It might be too soon to hold a large event or party due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But if you’re looking to connect with your clients and generate new business while adhering to social distancing protocols, here’s how!
Client appreciation events and parties are a great way to generate business and nurture relationships with clients. Plan and promote your event months in advance with safety protocols in mind to ensure people show up and have an incredible time.
Launch unforgettable events that empower you to focus on generating referrals and repeat clients. Read on if you’re interested in holding a memorable client appreciation party.
A successful event requires planning and preparation in advance. Many event marketers for realtors recommend a month to organize and sort out details, which gives you time to create invitations, decide on a guest list, and nail down a venue. You will need to plan your invitation timeline, depending on the season. It’s usually recommended to send out invitations as early as six weeks before the event, especially if you are planning a seasonal party around a holiday such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year.
On every invitation, specify the dress code and collect RSVPs. After sending the invitations, follow up via personal phone calls to people that have not RSVP-ed two weeks before the event. Allow your invitees to bring an additional guest, whether it be a family or a friend. Your business will thrive on referrals, and a great event will establish rapport.
Keep It Age-Appropriate
Try to host an event tailored to your actual clients, including details as the time of the event, the day of the week, and the location of the venue. While a family-friendly outdoor BBQ lunch on the weekend is a great fit for clients with families if your overall client base trends older, you might want to do a white-glove wine happy hour with hors d’ oeuvres instead. Know your audience to figure out what event and venue they are willing to come to.
If you had a great year in commissions, you might feel like spending more than usual on a client appreciation party, but hosting an event doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Invite other realtors to host a joint party or partner with a business associate such as a lawyer or lender to keep costs down. Adjust the event depending on your budget; you might only host one event a year or an event every month, depending on the size of the guest list.
While you’ll most likely end up paying out of pocket, know that the typical realtor earns about 15% of their business from repeated clients, and 20% of business is earned through referrals from past customers and clients. It’s essential to nurture these relationships, so invest in client appreciation events accordingly.
To keep costs low for events with food, decide if a buffet style or a dinner priced per plate is cheaper. While buffet-style dining is relaxed and casual, and the line serves themselves, the lack of portion control directly relates to higher costs. To keep a buffet looking delicious means more food needs to be replenished throughout the event. Plated meals are charged per dining plate and are a formal meal service with lower costs due to pre-portioned presented courses.
You might think that less wait staff is necessary for a buffet meal event and lower overall cost. But while the number of servers decreases, food costs stay the same. Ensure to speak with each caterer or dining venue to ensure you are getting the best deal for your budget.
Importance of Photography/Videography
Depending on the type of event, you might have a formal step-and-repeat with a red carpet or want group shots to showcase a social vibe. No matter the event, it is essential to hire a professional photographer at the venue and be included in your budget. There is a huge difference between a professional photographer and photos taken with a phone camera. Having polished photos will give your event an overall polished feel.
A professional photographer will be able to get down all your clients’ names with each picture you take, which you can follow up with attendees later with an online photo album. It also increases engagement on social media when you post and tag photos of attendees (with their permission).
Additionally, having a videographer can take videos of the event, and you can also have an impartial third-party vendor ask for testimonials about your work. Your clients will be more likely to share positive comments at a fun event and when they are not feeling pressured by you. The videographer can then compile all these mini testimonials into one video that you can share across all your social channels and potential leads.
Keep It Personal, Make It Intimate
Rather than launching a huge 200 person party, keep events small and intimate until you get a good feel for the number of clients that will show up to every event. We recommend a small dinner event for 20 people or a power brunch. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you wouldn’t necessarily want to endanger your clients with a huge event anyway.
When keeping events intimate, do not harass people with your sales pitch. Instead, talk for a few minutes before the food starts being served for a dinner event. Feel free to take this approach at your event, “Thank you for coming; it’s great to see some new and old clients this time around. I’m really grateful for you all coming out. It’s been a tough year but we made it through with your business and sending your friends and family to us. This event is to appreciate you. Enjoy!”
Events & Party Ideas
Show your clients that you appreciate their business and referrals. Ideally, you should do at least 2 to 4 client appreciation parties or events every year. Making it a routine will help you get better at hosting great events, and your clients will start to look forward to your events! Here are seven ideas for a fun client appreciation event that works for various real estate businesses and budgets.
Holidays Themed: Breakfast With Santa
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and holidays in the latter half of the year, such as Christmas, are almost around the corner. Consider a holiday-themed event such as Breakfast with Santa, where you can hold a photo session for families and a costumed Santa Claus. Instead of having your clients wait in line at a mall for hours, holding a private event will be very well received.
In the United States, Thanksgiving is a great time to “give thanks” back to your clients and show that you appreciate them. Host a big lunch with turkey and all the trimmings, buffet-style for a great get-together. Due to the pandemic, try holding this event outdoors or at a restaurant with a private garden/outdoor seating.
For other seasonal themed events, consider pumpkin patches or apple orchards as there are a variety of activities that are family-friendly, such as hayrides and delicious apple cider donuts. You can also hold a pumpkin carving contest with a prize!
Sporting Events: Football Happy Hour
Rent out a bar and invite people to watch a championship game on a big screen. By including free drinks and food, you can make sure that people show up for a great time. Make sure that they have a good audiovisual set up, as being unable to hear the game or the sound cutting off halfway would seriously detract from a successful viewing party event.
A big component of game nights is the food, so make sure that there is a delicious spread of refreshments and finger foods for your attendees. When attending a viewing party, people usually expect easy to eat staples such as pizza, sliders, wings, and beer. Give the people what they want, a casual, low-key social environment where they can root for their team.
