If you’ve been in the real estate business for a number of years, you’ve likely heard the phrase sphere of influence. This refers to all the people you know, both personally and professionally. Your network, or sphere, includes not only personal friends and family members but also people you know through organizations, through your kids or spouse, and just from being “out and about” in the community. I guarantee that once you start brainstorming, you’ll realize just how many people you do know.
So, what’s the big deal about having a large roster of acquaintances? I’ll tell you — these folks are the key to growing your business. Keeping in touch with your sphere means you’ll be the real estate agent they think of first when someone in their own sphere is buying or selling — and you’ll grow your business.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Your sphere of influence — who’s in it, and why does it matter?
Chapter 2: How to rank people in your sphere
Chapter 3: Creative marketing strategies to try in person
Chapter 4: Creative marketing strategies to try online
Chapter 5: Reaching out to former clients
Chapter 6: Your social media cheat sheet
Chapter 7: Seasonal Marketing — Summer
Chapter 8: Seasonal Marketing — Holidays and Winter
Chapter 1: Your Sphere of Influence: Who's in It, and Why Does it Matter?
The truth is, a lot of people don’t know how large their sphere of influence actually is until they sit down and start thinking about everyone in it. That’s why we’ve put together this handy list to help you brainstorm.
- Family members, both immediate and extended
- Your spouse’s family members
- Personal friends
- Your spouse’s personal friends
- Your kids’ friends’ parents
- Your family’s friends
- Colleagues you previously worked with
- Colleagues you currently work with
- Former clients
- Your spouse’s colleagues
- People who attend your place of worship
- Your neighbors
- People who go to your gym
- Members of clubs you belong to, such as PTA, book club, Rotary, volunteer groups, etc.
- Professional relationships such as your accountant, car mechanic, dry cleaner, landscaper, hairdresser, day care provider, dog groomer, and mail carrier
Keep in mind, your sphere is constantly growing. Every time you meet a new seller or buyer, your sphere grows. Every time you approve a spend-the-night party for your child and meet the other child’s parents, it grows. Every time you shake hands with your elderly mother’s caregiver, it grows!
Furthermore, these days, the internet and social media mean your sphere is larger than ever. Not only can you keep in touch with childhood pals you might have otherwise lost touch with in 1985, but you can also connect with people you perhaps don’t know in real life or know simply in passing. And, if you can make a great impression marketing yourself online, you’ll earn the respect of your virtual network, as well.
Why does knowing who’s in your sphere matter so much?
So why does your growing sphere matter? Essentially, these are the same people who are going to grow your business. Real estate is based on relationships, and it takes one relationship to keep growing others.
Take it from our member Marco Silvestri, who regularly leverages his own sphere:
“...I have a database of about 700 people, and I market to probably about 400 of them, specifically every month, via newsletter, E-newsletter and I'm trying to touch them probably about 27 times a year. I have a spreadsheet, and I keep track of every deal I do, the commission base, and where I got that deal from. My circle of influence has probably been, I would say, 80 percent of the business ….”
That’s the key — Marco, who has only been an agent for a few years at this point, gets most of his business from people he knows in the community.
In fact, according to the 2018 NAR Quick Real Estate Statistics, 74 percent of buyers would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others, and 69 percent of sellers would definitely use their agent again!
That means your clients have an excellent chance of becoming repeat clients, and repeat clients from one family can tell their networks, too.
Chapter 2: How to Rank People in Your Sphere
Here at Smart Agents, our mantra is working smarter, not harder, and the same idea applies when it comes to reaching out to your sphere of influence. You certainly don’t want to invest a lot of time and money into cold leads or past clients who aren’t open to engaging with you and your real estate business.
That’s why it’s imperative to keep evaluating individuals, whether they’re acquaintances or former clients. How can you do this? The first thing to do is take your list of contacts you put together in the first chapter. Once you have your list of contacts, start dividing the list into the following three categories: hot leads, warm leads and cold leads.
If you’ve been in the business a while, you know the difference between a hot, warm and cold lead — but you might not regularly take the time to consider who in your sphere falls in each category.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about each person, so you can better determine whether they are hot, warm or cold:
- How did you meet the person?
