Show Your Clients Appreciation—And They'll Show You Some, Too!

Great service is your best customer retention tool, but you can cement relationships with events that make clients feel special.
Heather Roxburgh & Team

© Heather Roxburgh Group

Heather Roxburgh, far right, with clients at her yearly Valentine’s Day event, which includes an Oscar-worthy award ceremony. Roxburgh holds five appreciation events every year to offer up thanks to clients.

Key Takeaways:

  • Some agents spend their marketing dollars through events that help them strengthen bonds with and between past clients.
  • Plan an event around something you enjoy.
  • You can save money on events by getting sponsors, but be sure your sponsorship arrangements comply with the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

Chastin Miles, a real estate professional with eXp Realty in Austin, Texas, once received nearly 50 customer leads from a client appreciation event. The 2018 dinner party was to thank his former clients for their business; the referrals were merely a bonus.

Thank-you parties can be an effective approach for building client loyalty and getting warm leads. “These events allow you to connect with clients—and connect clients with one another,” Miles says. “They are important in forming friendships and making business connections and vendor relationships.”

Miles holds two big client appreciation events yearly, in the winter and spring, usually at local restaurants. Lenders, insurance companies, and other vendors help offset some of the cost by sponsoring food, drinks, and raffle prizes.

During the pandemic, Miles’ events moved online, taking the form of seminars on topics like financial education and home maintenance. He plans to resume in-person events this year.

At each event, guests play a game, writing down names and contact information for people who might need real estate help. The guest who provides the most names in two minutes wins a $100 gift card. Hence, the 50 referrals Miles received from one event.

But while referrals are often a benefit of customer appreciation events, they're not the driver, real estate pros say. Events are best used as a way to reconnect with past clients, thank them for their loyalty, and show yourself as a valuable resource in the community beyond the real estate transaction.

There are countless ways to host a client appreciation event. Here are a few ideas to inspire you.

Drive-in Movie Night

This spring, the Amy Jones Group, with Keller Williams Integrity First Realty in Gilbert, Ariz., adapted its annual client appreciation movie night, moving it from an indoor movie theater to a drive-in movie format. The event drew nearly 200 people.

The group rented a local farm so families could socially distance, enjoy food trucks, and watch the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” under the stars. Guests’ goodie bags included a chocolate bar that they could unwrap to discover whether they’d won a raffle prize, such as summer gear, electronics, or toys. The bags—totes with the Amy Jones Group brand—also included pandemic-related swag (like hand sanitizer and masks) as well as sunscreen, chapstick, bottled water, and prepackaged popcorn.

The group hosts a family fall festival at a local park each November featuring food, family crafts, professional photos, and a free pie to take home for the holidays. Past clients are even invited to join in on volunteer days. “We absolutely love doing client appreciation events,” says Mindy Jones Nevarez, SRS, AHWD, owner and team leader. “The events are a way to give back to clients and to engage our partners, too—all while having fun.”

Events for Every Season

Clients of the Heather Roxburgh Group in South Jordan, Utah, are part of an inner circle that may be invited to events throughout the year, such as a Easter egg hunt or a white-tablecloth Valentine’s Day dinner. Since 2008, broker and CEO Heather Roxburgh has hosted more than 40 client parties.

One of her larger events—attracting up to 1,300 people—is in the fall. It features a pumpkin patch, food trucks, face painters, and professional photos in front of a festive backdrop. In winter, the brokerage hosts a smaller event for current clients, featuring photos with Santa. This summer, Roxburgh rented the local water park, and 920 guests joined in the fun.

Valentine’s Day is the group’s most exclusive client appreciation event. Invitees are clients who have bought or sold a home or made a referral in the past year. The adults-only event is held at a local country club. At an awards ceremony, replete with a customized Oscar-like statuette, 10 to 15 guests are recognized in such categories as “most unique house of the year” or “top referral maker.”

“I use my marketing dollars to pour back into my clients,” says Roxburgh, who spends about $38,000 on client appreciation events annually. “I host events at least once a quarter. Clients may not come to every one, but at least they see that I’m inviting them.”

6 Tips for Hosting a Great Event

Alisia Krastel, a real estate pro with eXp Realty in Columbia, Md., offers these tips for hosting successful client appreciation events.

  1. Identify your audience. Will your event be for your MVPs, those who actively refer business to you? All your past clients? Current clients? Your entire sphere? The guest list can help you determine venue.
  2. Pick a theme. “The best client appreciation events allow you to do things you enjoy,” says Krastel. She hosts two client events a year, a bowling party for about 140 people and a crab feast for about 50 past clients. Not sure whether your idea will resonate? Test it on social media: Ask your sphere to vote on three ideas.
  3. Budget wisely. Krastel spends about $1,000 on the outdoor crab feast and $2,500 to rent a bowling alley. If you want to trim costs, bring in sponsors—such as lenders, title companies, or home inspectors—who also want to expand their client pool. (Legal note: Be sure sponsorship arrangements comply with the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.) Or piggyback on an existing community event. Invite clients to meet you, and let them know you’ll have a cooler of drinks and snacks.
  4. Send a personal invitation. It’s OK to invite clients using Facebook or Eventbrite, but don’t stop there. Two weeks before the event, follow-up with a phone call or text (“Just wanted to make sure you saw the invite! I’d love to see you there!”) “The reason to have an event is to show clients you appreciate them, and a personal invitation will show them you do,” Krastel says.
  5. Leverage social media. Encourage guests to take pictures and tag you and your company in their own social posts. “It’s the easiest advertising you never had to spend money on,” Krastel says.
  6. Host during slower times. Consider planning a client appreciation event during your least busy time of year, such as in January or February. “It can be a great way to drive up interest before the busier spring season,” Krastel says.