Proven Secrets of Effective Marketing in Seasonal and Second Home Markets

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Tailoring your marketing efforts can bring huge rewards when working in specialized areas

March 2007, An E-News Featured Article

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Agents in second-home and seasonal markets require a specialized approach to direct mail and marketing. We’ll share the secrets to tapping into these unique markets and making a positive connection with prospective clients – no matter what the season.

Creating a connection with prospective clients is essential to effective marketing. In traditional markets, you’re able to build relationships through your marketing throughout the course of the year. But in seasonal and second-home markets, the relationship-building window is much smaller. Therefore, these markets require agents to take a specialized approach to their marketing.

In this article, we’ll break down the differences between the two primary “seasonal” markets and describe how to tailor your marketing efforts for maximum effectiveness in each.

What is a Seasonal Market?

To have a true understanding of what a seasonal market is, you must first understand that there are two types: second-home resort and climate driven. A second-home resort market is typically found in a location where the geography lends itself to a particular activity like skiing, boating or sunbathing. People are drawn to these regions to vacation, or they live here to enjoy a hobby or lifestyle they cannot indulge in elsewhere. Characteristically, these are areas where there usually is a steady flow of affluent buyers and sellers.

A climate-driven market is just as it sounds—business is dictated by seasonal weather extremes that impact buyer and seller activity. People may be more or less active during periods when the weather is very cold or too hot. They are less inclined to go outside, or do business during these weather conditions.

Second Home, First Priority

Let’s start by focusing on second-home resort markets. In a resort area, there are two distinct groups you need to target: local residents and absentee owners. Because there are two types of clients, you need to develop two distinct marketing plans as well.

For ‘Locals’ Only

Let’s first take a step-by-step approach to marketing to year-round local residents:

Direct Mail

Adopt a standard mailing campaign for local residents. You should mail to each homeowner two to three times per month. The messages on your mailings will be fairly traditional, with informational “Just Listed” and “Just Sold” market updates. Be sure to capitalize on any newly built developments that spring up around town. Getting an “in” through direct mail right from the start can prove extremely lucrative.

Work Your Sphere

In a second-home resort market, word of mouth becomes more valuable than ever. It’s up to you to treat your past clients and sphere of influence as if they are your most valuable possession. Make sure you stay in touch with them on a monthly basis via direct mail. Offering occasional incentives like free movie tickets or gift certificates for dinner also makes a positive impression, creates a “buzz” and generates greater enthusiasm. Finally, never stop asking for referrals from your sphere.

Get More Aggressive With Absentees

For that elusive population, the absentee owner, you need to adopt a more aggressive strategy. Your contact must now take the form of a mix of direct mail pieces and E-mail. E-mail can be especially effective in this market because it doesn’t matter if the homeowners are at their primary residence or visiting their second home.

Direct Mail and E-mail Messages

Obtaining street addresses for absentee owners can be challenging, but not impossible. In applicable states, title companies have this information on file, and connecting systematically and frequently with these clients often enables you to gain their E-mail addresses. Obviously, the number one focus of your mailings is to keep people thinking about you and aware of your presence at all times. Keep in touch once or twice a month during off season, and three times monthly during peak times. Here are some examples of messages you can send to your target market.

Promote the Area!

Because these people don’t live locally year round, you must be a constant promoter of the area through both traditional mail and electronic exposure. The key is to stay two to three months ahead of the high season. This is precisely the time to contact absentee owners and ask to set an appointment to meet with them to discuss current market activity.

Keep ’em Informed of Local Events

Your mailings should consist of a mix of announcements regarding local events and local real estate happenings and activity. The goal is to demonstrate your strong connections to the area and not just in a business sense. With affluent buyers and sellers, demonstrating common interests goes a long way toward forging lasting business relationships. Let the events you discuss in your mailings serve as a reflection of your personal interests. Regardless of whether you’ve participated in a local charity run, sponsored an event or simply served food at the monthly pancake breakfast, your clients need to know you care about and have a genuine interest in the important “happenings” in the neighborhood.

Demonstrate Your Investment Expertise

Your farming messages should also reflect the benefits of you being a real estate investor in that particular locale. In your mailings, tell stories about the value—emotional and financial—of these properties. Describe the memories made at family gatherings, during the holiday season and on vacations. For example, send out a PowerKard showing the Johnson family get together and feature a happy quote from one of the family members. In other words, point out the lifestyle advantages of the area and add a strong element of sentiment. These contacts will help to produce a referral base for you in that social sphere.

