On this week’s Relationship Marketing Weekly I had the pleasure of interviewing Real Estate Agent & Broker Owner Gayle Zientek. Gayle has maintained a 100% referral based business over the past six years averaging 50 closed homes per year with ZERO advertising budget… She does this through a relationship marketing strategy and creating strategic referral partners through Business Networking International.. Gayle will explain how she went from 35% referrals to 100% referrals between 2007 – 2011 and has been at 100% referrals ever since!
Kody Bateman: Hey, everybody. This is Kody Bateman, Salt Lake City, Utah. Welcome to a very special Relationship Marketing Weekly show. We are really excited this week. Just say hello to us as you’re starting to tune in to us here.
We got people that are going to tune in from all over the world and a very exciting show. A lot of people are very, very excited for the show because we have a relationship marketing guru on the show with us today. I mean this lady is a master of masters at the relationship marketing principles that we’ve been teaching over the past several months.
It shows in her results, in her real estate business. So without further ado, I would like to welcome to our show a very dear friend of mine, a great mentor, a very successful person, Ms. Gayle Zientek. Real estate agent and broker owner out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her and her husband own Network Team Homes. Welcome to our show.
Gayle Zientek: Thank you, Kody. It’s good to be here today.
Kody: You sure look chipper and happy today.
Gayle: Well, that’s a choice.
Kody: That’s right. It sure is. Well, listen. I really want to jump right in. Let’s skip the chitchat and jump right in because people really want to hear a lot of the things you do.
As we highlighted this show coming up, people saw some of your statistics. Like you close on average 50 homes a year. In real estate, you could close on 50 homes a year, 100 percent of which come from referral business.
So anybody who’s in real – heck, anybody in any business, but anybody in real estate certainly wants to know how you would close 50 homes all under referrals every single year.
So I would like to jump into that with you. And, you know, you’ve got a lot of cool things that you do. But one of the things that you’re a master at is what we call “lifestyle celebration greeting cards”.
It’s a specific type of greeting card that we recommend that people send out where you’re basically just celebrating people’s lives. You look for opportunity to celebrate people’s lives and that’s what you do.
You have – I want to jump out with this incredible story you have, the – when you met the person at the Chamber who was in the cooking contest. Share that story with us and I think you might even have a copy of the card because this is really powerful. Yeah.
Gayle: It is a powerful story and I have to go back to you being my mentor and teaching us to develop good habits in our life and one of those is to become a level four card sender which means – simply means that you don’t even have to think about it. You just do it.
So back in 2011, Steve and I were attending a networking event at the Chamber. Actually it was at the Kalamazoo Country Club. It was the Taste of the Chamber and there were these 20 chefs that were all there to – like showcase their good stuff.
So at the end of the day, Park Street Market won and this is the picture I took and then I sent this card to Kiar. Kiar is the guy here on the front of the card and I sent it to him and it says, “Your food rocked the house at the Taste of the Chamber. No better ribs, or peach cobbler. Win well-earned. Thanks for sharing your goodness. We enjoyed every bite. Live today. Enjoy life. Steve and Gayle Zientek and network team,” and then our phone numbers.
It was just like – if you can see, it’s a casual picture of us and we weren’t like all dressed up in our real estate goods. But about a week later, I got a phone call from Kiar and he said, “Hey, I just wanted to thank you for that card. That was really cool. By the way, my family and I are moving from the east side of the state. We noticed that you’re a realtor. So maybe we should meet and see if we would be a good fit to work together.”
So we met with Kiar downtown and we built rapport. We enjoyed each other’s company. We laughed and we engaged this in business. So Kody, that was in 2011. He didn’t close on his house. The very first house that he bought was in 2012, 12-12-12. I don’t remember every house I sell but that date stands out to me.
So think about that. Over the course of that nine, ten months, you have to stay engaged. So we were able to do that. The real estate market back then was still a little bit kind of lousy and we figured out how to get relationships started and then we were invited to the wedding. We met the family.
Kiar since then has – we’ve helped his sister, his brother, his little sisters, mom and dad, a friend and then a referral from one of his – his brother-in-law. So nine homes over the course of the last seven years. We’ve earned over $70,000 in income from one card we sent just to say, “Hey, congratulations.”
You know, they have babies. So he texted me pictures. It was March 12. He texted me this picture of his baby girl.
Kody: Wow, look at that.
Gayle: Texted me a picture of him holding her and like some stats. So what did I do? I put it on the card and I sent it back to him. That’s how we’ve been able to really enjoy building relationships over time and it’s a lot of fun.
