Don Barrett and KaraLee Foat
Don Barrett and KaraLee Foat

By Connie Adair

In fairy tales, pumpkins turn into coaches but at Century 21 Summit Realty in Calgary, pumpkins turn into leads.

Brokerage owner KaraLee Foat created a full-service marketing plan that includes events and competitions, such as pumpkin carving and gingerbread house decorating contests. The events help the brokerage’s agents expand their data bases, increase their website traffic and generate leads.

Foat, a Realtor for nine years, used personal connections and online marketing to build her business and wants to help the agents in her one-year-old brokerage do the same. “If they’re successful, we’re successful,” she says.

The office handles the details of the initiatives, down to sending invitations, so agents can offer events without having to do the planning.

For Halloween Foat ordered 6,000 pounds of pumpkins fresh from the farm and invited members of the community to pick one up, carve it and post a photo on the company’s Facebook page,

Agents dropped pumpkins off on clients’ doorsteps, then texted to invite them to carve their pumpkin and email a photo of the finished work of art. One pumpkin, created by an art professor, depicted Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The contest was judged by two Calgary Stampeders players.

Foat says an agent new to her brokerage at the time was skeptical, thinking advertising would be his prime source of leads. Foat suggested he attend the pumpkin event. She says the agent watched as his colleagues enthusiastically loaded pumpkins into their vehicles before he hesitantly decided to give it a try.

On several occasions since, the agent has told Foat that the deal he was working on was thanks to a lead garnered when he delivered a pumpkin.

The company’s agents also gave away gingerbread house kits for the holidays. Foat used to give out bottles of wine and poinsettias to her client data base, but she wanted something more in keeping with her core values. The holidays are about spending time with family and what better way than to spend time together building and decorating a gingerbread house, she says.

The pumpkin carving and gingerbread house decorating contests will be annual events. She has two other events planned for 2014 but is keeping the details under wraps.

In Movember, clients were encouraged to send in their best hairy photos. The best photo won the beard-grower a bottle of wine and his wife two bottles, she says.

Foat says she had a lot of success building relationships through events but that it’s a time-consuming process. “I had a good assistant but not all agents do,” she says. By offering the marketing plan, she helps agents create exposure and followers. In the year that they have been with the company, all of the agents have increased their number of transactions, Foat says.

Events are subsidized and the office also hosts some, such as wine tastings and Christmas mingles, at no cost to its 16 agents. Pumpkins were available to the agents for a couple of dollars each and promotional items are kept at less than $10 each, she says.

Foat and husband, Don Barrett, who is not a Realtor but has a background in business management, provide agents with support.

The events are not designed to be gimmicky but to bring value, she says. “We don’t want to be another postcard in the garbage.”


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