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Community marketing strategies from a The Thousand agent

The No. 133 agent in the state talks about community events marketing and her personal journey in real estate.

Meghan Clarkson says she’s always had a passion for advertising and marketing and if life had turned out differently, she very may well have entered into that field, but life does not always work the way you anticipate. However, this passion for marketing has helped her climb to a top-performing real estate professional.

One day, after years of waitressing, a regular customer asked Clarkson if she had ever considered taking real estate classes.

“This was back in 2004 and at the time I had been considering trying to go back to college, but I couldn’t get the financial assistance I needed,” she said. “My customer told me that a friend needed some more agents. So, I enrolled in classes.”

While Clarkson’s journey in the real estate industry is not as simple or linear as she humbly makes it seem, she has overcome self-doubt and adversity and is now the No. 133 individual ranked by transaction sides, according to the 2022 RealTrends + Tom Ferry The Thousand agent and team rankings, advertised in The Wall Street Journal.

The Chincoteague Island-based Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc. agent closed 162.33 transaction sides in 2021, for a total sales volume of $49.99 million.

RealTrends recently caught up with Clarkson to talk about her journey in real estate, building self confidence and the importance of putting yourself out there. She also discusses how important it is to market to her community through events.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Brooklee Han: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into real estate?

Meghan Clarkson: I have been in the restaurant business my whole life. I started waitressing in high school, and I was in the restaurant business until I was 36. But one day a regular customer said, ‘Have you ever thought about taking real estate classes?’ At the time I was thinking about going back to school, but I couldn’t afford it. So, there I was 24 years old and ready to make a change, so I signed up for classes.

Within a couple of months, I had my real estate license, and I went to work for a mom-and-pop company, and I was with them for about 12 years. When I started to get really into technology and social media and using that for yourself, I moved to Long and Foster. That was in March 2016 and on October 30, 2016, I waited on my last table, and I never went back to the restaurant business. Since then, my business has really flourished. I have grown my sphere of influence and my marketing techniques have really developed.

I do a lot of fun events and sponsor things throughout the community, such as firework shows and things for the volunteer fire department, which is really the backbone of our community. I also do a lot of fundraisers for the local schools. I feel strongly about giving back and doing things for the children. Growing up, I didn’t have much and now I want to share what I have created with the community.

BH: Prior to your customer’s suggestion, had a career in real estate been on your radar?

Clarkson: I had thought about it at one time, but I really wanted to get into marketing and advertising, which is almost the same thing as real estate. So, real estate wasn’t something that hit me in the head out of the blue, it had been one of those things that I thought about but didn’t really know how to do it.

My regular customer was a real estate investor, and they pointed me in the right direction. I am forever indebted to them, because it was a huge game changer for me. I lived through the height of the market in the early-2000s and then we all remember what happened next, but I stayed in the market and in real estate during the recession and the bubble busting and I just kept grinding away.

I had to keep waitressing, but sometimes that’s what you do to pay your bills. But I have kept a relationship with every person I ever sold a house to or for. There is not a time when I walk into the grocery store and haven’t run into someone I have helped. With me it isn’t just this 30-, 60- or 90-day period when we are working on the transaction and then we go our separate ways. My clients and my relationships with my clients are very important.

BH: Having worked as a waitress you obviously have a background in customer service. How has that impacted your work as a real estate agent?

Clarkson: It was a tremendous help. Being able to multitask with a smile on my face, being able to cater to the customers and figure out what they need before they knew they need it, all of that is a big bonus in this career.

I listen to what my clients tell me and the things they aren’t telling me, and I find houses or features in houses that they never knew they wanted, but they want. But it is just like in the restaurant business when you know if a table wants refills or to see the dessert menu or what they might want to try based on what they had last time. It’s a lot of listening and caring about what you are hearing.

BH: You mentioned how your business changed when you switched brokerages. What ultimately lead you to feel comfortable enough with your real estate business to stop waitressing?

Clarkson: I had been with Long & Foster for about six months and my business had just taken off and the manager at the restaurant approached me and said they were going to keep me but cut some of the other girls for the winter. I told her to cut me for the winter and keep the others. I then said we could revisit it in the spring when the business picked back up at the restaurant. By the time spring came, I didn’t need to come back.

BH: What about being at Long & Foster helped you grow your business?

