getting leads in a coffee shop

Whether you’re just starting out in the real estate industry or you’re a seasoned veteran, referrals are a great way to expand your business. According the National Association of Realtors® 2017 Member Profile, the typical Realtor® received 18% of their business from referrals. Looking to increase your business without increasing the cost of marketing associated with getting that business? While farming your personal network and sphere of influence is (almost) always the most effective source, sometimes it isn’t enough. Try these ideas to increase your referral leads for free!

Agent Networking and Referral Groups

Facebook, once seen as the best way to lose a few hours wasting time, has become an omnipotent social channel. Want to buy something? Check the Marketplace. Looking for a recommendation? Crowdsource the answer by using Facebook’s Recommendations feature. Want to connect with others in your industry/community/interest group? Facebook has a group for that. For real estate industry professionals, these groups can be an excellent way to source marketing ideas, find solutions for finicky clients, and even get referrals. By being an active member of these online communities, you are able to interact with agents from across the country or world, depending on the group.

When a group member knows of a person in their sphere of influence needing a real estate expert in a place they are not licensed or qualified to assist in, oftentimes these groups become the first place to look for someone who is. Sure, a quick internet search will return the name of someone doing business in the area, but using these groups help to provide social proof into the best candidate for the client. Group members are able to suggest themselves, but often also suggest those they have done transactions with before who might not be in the group. This is especially helpful when looking to refer a client to an agent in an area not covered by your brokerage.

Horizontally Grow Your Network

It’s been said time and time again, your network is your net worth. Most successful agents have a huge network spanning across different industries, interests, and demographics and for good reason! If your network is mostly made up of real estate professionals, you’re most likely not going to see many referral leads, but if you have connections in a variety of fields you increase your chances of being the agent for the job.

Growing your sphere of influence takes time and effort and referral leads won’t come in overnight. Simply showing up at a local networking event and passing out your business cards isn’t going turn on the lead hose (although it probably won’t hurt!), but rather you have to invest in your network. Consider joining a recreational sports league, a community initiative, or signing up to volunteer on a regular basis as these groups tend to have a good mix of demographics which will help you expand your reach even further.

Find Your Niche

In larger cities, finding a niche market can be the golden ticket to referral leads. If you’re known as the local expert for first-time homebuyers, commercial buildings, waterfront properties, farmland or anything else you can use that to your advantage as a differentiator from your competition. For some agents, the flow of business from this can be consistent enough that it can become their entire business! Agents in smaller cities can use niche marketing as well, but it’s important to strike a delicate balance between specialization and generalization so that clients aren’t turned away because “that agent only works with X properties”.

Finding a niche is easy. Imagine your ideal clients or favorite deals you’ve worked on. What’s the common thread? Do you have a particular fondness for helping seniors downsize, helping people relocate to your area, or have a passion for selling buildable lots? Start incorporating that into your marketing. Adding a paragraph to your agent bio on your company’s website is a good start, as is creating a page on your personal website dedicated to your newfound niche. The goal of adding this to your marketing is to have search engines like Google place you at the top of the results page when your ideal client starts their search.

Become a Local Celebrity

In the “old days” of real estate, agents plastered their faces on billboards and placed ads in every edition of the local newspaper they could afford. Sometimes there would be a sports car or luxury home in the background, other times you’d see them standing with their arms crossed, looking cool and confident. In the days before social media, having your face in these places meant you were IMPORTANT. Now, with the majority of consumer attention focused online, that’s where you need to be most visible.

One of the best ways to cultivate this status is to create and share content about your local area on your real estate social media pages. Visiting a festival? Post a Facebook Live video and encourage community members to come check it out! Know of all the best happy hour spots in your town? Write a blog post and share it to your agent page. Continue to produce great information about your local area and with a small amount of paid promotion you’ll establish yourself as the go-to person for information about your area.

Create Partnerships

There are plenty of referral sources that promise a flow of referral leads. While some of these can be successful, they often come at a high price and many services are plagued by spam with incorrect or outdated information. Instead of paying for all leads, look for programs that are pay-for-performance based wherein you only pay for the lead on a successfully completed transaction or find the opportunity to form true partnerships. These arrangements can lower the cost of marketing because there’s no money at stake if it doesn’t work.

Partnerships like this can be found in a variety of places. Home builders or remodelers are often a great resource as they often work with clients who may be looking to buy or sell as are elderly care facilities looking to offer a resource to help new or prospective residents sell their home. While real estate tends to be a local business, don’t forget to think on a larger scale as well. Companies such as AgentPronto that are geared toward this type of arrangement and work on a pay-for-success model that can be a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Many companies such as RealtyHive work with consumers directly and need a licensed MLS-member local agent to assist with showings, postings, and other boots-on-the-ground work. Partnering with companies like this positions you to be the go-to local agent when projects come up in your area while also helping you reach buyers as many of these platforms allow you to link to your other listings or personal website.

Top 5 Quick Tips for Free Referrals

  1. Join Agent Networking and Referral Groups
  2. An agent who isn’t your competition can be your biggest ally.

  3. Horizontally Grow Your Network
  4. It pays to make connections with people in diverse industries.

  5. Find Your Niche
  6. When clients are looking for a specific property, make sure you show up in their search.

  7. Become a Local Celebrity
  8. Knowing your city is valuable, but having your city know you is invaluable.

  9. Create Partnerships
  10. Look for new opportunities by partnering with others in different areas or industries.

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