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Throw a Farm Area Block Party/Users/adamp/Desktop/May Mag Images/YouInc

Take some tips from this sales associate and throw a party that builds a lasting impression.

The “life of the party” is alive and well, and she has a name: Linda Quinlan, of Southern Beach Realty in Santa Rosa Beach.

Quinlan has a reputation at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort for throwing a good bash. Last summer, she successfully organized a Fourth of July block party for “The Bungalos” (a cottage community within the resort) and added new names to her customer list, while distinguishing herself as the sales associate of choice in a community where homes are valued between $475,000 and $695,000. Her party cost just $500 for food, favors, decorations, invitations and postage. There are 62 homes in the community, and about 100 people attended.

Such events are part of Quinlan’s relationship-building strategy. She landed two new listings and has sold 10 homes in the neighborhood traceable to the party. “You have to
really be personable, especially in this correcting market,” Quinlan says.

Here’s her strategy:

1. Pick the Right Neighborhoods
The Bungalos is made up of both full-time residents and seasonal renters, many of whom scout for vacation homes to own. The community is a “hot commodity” because of its four championship golf courses, a marina, tennis courts and a new shopping village. “I felt the Fourth [of July] was a good time to expose renters to our company,” she says.

Quinlan is also at home—literally. Her daughter owns a house there. Plus, she worked with the developer and sold preconstructed homes there. “I wasn’t the on-site [sales associate] at preconstruction, just one of the selling agents for that neighborhood,” she says. “I got the names from the tax records after all the homes had closed and started farming on a regular basis. When the time seemed right, I planned the party.”

2. Anticipate the Fun
Full-time residents received personalized invitations a month in advance. Quinlan uses sendoutcards.com, a company that allows her to create her own postcard or choose from 8,000 designs, and then handles the mailing for her. (She e-mails her list of recipients to the company.) The postcards—old-fashioned Fourth of July cards with the invitation printed on the back—cost 39 cents apiece, plus postage and mailing service. Vacation renters woke up to fliers at their front doors and an American flag in their yard the morning of the party.

3. Make It a Community Affair
To kick off the party, Quinlan offered a golf cart decorating contest. Ten residents paraded their carts around the community’s circular thoroughfare, with the homeowners’ association’s advance blessing. The winner received a $100 restaurant gift certificate.
Neighbors followed the parade to the neighborhood pool, where Quinlan’s husband and son were grilling hot dogs and burgers. The event also included soft drinks, bottled water and cookies.

After lunch, everyone played games. Quinlan hit the Internet to find ideas—one was “golf pool,” in which people try to chip balls onto a floating green. She also offered kiddie giveaways from the online and catalog company Oriental Trading Co (www.orientaltrading.com). The party lasted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Quinlan says she didn’t collect leads at the party. “I felt everyone should get to know me and my team so that when they think of selling or buying, they call us,” she says. “I like to do the soft approach at my functions and not make people feel like the only reason I’m there is to collect names.” Recently, one of the neighbors e-mailed her about listing another lot he owns.

4. Keep a Success Journal
For each party that she throws, Quinlan tracks which dollars were the most effective. “You learn what works best. Every e-mail blast and postcard goes into my marketing book, and then I review what I’ve done,” she says. In this case, the Fourth of July party went so well that she’s had numerous requests to repeat it—and she plans to.