How to Effectively Farm Your Past Clients

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Greg spells out the keys to turning past clients into raving fans.

October 2000, By Greg Herder

Everyone knows they should stay in touch with their past clients. The reality is that most agents do one of two things; they send a Christmas card once a year or they send the same thing they send to everyone else—neither of which is very effective.

Here’s the problem with plan one. After clients have moved into their new home, agents know their services are no longer needed, at least for a couple of years and probably four or five years or maybe longer. The agent thinks, “Well, I don’t need to be too aggressive. I have some time and I want the clients to send me some referrals, so I will play it low key.” The agent sends a nice closing gift and maybe a letter asking for referrals. Suddenly, time has passed and its Christmas. So the agent sends a standard Christmas card to, at least, stay in touch.

Perception is Reality
To consumers, it feels so very different. The clients remember the marketing efforts used by the agent to attract them as clients in the first place, and the interest and attention the agent showed during their transaction. Then they move in, and they really like the closing gift. But it seems as though their agent has dropped off the face of the earth.

Three weeks go by and the clients get a letter asking for referrals. No matter how happy the clients were with you when they closed, they start to think they were just anther transaction, and the only time they will hear from you is when you want more business. Then they get your Christmas card, along with the one from the insurance guy they have not talked to in a long time as well as a bunch of other people they have had little contact with or who are trying to sell them something. Suddenly you are just another sales person. It does not take long to undermine your past clients’ loyalty that you earned with great service.

Did You Forget Who I Am?
Agents don’t want this to happen, so they go with plan two—send them the same stuff everyone else gets. Here’s the problem. Again you have to look at it from the consumers’ point of view. They have only one agent with whom they feel they have a special relationship. You helped buy or sell a home for them. They are used to having you talk to them personally. Then they move in and suddenly you are no long there. After a couple weeks, they open their mail and see something from you. As they look at it, they realize it's one of your standard mailings. Suddenly it hits them—they are now just a name on your list.

So What Should You Do?
After a transaction closes, send your normal closing gift. Then a week later, send the formal research questionnaire that asks them to evaluate your services. There is a sample in the MegaMarketing workbook. The objective here is to show that you value their opinion of you. The amazing thing is that, even if they complain about something you did, they feel you listened. And they have even more respect for you as an agent and a person.

Two weeks later, send a letter that tells them you were thinking of them and you realized that, right after people move into a new home, they often forget to get out and enjoy life a little. And, because you did not want that to happen to them, you have enclosed two tickets to the movies so they have an excuse to get out. Two weeks after that, send a letter that tells a personal story about something in which you are interested. The object here is to make the clients feel you are writing to them as a friend.

One week after that, send three copies of your personal brochure with a letter telling them you build your business on referrals from your friends, and you would appreciate it if they would give your brochure to anyone they know who might be interested in moving. You will find that, by setting up this mailing with the research questionnaire, the movie tickets and the personal letter, you will get a huge increase in response.

At this point, you are ready to put them into a group of all your past clients to whom you mail something 12 times per year.

Here’s What to Mail:
Once per quarter (four times per year), send a mail-merged letter on your houseflier master or personal letterhead that updates them on the local real estate market. It should be written in a story format something like, “John and Mary, I want to keep you updated on what has been happening with the local real estate market this past quarter. Prices are on a slow but steady rise, interest rates are steady, etc.” The goal is make them feel that you, as their friend who is also a Realtor®, simply want to keep them informed.

Three times per year, send a mail-merged letter on your houseflier master or personal letterhead that updates them on what is happening with you. This is like a letter you would write to a friend who has moved away. Tell them about your kids, your vacations, your hobbies. Some agents complain about this. They say it’s corny. I know it will make you rich.

Three time per year, send a fun card. Many of our clients have had great success with things like a Merry-After-Christmas card, Happy Groundhogs’ Day card, April Fools’ Day card and National Smile Week card. Look for something offbeat so yours will be the only card they receive for that event.

Finally, send a letter with three copies of your personal brochure that asks for referrals and repeat business.

That’s the plan. I promise it will generate more business from your past clients than you have ever made in the past.