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Community service vital component of sales plan

Residential pros use variety of marketing techniques

Real estate broker Doris Hardy routinely leaves tennis shoes filled with goodies by the front doors of homes for sale by owner, with a note that says, “just wanted to get my foot in the door.” For sellers with expired listings, she leaves faux firecrackers with a call-me note to “see how we can regenerate a spark.”

In the increasingly competitive residential marketplace, real estate professionals are using clever tactics to win the hearts of sellers and buyers.

“Sometimes, we get so caught up with various marketing techniques that we really neglect the foundation upon which those marketing techniques are built: top-of-mind presence, which begins with community service and involvement,” said Hardy, broker/owner of Century 21 Doris Hardy & Associates in Columbus. “As Realtors, we have an obligation to agree in general to give back to the community that has offered us the opportunity to develop and grow our business. Once we’ve earned that top-of-mind awareness from the community, then we can layer on all of these fun techniques.”

Once every month or so, Hardy wheels through the local Wal-Mart in search of a case of white canvas sneakers for $2.99 a pair. After filling them with all sorts of information and promotional items, she wraps the stuffed shoes with clear cellophane and ties on a fun tag.

“When it’s hot in the summer, our agents keep chilled bottles of water and Ziploc bags with chilled washcloths in mini igloo coolers,” said Hardy. “When we list a property and preview listings, we leave a ‘happy’ behind with a note saying how much we appreciate the opportunity to be of service and how much we look forward to gaining the confidence they’ve shown in us.”

When a client walks into Hardy’s office, the scrumptious smell of freshly baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies fills the air.

“We never forget the children, whether toddlers or teens,” she said. “We have a room filled with everything you’d find in your living room at home. We have theme decorations for every single holiday, and coming to our office during these times truly is an event. We offer photo ops with children surrounded by decorations and you wouldn’t believe how many families use those photos for holiday cards.

“We don’t neglect the usual advertising portals: TV, newspapers, home magazines, Internet, seminars and other traditional marketing, but we always add a creative flair with imagination so that people will sit up and pay attention. The benefit to us is greater value for our buyers and sellers.”

Melanie Mitchell of Prudential Starkville Properties drives a moving van around Starkville and in parades bearing a sign that says “Choose Prudential and use this truck to move for free.”

Chester Harvey, broker/owner of Chester Harvey Realtors in Ocean Springs, places ads that depict him sitting in a grocery-shopping cart with a note, “Shopping for a Realtor?”

“Sometimes, you just market by osmosis without giving it a whole lot of thought,” said Sue Stedman, broker associate/co-owner of Prudential Stedman & Associates Realtors in Natchez. “To me, the best way to market your company and your personal image is to treat people right, and hopefully your reputation will be good and it will precede you. On marketing properties, you do the routine things that everybody does, but we also really make an attempt to contact people who are looking for something specific. You just have to stay in touch with those folks, and know what they’re looking for, and when it hits the market, get in touch with them and let them know it’s there.”

The Internet has helped, more than hindered, real estate professionals, said Stedman, “because by the time the more sophisticated buyers get to us, they know what they want to look at.”

“You don’t have to have the fanciest Web site, just one that people can easily access and navigate to find the property they’re looking for,” she added.

Stedman’s 16 agents are involved in nearly every community organization — and local churches.

“In our part of the country, church is real important,” she emphasized. “You don’t want to necessarily use that for a sales platform, but let’s face it, you do business with people you know.”

Regardless of the marketing approach used, the end result should be the same for homebuyers, said Stedman.

“They should love pulling into the driveway,” she said. “That’s what really matters.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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