What’s up, everyone! And welcome to another episode of Local Leader! On today’s show, we have Ryan Smith, founder of Launch Your Farm. It’s a coaching and training company to help agents launch their Geographic Farm. They help agents start and be successful because not everyone is able to on their own.
Ryan has been a real estate agent for more than 15 years, and he was forced to relocate. But this was a blessing in disguise because he learned to reestablish himself in a new area, and he helped other agents do the same.
Launch Your Farm Ryan, Please share your story with us
I’ve been in the business for 15 years, and I moved completely from where I live. I moved 3 and ½ hours away, I didn’t know anybody, and I wanted to start afresh. I had no connections, and I learned that it was hard to break in and build relationships, especially as a young agent. So I joined a team and studied internet marketing.
After a couple of years, I decided to move to another area, and I learned how to start all over again. I took all the things that I have done and the experiences that I learned, and I used those to train agents and help them grow. One of the things that I started really diving into was helping them launch their farm, and I knew that it was a strategy that was important and worked well.
Then I realized, why don’t I do this for myself? I’ve been helping these agents do the same thing. So I started my own farm, and it took off. I took all the best practices that I learned on my own and taught them.
After a few years, I sold it to my business partner because I realized that my passion was helping agents grow their businesses. I want others to reach the goals that they want to get and see the results that they’re hoping to get. I wanted agents to see the opportunities that they might not have thought of.
So, for the last couple of years, I’ve been helping agents start farms and grow them, and become the community ambassador in their area.
What is a Geo Farm?
People might have misconceptions about what they think a farm is. And the first thing I say is – a Geo Farm is not postcards and door knocking. Those are strategies that you can use when you launch your farm. But it is not what it is.
The core of what I teach is called CPR – Community, Positioning, and Relationships. And if you understand those three things, you can build an incredible strategy and launch your farm.
A Geographic Farm is an area that you specialize in, which could be a neighborhood, condo building, or a certain part of town, specifically focusing your attention, resources, and time in a specific geographic area to become a local expert. It starts with the community.
A mistake that some agents make is they start with self-promotion, which is a traditional way of farming. But when you put the community ahead of your needs and transactions, you start with a group that you’re going to work with, then you learn to position yourself as an expert or ambassador. To be successful, you have to make sure that you’re doing both of those things.
You want to be the person who brings value to the community. You need to show that you know more. It can be community-related, business-related, or knowing the builders. Whatever it is, you need to show that you have expertise.
Lastly, the ultimate goal when you launch your farm should be building relationships. Strengthening the relationships that you already have or building new relationships. And the core of any business is the ultimate goal of the relationships. The sale of the home is the byproduct of the relationship. The relationship is what we’re after.
So when you’re looking to launch your farm, it should entail those three things (CPR). And if it doesn’t, it’s a clear indicator of where you need to start.
Where did the wrong idea about Geo Farming come from?
I think it comes from misinformation and outdated practices before the internet and social media. You only have a few channels to connect with people, so those are the roots that it came from. And people do “inbred marketing,” where they just copy what the last person did with no real thought, testing, and plan.
Real estate agents are also usually terrible marketers. We get into the business, but we don’t have a marketing background. We don’t understand the fundamentals of what marketing is about and how to build connections and relationships. So we just copy what others are doing.
How big should a farm be?
It all comes down to your budget. What you can afford to do consistently and for a set period of time. You need to consider various factors, such as money, time, and energy. Think of how much you can afford to do it consistently.
The rule of thumb is 1000-2000 homes. But It depends on what strategies you’re going to do. So if you’re going digital, you’ll reach more people, and you can do that more effectively and cost-effectively.
But in general, it’s going to cost you. Or you’re going to spend time where you’re trying to connect with local businesses and people in the community. If you’re doing more offline strategies, it’s going to be a smaller area due to the cost.
You should compound your efforts into a certain area consistently. So if you can use a smaller area to start with, find out what’s working for you, then you can scale up. One of the mantras that I live by is: “it is better to scale up than to scale down.” So it’s really going to depend on you.