- Does the person live in your community?
- Has the person bought or sold real estate recently?
- Has the person worked with you previously?
- In the case of previous clients, did they enjoy working with you?
- When did you last engage with the person?
Once you figure out who counts as a hot contact, you will want to move those people to the forefront of any marketing campaigns.
Let me explain further.
If a lead is cold, that means they don’t know much about you and your business or perhaps do not need to buy or sell real estate at the moment. Your goal with a cold lead is to stay in front of them, so that when the time comes and they need an agent, they’ll think of you. Interacting in the community, sending occasional content emails and staying connected on social media are great ways to stay in front of cold leads.
If a lead is warm, that person might be thinking about buying or selling. They might be newly engaged, looking to relocate to a larger home or downsize to a smaller one — but they aren’t quite there yet; they’re just thinking about it. Many previous clients also count as warm leads — perhaps you just worked with them and they are settled for the time being, but you anticipate working together again in the next few years. These leads need to hear from you more often than cold leads, and in more “real estate-related” ways, such as helpful market tips and neighborhood information. You might also send warm leads greeting cards and gifts, when appropriate.
Everyone’s favorite category, hot leads, are where you need to concentrate your marketing efforts. These leads are looking to buy or sell soon, and may actively be either looking for an agent, trying to sell by themselves as FSBOs or asking others for agent recommendations. Mailers, drop-bys, and other more vigorous marketing campaigns are welcome and necessary with these leads.
Note that your hottest leads might be people you don’t actually know, but know of. For example, say you heard a woman at a PTA meeting at your child’s school talk about her neighbor getting ready to move. You know the woman at PTA, but you do not know her neighbor. The woman is in your sphere of influence, yet her neighbor is not. How do you get the contact information of the woman’s neighbor so you can market yourself? Try something like:
Hey Amy, I didn’t know if you knew this, but I’m a real estate agent. I would love to reach out to your neighbor Kim about selling her house! Do you have a contact for her?
When ranking Amy, whose neighbor is moving, you can temporarily move her into the hot lead category and remind yourself to get her neighbor’s information. Once you are acquainted with Kim the neighbor, you can categorize Kim as the hot lead and, if necessary, re-categorize Amy.
Once you have everyone categorized as a hot, warm or cold lead, you can decide which types of marketing will suit each contact.
Chapter 3: Creative Marketing Strategies to Try in Person
Guerrilla marketing stands out, especially among standard real estate marketing tactics. It's also not used that much (especially in the digital age), making it easier for you to stand out if you use it.
What is guerrilla marketing, exactly? It is the use of unconventional marketing tactics to capture consumers’ attention and secure their business. It usually involves humor or something a bit shocking to capture people's attention.
Here are some examples of tactics.
Advertise in fun, unusual places.
Advertise your business in weird places. A pizza box is an example — or the doors on restroom stalls inside restaurants.
You can also create stickers with your info on them and do a “co-op” advertising campaign with a local restaurant or store.
Offer employee discounts at your favorite places.
This is another great way to stay in front of your community. Offer local restaurant or store employees a special discount for your services, and see how popular you become in those places.
Go to parks and outdoor festivals.
Visit a popular dog part and give out treats with your name on them. A tagline like "A Doggone Good Agent!" is a fun way to get noticed.
This works the best in a pet-friendly neighborhood with a dog park. It will appeal to animal lovers and families.
Turn open houses into events.
This will bring in a whole different set of people to look at the listed home. True, they might not be interested in looking at the home, but they may know someone else who is.
Make sure you capture names, addresses, and emails at these events.
Mail and drop off memorable items.
Drop off seed packets with your information and say, “Plant your business with me, and I will help you grow many happy memories.”
Or send out earplugs to houses and write “Have you heard the market’s bad? You’re listening to the wrong people. Call your local expert.”
Chapter 4: Creative marketing strategies to try online
91 percent of people check their emails daily. Your emails have a better chance of being opened and answered the same day you send them.
There are plenty of ways to build your email list and fill it with contacts who are interested in selling or buying soon. At that point, they become part of your sphere.
Here are a few suggestions.
