I’ll walk you through each step in how to plan and launch a successful geographic farming strategy, from how to choose your target neighborhood to fresh ideas to ensure you’ll be identified as a hyper-local real estate expert.
Geographic farming is one of the oldest practices in the real estate industry and also one of the most tried and true ways to grow and maintain a successful real estate business. When done properly, geo farming can yield massive results.
However, it is also one of the practices that are most incorrectly executed – resulting in thousands of dollars wasted and no business gained. If you ever hear someone say that farming doesn’t work, it means they’re not planning or executing their strategy correctly. Which brings me to my next point.
Geographic Farming Defined
The term ‘farming’ refers to growing something. In the real estate business, we are growing future business. The great thing about geographic farming is that you get to choose exactly which neighborhood you want to grow your business in, and you don’t even need to be a native in the community either.
You’ll want to think of geo farming as planting seeds for potential business and nurturing the homeowners and sellers by bringing them value. Farming normally involves some form of direct mail, targeted digital ads, and even the ad space on the local grocery store shopping cart.
Sidenote: I remember growing up in my small town of 3,500 and my stepmom was ‘The’ realtor in town. Everyone knew her as the lady on all the Piggly Wiggly shopping carts!
Step 1: Choose Your Geographic Farming Neighborhood
Map your past sales: The first step toward choosing your farming neighborhood is to identify where you have the most influence. Look back through your database/past sales and you might be surprised once you map out all of your deals. You’ll have more success in an area where you’ve sold more homes.
You’re going to want to pay attention to a few important metrics as well:
- Annual Turnover Rate
- Competition Market Share
- Number Of Homes You Can Effectively Manage
Annual Turnover Rate: This refers to the average number of homes that sell in that particular neighborhood over a given year. For example: If you’re looking at a neighborhood that has 2,000 homes total and an average of 160 homes sell every year, then the annual turnover rate of that neighborhood is 8%.
You’ll want to aim for a neighborhood that has a minimum turnover rate of 6%, but a better turnover rate is 8%.
Competition Market Share: Make sure to research the MLS and take notes of competitor agents who do a lot of business in the neighborhood. If another agent has more than 25% of the market share, you’ll want to find another neighborhood to farm. Sure, you could get some of those listings, but the reality is that it will cost you more money and you’re probably better off avoiding neighborhoods where competitors already have a major market share.
Taking on competition is not a bad strategy by any means. If there are agents in the neighborhood that have under 25% of the market share, consider taking them on. Check out their figures on the MLS. Some agents might advertise themselves as the neighborhood experts – but in reality, only hold around 5% of the market share. Go get ’em, tiger.
Number Of Homes You Can Effectively Manage: Just be honest with yourself. Remember that when you overwhelm your schedule, you’ll get nowhere. Align yourself with the reality of homes you can take on and have your focus centered to handle those clients effectively and efficiently.
Step 2: Build Authority & Credibility
To build authority and credibility in your chosen geographic farming neighborhood, you need to take an omnichannel marketing approach. I have outlined for you the three most important channels – but there’s always room to go above and beyond, and it’s encouraged.
- Direct Mail: Commit to at least 1 form of consistent, monthly direct mail.
- Community Facebook Page: Create an unbranded community space where you can cultivate conversation while providing value.
- Hyper-Local Digital Advertising: It’s extremely important to stay top of mind in between your direct mail every month.
Direct Mail That Works
When it comes to direct mail, there are many different types that you can send homeowners including, but not limited to:
In a perfect world, you could send all of those marketing pieces out every month to all of the homeowners in your farming neighborhood. But let’s be honest, that will get expensive quickly.
For a comprehensive direct mail solution, The Neighborhood Connection offers a neighborhood magazine. The magazine includes the following, all wrapped in one beautifully designed, compact 32-page magazine:
- Just Solds
- Just Listed
- Market Reports
- A personal Letter
- Relative Content:
- Neighborhood Events
- Local Coupons
- Contests and Prizes
- Tear Out Recipes
This might sound like a lot of work every month, but they have a great content and design team that takes care of all the work for you. All you need to do is provide your just solds and just listed in an excel spreadsheet and let them take care of the rest.
