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Food Truck for Thought

Client: “Hey James, do you think you could sell my parking spot?"

Me: “Hold my beer."

(OK, G&T, for those that know me well.)

I tell this story quite a bit. I guess it's less of a story, really, and more of a "what would James do" scenario. 

I constantly tell my team and agents that I coach that I would stage even a parking spot and pull out all the stops on marketing, even if it was listed for $5,000 or $25,000. 

What's the commission on $25,000? If I represent only the seller and before my split? A whoppin' $625.

"You're MAD," you say!

Yes! Yes, I am and this is just reason #76 that I’m a mad “Ripple Effect” type of marketer. Believe me, I can share hundreds more reasons.

Before you jump to leave me a comment, read below. Maybe you'll pick up a tidbit you find useful.

So, let's get to this recipe for success, this "make it rain" moment...

First, I would string some lights and plunk down a rug, an old velvet, Victorian sofa and some bean bags. Then, I’d grab a few floor lamps and maybe put a cheap chandelier (que Sia) in the middle, or even better, some really tacky fake palm trees that have lights already strung on them. Pink flamingos are a must. A kiddie pool with some floating, rubber duckies? Admittedly, I do have a small, growing collection of duckies from around the world – hey, we all have our “thing”.

I would have the staged space professionally photographed, by a lifestyle photographer. Yea, sure they are more expensive than a "real estate photographer," but if I'm going to do this thing, I have to do it all the way. There is no holding back!

I need a photographer who can get me magazine quality pictures. I know who! Elysse. She is my go-to gal for photos when she is in town and not being flown around the world by some publication, and I know she would run with this idea and nail it. Having good resources who can execute my vision are a must! Some pictures in focus, some with a diffused background. I'd have Elysse get really artsy.

I would put those photos on a website, dedicated to the parking spot with a URL like or something. For the content on the website, I'd make a list with a map of everywhere that the spot-owner could visit nearby -- the restaurants, shopping, clubs, theatre, anything that would make the area more accessible to the owner, because they don’t have to circle for parking. Is this my ultimate buyer? Of course not. That’s not the point. The ultimate buyer lives nearby and will buy it to make their life easier.

I'm not going to stop there. I would throw a party in this special spot. I would contract a street food truck to come and park and have a good, old-fashioned parking spot taco party. That’s a thing, right? It is now!

The social media campaign for this party will be epic. Ads and posts on Instagram, Facebook...Tweeter. Possibly even a press release, or at least emails to local news outlets and social media influencers.

An invitation must be mailed to the neighborhood, with a photograph of the staged space.

I would definitely have to have a multi-page brochure. No, I need a booklet. A booklet, that is eight to 12 pages of photos and my map. (You'd be surprised at how little these cost! I'll spend about $100 more than I would on color, 2-sided photocopies. I will get WAY better marketing results from this than a postcard could ever give me.) This will really knock their socks off! And, since they are at my party and I have their attention, they'll see what I am really made of.

“Stop stop stop, STOP James! Why on EARTH would you do all of this? It's JUST a parking spot.”

Imagine the attention this little parking spot would get for all of this. It's the "little spot that could"! This is attention being paid to me and how I market property by people who know people who all might buy or sell one day!

Sometimes the best marketing we can do for our long-term (ripple effect) marketing is on our "smallest" listings. “If they did all that for a parking spot…imagine what they do for our house.” Imagine the business cards and brochures you’ll pass out at a party like this?!? This is your moment to shine and show off and it seems RIDICULOUS! I built my business doing marketing like this.

Where is this coming from?

The other day I was on Facebook. I was reading a post by an agent who didn't want to stage their listing, even though they normally provide free staging for their clients, because it "wasn't expensive enough." The Seller couldn't afford it, either. This honestly made me sad, as I knew that because the Seller couldn't afford to pay for staging, they would be leaving money on the table, when they may have gotten a little ahead by selling their property for more. I will tell you, being in Washington, DC, the price point was actually high enough for the commission to cover at least the living room/dining room, and still leave a profit at the end. Instead, the agent opted for virtual staging for their online marketing and then left the unit vacant.

What are some of the opportunity costs here? 

For me, they are:

  • The obvious one is that staging helps sell a listing and that not staging will impact the Seller's bottom line.
  • Not offering every client the same level of service tells your clients who you value and who you don't, based on the value of their property.
  • This is a condo building with dozens more units in it. Every single other unit owner in the building would have seen how well the unit showed and the effort put into marketing. That's dozens of prospects coming through the listing that hopefully would also need to buy a new place after they sell. A listing is my "Retail Space" to showcase my skills and to set myself apart in an already over-crowded field.
  • Photos of past listings are our proof that we keep the promises we make during a listing presentation. 
  • Photos of past listings are a huge part of how we market ourselves on our websites, brochures about us, custom CMAs, social media, email etc. And yes, even postcards (bleh! I’ll discuss those in a later article).
  • Happy Sellers are Happy Referrers. "We didn't feel important to James. We looked at his website and saw how his other listings look, and we just didn't get the same treatment." OR "James was so over-invested in our sale, you would have thought we were a Georgetown mansion! You must call him. Nevermind, here is my phone. I already dialed him. Say 'hello.'"
  • Is a small condo a "forever" home? For many, it's a starter property. That means they will sell one day. Impress the new buyer (the other agent's client!) and you may find yourself listing that unit again and helping them buy the next property.
  • We never know who will walk into our listings. 17 years ago, in San Francisco, I was holding open a "not expensive" listing for an agent who couldn't be bothered (still a crazy market, even back then). Brian Boitano (Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater) walked in with his friend who was looking for a home. You never know who you might impress that lives nearby in a multi-million dollar home by staging a parking spot, or even a small condo. 

Is this REALLY about the actual staging of a parking spot. No. Would I still do it, yes. Taco truck and all. My point is that we need to treat every listing and every seller with the same level of service and integrity, always. Some listings we make way more commission and on some, we might break even. If you look at your business with one, five and 10 year plans, not a deal-by-deal basis, I believe you will do much better. 

Take the small listing, knock it out of the park (or, parking! I'm hilarious!) and build your five and 10 year business, today.

Note: this isn't to say that we should work with every client that comes our way. But, avoiding and knowing when to pass up/fire toxic clients is an entirely different article for another day.



PS: Friends, my new training academy and coaching site is going to launch soon (eek!):



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