Client appreciation reflects well on your professional image.
Todd Gold, CCIM, president of
REOC Partners in San Antonio used to show clients his appreciation by
employing typical entertaining methods. "Lunches, breakfasts, broker
events, etc. It was nothing extra special," he admits.
someone in the office had the bright idea of sponsoring our own real
estate forum event," he says. Now Gold and his partners host the REOC
Partners Fiesta Forum to which they invite clients, vendors, sponsors,
potential clients, and other guests annually. Attendees are treated to
breakfast, a guest speaker, lunch, and golf at a high-end resort in San
Antonio . The event has proven popular, doubling attendance this year
to approximately 150 guests.
combining an information-filled forum with luxury entertainment, Gold
improved his client relationships and created a unique event that sets
his company apart. But Gold's strategy isn't the only way to make
clients sit up and take notice. Client appreciation can run the gamut
from grand-scale events, to sending quirky and unexpected gifts, to
quiet weekend fishing trips.
of entertaining is to build relationships, show our expertise, become
recognized as a leader worthy of consideration on real estate projects" either now or in the future," Gold says. Commercial real estate
professionals can accomplish these goals in a number of ways. No matter
what the technique -- whether it's sending personalized gifts, utilizing
community connections, or throwing your own lavish party -- originality
and creativity are key to remembering clients and making sure they
Like REOC Partners, Janez Properties in San Diego often hosts
get-togethers for its clients. It, too, has found that displaying
broad-based knowledge of the commercial real estate industry is an
effective way to forge client relationships. While REOC uses well-known
speakers from the commercial investment real estate industry, Janez
puts on its own presentations.
short PowerPoint presentations that provide useful information and
market insights is a great way to connect with small groups of clients
and associates," says Barbara Kocmur, senior executive vice president
of Janez Properties, who frequently hosts meetings at the company's
Smaller events allow Kocmur to
tailor the presentations to clients' particular interests. "The smaller
the event, the better return," she says. "At large events, it's
frequently difficult to make sure everyone is being taken care of. In
our experience, smaller, intimate-size events are frequently more
effective at building relationships," she explains. Her other advice:
For a better turnout, hold get-togethers in the morning or at lunch
time, instead of in the late afternoon and evening.
on the other hand, has found that the larger-scale events pay off.
Arranging one-on-one get-togethers of the same quality would take far
more time and money, he says. He also finds that high-profile speakers
impress attendees. "Our speakers have been leaders of the local
business and real estate community. This demonstrates our deep roots in
San Antonio and our ability to tap into influential individuals that
have broad circles of influence," he says.
year Elizabeth Belenchia, CCIM, SIOR, president of Carroll Properties
Corp., in Spartanburg, S.C., uses her professional connections to
invite clients to the local BMW/Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament. "We
invite our clients to be VIP guests at our Alliance Gallery at the 18th
green. They enjoy having pictures taken with celebrities such as Kevin
Costner or Alice Cooper, as well as meeting other economic development
allies that can assist with their projects," she says.
gets the VIP access and event tickets as a member of the Upstate
Alliance for Economic Development in Upper South Carolina , which she
joined for the networking opportunities. "The cost is my membership
plus having the office prepare a friendly and timely invitation and
making the arrangements to get clients the VIP passes," she says. "We
get lots of thank yous, even when people can't attend."
Do the Unexpected
Tim Basler, CCIM, a leasing specialist with Hunt Midwest Real Estate
Development in Kansas City, Mo., earns his thank yous using a different
"On Groundhog Day, Hunt Midwest gives out 15 to 50 pounds of roasted salted in-the-shell peanuts," he says.
a quirky holiday prevents his company's gift from being overlooked in
the stack of presents that arrive at clients' offices during the
traditional gift-giving season, Basler says.
the choice of Groundhog Day as a gift-giving occasion is no accident.
