I just got back from a week in China — for business mostly, plus some tourist time at the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and wandering the hutongs (traditional neighborhood alleyways) of Beijing. I saw firsthand what I had earlier only read about — the importance of relationships in China. It got me thinking about the importance of relationships in real estate — and what investors and agents can do to build stronger relationships with clients and prospects (and build their businesses as a result). Want more articles like this? Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox Sign up for free Now it’s personal A number of years ago the direct marketing magazine Direct published a case study highlighting the importance of personalization. The profiled company, Atlantic Broadband, saw 10% response rates on its letter mailings, which offered current or recently lapsed customers cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.* (A 10% response to a mailing is absolutely huge – 2% is considered quite good.) A number of factors contribute to the company’s success: Customized lifestyle-based intro Signature variations (regional or home office executive) Customized P.S. area Different products and benefits from template, triggered by region or lifestyle Image variations in customized order box “Each month, the digital television and Internet service provider sends 145 versions of letters based on ‘event triggers’ – i.e., when individuals became customers, what services they’ve bought, and whether they’ve just complained or let their service expire. Atlantic couples that with Prizm segmentation and demographic data to determine content.”* While your situation is a bit different than the cable service provider with tens or hundreds of thousands of customers, you can personalize your marketing materials in much the same way. First, break your prospective clients into groups. The most obvious are: buyers, sellers and past clients. You could go farther: within-six-months buyers, more-than-six-months buyers, within-six-months sellers, more-than-six-months sellers, not currently thinking of buying or selling, FSBOs (for sale by owner), past clients, sphere of influence (people you know – could be family members, friends, professional associates). The more highly segmented your prospective clients are, the more personal – and effective – your materials will be. Next, create relevant messages for each group. With the fabulous technology that is variable data printing, you can personalize your materials down to the individual. I would suggest the following individual elements: name, segment (buyer, seller, FSBO, sphere of influence, etc.). I've copied below a letter I wrote for a real estate agent, which highlights well the relatively simple personalization we did â by name and by segment. A Real Estate Agent 1234 Pleasant Lane Anytown, ST 12345 Selling a Home Can Be a Scary, Stressful Experience. But It Doesn’t Have to Be. Dear John and Jane, Surveys show that selling a home is one of the most stressful things you can do in life – right beside caring for a dying relative, getting divorced, and losing your job. It’s true that selling a home is a big deal. It’s a major financial decision, and often emotionally charged, too. But it doesn’t have to be a painful experience. . . . . . If you have the right partner. When you’re ready to sell your home, I challenge you to five tasks. I guarantee that you can’t complete them with any other partner: Give yourself a break. The home selling process is stressful enough. Lighten your load by hiring a realtor who has for 15 years been earning the trust of so many buyers and sellers in the Phoenix area. Rest easy tonight knowing that, as member of the National Association of Realtors, I adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. Be as involved as you want to be. With my automated Home Feedback System, you can check what’s going on with your home sale, view comments received from buyers and their agents, check up on the work I’ve done to market your home, read summary feedback statistics, and more. Even if you’re more of a hands-off person, you’ll never be “out of sight, out of mind.” I’ll call you every week with a progress report on how your home sale is going. (You have enough going on – you don’t need a second job managing your real estate agent.) Learn about all that’s behind the ups and downs of the housing market. With the wealth of free information you can access through my website, MyPhoenixMLS.com, and my blog, you’ll have all the power that comes with knowledge. Of course, I understand that what matters most to you at the end of the day, John and Jane, is being able to sell your home for the most money as quickly as possible. I’ll leverage a 15-step marketing plan and partnerships with local buyer’s agents who can help me connect their buyers with you. And as a Certified Negotiation Expert, I’ll have the upper hand when we go to the bargaining table – to get you the best deal. All real estate agents claim they will help you sell a home. I promise my clients the best deal with the least hassle – just the way the home selling process should be. When you’re ready to sell your home, you’ll need a trusted partner. Call me at 123-456-1234. I look forward to helping you! P.S. Are you signed up to receive your FREE Your Name Here monthly client update? Read the latest real estate news, get tips on selling your home, stay on top of market trends with Phoenix MarketWatch, play the Trivia Quiz, and more! Sign up for your complimentary subscription by e-mailing [email protected] or calling 123-456-1234. For most real estate agents and investors, it’s not cost-effective to take every prospective client out to lunch — or even to chat on the phone (until the lead is qualified, at least). But there are ways that you can develop relationships with your prospects — like personalizing your marketing materials — that allow you to funnel leads through your pipeline efficiently and effectively. Onward and upward. Molly Castelazo *Riggs, Larry. “That Personal Touch,” Direct, May 2007, p. 44.