Mickie Cioccia likes to spoil her past clients. With 85% of her business coming from referrals, Cioccia, broker for Mickie C. and Company Realty in Katy, wants to keep past clients happy and recommending her to their friends and family.

Because she has found leads from past-client referrals to be so valuable, any client who has bought or sold a home with her or her team gets an invite to be a member of the Mickie House Club.

“We give them something of value every month in the mail,” Cioccia says. That could be lottery tickets, flowers, event tickets, or edible treats. What arrives at the doors of Mickie House Club members changes with the season and holidays, with Cioccia tracking it all through online customer relationship management (CRM) software.

“We always tell them we appreciate their business, even if it was many years ago, and that we love referrals,” she says.

While Cioccia chooses to focus her energy on referrals from past clients, you may get leads from many different sources, such as your website, advertisements, social media, and paid lead generation services. But how do you organize your leads for the best return on your time and resources?

Get to know your leads, then choose your technology

Real estate is about people. Get to know who your leads are, what makes them tick, and what their needs are. Then, you’ll be ready to choose the right customer relationship management software or technology solution for you, such as Follow Up Boss, Salesforce.com, RealtyJuggler, Zoho, another CRM tool, or a system you create for yourself. Find one that works the way you want it to work.

Give VIP treatment to referrals

“Your past clients are your diamonds,” says Dave Lawrence, head of growth at Follow Up Boss, a real estate-specific CRM company. They’ve already trusted you enough to do business with you or give you a referral, Lawrence says, so they’re the most important contacts in your database and should be treated as such.

Echoing Cioccia’s strategy, Lawrence says that more effort and investment with these leads typically produces a higher return on investment.

“And that means a phone call on their birthday, not an automated generic happy birthday email with animated candles on it,” he says. “From there, simply focus on how far out they are from making a move and following up accordingly.”

Advice for paid leads

Real estate coach Brian Icenhower emphasizes that if you’ve paid for a lead from services such as Zillow, Realtor.com, or Trulia—and many can cost $50 to $250 per lead—you need to impress those people immediately. Once that person puts her information online saying she’s interested in a house, you need to quickly call her, he says.

“If you get back to those people in five minutes, then you will absolutely know if they want to have your call,” Icenhower says. “They will either answer it or ignore it.”

Your online leads need love, too

Anyone who visits your company or personal website, checks out your listings, and ultimately sends you contact information is valuable in some capacity, Lawrence says. Even if that person has a good experience on your website but never talks to you, there’s a chance she will tell someone else in the market to buy or sell property to check out your website.

These types of leads can also come from people checking out your personal or company Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, or other social media platforms. “Almost all of these leads are real people who live in your local market and who have friends and families that buy, sell, and rent homes,” Lawrence says. “Every interaction is a chance to build your brand and goodwill with another person in your market.”

Base your response on urgency

The rise of the internet has created an abundance of leads for agents, and that can be overwhelming, says Brian Icenhower, founder of Icenhower Coaching and Consulting and therealestatetrainer.com.

A good, promising lead is anyone willing and ready to look for a home and anyone who wants to move or sell in a month to a year-and-a-half, according to Icenhower. Organizing leads by how soon they are buying or selling can save you time and effort, plus catch the people who need your help now. Most internet leads are buyers, Icenhower says (about three-quarters of agents agree in a recent Inman report).

If your website asks prospective clients to register and provide some information before viewing listings, you might already have a field for when they’re looking to buy or sell. If you don’t, make a quick call or send an email to the prospect to ask follow-up questions.

Good to know: It’s often best to first ask prospective clients whether they already have an agency relationship with another broker before moving on to other questions. When you present the Information About Brokerage Services form can be a good time to bring this up.

Icenhower uses the mnemonic LP MAMA to remember what to ask prospective clients when following up:

  • Location: Where do they want to move?
  • Price: What can they afford?
  • Motivation: What is prompting them to move?
  • Agent: Have they signed a buyer agency agreement with another brokerage?
  • Mortgage: Are they paying cash or will they need a mortgage?
  • Appointment: When can you meet them face to face?

Icenhower breaks down how to allocate your attention based on urgency into four categories:

Within 30 days: Whether it’s buying a home or selling, this person wants to move quickly. Put her in your CRM and email-marketing system and set up a plan to follow up and take actions immediately. That should involve emails, mailers, texts, two phone calls a week, and getting her prequalified with a lender, Icenhower says.

30 to 90 days: This group isn’t quite as urgent. Your phone calls can be less frequent with maybe one every week or two. You may also send them a mailer or occasional text message.

90 days to six months:Give them a phone call every three to four weeks. Find out their motivation, exact time frame, location they are looking in, price range, and potential mortgage options.

6 months to a year-and-a-half: They aren’t in a hurry. Put them on an automated drip marketing campaign (see sidebar) with a phone call every two months and text messages once in a while.

CRM systems today offer many options rather than just a database for names and email addresses, Lawrence says. His company focuses on simplicity and speed, which makes it easier to use for busy agents, he says. “You can get really crazy with the tools available for scoring your leads or sending automated campaigns to them,” Lawrence says. “But until you’ve got a good foundation for how you’ll run your personalized, human follow-up, it’s not worth even looking at.

“Figure out how to connect and add value to five more people this week than you did last week rather than trying to talk to 1,000 people the same way all at once,” he says. “The results will follow.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Organizing Your Drip Campaign

A drip campaign is an effective tool to help build your business, according to Dave Lawrence, head of growth at Follow Up Boss.

Drip marketing, depending on the capabilities of your CRM, involves delivering content at specified intervals through automated emails, text messages, or messages through Facebook or other platforms. The intent is to keep your name and company top of mind through a steady drip of content.

Details about how your audience interacts with the message or content—such as whether they opened certain messages or clicked a specific link—can help you better understand what type of message is most effective and how often to contact certain leads in the drip sequence.

Automated drip campaigns help you start conversations with your leads, Lawrence says.

“This is not a time for hammering them about preapproval or other things like that unless they indicate they’re ready to start getting serious,” he says.

When deciding which leads get put into a drip campaign and what the first steps are, Lawrence follows a few rules:

  • Internet leads should be added automatically to your CRM. The agent assigned that lead should get an immediate notification so he or she can call right away. If it’s a lead from a portal like Zillow or Realtor.com, a simple text message with a personalized introduction asking what’s the best time to call is all you need.
  • Referrals generally shouldn’t be put in a stock drip campaign. They’re far too valuable for anything but personal communication, Lawrence says. You should honor the person who referred them by calling right away to introduce yourself and learn more about their timeline and what stage of the process they’re in, then make your expert recommendations based on that.
  • Consider the source of the lead. Someone who registers on your website who, for example, arrived there through a Google pay-per-click ad or a lead from a Facebook ad should get a softer message, since that person likely is earlier in the buying or selling process. Send a short message saying you received the notification that he or she signed up on your website and to feel free to browse available homes or contact you with questions about real estate or the tool available on your website. Then ask a simple question, like, “Do you already live in the area?”