Several years ago, Ann and Denny Bishop put up a billboard on a busy thoroughfare in Wichita Falls, Texas, to promote their real estate practice. The response was tremendous, bringing in lots of business for the Ann and Denny Bishop Realtors Group. The ad featured a photo of a black Labrador dog lying at Ann and Denny’s feet, with the headline, “Trustworthy and dependable.” Off to the side of the picture were the words, “So’s the dog.”

Several years ago, Ann and Denny Bishop put up a billboard on a busy thoroughfare in Wichita Falls, Texas, to promote their real estate practice. The response was tremendous, bringing in lots of business for the Ann and Denny Bishop Realtors Group. The ad featured a photo of a black Labrador dog lying at Ann and Denny’s feet, with the headline, “Trustworthy and dependable.” Off to the side of the picture were the words, “So’s the dog.”

The ad was so memorable, Ann said, that “people are still telling us they love our billboard on Kemp Street even though we haven’t had it up for five years.” The ad made the Bishops seem approachable, while demonstrating the core values of their real estate practice.

Trustworthiness and dependability aren’t flashy virtues, and they aren’t the latest marketing buzzwords, but they help the Bishops consistently close more than 200 transactions a year. “Those are lasting qualities that people remember. People will forget someone who gives them a box of chocolates or a note pad, but they will never forget you if you handle their transaction flawlessly, executing every detail reliably and dependably. We think of it as the Ritz-Carlton treatment: ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” Denny said.

A former collegiate basketball player and referee, Denny developed those values along with his selling skills courtside, where he worked for 15 years before starting his real estate business. “I discovered as a basketball official you have to sell those 20,000 people in the stands on the idea that you know what you are doing,” Denny said. “It’s the same thing in real estate. When you go out on that listing appointment you must have confidence that you know what you are doing and you can help this customer. If you leave any doubt in the buyer’s or seller’s mind about your knowledge or expertise, you have a big problem.”

Delivering bad news is the burden of both the referee and the real estate agent. “Sometimes the fans have a negative opinion of the proceedings and you have to sell them on your decisions anyway. If they know you are honest and dependable, and that you call the shots the same on both sides of the court, they will trust your decisions.”

“Integrity is the key. You always tell people on both sides of the transaction the truth, no matter how bad it may hurt. The right answer may not always be the most popular answer. In the real estate industry we deal with a lot of negative information. It may be we have to tell a seller they have termites or maybe the other agent has brought you a list of outlandish repairs. If your clients trust you to give them credible information, you’ll get through it,” he said.

The couple’s marketing reflects their values in both spirit and execution. The Bishops live in an upper-income neighborhood, and through commitment to that community they have garnered the main share of the upper-end home market. “We farm the Country Club Estates area, and we buy ads in the Wichita Falls Country Club Newsletter, as well as a local medical news publication,” said Ann. “We attend a lot of social and charity events because we believe in giving back.” The couple supports the Wichita Falls food bank and cancer society, as well as the United Regional hospital. They participate in a fundraiser for the hospital’s Children Miracle Network program by purchasing 100 big beautiful poinsettias at Christmas and sending them to their key sphere of influence list–close friends and some of the people who bought homes that year. A card with the flowers explains the charitable contribution. The reaction is “fabulous,” Ann said, because it’s all for charity.

Other marketing strategies from the Bishops include:

1. Promotional hats and water bottles

The Bishops ordered denim baseball hats to give out at a big local charity event, the Cow Baron’s Ball, with the name of the event on the front of the cap and their company name on the back. They report seeing the caps on joggers and grocery store shoppers on a regular basis. Last year they handed out 1,500 water bottles imprinted with their name and placed them on every chair at the event.

2. Open houses

Open houses don’t bring in much buyer business for that particular home, the reason many agents give up on open houses. But they communicate dependability, Ann said. “They make the market aware of who we are. We want people to know that the Ann and Denny Bishop team is alive and well and can handle your business.” They also help the couple stay in tune and in touch with buyers, who eventually do buy something.

3. Military transfers

Wichita Falls is the home of Sheppard Air Force base. The Bishops reach relocating families by advertising on the inside cover of the base newcomer’s guide and linking their Web site to the official base Web site. These efforts help bring in about 15 percent of the company business. “Military families are huge users of the Internet,” Ann said. The families find the Bishops online and use the Web site frequently to review new listings.

Give some thought to your own company’s core values this year, and think about how you can integrate them with your marketing. It’s a strategy that will set your business apart from the crowd and build lasting relationships.

Howard Brinton is a real estate sales motivational speaker and the founder and CEO of Star Power Systems, a sales training organization that offers tapes, books, videos, conferences and a club that distributes selling techniques from the nation’s top producers.

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