- There is never a one-size-fits all approach to marketing; it should be an individual decision.
- The value of a broker's brand can impact the need for an agent to have his or her own brand.
- Agents looking to build equity and ownership in their marketing should create their own brand.
There is seldom a one-size-fits all response when it comes to marketing, so the answer to my question requires some elaboration.
The key lies in understanding the pros and cons, so that a real estate agent may make the best decision. However, before discussing the pros and cons, I feel that it is necessary to analyze the broker’s perspective.
Working with both brokerage firms and agents gives us plenty of insight.
Why brand guidelines are important
Of course, when working with a broker, we want the agents to use the broker brand as much as possible. The broker wants to protect their marketing investment and desires for all agents to use all of their marketing materials, including postcards, emails, social media templates, market reports and home brochures.
This, of course, assumes that the agent executes the branding correctly.
If there are no brand guidelines and the agent is given authority to get design from anywhere, the brand could easily get tarnished and end up hurting both the agent and the broker. That is a lose-lose situation in which no one yields the benefit of a strong brand.
In cases in which we represent both the agent and the broker, we’ve created solutions that allow the two to leverage the benefits of two strong brands. When using strict brand guidelines and quality design, it is easier to create a strategy that helps to elevate both brands.
Why should agents brand themselves?
Now, let’s discuss the pros and cons associated with agents branding themselves.
- Agents retain ownership of the brand: Agents who invest in having their own brand and marketing materials can take them anywhere. If they leave their existing broker, they can keep all their marketing, which is likely well-recognized in the local area. Agents who have all their marketing materials with a broker (including their website) might find it hard to leave their brokerage firm, and if they do, they might have to start from scratch with a completely new brand.
- Agents are not dependent on the broker’s marketing savvy: If a brokerage firm lacks the ability to provide stellar marketing, or any marketing materials at that, having an independent brand is the solution. In certain cases, dependance on a broker for marketing is simply not wise.
- Branded agents carry added value: Agents with their own brand separate from their brokers add value in the eyes of prospects. If every agent at Douglas Elliman is using the same marketing, it’s hard to determine whether there is a benefit in using Agent A instead of Agent B. Sellers look for agents who stand out from the rest.
- Agents can curate consistent leads: As an agent, if you create your own brand and execute your own marketing separate from you broker, you can expect a higher number of exclusive leads. The brokerage firm divides leads equally in most cases. By contrast, having an independent and consistent source of leads can add plenty of security and worth to an agent’s brand.
- Agent branding establishes individual essence: An agent using a brand designed for a broker might not relate to that brand. A good brand seeks to enhance the value and essence of a company. Thus, an agent who has his own brand can highlight his uniqueness and the special benefits geared to a specific audience, and also connect on a deeper level with his target.
Why should an agent use a broker’s brand?
There are plenty of reasons for an agent to take the leap and invest in his own brand — but it has to make sense.
New agents might not find benefits in establishing their own brand, where more seasoned professionals might desperately want to.
- Branding requires a substantial upfront investment: An agent who wishes to create a unique brand will spend somewhere between $1,500 for a simple logo to more than $10,000 for all of the desired marketing materials. (While initially it might seem like a lot, it’s worth every penny when used correctly.)
- Brands require maintenance: There is absolutely no way for an agent to brand themselves in a “set it and forget it” fashion. With that said, there is time involved in maintaining the design of all materials, unless the agent moonlights as a designer.
Therefore, there will be some cost associated with switching information and deploying print materials to the printer/publisher. Microsoft isn’t the right place to create exceptional design (it is just a word processing tool), so don’t expect your ad agency to create a template that works on Word.
- Branding requires commitment to consistency: For any brand to work, there has to be brand consistency. All materials must convey the same brand position, both in messaging and visually.
There is a commitment that has to be made to the brand, and there is no room for fluctuation. Therefore, an agent can’t decide on a whim to make changes. It requires a level of dedication and time to make sure that all branding is consistent.
- Branding means sticking to a market strategy: Again, it isn’t just about the brand; it is about the execution. An agent who creates a new brand must be willing to stick to the execution of his new brand — not for a few months, but for the long haul.
For a brand to flourish, there must be flawless execution based on a tried-and-true marketing strategy. If the strategy calls for quarterly marketing reports, you must commit to sending them. The biggest fail for a brand is not following through on the outlined path.
- Unique agent brands often mean those agents can’t use broker tools: What might have attracted an agent to a brokerage firm might be the very thing that an agent must walk away from. Sometimes, the professional marketing tools presented to an agent during recruitment entices the agent to leave his firm and join a new broker.
If the agent desires to have his own brand, he will not be able to use the collateral offered by the broker, a benefit that might have been crucial in the decision making process.
Agents are typically independent contractors, so it makes sense that they would want a proprietary brand; however, there is a lot to consider before taking the leap.
There are benefits in using a broker’s brand, but do they outweigh the benefits of creating an independent brand?
Hopefully, this article has given you plenty to ponder.
Laura Ure is the CEO of Keenability, a marketing agency specializing in lifestyle marketing that targets the affluent buyer. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.