More business is out there. Here’s how to connect with today’s leads and tomorrow’s clients.

Finding new listings is one of the most important tasks in real estate—it’s how you get business. And knowing where to find them is more important than ever during this unprecedented housing market.

In any market, it is always worth spending time on lead generation. Three real estate educators share what you can do now to locate future opportunities.

Strengthen Your Sphere of Influence

Your personal and professional contacts are a pipeline of referrals and repeat business. Tina Wilcher says it is easier to work with people who already know, like, and trust you than to build new relationships. “We have a lot of business in our contacts, and we don’t even reach out to those people. To get more business, agents should try to cultivate, nurture, and grow the relationships they already have,” she says.

“Now that we’re coming to the end of this pandemic, meet with people,” adds Jodi Sherretts. “Be in front of them. Take someone to coffee; invite someone to lunch. Participate in your industry. Go to events and do things.”

Real estate is a contact sport, Darian Rausch says. Your goal should be to build your contact lists. Email campaigns are still an effective way to market your business. “I always tell everybody you need to feed the beast, and that beast is your database. You need to get out there and engage with the public. You need to engage with your neighbors. You need to engage with your sphere of influence, and you have to constantly be out there meeting new people and being introduced.”

Let Everyone Know You’re In Real Estate

Sherretts was never comfortable with how she was taught to network: asking if anyone knew someone interested in buying or selling. She would rather have the topic come up naturally in conversation. She might tell prospects a funny story from her experience or something interesting she saw while buying or selling. “When I talk about it, it’s a very subtle reminder that I’m in real estate without saying hey, pick me!” she says.

Open houses are one of the least expensive ways to generate buyer and seller leads, especially when combined with other strategies.

Rausch advocates wearing a real estate nametag in public. People will see the nametag, strike up a conversation, and ask how the market is doing. He also recommends handing out business cards. “Those business cards don’t make you any money just sitting in a box in your desk drawer. That 25-cent business card may turn into a half-million-dollar deal,” he says.

Send a Personal Note

Handwritten notes add a personal touch and can build relationships that generate referrals. Rausch sends notes to frequent contacts every 60 to 90 days.

“In this electronic world we’re in, the fact that you wrote me a personal note, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on that envelope, and went to the post office to drop it off tells me you took time out of your busy day to think of me. It just needs to be a few lines, maybe just wishing me a happy summer. It’s a wonderful little gift,” he says.

In the spring, he sends clients wildflower seeds. Clients will often text back photos of the blooming flowers—another touchpoint for those relationships.

Rausch may include a gift card for those who frequently refer him business. TREC rules say gifts of merchandise valued at $50 or less do not count as valuable consideration. Bank gift cards that can be converted to cash or credit cannot be used as gifts to unlicensed people in exchange for a referral.

Seek Out Expired Listings and FSBOs

Sellers with expired listings and those trying to sell homes themselves have clearly stated they want to move, Sherretts says. These groups could be new clients for you. “Expired listings didn’t work out for whatever reason—typically price. The next agent who comes along needs to be a problem solver and fix the problem,” she says. “In today’s market, the listing shouldn’t expire.”

FSBO sellers usually try to sell their homes for about six weeks, she continues. If the home doesn’t sell, the sellers often hire an agent.

Embrace the Open House as Lead Generator

Sherretts says that open houses are one of the least expensive ways to generate buyer and seller leads, especially when combined with other strategies. “Don’t just stick a sign in the yard and hope someone shows up to your open house. Invite the neighbors. Knock on doors. I know it’s old-fashioned, but it works.”

Some people try something once, and when it doesn’t work they give up. Don’t give up—it is consistency that works in real estate.

Invite sellers with expired listings and FSBOs to your open house, so they can see how you work.

Add Value and Solve Problems Online

Social media is an essential tool for real estate agents. Shoot for a mix of personal and professional content three or four times per week.

Rausch says 80% of your posts should inform, educate, and entertain. Twenty percent should directly promote your business. Take advantage of platforms that allow you to schedule future posts.

Wilcher adds value by posting educational videos on topics such as decluttering or finding the right contractor for your home. “As REALTORS®, we know how to do so much stuff. Educate your clients and prospects with posts like how to prepare your home for selling, how to make a home office feel more comfortable, or how to set up a space for the kids to do their work,” she says.

Sherretts shares humorous posts, quirky content, and work-appropriate memes from places such as Facebook group The Lighter Side of Real Estate. “When you put things up that make people smile or laugh, it makes their day a little brighter,” she says. Pet and vacation photos usually are well-received, too.

Client compliments posted on Facebook get a lot of traction, as do closing photos posted with permission. “I’ve gotten a lot of referrals from social media. You get the attention that you can see, but there’s even more that you don’t see.”

Use More Video

Videos build credibility with clients and brand identity on social media. All you need is a smartphone.

Consider sending short videos instead of text messages to clients. “That way, they get to see you and feel your energy,” Wilcher says. “They can hear the excitement in your voice and that you are passionate about what you do.”

Keep your videos to a minute or less; anything longer cannot be posted on Instagram, Rausch explains. “There’s three components for a quick video: your introduction, your main message, and the call to action. It does not have to be perfect. If it’s not, even better. You want to show off your authentic self.”

Recruit your clients to record videos for you, he says. Video testimonials of happy clients are very compelling to prospects.

Be Active Online

Don’t just tend to your professional social media accounts, Wilcher says. Join and participate in industry Facebook groups. Consider recording podcasts or getting invited onto other people’s podcasts.

Wilcher promotes herself as a resource on neighborhood forums such as Nextdoor. Remember to refer to TREC and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act rules regarding recommendations of settlement providers.

“Someone will ask, ‘Do you know someone who can fix my plumbing?’ or ‘Do you know someone who can put on a roof?’ and I say ‘Yes, I do. I’m a real estate agent and I can help you with that.’”

Be Ready to Help During Life Changes

If you’re keeping up with your sphere of influence, you may hear about your contacts’ major life events, such as relocations, retirements, marriages, and divorces. You know they may buy or sell a house soon, but it may seem insensitive to reach out to them at the time.

Rausch suggests a more long-term strategy: Cultivate relationships with professionals in other fields, so they think of you first when talking with their clients about real estate agents. Getting referrals this way nets you new clients without making you look opportunistic.

Be Consistent

“Sometimes people try something once, and when it doesn’t work the first time, they give up,” Sherretts says. “Don’t give up, because one time typically doesn’t work. It is consistency that works in real estate. So if you have one open house and it doesn’t go well, that doesn’t mean never do it again. It means change your marketing, change your advertising. Beef it up a little bit. Do something different.”

Consider venturing out of your comfort zone, she adds. “Find what works for you. What works for one person may not work for another.”