The following is an excerpt from the new edition of the firsttuesday Career Manual, a best practices guide to help new real estate licensees establish their personal brands and boost income.

Harvesting new leads and cultivating prior clients

A FARM letter reflects who you are and what your business is about, whatever topic it reviews. This small publication often is your best opportunity to make an enduring impression on homebuyers or sellers in your target rental community and neighborhoods.

The goal of FARMing for real estate clients is to be recognized in your chosen neighborhoods by broadcasting your identity. Your initial step is to build a database of contacts, called your target audience by marketing folks.

To bring about a durable standard of living for yourself, many contacts — some old, initially mostly new — are required. Be clear in your mind that FARMing is a business undertaking, not a social events project.

The ultimate goal is to convert a set of neighborhoods into a vibrant collective of owners and renters branded to turn to a dedicated agent — you – when they think or talk about real estate transactions. These objectives can be fully accomplished within two years through consistent, periodic FARMing.

Step 1: Find a mentor

Before you begin FARMing on your own, gain some first-hand experience.

Tag along (or team up) with an experienced agent who is a long-time FARMer in a different area from the one you believe you might select as yours. Be a trainee assistant.

Observe the agent’s strategies and scripts they have adopted. Ask questions so you learn more. Typically, they will be happy to show you the ropes. When the location of your FARM will not overlap with their FARM, you will not present direct competition.

Step 2: Choose your FARM

Choose the neighborhood or community to FARM that is a natural fit for you. First consider areas you already know about and are familiar with. Print and study maps of the areas, then choose the areas and boundaries for your FARM.

How do you decide on appropriate FARMing areas and boundaries? Write up a FARMing goal, based on:

  • how many doors you can realistically knock on during the days and hours you will dedicate to canvassing; and
  • how many deals you need to close each year to meet your personal financial goals. [See RPI Form 504]

To determine how many deals you need to close to make a decent living each year, compile a detailed list of your financial needs, called an income data sheet. [See RPI Form 504]

This list includes expenses for:

  • your brokerage activities;
  • your office space and amenities;
  • multiple listing service (MLS) and any industry memberships;
  • your vehicle (loan/lease payment, registration, insurance, fuel, maintenance);
  • technology (phone, internet, equipment);
  • continuing education; and
  • marketing (FARMing) services. [See RPI Form 504]

The fee you receive per transaction will vary based on the average value of property in the area you FARM.

If you live in a neighborhood with low levels of turnover in ownership or low-tier home prices, consider commuting to a more profitable location for your FARM. Just because you have experience with low-tier properties does not mean you are locked in at that tier. Whether you sell in Beverly Hills or Susanville, sales and closing principles are the same, though attitudes, lifestyle and prices do vary.

Start by knocking on 50 doors a day. Usually only 20 homeowners out of 50 actually answer the door. This means you will likely be at it for two hours at most and make 20 contacts. If you need to close more than 20 transactions each year, then up the rate of door knocking. This works out to 2,000 homes (and roughly 6,000 occupants) in your FARM when you keep this up for five days a week. Follow up by repeating your home-knocking coverage every two months. Even politicians understand that knocking on doors is productive.

Once you are familiar with your chosen FARM, track individual properties located in the FARM area.

Know and catalog the status of each property on a spreadsheet (distressed appearance, negative equity, positive equity, free and clear, length of ownership, price paid, etc.). Visit the streets and homes for information, using Google Earth to begin with. Then drive the streets to confirm your online observations. This knowledge enables you to adjust your marketing strategy for each category of home conditions.

This historical property information is found online, as well at the local MLS or title company.

Step 3: Prepare a script

As a new FARMer, you need to prepare a script.

An effective script includes:

  • a proper greeting;
  • a brief introduction of yourself and your real estate services;
  • questions to ask of the potential client to engage them in conversation;
  • your answers to their common questions; and
  • a compelling closing comment calling for action.

When the homeowner is interested in selling, be prepared to set up a meeting. Most importantly, listen to the homeowner, always giving them ample space to talk. As they talk, only then do you learn about their wants and needs. Also, do not get caught up in the script to the point of reciting on autopilot.

