When Jen Dillard, broker and team leader of Jen Dillard Real Estate Team, and her family first moved to Hood River, Oregon, she didn’t know anyone. She hadn’t started her real estate business there yet, and she was lonely — so to meet new people, she decided to throw a holiday party and invite anyone she could.
“I would literally go to the coffee shop and see moms with their kids and say, ‘I just moved here. Would you be interested in coming to our holiday party?” Dillard said. “I had parents with kids, owners of the local businesses, whoever I could get to come to our party, and it ended up being such an amazing gathering.”
That first party led Dillard to meeting some of her first friends in the area, and some of her first real estate clients, too.
“From there, I realized that all I had to do to make friends and grow my business was pour into the community and just be myself,” she said.
Dillard’s first holiday party had about 15 people in attendance. Now it’s become a staple of her business, with people looking forward to it and between 75 to 100 people attending each year.
Here are Dillard’s 5 tips for hosting events in your community to help build your business.
1. Extend a personal invite
Just as Dillard did for her first holiday party, it doesn’t hurt to invite anyone and everyone, depending on how many people you want to attend your event. And there are a variety of ways to extend an invitation, from email to social media to a personal phone call.
“Picking up the phone and calling and inviting people is really great. If they’re your personal clients and you want them to be there, pick up the phone and call them,” she said. “Sending an email out to your database is fantastic, posting about it on social media is a great way to reach [a lot of] people.”
If you want your event to be small and intimate, it’s best to avoid advertising it on social media — but if you want it to be bigger, that’s a great option.
2. Build your database
These events can serve as a direct way to build your database of contacts. Dillard said that guests have to provide their contact information as their “ticket” to get into her events.
“We’re not going to spam people and be obnoxious with it, it’s just so we can keep them top of mind,” she said. “We get their email address, phone number and name, and they are entered into our CRM.”
3. Don’t ask for business
At these events, the main goal is not to do business on the spot — it’s to build relationships within your community.
“It’s just like any other lead source, but this one’s more personal, friendly and engaging,” Dillard said. “You’re actually with people in your community and they’re seeing your face, remembering that you’re in real estate and then when they think about real estate, they think about you.”
She doesn’t brand anything that she gives out at these events — like candy at Fourth of July parades, for example — but she does hand out cards with contact information.
“There’s no pressure or obligation,” she said.
Getting business from hosting events can take time, but getting your face in front of community members is a good first step.
“Sometimes you’re at an event and people will say, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking about selling my home.’ And then that happens quickly,” she said.
4. Send thank-yous
After each event, Dillard and her team use the contact information they gather from guests to send a follow-up to thank them.
“They took the time out of their day to come to our event, so we want to thank them for their time,” she said.
As part of these notes, there’s a blurb at the bottom asking for a review.
“Along with all the real estate reviews on what a great Realtor you are, it’s great to also have that you are a member of the community, that you give back to the community, that you care about the community,” she said. “Those are really important characteristics, as well.”
5. Post about the event afterward
Posting about an event afterward — for example, sharing a highlight reel on social media — can stir up the “fear of missing out” and drive people to attend the next one.
“I get so many messages afterward like, ‘Darn it, I’m so mad I missed it…Put me on your email blast, let me know when the next one is,’” Dillard said.
And those new attendees mean more contacts for your database, new potential clients and the possibility of word-of-mouth widening your sphere of influence.
“They’re telling people that they had so much fun at your event — ‘What’s the event for?’ ‘Oh, well, she’s a Realtor, but she does these great events for the community,’” Dillard said. “It is the gift that keeps on giving.”