Everyone has received a generic birthday card from the dentist or insurance agent. It’s nice to be recognized, but it doesn’t make a lasting impact. Here are three business-building activities that are memorable, personal and keep the agent at the top of the client’s mind.

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Real estate is about relationships. Always has been, always will be. According to the National Association of Realtors 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, in fact, as much as two-thirds of real estate transactions come from referrals.

Agents get the vast bulk of their business from people who already know and trust them and want them to succeed. Eighty-five percent of homesellers said they would definitely or probably recommend their agent for future services, according to the same report.

Building a successful real estate career based on relationships needs to be planned, thoughtful and consistent. It must be as strategic as it is meaningful. This means getting involved in the lives of new, current and past clients — keeping in touch and adding value to an ever-expanding group of individuals.

There are hundreds of ways to keep in touch with past clients. Newsletters, birthday cards and movie tickets all work in keeping an agent’s name in front of past clients, but they also fall short when it comes to actually building a relationship and getting referrals.

Everyone has received a generic birthday card from their dentist or insurance agent. Yes, it’s nice to be recognized, but does it make the recipient more likely to recommend business to the sender? Probably not.

Here are three business-building activities that are memorable, personal and keep the agent at the top of the client’s mind. They are not meant to replace other tactics but rather serve as examples of high-value activities.

1. Host a dumpster party

At least once a year, rent a dumpster for your clients to use. Everybody always has items that need to be discarded and would appreciate a free way to dispose of them. The invites should be made by calling all the people in your database, as you’ll get a much higher response rate than if you simply emailed them.

Try to get them to commit to a specific time so they will be more likely to show up and bring their items to you. This also helps avoid having too many people drop off items at the same time, which would limit the amount of time you have to catch up with each of them. The whole idea is to remind them what a great person and agent you are.

A dumpster party could also be an office-wide event. Think grilling, refreshments and maybe an inflatable bounce house. Hold it in the parking lot of your office. The bigger the event, the more positive impact it has for the agents and company. For eco-minded clients, you can offer a donation or recycling option as well.

2. Bake cookies, and break bread

The holidays are a great time to bake cookies, bread or make something tasty. A homemade wreath will stay up for the entire season, and it gives past clients a reason to mention your name to friends and guests. The key is to make the item yourself and personally deliver it.

This activity does not need to be reserved for the holidays either. The time of year, or the item itself, is not as important as creating and delivering a memorable way to get face-to-face with past clients and let them know how much you appreciate them being a part of your life.

Call and arrange a drop-off time beforehand to make sure you get the opportunity to have a decent conversation.

3. Paint the house

Another really cool idea is to hire a local artist to create a signed, original piece of art based on the exterior of the home. It could be watercolor, line-drawing or any medium, as long as it’s high quality.

Take the piece from the artist, and have it framed and matted. Make it so beautiful that the homeowner will prominently display it in their home. It becomes a daily reminder of what a great experience they had working with their agent.

It also serves as a natural conversation starter when company drops in, meaning your name will certainly be mentioned over and over. Make sure your past clients have plenty of your business cards available to hand out when this happens.

True business relationship-building activities need to be memorable, add value and get the agent face-to-face with the client. A handshake or a hug is more powerful than a dozen handwritten notes.

Showing up for a child’s piano recital will be remembered much longer than a cute newsletter. Personal is always better than generic.

4. Plant a garden

This is a perfect spring activity for getting in front of past clients. Homeowners are always interested in making their homes look better affordably. Everyone loves flowers in and around their homes, so the gift of flower seeds is a perfect way to stay in touch and improve the look of a home.

Call each client in late winter (soft touch No. 1), and ask if they are interested in seeds for their garden in the spring. Ask them what flowers they like, how much sun their place has and whether they have an inside or outside garden.

The key here is to have as much conversation as possible and never bring up the topic of real estate. Talk about their garden and their lives.

Make an appointment in the spring to drop off seeds (soft touch No. 2), and have them show you the yard where the garden will be. Ask them to send you progress updates or photos of the garden as summer progresses.

They will think of you every time they admire their garden and will mention their agent’s name to visitors. Make sure they have an ample supply of cards.

5. Client video diaries

The really cool app 1 Second Everyday allows users to create a one-second video clip of their favorite moment of the day. It’s absolutely addictive! These video clips can be combined to display a month’s worth of activities in a 30-second movie. The app does all the work, and the movie can then be posted to social media.

A creative way to use these videos is to create a social media site on Facebook or Instagram and call it something like “Sharing the lives of Robert Realtor’s clients.”

Invite past or prospective clients to use the app, and post their monthly activities. Create a forum so users can post questions and comments.

Users will constantly check into the site to watch the agent’s videos and other participant’s life videos. It’s social, fun and a great way to keep the agent’s name and life top-of-mind.

6. Get sweaty

Organize a fundraising event for a charity. It could be a biking, walking or running event. It could be a bowling party or hot dog eating contest. The activity doesn’t matter as long as members get pledges for their accomplishments.

The pledging gets others involved and interested in supporting charitable causes. But the beauty of this type of event is that the charity is chosen by the winning team or individual.

No one knows ahead of time which charity will benefit from the event, so the participants will work harder and get more pledges so their charity will win.

This event is difficult for an individual to pull together and is probably best for an office or company to host. It’s logistically complex but can have a huge return as far as benefitting the community and sponsors. Made an annual event, it could become a cornerstone of brand awareness.

7. Give annual checkups

Every year on the anniversary of ownership, call your clients and set an appointment to review the equity position of the home that was purchased.

Bring a housewarming type gift that is appropriate to the owner and stay no longer than half an hour. Make the presentation brief, and load it with enough detail to positively reinforce their decision to purchase.

The visit also reinforces the agent’s value in the transaction and offers one more soft touch every year. It can also provide additional opportunities to keep in touch at other times of the year.

Kevin Sharkey is president and broker of record with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate All Seasons in the Twin Cities metro area. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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