From Parties, to Photos and Philanthropy, a Personal Touch Helps Build Loyal Clients
Most successful Realtors® pride themselves on having built a referral business in which their clients return to them based on their past experiences or they come from the recommendation of a trusted friend. Creating a pipeline of customers requires the delivery of stellar service, a solid professional reputation for responsiveness and the ability to keep your name and your business on the tip of people’s tongues.
According to the 2015 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 72 percent of buyers and 67 percent of sellers would work with the same agent in a future transaction. Since that next transaction could be 5 to 10 years from now, it’s up to you to make sure these customers remember you.
“Often when I ask new seller why they chose me instead of their previous agent, they’ll tell me that they never heard from that agent after their closing,” says Morgan Knull, an associate broker with Re/Max Gateway in Washington, D.C.
If you did the job right, your clients should be grateful and remember you, says Brett West, a Realtor® with McEnearney Associates in Washington, D.C.
“An important part of our job is to make it easy for them to remember your name and your service,” says West. “You need to stay in front of them during the year.”
While there are a variety of methods that Realtors® can use to remind their sphere of influence of their existence, West says what works best for most agents is something that reflects their own interests and strengths. For some agents that means writing a personal newsletter; for others, it’s entertaining a crowd; while others prefer personal visits or community activities.
Maggie Britvic, a Realtor® with Century 21 New Millennium in Alexandria, says she’s available every day to help her past and present clients in any way, which has made her memorable to them.
"Often when I ask new seller why they chose me instead of their previous agent, they’ll tell me that they never heard from that agent after their closing."
“I do property management as well as sell real estate, so all my clients know that I’m the person to call if they need a handyman or someone to replace the glass in a window,” says Britvic.
Britvic also visits clients in their homes, including renters she has helped who may want to buy in the future.
Closing gifts can be particularly memorable if they reflect an understanding of something the buyers want or need for their new home, says Ken Trotter, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Arlington. Otherwise, he’ll opt for champagne or a house plant.
Susan Mekenney, an associate broker with Re/Max Executives in Springfield, has a client with a cookie business, so she helped that client and promoted a listing by delivering to brokerages cookies decorated with the listed property’s address and other designs.
"Closing gifts can be particularly memorable if they reflect an understanding of something the buyers want or need for their new home."
“These cookies make a great impression on people, so I plan to use them again for a homebuyer anniversary or when someone has a new baby,” says Mekenney. She also takes photos of her buyers in front of the “Sold” sign at their new home and makes a card with the photo that has her logo on the card’s back.
“My name is on the sign in the photo, so they always see it,” says Mekenney. “Sometimes I’ll come back to their home years later to list it and that photo is still on display.”
Tom Pietsch and Cindy Schneider of Tom & Cindy and Associates at Long & Foster Real Estate in Alexandria offer the free use of a moving truck with their name and logo on the outside to clients.
“We just ask for their driver’s license and insurance card and have them bring it back full of gas,” says Pietsch.
West loves to be involved with his community, so he sponsors a local farmer’s market. “We’re out there every week, and it’s become a great community meeting place, where we can meet neighbors we might otherwise not know,” he says.
West also tries to provide resources for his neighbors and clients. “One of my past clients’ air conditioning broke down, and we had a couple of extra window units, so I brought them over to them to use while they were waiting on a contractor,” says West.
Client parties are a popular way to reach a crowd of past and potential clients, but each Realtor® has a different twist on those events.
Knull has two or three gatherings per year as a thank you to his clients, and he also asks them to bring friends and co-workers so he can meet new people “I try to find a unique angle or a place that will bring in more people,” says Knull. “Recently I had a party at a distillery in Ivy City because people are interested in seeing a newly gentrified neighborhood that they probably haven’t been to yet.”
Other parties have been held at Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery at sunset and at the Trump Hotel at the Old Post Office building, where he brought in a speaker to talk about repurposing historic buildings. At one event, Knull had a professional photographer take photos and instantly email them to guests with his logo on the bottom so that his name would appear when they posted the photos on social media.
Trotter loves to entertain in his home, which can accommodate 75 to 100 guests.
“My home is a reflection of myself, so I want to make my clients feel welcome and feel that they know me,” says Trotter. “Last fall, I brought in a professional photographer to take a photo of each guest as well as group shots. After the party I sent each guest the photo electronically and as a print version so they could use them for their holiday cards.”
Until recently, West also held parties at his home for all former, current and prospective clients as well as people who refer business to him such as lenders and title company agents.
