Getting Your Foot in the Door: Real Estate Giveaways That Work
Purchasing a house can be extremely stressful for homebuyers, but it’s also a lot of work for the real estate agents who not only have to win their business, but also make a big enough impact to earn some referrals. Enter promotional products. Agents use a wide array of these items to win over clients before and after purchasing their dream homes. When dealing with six-figure or even million-dollar purchases (plus lots and lots of interest), what’s an appropriate gift? We spoke to real estate agencies, a distributor and a supplier to learn ways that brokerage firms and individual agents use promotional real estate giveaways, and how to get their business.
How to Gain Real Estate Clients
There’s an interesting twist with real estate, in that the brokerage firm may not purchase promotional products for its agents. That responsibility (and cost) sometimes is on the individual agents or franchises.
At Keller Williams, Austin, Texas, there’s an application and authorization process that must be completed in order to sell Keller Williams-branded products.
“We actually have an approved vendor network where we have invited a number of vendors—from print suppliers to marketing product companies to website vendors—and we then give them access to our branding,” Annie Switt, director of marketing and communications for Keller Williams, said. “And then what they do is sell those materials to our agents so that our agents can then build their own individual logoed brands.”
To become a vendor, distributors must have “a minimum of three years in business, good credit, excellent business references [and the] ability to serve a national footprint,” according to Keller Williams’ website.
Approved vendors can purchase annual contracts that include various advertising opportunities, event sponsorships and booths at Keller Williams’ annual conferences—Family Reunion, a winter show that took place in New Orleans last month, and Mega Camp, a summer show in Austin. The conferences primarily are for training agents, but provide vendors the opportunity to sell their wares to thousands of Keller Williams real estate agents.
The network helps to regulate who is selling Keller Williams merchandise, as well as how they’re selling it.
“Some people just do not have any discretion when it comes to soliciting and they bombard the agents, and the agents get sick of it,” Galen Walters, owner of Houston-based KWRedStore.com, an approved vendor of Keller Williams’ network, said. “Well, what do [the agents] do? They turn around and go after Keller and say, ‘Stop this from happening.’ Some of [the reasoning behind the vendor network] is protecting the agents and some of it is just to maintain the quality.”
When vying to become a member of Keller Williams’ network, Walters suggested pitching unique items, like the backlit translucent signs he saw a new vendor selling at the last show. But, above all, he lists quality items, including brand-name products, as the best real estate giveaways.
“Even things that appear to be quality that may not be high price—they’re looking for that,” he said. “There’s a certain element that wants the tchotchkes and the cheaper promotional items from China, but there’s a real need for creativity in this industry.”
Denet Grampp, director of marketing and public relations for Century 21 Everest, which has five locations throughout Utah, limits the offerings for agents who are independent contractors and pay for their own promotional items. But, in order to get better prices, she combines her agents’ orders.
“So very often what will happen is the promotional salespeople will approach the brokerage, offering several different options for their agents, and then because there are quantity discounts, the brokerage will often choose two or three suggestions so that they can pull together and purchase the items in greater quantities [to get the price break],” she said.
Her current distributor got her firm’s business after meeting the company’s senior vice president at the gym. Aside from unexpected networking, knowing the needs of a given company is always a plus.
“It’s really important [for a distributor] to understand the culture of the company that they’re calling on because the salespeople who have been most effective with me, they get it,” she said. “They understand what activities we have coming up and they try to make my job a lot easier. They’ll send me a little email and say, ‘Hey, Denet, I found this really cool item. I think it’s perfect for your pool party this summer. Just kind of keep it in the back of your mind, and then when it gets a little closer, I’ll reach out to you again.’ Just knowing that they got my back, and they’re thinking ahead and helping me plan for my events is really good. It builds a lot of goodwill and keeps them in my mind.”
How Promotional Products Are Used in Real Estate
Scott Edidin, vice president of sales for the eastern division at Logomark, Tustin, Calif., noted a key difference between prospective and current clients: Agents need to make an immediate impact for the former, whereas for the latter, they want a longer impact—aka referrals.
“I’m giving a closing gift—that’s a customer I’ve already got,” he said. “So now I’m looking for an extended impact, so they can give me a referral. But when I’m giving the low price-point item out to try to gain a customer immediately, I want to make an immediate impact. I want an impulse buy. I want them to call me up and say, ‘You’re my person. Show me a house.’”
1. Client Recruiting
A pen may be a go-to, low-cost promotional product, but it doesn’t always offer enough branding space for a real estate agent, Edidin said. A firm also might want a large number of pens, but with set amounts personalized for each of its agents. However, setup fees quickly can make a low-cost item rather pricey.
“[This] is why our packaging has been so successful there because the item itself can be branded with a static logo, then the packaging can then have the personalization information on it without incurring additional setup costs,” he said.
The four-color process print could feature a home or the agent’s headshot as well as the agent’s contact information.
“It’s a billboard for them,” Edidin said. “It really is. As opposed to a promo item that delivers a simplified message because of limited branding area, now you’ve got much larger branding area to deliver a complete message at a low-cost.”
“Keller Williams is actually one of the few real estate franchises that really considers door knocking to still be one of the old, faithful lead-generation efforts for the real estate agency, so they’ll leave them on doors, door-hanger style.”
2. Client Appreciation and Referrals
After the successful buying or selling of properties, agents tend to thank their clients with nice gifts to remember their dedication. These gifts could be practical, like a tape measure or screwdriver, and help to make the transition into a new home easier.
“You want to start making that new place your home,” Edidin said. “You want to hang your pictures, you want to put your new furniture together, [and] you want to put your curtains and blinds up. And then you realize, ‘Oh my God, all my tools are packed. What am I supposed to do?’ Now, when you have that tape measure, you have that screwdriver, that’s there, and now you think that ‘Geez, this real estate agent is thinking about me and what I need in my new home. I really did make the right decision by using them.’ A lot of their business is based on referral and if they can leave a lasting impression that is positive with a customer, they’re going to be more likely to gain a referral.”
But it’s not just the gift that matters. Have the agent combine the product with ideal, gift-giving timing—and even pizza, Grampp suggested.
“Dropping by on moving day is a great idea because when you’re moving, you have a lot of friends and relatives who are there to help you, so then it just spreads goodwill, like ‘Wow, this agent really cares about us,’” she said. “And we have agents also who bring pizza on moving day, which is another great idea, so you bring a pizza and a little gift and you drop it off. It’s just really memorable and it builds your business.”
3. Brokerage Firm Internal Use
While homebuyers and sellers are an important part of the real estate industry, the brokerage firms and employees enjoy having the company’s branded items as well. For KWRedStore.com, dog hoodies, girls’ hair bows and children’s clothing, including onesies printed with phrases, like “I’m a KW Grandkid!” and “I’m a Future KW Agent!,” were hits—and completely sold out—at the latest Keller Williams show. Walters mentioned another item that has been gaining popularity: a solid brass and silver medallion engraved with “KW” that has a clamshell clip.
“People want them for their bags,” Walters said. “They want them to put on their briefcases and their travel bags and things of that sort.”
Events are big for Century 21 Everest, which has an annual golf tournament and summer pool party, as well as monthly summit meetings where the brokerage recruits and retains agents. Each utilizes promo items, including handing out a journal tied with a ribbon to new recruits at the monthly meeting, Grampp said.
“The journals are for internal use for recruiting and retaining agents because that’s what the game of real estate is all about,” she said. “Often, we need promo items just for our own internal recruitment and retention activities.”