Want more referrals? Try these new ideas.
Most of the advice we give in our books, here on our blog and on our podcast is focused on digital marketing and advertising. But let's face it. Referrals are the backbone of a lot of top agents businesses. Where the big opportunity lies is in blending the two. Using digital methods to effectively (and in some cases immediately) increase referrals in a modern way. Below we cover seven specific things we have seen our clients doing to get more referrals.
Agents often get referrals on accident. They are very passive and take them and appreciate them when they come but they do not proactively seek them out other than some lame slogan on their business card or in their email signature.
The appeal and upside of referrals is obvious. Referrals convert faster than most other lead sources. When a past client sends a friend your way it is usually because they are in the market to buy or sell soon. You don't get a lot of referrals that you have to nurture for a year. Referrals are also likely to be more profitable than other lead sources as there is little to no cost to acquire the customer. Another upside of a referral is that they are more likely to refer as well. In fact, studies show that a referred customer is 4x more likely to refer more customers to your brand.
Now a warning. Don't wear the fact that all of your business comes via referrals like a badge of honor. You need to be more diversified than that if you really want your business to grow and become predictable. The challenge with referrals is you don't really know when or where or how many will come your way. When referrals are a slice of a more sophisticated pie it is actually a better indicator that a business is healthy.
So, with all of that in mind here are seven ways you can increase your referral business that you most likely are not doing yet.
1. Launch an agent newsletter
One of my favorite clients is Amit Bhuta. He is an amazing marketer who blogs, has a podcast and also creates some of the best real estate videos I have ever seen. But what I didn't know until researching this article is that he has already made six figures in commissions this year from agent referrals. And the way that he stays top of mind with agents in his market (Miami) and from around the country is an email newsletter here he shares tips and tricks specifically focused on teaching other agents.
It may seem counterintuitive to teach agents who you compete with some of your best practices but by doing so Amit has created a steady stream of agent referrals from local agents and a nationwide audience. You probably have a newsletter for your past clients and leads, try adding one specifically catered to agents.
By the way, a good way to build up a list of agent emails to send to comes courtesy of our client Lisa Archer. Every time she attends a coaching or a conference where she takes a lot of notes she goes on Facebook and tells anyone who would like a copy of them to drop their email in a comment and she will send them to them. I've seen her do this numerous times and without fail the email addresses come pouring in.
2. Email Your Listings (the right way) To Your Past Clients
No one wants to send their past clients emails about new listings every week. But if you do it the right way you can turn a new listing into referrals, fast. The key is in the positioning. Let's face it, anyone you sold a home to in the last few years is most likely not already in the market to buy another one. But we have developed some magic words that you can use so that you can email all of your past clients about a listing to get referrals from them.
The magic words are...who do you know? We helped our client Stephanie Patterson do this recently and she got six conversations started in the first hour.
The reason this works so well is that it is not a direct ask. Most agents go after the recipient of the message. We didn't. By focusing on who they know, not them, you get referrals without being the typical agent sending out another "Just Listed" campaign. You'll notice that she gave them early access, pointed out that the home would sell fast and also asked them to reply for additional details, she didn't just send them all of the details. She also used a very appealing listing. Even with the magic words you don't want to use this technique for every listing that you take so try it when you have one with massive curb appeal or in a highly sought after neighborhood for the best results.
3. Create Your Own Rewards Program
Not all referral sources are created equally. And I am sure you have certain past clients or people in your sphere of influence that send you a lot of business and some that don't send you any at all. What our client Rachel Mooney has decided to do is double down on those who send her referrals by creating The Mooney Group Partners Program. She put a lot of thought and effort into the program which basically rewards her past clients and referral sources with prizes and giveaways on a regular basis.
One of the things that I really like about what she does is that when she sends out the quarterly email with the prize she requires the person to reply saying that they want to claim it. This gets conversations started and I am sure gets her a lot of "thank you so much" type messages. Starbucks has rewards. Peloton has rewards. You should too. And of course be sure to make any reward program you start compliant with local, state and national laws. We asked Rachel to explain how she does that and she told us, "Our program isn't attached to a closing or transaction. It's a thank you for thinking of us and sending our name to someone. Even if we never hear from the person they referred the person giving the referral is still part of the program."
