Would you identify your “ideal” customer when you see him?

His name is Bob.


If you are looking for an "edge" that helps you win more listings, get to know Bob.

I’m well aware the concept of "knowing your customer" is nothing new.

But, before you start simply nodding in agreement, STOP. Agreement without action is just idle chatter. Nodding and smiling is merely good exercise if you don’t “DO” anything.

Russell Conwell illustrated the point with an amusing anecdote shared in Acres of Diamonds:

My father kept a country store, and if there is any place under the stars where a man gets all sorts of experience in every kind of mercantile transactions, it is in the country store. I am not proud of my experience, but sometimes when my father was away he would leave me in charge of the store, though fortunately for him that was not very often. But this did occur many times, friends: A man would come in the store, and say to me, “Do you keep jack knives?''

“No, we don't keep jack knives,'' and I went off whistling a tune. What did I care about that man, anyhow?

Then another farmer would come in and say, “Do you keep jack knives?'' “No, we don't keep jack knives.'' Then I went away and whistled another tune. Then a third man came right in the same door and said, “Do you keep jack knives?'' “No. Why is everyone around here asking for jack knives? Do you suppose we are keeping this store to supply the whole neighborhood with jack knives?''

We can only hope he told his father about all those bothersome people asking for pocket knives! I imagine the veteran shopkeeper would begin stocking them as quickly as possible. After all, HE controlled the inventory, and his “Bob” needed a knife.




Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet. -Kevin Stirtz

Don’t take action, and farmers stopping to visit will walk right back out the door.

The same principle applies in real estate.

If you have a desire to consistently bring in good listings, it is imperative you take time to find your Bob. Ignore Bob’s wants and needs, and those dream listings will go to your competition.

Yikes! What’s a smart agent to do?

Simple, really. YOU control who you call, where you prospect, and what leads you choose to follow up on. So take some action to find and target the leads YOU want.

Get to know Bob

Let’s start mapping out your ideal lead, your Bob.

Maybe you’ve already worked with a Bob in real life. Think about that specific person. If you’re a new agent, or you haven’t come across the ‘perfect’ lead yet, it will take a little extra thought. Try thinking of a person you know who would fit the role of your ideal client.

It’s important to put a real face on your Bob. The more specific you are, the easier the next step will be. Close your eyes for a second, picture your dream lead, and step into Bob’s shoes...

What are some of his traits and characteristics?

  • Is he rich or middle class

  • Does he live in a certain neighborhood or part of town

  • What kind of vehicle does he drive

  • Where does he go for work, dinner, fun, vacation

  • What interests and hobbies does he have

Think of it a bit like gift shopping for a friend or acquaintance. The better you know the person, the easier it is to buy them something meaningful.

Bob’s physical characteristics are only part of the equation. His thoughts and feelings about life are equally important. You’ve taken a walk in his shoes, now it’s time to climb into his head.




What are some of his concerns and fears?

  • Money

  • Stability

  • Mobility

  • Status

  • Image

Knowing what interests Bob is key. People do business with people. Nowhere is that more true than the real estate biz! You can’t relate to Bob until you know what values and ideals are important to him.

Take some time on this exercise, and remember: there are no wrong answers!

You may be in a high-end market, with million plus dollar listings. Could be your goal to become the volume king in a middle-income market. Maybe you help first time buyers or retirees. No matter who you target, it’s critical to build a true “snapshot” of your ideal lead.

At this point, you may ask: “Is it OK to have more than one Bob?” The answer is yes, maybe.

For example, a small town agent may market primarily to middle-class home owners. However, even a small town can have a “high end” neighborhood. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing leads in both parts of town! You would want to tailor your marketing message to owners in each particular niche.

If this is the case in your market, you’ll need to repeat the Bob building step. Each Bob should be very specific

Only AFTER you know your Bob, can you begin to woo him.

However, don’t get distracted from your main focus by trying to create a whole crew of super-specific Bobs. And don’t lose sight of the ideal lead you are trying to create!

Finally, take time once a year and get re-acquainted with Bob. As you work on the upcoming year’s business plan, make sure you and he are still a good fit. Staying “in touch” with Bob will help provide the guidelines to follow in your marketing plans.

If your business goals have changed, it may be time to find a new Bob. Stay focused on bringing in your ideal leads, and you will continue to have success year after year.

Why does Bob buy?

What makes Bob want to buy?

Or, to be more specific, why does he choose to respond to you or your marketing?

Once you meet Bob, and you can target your marketing to “speak” directly to him. You can make a compelling offer that captures his interest. You can give him a reason to choose you to sell his house.


In marketing terms, a “hook” is the draw that compels people to respond to your offer. Hooks can take many forms. You can build hooks focused on pain points, providing value, "product" benefits, answering questions, and more.

