Your Branding Is Costing You: How To Fix It


Start the fall with Inman’s Marketing and Branding Month. We dig deep into agent branding and spending best practices with Zillow, realtor.com, and others. Top marketing managers also stop by to share their latest tactics. That’s all it takes to take your branding and marketing game to the next level.

Have you branded your company with your name? Is your branding related to what you do, where you do it, and who you serve? Do you have a brand that is hyper-local or niche-based? If not, you will lose prospects for marketing with an ineffective brand.

A great brand immediately reminds of the product. To illustrate this point, how many of these brands do you know? The “Uncola”, the “Ultimate Driving Machine” and the “Breakfast of Champions” (7UP, BMW and Wheaties.) My personal choice for real estate brokerage with the best brand is “Next Home”.

Your Name: The Least Effective Way To Brand Your Business

When most agents and brokers start their businesses, they rarely have any training on what makes an effective brand. The result is that they usually brand with their name. This is why branding with your name is a bad idea:

Please Note: If you are currently branding your name and have successfully done this, don’t be bothered by what works. Instead, use the “niche” branding strategies described below as additional sources to generate more leads.

1. Disturbance

Having trouble remembering names? Almost everyone does this – and for good reason. Every day you are bombarded with thousands of names of people, places, products and companies. All of this incoming data leads to what psychologists call “interference”.

To illustrate how interference works, what did you have for dinner yesterday? If you were able to answer the question, the information will be stored in your long-term memory.

On the other hand, can you describe what you had dinner 365 days ago? Chances are you can’t. The reason is that you’ve had 364 other dinners since then.

2. The Ebbinghaus curve of oblivion

Ebbinghaus research shows that within the first hour of learning, we lose half of what we have learned. Within two days, that number climbs to almost 75 percent. In other words, even if potential customers remember your name in 48 hours, there is only a 25 percent chance they will remember it.

3. Your broker’s brand is usually better known

My former home in California was extensively searched by agents who sent postcards every month. I don’t remember any of the agents’ names, but I do remember who they worked for: Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, and RE / MAX.

Broker names are usually more visible due to multiple courtyard signs, their printed and digital advertisements, and any marketing items their agents send out that are tagged with the broker name.

If your brokerage business also has brands with a name (Berkshire Hathaway, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Sotheby’s, etc.) it is even more difficult for potential clients to remember Her Surname. You are more likely to remember your broker’s large sale sign than your name tab.

4. Name brands usually make a business difficult to sell

Branding your business with your name also makes it difficult to sell. “Bernice Ross Realty” doesn’t work as a real estate name for someone named Tom Smith.

5. No relation to the real estate industry

A strong brand refers to “real estate” or “real estate,” but many of the big brands also have confusing brand names.

For example, is Coldwell Banker a bank? Before Berkshire Hathaway acquired Prudential, I had a number of clients who said, “I thought Prudential was selling insurance, not real estate.”

6. No indication of your city, state or zip code

One of the biggest mistakes agents make, especially on their websites, is for not including the state and zip code they specialize in. To illustrate why this is important, did you know it 22 places called “Paris” in the USA?

Consumers typically search by street name, city, and zip code. Always include these on your website, social media sites, as well as in your digital or print marketing.

People don’t remember names, but they do remember features and functions

To illustrate how this works, let’s say my niche is selling estate properties. If I met you at an open house, instead of remembering my name, you would probably remember me as the blonde lady who specializes in estate sales.

If you need me eight months later to help you sell an estate property, you will likely remember meeting a blonde lady who specializes in estate property sales in Austin.

To find me, you would probably type Austin, Probate, Real Estate, or Properties. With multiple agents serving this niche, you can easily see my profile and tell that I was the agent you met on this open house.

Use these steps to expand your branding

Here’s how to make sure leads who don’t remember your name can still find you:

  • Use words or phrases that indicate that you are in the real estate business: “real estate”, “apartments”, “real estate”, etc.
  • Reference the geographic location or market segments you serve. For example, do you have a geographic operation or a specific sub-department that you specialize in?
  • Do you specialize in certain types of property such as luxury homes, new builds, relocation, resort properties, second homes, 55-plus communities, etc.?
  • Do you serve a certain profession or type of customer? Examples include home based businesses, seniors, transitioning couples, distressed real estate, charities, customers born outside of the US, investors, green or green, military, loft living, mommy market, golf real estate, etc.
  • It also makes sense to use the zip code (s) you provided when appropriate.

Here are some examples of how this type of branding works:

  • LakeTravisWaterfrontHomes.com
  • FortBraggMilitaryHomeSpecialists.com
  • LiveInWestwood90024.com
  • MiamiLuxuryHomes.com
  • BostonHistoricEstates.com

Get rich in a niche

In the classic book by Al Ries and Jack Trout Marketing Warfare, the authors explain the importance of having a hyperlocal niche – the big names can’t afford to compete for small parts of the market.

The examples above work because they are hyper-local, niche, and reflect how consumers search online for real estate that is best for them.

Use your new brand

We’re still at a point where you can build a strong digital real estate presence for virtually free. For example, you can set up a Facebook or Instagram business page for every niche or specialty market you serve. Add as much data as possible to this page and post regular updates.

It’s also smart to create a Facebook and Instagram business page for every post you include. Be sure to include the street, city, state, and zip code as part of the name. Your customers will share these sites with their friends and followers so you can get to know their contacts for free. These are also a tremendous conversion tool for listing appointments.

In terms of your website, you can set up a separate subdomain that leads back to your main website, although you can set up these pages to look like your home page.

Alternatively, you can set them up as landing pages. The secret to getting conversions is to provide real estate reports and other data that would motivate web visitors to give you their contact information.

The bottom line is that while it may be tempting to keep using your existing brand, going hyper-local and having the high niche brand strategies discussed here will give you a huge advantage when it comes to finding potential customers, no matter where you meet her.

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 articles published. Find out more about their women-for-women broker / manager training programs at BrokerageUp.com and their new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.





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