Niche Marketing Success

Focus your farming through personal interests instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to prospecting.

August 1, 2004

How many “Just Listed or “Just Sold” postcards arrive in your mail each month? Can you determine from other practitioners’ mailings to your home how many are working your farm? Not very motivating, is it? Well, if you’re like other consumer product marketers, your response rate is below 2 percent for direct-mail advertising.

One way to improve your results is a time-honored marketing technique—niche marketing. Groups of people with a similar interest create a niche. That shared interest can be work, education, experience, lifestyle, politics, or sports. By targeting a niche, you can customize your marketing message to the particular concerns of your target group. This focus, in turn, will increase your response rate and help you achieve higher levels of sales success. Here are some new ways to think about approaching a niche within your farm area.

Think Beyond Geography

Try not to think of niches just as specific geographic areas. People with shared interests don’t always live in the same place so you can’t farm them in traditional ways.

Mailings can still be effective, but you’ll need to obtain lists from special interest groups or from publications geared to your chosen niche to effectively reach a specialized market. Networking through organizations where your niche market congregates is another great way to make contacts. It’s also very likely that some of the niche members know people in your farm area.

Based on the research work of Harvard professor Stanley Milgram (famous for the idea of “six degrees of separation”), there are often unperceived connections between seemly unconnected individuals. This means that there’s a high likelihood that in any group, some people will directly or indirectly know people in another group. This is particularly true when there is geographic proximity among the groups, when the group is made up of people with a common interest, or when you focus your networking efforts on the “connectors” in any group. According to Milgrim, these star networkers account for an inordinately high level of connectivity among groups.

Create Walking Billboards

To understand how this connectivity can be used in your real estate marketing efforts, let’s say that you’re an avid mountain biker. You join the International Mountain Bicycling Association and develop a sincere, long-term relationship with other bikers. Over time, you’ll have three to seven fellow bikers as walking, talking billboards for your real estate business to people they know in your farm. Not to mention that you can sell houses to all the bikers.

Let’s take this niche-marketing example to another level. After a year of attending meetings and events of fellow mountain bikers, you have met a number of potential or closed clients through members of this group. You like the results from your first year so you decide to place an ad in the program book of the group’s annual convention, letting attendees know if they or family members are considering a move to your community, they should call a fellow bicycling enthusiast (that’s you) for their home search. Now, you’re way outside of your farm, but you’re still meeting people who have your shared experience. This is what niche marketing is all about.

Market to Related Businesses

The mountain biking niche is really working well, but you want more. At one of the regional meetings, a new member is introduced. She has her own law firm in a nearby community and handles real estate transactions as well as wills and probate. You meet her and offer to refer clients to her practice. After a year, your clients use her legal services, and she has referred a buyer and a listing that is part of an estate that she has been retained to represent to you. Halfway through the year, the attorney mentions that another mountain biker in the region who rarely attends events is a mortgage broker and offers to introduce you to him. The meeting goes well, the niche is reinforced, and you both refer clients to each other.

The mortgage broker suggests after working together for a couple of years that you partner to start a Web site for mountain bikers that features the businesses of members, as well as regional sports news. Now, you’re really working this niche marketing, you can have your own real estate pages on the Web site and generate inbound or outbound relocation referrals from all over the country.

Give Back to Your Niche

To make niche marketing work, you must have a sincere interest in your niche or the members will see through purely monetary motives. Giving back to the niche is also a critical part of successfully serving a niche. In the example above, the real estate practitioner developed a Web site for all the businesses in the mountain bike group. This was her way of giving back to the niche as well as marketing herself.

Make a list of all the activities, interests, hobbies, and groups that you are already involved with. Or perhaps you have an interest or a cause that you have always wanted to pursue. Perhaps you could expand your networking by sponsoring a niche fundraising event to promote your business. Consider niche marketing as a kitchen door vs. a front door approach to real estate customers and clients. You may find that the doors to greater sales success swing wide open when you approach marketing with a fresh perspective.

Mark Nash is the author of Reaching Out: The Financial Power of Niche Marketing and The Original New Agent’s Guide to Starting & Succeeding in Real Estate. He is a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential, Central Street Office, in Evanston, Ill. He can be reached by e-mail at mnash@coldwellbanker.com.

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