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Community activism
Neighborly Networking/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/NOV08/images/MarketIt

Get involved and grow your business.

Tallahassee resident Sandler Dickson has taken the practice of grass-roots neighborhood involvement to great heights. As a volunteer and past president of the Waverly Hills Neighborhood Association, he sees no job as too big—or too small—for his consideration. If roadside litter needs to be picked up, he’ll even help organize a crew of volunteers. At election time, he’s one of the first to help “Get out the Vote.” And his company, RE/MAX Professional Realty, sponsors the community’s monthly newsletter. “You’ve got to give back to your community. If you show that you’re willing to make the effort for them, they’ll respond in kindness back to you,” says Dickson.
In real estate for over 30 years, he’s discovered that his community involvement helps to generate business. Here’s how he does it:

Free Publicity
“The most inexpensive type of advertising is word of mouth,” says Dickson.

The city of Tallahassee named Waverly Hills its 2008 Neighborhood of the Year, and Dickson individually its Neighbor of the Year. 

The awards help Dickson gain recognition wherever he goes. “I was in an exercise class when someone said, ‘I saw you in the paper’ and then asked for my card,” he says. “I’ve had people in supermarket lines say, ‘Oh we saw your photo.”

Meet and Greet
There are about 400 homes in the Waverly Hills subdivision, and Dickson along with  his business partner/wife, Barbara, aim to get to know as many households as possible. “We need to go back to what neighborhoods used to be, when you knew the people next door,” he says. The Dicksons do this by participating in community events and sponsoring the community’s monthly newsletter. “The newsletters are delivered by the neighborhood association, and at the bottom we say, ‘Courtesy of Barbara and Sandler Dickson, RE/MAX Professional Realty.’”

The newsletter costs about $65 to print (for 400 households), and the association pays the postage.
 
Market on a Dime
The Dicksons hand out business cards that feature their real estate company’s logo and contact information on the front, and when Sandler was president, “President of the Waverly Hills Neighborhood Association” on the flip side. A friend, who’s a printer, gives him 300 cards free. They also send out e-mails to people in their contact management database. Although the messages may highlight various community activities from time to time, he never uses the association contact list for sending them.

Through their community service, between May and July, the Dicksons received nine viable leads. “I won’t say we’ve cornered the market, but I think we tend to get expireds—after the seller figures out [how well] we can market it.”