Like an actor training to be convincing, devote time to verbally practicing your script every day. This will help you internalize the script and make it your own. Rehearsing keeps your content from becoming stale or irrelevant.

Step 4: Craft your FARM materials

Make up a flyer appropriate to your area to leave with homeowners. They need something tangible so they remember you. They have to hear, see and say your name to begin to remember you.

The flyer needs to brag a little about your recent sales. When you have not yet closed your first sale, or your last sale was more than a few months ago, consider these alternatives:

  • sales made within your office;
  • local market activity; or
  • various tips for homeowners.

A creative personal style helps you stand out from the competition. Keep in mind a FARM letter is not a trade journal and you are not writing for real estate professionals. Your content should be light, but not simplistic, and engaging, but not fluff.

Your primary goal is to hold your reader’s attention. Your ability to do so in a flyer usually boils down to a low word count. Less is definitely better. You only have a couple of seconds to get your readers’ attention — and your topic selection must aim to maintain that attention for at least the next few minutes.

Further, notepads, schedules, or mini calendars that can be placed on a refrigerator will ensure your name stays fresh in homeowners’ minds.

Each time you make a contact, harvest their email address by asking for it. Also, ask for names and addresses/emails of other people they know who are considering buying or selling. Once you have garnered a few contacts, set up an email database. Then, email a drip letter that is prepared and sent periodically, at least once a month. This email newsletter needs to contain your recent sales, local market activity or an adapted FARM letter topic.

Editor’s note — Agents often choose to do mailings to reinforce their door knocking efforts. Periodic direct mailings produce fewer immediate results than door knocking but have a long-term effect of developing name recognition. Postage and printing services do add up to becoming an investment in your FARM, just like your time spent knocking on doors. Email may be more financially productive than snail mail (no postage required) but you will never know unless you give direct mail a try.

Depending on the types of handouts and mailings you send, expect to spend $3,000-$6,000 a year. Don’t let this amount daunt you — one deal will cover the investment. Further, shop around from time to time to control your printing costs, supplies and mailing arrangements.

When you begin, you need to send FARMing material to prospective clients at least monthly for three to four months. After you sense your brand is becoming established, you will likely distribute your materials less frequently—but at least bi-monthly.

Editor’s note — firsttuesday has a wide collection of personalized FARM letters tailored specifically to California residents. Also, consider forwarding online articles you have read to selected individuals – it is evidence you keep yourself technically informed. All firsttuesday FARM letters are available free of charge.

Step 5: FARMing past clients

FARMing is not only about making new contacts. It’s also about maintaining relationships with those contacts over the passing months and years.

Keep in touch with your past clients. They are your best source of fresh transactions. Make it your business to let past clients know you are actively involved and successful and available to help them in their next real estate sale, acquisition or refinancing.

Keep a separate database of past clients noting particular dates that are important to them, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Send cards on these special days to keep yourself on their radar. Consider sending a bulk email to past clients each time you close a listing. They know you and are interested in what you are doing.

Step 6: The key to FARMing success

Consistency: It will take around two years before FARMing begins to pay off with a steady stream of clients – when you consistently farm. Consider each door knock an investment of energy in your future career. In the meantime, you are always prospecting when in conversation with anyone, and that means asking for information that generates a lead.

Persistence: Explore all possible leads. After each conversation, ask if the homeowner knows three neighbors or acquaintances who are considering buying or selling. Get their name and email address. Google search them, learn something personal about them. When a good lead does not answer the phone, email or knock on the door during the week, try again on the weekend.

Commitment: When you give a 100% effort, you will likely get a huge return on your time invested.

Make a schedule for your FARMing activities and stick to it. Many agents mistakenly get into the real estate industry expecting a relaxed schedule and easy money.

Laidback agents who do not quickly revise their expectations will soon find themselves making a career change pivot.

FARM letter templates and copy

firsttuesday FARM letter templates and copy help you market effectively. Just insert your image and company information into one of our pre-filled templates. Thousands of agents use this service every month.

Or choose your own copy and template to further personalize your message.

Need a template or letter we do not provide? Use our FREE Farm-Letter-on-Demand service to request what you need. Visit our FARM Letter page now.