The following article is one that was originally published in the digital magazine Gift Basket Business Insider in 2019. I still won’t reveal the name and location of the writer of this article as she prefers that but I will say that what she wrote is as relevant today as it was then. This is just one example of the informative articles that I published in the magazine for 13 years. Enjoy and learn from it! Joyce Reid
I am a Realtor located in northern California.
When Joyce asked me to write an article with tips for selling to the real estate industry, I was hesitant for several obvious reasons. But when she assured me that she would run the article without my name and exact location, I agreed and hope that you will gain some ideas that you can use from what I have to say.
A little background:
I have been a Realtor for many years and first jumped into the competitive real estate agent jungle in Flagstaff where I met Joyce. She had been a well-known Realtor there and had just hung up her license to begin a gift basket business, which she said was a lot more fun. I was a rookie and she was experienced in the field that I was just entering. Since I was just beginning my career at the franchise company that she was leaving, she took me under her wing and helped me get started.
My broker invited her to come to one of our office meetings and give a presentation about what she could do for his agents. She came – brought samples of some of the cookies and candies she used as well as samples of a few gifts. She didn’t spend a lot of time talking to us as our office meetings are kept short. But in the brief time she was with us, she gave us ideas that we had never thought of and that I still use today. She left each of us a folder with lots of information and photos. At the end of the presentation, she said, “if you will share your birthday with me – just the month and day – you won’t be sorry” and passed around a pad for us to fill in the information if we wanted.
We quickly learned that on each of our birth dates, there was something waiting for us in the office to celebrate. It always varied so we were always surprised and excited to see what it was going to be for the next person’s birthday.
A few years later, my husband transferred from Arizona to northern California and I had to start over – getting a new license, finding a new company to join, and building my business.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but what I learned from Joyce during those years in Flagstaff made a huge difference and, within a shorter time than I ever dreamed possible, I was once again operating a successful real estate business. I am going to share some of those ideas with you along with some tips from my own years of experience as a Realtor.
In Flagstaff, I was selling houses mostly in the $200,000 to $400,000 range. Half-a- million dollar prices were rare. But here in California, $500,000 is the low end. This makes a difference, of course, in the amount that I make on each sale but it also affects the price of closing gifts that I may give to my buyers and sellers. I consider closing gifts to be investments in the future and not an expense of the past and spend accordingly.
There are so many options for Realtors to use as gifts that we really don’t need you gift basket people. That may sound harsh but it is true. Everyone seems to have a product or service that they want to market to us. You can’t imagine the flood of “buy my stuff” offers that come in every day. So you’ve got to convince us why we need you and what you can do that will make people remember us when it comes time to refer customers to us or when they are ready to buy or sell again.
Joyce did such a good job of that for me when I was selling real estate in Flagstaff that I continue to use her services today. Of course, she doesn’t provide all of my closing gifts but she does ship many of them to my clients and customers each month.
For some buyers and sellers, I will do something very personalized and many times Joyce is able to do that. I have sent her a variety of local gifts from my city and expanded area for her to include in the closing gifts.
Many of my Realtor friends include wine or other alcoholic beverages in their closing gifts but I do not. The reason is simple. Not everyone drinks alcohol for different reasons. When I was in Flagstaff, I learned quickly that the Mormon community drank neither alcohol, coffee, or tea. I usually avoid these beverages unless I know someone particularly enjoys coffee or tea. Then I will include them. But never alcohol. I have my own personal beliefs about alcohol consumption but, even more importantly, there are the recovering alcoholics that you are completely unaware of. I would never want to tempt them with a great bottle of wine. I find it just easiest to avoid using alcohol as a gift.
Something else that I don’t include in my closing gifts are items with my name or my company name on them.
Realtors can deduct a maximum of $25 on their taxes for a closing gift to an individual buyer but if the gifts are branded with your name, they are considered marketing and promotional expenses.
As a result, many Realtors include branded products but I feel that the gift should be about the customer and not about me. And my opinion is that having a gift with my name on it, even though it may be as practical as a set of knives with my name on the blade or a set of mugs with my company name on them, is not going to build that relationship with them. They will remember me for the time and effort that I put into making the transaction possible and I will build upon those memories later. For me, the closing gift is to say “Thank You” for letting me get to know you and to serve you. The opposite of that, however, is that I never hesitate to add a gift item that has their name imprinted on it.
There are other times that I do use branded gifts but the closing gift is not one of them.
The one time that I do use something with my name on it with a buyer is when they have kids who accompany us to look at properties. Joyce obtained a coloring book branded with my company name for me and then put that into a box with crayons and a few other things to keep the kids busy rather than bored.
