“Everything in moderation” is a great motto—it can help keep us from overindulging in rich foods, injuring ourselves at the gym, or becoming couch potatoes while binge-watching our favorite shows. But if you’re a real estate agent, there’s one thing you can never have too many of: referrals from satisfied clients.

Here are five tactics used by highly successful agents that you can implement to encourage more referrals for your real estate business.

1. Host client events

We’ve had a ton of guests on the Stay Paid podcast who rave about the success they’ve had getting referrals by hosting client events. The reason is simple: when clients enjoy themselves at your event, they naturally want to show their appreciation, and the best way for them to do so is by sending you referrals.

Show people you care

Garrett Maroon had only 40 people in his database when he started his career as a real estate agent, but he was determined to nurture those relationships and build a referral-only business. A big part of his plan was to host client events, and in his second year, he closed 50 transactions. Among the events he routinely hosted, and continues to host now, include an ice cream social and family picture day.

Every July, Garrett rents out an ice cream shop and serves free ice cream for two hours. It’s his most expensive event with the cost topping out at around $800. Then in the fall, he rents a space in a local park, brings in coffee and donuts, and hires a photographer for two hours to take family portraits. He gets the photos printed and framed before dropping them off at people’s homes—all for about $600.

In his podcast interview, Garrett emphasizes that client events don’t need to cost thousands of dollars to be appealing to attendees; rather, it’s the chance they provide people to connect with others, have an enjoyable time, and know someone cares that makes them worthwhile.

When we spoke to Garrett in January 2023, he had grown his database to 287 people, was working three hours a week, and had closed 88 deals the previous year—all of them sourced from referrals. We were so impressed, we asked him to host an online seminar with our company, ReminderMedia, explaining his approach to client touchpoints. You can watch the recording here.

Invest what you can

Shannon Gillette, another previous Stay Paid guest, is also a huge proponent of client events. She ranks among the top 12 agents in Phoenix, Arizona, and hosts a client event every month, spending between $45–$50K a year. That’s certainly a hefty sum (and not one you necessarily need to aim for), but Shannon swears by the ROI of investing in avenues demonstrating appreciation. Even something small can go a long way; one of her most popular “events” is the $5 coffee gift card she sends to moms in her database for Mother’s Day.

Personally, I’m in love with her Christmas shopping spree event because it generates so much goodwill. 

Before the holiday, Shannon invites her clients to be personal shoppers for about 300 foster children. She sets a budget, the chaperones and children go to the stores, the kids find what they want, a videographer captures all the fun for Shannon to later share on social media, and everyone has an amazing time. You can listen to her Stay Paid interview as she describes the many benefits this single event provides for the kids, her clients, and her brand.

For more amazing client event ideas, check out the following:

2. Ask for referrals at closing

Too often, service professionals, including real estate agents, think that a satisfied client will simply start providing them with referrals. This is not the case! 

In its 2023 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that 87% of sellers said they would recommend their agent. Similarly, 90% of buyers reported they would use their agent again or recommend them to others. Now check your numbers—what percentage of your business is coming from referrals?

In order to receive referrals, you first need to ask for them. More importantly, you need to make asking a routine part of your process. You’ll want to request a referral after you’ve proven your value, your client receives a benefit from your service, and they’re in a positive mood, which makes immediately after a close the opportune time to broach the subject.

If you’re not quite sure how to ask for referrals without coming across as salesy, you can use these scripts as guides.

Example script (Source: ReminderMedia)

3. Make quarterly phone calls

According to the same 2023 NAR report, 43% of buyers hired an agent that was referred to them, while 65% of sellers either went with a referred agent or used an agent they had worked with before. (The report doesn’t specify what percentage of agents were referred versus hired a second time.) Logic dictates there are two primary reasons why these numbers aren’t larger—the agent didn’t satisfy their clients, or their clients forgot their name and, therefore, couldn’t refer them. 

The first reason is understandable. Who’s going to risk referring an agent who didn’t meet their expectations? The second reason is a shame and something that agents can easily avoid.

Over my 20 years helping real estate agents grow their businesses, it’s been my experience that most agents don’t stay connected with their clients after the transaction, so of course their clients are going to forget who they are. As I see it, the problem that keeps agents from reaching out is that they simply don’t know what to say. They fear that any attempt to connect will only come across as self-serving, with clients seeing their calls as nothing but attempts at a pitch, which makes many agents feel awkward and hesitant.

