Buyer’s Guide: Branding Products and Services
A strong brand can make the difference in determining which real estate pro gets the call from consumers. Here are the key concepts and solutions you’ll need for your branding efforts.

In This Guide

To whom do people turn when they need help buying or selling property? Generally, it’s one of three kinds of real estate professionals: someone they’ve worked with before, a practitioner they’ve been referred to, or the one who has done the best job branding themselves and their business.

Building your brand is a multifaceted undertaking: creating a persona, promoting it at every opportunity, and meeting and surpassing expectations you’ve shaped about why people should entrust their real estate transaction to you. It’s part personal marketing and part positioning — and all about delivering services. After all, every licensed competitor in your area has access to the same inventory. An effective branding campaign differentiates you as the first person who comes to mind when people think real estate.

Specs That Matter for Real Estate

What makes a great brand?

Play consumer for a minute: When the subject is real estate companies, which one comes to mind?

There’s likely a distinctive logo with specific colors, and maybe a tagline defining that company or its approach. Branding starts with visual symbols, but is really about attaching positive perceptions to them. What those symbols represent — and the associated consumer expectations and experiences — make the brand.

For the real estate professional, the branding challenge is to set yourself apart from everyone else offering a comparable mix of services. Your “brand” can be your name, a flashy logo, catchy tagline, or some unique specialty. It’s the marketplace ID for you and what you do.

Think about who you are and services you provide that most others can’t and build around that. It might be defined by a market area, a particular type of property you handle, or your target clients. It can play off your name, your team, or the location of your office. Whatever you choose as your brand, it should be uniquely associated with you.

An effective brand-building campaign runs on and offline, from a prospect’s initial encounter through follow-up long after a successful transaction. Establishing your brand requires a broad-based, far-reaching effort. The key is consistency in message and delivery — the more visible your brand, the greater the chance people will remember you.

Feature that in signs, on your vehicles, Web site, social networks blogs, business cards, stations — everything you do to promote awareness and attract business. Then, back it up. If you bill yourself as the neighborhood expert, demonstrate that with Web content and blog entries. If your focus is the upscale market, your clothes, car, and equipment should project that. If you’re the relocation expert, make sure you’re the source for information about everything in the area.

The Budget section of this guide outlines some tools and services that can be used to build, establish, and promote your brand. Each provides you with a way to get your brand in front of clients and prospects, and remind them why they should call you.

Ultimately, your brand is only a symbol, though, albeit one that invites action and can generate calls. It’s the follow-through, the relationships you establish, and whether or not you deliver on all your brand promises that will make or break your business.

Brand Building 101

Focus: Step back and assess the services you and your competitors provide. What’s unique about you? Who are your target consumers? What value can you offer others aren’t providing? Is your market a particular type of home or area? Define your services, expertise, and goals, then start building your brand around those.

Create an identity: Effective brand symbols — the logo, tagline, and even color scheme — are easily recognized and recalled. These should establish some positive association with you. Don’t skimp here: If you doubt your artistic and creative abilities, entrust this to a professional service.

Promote you: Approach this as a personal effort to promote you, your services, and your personal contact information. Build your brand around a company that’s not yours, and you’ll have to start all over if you ever move on.

Mount a campaign: Your brand won’t be built overnight, but rather over time, as people learn to connect you and the symbols you’ve chosen to represent yourself with a positive experience. The more visible that symbol, the faster that process.

Take it everywhere: Signs for the yard or office are starting points. Cars and trucks can be transformed into mobile billboards with vehicle wraps. Premiums like refrigerator magnets and key chains imprinted with your logo serve as constant reminders of you and your services. Everything should point back to your Web site as the portal for local information about your business and listings. And when you’re marketing online, be sure that your brand extends beyond your business’ site. Social networking and blogs can be especially effective, as can automated electronic newsletters, which get your branding out there with minimum effort.

Get involved: The value of community involvement cannot be overstated. Sports and event sponsorship, charity donations, and volunteerism provide opportunities to show your logo and represent you as a caring member of the community.

