Stay Top of Mind: The 33 Touch Plan

Author: Phil Byers, Keller Williams Chicago – Lincoln Park

When I started my real estate sales career in 2004, I was terrified. My wife and I had met and been working at the same company for years. We both had great salaries, excellent benefits, and a built-in community of friends and colleagues. Leaving that behind for (as my dad put it) “a job where you don’t make any money” was scary.

Out of fear and desire to succeed, I did a ton of “informational” interviewing. I talked with the agent who helped us buy our first condo, I had lunch with an agent a friend used, and I called some top agents for advice, too. I wanted as much information as possible. The meetings I had were valuable, but the practicality of the advice was lacking. It was either vague (“Just show up everyday,” “Fake it ’til you make it”) or terrifying (“Introduce yourself to everyone at Starbucks,” “Learn your scripts, and pound the phones.”).

One thing was consistent though: I was only going to succeed at a high level if I focused on getting clients. But the question loomed: How? How in the world was I supposed to engineer a bunch of relationships and then spin those relationships into making a living? It was daunting and scary.

It wasn’t until I read The Millionaire Real Estate Agent in late 2004 that I finally found a real strategy to be successful as a REALTOR®. Among the other useful lead-generation strategies Gary Keller’s book offered was the “33 Touch” model. This plan’s concept is easy to understand: buyers and sellers choose a REALTOR® based on familiarity, so make yourself “familiar” or “top of mind” for them when they think about real estate.

Familiarity is a key strategy across industries. For example, soft drink monoliths Coke and Pepsi have marketing plans designed to “touch” every American with their brand 3,500-times per year. The reasoning is simple: when you’re thirsty, think of our products first.

The 33-Touch model for a real-estate agent has the same goal: “When you think about buying or selling a home, think of me!” Keller’s research in the early 2000s found that for a REALTOR® to stay top of mind, they need to “touch” their audience (with their brand) 33 times per year.

This made sense to me. It’s so simple! I had always been organized about keeping names, addresses, and phone numbers. I’m a planner — so putting this marketing plan together was right up my alley. And the simplicity of just touching people I’ve met and allowing THEM to contact ME when they were ready (versus me having to try to squeeze a sale out of everyone I met), was refreshing.

But the best part wasn’t that it “felt right.” The best part was the intended results. The research Keller did not only found the “magic number” of touches needed, but also what the RESULTS would be: for every 100 people you “touch” 33 times, you get 17 closings.

So I got started: I had just 85 people. These were friends, neighbors, co-workers, and/or people who I thought might possibly need some assistance now or in the future. Under the model, with just 85 people in my database, I could expect just 14 closings. In other words, I could make a pretty-good living, but my database wasn’t big enough for where I wanted to go.

I aimed high and set my goal at 40 closings for my first year. This meant I would need to build my “met” database to about 240 people. I set the goal by doing the math: with 17 closings for every 100 people (or 1:6). If I wanted 40 transactions, that meant I needed to have 240 mets in my database.

Open houses are primarily where I built my database. People signed in. I would send them a note on Monday, thank them for coming, and ask them to call me anytime if they needed anything blah blah blah. And parties or networking events worked too:

ME: “So Jane, what do you do for a living?”
JANE: “Oh — I’m a food scientist. What do you do Phil?”
ME: “I sell real estate.”

Boom! We exchange cards, I send them a note “Nice to meet you, call me if you ever need help buying or selling a home blah blah blah.” And voila! My database starts growing.

With my database growing, I needed to make sure I was “touching” everyone 33 times per year. So I put a marketing plan together.

In 2005 I started executing this plan as my primary tool for developing clientele. At the end of my first full year in the business (2005), I had a database of 189 “mets.” The 33-touch model says I should have closed 32 sales. It was almost dead on! I closed 33 transactions for $11.9 million in sales volume my first year using only this plan.

Slow and steady, this plan got me through the housing-recession unscathed (never a “down” year) and my database has grown to produce a predictable $20-25 million/year in sales volume year after year for my small team in Chicago. If you can understand and master this plan, you will have a very successful, scalable and predictable real estate sales business.