My career as a Realtor® began in 2010, just two years after the economic collapse that crippled the real estate and job markets. My wife and I were living in a 736 square foot apartment and we had just been married a year before. Getting into real estate was a deliberate decision in that I figured if I could earn a living through real estate sales during the recession then I could make it work in any market. Real estate agent teams were just beginning so getting new business wasn’t as easy as joining a team and having leads sent my way. Most of my business came from people I knew and meeting potential clients at open houses. Having recently moved to Philadelphia the list of people that I knew who might do business with me or refer business to me was small. I spent a lot of time at open houses and also did some digital advertising and promotion, mostly with Google Ads. While I made enough to eke out a living, it was touch and go for several years.

In 2014 I spent a lot of time building a website and blogging hoping to win the SEO battle to grow my business with internet leads. By the Spring of 2015 business had become so slow that I was faced with the very real possibility that I’d need to quit being a Realtor® and find a new career (without any idea of what that would be). It was a dark time at our house with little money coming in and no ideas of how I would build my business or what else I would do to earn a living. Then, a box of donuts changed everything . . .

If you’re a Realtor and have ever hosted an open house, you’ve probably posted a photo on Facebook and said something like ‘Open House 123 Main St 2-4 today!” My guess is that those posts fall flat and get very little engagement, if any. Sure, the first post will get a few likes because your friends and family feel like they should be supportive. But after a few of those posts the ‘likes’ all but disappear. In fact, my Mom told me that she didn’t even want to click the ‘like’ button because she didn’t want it to look like she was the only person who cared (she was).

So, on the advice of a friend in the business I brought a box of donuts to an open house. Instead of taking a photo of the open house and posting ‘come on by and check out this property,’ I posted a picture of the donuts and wrote something along the lines of ‘Sunday = Open House Day with Donuts.’ I didn’t write the address. I didn’t write the time. I didn’t tell anyone to come on by. But, I got a lot of responses about the donuts and had several conversations on FB (all were about the donuts).

Unlike my posts advertising my open houses, the donuts helped me to engage and connect with my friends and family. It hit me that I was onto something . . . Building a business through referrals is the business of connecting with people and that doesn’t need to be complicated. Since that day my business has completely changed and grown substantially. I’m having way more fun than I’ve ever had and I don’t even think about having to change careers but the income that I’ve earned has allowed me to start saving for my daughter’s future and to begin the process of picking up some income properties.

I’ve always loved teaching and sharing with others so I decided that it was time to start sharing what I’ve learned. I hope that you find useful information and tips that help you build your business, too. If you have questions or want to chat about your business, send me an email or find me on Twitter and Facebook.


Jon Miller is a Realtor® in Philadelphia, PA with a passion for building business through referrals from his sphere of influence. He uses both digital marketing/social media and face-to-face events to develop relationships and build his brand.

On this site, Jon talks about building a business through digital marketing & advertising, social media, video, and in-person events. While most of the content is geared towards growing a business as a Realtor® many of the strategies can be effective for other businesses, too.

Visit Jon’s real estate website at www.jonmillerhomes.com.