By Reuven Gorsht

If you grew up in the 1980s like I did, you’re probably singing along to the theme of Cheers, one of the most popular TV series of all time. Cheers’ theme song pretty much laid out what the show was all about. Cheers was a Boston-based bar that had such intimate relationships with its patrons that it felt almost surreal. Growing up in the ʼ80s, almost every neighbourhood had their local version of Cheers, where friends regularly gathered to eat, laugh and share stories.

Fast forward 25 years. Places like Cheers have been replaced by the usual cookie-cutter coffee shops or bars where the chances of someone remembering your name or favourite drink are slim. Customer intimacy and relationships have been replaced by apps, loyalty points and databases that are doing a mediocre job at best. Just like the era of Cheers has faded away, so has the holy grail of customer loyalty. Traded in for scale, volume and systems. Today, businesses are losing an estimated $1.3 trillion a year from customers who are defecting to the competition.



Selling real estate is no different. A dismal 17 per cent of homeowners actually use their agent again, according to a consumer panel at Inman Real Estate Connect San Francisco. Why only 17 per cent? Were they not happy with their agent? Was the experience bad? Not at all. In fact, 85 per cent of buyers and sellers surveyed after a transaction indicate they would they would use their agent again. So what gives?

The top reason for this “gap” will probably not make sense at all. Homeowners do not rehire their real estate agent because they simply cannot remember their agent’s name. The same person, who helped them make one of the largest financial decisions of their lives, has his or her name faded into the oblivion. How is this even possible?

We live in a world that’s never been noisier. From social media bombarding us with endless Facebook feeds, to the dozens of new tools and ways to communicate. Attention is a scarce resource – a person has only so much of it, and eventually, everyone forgets. The bad news is that it’s only going to get much harder to be remembered. While social media has empowered the average person to reach clients in ways that only massive businesses could afford to in the past, realize that you’re competing on a whole new playing field with millions of others. Consumers are drinking information from a firehose and we’re all competing for the ultimate prize – a client’s attention.

So you’re probably thinking, what’s the good news here? How can I begin to cut through all this noise? Before you start thinking about increasing your marketing budget or sending more holiday cards, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s going to take a trip down memory lane to the 1980s, or watching a couple of reruns of Cheers.

Think about why you buy from a particular brand or establishment. There are many factors that could impact the purchasing decision, but first and foremost, we are conditioned to choose businesses and brands that make us feel good and give us a great experience. There’s a good reason why the Apple store is always packed, or why Starbucks does $21 billion in annual revenues with less than $250 million in marketing. Everyone has a story or two about a great experience that they tell all their friends about. Your role is to deliver and create memorable moments that not only have your clients remembering your name, but also telling their story to others.

Whoa, that sounds hard, right? Actually, it’s much easier than you think. Often, it’s the small things that are most memorable. The lunchtime meal you had wasn’t that great, but you sure remember those nice chocolates they brought with the bill.

Reality is that your client is not going to remember that you negotiated until you turned blue to get them an extra $10,000 on their home. They’re not going to remember the fancy $300 gift basket you got them on closing. What they will remember are the little, unexpected things.

What’s the secret sauce to create something memorable? You have to make it genuine, valuable, and unexpected.

Here are some examples:

  • Michael nearly doubled his referrals by making it a practice to show up with a pizza on his clients’ moving day. Thirty minutes of time and $20 worth of pizza go a long way when Michael’s clients are having a long and super-stressful day. That’s something they remember and you can almost bet that story will get mentioned at his clients’ housewarming party.
  • Jeanne noticed her clients were complaining about how dirty the windows were when she first showed them their new home. A day after they moved, Jeanne took the initiative to schedule a window cleaning for her clients. Jeanne helped her clients when they didn’t expect it. Seven months later, the same clients used her to purchase an investment property.
  • Joel sends every prospect he meets a hand-written card. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, he recently visited a past client who was a man of incredible means. Six months after Joel sent the handwritten note, his card was still on his client’s desk.

The majority of your clients will choose to do business with you based on how you made them feel. We are human after all. The gut is always faster than the mind when it comes to making decisions.

Staying memorable takes more than running creative Facebook ads, fancy closing gifts and postcard mailers. It takes a traditional, human approach to building relationships and being genuinely helpful when your clients need you most.

Now is the time to become the local “Cheers” in your market. Where everybody knows (and remembers) your name…and they’re always glad you came.

Reuven Gorsht is the CEO of MoveSnap, a start-up that helps anyone who is relocating organize and get all their moving tasks done seamlessly. Prior to co-founding MoveSnap, Reuven spent 15+ years as a senior executive helping fortune 500 companies innovate and evolve their business models and organizational culture. He holds degrees in business and human resources and is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. A very good article, and so true. It’s horrifying to me how many agents don’t stay in touch with their clients, and it’s so easy! Just a couple of simple activities like sending a newsletter (there are many companies that’ll do this for you), sending a birthday card, sending a home purchase anniversary card, and a Christmas card. Easy as pie.

