Alert: It’s that season again — the "What have you done for me lately?" time. Maybe you’ve slacked off over the summer, but don’t you dare pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve never met a Realtor who wasn’t working some kind of client retention program.

My first brokerage taught me to send clients car wash coupons inside birthday cards. To be a top producer, I would need to drop off a bottle of champagne on the anniversary of their home purchase.

And in order to add my name to the multimillion-dollar club roster, I should plan on throwing appreciation parties featuring clowns, monkeys and first-run movie screenings. I embraced these rules and began to take note of what other Realtors added to this list.

Some Realtors subscribe to programs that send monthly coupons to their client lists: pizza pies, boxes of cookies, holiday wreaths, Christmas trees, etc. Other programs encourage Realtors and mortgage professionals to include "items of value" within the monthly mailings.

As a recipient, I’ve collected every 4-by-6-inch knickknack imaginable, including refrigerator magnets, pads of sticky notes, and miniature desk calendars. While I see no end in sight, one mortgage professional has (apparently) run out of ideas. She’s abandoned all the little plastic doodads in favor of envelopes bursting with confetti, her cards screaming "HAVE A FUN DAY!" in all caps. And why not? It’s a party in a card.

Ever since I became a Realtor I’ve been trying to determine if putting my face on a wine bottle or engraving my name in a pie-cutter would increase my business. Cutting boards, knife sets, cigar humidors — would my bottom line improve a little bit thanks to these personalized gifts?

Maybe a note would do the trick — etched, of course, on the underside: "Dear Mary, this cake stand is sturdy and beautiful, just like your home. Call me! –Alisha."

The trouble is, I don’t believe Mr. Jones is going to slice into a nice, moist filet mignon and stop — midcut — to admire my choice of steak blade and call me for a comparable market analysis.

And oh, my gosh, what if Mr. Jones doesn’t eat meat? What if he’s a vegetarian? Or (gasp) a vegan! The problem with these coupons and so-called items of value is that they are much too direct and far too vague.

A sticky note is often useful, but I don’t want one that’s got no room left to write on thanks to an annoyingly large logo.

A true "item of value" would be information, right? Like real hard data! What’s selling? Where is it selling? What’s the forecast look like? And so on. We’re the professionals, after all! So stop passing out candy corn.

Seriously. Put away the cellophane bag of candy. You’re better than that.

Me? Well, I’ve always been a data girl. Just the facts, thank you very much. Every month I crunch the numbers and provide my database with reality.

That being said, I also really want to make sure that they remember that the data came from me. The last thing on earth I want to do is put in all this professional work and not get the credit when the neighbor asks, "Who’s the best Realtor in town?"

So this holiday season, my market data will be organized in an easy-to-read Excel spreadsheet with a personal handwritten note at the bottom (and a few Laffy Taffy’s stapled at the top), placed in an envelope addressed by a professional calligrapher, and attached to a puppy adopted in my clients’ name from the Humane Society.

Sure, I’m investing in a lot of puppies. Yeah, it’s expensive. But, I’ve put a lot of thought into this. And a puppy is nothing like a cutting board. Everyone loves puppies — and they’ll never forget who gave it to them.

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