Host a Facebook giveaway in exchange for contact information.
If this is done correctly, it can pay for itself multiple times over. If you come up with a good enough idea, people will readily engage with your content.
Gift cards, gift baskets, and tickets to anything are a few ideas. You just need to provide something of value.
Trade content for email addresses.
Tradable content needs to be longer or different from anything free you post. It also needs to be relevant to real estate, so the people who reach out are engaged with the topic.
Here are a few content ideas:
- Move-in checklists
- Move-out checklists
- Relocation guides
- Neighborhood guides
- Local event guides
- Staging tips
Marco Silvestri gets pretty creative when he sends out an email. Here’s what he told us about his “Marco’s Morning Minute.”
“So they get a monthly newsletter, I'm starting to get more involved in YouTube videos. I do what I call, kind of corny, but Marco's Manitoba Market Minute. It's a little bit of a mouthful, but Marco's ManitobaMarket Minute. So I'll have my stats, you know, on big print behind the camera. And I'll say, so this month we've had so many active listings, so many sales, so much per square foot, average sale price, average days on market and then semi attached and then condos. Right? And then, and if you want more information on commercial and investing, contact me at 431-777-SOLD. And then I thank you for watching Marco's Manitoba Market Minute. See you next month. And a stupid corny thing. I put it out there, I emailed it to people. They probably laugh every time or just deleted it. I don't know. But I'm doing that through BombBomb. So it keeps track of who's opening it, how many times they've opened it…”
Have a squeeze page on your website.
The goal of a squeeze page is simply to get people to enter their email addresses. This page needs to have a few standard components, such as a clear headline that shows visitors who you are and what you're offering. A subscription or opt-in form and a video or image that enforces your message are also necessary.
When someone opts in, a welcome email should be triggered. You can set this up through your email platform.
Segment your email list to get the most out of it.
Make a separate list for hot leads, warm leads and cold leads. You can send the same newsletters to each category, but tweaking a few words makes a world of difference.
If you want to go even further, you can make lists for expireds, FSBOs and vacant homeowners.
Once you have an effective list, use the best subject lines to continually reach them.
This is the other crucial part of your email success. People receive dozens and dozens of emails a day. Your subject lines need to grab their attention but can't be too complicated.
Make sure your emails stay out of the spam folder.
Eighteen percent of agents face this problem. There are steps to take to avoid it. The first is to include your office’s physical address on the bottom of each email. This shows readers you are legitimate.
Fortunately, your mass email service can handle a lot of this for you. They’ll include an unsubscribe button. However, if you have extremely low open rates, you may get marked as spam.
You should use your work email, since emails that come from @gmail or @yahoo are much more likely to be marked as spam.
Remove inactive emails from your lists.
This is the main reason agents get marked as spam: If a large chunk of your contacts' addresses are unreachable, you'll be put in the spam folder of active email addresses.
When you get a bounceback email, or your email platform says an email is inactive, delete it from your list.
When you get responses, reach out in person.
Closing these leads is much easier than closing someone that has no interest in you. Ask leads that seem interested if they want to meet you and learn more about the market or what you can offer them.
If they open the majority of the emails you send them, chances are, they’ll say yes. Here are a few examples of the types of emails that will build a relationship between you and your leads.
Chapter 5: Reaching Out to Former Clients
You should aim to have a system for reconnecting with your old clients regularly so they get accustomed to getting a card, gift or update from you at certain times. Staying in touch ensures that they remain part of your sphere and think of you when someone in their sphere needs real estate help.
By going through your sphere a couple times a week, you'll make this a habit and eventually get through all your contacts.
Mail a monthly postcard, letter, newsletter, or magazine.
When you're expecting a package, you can’t wait for the mailman to drop it off so you can tear open the box and get to the contents, right?
Your previous clients are also part of the 79 percent of consumers who act on direct mail immediately, compared with 45 percent who act on email communication.
Mailing your former clients a monthly newsletter of some kind is a great way to maintain contact. Depending on what kind of newsletter you send, it doesn’t even have to be that expensive. You can send a monthly letter for pennies.
Send postcards or letters.
