How Million-Dollar Agents Use Client Appreciation Events to Get Referrals

Part 2 in our series:

How Real Estate Agents Can Optimize Their Referral Marketing Strategies

Why client appreciation events are not as popular among real estate agents as they are, say, among financial advisors, I can’t imagine. But this is something I do know . . .

If you’re an agent (or, frankly, any other service professional) and you’re not hosting client appreciation events, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to get referrals you might otherwise never get.

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Many real estate agents show their appreciation to clients by giving a gift at closing. (I received a really cool house made of tasty chocolate at my closing.) But client appreciation events (or customer appreciation events, if you prefer) need to be a part of your overall marketing plan for several reasons:

  • They add to your credibility.
  • They increase your brand awareness.
  • They humanize you, allowing your clients to see you as someone other than an agent.
  • They are among the more creative ways to get referrals from a strong and loyal client base.

In Part 1 of our series on ways to optimize your referral marketing strategy, you can read about the power of referrals to grow your business as well as how you can use some basic psychology, like the principle of reciprocity, that practically guarantees more client referrals.

Sidebar: In case you aren’t familiar, the principle of reciprocity refers to our almost undeniable need to do something nice for someone who has done something nice for us. You can use this principle to solicit referrals from clients for whom you have done a great service or, as this article suggests, throw a popular client appreciation event.

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What follows here, in Part 2, are some of the best client appreciation event ideas from some of our most popular Stay Paid podcast guests. Our podcast guests represent a variety of professional service industries, including real estate, financial services, wealth management, mortgage, and insurance. Each has used their events as opportunities to network and apply the principle of reciprocity to garner referrals.

Tony Ray Baker

Top-Producing Agent, Tucson, Arizona

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From practically the beginning, Tony Ray Baker has run his real estate business solely on referrals. His belief is if you give clients concierge service, they will naturally want to refer their friends and family to you because they’ll want them to have the same amazing experience.

This belief has sustained his business for more than 25 years.

During his interview, Tony Ray talks about a block party he throws every year. Several hundred people show up because his marketing is so ubiquitous that his community sees him everywhere.

He also holds a regular happy hour on Wednesdays. The evening before, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., he sends about 50 texts to people on his list asking them to join him at a hotel bar for a happy hour. Typically, nearly everyone shows up.

The setup is exceptionally easy: he purchases appetizers from the hotel. His guests arrive, buy drinks, and socialize with one another. Like a good host, he ensures he mingles and chats with everyone. At the end of the party, the hotel does the cleaning up—and Tony Ray walks out the door with his new friends.

Whether it’s a hotel or a favorite local watering hole doesn’t really matter. What does matter is ensuring that everyone has an enjoyable time. Do that repeatedly, and people will come.

Click here to listen to Tony Ray’s full interview.

Marc Minor

Founder and CEO, Legacy Investment Services, Inc.

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He may be a CEO, but Marc Minor remains an active producer in the financial services industry with a half-billion-dollar book of business that consists mostly of referred clients—many of whom he first met while networking at his client appreciation events.

It’s worth listening to Marc’s full interview because he lays out, more than I can do here, the step-by-step blueprint he uses to plan his golf outings—and have someone else pay for them!

When Marc asks a client, “Would you like to put a foursome together for a round of golf?” he’s asking them to bring a referral to him. He greets the group, making sure he thanks the client who has brought his or her guests “because we would never be where we are without you doing that. This is friends and family only; it’s a club.”

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This club-like atmosphere creates a sense of exclusivity, which is a highly appealing persuasive tactic. When he or his team calls those referrals within 48 hours of the outing to offer a second opinion on their portfolios, they are rarely refused.

Marc doesn’t play golf during these events. Instead, he spends his time building and nurturing relationships. He walks around providing drinks and food to the players, being of service, and making sure he spends some time talking with each person.

Your event doesn’t have to be a golf outing. It could be a wine and cheese party, a chocolate tasting, or some other equally “exclusive” event. Invite your clients and ask them to bring a guest. At the end of the event, you can provide an etched wine glass, a box of the chocolates they most liked, or another appropriate swag item bearing your company name.

The important takeaway is to ensure that the event, whatever it may be, is well-planned and flawlessly executed.

You can listen to Marc’s full Stay Paid interview here.

Bill Good

Chairman, Bill Good Marketing, Inc.

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Bill Good is a prospecting expert who, among other things, helps professionals in financial services to train their clients to provide them with “real” referrals, which he defines as a name volunteered by a client needing your service. For Bill, having a client volunteer a referral is far different from asking a client for a referral.

In his interview, Bill refers to client events as opportunities to have clients who are socially well-connected engage with you outside the purview of business.

His recommendation, especially if you’re new to client events, is to start small. His advice is to start with birthday lunches because they are easy to pull together.

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Explain to your client that you’d like to host a lunch to celebrate their special day, and that they are to invite four or five of their good friends, golf buddies, tennis club partners, or whomever. You reserve a room at a restaurant, plan a fixed menu (or not), and make arrangements for a cake. Ask your client for their guests’ contact information, send handwritten invitations with an RSVP request, and voilà—you’ve got a client event.

