For the past 12 years, Cincinnati-based agent Amy Broghamer and her partner Jenny VanKirk have built a real estate business purely on referrals generated from friends, family, past clients and colleagues. So how does this small but mighty team sell an average of 50 homes a year and gross approximately $12 million in sales?
They focus on repeat and referral business and building relationships.
“We only work with people who are either repeat customers or were referred, and we have a great system for doing that,” says Broghamer.
Today, with many buyers hitting the “pause button” on their home searches, maintaining touchpoints with them in relationship-oriented ways is more critical than ever.
So what exactly is the “system” that allows Broghamer and VanKirk to work purely on referrals? Here’s Amy B.’s 5 top tips on how to segment and work your sphere of influence to produce a 100% repeat- and referral-based business.
Most established agents will find they have too many clients and prospects in their network to maintain weekly or even monthly personalized communication.
“There’s only so much time and effort we can spend connecting with people,” says Broghamer. “If you’re nurturing people, you have to prioritize. There’s no way I could send something to 3,000 people and get the same effect as I would if I call 50 people. If you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.”
By segmenting and nurturing your database in thoughtful ways, however, you can more easily manage and prioritize your target audience while customizing the messaging according to their needs.
In most cases, your A category should include your family members and those closest to you — typically a group of about 30, says Broghamer.
To segment her list, Broghamer starts with the most important people and then goes down the list, with the As encompassing both personal and professional contacts.
Broghamer typically reaches out to the As about once a month and invites them to an event about once a quarter with a personalized text or branded card in the mail.
She and her partner have attracted great draws from events such as their annual “Love You Latte” gatherings held at a local cafe every Valentine’s Day; ice cream socials at water parks in the summer for families; Halloween coloring contests done digitally on Facebook in the fall; and Santa photo ops in the winter. For Earth Day, they send trees to their most coveted contacts. As follow-up to the events, the agents send branded cards featuring photographs of the families.
“This is the list that can continue to move and evolve,” she says. “Some Bs may eventually work up to As when they show interest, come to an event or give a referral.” Likewise, someone on the A list who engages less frequently may drop down to the B segment.
Broghamer usually places vendors in the B category to ensure they stay top of mind and receive regular communication. “This allows me to keep in touch and find out about any changes to their business,” she says.
B contacts may also be those who haven’t done business with you in the past but offer the potential to help you generate more business in the future. Thought leaders and influencers in the community, for instance, may gain B status. This group will typically receive a card twice a year from Broghamer.
All other members of your sphere should fall into your C list. These are people who may have dropped from the B category due to lack of engagement, or maybe they’re new acquaintances who have not shown interest in buying or selling yet. While the Cs will still receive some form of monthly communication from Broghamer, it’s typically not as frequent or personalized as the one-on-one communication received by her A and B contacts.
Once you’ve segmented your clients and prospects, find a way to organize these contacts to easily disseminate your communication. For instance, Broghamer keeps her A, B and C contacts organized in her phone by using emojis: hearts for As, pineapples for Bs and so forth.
“When I have my contacts organized this way, it makes it easy to text all my As and invite them one-on-one to events,” she notes.
Broghamer has found that not all media types perform equally, and some are definitely more effective than others when it comes to generating referrals. Cold mailers, grocery cart signage and billboards, for instance, are too impersonal and less effective than warm leads generated from real people with a human connection. It’s also difficult to attribute business back to mailers and other types of ‘cold’ marketing, she notes.
On the other hand, video is a great way to make the human connection when in-person interaction is not possible. In fact, dotloop integration partner BombBomb reports record open rates since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and for good reason.
“The best we can do right now is to engage people in a personable way,” says Broghamer, who organizes all of her drip video email campaigns through BombBomb and also teaches a course on how to use video in your business, and offers a list of 75 ways to use video in your business by sharing your email here.
In addition to video, she makes all of her As “Friends” on Facebook, which helps her to learn about any new happenings in their lives. “I can simply click on my Friend list and it populates the last 24 hours of posts from any of my As,” says Broghamer. “This makes it easy to comment.” With approximately 5,000 Friends on Facebook, she finds this “intentional use of social tools” the best system for staying up to date with the people most important to her business.
“I try to keep it simple and be where the people are,” she notes. “Millennials are on Instagram. My group is on Facebook. You attract who you are.”
Between texting, phone calls and connecting over Facebook, she can create “intimate ways to connect” and build relationships that result in referrals.
Most consumers today are savvy enough to know when they’re receiving a “form letter” or mass-produced email and are much more likely to ignore that type of messaging over personalized communication. Instead of wasting your money on signage that most people will ignore, Broghamer recommends mailers with printed photographs of her clients and personalized greetings that you can generate digitally from your computer.
Whether it’s sending a box of brownies to celebrate someone’s birthday or picking up the phone to call someone personally, she emphasizes the need to “maintain a connection and nurturing,” even when she can’t see clients in person.
During the pandemic, Broghamer stresses the importance of keeping the communication more about authentic, empathetic communication rather than real estate. “‘How are you coping? Is there anything we can help with?’ — these are the types of questions agents should be asking right now,” she says. “We want to help our clients in ways they need us most right now. Being human. Helping people to survive and getting them what they need.”
Every time Amy B. partners receive a referral, they follow up with video emails and thank-you cards to confirm the connection in a personable way. Then, once the client closes, they become a B, ready to refer to the agents’ next client and a part of Amy’s Real Estate Family, invited to client events and a private Facebook Group.
It’s important to realize building a referral-based business takes time. It took Broghamer over two years to build a solid foundation and about five years before she was selling $10 M YoY on repeat and referral business.
However, by truly nurturing relationships in your sphere with meaningful, personable communication and touchpoints, the referrals will only flourish and grow exponentially over time.
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