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How to Boost Referrals - Part One

April 15 2013

marketleader boost referralsIt's been years, but I still remember my landlord – a real estate agent – calling me and asking if I knew anyone who wanted to buy or sell a home. At the time, I didn't, but I still remember the call. More than that, I remember that I truly wanted to help him and felt bad that I couldn't. I genuinely liked the man, and believe me, the next day I kept my ears open for real estate chatter.

Step one toward getting new referrals is to be a nice person. Step two? Ask for referrals. Ask everyone, even if you don't think they will turn into a client. Your sphere of influence then connects to their sphere, and each person you contact broadens your possible referral base exponentially.

But that just covers the basics. There is so much more that agents can do to get more referrals.

What's in Your Plan?

Before embarking on new ways to drum up referrals, it's a good idea to take a look at what's in your current marketing campaign – precisely, what image are you projecting?

Are your tactics a turnoff? Real estate trainer Denise Lones of Bellingham, Wash. says one of the main reasons you aren't getting referrals is if "your marketing campaignmarketing campaign is ego-based (meaning it's all about you and your next transaction)," she writes on her ActiveRain blog. "This creates the image of a shark-like predator in people's minds, and they will avoid you just as they would a Great White."

The Bedrock: Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing emphasizes customer satisfaction and retention, with an eye toward building longtime profitable relationships, according to author Mari SmithMari Smith.

It differs from other forms of marketing by focusing more on the customer relationship and its value over the long term, rather than relying on more intrusive promotional and sales messages. Its key principle is customer retention.

The good news for the real estate agent is that relationship marketing is less expensive in the long run than other forms of marketing – especially in competitive markets, according to Philip Kotler, co-author of "Principles of Marketing."

"In markets with increasing competition," he says, "it may cost five times more to attract new customers than it would to retain current customers."

Who's in Your Database?

If your database is populated with only former clients, you're missing out on a huge chunk of new business. You should have every single person you know in your customer relationship management (CRM) platform – from your hairdresser to your aunt Martha. If they're breathing, they should be in there.

Here's why this is important: The relationship marketing approach also focuses on customization of your marketing efforts, according to Jim Novo, author of "Drilling Down."

"Customize programs for individual consumer groups and the stage of the process they are going through," says Novo, "as opposed to some forms of database marketing where everybody would get virtually the same promotions," he concludes.

Marketing whiz Seth Godin, in his book "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable," agrees. Godin insists that you should: "... differentiate your customers. Find the group that's most profitable. Find the group that's most likely to influence other customers. Figure out how to develop for, advertise to, or reward either group ... cater to the customers you would choose if you could choose your customers."

A basic, no-brainer example of this would be compartmentalizing your database population into potential buyers and potential sellers. A more focused approach would involve drilling down deeper into the database, customizing your marketing approach to an ever more concentrated population.

As they say here at Market Leader: "Send the right message, to the right person, at the right time."

How's That CRM Working for You?

Back in the dinosaur days of real estate, a simple database, populated with the people in an agent's sphere, ruled the day in most real estate businesses. As technology advanced, however, agents demanded more bells and whistles, which resulted in today's sophisticated CRM platforms.

The best software tracks the agent's sales pipeline and streamlines relationship management. Both Market Leader Professional and Market Leader Business Suite, for instance, offer tools that maximize the information in your database to your benefit, by streamlining ongoing customer communications (with property blasts, listing alerts, newsletters, etc.), separated into the categories that work for you (buyers from browsers, for instance).

Finally, the busy agent should consider mobile CRM access so that all that valuable information is consistently at his or her fingertips.

With the right CRM software, this categorization is a snap – true targeted marketing at its finest.

So, now that we know the "who, what and how," tomorrow we'll take a look at additional ways to drum up referrals.

Click here to read Part Two!

To view the original article, visit the Market Leader blogMarket Leader blog.