The holidays are the perfect time to show clients your gratitude and to gain referrals. Here are 5 tips and tricks to gift like a pro and throw the perfect client appreciation event.
According to a survey of more than 400 financial planners,* those who experienced the fastest growth were 68% more likely to gain referrals from their centers of influence (COI) than others.
Like financial planners, savvy real estate agents know that their sphere of influence holds the key to unlocking future referrals on listings and buyers. So what can you do to cultivate this rich resource over the holidays?
Hosting a holiday client appreciation party is a great way to show your appreciation for your clients’ business while encouraging future referrals.
“There’s a concept that says, ‘Business goes where it’s invited and stays where it’s appreciated,’” says author of the best-selling book Giftology John Ruhlin.
Client appreciation events show existing clients how much you appreciate them while drawing new clients to your business. Here are a few tips to help make your client appreciation events and holiday gift-giving a success:
The type of event you sponsor will largely depend on the demographics and culture of your sphere of influence. Families, for example, might enjoy a holiday photo-themed event, such as the one Kansas City, MO-based Keller Williams agent Joe Nelson coordinated at a homeowners association clubhouse, where he hired a Santa and provided refreshments.
Portland, OR-based agent Mike Beirwagen attracted more than 400 people when he hosted a movie night and treated attendees to view a favorite flick in a local theater, complete with popcorn, a drink and a raffle ticket for a door prize.
If you decide to host a cocktail party or dinner at a local bar or restaurant, consider hiring a band as a great way to do your “talking” for you. The singer can act as an emcee, promote your stellar client service and even ask for referrals between songs without you having to self-promote at the party.
Barbecues, painting and cooking classes, and sporting events offer additional options for activities that clients will want to attend and bring their friends.
If you’re worried about low attendance, real estate coach and the creator of The Real Estate Playbook Travis Robertson suggests focusing on a core group of clients and hosting an intimate dinner. Even if only 20 people attend, the event will still feel full and intentional.
For best results, make the invitation as fun as the event. Invite your guests at least six weeks in advance of the event date to provide time for thorough follow-up and holiday planning. Many agents who have held successful holiday events suggest inviting clients in more ways than one, by first emailing a “save-the-date” notice, followed by a printed invitation, Facebook ads and even personal calls.
Using dotloop to organize the event can help the agent ensure that everything happens on schedule and nothing is missed. If he or she is partnering with trusted vendors, it’s easy to bring them into the loop. If a team is putting on the event, then the leader can assign Tasks and set deadlines, just like organizing a transaction.
You’ll want to document your holiday client appreciation event with professional photography and video. Share the pictures on social media and offer high-resolution versions to attendees. Video of the event offers a great marketing tool that can be repurposed as an introduction video for new leads and a testimonial video during listing presentations.
In a former Inman survey of real estate agents, about half of the 229 respondents said they typically buy their clients a gift for the holidays with edibles, home items and gift cards to restaurants topping the list.
But before you run out and buy all your clients a Starbucks gift card or place your order for next year’s calendars, consider these factors.
Keller Williams agent Jason Maynard and “gifting strategist” to the real estate industry suggests first evaluating why you’re giving a gift. “What is your goal for the relationship after the transaction has closed? If you simply want to say ‘thanks,’ any old gift will do,” he notes. “But, if you want to express gratitude, generate referrals and earn repeat business you have to be strategic in your gifting.”
Giving a holiday gift that reflects a particular client’s interests or hobbies can provide a meaningful, personalized touch. Of course, budget and time constraints preclude most agents from personalizing every client gift; however, you may want to extend this extra effort for clients who just went through a recent large closing or for clients who brought you several referrals over the last year.
New homeowners will particularly appreciate home gifts, such as custom doormats; a digital keypad; a food or beverage subscription (a great way to stay top of mind throughout the year); or, for smaller budgets, a personalized keychain sporting a subtle placement of your logo and a set of spare keys to their new home.
For new homeowners who recently transplanted to an area, you might offer certificates to local activities, such as surf lessons, Southern cooking classes or a subscription to locally sourced fresh produce.
Lastly, don’t overlook the value of a genuine, personal, handwritten note. In today’s world of emails and social media, this thoughtful gesture will go far in providing the final touch to keep you top of mind throughout the year.
Holiday client appreciation events and gifts are not just a nice-to-have. The word-of-mouth referrals you’ll receive in return will more than pay for the extra effort you extend during the annual giving season.
Source: Financial Planning Association’s Research & Practice Institute