Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know Who Your Best Clients Are
Who should make up your inner circle of customers? Learn to narrow your customer database in a way that makes the most sense for your business.
March 12, 2015
Not every client is worth your undivided attention, so how do you decide which ones are worth the investment of personal marketing? Targeting your entire database is impractical and will drain your time and money.
Still, many sales professionals do send out blanket e-mail blasts and nonpersonal marketing to their whole database, says Andrea Dixon, executive director of the Keller Research Center and Center for Professional Selling at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. But those widest attempts at appealing to everyone often result in hooking fewer clients. Reserving the most personal touches — handwritten letters, gifts, personalized e-mail messages, visits, and phone calls — for those who likely will appreciate it the most will move more clients, Dixon adds.
“We are limited in bandwidth as individuals,” she says. “You want to target the people who it makes the most sense for that individualized follow-up — those for whom seeing, hearing, and feeling from you will evoke a positive personal response.”
Dixon advocates for adopting a “personal touch portfolio,” breaking up your client database to rank the best candidates for your most personalized marketing and highest level of attention. According to Dixon’s research, the best candidates for a sales professionals’ PTP will be those who are:
- Highly satisfied: those who felt your services met or exceeded their expectations.
- Promoters: word-of-mouth marketers who are likely to recommend you to a friend or colleague.
- Repeat purchasers: those who are most likely to move soon — and more often.
- Profitable: big spenders who are likely to buy either currently or in the future.
How Many Clients Should Be in Your PTP?
Just giving a fraction of your database your utmost attention can still grow your business drastically. In a Keller Research Center report published in March, researchers point to Michael Maher’s book The Seven Levels of Communication (BenBella Books, 2014), showing how an inner network of 150 can blossom into more:
“The National Association of REALTORS® estimates that, on average, an individual will move once every five years. … If a network consisted of 150 clients, where each client is only connected to 150 other individuals, the number of people in your network and who they are connected to equals 22,500. These 22,500 individuals are now your community, and ... 20 percent of those individuals plan on moving once every five years. That’s 4,500 people in your community who are moving, and 9,000 potential transactions available to a real estate agent — all from a network of just 150 clients.”
Collecting the Data
Gathering information on your clients’ spending habits, loyalty, and purchase triggers can help you craft a more sophisticated segmentation of your database for any targeted marketing message. You’ll also be able to form your marketing budget more wisely.
Marketers are embracing this new role of becoming greater data collectors, taking the time to explore clients’ passions and interests in learning what truly motivates them. In a 2014 study by ADP, the business outsourcing company found that its sales teams’ efforts to collect more data about their clients helped them to identify 52 percent more sales opportunities and increase sales productivity by 29 percent. Could it do the same for you?
Here is some important client data to include in your CRM database, according to Dixon’s research:
1. How Satisfied Are They?
Measure your clients’ satisfaction. Don’t assume that clients who were initially “highly satisfied” at closing will stay satisfied. Track satisfaction over time. Give your clients the opportunity to rate their satisfaction with you, as well as the buying or selling process and the home they purchased or sold. Ask them the question at least three times: directly following closing, two weeks later, and six months after. Has their satisfaction increased or decreased and why? If it has fallen, can you respond in a way to increase their satisfaction? Include an open-ended text box in your surveys to gather additional feedback at each interval.
Several companies are available to help you collect such data. For example, Quality Service Certification, offered by several local and state REALTOR® associations, allows you to send out a customer survey after every transaction seeking detailed feedback about your services. Clients can rate their satisfaction on your attention to counseling and their real estate needs; availability and frequency of communication; thoroughness of the search process; negotiations; and attentiveness to detail in contracts. RealSatisfied, another such service, also helps real estate professionals collect post-closing survey feedback from their customers.
2. What’s Their Purchase History?
Use your clients’ past real estate purchase experiences to identify trends that may guide their future behavior. This can also help you determine how frequently to send out marketing messages.
“Engage your clients in a ‘historical walk-through’ of their home purchases, asking when they purchased their first home, what was important to them as they made that purchase, and what circumstances prompted them to move to their next home,” Dixon says. “You’ll be able to identify the main drivers behind client’s recent moves; how frequently they have moved over their lifetime and whether that frequency has changed; and how the home needs have changed over time.”
Every client has different homebuying patterns, so don’t assume that just because they moved three to five years ago, they aren’t likely to move again anytime soon. “You may be underestimating the understanding and value of this kind of data,” Dixon says. “Why have they moved the last two or three moves? Are they due to job-related situations or maybe the moves are over decisions of using their home more as an economic engine? Or maybe they just choose to move more frequently.”
3. Are They Your Loyal Advocates?
Loyalty and advocacy metrics are based on one single question: How likely are they to recommend you to a friend or colleague? Based on their responses, you can classify them into three groups: passives, promoters, or detractors, Dixon says. What you want to find out is who the promoters — your true fans — are. “Identify the clients who are referring prospective clients to you through word of mouth or their social networks,” she says. “Identify, track, and measure the impact that individual clients may have on your business through your client’s online activities.”
Which clients are taking the time to rate you or post testimonials about you on social networks or review sites? Who is raving about you on online forums, or who’s not singing your praises (e.g. the detractors)? Set up a Web-based alert for your name and for your firm’s name using Google Alerts or another search engine to have a daily digest of mentions sent to you. Keep track in your CRM of which clients are serving as your promoters.
4. Do They Spend a Lot?
Conduct a client profitability analysis of your database. Identify the clients who provide the highest level of profit margin and highest levels of future profit potential as well.
“The big idea with profitable loyalty is to identify the value as well as the cost-to-serve for your clients so you can prioritize your personal touches for clients who represent the best return,” Dixon says.
Track the value of their historical home purchases as well as some estimate of the time required for you to conduct each sale. For instance, if one client takes three years to look for a home before actually making a move, that client might represent a lower profitability outcome than a client who makes a move within a four- to six-month window.
Also, listen carefully for future purchase triggers. “We know if they’re getting married, having children, having more children, having children off to college, these can all be triggers for a change in real estate needs,” Dixon says. Collect such data in your CRM and develop a system to monitor these life-changing events to tailor your marketing messages appropriately to their evolving real estate needs.
Creating a PTP in your database is a form of “strategic thinking that differs from mass communication thinking,” Dixon explains. “Mass communication thinking means, ‘I look at my entire portfolio and I look to hit them X times per year.’ That’s not personal. That’s not a good strategy because clients know they’ve been mass targeted. By tracking each communication that you use, you can differentiate your messages accordingly. … Plus, when you’ve personalized something, you’re sending a message to your client that says, ‘You’re important enough to me that I’m checking back in with you regularly.’”