Each month, we take 5 minutes to ask a lettings industry expert 5 things. This month we are talking to estate agency mentor, blogger and ghostwriter Christopher Watkin. Christopher has 20+ years of property, surveying and banking experience – but is now the UK’s No.2 Lettings Business Generation Specialist.
Christopher’s techniques have helped 100’s of UK letting agents grow their own businesses organically by 20% to 30% in just 18 months. In this latest interview, Christopher advises agents on how to attract landlords and vendors – and discusses marketing techniques, content strategies and best practice for communication.
Q. Landlord farming. This is actually the first time I have come across this term. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but just in case I’m not – could you briefly explain what this is?
A. Landlord and vendor farming is a system to attract landlords and vendors to your letting and estate agency. Most estate and letting agents go hunting for their clients by targeting them with sales adverts or adverts that talk about the agent and about how wonderful they are.
I’m of the opinion that most people don’t like to be sold to – and also, people don’t like others who talk about themselves, which is what most estate agents and letting agents marketing is. Instead I suggest that you farm landlords and vendors to you by making yourself attractive as an agent. The best way you can become an attraction agent is to talk about stuff that people are attracted to. Things that are educational, intriguing or interesting.
It’s my intuition that homeowners and landlords are interested in a couple of things in this world. First, the value of their own property and secondly, the value of the one they want to buy. And that is the essence of landlord and vendor farming, where you talk about the local property market, what’s happening to property prices in your suburb compared to other suburbs in London, what’s happening to rents and what’s happening to yields.
Savills have been doing this for the last 30 years and have done very well at it – so I’m surprised other agents don’t follow their suit. This is nothing new. But instead, agents just talk about themselves and people switch off.
Q. That all makes perfect sense. Give people something they actually want! So your suggestion for agents is that they should talk to homeowners and landlords about the value of their own property and/or the value of the one they want to buy. Could you expand a bit on how an agent might go about that? And is there any other subject matter specifically that you would recommend agents talk about in newsletters and on social media?
A. So what we have found over the last 8 or 9 years is that letting agents who talk about the best buy-to-let deals that a landlord could buy in their area seem to attract landlords.
Now it’s really important that your not just talking about the properties you’re just selling, but properties that are on the market with your competitors. Most people will think it’s really strange that you’re trying to highlight great buy-to-let deals which are on the market with your competitors, but actually, whilst it sounds counter-intuitive, it does actually work, because by posting stuff where you’re giving great valuable information, as opposed to trying to get clients, people will see that you’re not trying sell them stuff but to actually give. People are attracted to that.
To attract homeowners, you could talk for example about the top 30 most affordable streets vs the top 30 poshest streets. And by doing that, you get people in the community talking. We’ve got clients who have organically got views of 3000, 4000 or 5000. If you just put it in to local groups it’s absolutely amazing.
Q. Impressive. So is it Facebook and LinkedIn you recommend primarily for this sort of activity? And do you find that different content and/or different styles of communication lend themselves better to different platforms?
A. Social media is just another communication platform like TV, radio, printed media. The magic thing is not the medium, it’s what you communicate within the medium that’s important. At the moment, people’s eyeballs are on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms, but also highly targeted newsletters on your local property market put through the doors of local homeowners will also work.
Other things you can do is use the power of video as opposed to the written word. You could also use audio as well. Some agents I know do podcasts on their town. It’s really really important to just be interesting. And not try and get something but give something – and it will come to you.
Q. I think that where you are being interesting though is also important? So it obviously makes sense to focus on Facebook and LinkedIn as these tend to attract a slightly older audience. But what about marketing to the younger audience of homeowners? Would you recommend Instagram for example as an effective avenue of communication?
A. It is a simple fact that homeowners, or the vast majority of homeowners are over the age of 35, which means that the social media platforms that they focus on will be Facebook and LinkedIn. Now obviously we have younger homeowners, sub-35 – but what you must decide as an agent is do you want to focus on the younger age? What I would say though is this. It all comes down to time and money – and yes, you could go on Instagram now and get a following – but you’re not going to get any business from that probably for 5 or 10 years. So I would focus 80% of your time on the platforms where your clients are now. LinkedIn and Facebook. And then apply 20% of your time on ‘at the edge’ social media platforms where there will be your future. I would certainly recommend you do that.
Q. Thank you. So the last thing I want to ask you now is about building a relationship with an audience that goes above and beyond the delivery of what they want. So we’ve discussed the importance of not talking about yourself and delivering content/information that is genuinely valuable. but what about the last part? The quality of the relationship itself? How important is it to be warm and friendly in your tone for example? Or to somehow demonstrate ethics without it coming across as ‘show off’? Could you use humour sometimes maybe? Fostering a genuine relationship seems key, but I can imagine it’s trickier to get that balance right in the property industry than some others?
A. The most important thing when communicating in a relationship is to be yourself and be truthful. People can smell bullshit a mile away. I’ve seen so many agents who create a persona in their posts, but when you meet them they’re completely different. Humans can smell that a mile off, and know that you’re not being true.
So my advice is go with an attitude of giving. Go with an attitude of giving without any expectation of return – and just be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people think about you. And that is the crux of all this. We as human beings worry about the judgement of others, so therefore it holds us back when we post on social media – especially when we use the power of video. My advice to you is that as long as your intent is there, which is the right intent of giving – you’ll do well. Be yourself. Go with an attitude of empathy and go with an attitude of giving without expectation of return and you will win in this world and win really big.
A huge thank you to Christopher for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. Incredible advice from a great guy. If you are keen to work with Property Inventory Clerks who truly understand the sector, get in touch with us today!