How to Market Listing Agents When Their Office Won’t Give You Access to Agents?

December 15th, 2017

Brian in Joplin, MO says:

I recently moved from California to my hometown of Joplin, MO and I’m trying to restart my real estate photography business. There is literally one KW office with probably half of all real estate agents in this area. It is impossible to get past the front desk to speak with a listing agent, or broker, as they push joining the vendor program which has hurdles I can’t possibly meet, including being in business for at least 3 years, and a “national footprint.”

Do you know anything about this from experience?

Thanks for any insights you can give me on this. I’m afraid to poison the pond cold calling. I asked about the possibility of doing a presentation at a monthly meeting, and the answer was a repetition of the vendor program for such access.

I have not experienced this exact same issue but when we moved from the Seattle market to Salem OR (about three times the size of Joplin, MO) I noticed that real estate offices and agents were not welcoming to people coming into their market from the “big city.” Probably just a natural tendency to be protective of outsiders.

Even if offices won’t give you access to their agents, it’s still possible to market the listing agents. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Build a list of listing agents that includes the number of listings each agent has. This will show you who are all the top listing agents. You can usually build this list from the real estate office websites.
  2. Have a large glossy postcard for your marketing. See this post for more details.
  3. Go to open houses to talk to listing agents. Give them a copy of your marketing postcard.
  4. Use direct mail to target the agents you think can benefit from your services. You can’t do this for thousands of agents because these postcards are expensive.
  5. Once you’ve talked to an agent at an open house, call them back or send them an email so they don’t forget you.

These things will allow you to market listing agents without having to go through their office.

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15 Responses to “How to Market Listing Agents When Their Office Won’t Give You Access to Agents?”

  • 1. Sign up on Trulia, Zillow and Realtor dot com to get emails when new homes are listed in your area. I have filters set so I am only seeing single family homes over a certain dollar amount. My goal is to be finding agents that are more likely to hire a photographer. Agents with the least expensive listings aren’t usually going to want to spend the money. All of those service will let you click on the agent’s link to see there other listings both active and sold. Over time, I have developed a good idea about which agents consistently have the most listings. Once you have their name and the office they work in, search (and don’t just use Google) to find emails and other information. Some RE offices have agent pages that list email addresses. Some offices have a standard format for email addresses that make it easy to guess what an agent’s address will be. Don’t bother sending inquiries to “web contact forms”. When you see signs posted at a home with the agent’s email address, their own web site and/or a brochure box, stop and at least take a picture of the sign with your phone.

    A simple spreadsheet or even simpler paper and pencil can be used to keep track of your marketing list. You don’t need specialized software. Never delete a person from your list unless they have died. If you send out an email blast and they ask that you don’t send any more, move their email address to another column that indicates you don’t send any more marketing letters. This way you don’t add them to your list again in the future and, secondly, if another agent mentions to you that the agent is looking for a photographer, you have their information to give them a call.

    2. A tangible brochure/postcard is handy to give out along with your business card. Don’t order 5,000 post cards thinking to save a few dollars. Spend a little more and keep updating them.

    3. Go to open houses at least once a month and keep track of who you have visited on your marketing list. Many times you may find that the open house is being supervised by another agent and you don’t get to meet the person you really want to talk to. Be polite and if the open house is busy, just introduce yourself, hand out a card/brochure and head to the next one. You can also tour the home for a few minutes if you want to burn a little time until the agent is available. Do your research before you go and see what the images the agent is using so you can discuss how you would compose a gallery.

    4. I’ve stayed away from direct mail as I always toss marketing materials in the trash before they get into the house unless I have requested them. PFRE is a service business and you will do better by putting gas in the tank and getting out and visiting agents.

    5. Following up is critical.

    …..6. Find out if local office or the MLS allows vendors to make presentations. There is a “Lunch and Learn” program where I am where I will be presenting next year in Feb or March. I have to bring the lunch which I’m told is around $70 or so. The agent’s get a free feed and I get a moderately captive audience for 45-60 minutes.

    …7. Get out in the community as much as possible to meet people and have cards ready to hand out. I just did Santa photos with a friend at the city’s holiday village and we both handed out a bunch of requested cards that could turn into more work. We even made a little money.

