Less than halfway through last week’s BAM webinar on geographic farming, Luke Acree, founder of ReminderMedia, shared a story that perfectly illustrates how people identify the top agent in their area. 

The chosen agent isn’t necessarily the best one in town. But they are the best known. 

This is where geographic farming comes in. And it’s why Luke and his Stay Paid Podcast cohost Josh Stike hosted this webinar with BAM. 

So, if you want to be the first agent buyers and sellers in your area think of when someone asks, “Who’s the top agent in your community?” keep reading. 

Why use geographic farming?

Luke started off with the question you might already be asking, “Why should anyone use geographic farming?” followed by “Is this really worth the investment?” 

To answer both questions, he referenced a conversation he had with leading real estate coach Tom Ferry, who surveyed his elite coaching clients on their number one source of listing leads. 

Referrals were the number one lead source (surprising no one). But coming in at number two, right after referrals, was geographic farming. 

So, before we dive into the why and other things you should know, let’s start with a working definition of farming as a lead gen strategy.  

“Farming is marketing outreach based on a small geographic area or niche. It results in increased brand awareness and long-term growth.” 

How a fake agent became the dominant agent in their farm

In a nutshell, geographic farming works because of the following: 

  1. It increases brand awareness
  2. People often work with the first agent they think of
  3. It gives you control of the listings that come to you
  4. It creates exponential growth potential

Now for that story I mentioned earlier. 

One of the webinar attendees asked, “What if I’m new?” To answer their question, Luke referenced a study by Hobbs and Herder on the power of frequency in marketing: 

“The study by Hobbs and Herder basically was testing the power of an 8-by-8 campaign—so one mailing a week for eight straight weeks. And what they wanted to find out was who was the dominant agent in this area. So, they went and they knocked on the doors of these homeowners (I think it was around 300 homes), and they asked them who was the dominant agent in this area. And they got a myriad of different agents. So, not one single agent in that list of like 300 homes was the dominant agent… 

“Hobbs and Herder created a fake agent—fake picture, fake credentials, fake name, everything. [They] mailed an 8-by-8 campaign to this neighborhood for eight straight weeks. Afterward, they went and knocked on these homeowners’ doors again and asked them the same question, “Who’s the #1 agent in this area?” 

“If you’ve heard this story, you know the punchline. The fake agent was chosen. So, the number one agent by all those homeowners was the fake agent that has never sold a home, doesn’t exist, but yet they’re choosing that agent…” 

The moral of the story: Ultimately, people don’t work with the best; they work with the most-known. 

So to help you become the most-know agent in your market, let’s get into some best practices for geographic farming.

3 Different kinds of farming—and what’s best for you

There are three types of farming as a lead generation strategy: 

  1. Geographic — Target based on a defined geographic area (i.e., zip code, subdivision)
  2. Demographic / Niche —  Target based on interests or other characteristics
  3. Predictive — Target based on historical data that predicts future outcomes 

As for what type of farming works best for your real estate business, Luke recommends using geographic as the foundation and layering it with demographic/niche and predictive farming to get the best results. 

So, here is my suggestion to you when you’re choosing what type of farming to do. I believe in community farming over transactional farming because I’ve seen community farming work so much more in the long run. Community farming is, simply put, that you are active in that community. You are marketing to that community to know people, to build relationships with people, build a brand with them… 

I would suggest community farming. I would suggest taking a geographic area…layer over it demographic information, so you understand whos’ in that farm, and then use predictive analytics to dictate your time.

Luke Acree

How to choose a farm

There are three important questions to answer when you’re choosing a farm: 

  1. How much competition?
  2. How many households? (Be consistent with a smaller farm before scaling)
  3. What’s the turnover rate? 

Of those three, the most important thing to identify is the turnover rate—or how many of the homes in your farm sell every year? 

For the second question, Luke suggested 500 households as a good target. So, what’s the minimum turnover rate you should aim for?

When Luke and Josh had Tom Ferry on the Stay Paid Podcast, he asked him about this, and Tom recommended 6% as a good turnover rate. Others have suggested 3-5% as a normal turnover rate. Luke suggested 5% or higher. 

The only caveat he added was the price point for the homes in your farm. If you’re farming a high-end neighborhood ($1 million-plus), you can afford a smaller turnover rate because each sale will pay enough to allow you to continue marketing that farm for longer periods of time. 

