The Secrets of Successful Word-of-Mouth Marketing

By Alanna Mejia, - Posted on
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Real estate is seen by many as a “feast or famine” kind of business. But talk to most top-producing agents, and they’ll tell you that most of their business comes from referrals and people they know. In other words, they aren’t out prospecting and cold-calling to make ends meet.

Why isn’t this the case for every agent? The problem is that most agents don’t really understand what word-of-mouth marketing is, or how to take advantage of the BEST thing you can do to keep your production going strong without all the tiring legwork.

The first market you should promote to

Though we’re focusing on tips in this article about word-of-mouth marketing, I want to remind you that the FIRST group you should talk to and promote to is your PERSONAL network: friends, family, past clients, service providers, suppliers, and anyone who knows your name and face. Your odds of getting clients from this group is higher than any other. Why?

People Will Work With Those Who They Know, Like, And Respect On A Personal And Professional Basis.

So, how do you reach people who DON’T know you…yet?

Word-of-mouth – they’re talking about you!

So- what does word-of-mouth really mean? It means that people are talking about you and your business in private conversations, conversations between people that trust each other’s opinions. That can also include reviews online with services like Yelp and Angie’s List- readers of these reviews trust each other’s opinions to some degree (click this link to read more about how to manage those online reviews). The best way to persuade clients that you’re a great agent is to have others talk about you in a positive light. That’s word-of-mouth marketing, in a nutshell. But it isn’t something that just happens, by chance.


WOM Element #1:

Before anything else, people will select you as their Realtor because the VALUE they receive from you is more than the cost of working with you- benefits received by having you as their realtor, and the value of the problems you solve. Something you probably already know- COST doesn’t equal VALUE. Your commission may seem high to one client, and perfectly reasonable to another who understands the value you bring to the table: competence, experience, trustworthiness. This is why you have to focus on bringing value to your clients, and promote that value. How? With…

WOM Element #2:

Exceed expectations, every time, for every client. The Realtors who make the greatest impact, who ensure their clients will talk about them to their friends, go above and beyond what’s expected and give the greatest VALUE.

Of course, some clients will never be reasonable and have unreasonable expectations. That’s why you qualify prospects, up front, to make sure you’re on the same page. Sometimes it’s best to say, “I’m not the agent for you.” That heads future problems or complaints off at the pass. Work with those you know will appreciate your hard work.

Promote how much you care about your clients and your neighborhood. Take part in local events, donate your time and effort in your area, and your business will get noticed.

WOM Element #3:

Give free gifts to establish the psychological element of reciprocation – in our society, people feel obliged to give you something back if you give them something. This motivates clients to refer your services, or share the story of special things you’ve done for them.

The more unexpected a gift, the better. Unexpected gifts have the greatest impact. After a closing, I know an agent who sends a gourmet dinner for the night that clients move into their new home. You can give a few months of pool service, or lawn care. The secret is to do something other agents aren’t doing, and something your clients will talk about because it’s so different and above the call of duty.

Have you given special gifts to your clients with spectacular results? Tell us about it in the comments below this article!

WOM Element #4:

Motivate your audience to action. Generally, this means offering something free and of value to your potential clients. This can be a “free area home value report” for the market you’re targeting, or specific reports that contain real estate advice for FREE. This might be free advice about staging your home, how to make sure your house makes a great first impression, etc. People are always impressed by a business that is willing to give free advice (and as a side effect, you’re seen as an expert).

In any of your promotions, make sure to spell out EXACTLY what you want a prospect to do. Tell your audience what to do, and why – for instance “Call for a free list of homes for sale in the area.” Or, “Text to receive my free ‘AREA’ home value audit for your home.”  

Also, make it a part of your routine to ASK for referrals, multiple times. People may intend to refer others to you, but they’ll forget without being prompted. Add a request for referrals to all of your marketing – the back of your business card, the end of thank-you letters sent to clients, and within your monthly client contact to everyone on your list. Remind your clients that you aren’t a pushy salesperson, but that your business IS based on referrals. Encourage sharing through social media posts- take photos with each of your clients at closing, and ask them to post to their Facebook page.

WOM Element #5:

Test to see what promotions are working. Sometimes you won’t know how well a word-of-mouth promotion has worked until much later. That’s because people who receive it may not need your services right away, but they’ll think of you again when they or a friend need real estate services.

Pay close attention to what people say to you about your business. How people react to you is a clue to what they’ll say to others about you and your services. Don’t forget to ask new leads and clients how they heard about you. This is a great way to measure how well promotions are working.

WOM Element #6:

Lastly – and here’s something most agents aren’t doing – make the promotions that work for you part of your routine. Agents will often find something that works, do it for a month, then drop it. If you get positive feedback or referrals from one promotion – do it all the time! Don’t stop!

Here’s a few WOM promotions you can use right now:

  1. Make your phone number memorable. If you make it impossible to forget, you’ll increase your exposure and probably your inquiries from leads. Try 444-MOVE, or 333-SOLD, or fit your name into the number. Leads will remember it without trying too hard or writing it down.
  2. Package your services. People always prefer to work with someone who specializes in an area. Make your offers specific to the market you’re working in. If you farm or mail something to an area, use the name of the area – for example, if you’re farming to the Mountain View neighborhood, call yourself the “Mountain View Specialist.” If you’re promoting a service to that area, name the service “The Mountain View MAXIMUM Home Value Audit.” It might be your standard CMA, but you’re making it specific to the neighborhood you’re offering it to AND you’re relaying a benefit (they’ll get the maximum home value!).
  3. People always need services when they move to a new area. Here’s a great opportunity to get amazing word-of-mouth marketing – from clients AND suppliers. Create a list of preferred service suppliers for every area of home services: Carpet cleaning, locksmith, window washing, painting, HVAC, plumbing, yard work, pool maintenance, electrical, appliance repair, floor finishing, etc.
    Make sure you know these people, and can endorse their honesty and quality of work. Work a deal with them whereby you’ll send them new business if they give you a one-time coupon for 15 or 20% off the first service for your clients (they should be ecstatic to have you get them new business, and readily offer a 1-time discount to your clients). Some of the services could give away something for free…such as Free cooler inspection, free 1 room carpet cleaned, etc. But remember, this is exclusively for YOUR clients. Make the list into a small booklet, and title it something like: “My VIP Home Service Provider List.”
    Give the list to your new owners telling them 1) these are people you endorse as honest, ethical, and 2) you’re also giving them 20% off on their services (and/or the free offer as well). Make sure you tell them, when calling a service supplier, they’re a client of yours.
    You can’t imagine how helpful a small resource like this can be to new homeowners. And there’s no better way to get better word-of-mouth marketing…not just with your clients, but your suppliers will be inclined to reciprocate and send new business your way. You’ve just built a referral network the size of your supplier list.

Do you see how the combination of methods, all systemized, adds-up to more business for you? Over time, you’ll have dozens of word-of-mouth systems working to bring you better client satisfaction, referrals, and repeat business.

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Alanna Mejia
Alanna Mejia has been an integral part of Agent Inner Circle for the past several years, supporting agents and managing content as well as maintaining web systems. Alanna's background includes working as a journalist for print and radio; as a copywriter for ad agencies; tech editor and designer for her own business, Red Scribe Consulting; and as marketing coordinator for various companies.
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