One of the first things I did when I got into real estate that really helped me was studying the advertising other agents were doing. After scanning through the real estate section of the local paper it quickly became apparent that most of those agents were getting lost in a sea of sameness. That’s because they were all selling houses, not themselves.
Seventeen years later, little has changed on that front. Open up any of those pages and what you mainly see is a mug shot next to a house with way too many words crowding the space. Who knows, maybe the ads reflect the busy, crowded lives those agents lead. I knew right away that my advertising would be different and that I would be selling me instead of just a house.
Now, luckily for any agent willing to make the effort, standing out from the blur of real estate advertising isn’t that hard. However, you have to be careful how you do it. I remember coaching one agent on his advertising and telling him how he had to get himself noticed. So one day he comes into my office all excited. He had a new ad running in the paper he wanted to show me. With no small amount of pride and flourish he whipped open the paper and laid it on my desk.
I actually started to laugh, which was terrible but I couldn’t help it. There in that sea of sameness on the page was his ad with a picture of himself turned upside down. I assured him that it would get him noticed, but cautioned him that so would going to a wedding without wearing trousers.
The main thing with any advertising is consistency. The look and feel of each ad has to be tied to that overall look and feel. That, quite simply, is how you build the brand that is you. The first thing you have to do is ask yourself what is it that you think you can do better than any other agent. That’s your USP, your unique selling point. Maybe it’s your experience; maybe it’s your energy, your level of service, commitment or whatever. Once you decide on it, the same message should be in all the advertising you do.
When it comes to the look of your ad, a simple rule of thumb is “less is more”. Whenever I did an ad, I’d write down everything I wanted to say and then cut 50 per cent of the words. Doing that creates white space and it’s white space that will draw the viewer’s eye. Plus, if your ad is clean and uncluttered, it will literally jump off the page when it’s surrounded by ads that are not.
For the look of the ad, which you’ll always use, you can easily incorporate a simple graphic element to help set it apart. If everyone else is using straight lines, why not try adding a swirl? That little visual touch becomes your signature after a while and people will recognize that it’s your ad. Now they’re starting to see you along with the house you’re selling. It’s called brand building and it takes time but the eventual payoff is more than worth it.
So you’ve got your USP figured out, you’ve cut copy to create more white space and you have a simple design element in place. That may not sound like much, and it isn’t really, but you’ll be amazed at how good your ad looks next to the sea of sameness you’re competing with. Remember, before you can have an outstanding career, you have to stand out and these simple tricks will help you do just that.
Debbie Hanlon is the founder of Hanlon Realty and CEO of All Knight Inc. She is a three-time top 50 CEO winner and was named one of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada. She is currently an elected city official in St. John’s, Nfld. and is available for motivational and training seminars. Email [email protected].