This is a question I ask ANYONE who sells anything. I want to know how they got their customer, and if I can emulate their success.
The answer is one of two things, referrals and marketing. So for me both of these were a problem, a BIG problem.
When starting off in real estate you are repeatedly told from you instructor in your initial class, to your instructor in your companies course requirements, to your broker (who acts as your boss and mentor) to other agents that you should compile a list of every person you know. This list is called your "Sphere of Influence”, it’s either their number or email address and your affiliation with the person. Most list are 100-500 names, once it is compiled you contact each and every person, alerting them that you are now in the "business". You encourage those people to tell other people, and those people to tell other people. Thus a chain reaction of people now knowing that you can assist them in buying and selling property. This is a proven method for some agents, and in almost every real estate book I have ever read it tells the reader to do the same thing!
When real estate agents first came about their role was to JUST assist in the selling of the home, until "caveat emptor" (let the buyer beware) justified the idea that buyers of homes should solicit real estate professionals in order to protect their interest in a home sale. Real estate agents had most often been at home moms that needed something to do with their spare times. As time went on the housing market sky rocketed, opening up the door for more profit to the Agent (We'll talk another time about the supposed "big bucks"!). This brought in professionals of other careers who were either at, or just about at retirement age and wanted to continue with making money, to what appeared to be effortlessly.
I am a new breed of professional. My career started long before my legal age so instead of spending 30 years at a company and then retiring to sell homes I went straight into the home selling business. Most agents think this is the best idea ever, and wish they could have chosen this path. Unbeknownst to them they have something I don’t have, past connections.
Remember that "Sphere of Influence"? If I were to sit down at the time I graduated high school and wrote down everyone I knew on a piece of paper I would have my school mates (who were getting ready to submit loans for college), teachers (who knew me as the very talkative student), and parents. I had never had a job outside of my parents company and my family lives in
Maybe this was a mistake on my part, but I truly don’t think that me as an 18 year old could have persuaded anyone who knew me in my high school life to entrust me with the biggest purchase of their life. That may be called self doubt, or just me being a realist.
My time then had to be dedicated to marketing! At my high school you had the ability to choose what extracurricular courses you wanted. I chose to spend most of my non core courses in business related classes. Such as Entrepreneurship, Marketing, etc. I also became a 3 year member of DECA (an organization of Marketing Students) and hosted as the Vice President in my senior year. During college I was limited in the marketing related courses I could take but enrolled in as many as I could. Don't get me mistaken, I'm NO expert at marketing, although the limited exposure I did have early on in conjunction with massive amounts of television I watched gave me an ample amount of ideas.
To me, there are two effective ways to market yourself or a product. Word of mouth, or visual aids with you or your product on it. I tend to lean more towards the visual because of an agent at the first company I worked for. Before agreeing to "sign" with a brokerage I interviewed a lot of companies to see what they had to offer. My final decision weighed heavily on the fact that I though it was fate that the first real estate company I interned at was one I haphazardly interviewed with. This company also housed a REALTOR that I thought was "Big-Time"!
She had BILLBOARDS, everywhere! (Next to TV ads and radio spots, billboards are the way to attract business, I later learned.) I immediately assumed she sold tons and tons of homes. What I later learned is that she round aboutly [sic] got these billboards from a settlement decades before she began real estate, she was actually a new face to the business just like me! Other consumers obviously thought the same thing; her phone would not stop ringing, while I couldn’t get mines to vibrate! ALL because people THOUGHT she was something (not to say she isn’t a fabulous agent!).
I obviously couldn’t buy billboards, nor wait for one to jump in my lap, I had/have to think of new, innovative ways to get my name and brand to future buyers.
This business is about branding yourself, but whatever company you tie yourself to wants to convey the company’s name as well. You can't, legally make a flyer, make ads, or solicit yourself in anyway without also marketing your company’s logo. It’s a futile battle, both entities are attempting to sell/buy the same property, one just wants more credit than the other. I believe that it was my tenacious attitude and hard work that made the deal while the company insinuates that its the branding of the company was the reason why I attracted the client. Its neither here nor there, at the end of the day there needs to be a joint effort to effectively market whatever it is that is being sold. The size of the company will dictate how much assistance (monetary, physical, and emotional) you get from them.
The community I work for solely brands their name, there is not a flyer, ad or directional sign that will ever say "Your Nxt Realtor". I’m comfortable with this. This community is based off its name and uniformity of its product. The uniqueness of this community is that you cannot just drop your ads and signs where ever you please. Also I’m not financially sound enough to pay thousands of dollars for a billboard every month, so I use the company’s resources to bring the customer to me. At that point it doesn’t matter how they came to my doorstep, it’s now my job to make sure my positive demeanor, knowledge of the property and overall attitude brings them, and the person they tell, back!
That, in addition to my internet marketing (including, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, under construction website and news letter ad) and various organizations I pay to be apart of, and NOW my "Sphere of Influence" should suffice with clientele until I buy those billboards!