Expanding the Farm: tips on managing a new territory with your existing team - an offrs review
Whether you're building out a new farm or expanding on an existing one, here's quick a guide that may help your team choose the right markets to grow into and some tips on managing the expanding operation...
As seen on IQRealEstate.com...
Working your farm is difficult-enough, but coordinating other team members to assure that there are no costly gaps or overlaps? That changes the game. It's fair to say that all the members of your team are (or should be) on the same page and want to make sure that everything runs smoothly across the board for everyone. However, if that's not the case... if you have someone that's working against the team's goals, then consider tackling that before entering a new market or expanding your farm's specialties. Here's an article on finding the perfect team member (based on skill set, personality, etc.).
Farming by Focus
Knowing what you have to work with is key. Not all farms are equal (or at least equally-addressed). While we typically view farms as geographic regions, often split by neighborhood boundaries, many agents will nevertheless begin to specialize in niches that may not be so easily defined on a map. These niche markets might be organized by static factors like type of construction or dynamic factors like a seller demographic, price range and so on. If you're just now setting up your farm or if you're branching out services within an existing farm, here are some things you'll want to factor in...
- Area demographics: You may have an idea of what the residents in the area are looking for in a home or from their agent, but keep in mind that things change. Right now, there's a shift in homeownership and a lot of traditional areas are getting a Millennial makeover as homes have slowly transferred from one generation to the next. It's best not to assume that historic areas will maintain market interest decades after their neighborhood's glory years. Only you will know, so be sure to stay on top of housing trends in your farm and those nearby. Check out this simple generational guide to homebuyers (it includes some target marketing tips for each).
- Home type turnover: Just as the ownership demographic has changed, so too has the market itself. This goes without saying, but the regional market trends are going to tell you a lot about what people are really looking for (as in what they're actually buying). You may be getting a lot of inquiries about downtown condos, but if the numbers are showing that said buyers ultimately go for single-family homes, then it might not be a smart move to only focus your specialization on condos. Take a look at this easy infographic guide (it includes features you can highlight based on a home's age).
- Know your locale: More and more, people are looking for area culture and activities that will enhance their lifestyles. While you don't want to water down your operations, becoming the go-to person or team for certain regional highlights can set you apart from your peers. If anything, it's a great way to market your brand to cold-call leads and to maintain your brand's value with the real estate listing leads you're still cultivating. Know which restaurants are blowing up on social media this week? Are you the hookup for the inside scoop on businesses hiring C-Level executives in the area? Productize that skill.
- Know your competition: It's a good idea to do your research on the movers and shakers int he area. You'll want to know who the direct mail kings and queens are, who has the best newsletter in town and who is dominating the door-to-door salesmanship on your turf. Of course, these things ebb and flow depending upon the other teams' strategies and capabilities, but in general, if they are still working the area and if they have a history of owning one market approach, it's reasonably safe to assume they're going to be launching another round again. So take a look at their approach. Ask around if you have to. It's best to find a gap in those doing direct mailers, email newsletters, door-knocking, etc. and to make your new mark there.
What Type of Farm is Yours?
To get a feel for each of these, you can use census data, MLS data or even a thorough Google search. Whether your farm falls under one of the above categories or not, you should know what it is that your territory is most-cleary definable by. Working off of the obvious metaphor, it wouldn't make sense for a crop farmer to invest in dairy equipment or to train farm-hands on tasks that aren't relevant to the primary focus of the farm. So you'll need to know what you're working with before you can begin to coordinate the teams.
That said, it's recommended that you identify a primary focus and a secondary focus. A primary focus might be a larger target such as beachfront properties and a secondary focus might be more specific such as vacation rental investments. This isn't to say that you can't or shouldn't maintain other specialties (you certainly don't want to lose out on any opportunities), but having primary and secondary goals will help the team focus in on an area that can be more easily defined by geography and something more skill-specific like contracts and regional policies.
Is Your Team is Up to it?
Once you have your farm's definitions (what you're going to be known for... at least mostly), then you'll be ready to look over your crew. Most likely, you've defined your farm by the team you have and that's okay. As long as the two are in sync and you have a strong sense of purpose, then you're on the right track! How do you know if your team is up for the niche market you've spotted?
- They're excited: If the market focus is something they're passionate about on a personal level, you won't spend as much time driving their motivation. If environmental concerns are important to your team, then go green. Specialize in LEAD certification and energy-saving home technologies. Watch as your team's career becomes their personal mission.
- It's familiar to them: If the market is something they've had a good amount of experience (and success) within the past, then there'll be less of a learning and ramp-up. Working the beachfront properties niche... maybe they have a beachfront home of their own and have already had years of dealing with beach-related management hassles - a value-added consultation skill that your clients would value in itself.
- It's personal to them: If they had an active roll in defining your farm, then you'll likely have deeper buy-in. The last thing people on a team want is to feel like the focus has shifted away without their feedback - especially if its away from a more comfortable zone. If they've personally helped with the process, there should be less resistance. This is why it'll be important to spend some time etching out your farm's boundaries and definitions.
Divide and Conquer
The last tip highlights an important point about leadership in your team. While we won't get too far into that here, the team's dynamics will be an important consideration when it comes to dividing tasks. Whether your team is a master/apprentice setup or more of a clearly-defined and evenly-split partnership, certain tasks are naturally going to become mundane or at very least routine. To keep your clients from experiencing "routine" service, we suggest mixing it up a bit... rotate the task/roles here and there. It will also give you skill redundancy (should one of your members fall ill or end up leaving the fold). Communication will be key to making this work.
The obvious step is to find the areas of specialty and assign those agents to their matching capabilities, but if you're looking to challenge your team and reinvigorate their passion with a new market to conquer, consider laying out the tasks on scraps of paper on the table (yes, paper). Then challenge them to pick up a task they've always wanted to master - great for newbies and returning agents. You might just find their true, hidden talents. If you're cautious about expending resources on unknowns, then here's a great article that might help you identify skillsets your team already has - ones you can leverage to dominate this new market from the start.
Be Patient and Do Your Research
Establishing or growing your farm is an important decision and like buying or selling a home, you'll do better with more information and feedback from your family (aka your team and/or peers). You'll likely have to do this while maintaining your bread and butter clients and services, so take it one step at a time. Research your market, then research your competition. Explore the overlap and any possible gaps in marketing that you could make your team's specialty. Discuss the pros and cons with your team and gauge their interest and commitment. Plan to spend a few months or at least a few weeks on this.
Over time, you'll get the ins and outs of expanding your farm. You may be burned by some element of the process and this too can make you stronger (as long as you always get back up and keep pressing forward). If neither you nor your team is ready to expand, then place your notes into a folder and come back to it another day. Despite what some say, inaction can truly be the wisest of actions.
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