“I see trying to attract a landlord as being like trying to date someone,” says Christopher Watkin. “If you go on a first date and talk about yourself all night, the chances of you getting to a second date are very, very slim.”
Watkin came to this realisation five years ago, when he was working for a large corporate agency selling franchises. He noticed there were a handful of franchisees who were organically growing by up to 30 percent each year. “I thought to myself, if I found out what they were doing, I could sell more franchises,” says Watkin.
He discovered the way these agencies were advertising themselves to prospective landlords was “completely different”. “The traditional way of marketing an agency is to talk about yourself or your firm or your services - to create unique selling points to show that you have competitive advantage - we’re better than everyone else because we have this, this and this. But then these agents weren’t doing that. They weren’t talking about themselves, or their firm or their services or how much better they were,” says Watkin.
Instead, these agents were writing articles they were sharing online and in local newspapers that provided detailed information about their town’s local property market and featuring the best buy-to-let deals - regardless of whether these properties were being sold through their own agency or someone else’s. Over time, this technique helped these letting agents establish trust and credibility in their area and, ultimately, won them more instructions. “They weren’t trying to get something, they were trying to give something,” says Watkin. “It was a lightbulb moment.”
After successfully testing this approach in other franchises, Watkin established his own consultancy business for letting agents, Landlord Farming. He now helps hundreds of letting agents throughout the country to transform the way they advertise to landlords. Landlord Farming is a gradual process, he says. After all, it takes time to build trust - which is one of the reasons he thinks many letting agents are yet to embrace this new way of advertising, which is already common in other industries.
“Over the last decade, the world has changed, but agents have not changed with it. They’ve continued to spend even more money on the older advertising techniques but are continually getting a lower return on investment from them. But they think the more money they throw at it, the better it will be,” says Watkin. “What I’m suggesting is quite seismic in change, so there’s always going to be early adopters, someone who goes first. But I'm on a mission to make sure letting agents are seen as the go-to person in their town and I’m in this for the long game.”