The holiday in honor of the subterranean-dwelling animal is a subtle
reminder that Hunt Midwest's highest-profile property is SubTropolis,
the world's largest underground business complex, Basler says.
clients unexpected gifts on an offbeat holiday is a pleasant surprise
that helps keep the company's name fresh in clients' minds. "Peanuts
are unique and our clients love them," Basler says, "And the peanuts
are a welcome treat because no one wakes up on Groundhog Day expecting
Philip McGinnis, CCIM,
associate broker of McGinnis Commercial Real Estate in Dover, Del., is
also a fan of the unexpected gift. "I send flowers and wine to
secretaries and assistants," McGinnis says.
personally sending gifts to clients’ "gatekeepers," he finds that his
name is more easily recognized. "When the boss says, 'Get whatzisname
on the phone,’ they get me. I find that my calls go through, my
interoffice mail gets straight through, my RFP gets out before the
others in a batch. I even get alerted in some instances about the low
bidder," he says.
Sometimes creating a better relationship with a client is achieved by
participating in an activity that they choose or enjoy. A. Nicholas
Coppola, CCIM, president of Coppola Properties in Needham, Mass., says
he takes clients to see their favorite sports team. "If I know someone
likes a particular sport then I purchase tickets based on their
preferences. I pay for the best seats so the experience is unique," he
Gustin, CCIM, MAI, owner-broker of Cliff Gustin Commercial Real Estate
Services in Bellevue, Wash., uses a similar strategy. "I try to
participate in their hobby, for example, golfing, fishing, hunting,
traveling," he says, "I want the client to know that I am the same
person in business as I am at leisure. It also allows them to share
something they are passionate and knowledgeable about with me."
has also found a clever way to save on these activities: "Purchase
items from various community non-profit events, such as guided fishing
and hunting trips, romantic weekend getaways, golf trips, hot air
balloon rides, and dinner train rides," he says.
isn't the only one who keeps an eye on expenses. "Over the top is a
waste of money and a show of ego," says Aaron Weiner, CCIM, CPM, senior
vice president of Newport Real Estate Services in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Rather than throw lavish events, Weiner prefers to take major clients
on relationship-building adventure trips. "We find these trips to be a
bonding experience," he says.
Hoadley, CCIM, president of Spinnaker Real Estate Ventures, LLC, in
Chicago , also finds smaller, more personal get-togethers to be
effective. He was employed by two large firms before recently starting
his own company. At the larger firms grand-scale client entertainment
was the norm, but now he finds that smaller get-togethers provide an
opportunity to get to know clients better. "Just recently, I took a
small group of clients and prospects with just me out on Lake Michigan
on a sailboat that I chartered for the summer. It allowed for much more
conversation and ability to get to know each other," he says. For a
small company just starting out, this type of personal entertainment is
more likely to generate the returns he is looking for, Hoadley says.
has had similar results. Last year he treated clients to a rafting trip
and this year it was a Las Vegas trip. "Getting the key client in
contact with everyone on our team who provides service in a casual,
fun setting goes a long way toward establishing human, trusting,
friendly relationships," he says.
there is an added bonus to escaping the office environment with a
client. "It's very amusing to see the characteristics of the client
come out in non-business settings," he says, recounting a particular
client who tried to take charge of the rowing on the boating trip. "Only in this context we laughed instead of grumbled."
Good, CCIM, of Sheldon Good & Company International in Chicago,
also appreciates the importance of forging a relationship with clients
through entertainment activities. "If I have a good relationship with
both [a client and his wife] we would consider inviting them to our
winter home in Palm Springs for golf and tennis," he says. "Ours is a
personal business and I work diligently at building a relationship if
the client allows it and a continued business opportunity exists. Some
of my best friends are my clients," he says.
matter what the form of client appreciation, all of these activities
serve essentially the same purpose, to keep your clients doing business
with you and increase your returns. Whether you're taking them on a
trip, or sending them a bottle of wine, the most important thing to
keep in mind "is to keep the clients that you have already done
business with very happy," says Coppola.