• Building a service-oriented pipeline takes time, but it's a stronger referral source that lasts a lifetime.

Are you an old-school prospector? You know, the kind who budgets a lot for advertising, tends to be a little pushy or aggressive and lives for cold calling? Not me!

If you’re like me, the traditional way probably makes you feel a bit icky. If a sales pitch wouldn’t work on me, then I won’t use it on a prospect. I prefer the softer sell. The kind that attracts people to me instead of repelling them away.

The best way to build a real estate business (or any business for that matter) is through relationship building. Building relationships with prospects on a solid ground of service creates loyalty and referrals.

The downside of this type of prospecting is that it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. It takes time to build these relationships and create a pipeline that is self-sufficient and doesn’t require at least some force-feeding.

Service-oriented prospecting incorporates five elements. They are value-based marketing principles, service-oriented focal points, social media attraction and interaction, community participation and good old-fashioned friendship. Here are five ways you can put these principles to work.

1. Compel the prospect to seek you out through lead magnets

Lead magnets are used in just about all forms of advertising. The concept is simple. You offer prospects something of value in exchange for their contact information. Lead magnets should be specific, create a sense of urgency and be easy to digest.

In real estate, some incentives that work well are homebuyer and seller guides, property comparative market analysis and remodel ideas that can yield a higher return on investment.

2. Be professional, prompt and proactive when addressing your clients’ needs

On his blog, marketing guru Seth Godin explained how an overlap between your needs and the customer’s needs can cause marketing efforts to fail. He said, “You can save everyone a lot of time and hassle if you begin and end with a focus on being of service.”

Focusing on service can mean something different for each client. First-time homebuyers may need a lot of hand-holding to help them understand the process whereas a relocation client may require you to act more as an ambassador for his or her new town.

No matter what your clients’ needs are, always put them first.

3. Become a social media star, and attract clients by offering relevant and fun content

I find that a set schedule helps me stay on track with this one. I have a different theme for each day of the week, and then I post items relating to that subject on various social media accounts.

The consistency builds a following. The key is to ask open-ended questions in your posts to get your community to interact.

If you are on a tight budget, it is not necessary to sponsor your post when using social media as part of your marketing plan. If your information is fun and relevant, you can post most of your content on your personal page and link it back to your business page.

4. Be visible in the community

Do what you love, and you will attract prospects to you.

Volunteer for community events. Sign up for social clubs. Diversify your efforts throughout the areas you do business in and begin building relationships.

Try to meet 10 or more new people each day, and add them to your contact list. You want people to recognize your face and associate it with real estate.

5. Cultivate relationships through dependability

To have a friend, you must be a friend. Provide the same prompt and proactive service for your new acquaintances as you do to your clients. Be present, help them when possible and always be dependable.

Relationship building through service-oriented prospecting will come naturally to agents who are not comfortable with the more aggressive way of prospecting.

Remember, what you do now will come to fruition in about six months so be patient, stay on course, and before you know it, your pipeline will cultivate a steady stream of business.

Missy Yost is a Realtor with Weichert Realtors Coastal Properties in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Follow The Yost Group on Facebook or Twitter

Email Missy Yost

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