According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 76 percent of people who decide to sell their home with the assistance of a licensed real estate agent interview only one agent for the job. Are you that agent? If not, who is?
What can you do to become the one agent 76 percent of the people in your marketplace are calling to list their homes? The answer is simple — eliminate the other options. By branding yourself correctly, you can create the perception in the mind of the public that you are the only option — the only agent — who will sell their homes. Build the perception in the mind of the consumer that you are the only one.
A concept used for many years by corporate America, personal branding is an invaluable tool that if used correctly, holds unlimited potential for real estate agents. Real estate agents are in a unique position to have success through branding because they are their own products. Yet many agents, who arguably spend more money than most other small businesses on advertising, are missing the boat when it comes to building a business through branding. As a result, the agents who do understand branding and build a consistent brand are able to take advantage of the market. They are that one agent three-fourths of the population calls to list their homes.
As a service professional, you have a brand already, you just don’t know it. Everything about you — your appearance, your car, your office, how you answer the phone, how you treat your customers — creates a “brand” in the public’s mind. Focused branding is the process of developing and owning the brand you want to project, instead of letting the public create their brand for you. With focused or targeted branding you create the business you want instead of allowing your business to develop by default.
So what is branding?
Commonly lumped together with marketing, branding is actually a distinct concept, which if used correctly, can virtually eliminate the need for traditional costly marketing. While marketing is a quick, active message targeted at selling a product, branding is a slow process, building your image over time. Branding relies on consistency and repetitiveness. It’s about building your image in the mind of the public — creating a perception that you are the best, regardless of the market conditions.
A great example of a person who has used both personal branding and marketing is Oprah Winfrey. Over time, Oprah has built a perception of who she is and what she stands for in the mind of the public. That perception, that emotional, innate response to the name Oprah Winfrey is her brand. Her magazine, her television show, her books, etc., are products she markets to the public. She markets her products through commercials, her shows, and other methods. The success of her product marketing is based in large part on the strength of her brand. Conversely, her brand continues to be strengthened because her marketing and her products consistently support her promise on her brand.
Everyone makes money in a strong market. Agents who are perceived as the experts, the leaders, make money regardless of the market conditions. Oprah does not need to do anything but mention a book and it shoots to the top of the bestseller list. She doesn’t spend money on advertising her products. Her branded image pre-sells her, and, in turn, her products, without the need for marketing. By building your image over time, by branding yourself, you can see that in the long run you will spend less money on marketing yourself, but get greater return.
So how do agents brand themselves?
Branding requires a commitment. You cannot read this article, or read a book about branding, pick a slogan and consider yourself branded. Branding is more than putting your picture on your business card and a park bench and proclaiming you are the number one sales person in your market.
Branding is really everything you stand for — your promise to your customers. Research branding as a concept and you will notice certain concrete steps you must take to build your brand.
1. Evaluate your business and your path
In order to create a strong personal brand you must first truly understand what you are able and willing to offer your customers. What happens when someone breaks a promise? You don’t trust them. This is why it is important to evaluate where you have been and where you want your business to be. Unlike many other professionals, as an agent you are promoting YOU all day every day to everyone you meet. You cannot hide behind a brand that is not authentic and true to who you really are.
So, you must first evaluate where you are and where you want to go. This step is the most important for real estate agents. As an agent you have to live and breathe your brand every day or it will fail. You have to honestly evaluate yourself and your business. What does your business look like now? How do you want your business to look? What are you willing to do to get there?
2. Make a commitment to your brand
After you have determined where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to step out of your box and define you as your brand. Did you determine that you really want to focus your business on serving the real estate needs of retirees? Pick a slogan or word that describes the commitment you have to your target. For example, “Providing golden service for the golden years.”
3. Back it up every day
Then own that brand in everything you say and do. Back up your brand with what you promised, “golden service.” Use your slogan or brand consistently and repeatedly.
Over time your name will become synonymous with your brand to the extent that your target, in our example, retirees and their families, will think of you first when they want to list their house, regardless of whether you took out a full page ad in your area’s local newspaper proclaiming yourself the number one agent in the market.
Keep in mind, however, you cannot brand a lie. Almost worse than having no brand, is having a brand that doesn’t work. You cannot brand yourself as an expert in lakefront homes if you know nothing about lakefront homes and have no desire to learn anything about lakefront real estate.
Branding is a powerful tool for a real estate agent. If used correctly, branding can help agents realize unlimited income while spending less money on marketing and advertising. Yes, that’s right — less money on marketing and advertising, greater return. Branding works because people buy and sell on emotion. Therefore, if they like and trust you they will use your services, regardless of the market conditions.
Remember, evaluate your business and your path, make a commitment to your brand, and back it up every day. Follow these steps and you will be on your way to building your brand and becoming that agent your market calls first to list their home.