Make short-term goals and long-range gains: In summation, use every tool and opportunity to establish your brand. It’s the cumulative effect of all these efforts that will transfer a logo into the symbol you can proudly stand behind and prosper.

Glossary

Collateral: In marketing, the support materials used to promote a brand, product, or service, such as flyers, brochures, presentations, and Web content.

Niche: That segment of the total market a brand focuses on. For instance, one real estate professional could choose the niche luxury homes in the area, while another concentrates on vacation properties and rentals. Identifying your niche is an important early step in brand development.

Personal brand: The brand associated with an individual rather than a company or team. In real estate, establishing your personal brand can be especially critical. Over the course of their careers many real estate professionals will provide similar services to clients while associated with a succession of brokerages or franchises.

Skins: Protective covers for consumer electronics devices like smartphones and notebooks that can be imprinted with any message or graphic, including a brand logo.

Tagline: A brief, easily recalled sentence or phrase that sums up the brand and what it offers.

Target market: Those buyers or sellers you want to reach through your marketing efforts. They could be living in a specific ZIP code, for example, or match a certain demographic profile.

What Others Are Saying

“The Community Center”

In the half-year since sales associate Amie Stewart of HomeSmart Realty in Phoenix launched the My Life At Lakewood Web site, it’s become a virtual gathering place for people interested in what’s going in the Arizona neighborhood.

“We’ve gotten a reputation as the go-to people about the area, exactly what we were trying to achieve,” Stewart says. She and her partner in The A Team decided the community Web site could be an effective tool for keeping their name before residents in their target market.

“We thought the best way to brand ourselves would be to focus on one area,” she says. “It’s helped with our farming. We’re now working closely with the local homeowner association and we’ve got businesses in the area as sponsors who are also helping promote the site,” she says. “We’re giving something valuable to the community and they seem to appreciate that.”

“Being Your Brand”

As soon as Linda Craft acquired her real estate license more than 20 years ago, she started building her brand. “You’ve got to decide what you want your brand to be, and for me, that was to be seen as a professional, the person people recognize and want representing them. I started with a bright red color to contrast with my naturally blond hair and a black Infiniti Q45 with a vanity plate and the tagline ‘Make Offer.’”

Today, as broker-owner of Linda Craft and Team, REALTORS®, in Raleigh, N.C., those core elements remain integral to the campaign that has established her as the most readily identifiable real estate professional in the area. Her red logo and name are fixtures on signs and a fleet of vehicles, at community events, and as an official sponsor of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team.

“The things we do offline bring us recognition,” Craft says. “But it’s what we do online, thorough Internet marketing, where we make money.”

Craft’s Web site, as well as her blogs, videos, and Facebook and Linked-in pages and profiles are all developed and managed by Dakno Real Estate Marketing Services. Wherever she’s found on the Web, there’s a consistent look featuring her picture, logo, and contact information.

“Branding without building strong personal relationships is nothing,” she says. “People may recognize you because of your logo or picture, but they will remember you because of what you did and how you helped them.”

“Domain Name Says It All”

Visitors to LuxuryLakeHome know where The Perry Team, broker-owners of RE/MAX Grand Lake in Grove, Okla., put their emphasis. The site immediately identifies the pair as “Your Grand Lake Professionals” and local real estate experts.

Their branding and Web site is managed through the Number1Expert marketing system from Dominion Enterprises. “We don’t have a specific logo or photo like some teams,” says Victoria Perry, partner with her husband Chuck in the small company. “Everything we do is designed to get people to our Web site where they can start searching for property and learn about our services.” The domain name conveys their specialty and is featured in all their signage and ads.

When she expands her branding efforts in the near future, she’ll draw on the experience of others. “One advantage to being with RE/MAX is you’ve got a network for talking with other real estate professionals about what’s worked for them,” she explains. “They’re very supportive and eager to share what they’ve learned and show how they do it. It’s a fabulous benefit of being associated with a major brand.”

Michael Antoniak is a journalist and technology expert with a focus on real estate applications. He also writes about real estate technology at his blog, RealTechTools, and has published an e-book on Essential Technology for Mobile Professionals. He can be contacted at antoniak@dtccom.net.

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