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Earth day has always held a special place in my heart — from my earliest memories of receiving a white pine sapling at an elementary school assembly, and rushing out to the woods as soon as I got home to plant it, to my first attempt at a fundraising event in college aptly called “the Earth Day pub-crawl.” I don’t think there is another designated day that every human can get behind without some reservation other than Earth Day.

As a well-established and seasoned realtor, I know the importance of reaching out to past clients on a regular basis. Before I joined the Pat V. team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Cascade, they had an established schedule of touches: Branded Michigan calendars were sent out around the holidays, we sponsored and organized the community’s Fourth of July parade each summer, and we sent out a postcard good for a free gallon of cider from a local orchard in the fall. We were missing a spring event, maybe the most important time of the year in our industry. For me, filling that gap was a total no-brainer: Earth Day! It fit in perfectly with the niche I was trying to build — and come on, who doesn’t like the Earth?

Trial (and Error)

RE blog Brett V Earth Day seeds

In the spring of 2018, I made a postcard offering a free white pine sapling to the first 100 people that reached out. I sent it out to 1,000 people in the community guessing that I would get something like a 10% reply rate. Would I have enough trees? I was getting nervous. Well, guess who ended up with 100 homeless trees? Yours truly. Fear quickly set in: Did my action designed to plant 100 trees actually end up resulting in me killing 100 completely defenseless trees? I needed to act fast.

The next day was going to be one of the first warm days of the year, and I knew our local brewery was having its one-year anniversary party that day. I reached out to the owner of the brewery and pitched the idea of me giving away trees at the party. He was on board. I spent all night separating each sapling and repackaging them into individual tree sleeves with my business card attached. The next day I showed up at the brewery and gave away 100 trees — and had about 20 really great conversations about Real Estate with new people in the process. Success after all! Well, almost...

Something I found out by observing the three trees that I had kept and planted for myself was that these trees were really fragile and they needed a lot of care and expertise to keep them alive. Over the next few months, all I could think about was how most of the people I had met at the brewery that warm sunny day were probably staring at their trees saying, “Oh look, there’s that dead tree that Realtor gave to me a few months ago.”

Still, it was a start. This semi-success paved the way for organizing my next Earth Day event.

Learning, Improving, and Growing (Trees!)

This time around we reserved the entire brewery for the day. We decided that we would offer attendees a pint of beer and a native plant — much harder to kill than a sapling — of their choosing. I partnered with a local horticulturist to acquire the native plants and to be present at the event to speak on the importance of native landscaping. I invited our local watershed organization to bring fun educational crafts for the kids, and I negotiated a price per drink with the brewery for our drink tickets.

We did a lot of advertising, including a postcard and email blast to our sphere, and cross-promotion with all of the businesses involved. In the end, we had over 100 people show up. We ran out of plants, we did not run out of beer, and I was able to have a bunch of really great conversations with people in the community that value nature, and just might be clients in the future. The best part was that we were able to get everyone's contact info at the sign-in, and anytime I do anything energy efficient related, I am able to send it now to a targeted audience of Earth Day goers!

Looking Ahead to a Brighter (and Greener) Future

Creating a niche in residential energy efficiency is no easy task. It sounds so simple and easy to build your client database with like-minded individuals, but when it comes down to actually implementing a plan that works, it's maybe one of the toughest things we face in our line of business. And though I continue down the long road to success, I am in no way reaping the benefits of a solid niche pipeline quite yet. However, I have found one thing to be true: When you offer up a free beer, you can really capture people's attention.

We are constantly honing in what works and what does not work in this industry, I am currently in discussions with new partners for this year’s Earth Day event — including new brewery, Trout Unlimited, a new plant source, and my good friends at Pearl Certification.

Happy Earth Day!

~ Brett Vredevoogd, Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Cascade, Grand Rapids, MI

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