The effort you put into a card and sending it will go a long way with your sphere. Holidays are the perfect time to stay in touch with your past clients. Doing so will increase your chances of getting referrals or repeat business.
We have templates through our membership site to keep in touch with past clients at key times throughout the year. A few more examples appear later in this guide.
Call and have a conversation.
Another really old-school method that is still effective is calling and having a phone conversation.
Once a quarter, for example, you could call all the people in your database who are likely to refer you and just touch base with them to see how they're doing. This doesn't have to be a complicated script — it's all about being natural and keeping things personal.
Conversation starters could be:
How are you enjoying your new home?
Do you need any help with things around the house? I can put you in touch with a good local contractor.
You can also reference things you previously discussed or that you recently saw on social media, such as a new employment opportunity or recent graduation.
Chances are, they won’t ask for any assistance from you, but the communication lets them know you care and are available, which is what you’re going for.
Break bread over coffee or a meal.
You can always offer to catch up with former clients over coffee, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The core idea here is to involve your sphere in a no-pressure gathering that will show you care about them as people, not just as clients.
Give them a gift.
This is going the extra mile for sure, but it can be worth it a lot of the time. Sending gifts will likely bring up your name around the dinner table, and then hopefully lead to more referrals.
Something to keep in mind with this method is that you shouldn’t do this with every client you’ve ever had. When you're going after referrals, you should set up some kind of grading system for your clients: Which clients are very likely to refer you, and which ones are likely never going to refer you? Obviously, you should spend your time and money on the ones who are going to give you the most business and send you the most referrals.
Here are a few ideas for various seasons. Some of them could be used any time.
- Seasonal items such as spiced tea or coffee
- Tickets to a football game or other sporting event
- Gift cards to an upscale supermarket
- Tickets to a movie, play or holiday event
- Seasonal dishes or glassware for a party
- Home items such as a candle, wreath, photo frame, hand soap or sofa throw
- Pies or festive food item (Desserts are always welcomed, as are “snack” baskets)
- Floral arrangements
- Seed packets for fruits, vegetables and flowering plants
- Flower pots
- Gift cards to home improvement stores, cleaning services, window washing, car washing
- Something to enhance the outdoors such as a lantern, strand of lights, or bird feeder
- Tickets to home or garden events
- Tickets to a fun park, water park or something for the family
- Gift cards to a movie theater
- Fresh produce, or homemade food items made with fresh produce
- Gas cards for road trips
- Tumblers for keeping drinks cold
- Beach totes or coolers
Host a dinner party and invite them.
A party is a great way to not only get back in touch with older clients but also to meet a few potential clients, if you ask your past clients to bring guests. You could even invite people to bring their own dishes to share.
Recognize big events in their lives.
If you aren’t doing this already, keep a calendar with all of your past clients’ birthdays and other milestones, if possible. While this might strike you as a great deal of effort, remember that the people you’ve worked with are the lifeblood of your business.
When you send them birthday or holiday cards, you can also choose to send a gift or a gift card for a small amount along with it.
Besides birthdays, home anniversary cards are some of the best ones to send out. These cards will remind your clients of the excitement they felt when they moved into their new home — and how you helped them find it.
Chapter 6: Your Social Media Cheat Sheet
These strategies can be used on your social media channels or in your email marketing.
As always, the name of the game is to make cold leads warmer, and warm leads hotter.
Connect with seller leads.
The first category of content is tips to attract seller leads. These work best with an email list of leads you build. They could also work on Facebook.
- Home-staging tips — Sending these tips to FSBOs or expireds works well. Repost content with your own caption, or write your own list.
- Home upgrades that improve value — Help homeowners who want to sell in the future but feel hampered by run-down parts of their homes.
- Home repair or improvement tips — This is the same concept as the last tip, but with less extreme measures than full upgrades.
- Gardening and lawn tips — If you can find statistics about home sale prices with great-looking yards compared to average-looking ones, that would be the perfect info to pair with these tips.
- Recent sales in your city — The more in-depth information you can provide, the more you can appeal to your audience. Homeowners will be interested in sales prices for homes in their area.
- Market predictions for upcoming quarters — This would inform readers how a sale could look for them when if and when they decide to sell.
