Real Estate Referrals Redefined: Generating Leads with Online Ratings and Reviews
By Matthew Bushery
About Ratings and Reviews
Real estate referrals account for roughly half of REALTORS’ revenue.
Clearly, earning more real estate referrals can and should be a big priority for your business.
The problem many modern agents face with generating referral leads, though, is they still think it’s all about word-of-mouth.
Sure, offline (or outbound) marketing can help you secure new prospects and clients, including referrals.
But the most effective way to increase real estate referrals for your business is to shine the spotlight on your satisfied customers whenever you invest time or money in digital marketing.
Let’s take a look at how to mesh an old-school, word of mouth strategy with a more modern one and create a scalable lead generation machine.
Step One: Recognize that traditional real estate referrals are still extremely valuable for your agency!
Before we tell you what it takes to get more real estate referrals online, let’s focus on traditional referral generation:
- Agent-to-agent referral systems come in all shapes and sizes. Some agents will only refer business to colleagues. Others are willing to reach beyond agency lines to get these kinds of prospects. And then there are some agents who are willing to post messages online, nationwide, to generate more referrals for anyone who needs them.
- Many agents look to their family, friends, and general social sphere of influence to find new leads who are looking to list or purchase a property in the near future.
- Satisfied customers tend to want to spread good word-of-mouth about the quality agents who helped them buy or sell. When those agents need to drum up new business, these happy campers are often more than willing to share a name or two with their former representation.
- Knocking on doors and cold calling have also had their day in the sun. While some agents do still spend time out and about asking strangers at their doorstep for business, many have turned to a hybrid of cold calling – where leads are most often “lukewarm” instead, after some careful online research.
Using one or more of these strategies can certainly still aid many agents’ lead generation efforts today.
Having said that, you’d be hard-pressed to find an agent who relies solely on these techniques for real estate referrals.
The real money lies online, where you can use and repurpose social proof, in a number of ways, with far greater ease.
The way agents earn real estate referrals has shifted toward an inbound approach.
Inbound marketing for real estate has grown in popularity over the past decade — and it’s easy to see why.
Playing the “long game” with your leads through extended nurturing campaigns is how you win new business. Here are the steps:
- You secure a new lead online — likely from your website.
- That lead is added to your contacts database/email list.
- You send them tailored emails over a few weeks/months.
- Once they seem “ready,” you pounce and call/email them.
This strategy has been proven to work wonders for professionals in all fields, since the turn of the century.
Because most people refer their friends and family to brands, products, and services they like through online messaging, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the inbound approach can earn you more referrals, too.
Think about it: In time, you’ll have a great group of satisfied customers — some of whom will want to stay in touch with you online.
Crafting social proof — reviews, testimonials, and case studies — featuring those customers means they’ll likely want to share that content with their friends, family, and colleagues.
And this is how the modern version of the real estate referral is generated.
Step Two: Start by getting more reviews and testimonials.
Five in six consumers trust online reviews just as much as they trust personal recommendations.
If someone has had a first-class experience with a company, that trust is earned.
To earn the trust of your audience, you’ll want to produce and promote plenty of social proof, such as:
- Videos featuring sit-down Q&A interviews with clients
- Long-form review blog posts featuring client insights
- Short-form testimonials that feature brief client quotes
Each of these social proof options can enhance your business reputation and make you more reputable in the eyes of both potential customers and referrers.
All it takes is one truly convincing piece of social proof featured prominently on your agency website, social channels, and nurture emails to boost your brand’s digital word-of-mouth.
Craft a social proof plan to get more real estate referrals ASAP:
- Make a list of five fairly recent clients of yours who were completely satisfied with their home purchase or sale.
- Call each one of those clients and ask if they wouldn’t mind either offering some praise for you over the phone or meeting in person for a brief chat.
- Regardless of their answer, be sure to get as much detail as possible from them about why they were so happy with your work.
- Read, watch or listen to each client’s feedback, and determine the best medium — video vs. article, testimonial vs. review — for their particular type of social proof.
- Share that social proof with everyone in your network by including it in your email newsletter, on your Facebook page, and featuring it on your website (including your homepage and “About” page).
Making your social proof stand out from that of other agents in your area is also an important part of maximizing your real estate referrals.
For instance, if you notice most agents have plain testimonials (“X agent was great. I recommend their business”), yours should pop off the page.
The more in-depth information you’re able to obtain from clients for your social proof, the better off you are.
And if you’re able to feature that social proof in a visual form — ideally videos and graphics — you’re golden.
Customer satisfaction is a great form of social proof, and a top way to earn real estate referral business.
In addition to featuring your clients’ insights about your business, you should also focus on getting customer satisfaction ratings, too.
Statistical data that proves you are respected by the overwhelming majority of buyers and/or sellers you’ve represented is the ultimate form of social proof.
Sending out post-transaction surveys to clients right after closing should be something you don’t have to think about, like breathing or blinking.
Use a tool like RealSatisfied, which offers dozens of standardized questions to ask all of your clients after deals are done. Or, you can manually email questions to each client.
Whichever path you choose, just be sure to ask your clients the same types of questions so you can use the data as a marketing tool on your site:
- “X% of my clients said I went above and beyond for them.”
- “Y% of my clients rated me at least four out of five stars.”
- “Z% of my clients noted I had substantial market knowledge.”
Getting your clients to share the good word about your services, and showing site visitors that you’re smart, savvy, and determined will put you into a continuous loop of real estate referrals and new business closed.
Learn how you can secure new leads and nurture existing ones in our real estate reviews guide:
Published on October 23, 2017
Written by Matthew Bushery
I'm the Sr. Content Creator for Placester, where I educate real estate professionals about modern marketing and, in turn, help agents and brokers make the most of their online presence, earn more traffic, and generate more leads and business.