Anybody can become a real estate agent, yet only a few achieve long term success. What sets these all star realtors apart from their competitors, and more importantly, how can you sell your way to the top? The answer lies in developing a solid brand identity.
What is Personal Branding?
Before we zero in on your branding strategy, I think it’s important to explain what I mean when I use the word “brand.” A lot of of agents are under the impression that brands are nothing more than big companies, such as Century 21. While many people believe the term brand is synonymous with corporation, that’s not an accurate definition in my book. I prefer marketing expert Seth Godin’s definition of a brand:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer. Source
I like Seth’s perspective because he portrays a brand as multi-faceted, a combination of tangible and intangible parts that work together to form a cohesive whole. Seth’s definition seems a bit too abstract for our purposes, though. So let’s break branding characteristics down at a basic level. Here are the most important principles for agents:
You need to send the same message everywhere, from your website to your business cards and social media presence. In other words, all of your marketing campaigns should re-enforce your public persona. This requires a uniform combination of professional visuals, copy, tone, and in person networking skills.
In the highly competitive world of real estate, cookie cutter content doesn’t cut it. You want people to remember you, even if they don’t need your services right away. Research shows that consumers, or buyers in this case, respond to stories as opposed to sales pitches. So you need to think of your brand as an entity with interesting tales to tell.
This goes along with the previous point about storytelling. As Seth said, people buy from you because of the way you make them feel. That’s what I mean by creating a lasting impression. Strong emotions form your brand in their minds; it’s your job to tap into their core with your marketing communications.
3 Keys to Real Estate Branding
Now that we’re clear on what we’re trying to accomplish, let’s focus on how you can be a part of the elite crowd of well branded agents. I believe the best way to analyze this topic is through a real life example---Bob Hale CEO of the Houston Association of Realtors. While there are many thought leaders in the industry, I chose Hale because he’s on the cutting edge in terms of content marketing. His influence extends outside of the real estate sector as well; in fact, the city of Houston recently declared Bob Hale day in his honor! Clearly, Hale would be a good person to emulate. Here are the 3 main takeaways I identified from examining Hale’s branding:
Trust Matters Most
If you’re just starting out, then establishing trust should be your top priority. This won’t happen overnight; Hale spent the last several decades networking to get where he’s at today. The point is that Hale positioned himself as a helpful resource for his clients. No matter where you are in your career stage, you can build trust using both online and offline channels. The best way to start online would be to initiate a content marketing campaign on your website/blog. Answer questions, provide tips, and maintain active social media profiles. But keep in mind that consumers consider print media more credible than online advertising, so be sure to incorporate print into your marketing mix. Concentrate on design and be sure to use professional headshots.
Reputation Determines Opportunities
A big part of Hale’s good standing stems from his willingness to help not just his own clients, but other agents along with the entire community. Basically, Hale’s brand invites other realtors to connect with him, and learn from his example. In other words, don’t be afraid to be friendly with agents who are not your direct competitors. Aim for broad branding that incorporates both colleagues and clients. This will open more doors for you down the road, especially within local and national industry organizations.
You probably know that personalized emails and direct mailers get a higher response rate. This should inspire you to look at the overall impact of individualized marketing for your brand. Hale perfected the art of serving the neighborhood’s needs on the web, and now he gives international lectures on the subject. Essentially, Hale understood the community’s problems, and implemented solutions that made a positive impact. Now his brand is forever associated with this project.
If you’re still reading, I hope you see that there’s a lot more to branding than having a logo and a box of brochures. Now it’s time to put your big picture branding plan into action!