Driving client referrals has always been an essential part of building a thriving and sustainable real estate business, but there are a few notable changes that have occurred in recent years that make it more important than ever before:
First, people are more connected to each other than ever before. Nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social networking sites to communicate with friends, family, colleagues, and even people they’ve never met, according to research published by the Pew Research Center.
To put an even finer point on that, for the past decade, over 60% of homeowners used an agent they either worked with in the past or one that was referred by a friend, relative or neighbor according to an in-depth study published by National Association of REALTORS.
Second, information is more accessible than ever before. Today, nearly two-thirds of Americans own an internet-enabled smartphone, according to another report by the Pew Research Center.
Third, competition among real estate agents is more fierce and markets are more saturated than ever before. According to the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO), there are about 2 million active real estate licensees in the United States.
Finally, consumers are relying on word-of-mouth recommendations and online reviews more than ever before. According to a study by Nielsen, 68% trust online opinions from other consumers, which is up 7% from 2007.
With this information in mind, the question is, what can you do to drive more client referrals in 2016?
Here are six genius tactics you can use to connect with more people, land more clients, and make more money as a real estate agent than ever before:
Tactic #1. Develop your personal brand
One of the easiest ways to drive more client referrals is to develop a personal brand for yourself. As mentioned earlier, more people than ever before are using the internet as a tool to research people, companies, and products before they buy. As a real estate agent, you have an opportunity to control the first impression prospective clients get when they go searching for you online. That’s where a personal brand comes into play.
Personal branding essentially is the act of creating a unique and recognizable brand for yourself in order to better connect with and market to your target audiences online.
Creating a personal brand usually involves:
- Launching a personal website where you can tell your story, share information about business and services, and provide value to your target audience.
- Creating a professionally-focused presence for yourself on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other sites where your target audience spends their time.
- Creating logos, graphics, and other visual material that you can use to differentiate from other competitors in your space.
- Establishing a consistent and recognizable voice that you can use in emails, social media updates, blog posts, and marketing material.
For more tips on creating a personal brand, read this article from Inman.
Tactic #2. Invest in customer delight
Another great way to drive more client referrals is by investing in customer delight. The concept is fairly simple: go above and beyond to WOW your customers and show your appreciation for their business. The goal is twofold: to create unforgettable experiences that help you develop and nurture long-lasting relationships with your clients; and to get your current customers talking about and referring you to their network of friends, family members, and coworkers.
The best part about customer delight is that it doesn’t have to be expensive—it just needs to be authentic and meaningful. For example, you can delight your customers by:
- Sending them a handwritten thank you card after closing
- Leaving a personalized welcome package for your clients to find when they arrive at their new home
- Taking them out to dinner after a long day of touring homes
For more customer delight ideas, read this blog post from Help Scout.
Tactic #3. Nurture your network
One of the best ways to grow your real estate business and drive more client referrals is by taking the time to foster mutually-beneficial relationships with other business professionals and people in the communities you’re active in—both online and offline.
To succeed in real estate, it’s in your best interest to go out of your way to actively participate in local events, in business networking groups and meetups within your community, and in the online communities you’re involved with (industry forums, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc).
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when networking with others for the purpose of driving more leads:
- Best Practice #1: Give before you get. Don’t focus on asking for help—offer it to anyone you can instead. You’ll quickly position yourself as a valuable resource for people and as a result, they’ll send business your way the next time someone they know needs help from someone like you.
- Best Practice #2: Be authentic and consistent. Don’t network with people for the sole purpose of drumming up leads—they will notice and they won’t like it. Instead, develop authentic, genuine relationships with people. In addition, don’t attend events and participate only during times when you need help. Be consistently present.
- Best Practice #3: Tell your story. The more people know about you, the more comfortable they’ll be with referring you to their friends and family. Go out of your way to help people understand who you are, where you come from, and why you do what you do.
Tactic #4. Become a value provider
To differentiate from competitors, build loyalty with your real estate clients, and drive more referrals, you can’t just be a real estate agent—you have to also become a value provider. You have to position yourself as not just someone who can help people buy and sell houses, but someone who can also act a resource that people can turn to when they need help.
One of the best and fastest ways to become a value provider is to invest in blogging and content marketing for your personal brand. Blogging creates for you the opportunity to share your insights, answer common questions, and strengthen your reputation as a trusted advisor and resource in the minds of current and future clients.
The easiest way to get started with blogging for your real estate business is to make a list of the top 25-35 questions you get asked most often by clients. Your answers to these FAQs can act as the foundation of the first batch of blog posts you create and share on your blog. For example, you might write blog posts that address topics like:
- How to pick the right location when you’re planning to have a family
- What first-time homebuyers need to know when searching for a home
- What to expect on closing day
- How to successfully negotiate without offending sellers
For more real estate blog ideas, explore this blog post.
In becoming a value provider, your goal is ultimately to create helpful content that your clients are comfortable and excited to share with others when they need help.
Tactic #5. Incentivize W-O-M
Another easy way to drive more leads is by setting up a program that rewards past and current clients for referring new business your way.
With referral or affiliate programs, you can be as informal or structured as you’d like. For example, you could simply tell clients that you’ll send them a $100 gift card to a restaurant of their choice for every person they refer to you.
Or, you can use a referral program software tool like Ambassador and build a refer-a-friend widget right on your website for any visitor to see and use.
To build a successful referral program for your real estate business, read this post from HubSpot.
Tactic #6. Ask!
At the end of the day, you can’t get referrals if you don’t ask for them. To be successful in real estate, you can’t be shy about asking your former and current clients for leads. It’s the only way you’ll be able to build a sustainable business in the long run. If you’ve been slacking on asking for referrals lately and want to be more intentional about it going forward, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Be specific: Don’t just ask people for referrals and expect them to deliver. Instead, help them identify the right leads for you by letting them know exactly who you’re looking for and tell them exactly who you think you can help.
- Don’t ask too often: It’s important to ask your former clients for referrals on an ongoing basis, but make sure you’re not making your ask too often. A good rule of thumb is to circle back with people once every 3-6 months.
- Don’t be pushy: Some people aren’t going to want to refer any of their friends to you, no matter how positive of an experience they had working with you. Don’t take it personally and don’t be pushy. Focus on investing in your advocates—the people who love you and love referring you to their friends and family members.
What other tactics do you use to drive more client referrals? Tell me in the comments section below. At HomeSpotter, we promote driving repeat and referral business, which provides a greater return on investment than focusing exclusively on new lead generation. It is our aim to provide tools that keep agents and consumers better connected throughout the full lifecycle of buying and homeownership.