What Is SOI in Real Estate Terms?
Merriam-Webster defines “sphere of influence” (SOI) as “a territorial area within which the political influence or the interests of one nation are held to be more or less paramount”.
But that’s obviously not what the term means for real estate agents (who aren’t planning world domination).
In real estate, SOI refers to your family, circle of friends, connections, social network… everyone you can “influence” because you know them and they know you.
We’re about to get more specific and share some ideas about how to expand your SOI in a moment. But first…
Why Does Any of This Matter?
Because your SOI can be a significant source of commission income for you. The leads you get from your sphere have an increased likelihood of becoming clients simply because you share a connection.
For example, a recent NAR study found that “the typical REALTOR® earned 16 percent of their business from repeat clients and customers and 20 percent through referrals from past clients and customers.” In other words, drawing leads and clients from your SOI can have a cyclical effect where, over time, you see exponential growth as the income-generating power of your network builds on itself.
Of course, having a system in place that brings you a steady stream of new real estate leads will be crucial to your success. It’s important to look for ways you can expand your SOI. (More on that later.)
But overlooking the people who are “right in front of you” may put a limit on the number of referral leads you’re able to generate and could hinder your ability to drive meaningful connections. As you know, success in real estate is all about relationship.
How To Define Your Sphere of Influence
If building a sphere of influence to generate leads sounds daunting, don’t worry – you already have one. Sure, it’s a good idea to expand your network, but it’s not as if you’re having to start from scratch. If you have a family, a group of friends, and a life outside of your office, you have nothing to worry about.
Many agents fail to realize how big their SOI is simply because they don’t take the time to consider all of the many groups who fit within it. To avoid that mistake, get out a pen and paper or open up a spreadsheet and write down the names of everyone (everyone!) you’d consider to be part of your SOI. Essentially you’re creating a prospect list.
First, think of those who fit in your innermost social circles…
- Your partner’s family and friends
Then think a little bit bigger…
- Local community groups or committees you’re part of
- Your religious/faith community
- Recreational sports teams you’re part of
- Past clients and “cold” leads
Then get creative and take it one step further…
- Your followers on social media
- Your partner’s colleagues
- People you know at your favorite local businesses or service providers (e.g., doctors, baristas, mechanics, hairdressers, etc.)
- Contractors you’ve worked with professionally (e.g., photographers, home inspectors, videographers, etc.)
- Former colleagues and classmates
- Teachers and administration at your children’s daycare, preschool, or school
Of course, this list of examples doesn’t cover everyone. There are certainly more categories you could add. Chances are, your list will end up being longer than you thought it was going to be.
6 SOI Real Estate Marketing Best Practices
Once you’ve identified who fits within your SOI, it’s time to start marketing. As you develop your own real estate marketing strategy, keep these six best practices in mind.
1. Increase “Top of Mind” Awareness
In other words, aim to be the first one who comes to mind when your SOI real estate prospects think of agents. How can you do that?
Acknowledge major life events. Be the one agent who remembers their birthday, wedding anniversary, or career milestone. Ideally, reach out to them with a quick, authentic, personalized note of congratulations or a small-but-meaningful gift, but even an email or text will do.
Stay active on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, allow you to turn on notifications for the life events mentioned above. Post, comment, and reply as often as you can. The more you engage on your SOI on social media, the more visible you’ll be. The more helpful and service-oriented you are, the more likely you’ll be to establish trust and loyalty.
2. Really Get to Know People
Get your sphere of influence real estate prospects to talk about their families, their specific real estate needs, professional concerns, and so on.
Why? There are two reasons. First, it will help you establish deeper, more genuine relationships if you can remember the details of their lives.
And second, because the more you know about them, the better you can serve them as an agent. For example, let’s say you talk to a prospect who has a baby on the way. That may indicate that they’re going to be looking for more space in the future.
Or let’s say you talk with someone and you find out that their job is relocating them to another city. That might mean they’ll be listing their house soon. And if you have an idea when that’ll happen, maybe you could deliver a well-timed email or print mailer that highlights local home values and follow up with a quick phone call after a couple of weeks to see how things are going.
3. Always Carry Your Business Card
Believe it or not, your business card isn’t just a piece of paper that shares your name and number. It can also be an important part of fostering a positive brand experience.
You never know when you might need to create a great first impression. So be sure to keep a few cards on hand, especially when you’re attending networking events.
Not just any business card will do. Learn the five tips for creating effective real estate business cards.
4. Keep in Touch With Past Clients
There are several ways you can stay top of mind with past clients. For example…
- Send them useful, personalized emails on a regular basis (e.g., how to winterize your home; local market updates; invitations to local events).
- Send a closing gift six months afterwards.
- Call or text them once a year or so just to say “hi” and catch up.
- Again, reach out during significant life events (e.g., birthdays, wedding anniversaries, childbirths, etc.).
Does all of this sound difficult or overly time consuming? It’s not. With the best real estate marketing automation tool, you can easily keep your sphere of influence engaged without having to jog your memory or keep track of the details.
5. Don’t Be a “Secret Agent”
Let everyone in your sphere of influence know that you’re in real estate. Of course, you don’t have to be obnoxious about it. Instead, think small and simple.
Wear a hat with your letterhead on it whenever you’re around people in your SOI. Be personable, be willing to strike up conversations, and be ready to offer something of value whenever the topic of real estate comes up. Or maybe it’s as simple as wearing a shirt, like top-performing REALTOR® Robin Serna does, that says, “Real Estate Is My Hustle.”
You’d be surprised at how many leads you can generate simply by being who you are and sprinkling subtle self-promotion into ordinary day-to-day interactions.
6. Build a Referral-based Business
A referral-based business is exactly what it sounds like – a business that grows primarily via word-of-mouth. You’ll know you have one when the majority of your leads come from people within your real estate SOI who have recommended you by name.
Learn the five ways to build a referral-based real estate business.
7 Ways To Expand Your SOI in Real Estate
But what if you’re already leveraging your “built-in” network, so to speak, and you’re still not able to reach your lead generation goals? Then what?
Then it’s time to expand your real estate sphere of influence to include a wider variety of prospect groups. Here are seven ways to do that.
- Attend networking events.
- Host your own networking events.
- Develop business partnerships (for example, with lenders and movers).
- Form a team of experts from related fields, like the partnerships mentioned above.
- Do your networking on social media (hint: Nextdoor and community Facebook groups will be your best friend).
- Network with out-of-town agents.
- Get to know other agents in town.
Want to go deeper? Get the complete breakdown of each of these seven tactics and ten practical tips for networking in real estate.