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How do you create customers for life? Has the way real estate professionals reach out to their clients really changed? Read on to find out.

The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of Realtors® and Rei Mesa, NAR’s Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.

Moderator:

Rei Mesa, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR, and President/CEO, Prudential Florida Real Estate Services

Participants:

Linnette Edwards, Better Homes and Gardens Highland Partners, Oakland, Calif.

Joe Clement, Broker/Team Leader, RE/MAX Properties, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Russell Nolting, Team Leader, Keller Williams Realty, St. Louis, Mo.

Chris Bryan, Sales Manager, Coldwell Banker Sloane, Ocean Isle, N.C.

Mario Venancio, Gloria Nilson REALTORS®, Real Living®, Red Bank, N.J.

Ellen Parker, Prudential California Realty, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Rei Mesa: Professionals know that careers in our industry are built on referrals and repeat business—and that some seem to be better than others at building customer loyalty. Today, we depart from our usual format to talk to a few top producers—folks who do a great job retaining customers for life and nurturing a database that never lacks for serious referral prospects. Linnette, what do you do to make your customers a vital part of your growth strategy?

Linnette Edwards: For me, it starts with having a happy client, and that means providing unparalleled service during and after the closing…being there for them all along the way, helping them connect to local services and tradespeople, or anything else they might need, after closing. I try to select an after-closing gift that is meaningful to them—something they have commented on, or a favorite food. Most important, for me, is trying to open a personal side to every client relationship.

Joe Clement: You need to find the tools and the timing that work best for keeping you in touch. One of the things that works for us is a monthly mailing of 20,000 “from your friends” postcards that go to everyone in our sphere of influence. They cost less than $1 a piece, including postage, and they offer things people appreciate, like a free round of golf or a serious discount at a local restaurant. The cards keep the door open for us to make follow-up phone calls. It’s those casual calls that are the lifeblood of our business.

Russell Nolting: You definitely need to be proactive…sending out stuff that is of value to people and following up with a call. We might send a newsletter or a timely drip email on local fireworks displays, but then we’ll send one with market updates, statistical analyses, average selling price in various areas—information that establishes us as being right on top of local conditions. Then we get on the phone to keep the dialogue going.

RM: It’s interesting that you’re mentioning traditional outreach methods—newsletters, postcards, emails. I kind of thought I’d hear more emphasis on Facebook and other social media.

Chris Bryan: Facebook and Twitter have their place, and a lot of today’s agents are using them with success. But I’m noticing a paradigm shift today…from social media to getting back to basics—and that means, as others have said, staying in personal contact. No junk emails, ever, and nothing beats a personal phone call. We handle a lot of vacation rentals and property management. We do a good job of converting renters into buyers, but how we do it comes down to the basics—and that means staying in touch.

Mario Venancio: Consistent follow-up is essential. Some 20 percent of my annual business comes from past clients and their referrals. You have to find a simple way to keep your name in front of people. A quarterly newsletter or sending a calendar each year can keep you in mind to past customers.

Ellen Parker: I send out a “Quote of the Week” along with a brief personal note to everyone in my database—and I follow up with a phone call every 60 to 90 days. Close to half of my business comes from my database contacts.

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