When Tucson-area Realtors have a client whose newly purchased home needs updating, they often think first of Dakota Builders. Some 86 times in the last few years, real estate agents have referred clients to the 20-year-old company. Owner Greg Miedema qualified 42 of the 86 as prospects, and sold projects to 20 of them.

“That's almost a 50% conversion rate,” says Miedema, compared with his average conversion rate of 25% to 30% for all prospects.

Realtors are a strong referral source for Dakota Builders because Miedema works them. The housing market has slowed a bit in Tucson, and real estate agents can get an edge by connecting clients to experts who will help them evaluate whether to buy and remodel. They know Miedema through the Tucson Association of Realtors (he's an affiliate member), from his newsletters (mailed three times a year to 5,000 agents and 18,000 others), from his speaking engagements (aging-in-place is one of his areas of expertise), and because he otherwise offers himself as a resource for people curious about remodeling costs and other considerations.

“Realtors are an interest segment that has a lot of the same goals as remodelers have,” he says. “Every time a house is sold, somebody's going to do something to it.”

Realtors read, help underwrite, and even appear in Dakota Builders' newsletter, the “Dakota  Report.”
Realtors read, help underwrite, and even appear in Dakota Builders' newsletter, the “Dakota Report.”

Follow-through perpetuates the cycle. When one of these buyers calls Miedema, he sends a handwritten thank-you note to the Realtor who referred them. “And I always slip in my business card, just in case they need an extra one,” he says. He also adds the lead to his ever-growing database; they may not be ready to remodel now, but he wants them to think of Dakota Builders when they are.

Finally, Miedema budgets for Realtors. “Networking should be a recognized part of a marketing program,” he says. It takes time and other resources to do it right, and he spends both continuously over the course of the year.