    KW has big offices full of agents but they don’t always have the lion share of listings. Skip the Vendor Programs and market to the second, third and fourth biggest offices in town. The eight biggest might want to use you for all of their listings and keep you plenty busy while you establish yourself as the goto RE photographer.

  • You don’t want to be negative, but it is amazing how many Realtors don’t know that vendors had to pay to be on their broker’s recommended list.

    Excellent points by Ken. Would add that many times it is new agents that staff the open houses just to pick up clients from the list of attendees. More seasoned agents typically don’t and farm it out to the office’s “open house team.” As you look at other brokerages, look at the smaller boutique ‘mom n pop’ brokerages. The major franchises trash talk them (in a positive way) when competing for a listing noting their marketing prowess.

    Finally, would add, create a FB business page and make each recent shoot a sponsored ad. $3-$5 reaches a lot of people and you can define the population to Realtors, house seekers, etc. Your client won’t object as they are getting a free marketing boost for the house they listed and it looks like you are giving a value added service. Obviously if Realtors friended your page even better as they would get the new property notification before the advertising campaign. Likewise it also gives you a platform to educate on how to critically review photography as “good” or the benefits of using professional photography. Use those for posts between jobs. Education can go a long way and if you see a “preferred vendor” photographer is failing to correct verticals, poor color balance with know white doors/baseboard yellow, or garish HDR…there are 3 separate topics/posts for you. Never use their photos, but a good photographer such as yourself has the skill to do bad – which I personally find difficult as it has to be a very conscious act, and Photoshop helps, as I have trained myself not to shoot poorly.

  • If you go to agency websites you will find most agents’ email addresses. Start a database

  • LinkedIn. Send a connection request. If they accept, send your elevator spiel which can include links to your portfolio.

  • I agree with Susan, starting an email database is one of the best ways to create a connection with agents. I also like Gary’s points, using social media is another good way to make connections. If you leave literature at an agency it often sits on a table in the corner of a room gathering dust. More direct contacts are always the best way to market your services. I would suggest visiting Open Houses on weekends to speak directly with agents and give them your literature, this often produces very positive results. Good luck!

  • @Larry Gray, I also find it hard to make bad photos on purpose. I’ve worked hard to only make good photos and I think I’m going to have to take some of my own images and “photoshop” them to create all of the most common mistakes.

  • @Susan Pomerantz, not all agents are listing agents, so just copying an office’s list could mean a bunch of dead ends that you don’t want to spend any money marketing to. But, it’s not to hard to do some quick searches to see who on the list is selling homes.

    I keep finding that more and more office websites are not including agent’s email addresses and are using contact forms instead. The person getting the email might not be the individual agent but a secretary or staff person that may just put you on their spam list if you send a form letter to multiple agents that way. I have one moderately large office that seems to go out of its way to insulate its agents from any sort of outside contact. I target them in particular when I make an open house list for the weekend although they often don’t show up at all for their listed open houses. The upside is the sign on the front lawn often has the agent’s email and a brochure box.

    My marketing list, kept on a spreadsheet, has the following headers:
    First Name
    Last Name
    Office Name (with URL for office or the agent’s personal website)
    Office City
    Email Address
    Agent phone
    mail sent date 1 (marked with an X for mail sent and not bounced. R for reply received)
    mail sent date 2
    mail sent date 3 (so I can see when I started sending them mail)
    IRL (Met In Real Life)
    Suc (got a job from them, email moved to alternate column)
    Type (Agent, Broker, Staff)
    RE Office phone
    Grade (ABCD based on # of listings)
    IMG (professional level photos) (Y or blank)
    Email etc (alternate email, known bad email address, moved email address)

    I’m not sending out mailings so I don’t include the address. I could use a lookup table keyed to the RE office name for physical mail advertising without too much work). If the person is already a customer, they are in my accounting system with full details. One of these days I may put the marketing list into a database to give me more options for sorting data. One thing that is manual for me right now is that I have 3 regions where I do my marketing and use different campaigns. There’s my core region, another resort area to the north that takes some travel but the homes are expensive and there are no apparent RE photographers and another area to the south with expensive executive homes where I would have to charge extra for the travel but, I am still at the upper end of competitive for that level of home.

