By Debbie Hanlon

In my last column we explored the benefits of building and maintaining a strong database of contacts because real estate is, after all, very much a contact sport. We talked about how regular cleaning of your database is an important part of maintaining it. I recommend cleaning it up four times a year. Here are my tips on how to organize your database.

Part of the cleaning process is ensuring your contacts are in their proper group. You can have as many groups and sub groups as you want depending on how much time you want to spend at it. I have four main groups entitled VIP, A, B and G. How much time and attention they receive from me depends on which group they’re in.



VIP is what it says. This group is home to the most important contacts I have. What makes them so important? Each person in that group has done real estate business with me. These are people who have bought or sold properties through me. It’s people I have made money from in the past and probably will make more money from in the future. They deserve a lot of my time and attention.

We all know that the new laws have pretty much ended mass emails, but we can still do mass snail mails. Once you have someone’s email address, simply ask them for their mailing address. Most people will not have a problem giving it to you. I send every person in my VIP group one small gift every month. These gifts can be as simple as a single bag of popcorn with a business card that says, “The real estate market is popping”. They are all small inexpensive gifts that clients receive on a monthly basis. I also call them once a month to see how they’re doing and some I’ll even drop by for a visit. All you’re doing is maintaining the relationship you’ve developed.

My A list is people I have interacted with in any other way outside of real estate. Many of them I dealt with while I was an elected city councillor. Others attended events I held or hosted, such as my annual witches walk where we all dress up like witches and spend a day in the park with the kids. Others I met at various functions I attended. It’s anyone who has met me and knows me for something outside of real estate.

These are the people I feel I have the best chance of turning into clients. I send the people on my A list a gift once a quarter and make contact as well via a phone call, email or drop in.

My B list is comprised of people from other industries – lawyers, home inspectors, day-care owners, cleaners and so on. Putting them all into their own subgroups allows me to target market them. For instance I have a property for sale now that I think would make a perfect day-care location. Guess which subgroup is getting a package on that property? There are also potential clients in the group. For instance, expectant mothers I know who may soon want to sell and buy a bigger home would be in this group. This is a great way to have targeted markets literally at your fingertips.

My G list is general contacts and is comprised of everyone who doesn’t meet the requirements to be in a higher group. New contacts, such as the person serving me coffee, are initially added to the G list until I find out more about them and decide where they best fit in the overall scheme of things.

This may all sound a little overwhelming, but trust me; it isn’t if you approach it right. It’s the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Give yourself a couple of weeks for your annual, semi-annual or quarterly database cleaning.

It’s also a great thing to talk to people about when they ask what you are up to. It makes you sound professional and on top of your game. Some people simply ignore their database and pretend it isn’t there. Don’t. If you do, you’re missing a chance to mine a very rich vein of potential business at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. Work on it here and there when you have the time. You’ll be surprised at how quickly that elephant in the room is eaten.

Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Well, I cannot always get the reply button to open on the mobile REM on the iPhone; no idea why, so posting here –

    Toooooh funny! Falls under the category of: it’s not what you said that counts, but what I heard – lol :)

    Awwwwh, Sabine… I agree with Debbie. I enjoy your posts, too.

    The semantics of the English language: I had read your post, initially, and zero’d in on the dentist comment. Then read it again.

    The first time I read the words to mean that you (passed on) “shared” the message that dentists were giving away free dental floss (some do actually offer free tooth brushes of course, in their advertising – lol), like they think that is going to draw in new patients???

    And then when I re-read the post it seemed to suggest that you, having received free dental floss, would pass on (say no thanks to) that marketing ploy.

    Ahhh! Just sharing a “lighter moment” with a giggle. Made my day, like some of the MLS bloopers. Still laughing.

    Have a great day.

    Carolyne L 🍁

  2. Thank you for a great little article on the importance of databasing and some excellent tips for beginners about segmenting that database for mailings. I fundamentally disagree with your assertion that email marketing is a thing of the past. I’m still getting good readership. The secret is to actually ask people for their email address.

    ” I do a great little email about real estate and real estate investment. Would you be offended if I sent you a copy? Great! What’s your email address? (Then stop talking while they give you the address)”

    Once they have personally given you the address. Use it.

    • One method of acquiring email address: trade business cards.

      Ask graciously if they have a business card you could have. Look at it carefully. It’s a good engagement form and a strategic show of respect, while you are still face to face.

      As you hand over your card, perhaps say some version of:

      “You will see my email address is on my card. Feel free to use it, if you have any real estate question. Oh, I see your email address is on your card. May I send you the link to my real estate articles. People seem to enjoy reading them.”

      If you see no email address on the card except the corp one… Ask, “may I write down your personal or business email? Would it be okay to stay in touch?”