Kody: Wow, I will tell you. That is an incredible story because the fruits of one greeting card turn into nine home sales, $70,000 in commissions. So you’re talking about return on investment. It’s incredible.
But one of the things that you’ve talked a lot about, I’ve heard you share your story a lot and I’ve heard you teach people a lot is it’s not the $70,000 in commissions that has added the quality to your life. What is it?
Gayle: It’s the relationships. It’s being invited to his and Eve’s wedding in April of 2013. It was being invited to Xena and Douglas’ wedding a few years ago. It’s getting the text messages in the wee hours of the morning when they have babies and they’re celebrating those life events with us. It’s getting an invite to a Super Bowl Sunday to come and hang out with the family and it’s those kind of relationships and interactions that really mean the most and we all know that if you build rapport with people and if you have a core of people – let’s just say you have 150 people in your life and they know what you do. They know how to find you.
They trust you. They’re going to refer business to you and it’s not just that you make them feel good by sending cards. It’s like no, you know your business. You’re intentional about your continuing education. You know all the rules and regulations around what you do and you do a really good job, customer service, and you and I have talked about this. Friendship, celebration and service.
You create the friendships. You celebrate people on a regular basis and you offer exceptional customer service and when you pair those things, you can’t help but to have a good, strong cycle of relationship business coming your way.
Kody: Well, there’s no question and with your permission – I’m actually speaking at the BNI, national BNI Convention in Las Vegas this weekend. I’m really excited about that. With your permission, I’m going to share that story. I’ve got several card-sending stories. I would like to share that one as one of them and it just goes to show you just how powerful it is creating relationships with people.
Again, relationship marketing is about the first word, not so much about the second word and you are a master at doing that. Like I say, the lifestyle celebration type of cards is what you’re exceptionally good at. You do some other things though. I know that you’re a loyal member of BNI and you do a lot of things through BNI.
Can you just share with us – just kind of walk us through a little bit about your activity in BNI and how all that works and how it generates business for you?
Gayle: Absolutely. So back in 2004 is when I got my real estate license. In 2006, there was an opening in a local chapter for a realtor and if you know anything about BNI, the realtor, the mortgage lender, the financial planner, those are all taken and like when people get in there and they’re good at what they do, those don’t come open.
So I stepped in as a realtor in our group and it was actually in 2007. We have BNI Visitor’s Days and that’s when I was introduced to SendOutCards because it was at a BNI Visitor’s Day. We exchanged business cards with 19 people and those of you who are not working, I don’t care where you go to network. You exchange business cards. What do you do with them? You come home and you put a rubber band around them and throw them in the desk drawer because now, you’ve – I’ve met 19 people.
But I was blessed that day because one of the guys that got my card was in SendOutCards and he created this card and sent it to me and it said, “I enjoyed meeting you at the BNI event in Kalamazoo. We would like to get together, see how I can help you grow your business.” There’s a picture of his wife and son in there and I – it made me pick up my phone and call and it was interesting to see that – how everything worked together.
But here’s the reality, Kody. Over the last six years, when our business has really been 100 percent referral, we’ve been in BNI. Steve has been in there and he has been selling homes like crazy. So average last year, I wrote down some statistics.
So last year, of the 50 homes that we sold, 28 of those were sellers. Twenty-two were buyers. Twenty-one of those transactions came directly from our BNI members and it wasn’t just like – we talked about tier referrals, first tier, second tier, third tier.
We have gotten to where we’ve been in the third tier. So that’s VCP, your visibility, credibility and profitability, so that they refer people to us. We’ve entered into profitability and I don’t know. Probably the average is 20 to 25 homes over the last six years. Each year, selling homes out of our BNI chapter.
So we’re really proud of that. We feel really blessed that we’ve been able to build those relationships with the BNI members and have a successful business.
Kody: So, yeah, I mean the BNI organization is incredible. One of the things I like about the BNI program and what we do, there are some real similarities between what they do and what we do.
One of the things that BNI, that I’m so impressed with, first of all is their philosophy. Their philosophy is “Givers gain.” Our philosophy is “Sending out to give.” I mean we send cards and gifts out for the purpose of giving to somebody, not for the purpose of getting from somebody.
BNI is the same way. The philosophy is I go to a networking event to give referrals to people, not necessarily to get referrals from people. What you send out is what comes back to you and so the philosophies of our company and our movement at BNI, they’re very much in alignment.
