Making the most of your information-led client events

by Clayton Jarvis on 19 Feb 2020

If they didn’t cost so much, one might be forgiven for thinking market-focused client events are a dime a dozen. Particularly for newer agents who have little experience in organizing get-togethers for their customers, client events with a focus on market information may seem dry, tedious and not lacking in ROI.

Buts well-executed events put together with client needs in mind have proven time and again to be not only valuable rewards for existing clients but opportunities for host agents to prove their connectedness within the industry and their awareness of market trends.

REP spoke to a few agents who recently hosted successful events in Toronto about how they make their client affairs more rewarding for themselves and their clients.

How often you get your clients together really comes down to how much space you have – in your schedule and your budget.

Paul Maranger of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada says he and his partner Christian Vermast put on events once or twice a year. Working with a select clientele – the two are often associated with big-ticket luxury properties – means demand for such events tends to be moderate. That doesn’t, however, mean the costs for such events are, too.

“They are costly to put on and the coordination is very time-consuming,” says Maranger. “There is a lot of planning and logistics to host a successful evening. Clients love them, however.”

Royal LePage Signature Realty’s Simeon Papailias resides at the other end of the spectrum. He puts on events far more frequently. Some are from weeknight wine-and-cheese gatherings (Wednesdays and Thursdays being the most attended) to Saturday morning power sessions to Sunday brunches.

“Saturday mornings are tremendously effective, and it’s also a good qualifier,” Papailias says. “If someone gives you their Saturday morning, and you respect them enough not to interfere with their afternoon, there’s a tremendous amount of conversion.”

Who gets to go?
Unlike an open house, client events should be just that: for clients.

“We send out 1,800 invitations to VIP’s: our sphere of influence, prospective clients, and past clients,” Vermast says. “Our goal is not to reach out to ‘strangers.’  89 percent of our business is repeat and referral, so we reach out to them.”

“We think of it as a reward for a client,” adds Maranger. “Do they really need another gift from us?  Will they remember a gift when they are talking about realtors with their friends?”

Papailias’ approach is no different. Putting trust in a realtor is a major commitment for a homebuyer. He feels its his duty to reward them for making that leap of faith.

“We do some public events, but not as many as we used to,” he says. “We’re already working with a warm database as opposed to new people.”

Where’s the value?
To make an event valuable for clients, it has to be about more than networking and free cookies. Agents need to pack their speaking spots with experts who can not only rattle off stats but connect those stats to the attendees’ home buying goals.

“Our clients see us as experts on a micro level,” says Maranger, whose two most recent events with Vermast focused on the Canadian economy and the Toronto condo market. “When a real estate expert speaks on a macro level, that is a powerful learning combination.”

For Papailias, who frequently deals with investors in Toronto’s fast-paced condo sector, it’s about delivering practical knowledge around due diligence, strategies for more effectively leveraging capital and how to choose who to work with when managing your investments.

All the agents interviewed agreed on the types of speakers clients are anxious to hear from – real estate CEOs, chief economists, and thought leaders from organizations like CMHC.

“We get the most credible people we can at these events,” says Papailias.

They disagreed, however, on whether or not client events should be used to directly drum up sales.

“Certainly, longer term, it is about generating business,” Vermast says, adding that an event of his “is not a sales pitch. It is high level information by expert speakers, to a small and exclusive audience. It elevates our image in our client’s eyes.”

But offering opportunities to his clients is par for the course for a Papailias event. After networking and taking in the night’s information, his guests are then introduced to new property options.

Some may be uncomfortable with the sales-iness of such an approach, but as an investor-focused realtor, Papailias would be foolish trying anything else. And with him selling between five and 20 units per event, it’s hard to question the results.

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