The luxury home market is the niche that is generally the last to slow down and the first to bounce back during a real estate market downturn. But, what do you do in between, before the market snaps back?
The New York-based Luxury Marketing Council, whose members are international purveyors of luxury products and services, surveyed members to determine how they plan to survive and thrive in today’s market. Reviewing the strategies their members reported using caused me to think about how some of their ideas might translate into strategies an individual luxury agent could use in today’s challenging real estate market.
Here are five of ten strategies adapted for real estate (with an idea or two along the way). Watch for part two with for the remaining five strategies.
- Identify and “hug” your best customers
Take your list of previous luxury home buyers and sellers, add your best prospects and ask yourself how you can initiate meaningful interactions with them. How can you add value to the relationship and keep it active? Providing specific up-to-the-minute market information is one way to stay in touch and provide value. One member of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing follows up with her best customers by sending them information targeted to their specific interests. For example, for her clients who love fine food and dining out, she’ll send a recent restaurant review with a short personal note. If clients are environmentally conscious, she’ll send information on new green products for the home. This approach tells clients that she cares about them, recognizes what’s important to them, and helps cement her relationships. It’s her way of sending her best customers “big hugs.”
- Increase the perceived value of your service
Here’s an easy way to start to “beef up” the value of the service you provide. Make a list of all the customer contact points you have with a buyer in a normal transaction. Then make a second list of the contact points in a seller’s transaction. On each of the lists, choose just three contact points. Then ask yourself what you can do at each point to make it better, easier, faster, or more fun for your buyer or seller. If you can come up with just three things, you’ll enhance the experience and be perceived as delivering more value than your competition. You can almost hear the buzz, “Do you know what my Realtor did for me?”
- Invest in one-to-one permission e-marketing and consider social networking
The affluent consumer is a user of technology. In fact, as wealth goes up, so does Internet use. If you want to attract wealthy clients, you’ll need to polish your Internet marketing skills. While you could advertise online, a more cost effective approach is to utilize sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Linked-in to build your brand. One way to create visibility and demonstrate your expertise is by commenting in Q&A sections on sites like these. Creating your own blog is another way to establish a strong Online presence. If you don’t want the commitment of writing a blog, comment frequently on other’s real estate blogs. Just be sure to conduct yourself as professionally online as you do in the “real world.”
- Consider hosting small, targeted events for your best customers and their friends
Face-to-face is still the best way to stay connected with people and to create new relationships. Create affordable, meaningful ways to interact in person with your best customers. Many agents do annual client appreciation events to stay in touch. Why not expand that concept with small, simple events that keep you connected? Some luxury agents plan small events around client’s interests. Plan a small local hike for your outdoor loving clients, provide bottled water and trail mix, perhaps find a local expert in flora and fauna to help you lead the hike. Not sure about clients’ interests? Schedule a series of adult ice cream socials at a local ice cream parlor (use the kid’s party room). Almost everyone likes ice cream! When space allows, ask clients to invite a friend. This expands your circle of contacts with people who are probably similar to your best customers and helps make your events business-generating activities.
- Partner with kindred spirit brands
Companies which sell products and services to the wealthy are working to leverage their time and dollars, just like you are. Look for creative ways to work together. Don’t limit your thinking to just real estate related firms. While an international resort community developer may be willing to host a special event for your best customers and pay you a referral fee if a sale results, some non-real estate firms may be equally interested in cooperation. If your local Williams Sonoma gourmet kitchen store has a cooking demo area in the store, they may gladly host a free cooking class for you and a few clients. Give your guests an inexpensive goodie from the store and you’ve stayed in touch in a fun, meaningful, but inexpensive way. This ties in nicely to idea number four above. Get creative!
None of this is rocket science. It’s all about focusing on your best customers, staying in touch in meaningful ways, adding value to your service, and using technology to build your brand -- things you should be doing regardless of market conditions. Remember to watch for part two in an upcoming post for five more strategies to help you prosper despite today’s market conditions.