We can all learn some lessons about suburban prospecting from the ladies on Wisteria Lane. The hit series Desperate Housewives ran for eight seasons on ABC from 2004 to 2012. With a reported 120 million viewers worldwide, it was a television phenomenon. Haven’t you ever wondered if the BRAVO Real Housewives franchise was inspired by the series? In both shows, suburbia reigned supreme.
The rationale for suburban prospecting
Why choose to prospect in the suburbs? Simple: Agents and advisors are faced with choosing between two markets when looking for new clients. Prospect where you work or prospect where you live. You know the rationale for the office-based approach. Prospecting where you live is compelling because you and your family spend most of your time in the area. Your children attend local schools. You play golf on weekends. You know more people close to home.
Nine strategies for suburban prospecting
Earlier articles on metro area prospecting and small town prospecting highlighted traditional organizations and approaches. Most transfer easily. Certain other strategies make even more sense for suburban prospecting.
1. The elementary and high school connection
One of the major reasons people move to the suburbs is the quality of the schools. Edie Britt, the realtor on Desperate Housewives would likely have made that case for moving to Wisteria Lane.
Action Step: Many parents get involved at their children’s school. According to Child Trends DataBank, in 2012, 87 percent of parents attended at least one meeting and 42 percent volunteer. They join the PTA. They are sideline parents cheering on their children during rainy football games. There are plenty of opportunities to get to know fellow parents casually. A logoed shirt or ball cap silently advertises what you do. One advisor brings an extra logoed umbrella to outdoor school sporting events. If the skies open up, at least one parent forgot to prepare. The umbrella is lent out and now the other parent is advertising for the lender.
2. Religious organizations
It’s estimated that 84 percent of Americans are affiliated with a religious faith. Father Dugan made occasional appearances on Desperate Housewives giving spiritual counsel to various characters. Your faith offers plenty of opportunities to raise your visibility through volunteerism.
Action Step: Assuming you are involved in a religious organization, find a way to give back. There is usually a need for lay ministers, lectors (readers) and choir members. Your volunteer role gets you recognized by the wider congregation. People often associate your volunteerism with your profession. “That’s Jane, she’s an insurance agent. She must be an honest person because she does the readings in church.”
3. Cultural organizations
Bree Van De Camp of Desperate Housewives often organized the gala for the hospital. Everyone dressed up and mingled with deep-pocketed donors. This is a ‘see and be seen’ activity. On this occasion you aren’t volunteering as a candy striper, you are gaining access by writing a check.
Action Step: Plenty of community organizations hold galas. Check the town website and ask around. Build a list and note costs. Certain ones are big draws. Learn about sponsorship. This might be high cost (buying a program ad) or low cost (buying a slightly more expensive ticket and appearing on the patron list. When attending community events, a New Jersey advisor usually approaches an established friend and asks, “Is there anyone here you think I should meet?” They get the message and introduce him to the heavy hitters.
Wisteria Lane was home to several “ladies who lunch.” They often visited a day spa. These places attract people with lots of free time and disposable income. If you fit into the same set, the spa you frequent might be a good market, too.
Action Plan: It’s been said, “There is no free lunch.” Some advisors hold informal lunch and learn seminars at their favorite spa. It’s publicized through the spa. The advisor absorbs the cost of lunch. The ladies who lunch need to eat. It’s a good way to position how you help people.