Host a ‘Meet and Greet’ Event

As a local businessperson and representative of the area, it is essential that you take on a high-profile image. One great way to increase your visibility is to plan a special function. To ensure as many prospective clients are in town and to keep costs down, tie your event to a larger community event. You could host a cocktail party, an afternoon tea, hot toddy mixer or ice cream social prior to or following a well-known community event. Creating your own annual “meet and greet” event puts you in a perceived position of authority within the community.

Never Stop Networking

For you to be a credible “expert” in the area, you must be tapped into what goes on where you live. To increase your resources and generate a larger network of contacts, join organizations or clubs that revolve around causes with which you have a sincere curiosity or passion. But be honest about your choice; don’t join just to say you belong. People are increasingly sophisticated and will quickly figure out if you really don’t care, and that can wreak havoc on your reputation.

Succeeding in Climate-Driven Markets

In a truly “seasonal” market, temperature is usually the indicator for peak activity. These are often called cyclical marketplaces, where agents tend to allow their marketing efforts to fluctuate with the seasonal extremes. In reality, the “off” season is a tremendous opportunity for agents to build mindshare in anticipation of the increased market activity that accompanies more temperate weather. That’s why, although your “touches” may not be as frequent during the slower months, you should never stop marketing altogether. In fact, in extreme climates, homeowners spend more time indoors reading the mail.

1. Your Direct Mail Strategy in a Seasonal Market
During slower periods, people also have more time to do their research—so you’ve got to demonstrate your ability. In lieu of demonstrating market activity, your mailings should take on a more educational tone. This is also a great time to strike an emotional chord and provide your clients with information to demonstrate your market knowledge. It compels them to ask for your help in making wise decisions when they’ve decided it’s time to sell their home. E-mail is a prime method for contact in the off-season. But don’t just E-mail for the sake of E-mailing. Take the extra time and make the effort to send professional-looking mail that has a purpose and a strong message.

Start your blitz two months prior to the actual season and keep up the pace until half-way through the “hot” time. Achieving between two to three “touches” a month should be your goal. You need to be ahead of the market to give yourself the edge, strategically and psychologically, over local competition. After the half way mark, you can cut your contact back to once or twice a month. Again, in both your E-mails and PowerKard messages, don’t be shy. Ask for referrals.

2. Network Your Way to the Top!
Keep in mind; you are trying to reach people who are, by and large, your neighbors. You want to build a relationship with them that extends beyond business. Press the flesh and participate in community functions as frequently as possible. Host or chair an event. Do whatever feels comfortable, but definitely do something to raise your face-to-face visibility. After all, being a knowledgeable professional doesn’t necessarily invoke a desire to work with you; being perceived as a friend in the business does.

3. The Power of a Great Web Site
One of the most critical things you must do to increase your presence in both second-home resort and climate-driven markets is to have an attractive, comprehensive Web site. During the off-season, in both resort and climate-driven farms, your potential clients are checking you out online. Like it or not, you are either being selected or eliminated based on your Web site’s look, feel and the information it provides.

That’s why it is crucial to keep your Web site current. Update it regularly to let your audience know you are in touch with the community. Turn your site into a local resource on your calendar of events, stocked with schedules for upcoming local activities, informative guides, tips on parking for busy venues, or a list of hot spots to visit. You want people to consult your Web site first to see what’s happening in the area by providing them with accurate information, but don’t overwhelm them with a lot of extraneous data. Keep it simple.

Also, don’t make the fundamental mistake of ignoring your Web site during the height of the season. Even if the market is hot, you don’t want to slack off. While it doesn’t take a lot of time to keep your site current, your consistency and commitment undoubtedly makes a big statement to potential clients. Hiring a high school kid to keep your site current is well worth the small investment.

Get Started Now

Whether you’re in an area dominated by second home properties or a market where weather extremes dictate the real estate climate, farming in a seasonal market has its unique circumstances and obstacles. Don’t use that as an excuse to sit on the sidelines and hope clients can find you. If you stick to these basic guidelines, you can be well on your way to securing your position in the market right now.