Another memorable sporting event experience is to provide tickets to a local community sporting event or a minor league baseball game. Before the game, you can hold a tailgating BBQ and show your community spirit!
In-Person Event: Buyer and Brews
It will be worth going the extra mile for realtors with a client list of influential or high net worth individuals to hold a wine tasting power social event. For a white-glove formal event, pick up attendees in a chauffeured vehicle and assure them that they will be dropped off as well. Invite both clients and their spouses, and allow them to invite another couple for a super social. As the wine flows, all the attendees will get to know each other.
For a more casual event, hold a real estate client appreciation event at your local brewery or bar for your buyers and local “brews” such as craft beer or other popular beers. Ensure to provide plenty of food like a shared charcuterie board for each person or couple. Since it takes about one hour to break down a unit of alcohol in the bloodstream, one glass is approximately six ounces or two units, so stretch out the event, so your guests don’t get completely blitzed. But just in case, provide a cab back to their home if the guests are too belligerent.
Social Distancing Events: Movie Screen Rental
Movie theater buyouts are very popular, but with COVID-19, not many of your clients may be willing to risk attending in a closed area with a bunch of strangers. Instead, rent a large screen and host outdoors in a park or your backyard if it’s large enough. For less of a headache, choose a vendor with a technician available on-site during your event if something happens.
You can also buy out a drive-in theater where your clients can attend in their cars if you have one nearby, or host a larger screen for a drive-in movie screen where clients can watch in their cars. For a dash of nostalgia, recreate a 1950s drive-in theater by renting full-service popcorn machines. Provide these snacks and drinks for a perfect outdoor movie night under the stars.
Virtual Events: Virtual Entertainer Cocktail Hour
Invite a professional entertainer to do a virtual act over a video-conferencing program. It could be a local comedian, improv group, or even a magician duo. For instance, a magician duo known as Digital Deception does a virtual version of their activities through Zoom’s video-conferencing program.
It might be best to book short routines at around 30 to 40 minutes to account for attention spans at home and ask your clients to unmute their mics to recreate the feeling of attending a live show. These virtual shows are usually priced competitively, less than a third of their former rate for in-person gigs.
With the virtual entertainer, include delivering a steaming hot pizza and drinks from a local pizzeria for each client. If you buy in bulk quantities, a local place would probably be willing to cut a deal discounting each pie.
Charitable Events: Winter Coat Drive
Fundraising events are a great way to show not only appreciation for your clients, but also an appreciation for your community. While choosing an overly political cause or charity will alienate a portion of your client, it may be worth it to reach other clients that align with your views and values. However, it’s still very much possible to find charitable causes that everyone can agree on in the general population, such as feeding and protecting children or animal shelter charities.
Check to see if some nonprofits offer free marketing collateral to make it easier for you to market your drive. For instance, the Salvation Army’s Real Estate for Rehabilitation program offers free marketing kits from cards to brochures with information on how to be a part of the drive.
As a sweet bonus, provide free hot chocolate or apple cider for everyone that drops off items for the drive. Lastly, remember to post on social media about the successful charity event, so everyone feels good about giving back to the community.
Delivery: Gourmet Snacks to Go
A great and inexpensive way to improve any morning is a delicious and sugary treat. Coordinate delivery of fresh gourmet donuts cookies that clients can pick up at your local bakery, or arrange to pick up and you can personally deliver to each client house. Add a personalized thank you note letting each recipient know how much you appreciate their support and business.
If you are watching waistlines or if you know a client has a dietary restriction, consider chocolate-covered strawberries or a fruit basket instead. Some gourmet bakeries also offer vegan or gluten-free options on their menu, so make sure to be inclusive to ensure that everyone receives a tasty treat they can enjoy.
Combine Event and Party Ideas
There are many excellent ideas on the list, from virtual social distancing events to charity drives. But you can always combine all these client appreciation ideas to fit your client base’s interest. There’s no reason to not add a charitable element to a sporting event, hold a virtual wine happy hour before a virtual entertainer act, or host a picnic during a movie screen rental event.
After every event:
- Follow up with an email or text in thanks, with a reminder that you are always available for a call or appointment for interested clients.
- Include photos that you’ve taken of the event to remind everyone of the great time they had.
- Upload all the pictures on social media, and tag all your clients so they can look out for each other the next event you host.
What if Nobody Shows Up?
If nobody shows up, it’s the thought that counts. The event gives you an excuse to touch base and connect personally with your client list. Promoting your client appreciation event is a great marketing initiative for your business, as it reminds clients about you and your hustle.
In the worst-case scenario, if you have committed to a venue for 200 people but only 30 people have RSVP’d with one week remaining, post the event on Eventbrite, or any other local event aggregator with a ticket charge of $5 to $15. If an event is free, it can make it easy for people to change their minds about attending. People that pay for a ticket are more likely to show up to an event.
By charging ticket prices at the door, this method will ensure that freeloaders will not show up to crash your party and may give you some additional capital to cover your initial hosting investment. For security reasons, you should have a bouncer or staff only allowing people to enter the venue if they are on the guest list.
On a positive note, publicly promoting your event will help you promote your brand to other people in the community that may not have been aware of your business and improve your reach. You never know where your next potential lead will come from, but you could meet them at your party!
Client appreciation events allow you to let your clients know how much you appreciate them and their business. It also allows you to keep your business in a client’s mind with a memorable event rather than a sales pitch. By connecting your business with positive emotion, your clients will look forward to spending time and nurturing a relationship with you. You know your client base best, so think of an event that would excite them to ensure they show up!
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