Why Farming CrushesLead Generation Over Time

The top listing agents in the country are farmers. By farmers, I mean agents who work to establish awareness amongst homeowners in a defined geography.

In the years 2006-2012, I made fun of farming. My brokerage was using lead generation methods from Zurple, which was a company I founded along with my brother. We were crushing it in terms of return on investment. Our brokerage was minting money. Other agents near our brokerage who were farming spent appreciably more for a market share that was about the same as ours.

What I naively misunderstood was lead sources come and go. The methods that work today get more competitive tomorrow precisely because they work.

Lead Generation gets more expensive over time.

With our brokerage, the tactics we used were pulling leads from Google searches, Facebook, etc. When many agents started using Google and Facebook, our ROI fell.

Our experience is not unique. I read a great article recently by Meg Mullin, a Coldwell Banker agent, who experienced a massive drop in ROI with Zillow leads.

While our brokerage built on lead gen was falling, the farmers in our area became the dominant agents, with market shares in the range of 10% to 60%.

The specific agent who crushed us in our local market of Coronado was Scott Aurich, a Sotheby’s agent, who is now a Celebrity Agent client. Scott is your classic farmer. The experience forced us to wake up and adapt, which is why we worked to build the best branding machine in the world and ultimately invented Celebrity Agent.

I don’t mean to discourage you from adopting lead gen tactics. I would set a portion of your marketing budget each year to try new tactics. And of course use your old lead gen tactics while they produce a positive ROI for you. But, if your goal is to become a Celebrity Agent, with a market share between 10% and 60%…

Never do lead gen at the expense of farming. 

Over time, farming wins, every time. I’m not aware of any exceptions in the United States, and at this point I’ve worked with over 5,000 agents over two decades. If you know of an exception, call me. I would love to hear about them. You can teach me something.

I would analogize the lead gen agent to the kid who decides to be a bartender. I had a friend out of high school who did that. He worked at the Iron Gate in Belmont. In the short run, he earned what looked to be a lot of money. In the long run, every friend I had who went to college and graduate school earned appreciably more. 

Farming creates increased wealth over time.

Fundamentally, the reason is simplistic. 

The agent concentrating on lead gen works each year to get a slice of the 5% of homeowners who will sell that year. 

The farmer, by contrast, works to build awareness and reputation amongst the 100% of homeowners who eventually will sell. 

A staggering asymmetry develops over time. 


 \At Celebrity Agent, we do farming in a more effective manner than it has ever been done. We refer to our method as mass intimacy. It requires a sophisticated set of software and databases to engage on a customized level unique to each individual recipient. Email hello@celebrityagent.com to find out more.