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Population Shifts Hit Rural Areas

4 Strategies to capture long-distance leads

Heading to the country is more than cowboy singing. More people are moving away from city life and into rural and small-town areas. How do you

country home
Analysts believe half the workforce soon will be working from home in small towns.

get leads when your prospects are so far away?

Here are four strategies to fashion lead generation from the dark bowels of Gotham City:

1. Understand the customer (always the first priority)

Only 40% of city workers returned to the office since the beginning of the great flu pandemic, according to the Counselors of Real Estate annual report released this month. The Counselors is an international think tank of credentialed real estate professionals, including real estate, financial, legal, and accounting firms plus developers, economists, and futurists.

The report says 80% of workers want to work remotely at least one day weekly and economists estimate that half the workforce might continue working in a hybrid format. The trend dramatically would affect real estate as workers continue to abandon urban hubs, increasing demand for rural properties and drastically affecting city life with higher office vacancies, retail declines, and shrunken tax bases.


Identify and describe who these city refugees are and connect with them before they move. Existing consumer data help identify office workers and professionals by categories of income, occupation, homeownership, ZIP code, hobbies, family relationships, demographics, and other key data points.

Create a persona – a description of your prospect’s lifestyle and needs that define more than your ideal customer. It describes things like buyer priorities, perceived barriers, how they buy, and how they make decisions.

This persona description provides more than a look at your ideal customer, it also provides what your buyer is dealing with in life and how they make buying decisions. It’s a way to discover not only the practical side of your customer but the emotional side – factors that play into a buying decision.

2. Communicate relevantly

Once you understand what your customer is experiencing in the city, what they desire by escaping the city, and why they want to escape, craft a relevant sales and marketing message that speaks directly to those needs.

Agents already know who their likely customers are but being able to speak on a deeper emotional level helps build trust and relationship.


Develop a marketing strategy that communicates that you understand what the buyer is experiencing, how and why you can help, and the unique value you bring to help your customer get the job of moving out of the city done.

The value of direct mail marketing in this instance is very high. Sending a letter gives you room to demonstrate your customer knowledge and your market knowledge. It’s not a simple splash of a deal or discount, it’s a solid approach of coming alongside a buyer, building trust, and establishing a relationship that endures through discovery, consideration, purchase, and retention over time.

Direct mail combined with email marketing is a powerful combination that attracts and keeps customers.

3. Market Often

Building a brand and connecting with prospects happen over time. The nature of your messages, the design, seasonality, and delivery frequency are key components of an effective strategy. While direct marketing is an extension of sales, several factors are unique to direct mail, including presentation, graphics, and customer profile.

Olde School Marketing has experience in designing what works and combining mail and digital marketing to create impact that gets calls and response from prospects. One of the company’s key differentiators is the ability to hand-write envelopes and brief notes in letters, greeting cards, and other mailers. This adds a strong dimension of trust and relationship building that regular direct mail can’t.


Target key metropolitan areas with high rates of outward-bound relocation. Target prospects by occupational, demographic, income, residential status (rent or own), or other factors as defined by your persona development.

How you use direct mail has a big impact on your ROI from marketing investment. Some strategies might focus on covering every household in a key geographic area or targeting select prospect types. Each strategy has pros and cons, depending on your marketing goals and objectives.

Direct mail specialists advise on best solutions for your goals. Direct mail can be focused very narrowly by geographic area or by customer type. It’s best to discuss your strategy and investment to match the returns in leads and sales you need.

4. Evaluate and Adjust

Analysts are confident that the demand for homes is still strong because of undersupply of housing. Even in areas where home prices have declined, National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun said the situation today is not like the housing crash of 2008. Housing inventory is a quarter of what it was then, and distressed property sales are virtually nonexistent at 2% compared to the 30% mark seen during the crash.

Adding to the inventory challenge, homeowners today are reluctant to give up their low mortgage interest rates and builders aren’t building enough homes, either taking homes off the market in the slowdown or converting homes to short-term rentals rather than selling.

Yun said analysts are paying attention to the changes and market uncertainties, but generally the real estate market is stabilizing.


While many businesses think marketing budgets should be cut in slowdowns, the reality is that generating leads and traffic requires more marketing. The marketing you do should be measured and tracked.

For direct mail, response rate can be measured by calls and emails. That means your mailings must have a methodology for prospects to respond, either though a special phone number, email, webpage, a coupon. or other channel.

Ensure salespeople know what you’re mailing and promoting so they can be ready to respond or pursue appropriately.

Design your messaging to offer multiple ways or options to respond, such as free resources like buying guides or insights into your marketplace, prequalification services, or other services that help advance the property search and purchase. Evaluate which elements get response for the prospects you’re targeting and do either more or less of the same.

Keep On Prospecting

Despite slowdowns and uncertain markets, it is always important to stay focused on the basics. United Country Real Estate President Michael Duffy said, “No matter what the market does, you can adjust your income goal to whatever you want.” He also advised that direct mail is one of the most proven and effective ways to generate leads.


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