Keep that contact information! Follow up with a card to each guest thanking them for attending. Include a business card, and let them know that you’ll stay in touch. Connect with them on social media, send them your value-laden email newsletter, and include them in your personally branded magazine mailing. (We have four you can choose from.)

Click here and enjoy Bill’s conversation with the Stay Paid pals.

Additional ideas for client appreciation events

So many of our Stay Paid guests have willingly shared their ideas for client appreciation events. We’ve heard from agents who:

  • host tailgate parties during football season,
  • rent an ice cream truck for a couple of hours on a hot summer day, or
  • partner with a local bakery to give away free donuts for a morning.

There are so many unique client appreciation events to add to the list! Just use your imagination or search online for more ideas. My personal tip—add food. It seems to work really well! 🥰

Best practices for planning and hosting client appreciation events

When planning an event to express your appreciation to clients, consider the suggestions below from the writers at The Advisor Coach. They’ll help ensure your event is a success and goes off without a hitch.

Consider your timing

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It’s probably best that real estate agents are especially busy during the summer months, otherwise you might think the months between May and September are the perfect time to host a client event. But many of your clients will probably be taking vacations, and what’s the point of hosting an event if no one is available to attend?

Carefully consider the date, time, and location to ensure availability. Also, there’s nothing wrong with simply asking guests about their preferences regarding when and where they’d like to gather together.

Plan with your audience’s demographics and interests in mind. This is where having a robust database complete with details about your clients will prove invaluable.

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Not every client will enjoy the same type of event, and not every event will be suitable for every client. Consider segmenting your audience according to their interests and plan accordingly. And don’t forget about the kids!

Do not pitch or sell your services

There is a time and place for everything, but pitching business at a client appreciation event isn’t one of them. Not surprisingly, the best client appreciation events are all about the clients having fun and enjoying themselves. Don’t sully the mood by talking shop. If a client brings up business, make arrangements to meet with them at another time.

Invite family and friends

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The more the merrier! Encourage your clients to bring their families and friends because a) no one wants to go to an event where they don’t know anyone, and b) all those extra people are potential new clients!

As you walk among your guests, your current clients will introduce you to whomever they brought along. The obvious introduction will include some kind words about how great an agent you are and possibly what you did for them. You can ensure that these new potential clients will remember you by including a personally branded magazine in swag bags as a parting gift for attendees.

Don’t let any single person monopolize your time

Mix and mingle is the name of the game. Make everyone feel welcomed and valued. Move around and spend a few minutes with each guest; they’ll appreciate being acknowledged.

Bring business cards

Your clients may already have your business card, or maybe not. It’s likely that friends and family members don’t, so be sure to have plenty of cards with you. An extra tip: have a couple of pens handy too.

Send reminders and add an events page to your website

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People get busy, so send a reminder to your guests at least one weeks prior to your event. Also, consider adding an events page to your website; it’s something most of your competitors won’t have. Post pictures to the page and social media (tag names!), and don’t delete the event when it’s over. Instead, move it down the page and place your next event at the top.

Bonus tip: Don’t want for the holidays to say thanks

I’m not sure how the folks at The Adviser Coach missed this one, but the most effective client events are not the one-and-done holiday party. Rather, the most effective and best events are frequent gatherings that bring clients and their friends, families, and other members of their social sphere together. Each is a chance to reinforce your clients’ top of mind awareness of you and meet new potential prospects.

The takeaway

As so many of our more than 200 podcast guests have explained, it doesn’t take much to connect with your sphere to thank them for their trust and business; without it, you wouldn’t be where you are. Hosting events is just one way to appreciate your customers—but it’s an exceptional good one because it triggers their need to reciprocate one kind deed with another. And nothing is kinder to a real estate agent than a referral.

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But the challenge is to keep that connection consistent. How do you stay in front of all those new leads you’ve collected at your events? The time in between is when memories fade.

You need something to reinforce memories of the good time they had and keep yourself top of mind.

For example, one way we help our clients do this is with out personally branded magazine service. Imagine that a few weeks after a client event, the new people you met go to their mailboxes and find a gorgeous publication with your photo, business, and contact information on the front cover that looks like it came directly from your office.

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Then, when they open it, they see a letter printed on the inside front cover saying how much you enjoyed meeting them and hearing about—and this is where it gets really cool—a topic from your conversation! Talk about personalizing your marketing! You can choose to customize these letters to the individual recipient at no additional cost!

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And they won’t receive just one magazine.

For less than the cost of a typical Hallmark® card, we’ll automatically send one of our beautiful and engaging publications to your exclusive list of recipients every six weeks to ensure you stay top of mind and the memories last until your next event.

Click here, and we’ll send you a free PDF sample of our most recent issue to your inbox.

Part 3 of our series, which you can find here, features five additional Stay Paid guests who are at the top of their professions. Take a look and learn the creative and innovative ways they use gratitude marketing to generate more client referrals.

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Subscribe to the Stay Paid podcast! CLICK HERE
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Written by Gabrielle C. King

I’ve spent my 30-year career making complex and unfamiliar ideas easy to understand. Today I routinely write 2,500 words or less to help entrepreneurs like real estate agents, RIAs, insurance agents, and others better understand marketing and feel a renewed confidence in their ability to close more deals and retain more business.