“This year I held the event at our new 14th Street office during the Olympics’ opening ceremony so people could watch together,” says West.
Trotter occasionally hosts housewarming parties for his buyers, bringing food and drinks to their new home.
Mekenney holds client appreciation events in family-friendly locations such as Cox Farm or Lake Accotink, where she pays for everyone to enjoy all the park’s activities and provides candy and other treats. “I have a photographer take photos which I then make into cards and mail out to everyone with a positive message about my gratitude for their business,” says Mekenney. Her lenders and title company representatives are invited to her parties so that she can to thank them, too.
“I’ve started to incorporate donations to a charity as part of my events,” says Mekenney. “At our spring Easter Egg Hunt we assembled baskets for the women at Bethany House, who are victims of domestic abuse.”
SIMPLE WAYS TO STAY IN TOUCH
Pietsch and Schneider send out a digital newsletter to their clients with a mix of information about current listings and community news about restaurants and events.
“We try to touch base with everyone once per quarter with interesting articles, and we send our market snapshot every month so people can check out their property value like they check out their bank statement,” says Pietsch.
Knull keeps a database with the names of every buyer he works with and the date of their closing so he can send a “Happy Homebuying Anniversary” card along with a Starbuck’s card branded with his logo.
“I use the date as an opportunity to check their address and find out if they still live there, have rented it out or even listed it with another agent,” says Knull.
Knull buys each of his past clients a subscription to a magazine branded with his logo on the customized label, currently HGTV magazine.
“It only costs $18 a year, and then when it automatically renews each year, that’s an opportunity to run the address through the MRIS again to check on them,” says Knull.
Like many Realtors®, Trotter sends out “Just Listed” and “Just Sold” cards to his mailing list.
“I like to do that so when I see them in person we don’t need to talk about real estate unless they want to,” says Trotter.
Knull also sends an occasional newsletter, typically linking to an unusual or quirky item of interest that he thinks his clients will enjoy, such as a New York Times article about things that people leave behind when they move.
“While a referral for a new seller or a request for a listing presentation from a past client means you haven’t been forgotten, you may still be competing against other agents."
West loves to write, so he sends a personally-written monthly newsletter to his clients. “I send out market data every month or two, especially with information about current market values so clients can approach a lender to refinance if they want to,” says West.
GETTING THE LISTING
While a referral for a new seller or a request for a listing presentation from a past client means you haven’t been forgotten, you may still be competing against other agents. Successful Realtors® use different methods to convince homeowners that they are the right agent to sell their property, often adjusting their technique to address the concerns and personalities of the sellers.
“We read people as best we can as soon as we arrive at a listing presentation,” says Schneider. “It’s like a jazz performance because we have to improvise as to who talks first or talks more. Sometimes, we just have to figure out whether sellers have more in common with me or with Tom.”
Both Schneider and Pietsch have researched the pricing and prepared materials to share with sellers that showcase their market knowledge and marketing ability.
“Both of us know how to convert real estate jargon into language that’s understandable to homeowners,” says Schneider.
Britvic says she tries to relieve as much stress as possible for potential sellers. “I’ll do a tour of their home and make notes of what they need to tweak, but then I also tell them not to worry about any of it because I have people who can do the work within days,” says Britvic. “If they want, they can just give me the key, and I’ll take care of everything.”
West prepares a calendar of events to explain what needs to be done to the property, how it will be appropriately staged, when the photographer will come and how much notice they’ll get before showings.
“I list a lot of older homes, and I like to study them before I go to the listing appointment so I can understand what makes the home interesting and how we can accentuate that when marketing the property,” says Trotter. “When I’m there, I listen to the sellers carefully to find out what they love most.”
If he’s competing against other agents, Trotter drops off some wine or cookies to the homeowners with a thank you note for their time.
“I have brownies delivered before a listing presentation with a note that says ‘I’m looking forward to seeing you’ or, if there’s not enough time, I’ll send them with a thank you note after the presentation,” says Mekenney.
What you do is far less important than being consistent, says Schneider, because people will remember the person who always gives them a pie at Thanksgiving or updates them on their home value at regular intervals.
Choosing a Realtors® is a personal decision. Agents who find creative ways to pique and hold a client’s interest have a better chance of maintaining long-term loyalty. Realtors® who develop a system that reflects their own interests and provides them with a reason to get in touch with their clients regularly are a step ahead when it comes to earning repeat and referral business.