Clarkson: I started using more social media, and I found confidence in my own abilities. I had been in the market for 12 years, but they weren’t 12 busy years because we had quite the barrel to climb out of after the housing bubble. But I was finally able to find confidence in myself and was able to promote my brand.

At my previous brokerage, they discouraged you from promoting yourself, they wanted the company promoted, so I was terrified of doing any type of promoting. When I changed brokerages, I began to do radio ads that were self-promoting. The folks at the radio company branded me ‘Super Agent Meghan Clarkson’ and it was like a 007 thing with the music and the deep-voiced narrator.

It’s kind of corny, but it gets people’s attention. From there, we started running events and those have really helped my business. Once I realized that marketing really works, I jumped into social media and now I have [videos on my Facebook page]. But all of that, plus the support and leadership I have through Long & Foster from my managing brokers, they have built up my confidence and made me more aware of my own abilities.

BH: You talked about overcoming this lack self confidence, but what are some other challenges you have had to overcome in your career?

Clarkson: Things are slower here, so when I started there were not a whole lot of new agents. I was 10 years in, and I was still the new agent because the other agents had been in the business for 20 or 30 years. A lot have retired since then, but there was a huge intimidation factor for a long time. So, just getting over that feeling of being the new kid and being intimidated by everyone else was the biggest challenge.

BH: How did you work to get past this mental hurdle?

Clarkson: It kind of just worked its way through. I did some coaching with my managing broker, but once I started to surpass their volume and transaction sides, the confidence just came with the territory. I was constantly learning from working in the market and I was constantly reading articles and having conversations with lenders and attorneys and just got to know more about the finer details of things and became more proficient all aspects of the marketplace.

I learned the differences between selling new construction and land and older homes. Whatever I could learn, I threw myself into. Real estate classes don’t teach you anything about selling real estate. They teach you some laws, but that is it. Some agents are able to fumble their way through, but I wasn’t one of them. I wanted to be the best resource for my clients I possibly could be, so I kept learning.

BH: What are some of the things you are currently working to improve with your business?

Clarkson: Inventory is an issue across the board for all markets and agents, and it has been a challenge, but it also teaches us new ways to find clients. We always used to farm an area, but now we are having to think outside of the box. You can’t just sit around and wait for a listing to fall into your lap, you have to go after listings. I was a buyer’s agent for a good 10 years and once I joined Long & Foster I started going after those listings and that has really helped me with how the market is right now.

BH: How has real estate changed since you first got into the business?

Clarkson: I have seen real estate change like three times (laughs). Our industry has changed a lot over the years. Just the technology and the way to market your clients’ home and all the social media, it has all changed real estate. We can get our information out there a lot faster and in front of more people than ever before with social media. That has been a game changer. Back in 2003 and 2004, we were still using listing booklets and print outs, so just getting a digital MLS here was huge. And, [consider] the changes the market has gone through from the downturn to the recovery and now the pandemic.

BH: What do you like best about working in real estate?

Clarkson: There is so much. I love this job. It is more of a lifestyle for me than it is a career. I think because of my background in hospitality and customer service, I just enjoy making things easy and fun for my clients. I enjoy making things happen for them that they didn’t think they could make happen. I have friends and I enjoy spending time with them, but if I could take an appointment with a client over a big barbeque, I would do so simply because I want the opportunity to help someone. I even like the bad days because they just make you stronger.

You learn from them because it’s not always sunshine, roses, rainbows, and butterflies in real estate, there is a whole lot of crying too and I love those days because I grow from them then and learn how to better service my clients.

BH: Why is real estate a good career option?

Clarkson: It isn’t a good option for everyone. It is a good option for me because I never saw myself in the 9-to-5. I never saw myself sedentary and in an office all the time. It [real estate] is different every day. It is not mundane. Everyday there is a new challenge or reward or victory. I get to see places on the Eastern shore I never thought I would, and I get to meet different people. Everyday is an adventure. If you don’t want a boring career, real estate is the job for you.

BH: What is your best piece of advice for a new agent starting out?

Clarkson: The one thing I tell agents new and old is answer your phone, answer the text message, reply to the email. If someone is reaching out to you, it is for a reason. Even if a sale doesn’t work out with you, if you make a goof impression or maintain a relationship with them, they will have an uncle or a brother or their best friend from college who they will refer to you one day.

So, while not every opportunity is a payout right away, you never know when things can grow. Also have a plan, stay consistent, set goals and do what you say you are going to do.