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Effective Pastime Promotions

Integrate your personal hobby or interest into a new farm area can reap big rewards.

Sandy Fox at her booth at a race
When sales associate Sandy Fox runs a marathon, her goal isn’t just to win the race; she also has her eye on winning new clients and customers.

She seems to be maintaining a strong pace. The amateur runner has used her hobby to promote her real estate business in marathons for just one year, spending $30,350 on marketing. Her efforts helped her sell a near $1 million listing.

Fox, who works with Olde Town Brokers in Orlando, uses the slogan, “Always ready to go the extra mile for you!” She’s finally capitalizing on an idea that she’s had for years as a runner. Her neighborhood is already filled with competitive, heavy-hitter sales associates, and she had to find another farming niche.

“The running community made sense to me. The people are passionate about the sport, and they’re like me, with the same interests,” Fox says. “You just have to sit down and think, what makes sense to you? Look in your back yard.”

Here are Fox’s tips:

1. Partner with a Business
Fox works with a local runners’ retail supply store, called the Track Shack. The business organizes about six marathons in Orlando annually through its Track Shack Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes health and fitness. She pays about $3,500 per race to be one of the sponsors, a cost of about $8,000 over the past year.

Sponsors may place promotional items in goody bags handed out to each racer. Fox’s name is included with other sponsors’ names on a T-shirt in the bag. She’s also contributed computer calendars (long plastic strips that attach to keyboards) that feature her logo and contact information, as well as a flier touting her slogan. This year, she paid a graphic designer to create a logo—a running cartoon-character Fox—that is affixed to each promotional item. All told, that cost her about $20,000.

She persuaded the Track Shack to include her listings on a race route map. They pay for the map—all she has to do is provide the listing locations. Additionally, she places Web advertising on an e-mail that lists the running time for the racers. Both services are at no additional cost, because she’s a sponsor.

2. Contribute Something Extra
At racing events, Fox sets up a tent with a mortgage broker and her husband, a State Farm insurance agent. “It’s a one-stop shop,” Fox says. She pays a caterer $150 per event ($600 for four races) to provide coffee and snacks, such as bagels and bananas.

Already, the investment has paid off. One seller who saw the tent and heard of Fox’s reputation as a competitive racer recently decided to list his house for $350,000 with her.

3. Meet Other Hobbyists
Fox joined Track Shack’s “MarathonFest” program, a group of nearly 600 people who train for marathons on Saturdays. It costs $125 for a six-month membership ($250 for the year). When running, Fox always wears one of her professionally designed T-shirts. She’s encouraged the group to put together a directory so that members can call on each other for business.

Fox says a lot of runners want to use a real estate professional who is also a runner, because the sales associate will know the dedication needed to meet specific goals. “They know that I’m of their same mindset,” Fox says. “If I wanted a plumber, I’d just go to the group and look for one there, because I know the caliber of person [he or she] would be.”

Last fall, on the first day of the new training season, Fox met a woman who’d just moved to Florida from North Carolina. She wasrenting. She saw the back of Fox’s shirt, and the two started chatting. It led to her buying a $600,000 home, using Fox’s help.

Although Fox has gotten only two actual customers/clients from her campaign, she’s confident that she’ll soon start reaping more business. “You don’t see the evidence immediately with your marketing efforts. You have to keep doing it,” she says.