I have three geriatric dogs. Although the stack of vet receipts proves their advanced age, I find myself constantly checking my pooches while they’re napping to see if they’re still breathing. I do the same thing with my former real estate clients, if you can believe it.

If one of my dogs sleeps through my grabbing the keys before leaving the house, while the other two run for the door (well, it’s more like “toddle” to the door) I’m Johnny-on-the-spot, looking at the sides of its body for signs of exhaling and inhaling.

Do you check for signs of life from your former real estate clients?

Are they still breathing? If you’ve grown tired of prospecting, of wondering where your next commission check will come from, it is imperative that you breathe life into your former real estate clients.

It’s also beyond important to remain top-of-mind with them not only for referrals, but to earn their repeat business as well.

The proof

former real estate clients - Keeping them happy

The National Association of Realtors has some amazing statistics when it comes to former clients. One of these is that agents making in excess of $100,000 got 29 percent of their business through referrals from past clients and 34 percent through repeat business from past clients.

That’s 63 percent of their business that they didn’t have to chase after. I don’t know about you, but I find that compelling.

Plus, calling a former client is a warm call. . .no sweaty palms, no call reluctance . . .it’s pick up the phone, dial and chat.

How much easier do you want it to be?

There is more, however, that you can do to ensure they still have a pulse and entice them to help you make money.

What’s in your plan?

This is one of the most important lessons to learn: if “your marketing campaign is ego-based (meaning it’s all about you and your next transaction),” you need to change. NOW, says real estate trainer Denise Lones of Bellingham, WA.

Ego-based marketing, she says, “creates the image of a shark-like predator in people’s minds and they will avoid you just as they would a Great White.”

Relationship-based marketing, on the other hand, has customer satisfaction as its bedrock, and building long-term relationships as its sole aim.

The bonus to this type of marketing is that it’s cheaper than trying to generate real estate leads among people you don’t know.

Philip Kotler, co-author of “Principles of Marketing,” reinforces this claim: “it may cost five times more to attract new customers than it would to retain current customers.”

Pretty amazing, huh?

You will spend FIVE TIMES MORE money generating new real estate leads than keeping alive the clients you already have.

Who is in your CRM?

Ah, come on – there’s room in that CRM for more than just former real estate clients. In fact, there’s a great-big chunk of business just waiting for you from every person you know, who lives in the area you serve.

This includes your dentist, your mechanic and even your child’s teacher.

If they have a pulse, they should be in your CRM

But, how will you know they have a pulse if you don’t communicate with them? More important, how will they know YOU have one?

How you approach these other-than-former-clients is through customization of your marketing materials, from newsletters to mailings.

“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,” recommends Seth Godin in his book “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.”

Segmenting your CRM into potential sellers and buyers is a basic way to approach this, but why not drill down?

  • First time and repeat homebuyers
  • First time and repeat sellers
  • Condo sellers and buyers
  • Baby boomers, Gen X and Millennials

Use interest-oriented content for past clients. This might include where the market is headed, home maintenance and décor topics and even food.

 The ideal vehicle

One of the best ways to maintain relationships and stay top of mind is by reaching out to each person, consistently. And one of the easiest, most efficient methods is the drip email campaign.

The two most important aspects of the drip campaign when using it in relationship marketing are ensuring it gets off to a good start and determining the frequency of contact.

Once a month or so I receive a local real estate magazine. You may have one in your area too – those glossy publications that promise so much, until you figure out that what’s between the covers is nothing but advertising.

I did look through the first copy I received and found not one piece of relevant or valuable content.

They blew their first impression

former real estate clients - A blown first impression

Even if they started filling the magazine with useful content I wouldn’t know because I throw the magazine away without opening it.

You counsel your listing clients about the importance of curb appeal, that it’s their only chance to make a good first impression, right? It’s the same for your drip campaign materials. Hook them with that first campaign. 

Figuring out how often to drip on them involves walking a fine line between saying howdy and spamming

Base your contact frequency on where you think they are in the funnel. People who most recently transacted with you are obviously not in the market to buy or sell a home so weekly contact may alienate them.

A monthly email may be more appropriate – even longer is fine.

When to get face-to-face

While email drip campaigns are an efficient way to keep in touch with large groups of people, some of those names in your CRM require the occasional face-to-face encounter. The annual client appreciation event is one idea, but your effort to maintain a relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be that splashy.

Even an invite for coffee or a cocktail offers a chance to catch up and to solidify your relationship with former real estate clients

And, to make it even more effective to your real estate lead generation efforts, segment, again.

For instance, those former real estate clients who have a large network of contacts should be your “A” group (more contacts for them to spread the word about the best real estate agent in town), and the ones you’ll concentrate on when it comes to the personal touch.

These are the folks you want to go above and beyond to keep in contact with. One California agent never misses a birthday of folks in her “A” group and acknowledges the day with an invitation to lunch.

Yes, this can get pricey, but (at least so far) it’s tax deductible, which should take the sting out of it.

Whatever method you choose to check for signs of life from your “A” group, ensure that it lets them know you value and appreciate them.