What market share is reasonable to plan for?
As a rule of thumb, it’s attainable to get 10% of the market share in a farm within 2 years. If you do it correctly, it’s about 3-5% in your first year until you reach 10% within 2-3 years. If it’s $2M for the total farm value, then it’s $200,000 total value that you bring in. Then you’ll work back on how much you need to spend to get the $200,000 in commission.
Then it’s going to depend on each person on what they’re willing to do. Some people are more risk-averse, stingy, or willing to invest as much as they can. You have to work backward that way, and you might have certain goals that you want to hit. So you might want to expand outside your area.
It should probably be a certain percentage of the total opportunity. What do you think agents should probably do?
At the bare minimum, how much are you willing to spend to get that? Most people are willing to pay a 25% referral fee. So my baseline is a 4:1 return. Everything you do is to try and increase that or lower the 25%. When we were doing our farm, we were at a 21% return on investment. As a new agent, it would be 5 to 10 times the return on investment on the money.
Why should agents pick and launch your farm?
Is there any reason why an agent should have a different niche and focus? And if an agent has fears, doubts, and worries about doing Geo Farming, how can they get over that?
It all comes down to myths. The number 1 myth is that it takes too much time and money to launch your farm. When they believe this, it’s probably because they don’t know what they are doing. Or they’re basing it on traditional farming.
Most people are afraid of not getting an ROI and not getting results quickly. And most people fail because they give up too soon. But Geo Farming works if you do the right things and you have to stick with them long enough.
Most agents don’t have the grit and tenacity to stick with it, or they over-leverage themselves, and they go too big.
Do you believe that people should start Geo Farming in their local area?
What’s your advice to agents on how to pick the right area to start?
If living in the area that you want to farm is important to you, then yes. Some people, already have many relationships and connections. They already know the local businesses and what’s going on in their area, which they can leverage.
Do you need to be in the area to have success? Not at all. You just need to position yourself as an expert.
There are a lot of factors to consider when you launch your farm. Most agents look at a turnover rate, but it’s not the only metric to consider. You also need to consider the competition, if there is someone farming in the area. You need to look at price points, and trends of what is happening in the area. Look at the connections that you have in the community, the local businesses that serve the area, the average commission, and the demographics.
You need to look at all those things when making a decision to launch your farm. And you need to make a holistic approach to what’s the most important and what works best for you.
Where do you think are the best resources for all this data?
If you’re in Canada, it will be harder to get this data. But if you’re in the US, there are many resources for it. And some people are afraid or lazy to put in the work upfront because there’s no ROI while doing the research. It takes time and energy to do that. But if you’re willing to do that, you’re already ahead of most of the competition.
Your MLS system is one of the best things that you can do. A lot of the information can be found there. If you’re in Canada, we have GeoWarehouse, trends, and neighborhood demographics that you can use. General experience and knowledge will help with that.
How much time does it take to launch your farm and do this work?
If you’re fully committed, you should dedicate about a week of your time to doing research and deep diving into it. If you’re going to do a general amount of research, an afternoon will be enough.
What should agents do first, depending on their experience?
Relationships are the ultimate goal. You need to think about what you need to do to get new relationships or strengthen the ones you have. If you already have existing relationships, you already have a head start, and you can start working on those. If you’re new in the area, then you need to figure out what is the quickest and best path to get to that relationship. The only way to do that is to get out and connect and talk with people.
You can do all kinds of marketing, but if you’re not connecting with people and you’re not building relationships, it’s going to take longer, and it’s going to cost you a lot more.
When you’re brand new and getting started, community events are a great way to start. You can tap into existing events or create your own. It doesn’t have to be full-blown events. You can do things like a community garage sale and food drive. It ties you to the community and not just real estate. It’s helping and giving back to the community. What I don’t suggest doing is sponsoring events. It doesn’t have the same connection as the first one.
Another thing that agents can do is interview local businesses. It is one of the best and easiest things that you can do. Create video content around the community. Whether that’s local businesses, things that you can do in the community, showcasing everything that your area has to offer, and other things like that. (For the best way to get involved with local businesses, check out Parkbench.)
