How Do You Build A Real Estate Photography Business in A Market Where Agents Don’t Use Professional Photography To Market Listings?

September 4th, 2012

Today I got a classic question from Jordan Powers in Mankato, MN about how to build a real estate photography business in a market where Realtors don’t already believe in and use professional photography.

Here is Jordan Powers‘ question:

I am in a market where no Realtor is using professional photography for their listings.  The local businesses and even the architectural firms don’t even use professional photography.  This is a great opportunity for me to saturate this market, but I am having trouble gaining interest in what I have to offer. There is one Realtor I have been working with over the last year who swears by my work and continues to hire me.  He uses the professional photography as a huge bonus in his marketing to sellers. I don’t think he has enough influence in the market to persuade others to hop on board though. With that said, I have not been able to drum up any additional business in the area and wondering if you had any advice.  I have sent numerous emails to Realtors in the area offering 1-2 free listings so as to see whether or not they find value in this service.  I have only gotten about one response out of the 15 or so people I have reached out to.  She was incredibly pleased with the results, but was concerned my prices were too high (I have since adjusted them to be more appropriate for this market). Any tips or suggestions you might be able to point my way would be greatly appreciated.

I believe the real estate world is divided into two parts:

  1. The big metro areas where a lot of real estate photography is already going on and agents understand it’s value and home sellers demand that quality photography is used in marketing of their home.
  2. The smaller citys and towns where people don’t seemed to be aware of the value of real estate photography and agents resist spending money on marketing.

My recent post – What Percent of Real Estate Listings use Professional Photography? illustrates this phenomena very clearly.

Here is my formula for Jordan and the many others I’ve heard from that are struggling in small towns with this same question:

  1. What kind of market are you in? First of all you can tell which kind of market you are in by going to zillow.com, typing in your zipcode and browsing through the listings in your zipcode an look for listings that use professional photography. I go over the details of how to do this in this post. It’s very easy to see. In Jordan’s zipcode (56001) there are 38 listings above $300,000 and I can’t see any of them that have used good quality marketing photography. So Jordan is right Mankato has 0% quality photography on listings! I use $300k just because the classic redfin study that documents the benefits of real estate photography uses that number.
  2. Find the top 1% to 5% of the listing agents in your area: I go into detail on how to do this in my Business of Real Estate Photography eBook because it’s so fundamental. You basically go through all the broker sites in your area and find out who has the most listings. This may sound difficult but it’s not. The underlying concept is these are the MOST influential people in your real estate community (the ones that benefit from great photography most) are these top agents. All the other agents watch what the top agents do because everyone knows who the “top dogs” are and want to be successful just like them. Once you convince or two of these agents to use your services your phone will start ringing and everything will fall into place.
  3. Market the “Top Dogs” Face-to-face: Use personal contact to talk to and market the top agents in your market. Show them the WSJ article that documents the financial benefits of using professional photography. Look at their specific listings and talk about how they are marketing those listings. These initial contacts are no place for email marketing. Top agents are people oriented. Talk to them face-to-face. Email marketing is to keep contact with past customers. Again, I have lot’s more detail on how to do this in my business ebook.
  4. Raise marketing awareness of home sellers in your area: Over the years we’ve talked a lot on this blog about how to market home sellers without getting crosswise with listing agents. Here are several posts on ideas on how to do this here, here and here. This is important because it’s really the home sellers that are the ultimate client and have the most influence on what is spent on marketing. Where I come from (Seattle area) most of the home sellers understand the importance of photography and as a result, about 70% of listings are using high quality photography.

In conclusion: If you are in a market like Mankato, MN, you have to educate home buyers and top agents and demonstrate the benefit of professional photography. To do that education I would use the WSJ article that shows hard facts. You have to live in fantasy land to argue with the WSJ article!

3 Responses to “How Do You Build A Real Estate Photography Business in A Market Where Agents Don’t Use Professional Photography To Market Listings?”

  • 38 listings above 300k!? how many new listings per week is that? 2-4? Wow i realize that’s just one zip so you may have to branch out a bit.

  • There are several ways to get into a market. Hint to the agent(s) that are using your services that advertising the use of a professional photographer may improve the number of leads they get. Also, use yard sign were possible to promote that a house was professional photographed. Since most of the people sell are also looking for homes, they may very well ask their agent why their home wasn’t professional photographed. Also try providing door prizes at Realtor luncheons. Since these are prizes they are not view the same way as giving away service for free.

    If all these suggestion don’t work, check your prices. They are probably too high for the market.

  • […] Is there a strong market in your area for real estate photography? […]

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