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Rich Niche
Tap into the Luxury Market/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/JAN09/images/MarketIt

Know what luxury buyers want and give it to them.

When Dennis Brando entered real estate in 2004, he brought 25 years of marketing and merchandising experience with him. The senior-level positions he had held with companies such as JCPenney and Target taught him how to zero in on customers’ wants and needs.

“According to the Harrison Group poll for American Express, just 5 percent of the population controls $32 trillion in assets. I wanted to go where the money was, so I chose the luxury market,” says Brando, a sales associate with John R. Wood, Inc. in Naples.

Here’s his strategy:

Study Your Customer
“In the luxury market, there are certain websites and magazines that people read,” says Brando. He studies publications like Departures for Platinum American Express customers, Veranda, The Wall Street Journal and Homes of the Hamptons to learn about his target prospects’ buying habits.

“The first year I [advertised] in Homes of the Hamptons, more than $12 million in business came to us from [that area],” he says.

Reach Their Inner Circle
When Brando reads about a celebrity or sports star coming to the area, he contacts that person’s manager first. “There’s a website, WhoRepresents.com, that [tells you a celebrity’s] publicity and business managers’ names.” The site bills itself as the “leading, trusted source for entertainment industry contacts,” and costs $12.99 a month for an individual subscription or $100 a month for a corporate account. “It works. My success with sports people has been amazing,” says Brando, who credits the site with helping him gain four sports star customers last year alone.

Get Your Name Out
Brando spends about 18 percent of his net income on marketing, which includes print ads, his website (dennisbrando.com), direct mail and a personal brochure.

“As an ex-retailer, I know that when business is off, you must advertise more,” he says. “Some of the best advertising is free, like letters to the editor. I was quoted in SmartMoney magazine in reference to the Southwest Florida real estate market. That interview got me business and exposure in additional [media].”

Give VIP Service
Brando will arrange for just about anything for prospects from car transport to contractors for a remodeling project.

His “Let me treat you like a star!” tagline also helps him stand out. He recalls the time when a well-known celebrity called from a local hotel and proclaimed, “I’m a star!” and then mentioned that she was looking for a property for her mother.

The utmost discretion is needed when dealing with people at this level, Brando says. “Any slip of personal information, including names of people you’ve worked with, could cost you a relationship,” he says, “but once you break in and do an excellent job, you’re in.”