Realtors are busy people. And the more successful that we become, the busier we are. I would love to drive all over town shopping for the perfect gift for each client and customer, but I just don’t have the time. Therefore, I rely on someone that I can trust to create or provide the right gift within the price range that I specify and to make it special.
When I am going to have Joyce ship a closing gift to a customer, in addition to any details about likes, dislikes, health issues for the gift, I always mail a handwritten note in an envelope for her to include in the gift. This way, I can also include a gift certificate for a restaurant, a nursery, or even Home Depot if I wish. This keeps the gift very personal for my customer. In Arizona, my closing gifts were in the $40 to $50 range but here they are never less than $100 and usually much more.
Each customer is special.
No two customers are alike so it is important to get to know them as well as you can while building that relationship with them during the sale.
One customer was a single man with PTSD who had a service dog that was his very best friend. When we looked at houses, it was always with the dog in mind as well. When we finally found the perfect home and closed the sale, I had Joyce create a gift basket that was as much for the dog as for the man. He loved it!
For some of my customers who are single women, I will give them a tool box with the basic tools they will need to hang pictures or do some light repair work. This has been particularly appreciated by some recently divorced women whose ex-husbands previously took care of repairs.
We have a local chef who has created a reputation and has written a cookbook. I’ve purchased and sent some of them to Joyce. If I have a customer that I know loves to cook, I ask her to include that cookbook along with some ingredients for a recipe. I’ve received great feedback for these gifts.
And never forget the kids. When the buyer is a family, I make sure that the closing gift includes something for everyone in the family. Occasionally, grandma or grandpa are a part of the family that will be living in the new home. And, yes, we include a gift for them as well.
Don’t Stop with The Sale
One thing that Joyce taught me and the one thing that has resulted in so much repeat business as well as referrals is: Don’t stop with the sale. Make them remember you all year long. You never know when someone will ask a past customer, “do you know a good Realtor?” and I want them to say, “I sure do!”
Near the first of each month, I send Joyce a list of names and addresses of my past customers along with a message from me to include with a gift that she would mail or ship to each of them that month. It was always different and never really expensive but relayed to each of them that I cared. If I knew one of them was having a birthday that month, I made sure that it was a birthday gift. During the holidays, it would be holiday related.
I don’t send each customer a gift each month. Depending on the time of year, sometimes it will be every other month or even once a quarter. Just often enough to remind them of me and to make the gift a surprise rather than something they expect to receive every month.
Closing gifts for buyers and sellers are only a part of what Joyce provides and what I suggest you offer to provide for your Realtors.
I also give thank-you gifts to the loan officer and title company agent that handled the sale. Whenever, I make a presentation to a potential client to sell their property, I leave a thank-you gift with them. Every time that someone refers either a potential buyer or seller to me, I send them a thank-you gift along with a handwritten note.
For these gifts, I do oftentimes use gifts branded with my name and my company name. Joyce introduced me to a wonderful company – Maple Ridge Farms – that I buy gifts in multiples from. This way, I always have a gift on hand that I know tastes great! How do I know? Because I have tasted them myself.
During the holiday season, rather than send a gift basket, I have sent a turkey or ham on a cutting board imprinted with my name from Maple Ridge Farms. These are unexpected and well received.
When marketing to the real estate industry, don’t forget that we are more than just Realtors.
Loan companies, title companies, and home inspection companies market to us and they are excellent targets for your marketing. I have been taken out to lunch by a loan company employee who wants my referrals of buyers to them. But they also frequently deliver small cutesy gifts to us that they call pop-by gifts. These are small gifts, usually with some kind of cute saying or card attached to them. They are fairly inexpensive but could be good income for you by selling multiples of them. There are several websites that have been created just for selling these small gifts in bulk that could give you some ideas.
I have an assistant that operates the property management segment of my business. We manage commercial buildings, work with managers of apartment complexes, and manage individual homes. Joyce provides these gifts for us as well. She sends out hundreds of “welcome gifts” to our apartment complex managers to be used for new residents. When we obtain a new tenant for a commercial property, we always have her send out a gift to them as well.
Since Joyce puts out this magazine, you probably know that she is a good writer. I take advantage of that as well by paying her to write articles for the newsletter that I send out to market my business. If you write, this is a service that you could offer to your local real estate agents as well.
I’m sure that there are many other opportunities that you could think of to offer to provide gifts to your Realtors as well as others in the real estate industry. These are just a few that I use and hopefully will help you get started.