The solution is to have a reason to reach out. With a genuine purpose for your call, the awkwardness disappears. And the best pretext for picking up the phone is to deliver value.

Provide useful information

BAM contributor and real estate agent Alyssa McIntyre has recently been reaching out to everyone she sold a home to in the last three years, sending them a screenshot of Zillow’s Zestimate showing the estimated value of their home. 

She sends these images in a text message, provides a bit of context, and simply asks, “What do you think?” Many of her past clients have started conversations with her, surprised by what they see.

Follow up after sending a gift 

There is no shortage of gift ideas for your real estate clients (both good and bad). However, the best ones are those that have staying power.

Many of our customers send our high-quality personally branded magazines to their clients as a way to stay in consistent contact. Every two months, we automatically mail to their recipients a 48-page issue filled with content that entertains and educates readers with engaging articles and delicious recipes. An independent readers’ survey reported that recipients keep these publications for up to 10 weeks. Moreover, 31% of respondents referred their professional because of the magazine.* 

They’re an exceptionally effective means for staying top of mind; and you can get a free sample of our most recent issue!

ReminderMedia

Sample Magazines (Source: ReminderMedia)

We coach our clients to call their recipients a week or two after their magazines arrive. The script is easy—you simply ask if they’ve received your gift and whether they’ve had the opportunity to read it. We’ll even give suggestions for starting personalized conversations about the magazine’s content that resonate with each recipient’s interests. Finally, thank your clients for their business and remind them you are always available to help them or those they know.

That’s it—nothing could be simpler.

4. Run a contest

Contests are fun, which makes them popular vehicles for generating referrals. But while they can provide a ton of new numbers to call, not all of those contacts are going to be the type of high-quality leads you want. So to filter out the ones who are a poor fit or have low potential, create a contest where you reward conversions rather than just referrals.

Here’s an idea you can easily adapt to your real estate business.

My wife and I were looking for a dentist for our young daughter. My neighbor referred us to the pediatric dentist they use for their kids. She gave me a card, which she had signed with her name, and asked me to give it to the receptionist when we went to the appointment. My neighbor explained that the card would enter her into a contest where she could win a prize. The more referral cards with her signature the office received, the greater her chances of winning.

It’s a great idea for encouraging high-quality referrals. And to do it one better, send an email to your list naming the winners—it’ll encourage more referrals! 

5. Do the unexpected

Nothing helps you stand out more and make a long-lasting impression than doing something unexpected for your clients. Yes, sending holiday cards is beneficial, but it’s nothing unique. On the other hand, clients will remember a meaningful surprise and want to thank you for it—and the easiest way to do that is to pass your name along to someone who needs the services of a real estate agent.

Your budget will dictate what you can do, but anything out of the ordinary will suffice to keep you top of mind.

New homebuyers might appreciate:

  • Complimentary lawn service for a month
  • A gift card to a home improvement store
  • A free consultation with an interior designer
  • A prepaid spa visit to relax after their move

If you work with sellers, you could:

  • Provide a moving truck
  • Arrange a move-in cleaning of their new home
  • Set up a private tour of their new city or town

Any easy and inexpensive way to show up out of the blue is to send a card or give a small gift to acknowledge unknown national holidays. These days of recognition are fun because people rarely know about them, and celebrating them is a quirky break from the usual fare. An internet search will provide a crazy number of days to capitalize on.

  • On National Love Your Pet Day (February 20), you can drop by with some dog or cat treats.
  • When National Potato Chip Day (March 14) comes around, stop by with a bag of your favorite brand or flavor.
  • For National Chocolate Day (October 28) . . . well, you get the idea

Closing thoughts

Referrals are a cost-effective way to generate new leads, and the ideas presented here for getting more from your clients are proven winners. Always keep in mind, though, that garnering referrals requires that your clients continue to know, like, trust, and remember you long after the transaction—and that means staying in consistent contact and providing value over the long haul. Whether you choose one of these tactics or go in another direction, prioritize finding a way to routinely nurture your client relationships so you remain top of mind.

*2023 ReminderMedia Reader Study; conducted by GfK MRI-Simmons