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What is the Best Way to Stay in Touch With Past Clients? [Dear Ginny WTH?]

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“Dear Ginny, WTH?” which is like a “Dear Abby” column for real estate objections. If you have a tough client or a marketing problem, “Dear Ginny, WTH?” is for you. Questions can be funny, they can be serious, it doesn’t matter, just ask!

Dear Ginny WTH,

Do you have any best practice tips and tricks for staying in touch with past clients? I’ve done everything from send a year’s worth of Sunset Magazines to monthly direct mail calendar cards to once a month letters with comps and coupons to local businesses. I’m not sure what people want to see anymore. How can I keep my past clients engaged and my name top of mind with them while at the same time providing something of value?

Dear Unnamed Agent,

You are on the right track. Past clients are often the most neglected target audience of any Realtor but should be the most protected. How many times have we read that it costs 5 to 7 times as much to acquire a customer as it does to retain one? And yet, knowing that existing relationships are more profitable, we spend the majority of our planning and budget on new customer acquisition.

A NAR Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers survey says that nearly three-quarters of sellers rely on referrals from friends or neighbors or their previous experiences with a particular agent when selecting a professional to sell their homes. That’s huge. If you can make an impression on a client and continue to let them know you are active, it is very likely that they will refer you to someone.

So what wows clients, is cost effective and provides value. You already know what Dear Ginny WTH is going to say: a combination of communication points works the best if you can get one to one, even better. 

There is nothing wrong with Sunset Magazine, monthly calendar cards or letters with coupons. Yes, do something monthly or bi-monthly that is a passive branding reminder, but also look for additional customer touch points that allow you to communicate more personally with your past clients.

Send “thank you” messages. Send birthday cards. Ask your customers for their advice…about the market, about your services, etc. It’s flattering to be asked. Gather, analyze, and act on their feedback. Not only will your customers feel as if you consider their opinions valuable, you’ll also improve your service.

Do you know your customer’s birthdays? Hummm. Well, you do know the anniversary of their home purchase, don’t you? Why not? Send a “You’ve been in your house for a year, and I appreciate you” card. Photocopy the sales for the month and write a hand-written note deciphering the market. If you think about it, there are dozens of reasons to contact your customers.

The sale of a house has a predictable post-purchase order? Does your homeowner customer typically purchase a lawnmower, then a chainsaw, then a brush cutter? Send information about the next probable purchase to your new homeowners. You could easily set up a schedule of four mailings for the first year based on predictable purchases leading to the one year anniversary of them owning their home.

You should take the time to nurture your past clients…they are invaluable. How invaluable? Here’s a cool tool from The Harvard Business School to help you calculate the value of a lifetime customer.

No more excuses. Buy a box of Thank You cards, and start sending them today.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Lesley Lambert

    April 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Yes…I admit it, I am BAD at this! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Joel McDonald

    April 15, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Great Tips Ginny! (I stumbled across your post thanks to Lani’s Facebook post.)

    One other thing we do is use our IDX solution. After a buyer closes on a home, we narrow their preferences to a price range for that neighborhood, and send properties in that neighborhood whenever they come up for sale.

    We include messages like “I just thought you’d like to know about this home in your neighborhood so you can stay on top of where values in your area are going.” Past clients appreciate it (surprisingly, even more in a down market because we’re staying in touch even when it’s not with great news, and not sugar coating everything), and we’re continuing to cement that ever-important relationship.

    The best part is that it’s free.

  3. Chris Shouse

    April 15, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Very nice reminder of what should be one of our most important assets.

  4. Anni Hagfeldt

    April 15, 2009 at 9:45 am

    You can also ‘pop by’ with small items of value quarterly. Stay 10 minutes, say hello and hand them something that they can use and be reminded of you. Example..measuring spoons,garden tools, gift wrap. Follow up with a phone call or call first and say you will be ‘popping by’ soon.

  5. Matthew Hardy

    April 15, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Of course, having a good CRM system helps. 🙂

  6. Mark Green

    April 15, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I think I can add to this discussion, but don’t want to “spam” y’all 🙂

    But this is exactly what my company does for mortgage and real estate professionals.

    Here’s a few quick pointers:

    1) The trick is to mix what I call “touchie feelies” like birthday cards, thought-of-you correspondences, etc… with “timely and relevant” content on the industry, a client’s neighborhood, etc.

    Mixing and matching these approaches can be difficult and time consuming though.

