November 27, 2018
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Hassan Riggs

To Build Better Customer Relationships, Look At Real Estate Like Dating

Not great at dating? You're probably not great at marketing either.

You wouldn’t propose immediately upon matching with someone on a dating site or bring up possible kids’ names on a first date, would you? Of course not — expecting that kind of commitment (or even the mere consideration of it) would be silly. You’d scare that potential love interest away in seconds.

So why then, knowing this, do real estate agents take the same approach in marketing? Why do they ask people they’ve never interacted with before — people who have never even heard their name — to hand over their listing or sign that broker agreement on first glance?

We see it all the time in Facebook ads and in marketing CTAs — “Buy Now,” “Subscribe Today” or “Sign Up” — way-to-early calls for commitments that feel pushy, overbearing and sometimes even sleazy. This commitment-pushing approach certainly wouldn’t work with dating, so why do agents (or any brand, for that matter) think it would work when people have serious money on the line?

In Real Estate, Marketing Is Relationship-Building

At the end of the day, it’s important that agents remember they’re building a relationship with their buyers and sellers. Just like you would with a potential love interest, you have to invest in them. You take them on dates, you learn more about them, you meet their parents and you make them happy.

In short: You put in the effort, and you show your worth.

When you think of your customer relationships as human relationships, the steps to building and strengthening those connections become clearer. Think of it like the phases of dating:

• The Glance: This is that first glimpse that person gets of you — the one that makes them take a second look, and then maybe a third. It’s how customers become aware of your personal brand or brokerage and realize you exist. It could be via a past buyer/seller referral, through a paid social ad or through organic search results.

• The Gaze: This phase is when they start to show interest. It’s when you make them laugh or hold the door open for them, and they become keen to learn more about you. It’s when the customer begins to feel a connection and engage with you in a low-commitment way, like commenting on an online post or watching a video you created.

• The Digits: By now, you’ve established enough of a rapport that you can ask for their phone number or email. They’re comfortable giving you their information or setting up that first date. This is when you get a buyer to subscribe to your listing alerts or a homeowner to fill out an info form about the property they’re looking to sell.

• Going Steady: You’ve had a few dates with great food, laughter and fun. The foundation is there, and there’s mutual trust. You ask the person to go steady, and they accept. This is when you ask for the commitment — the purchase, appointment or paid subscription. It’s the point where it’s finally appropriate to ask the seller to sign your contract or the buyer to deem you their exclusive agent.

• Ring Shopping: Now, they’re excited about building their future with you. They’re talking wedding destinations and children’s names, and they’re thinking about moving in. As an agent, this is when you build excitement about the possibilities you can offer the customer. You take them on tours of homes or help them stage their property. You run an open house and create a drone video of the home. In short, you help them get the most from their buy-in.

• The Marriage: You’re well into your relationship, and you’re on solid, trusting ground with the person. You propose, marry, have kids and buy a house and continue on successfully for the long haul. The customer has fully bought in and keeps returning for additional value. This is where you up-sell potential add-on products and services that can amplify their results even more — maybe connecting them with a local home inspector to evaluate their new property or an interior designer who can help them furnish the home.

• The Couples Family Vacation: You’ve built a fun and fulfilling life together, and your spouse wants to take others along for the ride. You go to Disneyland, and they invite the other four families in your cul de sac to join you. This is when the customer becomes an advocate and promotes your services on your behalf. Maybe they refer you to a neighbor looking to sell, or they send their son or daughter your way when they’re ready to buy a home.

As unrelated as dating and real estate marketing may seem, it’s easy to see the correlation once you break it down. In dating, you don’t ask for commitments too early or force them to move in before they know anything about you. Instead, you follow an incremental, natural progression that’s comfortable for both of you.

When you make the decision to build customer relationships in the same way you do your personal ones — with concerted time, effort and consistent value — what results is a long-term, rewarding arrangement for both parties. And isn’t that the whole point of being an agent?

Author
Hassan Riggs
Hassan is the CEO and Co-founder of Smart Alto

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