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Unlocking Success: How to Create a Referral-Driven Real Estate Business

July 16 2023

As a real estate agent, having a robust referral network is an essential requirement that cannot be overlooked or compromised. According to NAR's 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, referrals remain the primary method by which most buyers found their real estate agent.

Establishing and sustaining a referral network guarantees a steady stream of clients. However, constructing such a network requires deliberate efforts in staying connected with past clients, actively engaging in community involvement, and employing other effective strategies.

Create a Referral Website

Consider creating a dedicated website with a memorable and user-friendly URL for generating referrals. You can leverage your free .realtor™ web address with its free lead-generating website for this purpose. Provide detailed information about your market, making it distinct and memorable. Include noteworthy details that set you apart and leave a lasting impression on visitors.

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PRO TIP: Tell your clients exactly who you are and what you do with a free website and email address ending in .realtor™. Position yourself as a leader with your own custom .realtor™ web address like http://www.dealcloserdoug.realtor — which includes a lead-generating website. LEARN MORE

Build Strong, Authentic Relationships

According to Nikki Beauchamp, Senior Global Real Estate Advisor and Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker at Engel & Völkers New York City:

I think of three Rs (relationships, referrals, revenue), and you can't get to the second and third R without the first. Building strong relationships with other real estate professionals worldwide is key. Actively engage with real estate agents, brokers, and industry professionals in different countries and regions. Attend international real estate conferences, join global networking groups, leverage technology and participate in online communities to connect with like-minded professionals. Use technology to showcase and highlight your local market knowledge and your network (don't sleep on LinkedIn and other social networking platforms). Building trust and rapport with these individuals will lead to valuable referrals in the future — the same as is the case with our clients and customers.

Barbara Betts, broker, CEO, and keynote speaker, agrees that:

Relationships are the foundation for any business to be successful. The key is understanding the know, like, and trust factor. You've probably heard a sales trainer at one point in your career say something like, "If someone knows you and likes you, they will trust you." I fundamentally believe that is wrong. Just because someone knows you and likes you does not mean they will automatically trust you. Trust is something you have to earn. In the real estate world, I build trust in three ways: Building relationships, deepening relationships, nurturing relationships, and then giving those relationships a reason to trust me by applying a system! That's the key, you can't just sit back and "wish" for referrals; you have to work at it, you have to have a system, and you have to leverage it. At the end of the day, you have to SHOW UP in your people's lives as more than a real estate agent, show them you care about them, whether they ever buy or sell, apply a system to get them to trust you by providing value, and THEN you can ask for business, and what you ask for, you will receive, but only and only if a relationship was there from the beginning.

Use Referral Business Cards

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Craft a distinct set of cards exclusively designed for networking with fellow agents and brokers. Incorporate essential information about your identity, along with a visual or textual representation highlighting your expertise in the market area. Additionally, include a nod to your experience and ensure that your contact details are easily accessible for seamless communication.

Leverage the REALTOR® brand on those business cards! NAR offers every REALTOR® a free .realtor™ web address, website, and forwarding email address. According to Harrison Beacher, REALTOR® and 30 Under 30 recipient, "In a world where differentiation is more important than ever, leveraging the powerful REALTOR® brand as a part of your website and email domain is a great way to stand out from the pack. We leverage .realtor™ with our referral partners around the country who recognize and acknowledge the power of the REALTOR® brand."

Create Referral Buckets

Maura Neill, REALTOR® with RE/MAX Around Atlanta and a highly in-demand speaker/educator, suggests that you:

Think referral buckets: you should have a variety of buckets of different types of referral sources and communicate with them differently. Your interactions with your current and past clients — staying top of mind, being a valuable resource, continuing to nurture those "agent for life" relationships — will be different from your interactions with your colleagues and peers, different from your interactions with your family, close friends, and sphere. Being intentional about the way you engage with each bucket is critical — your current clients may want to know about your open houses; your peers across the country likely won't. Your family and close friends should get more personal holiday updates; your past clients may call for something a little less personal, but still want to hear from you. Most importantly, make sure that your communication and engagement feel authentic to you, and to who you are, and help every bucket of possible referrals get to know you better. It's the acknowledgment that it may take a little more work and a little more planning, but in the end, it's worth it for the quality of the relationships that you build. And referrals just don't come without relationships.

Harness the Power of Social Media

According to the NAR 2022 Technology Survey, social media ranked as the top tech tool for generating high-quality leads. Rebecca Donatelli, REALTOR® with Elite Sotheby's International Realty, 30 Under 30 Recipient, and best-selling author:

Most agents think to just connect locally — think big picture. So many people are relocating for jobs, family, etc. Be that person agents reach out to!

The key to social media lies in being actively engaged and consistent. Here are a few tips to help you achieve precisely that:

  1. Regularly connect with past clients through direct messages and ensure you engage with their content consistently. By appearing in their notifications repeatedly, you stay on their radar.
  2. Extend a warm welcome to new followers with a simple message such as, "Thank you for joining my real estate community here on Instagram! I hope you find my tips and ideas helpful!" Keep it concise, and genuine, and avoid a sales pitch.
  3. Post content that is valuable to your audience and avoid self-promotion. Provide community and neighborhood information. Be a resource, not a marketing machine.
  4. Dedicate at least 10 minutes every day to engage with your followers' content. If you want them to interact with you, you must reciprocate by engaging with their posts as well.
  5. Maintain a consistent posting schedule, even if it's only two days a week. Consistency is key to staying top of mind, which in turn drives more referrals and attracts potential clients.

When it comes to building a referral network, Sarita Dua summarizes everything really well. She says:

1) Have a goal — a number of referrals to give. Givers gain. 2) Communicate with referral partners often. 3) Come from contribution. 4) Reward the behavior, not the result. For example, thank someone when you receive a referral, not when it closes. Regardless of the outcome, you want to be appreciative that they thought of you. 5) Take referrals seriously. Someone's name and reputation is on that referral when they thought of you. Don't let them or the prospect down.

Sarita is the Principal Broker and Team Operator at The askSarita Team powered by PLACE, Keller Williams Sunset Corridor.

Written by the get.realtor Team and the National Association of REALTORS®. Leverage the power of the REALTOR® brand to build respect for your referral marketing content. If you'd like to learn how to claim your free web address, lead-generating website, and forwarding email address, go to get.realtor.