5 Ways You’re Not Connecting with Past Clients (and Why Your Referral Business Sucks)

The latest NAR survey shows that 79% of buyers would use their agent again or refer them to friends and family. Would you be the first one that comes to mind when it comes time to sell?

You’ve already built their trust, done the hard work, and created a happy client, but chances are other realtors are reaching out more often than you are. Your referral/repeat plan needs to be just as solid as your lead generation.

Let's go deep and get personal. Use these ideas to lay out a follow-up plan that starts today and spans over the next 12 months.

Celebrating Life Events

Whether you realize or not, you're a big part of your clients' lives.  It could have been their first home, their worst home, or a home they'd dreamed of their entire life.  Either way, it was a place they called their own and it would never have happened without you.  Plus, with the time and emotional rollercoasters you've shared, it's likely you made a friend along the way.

Take time to celebrate their life events and acknowledge moments important to them, no matter how big or small.  Between a well organized CRM and being active on social media, it's a breeze finding an excuse to reach out.

  • Anniversary of the purchase of their home
  • Birthdays, both for the parents and kids (especially the kids!)
  • Wedding Anniversaries

How It's Done

No need to overcomplicate things.  When it comes time to close and you've already established a warm relationship, slide them a piece of paper with the events listed and have them fill in the blanks.  It only takes a minute and shows you care about them beyond your payday and the closing of their home.

Now that you have these follow-up dates, plug them into your CRM and set it to get a reminder to go off one week before the day of.  This will give you time to write and mail your handwritten note or pick up a few gifts.  At the very least you need to be using Google Calendar to make sure these dates don't slip through the cracks, especially since you asked for them.

Staying in Touch Along the Way

Social newsfeeds give you countless opportunities to stay in touch.  Look for times to answer questions or provide value in some way.  The “Like” button isn't going to cut it.

  • Did someone get a puppy?  Tell them about pet-friendly places or give them some fur baby best practices.
  • Someone looking for a place to eat?  Offer suggestions and follow up to see how they liked it.

Using tags in your CRM is going to take this one layer deeper.  Get creative with your segmenting and create hyper-specific ways to reach out.

  • Area/side of town –  Let them know of any local hot spots, new development, or events.
  • Interests/hobbies – Sports teams, farmers markets, festivals, live music, fine dining, yoga/fitness, pet owners, and on and on…  The more creative, the more personal you can get.
  • Neighborhood – Keep an eye out when you're in your target neighborhood.  Have any past clients done improvements? Shoot them a text and let them know how great it looks!  If not, something as simple as this works just fine: “In the area and it got me thinking about you.  What's new?”

Homeowner Seminars / Videos

Don't stop providing value after the deal has closed.  Shame on you for abandoning your buyer like that.  There's a whole new set of questions that need to be answered once they're moved in and enjoying all the perks of home ownership.  Plus, there's tons of stuff in your library of knowledge that they don't even know they need.

  • Interior design or current trends
  • DIY ideas and demos
  • Home/life insurance pro tips
  • Help them get organized for tax season.  Educate them on properly leveraging home ownership and what to expect.  Be able to provide copies of transaction docs if needed.

Ideally, you should be using a blog but YouTube playlists are a great way to show off your library and send people to your content.  Create this content once and you can repurpose it multiple times over.  Congratulations, you just cooked up some awesome seller lead generation material.

Charity Events and Drives

It's good business being a good person.  Charity gets tons of engagement plus good-hearted people are exactly the kind of folks you want to surround yourself with.  It's as simple as asking for donations.  Even if they have nothing to offer you still made a connection.

  • Back to school supplies/clothing
  • Halloween costumes
  • Thanksgiving food drive
  • Christmas toy drive
  • Sell flags on Veteran's/Memorial/Independence Day and donate the proceeds to vets
  • Pet adoptions – You can even offer to pay for the A and A+ clients.  Updates can be effective, especially if you know if they're a cat or dog person (there's your CRM again).

Getting the Most out of It

  • You need to be as clear as possible with your instructions.  Be sure to tell them what you need, where it's going, and when it needs to be ready for pickup.
  • If you're not doing a bag drop like we talked about in the Farming with a Food Drive post, there will be some logistics to work out.
  • Depending on how spread out your clients are and how many people will be participating, you may need to plan pickups over a few days.  Ask them when they'll be able to meet for the pickup.
  • A runner is great if you know they won't be available.  Be smart with your time but always try to cross paths and catch up.
  • Also, now's a good time to use the office as a drop off point if it's worth showing off.  Use a combination of all three methods.

Past Client Giveaways

Giveaways are a great way to gamify your engagement. Getting a cool freebie is always exciting and it's tough to think of a better follow up than telling a past client you want them to be a winner.  The main thing here is you can't come off looking like a cheapskate and the prize has to have stopping power.

Giveaway Ideas

Ideas that will improve their home in some way are always great but you can get a lot more creative (and personal) than that.  Think about what's relevant or helpful to the lucky winner.  What will get people excited?  Reward your A+ clients with more extravagant prizes and create fanatics with items less costly (but still awesome).

  • Sports tickets/memorabilia – Sports fans are diehard
  • Concerts – You'll look like a rock star to them
  • Festivals – A great reason to spend some time outside and many are family friendly
  • Seasonal/Holiday items – Cater a meal, put a grill up for grabs
  • Smart Home items
    • Nest Thermostat
    • Self-watering pots
    • Smart Doorbells with video capability

How It's Done

Don't automatically throw everyone into the mix to win.  You only want people interested in what you have to offer and it gives you a rock-solid reason to check in.  Use a combination of social, calls, and text to spread the word and capture entries.  Also, limit the entries to one per household or if you really want to get crazy with it, one entry per transaction/referral.

