Keep in Touch for the Long Haul

If you want clients to recommend you to others, stay in their lives well after the transaction. Here are tips to earn their loyalty.

October 28, 2015

Your best chance of ensuring a steady flow of future business is to build a legion of satisfied clients who will drive referrals to you. But beyond the transaction experience, what you do after the deal matters, too. Do you check in with your clients to see how they’re doing, or do you disappear?

People recommend those they know and trust, and for many, that’s a small circle. But earning that trust involves a delicate balance between too much and too little contact, says real estate coach Jared James, CEO of Jared James Enterprises in Milford, Conn. He advises reaching out at least quarterly—and making sure to keep it up long-term. “It’s probably going to be five to seven years before they move again, so you can’t stop reaching out after 18 months,” James says.

Give Undivided Attention

The quality of your communications with past clients is a factor in whether you win repeat and referral business. Technology can help you stick to a system, but don’t become a robot, sending generic follow-up e-mails that sound like spam. Find ways to personalize your contact so that you remain just as important to clients a year after the sale as you were on the day the sale closed.

For quality, nothing beats face-to-face contact. And since busy practitioners don’t always have time for one-on-one follow-up, the client appreciation party has become a popular way to connect with many people at once. Ideally, each person you invite gets some quality time, though in a room of 50 people, that may prove difficult. Bridget Martin, broker-associate at Heritage Texas Properties in Houston, organizes small events around clients’ interests. She might throw a pool party for families with kids or host a happy hour for her single clients. She also holds movie nights and ornament exchanges around the holidays. “It’s fun, but it’s strategic fun,” Martin says.

Or you can aim for intimate one-on-one interactions. Renee Mascia, a sales associate at RE/MAX Right Choice in Milford, Conn., believes taking clients to dinner offers a better opportunity to get personal. “It makes a lasting impression,” she says, and it’s an appropriate environment to ask questions that inspire deeper conversation than you might have in other venues.

Keep Adding Value

Whether you’re sending a casual note or a newsletter to past clients, always include something that reiterates your value as a real estate professional. David Kent, abr, crs, broker-owner of The Real Buyers Agent HBC in Charleston, S.C., uses his newsletter to demonstrate his community knowledge, focusing on city cultural events and tourist attractions. That helps turn visitors into clients. The newsletter also includes a popular section on local housing statistics, including inventory and days on market. “Everybody’s always interested in value,” Kent says.

James suggests keeping an eye on the number of newsletter opt-outs. If they’re increasing, you may need to reexamine the usefulness of the information you’re including.

Use Technology to Drive Personal Contact

Many practitioners set up their past clients on a drip campaign to maintain regular contact automatically, but clients who hear from you only via a marketing e-mail will learn to ignore you. Instead, use a drip campaign to set up future phone calls or visits. For example, send an e-mail letting clients know you are going to contact them on their closing anniversary with an update on their home value—then actually follow up by phone. “Use technology to remind you to pick up the phone and be personal,” James says. “Hearing a voice humanizes the person you are talking to more than a text or e-mail can do.”

Your authenticity is the key to developing loyalty. So remember that, on a call with past clients, their lives are more important than your business concerns. That means letting go of the idea that you have to end every conversation by asking for a referral. “It kills any attempt you’ve made to be sincere,” James says. He suggests being more circumspect in seeking referrals: “Tell them, ‘Oh, by the way, we have a new home evaluation tool that gives us the value of someone’s home almost instantaneously. If you know of anyone who wants to try it out, let me know.’ ” And, of course, consistency matters. Don’t fall off the face of the planet and stop calling past clients. “I follow up forever,” Martin says, “until they die or tell me to go away.”

Lynn Olson is a Chicago-based writer and editor.