    • The concept is so true, so relative, with a few exceptions. Many people are reluctant to give out their birthday information, especially today with all the identity theft. I never asked for it.

      But the generic keep in touch is invaluable. I confess, although I was aware of the TV series, Cheers, I had never watched it. But I understand the in your face premise. I confess: I have never been in a bar in my whole life.

      But there are so many ways to stay in touch. I have concern about the impersonalness using the services of people who provide such as you noted in a post, and found great success writing the copy for my own newsletters. Not everyone is able or prefers that.

      It forced me to study market trends and other various stats, myself. I had an unusual experience with my geo-location newsletters. People did read them; and, I always incorporated a current listing or two, in case a reader might know of a buyer. In one case I had a legitimate buyer whose needs I mentioned.

      Just so happened a colleague had a listing of a property in my trading farm area. We were on good terms so she contacted me to say her quite angry seller had read my geo-newsletter received and wanted to know why I had not shown her house. Reasons for all things: I knew that particular house from previous exposure to the market, and knew that although the floor plan would have pleased my buyers, its physical lot location would not.

      No sense wasting everyone’s time. I only showed houses where I felt there was an almost certain likelihood of getting an offer. And in a location where if my buyers decided to resell they would have an optimum opportunity to gain, in the future, not lose. Although of course that can never be guaranteed.

      I recognize some colleagues might think I made decisions for my clients. No. I was only their guide. And I used strong eliminator guidelines. When accommodating a buyer, I worked fearlessly behind the scenes, first developing rapport at point of meeting, deciding, as did they: did we want to work together. Listen to your heart. It’s okay to walk away. The old expression, there’s a lid for every pot… You might not be each others match or fit. But I did all the leg work, research intensively, so as to prepare the proper materials and procedures. Every buyer and seller (and multiples of) is different. Not just their needs are different, each personality has to be assessed in detail. What pleases one member of a group or family might not be appropriate with another of them. Find out who is the leader or spokesperson so you don’t work in circles.

      Many buyers picked out houses they wanted to see, and for appropriate reasons, I declined to show. Don’t tell me you have bad knees and want a bungalow instead of your existing two storey, and then want to visit two storey houses and multi-levels. That you want a garage and then want to view houses with none and no way to create a garage. If this insisted, I had the buyer rewrite their wants and needs list. I followed their orders. To the letter. It was simple.

      Make up your mind. I’m following “your” expressed wants and needs list. You said you only want hardwood. And no you don’t want to replace carpet. Yet you want to see listings that say: brand new broadloom throughout. No.

      Back to the stay in touch… We all had to start someplace. The first year I sent out a hundred Christmas cards, and hand-signature’d them all, along with a couple of personalized lines. Everyone I’d met got one. The next year I needed five hundred cards. I repeated the performance, starting in August. Don’t forget the envelopes had to be hand-addressed. Later, my secretary’s job (needed nice handwriting), as a time-filler process.

      The following year I said this can’t happen at an exponential rate. I made a private contract with a nationally known company to buy no less than a variety of ten thousand cards annually: including thank you cards by the gross, and other seasonal cards. At cost, just like a store. I could provide a proper purchase order, using corp letterhead, approved by my head office management, at the time. I paid. The company didn’t. Branch manager had thought it was a crazy idea.

      Did I sign them all? Not possible, but many, I did. But for mailings of twenty five hundred, soon, regularly, I finally resorted to labels, and provided my printer with my (film from which he made a lithographic plate) signature. Already in August he prepared my Christmas cards, ready to go, signed (printed replica sig) in blue pen-like ink, and I provided my preprinted labels. His staff did the envelopes. And stuck on all the individual postage stamps. That was worth paying for. Learned to delegate.

      My regular, beautiful (top grade paper stock) newsletters were hand delivered to specific parts of town by newspaper carriers. Costly? Yes. Hugely so. Was it worth it? Unequivocally, yes! My first year ones were handwritten on fancy paper with a little picture of a house in the corner, and photocopied.

      But it all was my way of staying in touch. In your face? Yes. But it said I remembered them, and as a result, they remembered me. This was all very much pre-computer days.

      You have to take into consideration perhaps, my background. As a freelance professional textbook indexer, I had to prepare indexes using old-fashioned index cards. My largest index was a sociology text: 10,000 entries. I worked from home. The floor of my 26 ft family room was a sea of index cards.

      So I was very used to speedy “handling” of paperwork. Likewise, I was used to writing or rewriting copy, as a copy editor. So my prior career stood me in good stead for the real estate work involved, other than showing houses. But it all was extremely time consuming and contributed to my 60-80 hour work weeks. All sorts of handiwork while soup pots simmered and cakes baked.