4. Take Advantage of Facebook's Algorithm to Stay Top of Mind
Did you know that Facebook has a proprietary algorithm called Edge Rank that determines what people see in their newsfeed when they log in? It is fairly complex as pictured below but I will break it down for you.
The most important factor that you can actually control is the Interest. Basically, Facebook knows whether or not someone is interested in seeing what you post based on how often you interact with each other's content. Put simply, the more you engage with someone the more likely they will be to see your posts.
So to ensure your posts are seen by your best past clients and most likely referral sources from your sphere of influence do what Lisa Archer does (a tactic she learned from Curaytor co-founder Chris Smith's bestselling book The Conversion Code). It's called the 5-5-5 technique. Each day, you comment on five people's posts. You send five private DMs. And you Like five people's posts. Doing this consistently signals to Facebook that there is a relationship between the users and thus the algorithm becomes more likely to show those users your future posts.
Lisa does this for her local contacts but also for the agents that she is connected to around the country. She gets 200+ referrals a year from other agents and closes a high percentage of them. 15 "touches" a day creates 5,460 per year. In 2020, and beyond, top of newsfeed equals top of mind.
5. Compete Where You Can Win For Reviews
Not everyone is going to be on the first page of Zillow when consumers are looking for agents based on their reviews. In fact, here in Boston where I live the agent with the most reviews has 288. So while getting 5-star reviews on Zillow overall is a good idea what you don't want to do is neglect getting reviews on Google and Facebook too. If you look at the search results below when someone Googles our client Dan Chin Homes you will notice that on the right side his Google reviews are the most prominently displayed. And his Facebook reviews actually outrank his Zillow reviews in the organic results.
Another one of our clients, Connie Carlson, appears as the first organic result when you search "best real estate agent in Marietta". This is thanks to her Google reviews, not her Zillow reviews. She actually outranks HomeLight, Yelp and Zillow! Plus, when you click through and visit Connie's website she has a dedicated page for her customer success stories that is insanely compelling. We also use these stories in her retargeting campaigns as pictured below.
By being smart about your online reviews and competing where you can win you can generate "referrals" over and over again without your past clients ever having to speak to a new prospect who is doing their research online.
6. Vertical Integration
By partnering with the right service providers you should be getting referrals from them, regularly. But a trend we are starting to see is that brokers and agents are increasingly trying to offer many of the peripheral services themselves. The graphic below from Zillow shows how many people are involved in the real estate process and how complex that can make things for the consumer to get from point A to point B.
That is why smart entrepreneurs, like our friend Ben Kinney, are looking to bring things like mortgage, title and escrow in house. It makes things simpler for the consumer and it makes the transaction more profitable for the brokerage. As Ben puts it, “I am laser-focused on continuing our mission to bring more value and services directly to the consumer while keeping the real estate agent relevant in every single transaction. We will continue to focus on finding more opportunities to save the consumer money and time when they work with one of our BKCO agents or purchase one of our listings.”
We expect to see a lot more of this "vertical integration" as a way to increase referrals to additional add-on services in the coming months and years.
7. Being Active In The Right Facebook Groups
At Curaytor, we work with some of the most passionate and successful agents on the planet. One of the perks of membership is that our clients get to be a part of a private mastermind on Facebook where they can share ideas in a safe space. Because our services are highly exclusive by market our customers are comfortable giving away their secret sauce and best practices knowing they aren't doing so with all of their competitors, who would inevitably copy them.
But they also send each other a ton of referrals. See, top agents want to send referrals to other top agents. They know that if they send a referral to another Curaytor client their referral will be well taken care of as they have the right systems, processes, technology and mindset to deliver five 5-star service. We asked recently how many of them had actually closed one or more referrals from being a part of our community and it was amazing how many had.
What we noticed based on their responses was that there was a direct correlation between how active they were in the mastermind and how many referrals they would get. If you are going to get referrals from a Facebook Group you have to give to get. Post helpful advice frequently. Answer other agents questions in the comments. By being an active participant you will increase the number of referrals you receive and people will even tag you when a referral opportunity is posted.
Getting more real estate referrals takes a plan. Sure, you can get them passively but the magic happens when you get proactive about your "referral generation" efforts.