    2) Ideally you’ll also reach your clients on a variety of media, ie: postal mail, email, social networking, phone calls, etc. By varying your approach, you’ll be able to achieve high frequency without “fatiguing” your database.

    3) The quality of your materials should be in line with what you want your image to be – thus, I advise against cheap-o postcards and chachkies.

    I could go on and on about this stuff, I love it. If anyone wishes to reach me, you’ll easily find me at our website. Hope this wasn’t too spammy!

  7. Ginny Cain McMurtrie

    April 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Mark, great comments. I couldn’t have said it better myself especially about the “mixing and matching” of approaches.

  8. Nick Antonicello

    April 15, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Specialty direct mail like birthday cards, holiday cards, etc are good ways to stay in touch with customers in a way that’s passive, not persuasive.

    One way to communicate with past customers is to have them participate in surveys or focus groups about a particular neighborhood and gather feedback in terms of schools, taxes, etc.

    The more specific the communication, the more valuable the response. Having customers fill out initial surveys on wants and needs could uncover other opportunities such as financial services or vacation home ownership.

    Simply calling the customer just to check in is just as important then a mailing of some sort.

    Newsletters, especially e-newsletters, BLOGS and invitations via email to come back to your website are also important customer maintenance functions that need to be ongoing.

    Personalized messaging that’s specific with a call to action is always the best form of communication.

  9. Missy Caulk

    April 16, 2009 at 10:46 am

    We do hand written birthday cards again, went to electronic ones for awhile but they did not mean as much. We do Anniversary hand written of their new home the first year.

    I do Thanksgiving cards as I just felt it was too much at Christmas and it is my way to thank them. As they have babies etc…we acknowledge them.

    We put the new buyers on the Lowes program and get great feedback on that.

    Client appreciation party once a year.

  10. Paula Dollard

    April 23, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Helpful post, thank you!

    Something that I have had particularly good luck with over the years are client appreciation events. I invite all of my clients (usually have around 150 in attendance) to the movie on a Saturday morning in early summer (depending on what movie I choose). It has been a great way to build customer loyalty & I always get 2-3 referrals minimum within a few weeks after the event.

  11. Cyrus Anvari

    April 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Great blog Ginny with valuable information. I would like to add a few more pointers:

    1-To stay organized, I use “Top Producer” which notifies me of the purchase anniversaries, birthdays, and holiday mailings. I have purchased and added a few hundred letters for every occasion which are downloaded to Top Producer. I can print a letter and addresses on the envelope through top produce in a matter of minutes.

    2- Like many agents mentioned in this blog, I use Brian Buffini “100 days to Greatness”
    system for following up with clients. I teach that course and the “Ultimate Agent” program (for agents producing over 100k” in our office in our Office in Rockville, Maryland. This course is a bit more advanced and adds business networking to the first course.

    3-In addition to monthly phone calls and ‘pop-by’s, I send calendars, hand written cards, e-mails.

    4-I invite clients to gather for Game Nights, Picnics, and Happy Hours every couple months. I invite my new clients so they can get to know my past clients.

    6-I have been using the Lowes customer follow up program for a few years. Clients love to get the coupons and other valuable information.

    Thanks.
    Cyrus Anvari
    ABR, CRS, GRI, E-PRO, CNHS
    RE/MAX New Horizon
    Broker in MD, VA, DC

  12. ana villanueva-hutt

    April 27, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    this is all greaat stufff! thanks for all the ideas.

  13. Jim Young

    May 2, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Thanks

  14. Dana Faircloth

    April 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I too, do the birthday cards, notes and I’m working on the pop-bys—but boy its hard to do it all!!! I’m really thinking about taking the Brian Buffini 100 Days to Greatness. They really have alot of information on their website (mailouts, cards…).

    But like most it takes alot of practice to stay focused.

    I also use the Lowes Realtor program

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Business Marketing

10 must-listen-to podcasts for business owners

(MARKETING) If you’re a business owner and want to learn something…anything…give one (or all) these podcasts a listen.

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As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.

From interviews with business leaders to industry-specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.

This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.

How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.

Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.

The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.

The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly popular show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.

StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.

The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.

One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America, and more.

Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.

Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further than Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.

Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.

One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.

The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real-world applications and cover everything from marketing to technology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.

This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.

This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo, or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.

The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.

This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.

Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help, and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.

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Business Marketing

Why your coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

Market your side hustle with these 6 tips

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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