      The typical bar scene as it relates to real estate is not for everyone, but if that is your venue, make it work for you. I found that I preferred not to make my clients my personal friends. They hired me for my marketplace expertise, not to imbibe with them or to have them become my personal friends. Some agents find it productive to collect friends. I wanted their respect and found a different way to achieve that end. Completely at arm’s-length, literally.

      But certainly, however you choose to coordinate your efforts, don’t stop. It can take years to develop your own specific methods and fine tune them, not because people don’t want to work with you, they simply don’t “need you right now.” But when they do, they will “know your name.”

      My “name” became my personal brand, even when employed elsewhere for ten years before opening my own boutique company using only my first name [branding]; (I had heard about “Michael Properties,” Stateside) more than twenty five years ago. Colleagues and others said (after I’d incorporated): you can’t do “that.”

      Huh? Really? “It’s too girlie; and you can’t use those (memorable, then never used before in real estate) colours!” A colleague reported me to CREA legal dept; that I had printed the REALTOR logo on my stationery, in rose and teal colours. WHOOPS! I was challenged immediately. All my stationery was printed in my then two colours. Later three, adding the yellow star.

      Then came the Internet in 1997. Heard the same words again, when I was one of the first with a personal corporate website. Can’t do that; can’t do that. Must use red colour. Not. I fought for my colours.

      Often people thought they knew me, but didn’t, creating a need to fill that gap, since often buyers or sellers would say: Let’s call “that girl.” Soon I bought that url. They thought they new me because I was in their space, and in their face, regularly. But had never met me.

      I networked with branch offices across the whole country. I think there were 450 offices in the 80’s. I sent out to each office, rolled like a cigarette, Happy Thanksgiving decor cigarette-shaped rolled plastic streamers, tied with a hole punched business card with a ribbon skinny bow (in my colours – repetition is rememberable), Happy Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and so on, just to each general office, through interoffice mail bag. It was funny initially. Head office had to put extra mailroom staff on, so asked for notice ahead of mailings. But no one ever complained, and referrals came in, on average 35 transactions annually.

      Talk about “know your name” marketing. And then there were the “know your name” custom designed tent desk calendars. I had to have them printed in Seattle, WA. They had to be delivered flat, and receivers had to pop them into position to stand. No one here could print them at the time. Where did they go? Why, everywhere of course, with Christmas cards too where appropriate, of course, and to every one of our branches across the country, but more importantly to every one of the local businesses in our town. Drs, dentists, lawyers, included; they sat on the reception desks everywhere. People loved them. They were reversible. Even the post office knew my name, 35 years ago. And my calendars were in their counters, too

      And last but not least, (Bernie Vogt can verify), through a packaging contact, I was able to get custom printed small personalized with my name, cardboard, bundled in six’s, small sturdy boxes suitable for last minute pack-ups. Easy to carry, perhaps in your car on moving day, suitable for personal effects, last minute kitchen items, and or pet care items or baby needs. Each contract received a bundle or two, a week before moving date. Those cartons travelled coast to coast and beyond, not just a promo for my name, but promoting the corporation as well. I never intended to leave the company.

      There was a recent REM article called “the two most important words”… For me the two least used words, and most important ones: “Thank you,” and thank you cards, by the dozen. Then: Thousands at a time.

      Followed closely by: “Yes, sir. Yes, ma’am. And: “Right away!”

      Carolyne L 🍁

      • Carolyne:

        Your post is packed chock full of great advice for those who want to take the time and expend the energy to put your proven practices into play in order to become truly professional Realtors. It’s not about the money, but rather, it is about being the best at what one does that one can be. The money will follow.

        Dedication to being the best that one can be is the factor that counts the most when it comes to being a servant of the public good. Too many never adjust their early career attitudes from thinking that short-term money-making is the goal to developing a practice that will lead to long-term professionalism.
        If a potential client recoils from you (amateur registrant) because they see you as primarily being a commissioned sales person, and you thence have to use learned psychological strategies in order to hopefully get them back, then you are not on the road to becoming a professional; you are on the road to becoming the stereotypical Realtor.
        I would print out Carolyne’s post and memorize it if I were just starting out as a registrant.

        • Thank you, Brian.
          Bigger hat size ordered :)
          Not selling anything. Just sharing. Hope it helps someone along the way.

          Carolyne L 🍁

          • On my American forum for more than fifteen years, after joining in 1999, and know the lawyer and retired navy military owners well, (they had followed my Canadian career
            success via my US networking), I signed off each entry all through the years:

            “Going where tomorrow is – hope to see you there.” Carolyne
            (followed by)
            “The secret is in managing the client’s wants and needs, not just the transaction…” [paperwork]

            Carolyne L 🍁

        • Reply #2

          Brian,

          A poster indicated that I did not “discuss” with my would-be buyer, about the listing in my farm area by an agent from another company, vis a vis my newsletter that the seller received.

