5 tips for building a brand that helps you stand out
In a crowded marketplace, branding can mean the difference between "just another name in the directory" and a memorable business that attracts more clients.
- Branding isn't as complicated as it may seem — it's just another way of thinking about your reputation.
- Your brand can be built around your location, the clients you serve, properties types or other specialties.
- If you're affiliated with a national brand, it's still important to differentiate yourself with personal branding.
If talk of real estate branding makes your head swirl with thoughts of Oh, man, that's one more thing I don't have time for, you're not alone. But experts say branding may be exactly what you need to differentiate yourself from the competition — especially in a crowded marketplace.
"A lot of people get freaked out by the term branding, but it's really not complicated," says Erika Cruz, senior account manager at the St. Louis-based branding and digital marketing agency Atomicdust. "In the simplest terms, branding is how somebody feels about your company. Instead of the word 'brand,' you can use the word 'reputation.' It all boils down to 'what do you want people to think about when they think about you or your company?' "
Many times, brands are built around location: "Your Vashon Island Expert" or "Raised and Doing Business on Chicago's Southside." Or, you may want to highlight the types of properties you specialize in: Row homes, urban lofts, small acreages. If you're just starting out or your business is ready for a change, your brand might focus on the clients you want to work with: first-time homebuyers, military families, retirees.
"All agents have brands, they just may not know they have them, which means they're probably not using them to draw in more business," says Theresa Goodwin, CEO at Boldthink, a branding/marketing firm in Indianapolis. "Figuring out what you do well and focusing on it will help you tailor your messages to your intended clients. If you're everything to everyone, no one will hear you."
Think you don't need to worry about branding because you work for a national franchise or brokerage? Think again. Umbrella companies' branding promotes general concepts, such as customer service or getting families into homes. Having an individual brand highlights what makes you a special part of your local community.
Starting to think about your own brand? Consider these five tips from branding experts:
Assess your personal preferences and taste
Identifying your brand comes down to asking: How do I want to show up to my clients? "How would you dress, formal or casual? Would you have printouts or would everything be online? What kind of language would you use to describe your relationships with clients?" asks Cruz. "The answers to those questions will help you determine your brand."
Once you've landed on a brand, it's important to use it across all channels. "Consistency is the key," says Denise Lones, president of The Lones Group, a real estate coaching, branding and marketing firm based in Bellingham, WA. "Your brand should be the thread that runs through your social media, mailers, newsletters and sales presentations. Seeing the same logo, color and phrasing over and over will help people remember you. That consistency will elevate your level of professionalism in the eyes of potential clients."
Refresh rather than redo
If you've outgrown your brand or the way you're represented online or in print materials, aim for a refresh rather than starting from scratch. Lones encourages clients to start by changing their font, then images and messaging. "It's about evolution, not revolution," she says.
Don't let your budget hold you back
Yes, you can spend a lot of money and hire branding pros who have the experience to guide a multilevel branding and marketing campaign — but there are also online tools that allow non-designers to create professional-looking materials. "We also work with clients who come in and say, we can only afford this much," says Lones. "Branding is the sort of thing that can often be done in steps and a lot of agencies are willing to work with clients in that way."
Once you have your brand and you're ready to share it, be authentic. "Don't do TikTok dances just because they're a trend," says Goodwin. "Be yourself. If you're not, it will come across as ungenuine."
Successful branding in action: See how two agents developed unique brands to help grow their businesses.