How to sincerely connect with clients in a digital age

Door to door is gone with the wind, but you can create a community online

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“The good old days are now.” –Tom Clancy

An old friend once shared a story about his start in real estate, and it has stuck with me for years. In the early 1980s, he would drive to a neighborhood, park his car and go door to door, introducing himself to the owner of each home and striking up a conversation. Whether the conversation turned to the topic of real estate or not wasn’t the point. His goal was to meet people and build relationships.

Within a couple of years, my friend and his wife started their own brokerage and became quite successful and well­-known in their tight­-knit community. His advice to budding agents was always the same: You’ve got to get out there and talk to people.

While the heyday of the door­-to-­door sales call may be a thing of the past, my friend’s advice still applies. Luckily, it’s easier now than ever. We are waist-­deep in the age of all things digital, and there’s nothing stopping real estate agents from applying old-school advice to new-school mobile and digital methodologies. Here’s how:

1. Tweet door to door: Twitter is a nut that many real estate agents have yet to crack. However, get past the initial intimidation factor and you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.

The Twitter search function is a completely underutilized online lead tool, even though it’s simple to use: Test the waters with several combinations of keywords (#location + “buying a house,” “want to buy a house,” “want to move,” “live in [city],” etc.), and start by “favoriting” results that appeal to you. Offer answers, suggestions and helpful tips to users seeking advice without asking for anything in return. Take 15 minutes every day to do this and you’ll see a difference in both your followers and your presence on the platform.

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2. Hit the email pavement: Each day, send an email to a handful of your existing contacts, making a point to comment on something meaningful to them. Ask them what they thought of last night’s basketball game, how their spouse and children are doing, or congratulate them on the promotion you heard they just received­. The key is to make it personal and genuine. You’re not asking them to buy a house, you’re reminding them you care.

If you publish an email newsletter, be sure to ask your subscribers in every email: “Is there anything I can do for you? Send me a reply, I would love to hear from you.” This is the virtual equivalent of an open-door policy. When you receive responses, it is crucial that you respond — not your assistant, and definitely not an automated robot. Should these contacts need a real estate agent, you already have started to build a relationship and that gives you a built-­in advantage.

3. Howdy, Facebook neighbor: Get friendly with the locals on Facebook. “Like” local businesses from your business Facebook page and check in and comment on their posts and goings-­on. If your local Italian restaurant is trying out a new special, comment on how delicious the dish looks. If the news station posts a feel-good story about a local athlete, post a congratulatory message.

When you network with other businesses and organizations, their friends and followers will see your comments on their pages. This interaction shows you’re an active member of your local (online) community, and it extends your brand presence and reach beyond the ad in your local school’s football program or your sign on a bus bench. Seeing your name and reading your comments gives people the impression that you’re someone who is actively involved in the community — and that’s an asset they’ll want in an agent when the time comes.

I challenge you to spend 30 minutes each day over the next two weeks testing these techniques. Observe how people respond to you, whether your online community grows and how you feel after carving time out of your day to connect with your neighbors. Chances are, you’ll be more in tune with what’s going on around you and you’ll remind all of those potential clients just how well-­connected you really are.

I have only one question: “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Bill Fishkin is the CEO of Neighbrhds, which creates custom curated, Realtor­-sponsored mobile apps aimed at neighborhoods, communities and municipalities across the U.S. and Canada. He is also the founder and CEO of SynMedia, a full-service social media, marketing and design agency based in California.