          If the property had been right for my buyer I would have shown it; in fact I sold the MLS listed house directly across the street and others over the years; sellers who had listed with agent friends or an agent had sold the sellers another property and listed the backup property.

          In that subdivision of 800 homes, I had trade records for buyers and sellers for more than a 100 of those homes. And sometimes transacted more than once. All documentable, provable.

          It’s okay maybe to excuse a poster making such a condemnation perhaps made by an agent whose first language isn’t English, or a newbie who has not yet acquired sufficient working knowledge, thus misreading a post.

          Can you confirm for me: Do you see anyplace in my post where I said that? Or even alluded to such?

          Criticism is fair game; but only when the complainer gets the facts straight, not just critiquing for the sake of filling time and wasting space.

          As to the second outrageous commentary: I followed the direction of my buyers. Period. Re-read that portion also.

          Like the folks who told me that I could not ID corp by my first name only, and the ones who disputed use of rose and teal colours, Their time might have been better spent signing client Christmas cards. LOL

          Carolyne L 🍁

          • Carolyne,

            Regarding your following paragraph:

            “It’s okay maybe to excuse a poster making such a condemnation perhaps made by an agent whose first language isn’t English, or a newbie who has not yet acquired sufficient working knowledge, thus misreading a post.”

            I would never disparage a Canadian whose first language isn’t English, because I tend to admire those who come to our Country and embrace our legal languages — when often times, they feel we don’t even need to trouble ourselves to learn the correct pronounciation for their first names! I also wouldn’t engage in suberterfuge by suggesting that someone who was new to the real estate industry could be less literate than someone who was not new to the industry — even if I was inclined to try and avoid answering someone’s points. A dignified response never effects the uninvolved!

          • Carolyne:
            It appears that the poster-in-question likes to connect dots that do not exist to produce pictures that do not exist in reality.
            The poster of whom you speak seems to have a bad case of nit-picker-itis.
            I do not know why on earth a buyer’s sales representative would discuss with his/her client every single listing that existed within a buyer’s general area of interest. I would discuss and show only those listings that matched up with what my clients had stipulated would be of interest to them. Otherwise, why not just tell the clients to cruise the internet and get back to me when they see some cyber listings that they want to view in reality? Oh Yeah, that is exactly what many registrants actually do, isn’t it? Hmmm; maybe that is the poster in question’s modus operandi; throw a handful of crap at the wall and see what sticks. Any old dufus with a license can do that, and then ask “Do ya see anything that ya wanna buy…right now, before someone else buys it…well… do ya?”

            Positively yours,
            Suspenderless Brian

          • Brian,

            I would have presumed that you would know the difference between establishing a client’s wants and needs list, as opposed to making decisions for them, and the difference between the two being the difference between the: high pressure, commission hungry Registrant and that professional Registrant whom your heart supposedly aches for! There are all kinds of lame ways to rationalize high pressure sales. I’m sure that those whom you have decried will thank you for one more!

      • Carolyne,

        Regarding your following two paragraphs:

        “Just so happened a colleague had a listing of a property in my trading farm area. We were on good terms so she contacted me to say her quite angry seller had read my geo-newsletter received and wanted to know why I had not shown her house. Reasons for all things: I knew that particular house from previous exposure to the market, and knew that although the floor plan would have pleased my buyers, its physical lot location would not.”
        “No sense wasting everyone’s time. I only showed houses where I felt there was an almost certain likelihood of getting an offer. And in a location where if my buyers decided to resell they would have an optimum opportunity to gain, in the future, not lose. Although of course that can never be guaranteed.”

        It is one thing not to show a property to buyer client’s, it is quite another thing to not even discuss it with them! You concluded the first paragraph, I’ve quoted above, by making it clear that you didn’t even discuss the subject property with the pertinent buyer clients. In these situations, it is very important that buyer clients specifically and expressly eliminate properties — because seller’s who chose not to use your services might get the impression that you didn’t want to show their property as a result of you not getting the listing! Some REALTOR’s have been known to boycott seller’s!

        Your second paragraph, quoted above, just doesn’t make any sense. Its an incredibly haughty claim to suggest that you essentially expected your buyer clients to purchase every home that you showed them, because: “I only showed houses where I felt there was an almost certain likelihood of getting an offer.” Were the aforesaid the case and your buyer clients knew this was your attitude, they would certainly feel additional pressures to purchase whatever you had decided to show them, contrary to what would’ve been the case where buyer’s are allowed work it down to a short list of say: three properties, as possible.

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