I'm having a giveaway for past clients and wanted to see if you're interested.  I want to keep your chances of winning as high as possible so I'm only offering it to people that enter and didn't want you to miss out.

  • In addition to lighting their phone up, create a Custom Audience in Facebook and spend a dollar a day getting this sweepstake in front of them.
  • Import all registrant info into a spreadsheet and have names corresponding to a certain number.
  • Go “Live” on Facebook to draw numbers and tag the lucky winner.
  • Be sure to get a photo when you dish out the goods.

There are already resources designed to do this exact kind of thing.  ShortStack is a free tool that makes it easy to create social contests, giveaways, and landing pages your clients will love.  It's a simple, gorgeous platform that covers all the details and delivers a fantastic product.


Client Appreciation Parties

People that feel appreciated are more likely to go out of their way to help you.  Client appreciation events don't have to be big; the message is loud and clear regardless of the size.  The important thing here is staying relevant and connected past clients.  Show love, get love.  It's as simple as that.

Group Dinner

Whether you don't have the marketing funds or the client list for a blowout bash, intimate events will still deliver results. It's all about how you position it.  You'll still want to partner with sponsors but it could be as simple as this:

  • “I want to celebrate my 10 most important clients from the year and show how much I appreciate you.” (even if you only had 10 clients)
  • Let them know you'll be picking them up.  Get fancy and surprise them with a limo ride complete with champagne or other drinks.
  • Dinner, drinks, and good company go a long way.  It's guaranteed your name (and how much they love you) will come up in the conversation.

Cookout / BBQ

If you feed them, they will come.  It can be something as simple as setting up in a neighborhood park or going as far as calling a food truck/catering.

  • Make sure to run everything by the HOA if it will be in a neighborhood.
  • Someone needs to be the designated grill captain and it shouldn't be you.
  • Be mindful of rules regarding alcohol or glass bottles.

Movie Night

Going to the movies these days will set you back quite a bit.  That's not even talking about how much you'll spend on snacks.  Here's a twist on a classic form of entertainment that will save your past clients money and the trouble of smuggling snacks past the admissions booth.

  • No need to rent out a theater.  Outdoor, inflatable setups are totally affordable and full service.
  • Got to have those movie snacks.  Have some available or take it one step further and ask what they'd like.  Renting a popcorn machine is possible as well.
  • Kid friendly is great but be sure to pick something the parents will enjoy as well.

Meet Up

For an all-out blowout bash, it'll take a bit more planning (and marketing dollars) but it's nothing you can't tackle.  Especially since there's no need to create an event from scratch.  Partner with the right people and look for opportunities to piggyback on events that are already taking place.

  • Partner with local business to get a discount for buying volume.  Tell them your strategy for marketing the event and the results they can expect.
  • For smaller events or less formal meetups, open a tab and let people eat, drink, and be merry on your dime.  $500-$1000 does the trick depending on size and how fancy of a place it is.
  • Depending on the event type, a “the first 50 people will get…” kind of message will effectively add urgency and put a cap on your spending limit.
  • If you're going big, then go big.  Encourage clients and sponsors to bring friends.  They'll all assume everyone in the room has done business with you and you'll look like a local celebrity.

Holiday Parties

Get festive and show your holiday cheer.  It's a great excuse to party with past clients and you can even put a charitable spin on things.

  • Make it interesting and encourage participation.  Stuff like costume/ugly sweater contests with a cash prize always gets people involved.
  • A DJ is a must if you want things to be poppin'.  Karaoke always gets silly too.
  • Gift bags are a great way to promote the sponsors if you can afford items that aren't cheesy.

Photo Shoots

People cherish a good picture of themselves and loved ones.  Whether it's something they planned their whole day around or a quick snap that captured the moment perfectly, it gets framed, put on the mantle, hung on the fridge, and shared on social media.

  • Arrange for a photographer to be set up with a background, props, lighting, the works. A few hours at most should do it.
  • The shoot can be for family portraits, holiday pics with Santa or the Easter Bunny, or pet pics.  Pet pics get tons of engagement because everyone loves their fur babies (and shares pics of them on social media)
  • Use Calendly to allow people to make an appointment within 15-minute windows.  Appointments are encouraged, but registration is necessary.
  • Upload the images to a gallery on your business page and tag everyone you can.

The Leverage

With all the work you put in, you'll need to capture the event in all of its glory.  This is social proof of how great you are to clients and how much they love working with you.  Make sure to get your clients involved as well – that's where the reach really is.  Telling people you caught some awesome shots of them and their loved ones is a great reason to touch base.

  • No one wants to share a dark picture someone took on their phone in portrait orientation.  Hire the right photo/video pro for the job and the leverage you will get far outweighs the cost.  This is for current clients and future marketing material.
  • Go “Live” on Facebook during the event and update the world 0n what's going on.
  • Encourage guests to make a post and tag you, especially if they're attending a concert, festival, or sports event.
  • Send a handwritten “Thank You” note to all that attended.

Know Your Audience

Don't plan something nobody will get excited about.  Knowing your audience is crucial to getting engagement.  Do you work mostly with families?  What age?  What price point?   What kind of things or events do these people like?  With a well organized CRM, you should be able to pinpoint these details and cook up something hyper-specific.

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Spencer Logan
Co-Founder & Director of Content at CompleteAgent Inc. | Managing Partner of RE/MAX Real Estate Associates When he's not working he's making music, cooking, or enjoying the outdoors. "Create everyday."

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