Real Estate

THE PLAYBOOK: Innovative In-Person Ideas to Multiply Referrals

Editor’s Note: The Playbook is a new RISMedia weekly segment centering on what brokers and agents are doing to ensure they not only survive but thrive in these challenging times. Industry professionals explain the strategies they’re employing and unique ideas they’ve formulated. Tune in every Thursday for another addition to the series.

There’s an old saying that real estate is a “relationship business,” especially when it comes to building a solid pipeline of referrals. A large part of building relationships is about getting “belly-to-belly” with people and talking with people in person.

While the pandemic pushed many agents away from face time and onto FaceTime, that all changed when the U.S. opened back up. Now, recent changes in the housing market have made it imperative that agents get back to the building, nurturing and leveraging relationships to feed their businesses.

Whether you’re new to the industry or looking to spruce up your repertoire of skills, here are a few ways that top agents and brokers are using staged events, and getting out to meet people in different settings to get the job done.

Good deeds and goodwill is good business

Making new face-to-face connections can be achieved in a variety of ways. It serves a dual purpose of doing something fun and/or rewarding while also hopefully making new connections that could pay off down the road.

Get into the community you serve,” advises Leah Williamson, an agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. “For years, I have been engaged with the public safety sector in my community—getting out to the local police and fire stations and thanking them for their service with goodies, but also leaving a nugget about my business so they will remember me.”

“It takes a solid six months to a year to truly develop a routine and get noticed doing something like that,” explains Williamson. “Consistency is the key, and leaving something tangible and relatable is needed. Another way to do this is to sponsor local events. It takes time and planning, so make sure you’re up for the challenge. Doing something once will not get you noticed, but doing something consistently will.”

Rekindle old flames

Client relationships are paramount to every agent’s business, but sometimes even the best real estate professionals lose touch with consumers over time. Maintaining and renewing relationships with former clients can be a significant boon for agents who are willing to take the time to reach back out.

Williamson advises that former clients, who you worked with in person for weeks or even months, should be communicated with semi-regularly.

“Get your database up to date,” she implores. “It’s an effective method of getting new clients and warm leads from someone who has a relationship with you already. Past clients know you and trust you, and therefore, that makes for an easy lead. Reach out and touch base with past clients and ask them for business.

“Plan a past-client appreciation event and invite everyone. Host it with other agents to gain traction and split costs. You need to get your name out there, and what better way than through an ex-client who trusts you and knows how you handle business?”

Be the hostess with the mostest

Unless you’re Elton John, a Kardashian or Kendall Roy from the TV series “Succession,” throwing yourself a party is usually considered a tad presumptuous. But if as a REALTOR® inviting people to a staged event can result in new leads and listings, then by all means go ahead and order the balloons and cake.

Of course, throwing a party for fun is a lot different than hosting an event for business. Doing the planning and inviting is the same, as is the cost, but there can be benefits both short- and long-term that make the latter worthwhile.

“I host a lot of events because they are a great way to drive business,” says Dawn McKenna of the Dawn McKenna Group with Coldwell Banker Realty, Chicago and Naples, Florida. “They are expensive, but they get people’s attention. They make buyers and sellers want to work with our team because they see how dedicated we are to marketing our listings.”

McKenna spells out a precise agenda her agency utilizes regarding in-person affairs.

“We host a variety of events including panels, open houses, project launch informational events, neighborhood get-togethers for clients within the same area, and more,” she relates. “They can be expensive when it comes to catering, decor, hiring bartenders and/or waiters and giveaway items. We really like to create an experience when it comes to our events so that it creates buzz in the community that we are doing something different. Hosting events is a big part of branding for us.

“I get people to attend events by promoting them on social media, personal invitations, e-blasts and also by working with our vendors to have them promote it to their network and social media following, which helps us expand our reach. We also get people to attend by offering exclusives.

“One time I hosted a client appreciation event at my house and invited all the clients we helped find homes during the pandemic so they could mingle and meet their neighbors. We encouraged those clients to bring their friends and family and offered to show them seven homes in the area on the private market that no one else had access to. That way our clients were able to meet their neighbors and also bring potential new clients who were able to not only see exclusive homes, but also mingle with guests who could potentially be their new neighbors.”

Another novel idea McKenna recommends is hosting panel events at a listing home. She recalls having one with the architect/designer and the interior designer, asking them various questions about how they worked with the homeowner to create the look and feel of the house.

“We got an incredible turnout by sending text messages, e-blasts, personal invitations to clients and brokers in the community, and promoting it on social media,” she says. “By allowing events and different things to happen at your listings, a sale may come in an untraditional way.”

Williamson enthusiastically agrees that in challenging times, creative marketing is a must. A secret agent gathers no leads, so don’t be one.

“For the past two years we have all been reactive to the market and slammed busy across the board,” she admits. “Most of us were likely slacking on our marketing if we are being honest. This market shift has us now back in proactive mode. This is the time to get your creative juices flowing and take your business to the next level. Be proactive and maximize the market.”


  • Get your name, face and business card out to as many new people as possible via a variety of in-person events.
  • Include a panel of experts at events if possible in order to educate attendees on a wide variety of topics, with a Q&A at the end.
  • Update your database as often as possible. Former clients know and trust you, so keep in touch with them. People enjoy helping those they like.
  • Plan a past-client appreciation event and invite everyone. Host it with other agents to gain traction and split costs.
  • Get out into the community doing something you enjoy that isn’t business related. Meet new people and mention that you’re a REALTOR®. Who knows?

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