One of the key skills for any real estate agent is their ability to cultivate relationships.
Your client transactions don’t occur without a genuine, human touch. This is where relationship marketing is vital: it nurtures long-term relationships and analyzes customer behavior to enable better targeting of your message.
In today’s technology-based world, those who use online resources appropriately have an advantage in terms of gaining audience reach, but a challenge in terms of personalizing the experience.
As we mentioned recently when we looked at Gen Y preferences, using technology is important and expected, but building a genuine relationship is highly valued.
How can real estate agents build a better relationship marketing strategy?
Trust is the basis for any healthy relationship. This is no different when it comes to relationships with real estate clients. For many clients, purchasing property will be the biggest single investment they ever make, so they’re looking for someone they feel comfortable trusting.
From the very first moment a client has any contact with your agency, they’re looking for signs you are trustworthy. We’ve mentioned how “being there” is a requisite to trust before, but here’s what that looks like:
If this seems like a no-brainer, then why are so many agents failing to do so? Research from WAV Group indicates that:
- 48% of buyer enquiries were never responded to, and;
- The average response time was 15.29 hours for those who did respond.
Your lack of response will always be your competitor’s opportunity. In fact, 49% of buyersexpect an instant (or close to instant) response when they make a real estate enquiry, so a slow response can indicate poor systems or indifference to the prospect.
[tweetthis]Your lack of response will always be your competitor’s opportunity.[/tweetthis]
If you’re not already taking advantage of software to streamline your real estate lead management process, you will be missing out to more up-to-date competitors. Clients don’t wait—research in the CAR report referenced above shows that more than 75% will interview more than one agent anyway. This means if you’re not in early, you’re off the list.
Even if you’re nailing the quick initial response, that’s just the first step to developing a trusting relationship. Your follow-through whenever you say you will is going to be just as important. The client wants an agent who is there and responds when they say they will.
Being open and forthright are also qualities that help to engender trust as you build relationships with the prospect. Don’t just tell them what they want to hear; have honest conversations with them about realistic expectations, and provide them with the information they need to know.
Being a reliable source of information is actually a huge trust-builder. One agent responding to the WAV findings stated that giving information freely was one of her best strategies. It lets the customer know that she is willing to help without making them feel pushed to make a decision to go with her.
Networking is an art as old as business. It’s also a skill that every successful real estate business inherently gets out and uses. Getting your face out there is a key way to build the kinds of relationships that can lead to new or referral business.
Here are a few ideas to consider to get out and about:
Your Name Badge
In most businesses where it’s required to wear an official name badge, people rush to hide theirs at the end of the day. However, as an agent who needs to be able to strike up conversations while out at any time, keeping the name badge on may actually be helpful.
This is a strategy used by agent Al Rusca whenever he is about town:
“That badge opens many doors for me when the inevitable question arises: ‘How’s the real estate market these days?’ ” says Rusca, a salesperson based in Ocean Grove, N.J. “I’ve gotten business from the local coffee shop, the barber shop, the dry cleaners, the grocery store, the gas station, the doctor’s office, the bank, my church, the local senior center, and more. Being visible and active in the community is the best way to find new business.” (Realtor Mag)
Community Events and Groups
Did you catch that last part from Al? Visible and active in the community. This means having an active presence at community events, volunteer initiatives and anything like that which is also important to your customers. Being involved generates good-will and makes you relatable to the prospect. It’s also a great way to meet the people who could be your future clients.
You’re probably already getting out and networking within groups as much as you can, which is a great way to build relationships. Here are a few sources to check out and potentially get involved with:
- Local Chamber of Commerce.
- Any Young Professionals network in your area (here’s an example from Tahoe).
- Community groups such as Rotary, Soroptimists, Elk Lodge, Moose Lodge or BNI.
- Online groups (check for things such as Facebook groups for people looking to rent, buy or sell property in your area too. Many of these are springing up).
The thing with participating in local events, attending mixers or volunteering is that they are no-pressure environments for potential clients. No one likes the “hard sell” and unfortunately real estate is one of those businesses which often needs to overcome that perception in the eyes of clients.
By making yourself available to the community, you give people the option of asking questions on the down-low or simply making casual enquiries. Responding with helpful information and passing on your details in case they have further questions is a great way to build up.
Another kind of “no-pressure” environment which some real estate agents use well is the neighborhood open-house or barbeque. Hosting one of these allows people to enjoy a festive environment and approach the agent if they feel like it.
The relationship isn’t done when the client has taken possession of their new house; in fact, you should be hoping for that to be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. Periodically staying in touch with those clients, such as by acknowledging important milestones with a card, is a great way to maintain the relationship and ensure you come to mind if they are looking to refer or to conduct more real estate business.
Being seen in-person is important but of course you should use the technology at your disposal too. For example, you could:
- Sent out email updates on the market in their area.
- Include interesting news such as local developments in a weekly newsletter.
- Provide a more personalized value-add such as sending them periodic comparative analyses thatgive them an idea of their home’s value.
- This may take a bit of extra time, but it helps to overcome the challenge of personalizing how you use technology, as we mentioned earlier.
- Use your analytics. Tools like Follow Up Boss will track lead activity, including what they’re doing on your website. If you can see someone is becoming quite active, make a point of getting in touch.
Relationship marketing for real estate agents is about building trust and developing open communication. This begins with truly embracing the idea of “being there.”
Technology provides us with some great options for keeping in touch with people, but being seen in person is also very important for providing the “human” touch. Your client does prefer to interact with a human, rather than a screen.
Find more opportunities to build community networks and interact with potential prospects in no-pressure environments. Follow up regularly and just be useful. It’s these human interactions that lead to better business later on.