After being apart for so long, it’s really, really nice to be around people again.
For many of us in the U.S., Covid restrictions have been loosened for a while now—but the novelty of it still hasn’t quite worn off for me. Sitting in a coffee shop to write this blog, for instance, still feels so good after all of those months stuck at home.
I know we're not out of the woods yet, and that the risks will continue to ebb and flow. But for the time being, it looks like parties, cookouts, sporting events, and concerts are back.
And for many real estate teams, that means client appreciation events are back, too.
Since it’s probably been a while since you hosted an event for your real estate clients, this post can serve as a refresher on how to plan, promote, and host a client appreciation event the community won't soon forget.
How To Host An Amazing Client Appreciation Event
1) Decide on the type of event.
The type of event all depends on your clients. If you mostly serve families with young kids, a festival with games and carnival food might be in order. City-dwelling professionals might be more apt to attend a sophisticated wine tasting. Luxury real estate clients will want to be treated like VIPs, so perhaps box seats at a ball game? And retirees who just want to kick back and relax would probably enjoy a lakeside cookout, a few rounds of horseshoe, and some low-key live music.
Not sure what your clients would like? Just ask! Reach out to your favorite clients, run some ideas by them, and ask which event they'd most like to attend.
Here are some popular client appreciation event ideas to consider:
- Fall family festival: Complete with pumpkin patch, kids crafts activities, apple cider and pumpkin beer, food trucks, music, and a bounce house.
- Local art show: Invite local artists to display and sell their work at an event that can be held at your office or another venue. Provide refreshments and raffle off a few of the pieces.
- Family portraits: This more Covid-concious event idea involves hiring a professional photographer and offering free family/individual portraits. Throw in some refreshments and it's part event, part gift. And your clients will treasure it forever.
- Rent out a restaurant or bar: Keep things simple and fun by hosting a huge party at a fun venue. Give guests free drink tickets, use the venue's catering services for food, and spend the afternoon or evening schmoozing with your favorite clients.
- Private museum tour: Choose an impressive local museum, buy group tickets, and treat your clients to a private tour. Emile L'Eplattenier, managing editor of The Close and licensed realtor, writes, "Making your tour somehow related to the history of your city is a great way to try and steer things toward real estate."
2) Determine the cost.
Before you set an event budget, Digital Agent Show's Robert Earl recommends considering the fact that "the typical realtor earns about 15% of their business from repeat 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."
The Real Estate Trainer recommends setting aside 10% of your GCI for marketing, so take a look at your marketing spending and see how much room you have for hosting an event. Maybe you host one big blowout each year; maybe you host a few lower-budget events scattered throughout the year. Figure out what would have the biggest impact for your client relationships, then budget accordingly.
And if you're a new agent, Agent Crate suggests budgeting 10% of your previous month’s commissions to use for the next month’s marketing.
While determining your budget, consider your potential event costs:
- venue rental
- food and beverages
- entertainment vendors
- tickets (if you're bringing your clients to a sporting event, museum, concert, etc.)
- invitations & event promotion
Finally, remember that you don't have to do this alone! Reach out to your business partners—other agents in your brokerage, your lender, your attorney, etc.—to see if they would like to sponsor or co-host your event. They can split the cost with you and invite their own clients—plus, they'll get the added benefit of meeting all of your guests, and you'll get to meet theirs.
3) Choose a venue & set the date.
The date you choose will depend on the venue’s availability, so it’s important to start reaching out to possible venues early in the planning process. Ideally, you'll secure your venue about two months in advance, allowing you to send out invitations 6 weeks prior to the event.
As for timing, MTI Events says the best time to host a client appreciation event is right after your busy season has ended.
Be sure to review the venue rules, especially regarding food and drink, whether or not third-party vendors are allowed, and maximum guest capacity.
4) Hire entertainment and vendors.
The Eventbrite blog recommends starting the vendor search by creating a wishlist of everything you'd like someone else to do. Do you need caterers? Do you need to rent tables, chairs, and linens? And of course, think about the entertainment you want to provide to your guests.
You can search for vendors online—a quick Google search will bring up plenty of local companies—but you might be better off reaching out to your sphere for referrals. In addition to getting some great leads on trustworthy vendors, you also get that extra excuse to connect with your past clients.
5) Send personal invitations and promote the event.
Consider your budget and your audience when deciding how to best promote your event. An older, more traditional crowd might be more apt to take notice of an invitation sent via snail mail (and a service like Postable makes this really easy), while Gen-Xers might prefer an evite or Facebook Event invitation.
As mentioned earlier, give people as much notice as possible. Ideally, you’ll send out your invitations 4-6 weeks before the event date.
Decide if this event is exclusive to those on your guest list, if you would like to encourage guests to bring friends, or if this will be a totally public, community-wide event.
Be sure to include exciting event details in the invitation, like what type of entertainment to expect and whether or not there will be food/drinks. Provide information on parking, dress code (if applicable to the venue), the names of sponsors or co-hosts, and the important reminder that this event is your gift to them—a big thank you for being loyal clients and supporting your business.
After the initial round of invitations go out, follow up. Send a reminder email or text, and call anyone who hasn’t RSVPed within two weeks of the event.
And the promotion shouldn’t stop once the event has begun. Take TONS of photos and videos so you can share them afterwards on social media. Write a blog post about how great it was. Send personal thank you notes/emails to everyone who attended. Don’t let your event happen and then fade away—keep it in everyone’s memories, let the community see how much you love your clients and how well you treat them, and make everyone want to be a part of your “family.”
And then, of course, let everyone know when the next big event will happen!
For a more detailed schedule, check out Club Wealth's timeline for promoting your event.
6) Be the consummate host.
Remember, this is a client appreciation event. It's about them, not you.
Don’t focus on selling yourself. Instead, focus on thanking your clients for being awesome. Make sure they're having fun. Strike up a conversation and take the time to get to know them better. Ask about their kids or pets or jobs or vacation plans.
Let them turn the conversation to real estate. And if they never do, that's perfectly fine.
How To Automate Your Client Appreciation Event
With an automation platform like Realvolve, you can take a lot of the grunt work out of planning an event.
If you intend to make your event an annual occurrence, you've gotta put it in a workflow! Your event workflow can do things like:
- Send automated email templates to your business partners to request sponsorship
- Provide a checklist of questions to ask the venue manager
- Send drip text messages reminding guests of the event 2 weeks out, 1 week out, the day before, etc.
- Provide your assistant with instructions on when to order invitations and who to send them to
- Notify you of which past clients are due for follow-up, so you can then reach out to them by phone to personally invite them
- Send a mass email to all attendees thanking them for attending, sharing a link to photos from the event, and asking them to share on their own social media using your event hashtag