A 100% referral rate is a testament of client happiness. But even a 30% referral rate is proof of client satisfaction. It’s all relative, say some agents. One number pays tribute to past success, which is certainly a story worth telling. But the other might better predict the future. Many agents plan for the idea that working only on referral may not be sufficient during slower times of the year, in a down market, or when an agent needs to expanding into a new sector.
Unless you are clairvoyant enough to flawlessly predict every market change or every life change that your clients and referral partners may experience, it’s wise to maintain an active marketing presence. The reasons vary, however, depending on the goals and trajectory of each individual’s business.
If long-term success, a growing team, a legacy or expansion into new areas are not priorities, then working a sphere of influence may be enough for some agents, especially those who may be in the industry mostly for the love of the business. But for a majority of agents, no matter how much they love their work, their real estate and mortgage businesses are careers, first and foremost.
Let’s start with the team-builders and mentors.
Agents and brokers who are building teams are wise to invest in business marketing, advertising and community outreach. Ty Hutchins, who owns and operates Ty & Company Real Estate in Colorado’s Front Range, says that, while she could personally live off referrals alone, her goal is to build up her agents. “I do the marketing piece for my team, so I can help them succeed,” she says. That marketing includes running commercials on TV and in movies theatres, as well as lead generation that identifies potential buyers, sellers and investors between the Colorado Springs and Denver markets. Her team’s goal, she adds, is to promote their reputation of being honest, hardworking professionals with the reach of a major brand but the personalized approach of a boutique.
Then there are the growers.
Khrista Jarvis and Nicole Jung of The Khrista Jarvis Team in the San Francisco Bay Area, are on a considerable growth track. “We’re the #1 team in our area and the top team in Compass Real Estate nationally,” explains Khrista. While high marks for service on behalf of their clients have led them to these heights, they know that they must continue to evolve and market their brand. “We do a good deal of social media marketing for our listings and for our business,” she says. Their names, therefore, are frequently linked to sentiments of trust, dependability and market knowledge, both in their marketing and in their reviews.
Next, there are those who weathered the worst of times.
Susan Roche entered real estate sales in 2003, following several years of property management in North Carolina. The key to her sustained triumphs through major market swings lies in her long-range planning. “If the market starts to dip or fall, I have safety nets in place,” says Susan Roche, team leader of Simply Real Estate, based in Charlotte. “When it’s a seller’s market, I still plan for a buyer’s market and when it’s a buyer’s market I plan for a seller’s market..” In other words, no matter how comfortable her existing work may feel, she networks consistently. She also employs a full-time marketing director who leads several projects including ongoing research, events and social media exposure in addition to listings marketing. By staying ahead of market changes, Susan knows she can unfailingly represent her clients’ best interests while still maintaining a safety net for her business.
Even professionals with more than three decades’ experience and deep referral networks know the importance of business marketing. Cathy Richards, co-owner with Nancy Dalaska of Epic-Wasatch Homes in Park City, UT, entered real estate in 1987 and still draws at least a fifth of her business from lead generation, social media marketing and community outreach. Her business partner, Nancy, adds that real estate is about much more than their own business. “We love collaborating and brainstorming with other agents to help them prosper,” says Nancy. “We believe the healthier the market, the better we all are.”
Regardless of market conditions, even the best reputation can’t guarantee long-term success. To sustain and grow, it’s wise to feed your business by increasing exposure, remaining flexible and maintaining systems for customer service, networking, research, marketing and lead-generation.