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Top Tips for Growing Your Client Base

There are lots of articles for real estate agents on how to grow their customer base. But what about land agents? Land agents can have an even harder time finding new clients. Rural areas make it harder to meet new people, and transportation to networking events can take hours.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t meet new people and grow your customer base. You just have to think a little more creatively than your urban-dwelling friends. If you want to grow your client base as a land expert, your current client network and online networking can be key to success.

  1. Think Like Your Ideal Customer

Who is the ideal client for you? What are they looking to buy/sell? How much money are they willing to spend? What are their hobbies and interests? Where do they shop? What is their lifestyle like? Would they find a land expert on the Internet or by word of mouth? Walking a mile in their shoes is a great way to understand what clients are searching for and to know where to find them so you can get in front of them. Also, having an idea of what you want out of a client can help you figure out what they are searching for in a land expert. By thinking like your ideal client, you can tailor your marketing plan to cater to them.

  1. Network Online

In-person networking can be hard for people living in rural areas, and even harder for people who work in your specific area of expertise. What are the chances of someone who also specializes in mineral rights being within a driving range of you? Online networking lets you connect with people around the country without leaving your home. There are plenty of opportunities to network online, from social media sites and discussion forums to blogs and online courses. The REALTORS® Land Institute offers ALC-to-ALC interactive webinars to bring together ALC designees to network and share their knowledge.

We have a ton of great articles about networking on our blog, like Accredited Land Consultant Calvin Perryman’s article Effectively Networking for New Land Professionals and using social media as a networking tool in our article Seven Land Real Estate Tips.

  1. Divide Time Between Current and Potential Clients.

It can be easy to want to spend all your time focusing on potential clients. The idea of meeting new people is exciting. However, spending all your time searching for potential clients can take time away from your current clients. This can hurt their experience with you, and they might not want to work with you again.

Splitting time between finding new clients and working with your current ones makes sure you don’t lose the clients you already have. Giving your current clients get excellent customer service and the best land for their money ensures they will sing your praises to their friends.

Word of mouth can be worth its weight in gold. In fact, many land experts make some of their biggest sales with people recommended to them by former clients. Another great tactic is to find a way to incentivize your current clients to bring your referral business. Offer to give them a $50 gift card to Bass Pro Shop as a ‘thank you’ for each new client they refer to you.

  1. Have A Portfolio

On your website, you can include a tab that shows off your successes – and your clients’. This can include land you’ve sold, testimonials from satisfied clients, and awards or certificates you’ve earned for your work. Be sure to include pictures of the land you have helped clients sell or buy. You can also include any articles about land you’ve gotten published that establish you as an industry expert.

(Psst, did you know the REALTORS® Land Institute accepts submissions for blog posts? If you’d like to share your knowledge, contact RLI’s Marketing Manager, Jessa Friedrich.)

  1. Send Out A Survey.

Your current clients are a great way to figure out what you can improve on and what you excel at. Sending out a survey (SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are free and easy ways to create surveys) asking clients what they liked and what could be improved on is a great way get feedback. Plus, don’t be shy about asking for testimonials in the survey. Just make sure to get their permission to use them on your website and promotional materials upfront. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

-Was the website easy to navigate?

-Are the pricing/services clear?

-How did you find out about our services?

-Is there anything we can improve on to make your experience even better?

-Please provide a testimonial I can use in my marketing:

Growing your client base is hard in any field, but is especially difficult for land experts. The good news is that modern technology can overcome a lot of the difficulties of being in a rural location. Add that to good old-fashioned people skills with your current clients, and you’ve got a recipe to bring in new clients from all over America.

What’s Right for Your Client?

When assisting a client with a land transaction it is not only important to be able to answer your clients questions but also, possibly more importantly, to be able to ask your client the right questions. Below is a sample scenario of a new client and a few examples of questions a land professional may ask in order to help the client determine the best decision regarding their property.

The scenario
Your client owns land composed of agricultural land, but which also has some woods and water (and you know the highest and best use is continued use of the land as agricultural land and hunting/recreational ground). Your client is reaching a time in their life to make decisions on how best to handle their land for the future and there are many options in today’s world. Some of these could include:

  • selling it for row crop land and the woods/water for hunting/recreation;
  • or, once sold, complete a 1031 exchange to purchase another income-producing property or retirement home;
  • or, keep the farm via leasing it out so that your client has an income in retirement;
  • or, work on a succession plan to keep the land in the family;
  • or, enroll the land in an exclusive ag covenant or conservation easement;
  • or, use the land to build their retirement home or cabin so they can enjoy their retirement and have a wonderful, memory-filled family retreat to pass on to their heirs.

Questions for your client when considering the above options

  • Are you prepared for retirement?
  • Do you need an additional income stream into the future besides other retirement funds?
  • Do you want to continue to farm yourself?
  • Do you have children who want to farm?
  • Do you strongly feel you want your land to continue into perpetuity as ag land or recreational land?
  • Do you already have a retirement home?
  • Do you have funds and time to build and enjoy a family retreat that can be passed on to the next generation?

Starting points
When the future of your land is in question, an appraisal or broker price opinion will provide an opinion of the worth of the land. This factor alone may assist in helping answer some of the above questions for your client. Your client may decide, based on the number of children they have, the number of acres of land and rent or income from that land, there may not be enough income to divide between the number of children and they will elect to sell the land. Or, on the reverse side, they may decide, depending on the number of children and amount of agricultural land, there would be enough income to warrant keeping the land in the family.

Then, are there children who are interested in farming or not? If yes, succession planning can be handled and there are a number of extension offices, attorneys, etc. who can assist with succession planning. If there are no children interested in farming, a professional farm manager could assist the children in managing the farm.

Should the client decide to enroll the land into an ag covenant or conservation easement? An Accredited Land Consultant (broker/REALTOR®) can assist in locating the appropriate agency/entity.

In deciding whether to add a family retreat to their land, the question again is dependent on their financial situation, age, the number of children/grandchildren they have, and so on.

Conclusion
Your client’s land is probably their largest asset and assisting your client to make an educated decision is the goal, even though it may involve tough questions. If you are interested in working with landowners, you can obtain the education, experience, connections, and expertise you need to better assist your client with the tough questions through the REALTORS® Land Institute.

Terri Jensen, ALC, is a Broker/REALTOR®, Auctioneer, and Appraiser in Minnesota and is currently VP of Real Estate/Appraisal at Upper Midwest Mgmt. Terri served as the 2015 RLI National President of the REALTORS® Land Institute, a commercial affiliate of NAR, and is still an active member of the organization, holding their elite Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation.