By Riti Verma
Even if you haven’t put any effort towards it, you already have a personal brand.
With just a quick Google search, prospective clients can find out a wealth of information about you in a matter of moments. The results are going to be there whether or not you’ve taken charge of your personal brand. The only question is if they’re helping or hurting your business.
As a real estate professional in today’s digital world, building your brand is what will increase your exposure, attract clients and grow your business. If you’re not doing anything to build your brand, you’re giving up control of a powerful way to increase your earnings.
It doesn’t matter what type of properties you sell or what your target demographic looks like, it’s important to have a strong personal brand.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ Generational Trends Report, younger buyers put a high level of value on finding an agent that’s honest and trustworthy. Similarly, older buyers are looking to work with someone with a positive reputation and extensive knowledge.
What does this mean to you as a real estate professional? It means that if you’re not known for being an honest, reliable and knowledgeable agent, you’re at a severe disadvantage to your competition.
At the most basic level, your personal branding is often the first impression that you make on prospective clients. It can take a long time – and a lot of work – to successfully build your brand. But by projecting the right image, you can set yourself up to reap the benefits of your labour for a long time to come.
That doesn’t mean that branding is a one-time process. In fact, quite the opposite is true. No matter how much time you spend getting your brand off the ground upfront, you’ll always need to be looking for ways to maintain and improve it further.
Take a minute and search for yourself on Google. Try entering your name, followed by the phrase “real estate”, and then the market that you’re targeting. An example of this would be “Joe Smith real estate Calgary”.
What kind of results popped up? If you’re like most agents, you likely found your personal real estate website and probably a few links to your social media profiles.
Now put yourself in the mindset of someone looking to sell their home. Maybe they came across your name in a property listing, or perhaps they are friends with one of your past clients. Either way, would your online presence be enough to convince you to hire yourself?
Building your brand
Not all real estate professionals come from a business background. In fact, most don’t. While just six per cent of agents surveyed by NAR stated that real estate was their first career, only 19 per cent of respondents claimed a background in business, management or finance.
If you fit into that other 81 per cent, the thought of creating a personal brand for your real estate business might sound intimidating. Luckily, you don’t need to be a technological guru or expert marketer to successfully generate results.
If you haven’t yet begun focusing on your personal brand, here are three tips to help get you started.
1. Know your competition
A savvy businessperson would never jump into a venture without doing their fair share of due diligence. When it comes to establishing your personal brand as a real estate professional, your logic should be no different. Begin by researching what your competitors are doing and how they’re marketing themselves, taking special note of the popular niches being targeted in your area.
2. Clearly define your brand
After you’ve researched the opportunities in your market, you need a clearly defined brand to set yourself apart from other agents. Be sure to identify the core demographic you’re targeting, the most promising neighbourhoods to focus on and the unique advantages that give you a leg-up on the competition.
3. Simplify your slogan
Your slogan should be much more than a marketing gimmick – it should highlight your unique selling proposition in a concise manner. Here, you should forgo generic phrasing and aim to be as specific as possible.
For example, “Toronto Real Estate Expert” does nothing to set you apart from the thousands of other agents in the city. On the other hand, “Rosedale Sellers’ Specialist” makes it obvious that your focus is on working with sellers in the upscale Rosedale neighbourhood.
Marketing your brand
Once you’ve firmly identified and begun developing your personal brand, the next thing that you should be focusing on is marketing yourself and your newly defined brand. You need to present yourself in a way that shows you have what it takes to meet the needs and expectations of prospective clients.
1. Present yourself as an expert
Branding isn’t going to be enough to grow your real estate business on its own. You also need to be able to back up your marketing and showcase the expertise that you’re claiming.
For example, if you want to be known as an expert in high-rise condos, you need to learn as much as you can about the residential buildings in your area and share that knowledge every chance you get – whether it’s helping a client choose the right property for their needs and budget, or sharing interesting local condo statistics through social media.
