You may have heard Jay O’Brien speak passionately about the importance of staying in touch with clients or the extravagant perks he’s been known to lavish on them, like post-deal dinners and car service to the meal. Indeed, this is an agent who believes in high touch.
But O’Brien, a managing partner at Re/Max Prestige in Southern California, would rather spend money on clients who know him well and will likely send him future referrals. The agent, who was named among the National Association of Realtors’ “30 under 30” in 2015, is not a big believer in spending thousands of dollars a month generating what he calls “icy cold leads.”
Instead, building relationships through social media and buttressing those connections with meaningful treats for his clients — like a care package for ailing homeowners — has worked for O’Brien, who earlier this month spun his gift for developing high-touch relationships into a new startup, Client Giant, which helps agents and businesses with client retention strategies.
“I like making people feel good,” said O’Brien, a former Best Buy sales manager whose talk about client rewards in January was among the most popular at this year’s Inman Connect New York event. “That’s what made me do well at Best Buy, and, in real estate, I feel like that’s a niche I have.”
Client Giant’s so-called escrow packages range from $349 for the Gold package, $599 for the Platinum and $999 for the Diamond. With the Diamond package, the client gets a celebratory dinner at a five-star restaurant and transportation to and from the restaurant, among other treats. With the more expensive packages — Diamond and Platinum — clients are offered professional services, like cleaners, gardeners or a repairperson.
Other services include transferring utilities for clients, providing moving boxes and forwarding mail. The more you pay, the more customized the service. For the beta version, O’Brien and his business partner, the tech entrepreneur Jeff Jackel, invited 100 professionals — most of them real estate agents who made contact after his talks — to take a test drive of the service. The company will roll out its services to new clients in June, he said.
When an agent has a deal at escrow stage, “this is your opportunity to deliver the unbelievable experience,” O’Brien said. “You have 30 to 90 days to wow this person.”
Most agents don’t know the importance of delivering an unforgettable experience at this point, said O’Brien, who does not recommend the $250 Home Depot gift card at closing. “Be very careful how you quantify a relationship with someone who trusts you,” he said.
He doesn’t like sending a birthday card on a client’s birthday, either. Too easy, he said.
What size deal merits the Diamond package? “For me, I say anything over $500,000,” he told Inman. “At an average commission of 2.5 percent, that’s $12,500 GCI and the additional cost from Platinum to Diamond represents 3 percent of that total income. I feel like I’d be insane not to do that.”
To stay in touch after the deal, agents are invited to sign up for a $9.99 a month top-of-mind plan, which sends a seasonal gift each quarter to a client and a warm message from the agent. Client Giant just sent out a load of seasonal beach towels to agents’ clients.
“It’s thoughtful and relevant and keeps the real estate agent top-of-mind,” said the self-titled, “Chief Day Maker.”
Agents provide Client Giant with details from their database, like kids’ names, ages, hobbies, anniversary dates and so on. The company has a portal that allows agents to see the planned quarterly actions so they can monitor what the company is doing on their behalf.
It’s not uncommon for a client who’s received a gift or a service to blast it all over their social media, O’Brien told Inman.
“You can’t pay for that kind of marketing,” he said.