Let’s break down a few different points your hooks can highlight, and how they impact people:


Fear is a powerful motivator, perhaps the single most effective hook of all. Studies show people respond faster to the fear of loss than a promise of gain.

Think of sending two different letters to a FSBO owner...

The first letter says: “You are at Risk of Losing $34,000 on Your Home Sale”. The second letter starts: “How to Make $34,000 More on Your Home Sale”.

Which of those two letters is more likely to galvanize a home owner into action?

Using fear to motivate people is very effective, but handle with care.

Hooks built on fear have a downside as well. Focus too much on the fear, and you paralyze people. Like a deer in headlights, you’ll cause the worst possible reaction: IN-action!

Good news is you do NOT need to push fear to get people to act. There IS another equally powerful force at work in almost ANY interaction.


Doubt paralyses people as much or more than fear.

Why do we instinctively flee from the super cheesy “used car salesman” types? They assure us we are getting the deal of a lifetime don’t they? Yet we don’t act.  Why? Because they aren’t believable. They’re not genuine, and our doubts override our desire to get a good deal.

Remove the doubts, and people move forward of their own will.

Problem / Solution

Since you took time getting to know Bob, you know what problems he faces.

Like fear, people respond to pain more quickly than pleasure. This is an age old rule of human personality. Aristotle even observed: “The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.

Identify the problem. Then show how you can provide the perfect solution.

Pleasure and Gain

Nowhere is this concept better illustrated than within the travel industry! Every hotel, beach, and cruise line brochure is focused on pleasure. They ask you to imagine yourself in paradise. Picture a happy family having a blast on vacation. Their goal is to get you to envision what happens after you give them your business.

Use this “future pacing” in your real estate marketing as well.

Words like ‘imagine’, and ‘picture’ help people focus on the outcome, instead of the decision-making process. As they fall in love with results their actions will create, the decision becomes a no-brainer!

Greed / Vanity / Impulse

Many lesser emotions play a role in the decision-making process. In some situations, any one of these may be the key motivator of your Bob.

Greed - desire to have something better than others.

Vanity - desire to impress, stand out, be noticed.

Impulse – need to follow trends, react to opinions of others.

Bottom line?  The better you know Bob, the better you’re prepared to choose an effective hook.

Grab Bob’s attention

Now that you know Bob, it’s time to get his attention.

Unless you are the only agent in town, it’s vital you find a way to differentiate yourself from others. There’s two steps to making that happen...

First off, you need to stand out from the rest.


That’s a good start, but you are still trying to catch the attention of a whole crowd of people. Many of those people are not in position to become a good lead. Some of them will be in the future; some may never meet the criteria.

Personally directed marketing will almost always outperform generic, mass outreach. In most cases, it will be many times more effective. Find Bob with your marketing approach, and speak directly to him.

Secondly, choose the vehicle you’ll use to deliver your marketing message.

There are many channels available, both online and off.

Facebook provides a wealth of data and targeting options. Facebook ad campaigns can be set up to hone in on people with very specific characteristics. Advanced settings allow you to specify the exact areas you’ll target.

Other online sources like Google, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn all reach different types and groups of people in different ways.

Old school methods are still effective today. Add a unique twist to tried and true letters and postcards. Pull mail lists that target specific niches. You can find good lead info in many places, from the MLS to your local property appraiser, and even the courthouse.

Combine a hook that grabs Bob’s attention with an approach that reaches directly to him, in a way he can’t miss. Based on what you know about Bob, you may even decide to blend several tactics together.

Now you are just one on one. You and Bob. Your perfect lead. No competition. See how much easier it will be to win his listing?

Meet Bob’s friends

Now that you’ve met Bob, it’s time to find his friends!

Obviously, even though “Bob” is one specific person, he represents a whole group of people. Your ideal leads. As you market to one Bob, you are marketing to ALL Bobs.

As you begin to work with these Bobs, an amazing thing will happen.

Bob will send you referrals.

In you, he found someone to work with who "gets him". You understand his needs. Your approach is focused on helping him. THAT makes an impression.

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends. -Walt Disney

Bob will brag on "his find" to others. He may take all the credit.  But either way, he will introduce you to his friends. You’ll meet another Bob, and another, and another.

And just like the first Bob, these new Bobs will be asking YOU to list their home.

When they do, I want to hear about it!

What did you do to find Bob, and how did you reach him? I love a good listing success story almost as much as a good listing! And just think, it all happens because you took time today to meet Bob!

Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. -Chip Bell

Until next time, be smart, and work smarter!



avatar_joe Joe Nickelson is a real estate professional dedicated to helping home buyers and sellers achieve their dreams of owning property, and helping real estate agents stop using the sometimes-vicious tactics that weigh on their consciences. He believes that the Smart Agents books will, quite literally, change people’s lives for the better. Check out his full bio here

Subscribe to Email Updates