Create Your Best Communication Plan
When I meet with a client to present market analysis, from the very first appointment I’ll start talking to them about communication, find out what their expectations are and set them, because every client has different expectations. When I present my marketing plan, I discuss how they would prefer to stay in touch, whether it’s by meeting in person, phone, email or text. That way, right upfront I know what to expect and how to communicate with them.
Younger generations are definitely more into email and texting. Then you have people who don’t even have email or know how to text. Even with the people that I do a lot of email and texting with, I still try to make some phone calls. That one-on-one, voice-to-voice connection is really important. And I’ve got to understand which way they prefer to do it because that’s their comfort zone and I try to keep them happy.
I’ve been doing this for more than 21 years, so how I proceed with a communication plan is habit. I keep all client files in my office so they’re handy, and I go through them, usually on a Monday, and do a weekly check-in with them via phone or email. I talk about any advertising I’ve done for their home, any feedback we’ve gotten and answer any of their questions. I always send them the feedback about a showing the minute I receive one via email, so they can read it on their own time and discuss with me when I check in with them, and we can talk about how we can improve, or if we need to do a price reduction.
Communication plans have evolved, obviously, since 20 years ago – back then, email was not even an option. Email and social media opened up a new avenue and some nice communication opportunities, even with necessary parts of the business, like attaching forms that need to be reviewed and signed. I usually check Facebook once a day for a quick look to see what’s going on with current and past clients.
If I see that somebody is sick or if they had a death in the family, I’ll send out a personal note or a card, letting them know that I care. It’s a subtle way to keep track of people, and I can show I care even though they may not have called me to tell me what’s going on in their lives. And I find that on Facebook, people really like to hear what’s going on in the market, because people have this passion about real estate, whether they’re looking to buy or sell or not, and they like to know that you’ve really got a feel for the pulse of the market and that you’re busy. I really believe that busy people get things done, but people also like to see when you’re busy and what things are happening with you – it’s part of the reason Facebook is so popular.
One of the things I learned very quickly in this business is that no one cares how much you know about the business, their home or the market unless they know how much you care about them, their situation and what they’re going through. Buying and selling real estate can be very stressful for people, and I try to pick up on what it is that’s stressing them out. For some people, it’s getting ready for a showing, for other people, it’s everything that needs to be arranged for a move, like packing and scheduling a moving company. I like to talk about those things with my clients, not only to show I care, but to try to help, too.
The biggest complaint that I hear from people about agents they’ve hired in the past is “they listed my house and then I never heard from them again.” So I try to talk about and set up expectations with them, such as when they’re going to hear from me, how they’re going to hear from me, if they can call me at any time, and then just following up with them regularly so they know that I’m working for them.
The problem with real estate is that a lot of sellers in particular, especially in the tougher markets, really don’t know what agents do behind the scenes to market their property. A lot of it is invisible to them. They can see an ad or an open house, but there’s so much more that goes into it. In my communication with them, I try to explain to them exactly everything I’m doing, even what I consider to be little things, and keep them posted on all those little things that I’m doing.
Even with communication, as we’ve all seen, everyone can learn something, or might need to learn how to use different technologies or develop different habits to be better in their business. From communication technology to people’s expectations, so much has changed. It’s unbelievable. Most agents, when they get into this business, don’t understand that you’re not just selling homes, you are also selling yourself.
People like to work with people they like and trust, and people will like and trust you if they feel you care about them and then prove exactly that. That’s an essential part of a communications plan – you can say things all day, like that you’re doing all you can for them and they’re your priority, but they have to see it. For example, after I close on a house with clients, I like to stop by and bring them a small housewarming gift and see what they’ve done to the house since they moved in. Around Christmas time, I always stop and see my clients who I worked with that year, whether they bought or sold with me, and I bring them a personal gift just to say thank you and let them know that even though that deal has closed and I’ve cashed my check, that I still care.
It’s a lot of work, and I usually pull my hair out around Christmas because between shopping for my family, I also shop for clients and hand-deliver those gifts. But it means so much to them. I’ve even gone back several years later for another appointment when they want to sell their house, and in some instances, there’s that gift that I gave them years ago, hanging on their front door or sitting next to their fireplace.
Caring about my clients and building relationships with them is very important to me, and ultimately, that’s what a good communications plan will do – build long lasting relationships that can lead to new ones. I do most of my business by referral and repeat business, so I start talking to them from that first appointment; I explain to them that I understand that I need to earn that privilege for repeat business or referrals from them, and I have to earn that by giving great service. On my business card, my tag line is, “quality service because I care.” I mean that, and I want my clients to believe that. The way to do that is to prove it by communication and follow-up.