Another thing to consider when you’re choosing a farm is where you have already built brand equity. Where do people already know about you as a real estate agent? Or, as Luke puts it, “Where do you have energy already because of your past sales?”

If you have a spreadsheet of those past sales, follow these steps to create a map of the areas where you already have some brand equity: 

  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Go to the left-hand menu and select “Saved”
  3. Click on “Maps”
  4. At the bottom of the left-hand menu, click on “Create Map”
  5. In the next window, click on “Create” in the pop-up
  6. Click on “Import” in the left-hand dialogue box to import a CSV file with addresses of homes you’ve sold
  7. Google creates a map with pinpoints for every address on your list

What to send your farm: the F.I.T. Marketing Framework

Now that you’ve chosen your farm, what do you send them? And how often should you be sending them things? 

This is where Luke’s F.I.T. Marketing Framework comes into play, starting with the three essential elements of effective marketing: 

  1. Frequency
  2. Impact
  3. Trust

Or, to put it in Luke’s words, effective marketing content connects frequently, delivers impact, and builds trust. 

In practice, your marketing content will feature a mix of the three Es: 

  1. Educational — 60-70% of your content (e.g., home value updates, invitations to educational events, information on homes that have sold, with details like average price point and average time on market, etc.)
  2. Entertaining — 20-30% (e.g., recipes, sports schedules, email newsletters on local events…) 
  3. Endearing — roughly 5% (e.g., information on events or fundraisers you’re hosting to support a charity—local food shelf or animal shelter, Little Leagues, etc.)

A great idea for your educational content is to write a list of your partners in business: 

  • Who’s your title company?
  • Lenders you use the most (2 or more)
  • Inspection company 
  • Contractor
  • Electrician
  • Plumber 
  • Insurance agent
  • Financial advisor 
  • Estate planning attorney
  • Accountant 

These are people you can work with to create educational content for your farm. And in many cases, if you’re getting their name out there, they’ll be willing to chip in to cover the costs. 

As Luke also pointed out, if you’re hosting an educational event and provide some entertainment in the form of family photo sittings, a food truck, or a bouncy house, the business partner who stands to benefit from being featured in your event is also more likely to be open to helping you cover the cost of the entertainment/refreshments. Don’t be afraid to ask. 

Among your options for entertainment content, recipes are an excellent way to not only enrich your farm’s cooking repertoire but encourage them to reach out and let you know about their experience with one of your recipes—how it turned out, how they “tweaked” the recipe, etc. 

As for frequency, Luke recommends starting with monthly touch points and building up to at least 26 touch points a year. And, as indicated above, most of those touch points will be educational. 

For a new farm, he suggests an 8-by-8 weekly campaign—with eight touches over the course of eight weeks—followed by a monthly campaign with 12 direct mail pieces over 12 months. 

You should get one transaction per every 50 recipients of your touch points. 

Your goal, obviously, as you put sweat equity into your actual farm is to collect their email addresses as you talk to them [and] get to know them, add that to your custom audience. You’re hitting them as a new farm with an 8-by-8 campaign, you roll them into a once-a-month mailer. 

Then what I suggest to people is as you have your 12 touch points going out a year, add on four proactive touch points. Once a quarter, I want to challenge you to get face-to-face with people [or] at least voice-to-voice.

Luke Acree

So, for example, your first quarter touch point could be calling the people in your farm based on something that’s happened in that farm. Or, if you don’t have their phone numbers (yet), you could go door knocking and leave the households in your farm with something educational, plus a little something they can enjoy, like a $5 gift card to a favorite local business. 

Your next touch point could be an in-person event related to the season or to something you know the people in your farm would enjoy that time of year. 

Ultimately, you need all three—frequency, impact, and trust—to become the dominant agent in your farm. Frequency will only get you so far if your content makes zero impact or leaves a negative impression on its recipients. And it doesn’t help to hit the right note if you’re touching base only once or twice a year. 

Choosing your farm is a small part of this strategy; consistently cultivating that farm is what will yield the results you want. 

To hear the full webinar, as well as Luke Acree’s course on geographic farming, sign up for BAMx—the best value in real estate for any agent looking to grow their skills (in agent tactics and marketing), grow their business, and connect with other skilled and supportive real estate professionals.