  • Brian – Your experience with the Keller Williams office is not uncommon. We had the same thing happen with a Keller Williams office in our area. The interesting part about this is KW agents are not restricted from hiring whomever they want to shoot their photos. The trick is to fly below the radar. You need to get one good agent from the KW office to work with you. If they like you they will refer you to their colleagues.

    In order to get a foot in the door you might want to stop by the KW office location around lunchtime and hand out some business cards as agents come in and out of the office. This worked well for us although I wouldn’t make a habit of it.

    Thirdly, visit KW Open Houses and talk to the listing agents or whoever is hosting the property. Find out who they are currently using for their photography. If they aren’t busy they will chat with you and if they like you they might give you a call. We’ve gotten calls from agents who we visited 6 mo’s ago and they kept our flyer all that time. Agents do keep information on file so definitely leave something with them.

  • Ken,

    All agents have to list to make money unless they are part of a team. For email marketing, no money is spent and once you have the list all that needsto be done is updating it.

  • I have been having luck with LinkedIn. Every day I spend an hour reviewing realtor pages, sending a connection request with the following message:

    Thank you for connecting with me. If there is any way I can help you, please let me know! I would welcome the opportunity to provide professional real estate photos for you or your colleagues. Let’s have a discussion or meet for coffee to chat real estate!

    I have had numerous accepts and 2 declined. Now I am starting to be more present on LI with posts about photography.

  • If considering sending unsolicited marketing emails, I would suggest caution. They are permitted under US, but you need to follow specific requirements of the CAN-SPAM law. And, even if permitted under US law, it is often the case that cable Internet, Internet service and marketing newsletter service providers do not allow unsolicited marketing emails; and many newsletter services require that you obtain the recipient’s written permission to receive marketing emails from you.

  • I’m your neighbor over here in Springfield, MO. As others have said, fly under the radar. I have never talked to anyone at the KW office here – I am well aware of their preferred vendor list. Rather, I use Facebook, friending as many Realtors as I can, and posting shoots on my page a few times a week. Then they call me.

  • @David Eichler

    Good points. I use a mailing program from my computer that lets me send a few emails at a time every so often. Yes, it’s spam, but places such as Mail Chimp prohibit blind emails so they might just close your account if they get complaints. Mailing services tend to put their name/logo on your mail and that can trigger a spam filter on the other end unless you have been whitelisted. The thing to avoid is trying to send out a whole mess of emails at once. Your ISP, a recipient’s ISP or some mail server may shut your email off if you send out a big number of emails in a short amount of time. Getting a bunch of returns in a short period of time is also a trigger for some ISP’s. You also don’t want a huge number of responses all at once. You won’t be able to craft a personal response to each one of them right away if they all come in at once.

    Technically, blind emails are spam when you don’t have permission from the recipient. It’s possible that you could be fined, but it’s not very probable. If you are only sending out a few emails each year, it would take a very irate person to go to the trouble of reporting you and giving a statement. They would also have to track down the agency and department that would take the complaint. If you take people off of your mailing list when they request, you shouldn’t get anybody mad enough to peruse you that far. I get emails from agents that have put me on their marketing list. If you meet an agent at an open house and exchange cards, ask them if they would mind if you sent them an email newsletter a couple of times a year.

  • I have been using Mailchimp for a long time. I have a list of agents on it of about 1400 names and have never had a problem.

  • “Technically, blind emails are spam when you don’t have permission from the recipient.” Not according to the CAN-SPAM law, as long as you provide your contact info, make the purpose of the email clear in your subject line and include an option to unsubscribe from subsequent emails. What I am saying is that many Internet services have stricter rules than the CAN-SPAM law, including ISPs, cable Internet providers and email marketing services such as MailChimp.

    Susan, many people who use MailChimp and other similar services, and the recipients of their emails, are not aware of their terms of use, and thus there seem to be few complaints. However, if you do get complaints, MailChimp has the right to end your service. If you have been sending emails to people via MailChimp to recipients who have not overtly “opted in” to receiving emails from you, you are in violation of their terms. And previous email correspondence with a recipient, by itself, does not qualify for this. The recipient must explicitly permit you to send them emails.

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