      Then, never abuse the privilege. Not ever. And send off a quick thank you note, saying something like “I enjoyed speaking with you at the Longo’s parking lot today. Here is a link to some local information you might find useful.

      I promise not to abuse:use your email address.

      Sincerely, Robert Agent
      I Want To Be Your Agent if and when you need real estate guidance

      Cordially
      Carolyne L 🍁

      • Carolyne
        Thanks for your tips they are helpful for sure. I make personal contact as well befor adding anyone to my data base. It helps build trust within the relationship as well it keeps me from breaking any privacy laws. My articles are only 500 words and you know you just can’t fit all you want to say in the one article. Feel free to add me to your data base [email protected] I would love to connect with you.
        Cheers and have a brilliant day
        Debbie

    • WWillard
      Thanks for reading and many thanks for your comments. I also do regular email campaigns which helps with my top of mind awareness campaign. Obtaining and gathering email addresses is not as difficult as some would believe and as you have stated ..Asking for it ,while simple,is by far the easiest. I find my best results do come from my direct marketing efforts to my existing client base as I have been successful in growing my number of sales at a terrific rate. Database management is an awesome way to increase client loyalty..but like anything first you need the contacts and then you need the system and of course you need to stay in touch. Consistency is key .Best of luck with your email campaign and Bravo to you for your efforts
      Happy selling
      Debbie

  3. So other than bribing and begging for business from your past clients…and I’m sure that works for you…does that mean that the only value you possess is to give to get? If people are not calling you because they feel connected to you, want you to be close to them because your the type of person that resonates with them on a deeper level, then your way of keeping your so called “vip” clients is to bribe and beg from them. I’m sorry, but that seems like a shallow way of getting business.

    • I personally don’t think sending a client something of value is a bribe OR begging.I actually feel that you are rewarding them in a small way for their attention, loyalty and referrals. By definition a bribe is generally offered before you have done business.

      What strikes me most about your post is the arrogance, negativity and bitterness you display. Rather than thanking the author for a pretty good article – you flame her… I guess that’s why you are an anonymous poster.

      • So I assume your lawyer, doctor and dentist send you something of value every month? Oh, I forgot…your dentist gives you a small tube of toothpaste and brush and that’s why you continually go back. Please.

        • I spent many years in another customer service industry and have a really good idea about customer acquisition cost. Overall in my previous field my cost of acquiring new business was more than 10 fold of keeping the existing clients. No brainer to me…. And BTW, I do get regular emails from some legal, financial and medical services. I do pass on the free floss at the dentist though

    • Mr/Ms Non Begger
      Thanks for your comments. I would love to continue this discussion as I fear my article has not been clear. My business has grown to great heights this past year and I have to attribute a good portion of my success to my database maintenance program. One month I closed over $150,000 in commissions and over 70% came from my past clients in the form of repeat or referral business. I would love to share my system with you. I find I would rather spend my marketing funds on my existing clients, who become walking personal billboards for me rather than other tradition marketing efforts. Please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] to continue this discussion. I would welcome your ideas
      Cheers
      Debbie

      • Agreed, Debbie. Staying in touch is a lifeline.

        Perfect example: incoming email request for specific nearby street real estate info.

        Immediately (that is the magic), I stopped what I was doing and acknowledged the email, and told the inquirer that he would have the info later in the day, as I was in a meeting, currently.

        I provided what he needed, as promised, within a few hours.

        He simply acknowledged. No expanded discussion other than to say he was currently in the States, on a job project, and would be in touch.

        For the next THREE “years” every few months I sent him comprehensive subdivision reports. Sometimes he simply acknowledged, other times, not.

        I don’t ever send out group emails. Just a personal thing with me. I don’t believe in it. I take personal time with anything and everyone where it matters.

        I was housekeeping my database and was considering eliminating him. So much time had passed and I had had no reciprocal communication in recent months.

        Then one morning (it was moving day for me and my tech was personally moving my home equipment and would set it up at my new place.)

        This was just before cell phone days. I said let me check my emails one more time. Because it woud be late in the day before he finished up my connections. I delete junk every few hours all day long, as junk appears.

        WOW! I didn’t recognize the email address incoming… And the Subject line read: “I’m ready now.” (WHAT?????) Nearly hit the delete key. I have no idea WHY I opened that email. Could have just been a reflex finger reaction. Or an accidental email opening.

        Lo and behold it was the seller. All he said was if you want to list my house, connect with me asap.

        I did. He never interviewed anyone else. He said anytime he wanted real estate information he simply went to my website.

        All that time, behind the scenes as he travelled, I was a real estate touchpoint back home, via my site and the occasional email.

        One of best transactions ever, even so a VERY difficult property to sell. He was never difficult and we were in often constant contact, as I kept him apprised of all things.

        We need to give thanks for ALL things. One being the ability to serve and protect our clients.

        Carolyne L 🍁

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