The other thing is they’re tangible. We live in a digital world today where everything is digital. Everything is online. Everything is email, the whole bit, and there’s more and more and more of a need for the tangible touch. That’s not just – you know, we say that in the form of greeting cards. We stay tangible by sending out greeting cards and gifts to people.
BNI stays tangible by physically going to a location, getting belly to belly with other human beings. Be able to look another person in the eyes and create connections. So those are some of the similarities that I think are really important to talk about because it’s really effective.
In today’s day and age, it’s really effective as we’re going digital. I know you’ve had some experience with that.
Gayle: Well, you’ve taught me there’s five ways to connect with people – phone, text, social media, face to face and greeting cards. When you put them all together, they complement each other. So let’s just take birthdays for example.
You can text somebody on their birthday. You can give them a call. You can put a social media greeting out there with balloons and sparklers. You can also invite them to go to lunch or out for cake. But you can also send them a greeting card and the more ways that you touch people, the more intentional the relationship and solidified the relationship becomes.
So don’t just use one form of communication. Use as many as you can to get really personal with people, so that they feel acknowledged. They feel appreciated. They feel your sincerity towards them.
Kody: Yeah, no question about it. Now you’ve got a lot of other examples. In fact just before the show started, you showed me a – what we call a group send. It’s where you send a card out to a group of people and these are just some of the various activities that you do in your real estate business. Can you share that with us?
Gayle: Sure. So each year, face to face is an important aspect. So we pick two – we have two events. One is Flower Fest that’s coming up. It’s the first Saturday of May. So I just send out 144. I create this card and it has got the invitation there. There’s a sign, our real estate sign, and it just says, “We have a beautiful spring basket waiting just for you. Simply stop by our office to select yours,” and it has our location. It’s May 5th from 10:00 to 12:00 PM. We put signs out. We put the baskets out and people have the opportunity to just stop in and see us.
So honestly, 144 cards go out in really less than a minute because all I do is go in and find my group in there and then I select the card I want to go to them. I click “Send” and you guys at SendOutCards do the rest.
So it’s really effective. We do another one in the fall for Pumpkin Fest and we have a big – we partner with our daughter’s daycare center, with a local lender and our title company and we invite people. We put bounce houses and pumpkins and – and it’s important.
So that’s what we do twice a year and we use this service to be able to touch our clients, invite – I actually got a text message yesterday from one – this just – I send myself one when I send them out. Came yesterday. Last night I had a text message from one of my friends saying, “Hey, I will stop by to pick up my flowers on May 5th.”
So this is just the way that we communicate with people to get in front of them and stay top of mind with them.
Kody: That’s great. So when you send out 144 cards, you say you do it twice a year. Just out of curiosity, on average, how many people drop by and grab those baskets?
Gayle: We will probably have about 50 to 60 people that drop by and when we do our pumpkin Fest, we usually send out about 350 invitations because my daughter does the daycare families and we do our clients and friends and stuff. We try to get about 125. But here’s the point of it is I send out – a hundred and forty-four people heard from me.
Kody: That’s right.
Gayle: So even if just 40 or 50 show up, everybody is thinking and then we take pictures and we post them on social media. So they see what they lost. When they come, we take pictures of them with their basket of flowers and we send them a personal card, thanking them for taking time and stopping by.
Kody: That’s really cool stuff and a lot of people are used to doing that. They’re used to sending out a campaign, invitation that goes out to a big group of people. That’s kind of traditional marketing although most people don’t do it in the form of a greeting card. They might do it in a letter or a postcard or something like that.
So that’s kind of traditional stuff. It gets very – it’s more effective when you do it with a greeting card like you do. I want to come back full circle to the first card you talked about. That was a personal one-to-one individual heartfelt card to another human being, celebrating him because he won the cook-off and again, you’re really good at this.
At those special one-at-a-time cards that go out, are – what is the most effective kind of card you could send out? Is that the most effective card and why?
Gayle: Yes. So what I do every day is I look for – I’m going to send at least three to five individual personal cards every day. What I do is I get up in the morning and I start browsing through social media and I look for opportunities.
Just some examples this week, my daughter is training for a half marathon and so she had a picture on Facebook of like jumping in the air with her friend and I immediately paused, took that picture, put it on a card and said, “I’m really proud of you for all your hard work and training. It’s going to pay off. Congratulations.”
Another one, one of our past clients. Their son was getting medals from a taekwondo tournament. So I grabbed three or four pictures on social media and I sent Ethan a card. We just sold a house this week, Kody. We put it on the market. It’s the most expensive house in the neighborhood and it sold in one day with multiple offers. That same night that we sold the house, dad was going to a father-daughter dance with his daughter.
