Valentine’s Day reservations and salon blowout parties are just a few perks that can lead to new referrals, panelists at Inman Connect said Thursday.

One of Shay Hata‘s most unusual marketing ideas was the result of a botched Valentine’s Day.

Hata, a Berkshire Hathaway agent in Chicago, said at Inman Connect Thursday that in her city anyone who wants to go out for Valentine’s Day has to make restaurant reservations months in advance. But one year, however, Hata herself forgot to make those reservations, and the experience made her realize that she probably wasn’t alone. In fact, she realized she might be able to solve a problem for clients before they even realized they were facing it.

Shay Hata, right, at Inman Connect Thursday. Credit: Jim Dalrymple II

“So three months in advance, we call all the best restaurants in town,” she explained.

Hata’s team makes reservations at those restaurants, then as the holiday itself approaches offers those reservations to clients who may not have made plans for themselves. It’s a service, she explained, that let’s her maintain contact in a meaningful and productive way.

“It’s a great way to connect with our clients, to provide them with an additional service that they never would have known that they needed,” Hata added.

Hata’s restaurant reservations are part of a marketing strategy she uses to stay in touch with clients both in the short and long term. The strategy developed after she moved to Chicago herself and heard that most people would be willing to work with their agents multiple times, but don’t because they can’t remember those agents’ names. So she set out to make sure that doesn’t happen to her.

In Hata’s case, she sends clients she is actively working with information daily to help them “know how a transaction works.” Afterward, she works to stay in touch with them for seven years via services like the Valentine’s Day reservations and a “blowout dry party” for women at a local salon.

Hata said that the salon days also serve as good lead generation activities.

“I close 4 or 5 transactions from each of those events,” she said.

Over the course of six years, this approach has helped Hata grow from “not knowing anybody” in Chicago to doing tens of millions of volume each year. And the key, she explained, is proactively looking for ways not just to stay in touch, but also to solve clients’ problems that may or may not be directly related to the sale of a particular property.

“Those tools and that strategy really allowed me to grow quickly,” Hata added.

David Marine, Coldwell Banker’s senior vice president of marketing, also recommended looking for atypical marketing opportunities. Speaking during the same Inman Connect session with Hata Thursday, he recalled building Coldwell Banker’s first mobile-friendly website, and launching a program to get shelter dogs new homes.

The driving idea behind such marketing strategies was wondering “if we can do more.”

“We all like to look outside of our industry for inspiration,” Marine added.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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