It creates content for your audience, creates value with the relationships, improves connection with the local businesses, and people will share it with their audience, so it will reach a lot of people in a quick way.
It doesn’t cost money, only time. And you can start creating content as long as you have a cellphone, laptop, or zoom. You should catalog content around the community, and that’s how you start to position yourself as an ambassador and expert. Create content that consumers want. That’s how you start to build a brand.
Regardless of what stage you are in the business, brand yourself around the area that you’re farming rather than brand yourself around just yourself. Branding is something that you can do simply, efficiently, and effectively. It doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money to do that.
We used to do a neighborhood home crisis report. It is one of our biggest lead generators. It is an opportunity for us to go each month and communicate with people, but it takes money. It’s a great way to create long-term follow-up, goodwill, and value for people. It really depends on your strategies.
What are the common mistakes that people make that cause them to waste time and money when they grow their business or launch their farm?
One way to avoid making mistakes is to stop trying to get your name out there and start getting their name to you. Think about how you can connect and build relationships with people. It will change how and why you do your marketing. Every marketing should have a call to action or a next step.
Because if you’re not offering value to the consumers on your farm, you’re wasting money. So, you need to analyze if it’s giving value and giving an opportunity for people to put their hands up.
What are the things that agents do that they think are providing value to their audience but are not?
One example is when they say “call me.” Or when they put their branding as their slogan, such as “honest” and “trustworthy”. They also put in the free home evaluation, which everyone does. Some agents also think that their brand is the value.
What the audience wants is to be entertained, educated, and make their lives better. By positioning yourself as an expert or ambassador, you can entertain and educate. You can use newsletters that have hyperlocal content, content that matters, makes people think, and entertains people. No one cares about newsletters that are only about real estate. We need to get out of our real estate mindset and put on a community mindset.
You can do neighborly price reports, community events, partnerships with local organizations, and other stuff to connect with people.
You can also use the SCOPE method – Self-promotion, Community, Online and Offline, Prospecting, and Education. In order to create the most value, you need to ensure that you’re hitting all 5 of those things.
Traditional farming is mostly self-promotion, but they miss the other things. When you learn to self-promote based on the community, you can do online and offline strategies to reach more people.
You’ll also be able to prospect and educate people so that you’ll have a higher chance of reaching more people and adding more value across the whole system. But it takes some thought and raising the bar on all of those things.
Have you seen certain business owners, professionals, and people that referred more businesses to agents?
The mistake that agents make here is that they only connect with real-estate-centered businesses. They skip other local businesses, such as flower shops. Anything that has life changes throughout the process is more likely to send referrals than those that service our industry.
For example, people who are having babies and retiring are more likely to move. So, you should try to get in front of those people. You want to work backward on who you’re trying to reach. Think about who is servicing those areas and providing value to them. Give back to them, and they will want to give back to you. It is a simple way to do it, but it takes some thought, and you need to think outside of the box to do that.
What is your advice to help agents be consistent?
You need to focus on the action, not the outcome. Because if you focus on the action first, the outcome will happen. One of the ways to do that is to gamify it as much as you can and have fun with it. In this way, you’ll stay consistent with it and track what you’re doing. You’re in a competition against yourself. You’re gonna get better at what you’re doing and track the things that you’re doing.
Look for the small changes and track them to see if they are making a difference or not. Simple things like scripts, approaches, and things that you’re offering. Change them up and try to make them into something that you can have fun with. Use it as your laboratory. Some things are going to work, and some won’t.
When you look at it from a fun perspective, you’ll be more likely to succeed with it. You should be willing to adapt and turn it into something fun.
How can people get in touch with you if they want to connect with you or avail of your courses or services?
You can visit launchyourfarm.com, where you can find my podcasts, courses, blogs, articles, and other information. There is tons of great content that you can find there.
I have a monthly program called Launch Your Farm Elite for $49 per month. Each month we have a theme that we dive into that layer into the farm. There is live training each month, workshops, courses, and tons of great information to stay at the top and keep on growing.