Mom was treating the son to go go-karts and bowling, neon bowling. So those pictures I took and I sent each of – I sent Ally a card with her and her daddy on and mother – or the father-daughter dance. The mother-son, I sent out a card and that’s what I do every day. That’s where I get my joy is being able just to celebrate people, life’s moments. It’s what you’ve taught us, to celebrate people while they’re still alive.
So take time every day to look for opportunities on social media and then as you’re going out and about in your daily life, look for opportunities to give back. Steve and I went to a networking group and with our association. These are fellow realtors and two opportunities presented themselves.
One was my friend Kurt. Two months ago, I was sitting in the auditorium, getting continuing education and he said, “My son is going to have a baby.” Fast forward at the networking event, he walks up to me and says, “I got to show you something,” and he showed me a picture on his phone of his grandson two months old and he put it back in his pocket and I said, “Kurt, take that back out.”
So he took it out and he showed it to me. I took the picture of him and I came home and I put that on a card and I sent it to him and told him what an amazing grandpa he was to Henry Grant. I noticed Steve talking to one of our colleagues and she was crying. I said, “Oh, no.” So I walked over. I said, “Is he making you cry?” and she – so we engaged in a conversation.
Kody, this is about being human. It’s about finding out where people are hurting and how we can inspire and encourage them. So we wrapped our arms around Shelby and that night – and of course I took a selfie and of course Steve said, “You’re going to get a card,” and she knows that. But that’s how we can celebrate people every day in life and what you send out comes back and I just – I get so much joy out of sending out to give just to celebrate life’s moments and that’s what returns to us.
I can explain why our phones ring off the hook all the time with referrals. Last year, we received up to 200 referrals, close 50 homes. This year, we are not out prospecting. We’re sending cards. We’re celebrating people and business keeps coming.
So you’ve taught us it’s the cycle – what is it? Tell me. What is it? The cycle, the never-ending – I don’t know what it is. But it’s that cycle that doesn’t quit and it’s exciting and it’s rewarding and it just makes life worth living.
Kody: Well, I will tell you what. We could spend several hours with you, Gayle. You’ve got so many great stories, some great wisdom. We really appreciate all that you do and the example that you are.
By the way, you use a service called SendOutCards. That’s my company and it’s interesting because we recently came out with a program to kind of help out with that three to five cards a day because the three to five individual heartfelt cards a day, not only is it the most impactful for your relationship marketing efforts. But it’s also the most impactful for you as a human being.
You know, what you send out comes back to you, not only monetarily, but also through self-worth, self-esteem, feelings of goodwill, all of those things, which is so important today.
So just in closing, what – this is not a sales pitch. We’re not trying to sell anything to anybody. But what we came out with was a little system where you just pay one fee every single month and you could send as many of those as you want, stamps included. What are your thoughts about a program like that, knowing what you know?
Gayle: Well, and as you know, I mean from this card that I received back in 2007 to this card and this card that I’m sending in 2018 – I’m a card sender. I send an average of six cards every day. These new programs that you came out with actually save me money over what I was spending before.
So it’s very easy for me to talk about it and it’s not a sales pitch. But it’s crazy because it’s the best thing out there in the marketplace to be able to touch people in a personal way every single day, whether it’s three, five, ten times a day. You choose. You pay one price. What’s so cool about it, Kody, is for people who are budgeting, it allows them to budget marketing dollars into their business. But it doesn’t limit them on the number of people that they can touch.
Kody: Well, and I think that’s the key too is it’s – again, relationship marketing is about the first word and first and foremost, our mission is to help the human race come together to provide more kindness to the world, to reach out and make better connections with people.
The power of human connection is a very, very incredible thing and it’s something that the world needs. You’re a master at it. We love you. We appreciate all that you do. Any final words of wisdom before we log off? Go ahead.
Gayle: If I would leave you with one thought, it’s your thoughts create feelings. Your feelings create words and when you put those words on a paper and you push the “Send” button, it will change your life forever.
Kody: Wow. What a great way to end the show, Gayle. Thank you so much. By the way, you were referring to Steve throughout the event. For those of you who don’t know that, Steve Zientek who is Gayle’s husband, super dynamic couple. They do all of this together. They’re incredible friends and stay tuned in. Come on in next week. We will have another special show there as well. Make sure you share the show to as many people as you can. Gayle, thank you again. Say hello to Steve for me and we will talk to you all later. Take care.
Gayle: All right. Take care everybody.