- Offer free home valuations — Be sure to point out why estimates from sites like Zillow are often inaccurate and why your valuation holds much more weight.
- Content that shows why now is the best time to sell — If you write it yourself, you can spin it any way you'd like, though you can probably find content already written on this.
- How you make a difference selling homes — You can include information from your listing presentation. You can include your listing photos or anything that separates you from other agents.
- A rundown of the inspection process — A lot of homeowners don’t know the ins and outs of home inspections and will take interest in reading what you have to share.
Connect on a hyper local level.
The next group of ideas can help you look like the local expert. People want to work with agents who know the ins and outs of the area, the business climate, and upcoming events. This knowledge adds another layer of trust to your relationship with your online audience.
- A weekly or monthly event calendar — If any of your followers get their plans or know what’s going on locally because of you, they’ll trust you and your brand even more. Staying on top of what's happening at least monthly will be a big step in showing your local knowledge.
- Local restaurants with deals or where kids eat free — This could be a good opportunity to partner with a local business owner for some cross-promotion. Either way, passing deals and specials on to your audience is a great way to connect with a lot of people.
- Things to do with the kids around town — Parents are always looking for fun and enriching things to do with their children. Those same parents might be looking to buy or sell in the near future.
- Holiday guides or lists for your area — Talk about the best places to buy a tree, pick out a pumpkin or see light displays during the festive season. This is another good opportunity for cross-promotion.
- Lists of your favorite or the best restaurants and bars — Use your own list or someone else's. People love rankings.
- Free things to do over the weekend — Everyone loves having fun for free.
- Restaurants with patio dining — People love to eat outside when the weather’s nice, so tell them where the best views are.
- Summer camps for kids — When school gets out, parents are going to be looking for activities to send their kids to over the summer.
- Day trip ideas near your city — Either find a list or come up with a few ideas for a quick and adventurous day trip in your city. If you live in a populated area, chances are a lot of these lists exist already.
- A list of dog parks or things to do with pets — Pets are family members, so come up with lists of how to show them love.
Connect with everyone.
The last set of ideas appeal to a general audience — including colder leads. The worst thing you can have is a stagnant social media presence. People will unfollow and forget about you. These are good ways to stay in front of your audience, no matter how they are ranked in your sphere.
- National housing market news — This is relevant to anyone who owns a home, not just the ones in your area.
- Kitchen and bathroom trends for 2020 — There are plenty of websites out there to help!
- Posts about random holidays — For example, on national pet day, ask your followers to comment with a picture of their pets. There are an almost endless number of these “holidays.”
- Funny homeownership or real estate memes — Everyone loves memes, especially when they can relate to some of the hassles of homeownership.
- Mother’s and Father’s Day gift ideas — Everyone is looking for unique gift ideas for their loved ones on these holidays.
- Payment assistance programs in your city — This could help people thinking of a move, who were previously uninformed of these programs.
- Credit score tips — Give tips for how to raise scores and keep them high. Bad credit is a major roadblock for people who want to buy and sell.
- Before and after fixer upper photos — People love seeing a massive change in a run-down home before it is sold. Bonus points if you were personally involved in the upgrades. You can also provide recommendations on local contractors in exchange for them referring clients to you.
- Real estate of the rich and famous — People love reading about celebrities. Post a list of the most lavish celebrity homes and mansions, along with their prices.
- Real estate trends of 2020 — Another idea that is applicable to anyone who owns a home.
Chapter 7: Seasonal Marketing for Summer
Summer is a huge season for real estate. People are more willing to move when the kids are out of school, and it’s a great time to market yourself to your community.
Here are a few ideas if you are looking for inspiration.
Send out an Independence Day postcard.
The Fourth of July is the perfect opportunity to connect with past clients for referrals and reach out to new prospects. Sending an Independence Day postcard or any type of themed mail for the holiday is a fun way to stay in front of your sphere and wish them a happy holiday.
Pop by your old clients' homes with a summer gift.
Stop by an old customer’s house with a summery gift and plant yourself in their mind for a while. (Pun intended, since a plant can make a great summer gift!)
