How to Activate Referral Marketing for Real Estate

Guaranteed Ways to Increase Your Real Estate Referrals

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

In real estate, referrals are life for your business. Your real estate business will won't thrive if you don’t set up a steady stream of referrals right away.

While it’s true that social media marketing, Zillow ads, and even yard signs do pull in business, nothing is better than good old fashioned word of mouth. It’s so effective because people trust the folks they know more than ads.

To grow your real estate business beyond where paid ads can take you, you’ll need to get the people that you already know (i.e. friends, family, former co-workers, etc.) to tell others about you. In this post, we’ll show you exactly how to do that.

Why is Referral Marketing Important for Your Real Estate Business?

For some businesses, referrals don’t matter much. Those businesses can get by with shiny marketing campaigns, competitive prices, and fast talking. But in real estate, when you’re dealing with big money and big emotions, you can’t rely on a direct mail postcard to do all the heavy lifting. You need an edge that will convince your prospective client that you’re the right person for the job.

That edge is your former client. Or friend. Or colleague. Heck, even your mom can give you an edge.

If any of the above people know someone who needs your services and then tells them about you, your chances of getting a new client skyrocket—without you having to lift a finger. Unlike a Facebook ad, your referral sources can engage prospective clients by sharing their experience. They can answer questions and calm their fears. If they’ve had a good experience, they will emphatically endorse your service to others.

Because people tend to trust the recommendations of others in their social circle, they’ll immediately have confidence in your abilities as an agent if you’re recommended to them. This is huge.

Word of mouth is the best marketing you can hope for, but it’s also the only form of marketing that you can’t directly control. But the good news is that you can influence it, and here’s how:

A Guide to Getting More Real Estate Referrals


Let’s discuss how to build a referral machine from scratch that works.

Focus on First Time Buyers

Have you settled on a real estate niche yet? If not, may I suggest first-time buyers?

Many agents don’t like working with first time buyers because they can be demanding or unrealistic. Because they’re purchasing their first home, they may not have a big budget (which means a smaller commission for you). They also need a lot of hand-holding because they’ve never purchased a home before.

So, with all of these potential headaches, why work with this group of buyers?

It’s in the name. First time buyers are likely to buy a second time, and maybe even more. A first home is rarely a forever home. This means that, if you impress them, you’ll likely create a client for life. First time buyers also tend to know other potential first time buyers in their social circles that they can refer to you.

And always remember: You have to follow Fair Housing Law as a real estate. While you can specialize in helping first-time buyers, you must always follow state and federal fair housing laws.

Learn more about the Fair Housing Act here.

Connect With Industry Professionals

As we discussed earlier, referrals can come from any source, not just former clients. You can also enlist your professional network. As an agent, you’ll build relationships with other real estate professionals, including home inspectors, mortgage lenders, and construction companies. Don’t be afraid to lean on your network for referrals. That’s the whole point of building a network!

Also, consider casting your net beyond real estate professionals. Think about others who are likely to come in contact with your target client base, such as divorce attorneys and HR departments for local businesses. Build relationships with them and then ask for referrals. You can also give these professionals extra business cards so that they can pass on your information to others who need your help.

Focus on Local Businesses


Network with local businesses, including those that belong to national chains. (Such businesses may be franchised by local owners who want to network with others in the neighborhood.)

There are two major ways that you can work with local businesses:

The first way is to sponsor their events. A financial investment will typically get acknowledged with a banner at the event, which is a form of marketing, but not necessarily referral marketing.

The second way to work with local businesses that will definitely activate referral marketing: Write about them. Profile local businesses in your neighborhood guides or create a list of local business recommendations for your social media. But don’t do it alone. Interview the local business owner, and then ask them to share your write-up on their social media pages. And you know what? They’ll do it. And you know what else? That counts as referral marketing.

Go Above and Beyond

Referral marketing must grow from the soil of positive sentiment. This means that you’ll need to really impress your clients when you work with them. Don’t phone it in, ever. Educate them, support them, and always be honest with them about everything: What they can afford, what they need to list for, and how you can help them succeed. Answer calls quickly. Don’t take your clients for granted. Remember to treat your clients as you would hope someone would treat you.

What you invest in your clients will come back to you.

Keep In Touch With Former Clients

The celebratory champagne may have fizzled out, but that doesn’t mean that the relationship you’ve built with your client should do the same thing.

Stay in touch with your former clients. While they may not need your services now, they likely know someone who does. They’ll tell others about you if they remember you.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly people will forget about you, even if they liked working with you.

The best way to ensure that you stay at the top of their minds is to quite literally stay in front of their eyeballs. Whether you’re sending monthly email newsletters, several greeting cards each year, or keeping in touch on social media, you must continue nurturing a relationship with your former clients.

To empower continued nurturing, you need a CRM (customer relationship management) tool.

A CRM will keep all of your contact information in one place, enabling you to stay organized. Use your CRM to continue nurturing relationships with your former clients. This will keep you at the top of their minds, and ensure that they remember you when someone needs real estate services.

Also use your CRM to track referral sources. When a new prospective client calls, log the referral source so that you can thank them later.

There are many great CRMs out there, but we recommend choosing one that’s built specifically for real estate agents, such as Wise Agent or Top Producer.

Also periodically ask your contacts for referrals. They may not think about referrals otherwise.

Use Your Website

Did you know that your website can play a role in your referral marketing strategy?

Include testimonials on your website to emulate word of mouth marketing. Even though they may come from strangers, these testimonials will still be persuasive to your prospective clients.

After you’ve completed a transaction with a client, make it a habit to ask them for a testimonial. Written is good but video is best, especially if you plan to post it on your website and on your social media pages.

Another way to use your website in referral marketing is by making your property listings and blog posts shareable. Add social sharing buttons to the top or bottom of each piece of content and ask your website visitor to share it on the social media pages. You can get referral traffic through this simple ask.

Final Thoughts

Although you can’t pay directly for referral marketing, you can use the above tips to jumpstart your referrals.

Before you go, check out these related posts:

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