Oh, and did I mention neighborhood exclusivity? You’ll be the only agent in the neighborhood allowed to mail within that neighborhood. They’ll map out your farming neighborhood, create your master mailing list and send it out automatically on your behalf every month. Their lists include email addresses which will help you target your mailing list on Facebook as well… we’ll get to that later.
Unbranded Community Facebook Page
The goal of having an unbranded Facebook page is to not just provide information relating to real estate – but to provide any information that could be of value to the residents of the community. For example, an agent who farms in Costa Mesa, California has a community Facebook page called “Costamazing”. It features events going on in the neighborhood, news updates, fun things to do, and of course, open houses.
Remember, when creating your community page, you’ll want some graphics for the profile and cover image. Is there an iconic area of the neighborhood that you could use for the cover image? Perhaps a welcome sign coming into the neighborhood? You can also use a free program to create fun, fast, and easy graphics for your profile picture and posts called Canva. They have 8,000+ free templates, 100+ design types (social media posts, presentations, letters, and more), and hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics.
If you really want to go above and beyond, hire your photographer to take pictures of your geographic farming neighborhood and/or create a community video.
Pro-Tip: Create a Google Alert for your neighborhood so you’ll be the first to know and the first to share important content with your community.
Make your page private and start inviting people that live in the neighborhood. Encourage them to invite their neighbors. Include a link to the page in your emails and your direct mail campaigns as well.
Hyper-Local Digital Advertising
The above-listed marketing methods are sure to gain you leverage and credibility among your geographic farm, but it’s also important to stay top-of-mind, all the time.
Once you have your geographic farming area mapped out, you’ll need to create your master mailing list. Each MLS will vary from processes to tools but you can usually get the job done by searching the online tax records for your county. There are also 3rd party providers that can compile your mailing list for you and will even include email addresses and phone numbers.
This can be extremely useful for creating custom Facebook audiences and targeting the homeowners in your farming area. Facebook makes it fairly easy to just draw a circle over your target neighborhood, but having their emails and/or phone numbers takes it one step further.
You’ll also want to use Facebook’s Retargeting Pixel to deliver your ads to anyone who visits your website. No prospects left behind.
The Neighborhood Connection actually includes Facebook, Instagram, and Google Display ads as a complimentary bundle with their farming magazines and postcards. For a more in-depth look at how their geographic farming marketing program works, check this out.
Take It To The Next Level
Many agents would stop there and say they’ve done their work… but not a true neighborhood expert. Neighborhood Experts go above and beyond the industry norms. They take extensive action and yield massive results.
Here are a few ideas if you want to really dominate your geographic farming area:
- Neighborhood Food and/or Toy Drive
- Sponsor Community Events
- Sponsor Community Contests (best Holiday lights, best yard, scariest Halloween decorations, etc.)
- Door Knocking
- Small Business Advertising (offer discounts/coupons for local businesses)
- Sponsor School Events/Sports Teams
The Bottom Line
Geographic farming takes work and time. Neighborhood domination is not something that just happens overnight. It is expensive and takes commitment from the agent. However, gaining a successful market share in your neighborhood will make an enormous impact on your real estate business for years to come.
Many agents fail and waste a lot of money trying to farm a neighborhood by not planning, rushing into it, and sending out the wrong kind of messaging.
Take your time and do your research.
- To get results from geographic farming, you must be consistent and willing to commit to long-term growth.
- Make sure the turn-over-rate is high enough to achieve good ROI.
- Use a combination of direct mail, digital advertising, and community involvement.
- Knowledge is power. Make sure you always know what’s going on in your farming area.
Check out this interview with Lindsay Dunlap, 2019’s San Diego Association of Realtors #1 Agent, and how she uses The Neighborhood Connection to dominate her highly competitive farming area of Del Mar.