A s’more-making kit, small pool or beach toys, seed packets for flowers or a gift card to an ice cream shop are also good ideas — or you can refer back to the list I mentioned earlier in this guide.
Host a client-appreciation outdoor party.
A fun summer party could take place during one of your open houses — but it doesn’t have to be. The event will show them you still care about them and their new home. When you send these invitations, make them as personal as possible. Write out the address on the envelope and sign the card.
Summer is the best time to host more open houses than usual.
You can make each open house a different summer theme. Doing so will lead more eyes to your signs, flyers or online posts, and bring in more people.
This is also the best time to show off curb appeal.
Make sure any listings you have look incredible from the street. The point is to show sellers and buyers how great your listings look during these crucial months. Furthermore, the better your current listings look and perform, the more marketing materials you’ll have for listing presentations.
Host a home-staging seminar.
Invite leads and any clients you are currently listing.
It’s a convenient time, since homeowners are looking to knock out outdoor and indoor projects all summer.
Send out a summer-themed newsletter.
You can do this by mail, but it usually works best by email or on social media. Summer is usually packed with different types of events and attractions in the community. Share information about these events to reach out to people and garner social media traction.
This participation shows you’re part of the local community and care about what goes on. Things like local festivals, concerts, fairs, summer camps and bar crawls are some ideas to post.
Chapter 8: Seasonal Marketing for Holidays/Winter
Real estate marketing during the holidays can present many challenges. Potential clients are spending more time with family and friends and less time thinking about their real estate woes.
Many sellers wait until after the holidays to list so strangers won’t disrupt their holidays. This doesn’t mean a smart agent can’t be proactive during the season.
Here are some ideas to make the most out of the holidays as a marketing opportunity, rather than a hindrance.
Host an open house holiday party.
Most homeowners don’t like opening their homes to strangers during the holidays, especially with so many family events going on. These parties are best hosted in vacant homes.
Stage the home to create a festive holiday environment. Provide holiday cookies, goodies and finger foods with non-alcoholic beverages, like eggnog and hot chocolate. Include a raffle offering up to $25 (maximum tax deduction per item) in prizes or gift cards. Holding a drawing also allows you to collect names and contact information for future leads.
Perform Community Service. It is the “Season of Giving,” after all! Collect items for a community angel tree, start a toy and/or food drive for a local shelter, or simply volunteer your time at a local nursing home, hospital or soup kitchen.
Advertise community service events in your blog, newsletter, website, online forums, and social media pages. Contact local community newspapers to see if they’ll publish a story about your event.
Hire a photographer to take high-quality photos and videos from your event, which you can later share online.
Sponsor a fun holiday event.
Sponsoring a local holiday event puts you at the forefront of all the publicity it generates. You can sponsor a local holiday market event, where booths offer holiday goodies and gifts for sale, along with your real estate booth. Team up with a local school or church to offer a holiday fundraising bazaar with booths.
Holiday running or biking events are very popular. Find a local bike path or jogging trail in a park or private property. Then, coordinate with local running, biking, and sports groups to sponsor and obtain the required permits or owner permissions for the event.
Send holiday cards or gifts to former clients and potential leads.
Think of your holiday cards or gifts as subtle promotions disguised as thoughtful gestures.
Consider including a small handwritten note on any cards or gifts you send out, along with your book.
Cards to former clients should remind them you’re always available for referrals and to meet any of their future real estate leads.
Your holiday card can include an offer like a free home warranty plan for purchasing a home through you, or you can offer a free CMA.
Post-holiday classes and workshops.
After the holidays, everyone is ready to go back to work. This is the best time to offer classes for home buyers and sellers.
Schedule classes in early January after the holiday rush ends. Promote your upcoming class during the holidays, and offer gift cards to anyone who attends the class. Certificates make great holiday presents.
Remind buyers and sellers that the winter season is still a good time to buy and sell.
Even if they don’t buy right at the holidays, according to the National Association of Realtors®, buyers who hold off until January or February pay 8.45 percent less on average than in the summer months. January had the lowest sale prices in 29 of the 50 metro areas, and February had the cheapest prices in 19 areas.
Don’t forget to share this information with your sphere to motivate them in the winter months.