By Susan Doran
Desiree Tomanelli has her kick-ass Realtor image down.
Cell phone in hand.
Various mentors have advised her to change things up from time to time in order to stand out. “But I can’t seem to separate myself from ‘the look,’” says Tomanelli, who admits she gets her nails done every two weeks and is trying to figure out how to write that off as a business expense.
She’s pretty attached to the workaholic angle too. Setting boundaries and taking time off? “I rarely do either,” she admits. “I actually answered a call on my wedding day.”
A platinum agent (her business tripled last year, she says) with Royal LePage Your Community Realty in Richmond Hill, Ont., Tomanelli, 33, has been licensed for only four years but has a solid grasp on her game plan and identity.
So far it doesn’t appear that standing out is going to be a problem, suit and heels notwithstanding.
“I’ve concluded that this is me,” says Tomanelli. “I haven’t worn jeans in years. I’ll never miss a call, and I wear high heels every single day.”
A millennial specifically targeting a client base similar to herself in age and outlook, Tomanelli aims for a thorough understanding of her buyers and sellers, “because I live it.”
Downsizing baby boomers are not really in her wheelhouse. “I look like a kid to them,” she says. “I market to upsizing young families, millennials and a bit older, with one or two small kids.”
She refers to this demographic as her “client avatar,” a target marketing concept she came up with after struggling initially to find her niche as a rookie Realtor.
“When I was a newbie, nobody told me what type of marketing did and didn’t work. I was working blindly and using old-school technology and marketing, like cold calling and door knocking,” she says.
She found it “disheartening,” akin to calling people about duct cleaning. Her parents had both worked in real estate at one time, but the business had changed, she says. She wanted to be innovative and find new ways forward.
“I do everything online, including finding my husband,” she says. “I don’t even have a landline, and like everyone these days, if my doorbell rings I don’t answer. I started wondering why I was doing things that were done in the ’80s, and that I don’t respond to. I wouldn’t follow people on social media who do that. I wanted to work with clients who are like me…people who follow me on Instagram.”
These days, having narrowed her focus in order to target her specific “client avatar,” social media is the first place people reach out to her.
“It is where I build trust with my audience. I don’t have to start by selling myself. They have already seen my social media and know I’m the real deal…I’m always posting to offer value to people, instead of making myself look like a hero.”
She has found some group sites – including those for moms, dads, and daycares – to be a good source of clients.
Tomanelli says that her companionable online presence on Facebook and Instagram draws in followers and builds relationships through such means as personal stories, opinion pieces, tips and tricks, and real estate myth-busting. “Little nuggets,” she calls her posts. They run the gamut from the occasional cute dog or baby photo to her thoughts on when to consider trying for a bidding war.
A large percentage of her social media followers are other agents, checking her out in hopes of gaining insight into the reasons for her growing online success, which has resulted in some invitations to speak publicly or on podcasts.
Tomanelli’s advice? “Just do it. Put yourself out there. You don’t have to be perfect. Have a thick skin. It’s the Kardashian era. People want to see you ugly and see your pain.”
There’s also this:
“Stop posting shit about what you just sold or listed. That feels icky. It’s social media, not your own personal magazine. People are sick of being sold to everywhere they go. Offer value. Give people free things. But if you do post a listing, put a price on it! What, I have to call you just to get that? Let’s put real info. Be authentic. Everything stems from that.”
Her take on public access to real estate information is equally bold.
“Bring it on,” she says. “We can’t just be the keepers of information.”
She probes clients for details about their lives and desires, starting with a handful of formulated questions about everything from how they envision a baby or commute changing their life to what they would alter about their home given the opportunity.
“The more they tell me, the better I can get into their heads,” says Tomanelli. “I want to get at their heart strings, serve their interests. It’s the teacher in me.” (She previously worked as a full-time high school teacher and still supply teaches on occasion.)
Based in a brokerage within the Greater Toronto Area but not at its core, Tomanelli is mindful of the differences marketing to suburban versus city buyers.
“It’s completely different. In the city we’re still seeing multiple offers, while up here people have time to negotiate a deal the old-fashioned way,” she says. “You can sell anything in the city. Here listings have to be in better condition. You have to fix them up, put ‘lipstick’ on them.”
Tomanelli has built a small team and obtained her broker license. She was also recently married, true to form in all-out fashion in an ice-themed wedding featured in WedLuxe magazine.
“It was over the top,” she says, laughing.
The resulting surname change (to Allin) has unleashed a rebranding plan that is still in the works.
Whatever changes follow, Tomanelli is determined to bring real estate marketing into the modern age and has little patience for real estate professionals who resist.
“It’s a service industry,” she says. “We make big bucks. Don’t forget that. Work to service your clients, not yourself. You will find your way.”