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Build your business block by block

I believe that real estate is a relationship based business, and I am not fond of spending money to buy leads. It’s not that I am cheap (I prefer to call it frugal:), it’s that I would rather spend my time building relationships rather than busting my ass to make money so I can just go spend it on buying leads.  That is a vicious cycle that I am not planning to get trapped in.

One of my all time favorite marketing ideas doesn’t feel like marketing at all, which is probably why I love it.

There is a way to build relationships, do good, and build your business all at the same time. By now, I hope you have chosen the neighborhood you want to be an expert in and you have begun previewing properties.  You are learning the inventory and faking it till you make it. Keep doing this, and don’t ever stop. Now that you are becoming an expert in your market, it is time to position yourself as the local go-to agent. This post describes one of the best ideas I have ever heard of. The cost is low, and the returns are high.

Choose a block, preferably a dirty one.

Create a flyer announcing that you are offering to organize and host a block clean up. Include the dates and times that you are available, and be sure to clearly mention that it is free. Include all of your contact information, cell, email, text, even social media links. Make it easy for people to reach you. Go door to door to pass out the flyers. You can just leave them and hope you run into some people who will ask what you are doing and strike up a conversation.  Or, if you are feeling brave, knock on doors and tell people about your event. Door knocking can be a pretty scary prospect for many people, but this may be the time that feels  bit more comfortable. Imagine ringing  someone’s bell to say hello and tell them that you are offering to get the neighbors together to clean the block and make their neighborhood better, for free with no catch, and snacks! That is the kind of person I would be happy to open my door for, wouldn’t you? Do this on as many blocks as you can since you won’t get a request from every block. Even though you are giving away a great service for free, just like in all sales, it is a numbers game. Do not take it personally. You have to overshoot to get the results you want. Once you start getting responses, be sure to get back the contact person right away and schedule in their event. Then print up a “Save the Date” flyer and go back to pass that out to everyone. If possible,  post some on poles on the street to get the word out. Ask the contact person if there is a facebook group they can post it on. If so, make sure to join the group. Also ask this person to help spread the word since they live on the block and see the neighbors every day.

The Flyer- do or don’t?

Agents have asked me if they should include their business information on the flyer.  Of course you want everyone to know who you are and why you are doing this. It seems obvious that you should take every opportunity to brand yourself and get the word out. This is the gold standard, but I have to admit that it makes me feel all kinds of creepy inside, so my answer is , No. Yes, I want to build my business, and I want people to know who I am so they can bring their business to me, but the real reason I love the block clean up idea is because I truly believe in it. You see, this idea came about because I really and deeply believe in community, and one of my core values is to give back to the community from which I earn my living. I love doing good and enjoy meeting people. When I think about organizing a block clean up, I am led by the desire to meet and connect with people and beautify the world, one block at a time. I am not led by money, I am led by something greater than that and people can tell that right away. This is why I don’t put my business info on my flyer. I don’t lead in with the business angle and freak people out. I lead in as a person who wants to come in and help, because that is my true motivation for doing it. When I talk to people, I explain that I am a  person who cares and I happen to sell houses in the neighborhood and love it there and want to give back. It is genuine and believable and helps people open up and trust me. And as I always say, “do good things and the money will follow.”

Organize the clean up

Gather supplies and think about what you will need. Here’s a starter list:

  • Gloves
  • Recycling bags
  • Compost bags for leaves
  • Trash bags for garbage
  • Wipes
  • Sanitizer
  • Rakes
  • Brooms
  • Dustpans

Are you really low on cash? See if a local hardware store wants to donate supplies in exchange for a shout out. You can also check with your city or town and see if they offer any services or supplies.  Whatever you can barter or get donated is less that you have to spend so you will be able to host more events. Also, check with your accountant to see if you can write off the expense of any supplies you purchase for the event. Remember refreshments. A simple box of coffee and some doughnuts can do the trick if you are on a budget. No one will be expecting a five course meal with a broom in his hand. Remember a folding table, cups, napkins, sugar, cream etc. Feel free to get creative. If your imagination and budget allow, add some balloons or music. Is your girlfriend in a band? Promise her a beer if she grabs her guitar and sings a few songs. Ask your cousin the art student to come and face paint the kids. Help your brother promote his catering business by letting him bake muffins for the neighbors.  Make the event fun!

Show up

On the day of the clean up, show up early and set up a table with the refreshments.  Bring a friend or two if you can. Organize your cleaning supplies. Wear your company or brand  t-shirt. Start knocking on doors with a smile and announce that you are there and brought snacks.  Invite all the neighbors to gather around the table for coffee. Mingle. Talk. Ask questions and get to know people.  Have fun and make connections.

Be the leader.

Take a minute or two to gather everyone and announce that the clean up will begin. Use this time to remind people of who you are and why you are there. My truth is that I sell houses in the area and want to give back. I let them know that I am so glad to be out there with all of them and do our fall clean up. I tell them the plan and ask them if they have any concerns that we should pay attention to. What is your truth?  Tell them why you are there and who you are. This is your chance to make true connections with people . Be open. Be honest. Have a sign up sheet and get their contact information. Ask for email address as well as social media so you can friend or follow them.

Grab a broom and start sweeping.

Even if you don’t make even one connection and you never get a lead or a deal from the event, you just did something great. You cleaned up a mess and made a small corner of the world a little better.

Take lots and lots of photos.

Take before shots of the block, photos of you and your friends setting up, and plenty of photos of you and the neighbors in action. Post them on social media or your web site. Send them out in your email newsletter.

Send a thank you note.

Yes, you should thank them. They opened their community to you (a stranger) and they got out there and cleaned with you. You can remind them of who you are and your business in the thank you, but respect their time and privacy and do not add them to your email list and attack them with marketing. If you want to send them your newsletter, ask them if they want to subscribe. Act like the low pressure, trustworthy person you are.  Don’t come on too strong and freak people out.

I hope this tip helps, and plan to bring you more each week. Let me know if you have a question that you would like answered in a future post.

Do you have a great idea that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.