Networking--something that never goes out of style when building a business, and I think something that can be enhanced by social media!
When I started as an agent, I knew the benefits of networking, but wasn't sure which way would be best for me. Lots of direct mail? Joining various clubs? Sponsoring a kids' sports team? Volunteering? Email blasts with newsletters? I tried different techniques and ultimately started doing networking that fit my personality, riffing off what I like to do as a friend. What I did NOT want to do was what I call 'generic' networking.
As I started doing more transactions and meeting so many interesting people, the clients I really clicked with became friends. I see these people socially but also network with them by sending out personalized birthday cards (always handwritten, always include a few sentences, not just the generic Happy Birthday postcard). Every so often I ask them to meet me for lunch or happy hour. If I pass their house as I drive around the neighborhood--will send a quick text on how nice the yard looks or the holiday decor. If we are Facebook friends, I will comment on their posts every so often. In addition to these gestures, I do send out postcards 4 times a year, promoting upcoming events in Kansas City (festivals, art fairs, etc) and also drop off chocolates around Valentine's Day and spices for cookouts in the summer. At the end of the year, I will send holiday cards to some but will also email some former clients for updates on their lives--after all, I'm not social friends with every past customer. I find that a simple email inquiry as to what's new in their lives sometimes gets me a friendly response--and sometimes it's ignored. Still, I make the effort.
I have found that the volunteer work I do for our local public radio station (which I did before I started in real estate) has also brought me some great clients. I also volunteer for my local homes association--here's a photo I took of our annual Fourth of July Freedom Parade. Providing pictures and home sales stats for the newsletter we publish promotes my name and my business. (I also advertise in the newsletter.)
Finally, for the most recent buyers I've worked with, I keep in touch a couple of weeks after move in to see how things are going, and then try to visit the house about six months later to see how it's been turned into their home!
Networking is crucial, no matter what business you are in. I am trying to teach this lesson to my two daughters as they venture into the world as adults, starting their careers and job seeking. It is especially difficult for them, submitting resumes to a faceless email address with no way to follow up. I encourage them to be creative and try to figure out a way to meet someone from the organization in person and express their interest in the job.
The lesson I learned from networking my way into a successful real estate career is that it's best to do it the way it feels most comfortable for you. Be sincere in your efforts and not pushy; personalizing the message shows the recipient you care for them as an individual--and you will be remembered for it.