Is Farming a Waste of Time?

When it comes to farming, I’m not talking about raising dairy cows or harvesting grains.  Certainly, those activities aren’t a waste of time, as they play a huge role in our nation’s food systems.

Instead, I’m talking about real estate farming!

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of farming, it’s an old school real estate technique that involves consistently marketing in one way or another to a group of people over time.  For example, you could target a:

  • Geographic farm, in which you market to people who live exclusively in one area
  • Demographic farm, in which you market only to people who share a similar demographic marker (as in, age, income level or ethnicity)
  • Home buying/selling farm, in which you target people who are at the same point in the buying and selling process (such as first time home buyers or sellers in a particular demographic bracket)

Really, you can have any kind of farm you want.  The key to this concept is that you’ve identified a core group of people that you’ll reach out to again and again, whether you choose to do so through direct mail, block party events, door knocking, calls, email messages or any other type of promotional effort.

The problem with farming is that it can be slow if you don’t couple it with proper real estate prospecting activities.  Let’s take an example to see why this matters…

Suppose you’ve identified a geographic farm you want to reach out to.  You’re proactive about marketing to this group of people, using direct mail pieces that follow Gary Keller’s “eight by eight” method (which involves reaching out to eight target customers once a week for eight weeks).  Let’s say that you even take things one step further by following this up with a “twelve direct” approach, involving a once-a-month “touch” for twelve months.

At the end of these fourteen months, all you’ve done is train your target customers to receive direct mail from you!

Sure, they might know who you are and what you do, since they’ve seen your information as they’ve tossed your mailers into the recycle bin.  But unfortunately, this passive approach doesn’t lead to the kind of “top of mind” awareness that prompts people to reach out and get in touch with you whenever they (or the people they know) have real estate needs.

Want to know a quick way to quadruple the effectiveness of any mailing?  Simply follow it up with a face-to-face meeting!

No matter how you approach it, real estate is – and always will be – a game of connections.  Regardless of the marketing approach you take, you need to create ways to build connections with your target customers (whether they’re members of a “farm,” members of your personal circle or any other group of people).  Basically, the same face-to-face skills you need to conduct effective prospecting are the same skills you need to convert the people in your farm into customers.

Think about it this way: in business, it’s always best to make money before you start spending money.  Following this line of thought, it’s far better to learn how to convert people into customers before you start “buying” customers through direct mail and other paid advertising pieces.  That’s why it’s so important to spend time every day prospecting and talking to people – whether or not you’re using a real estate farm.

So is farming a waste of time?  Not necessarily – it’s just a more passive, long term approach.  Most new agents need 12-24 months for old school farming techniques to pay off (and realistically, many of them will go broke in that time).  If you’re serious about growing your business and getting to “yes,” it’s a far better idea to focus on building the type of relationships that will lead to the word-of-mouth marketing needed to skyrocket your real estate business.