July 07, 2016
In a market where inventory is tight and listings are king, referrals are more critical than ever. Real Estate Agents report that they expect 49% of their business this year to come from referrals alone. Unfortunately those referrals don't appear on their own, they come through building relationships with clients and former clients...and maintaining those relationships long after a home is bought or sold. More often than not, agents and small business folks tend to rely too heavily on automated emails that end up making them sound robotic and less than genuine. If you plan on getting worthwhile referrals, you'll need to establish your relationships in a more personalized way...while still taking advantage of automation where you can.
With that in mind, we polled 150 of our top residential real estate agent users to find out their secrets to building a robust referral pipeline. Here are a few of their market-proven strategies for staying top-of-mind in genuine, relevant ways.
1. Offer value or help
Think about how many emails you get on a weekly basis (Too many!). Don't send out yet another semi-personalized drip email ("Hi [insert name] + prefabricated content") thinking the recipients will appreciate your effort to keep in touch. It's more likely that the email will go into their promotions or spam folders, and chances are it won't be read, either, before it's deleted. Instead, provide value in the form of convenience, assistance, or special deals.
2. Leverage relationships with vendors.
Send an email offering to call and share contact information of plumbers, painters, carpenters, cleaners, gardeners, and other professional service people. This offer has both the advantage of underscoring you as a source of expertise in all things home-related and allowing you to speak with the email recipient by phone versus just being a name behind an email. Depending on your relationships with your book of vendors, you can also consider asking them to offer discounted rates to your clients in exchange for your referring them.
3. Send out weekly local event schedules.
If you live in an area with cultural festivals, outdoor films and concerts, holiday celebrations, or other local events, send out a monthly email with information (titles, brief descriptions, and links) to upcoming events. This reinforces your role as a lifestyle matchmaker and helps clients strengthen ties to their towns and neighborhoods.
4. Share a review of a favorite restaurant, coffee shop, or bakery.
Remember that your relationship with clients extends beyond just the search and sale process. Help them settle in to a new neighborhood or discover new reasons to love a familiar area by suggesting locales to visit. Include your recommendations of menu items and other details, such as whether or not the place is better for brunch versus dinner or a date versus a family outing. Offer to meet up there sometime soon, and then follow up. An in-person touch point is the most valuable type!
5. Appeal to hobbies and interests
The idea here is to keep in touch in a way that's relevant to recipients. It's important to acknowledge that their interests are at the forefront of your mind to cultivate rapport and establish trust. What would grab your attention during your busy day? What would spark your interest, make you laugh, or allow you to identify with another person? Use appealing to yourself as an initial exercise and then do the same for your typical client, or if you want to be more specific, a few groups within your network (try forming groups based on neighborhood, hobbies and associations (business, church, after school activities), and age range).
But there are two halves to the equation: Not only do people in your network value your connecting with them on a more personalized level, but they also value getting to know you on a personalized level! There are many real estate professionals with industry-specific skill sets, but there's only one you. Your personality, character, and interpersonal skills play a large role in creating and maintaining the relationships that drive your business, so leverage that!
6. Tell your own story.
Your run-of-the-mill flag, spring flowers, and turkey graphics are tired. Give them a rest and feature your own photos instead, allowing your network the chance to get to know you better. For example, if you send a change of season email, share what you enjoy doing in the change of weather. Do you enjoy being outdoors? Include a photo from a walk in the park or your kid's soccer game. Did a Fourth of July parade remind you how much you love living in your town? It's likely your clients share your sentiments. Use email or social media as an avenue for sharing your stories. Ask your audience to respond in kind, and soon enough you'll be bonding over commonalities.
7. Pepper holiday emails with recipes, entertainment, and history.
In a similar vein, give your holiday emails new life by sharing your own family traditions and recipes. You can also include interesting history tidbits, such as how a holiday has changed over time or came to be celebrated in the first place, and links to favorite videos, podcasts, and movies.
8. Plant subtle reminders
Many agents prefer to generate referrals simply by maintaining strong relationships with their networks and staying top of mind. But for those agents who are comfortable being a little more direct, remember that most clients are happy to refer you, and sometimes all it takes is a small reminder that if they know anyone in need of expert real estate advice, you'd love to help out. Include a couple of business cards with closing gifts. If you mention your appreciation of referrals in your email signature, make a note for referrers to let you know of their referrals so you can properly thank them. Don't be shy!
Are there other creative and effective ways you stay top-of-mind to generate referrals? We're eager to hear them! Let us know by giving us a shout on Twitter or commenting below, and if you're a Contactually user, check out the new referral email templates (curated from top real estate agents within our customer base) in Contactually's content library!