers
My best prospecting idea is to contact family lawyers and ask for referrals. While divorce and bankruptcy are never desired situations, they do offer opportunities for real estate practitioners like me to help people out of bad situations. — Tommy L. King, Keller Williams Realty, Denton, Texas
Offer a View from Above
I’ve found that no one can resist a satellite view of their home. When prospecting for FSBOs, I make a personal visit to their home and drop off a portion of a CMA, along with a description of my services and a satellite photo of their neighborhood. Most of them are so excited about the photo that I receive calls after my visit. — Kathy Jean Blair-Yannerella, Kennen & Kennen Inc./GMAC Real Estate, Moundsville, W. Va.
Wear a Name Tag … Every Day
I wear my REALTOR® name tag every day. It’s amazing how people warm up to me because they can clearly identify me by name and occupation, even though we have never met formally. Some people engage me in real estate conversation, which allows me to gather information about their situation as well. I’m closing on a house I listed as a result of one of those “stranger” meeting, and I just got another client today the same way! It does work. Everyone is a client I have yet to meet. — Melanie Peak, Coldwell Banker Legacy, Cedar Crest, N.M.
Be the ‘Sandwich Man’
On the first Saturday after buyers move in, I offer to throw them a catered meet-the-new-neighbors party, and I’m the waiter. I do this regardless of whether I represented the buyer or the seller in the sale. I supply top-of-the-line sandwiches, two salads, two cases of soft drinks, all the paper goods and plastic cutlery, a garbage can that I leave for the new owners, and a table with my business card and local sales information. I spend an hour or so there and then take off my apron and go away. My strategy has earned me a reputation as the “sandwich man,” but the important thing is that they remember me. I’ve had calls from the buyers two or three years later when they’re ready to move. — Ray Tate, CRS®, Country Lane Realty, Paso Robles, Calif.
Provide Peace of Mind
I pay for a home warranty program, which usually costs somewhere between $350 and $400 per home. When I advertise my services on billboards, in print, and on radio and TV, I say I’ll pay for the home warranty program for a full year for either the buyer or the seller — whichever I represent. When I do the warranty for sellers, it covers the appliances and air conditioning system from the moment the listing is taken to the time of close and beyond for the buyer. This makes sellers very happy because they realize that if anything breaks during the listing or contract period they won’t be responsible and will incur no cost. Sellers also are less worried about the cost of repairs that may be requested by the buyer after a home inspection. It has worked like a charm at listing presentations. — Angel A. Caso, RE/MAX Real Estate Professionals, Lehigh Acres, Fla.
Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse
I want to find buyers in a buyer's market, but I realize that so does every other practitioner. My strategy is to seek out aggressive sellers. In my marketing materials I include this tag line: "I'll list your home for free if you buy with me. I cut my commission so you can drop the price and beat the competition."
At the listing presentation, I explain to sellers how I will cut my commission so they can take the money they would have been paid to me and drop the list price, thus undercutting the competition's list price and grabbing buyers’ attention. To cover advertising and marketing costs of listing the home, I charge a set fee the sellers pay upfront. The home usually sells quickly and I then can make my real commission representing the clients as buyers.
I'm finding this approach to be somewhat controversial in the real estate community. As soon as the market turns back to a seller's market, the listing fees will come back. But until then, I can't complain with all the calls, leads, and clients I'm receiving due to this catchy advertising. —
Nicholas J. Lombardi, Denver Commercial Properties and Denver Residential Property, Denver
Give Them a Taste of Stardom
My business colleague and I go up to various people — firemen, teachers, even other real estate practitioners — with a microphone and camera and ask various questions that will be aired on our Web site and radio show. For example, we’ll ask "What three things should you do to protect yourself when you buy a home?" Then we hand them our business card and tell them their response may be aired on our radio show or featured on our Web site. It works! They hang on to our card, they go to our Web site to see and hear themselves, and they remember our company and our philosophies. — Lisa Solomon and Keri Kasem, Solomon Financial Mortgage & Realty, Newport Beach, Calif.; co-hosts of “The Solomon Free Money Hour” on 97.1 FM
Lock in New Alliances
In an arrangement with a local locksmith, he puts my promotional key chains on every key he makes. If this isn't prospecting, then I don't know what is. My name is everywhere! — Nita Haynes, ERA Wilder Realty Inc., Orangeburg S.C.
Invest in a Segway
I have an advertising shield attached to my Segway, and as I ride around town I meet home owners; hand out giveaways with my name, logo, and phone number on them; and discuss real estate. I’ve had my Segway for only about 6 weeks, but I plan to have a different giveaway every 60 to 90 days and give away items that home owners will keep. Examples are pot holders, flyswatters, chip clips, and calendars.
I also plan to participate in special events such as local street fairs and parades. The Segway is a great conversation starter. My advertising shield does the talking for me. When I ride it to the office, commuters constantly honk at me and give me a thumbs-up. I believe I have the only Segway in Bakersfield. It’s unique and hopefully will pay great dividends as I continue to use it. — Jim Summers, RE/MAX Golden Empire, Bakersfield, Calif.
Don’t Skimp on Business Cards
I hand out business cards to everyone. I carry them everywhere, including in a leather pouch on my key chain. I’ve received business from someone who picked up a card that I left at a gas pump and from someone who takes dance lessons at the same place I do. I leave a card at the register of every business I walk into, with every sales clerk, inside pay folders at restaurants, and on doors of FSBOs. In every conversation I have, I say: "by the way I'm also an experienced real estate professional and a REALTOR® and if you or someone you know ever needs a REALTOR® you can count on, please put my card in a safe place like your wallet so you can contact me." I try to go through about 4,000 cards a year, and I’m trying to up that figure. This has made me money. — Dee Scott, Texas Home Group, Spring, Texas
I started a blog for my community in Tennessee. My blog entries cover a range of topics, from "The library has begun its summer reading program" to "Did everyone survive the hail storm?" I've actually had a lot of hits on my real estate Web page as a result of this blog, even an inquiry from tech-savvy investors from California. I can't say I've picked up a client yet, but I’m building a wider sphere, including the blogging community in middle Tennessee. — Kathy Tyson, ABR®, Bob Parks Realty, Smyrna, Tenn.
Besides selling real estate, I'm an entertainer! I play guitar and sing, doing gigs at bars, restaurants, charity functions, benefits, women's group meetings, and more. When I'm on stage, my personality is to bring the audience into the show with me and make people feel comfortable. At some point, I always mention that I'm a REALTOR®, as is my husband (and roadie) Bob McCroskey. I've even got a couple of songs that refer to real estate — Pam Tillis' "Handyman's Dream" and Michelle Shocked's "God is a Real Estate Developer" are a couple of examples. Although I don't get too many referrals during my performances, my husband is frequently approached to discuss real estate. And since he's very active in our downtown area, and that's where I play a lot, he scores double! — Katie McCroskey, ABR®, Bob McCroskey Real Estate, Springfield, Mo.
Take a Walk in the Rain
One of the best things I ever did was to walk the neighborhood in the rain chatting with people and asking if they were interested in buying or selling. People let me in their homes because it was raining and they felt sorry for me. I picked up 5 listings that week. It showed them my dedication, hard work, perseverance, and ability to communicate with people. — Joan Bowyer, John L. Scott Real Estate, Portland, Ore.
Tune in next month to see how your peers respond to this question … What are your best time-management secrets?