2. Focus on your clients’ successes
This may sound a little blunt, but most of your clients aren’t going to care about your past accomplishments – they’re only concerned with what you can do for them. Rather than promoting yourself by talking about how you closed 75 deals or did $20 million in sales last year, point out client-friendly statistics, such as how your sellers closed 20 per cent faster than the local average, or that your listings sold for an average of 98 per cent of the asking price.
3. Stay consistent
As a real estate agent, it can be hard to turn down a good listing, but if you’re committed to growing your personal brand, you have to remain consistent. If you want to be known for selling high-rise condos, then that’s exactly what you should focus on. Rather than diluting your image by taking on properties that aren’t in line with your message, consider referring these opportunities to other local agents instead.
Best practices for building your personal brand online
While there’s no doubt that offline marketing can still put you in contact with potential clients, today’s buyers and sellers are increasingly going online to find the information and assistance they need. Over the past four years, real estate related searches on Google have increased by 253 per cent. Furthermore, 90 per cent of home buyers use the Internet at some point during the home-buying process.
If nothing else, this should serve to reinforce the fact that having a well-developed brand and strong online presence should be important to any real estate professional.
1. Personal website
Your personal website is the backbone of your entire online presence. When prospective clients search for you, it’s probably going to be one of the first things they see. Your website’s sole purpose is to promote your brand and business, and as such it should be designed to generate results.
- Provide useful content – What kind of information are your clients looking for? Make sure you’re providing content that is valuable to your target demographic, whether it’s current local trends or the best ways to stage a luxury property.
- Highlight your strengths with reviews – Your website gives you free reign to promote yourself and you should be taking advantage of the opportunity. Get feedback from satisfied clients and prominently display the endorsements for your visitors to see.
- Make it easy for visitors to contact you – Getting people to visit your website isn’t enough to build your business – you also need to convert them to clients. This is much more difficult to accomplish if you’re making it tough for them to reach out to you. If you want to generate leads, make sure there are plenty of forms and calls to action to motivate visitors to contact you.
2. Social media
Social media has made it much easier for the average real estate professional to increase their exposure without drastically increasing their marketing budget. Although it’s next to impossible to keep track of all of the social media platforms out there, the most popular sites to focus on include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Share things people care about – Success with social media means keeping your fans, followers and connections engaged. Instead of treating social media solely as a vehicle for advertising, commit to sharing valuable content that your audience will want to read and share with others.
- Connect with other professionals – Social media isn’t just for connecting with prospective clients. It can also be a great resource for building mutually beneficial relationships with other local industry professionals.
- Tie it all together – Managing your social media profiles can take up a lot of your time, especially as your business grows. Luckily, platforms like Contactually and Hootsuite make it simple for the busy agent to manage everything from one centralized dashboard.
3. Online reviews
We already know that buyers are looking for well-respected agents that they can trust. As such, it’s no surprise that online reviews have become one of the best ways to build your brand. When it comes to choosing an agent to work with, two out of every three buyers will conduct extensive online research beforehand. This makes having a positive presence on review sites like mine, RankMyAgent, a must for the serious professional.
- Encourage legitimate reviews – Consumers trust online reviews because they’re unbiased and based on real experiences. Encourage your past clients to leave legitimate reviews for you and avoid putting yourself in the questionable position of asking friends or family members to leave feedback for you.
- Watch what you say – You’re not always going to make everyone happy. If one of your past clients leaves a negative review, refrain from lashing out or acting unprofessionally in the public eye. Instead, thank them for posting their honest feedback and work to either rectify the situation, or prevent a similar one from occurring in the future.
- Be proud of your reputation – When you’ve built a great online reputation, you should try to share it with any many people as you can. Linking positive reviews to your personal website or social profiles can be a powerful marketing tactic and can help unify your entire online presence.
At the end of the day, your personal brand is going to continue to define itself whether or not you intentionally contribute to its development and growth. If you want to set yourself up for success (and apart from the other real estate professionals in your area), you need to take control of your personal brand and frame it so that it fits in with your professional goals and ambitions. With consumers having such widespread access to information, one of the most dangerous things to your business isn’t having a negative online reputation – it’s having no real online presence at all.