It has become one of my favorite lines of all time, and it was delivered in the epic movie, "Legally Blonde." When Elle’s unrequited love remarks, "You got into Harvard Law?" she responds matter-of-factly. "What? Like, it’s hard?"

That’s the way I tend to look at most things these days. The fact is, when you take a step back, most of the things we do really aren’t that hard. Or at least they shouldn’t be. It’s just that we make them seem that way. We obsess, we fret, we get overwhelmed, and then we find ourselves frozen wide-eyed in the headlights of oncoming traffic.

As real estate agents, we are called on to wear many hats. We’ve got the pointy hat we wear during study hall, where we must learn our local inventory, market statistics and trends. We wear the top hat for showing property or interviewing for the listing, and the beanie for knowing the contracts. Then we grab for the green beret when it’s time to negotiate.

What about the business side of the business — strategic planning and marketing? That usually calls for a fez. The problem is that no one with a shred of dignity wears a fez anymore. It’s a stupid look; it’s antiquated. No one wears a fez, that is, except real estate agents.

My local newspaper still comes to my driveway each morning. It’s my husband’s fez. And I have a confession. I occasionally peek at it, not because I expect to find any real "news" — I’ve already read it all on my Google news stream and on Twitter. My curiosity is really more about "why." Why is it still in my driveway? And on Sundays, why is there still a full-page advertising supplement in the now "whopping" two-page real estate section?

This week’s supplement was teeming with important announcements, which I must assume were intended as a customer call-to-arms. One agent just celebrated her 10th year with her team, while another was No. 1 in her office. There was a Legend Award "winner," a Diamond Award recipient and an agent with a new "green" designation.

(Is it just me, or does promoting a new eco-friendly awakening on paper seem slightly inconsistent?) Finally, there was the agent who supported a charity — her press release reminded us that not only is she giving, but that her "career has been punctuated with numerous awards."

What do all of these messages have in common? No one cares. And how do I know this? Because, like, it’s hard?

If you take off that fez for a minute and put on the thinking cap, it’s not hard to know what your marketing should be — or more importantly, what it should not be. All you have to do is think like the customer you are.

We have come so far down this road — a road littered with our likenesses on bus benches, billboards and shopping carts — that we have become caricatures of ourselves in our advertising. …CONTINUED

I like my investment adviser. Not unlike me, he is in a service industry and in business for himself. He even, like me, has business cards. But — get this — his picture isn’t on them. Neither is his dog’s. He doesn’t even have a snappy tag line like "Take stock of Dan!" What a loser.

At Casa Berg, which has become known of late as the Bastion of Failing Appliances, we have a plumber of choice. We have to. And he is quite good. He also has a business card, but it doesn’t say, "Call Luke for all of your pipe dreams!"

And while it’s not inconceivable that he participated in some beach cleanup day, I don’t recall having seen a press release publicizing his selflessness. That’s probably because Luke knows that, while I am a big fan of "giving back," I really couldn’t give a flip what charitable causes he supports when my garbage disposal starts sounding like Rod Stewart with an upper respiratory infection. I just want it fixed and fixed right.

When our president starts passing out cards with a slogan like "POTUS — No. 1 in the Free World!" — I will admit that I am wrong. Until then, I think our way of presenting ourselves to those we profess to respect and revere is so much like yesterday’s newspaper. We are becoming the butts of our own jokes. It’s time to change the message, and the spoils will go to the early adopters.

August in real estate is a notoriously sluggish time for us, and each year it presents an opportunity for me to take stock (sorry, Dan) of business strategies and tactics. The goal, of course, is to increase our business and our bottom line because, face it, much as I love what I do, I am doing it for a living. So, I am presented with decisions about where to direct our marketing dollars and just what that marketing will consist of.

At first blush, it seems overwhelmingly difficult. What do I say? What is it that is going to strike a chord with the customer? This is when I need to remind myself that it’s not hard; it’s just a process. I already know the message. It’s not about an alphabet soup of initials at the end of my name, because there is only one accreditation that my clients care about — a real estate license.

It’s not about having been honored with the Exalted Centurion of the Platinum Order of Legends in Our Own Minds trophy, because that doesn’t amount to squat when it comes time to write the property description in complete sentences. How I rank in my office or the fact that I have a really cute golden retriever is irrelevant. The Internet is the great equalizer, and the Web has given the customer the tools they need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Sure, some people still find a fez to be dapper, and they will find their next agent off the back of a door hanger, but their numbers are rapidly waning. Kids nowadays are wearing fedoras, and so must we. Our customers want to know that we know what the heck we are doing. They want to know that we understand their needs, and that we have their best interests at heart always. They want us to speak their language, and they want proof, not meaningless tripe.

Here’s the modern day hat trick: We need to possess the mindset, the culture in our business that is aligned with today’s consumer. We need to ensure that every tactic we undertake is consistent with and reinforcing of that mindset. Finally, we need to communicate our values and our value in a way that supports rather than contradicts.

The customer wants to respect us. We just need to give them a reason to do so. It’s not hard — not if you really stand for something and you are brave enough to think outside the paradigm.

Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.


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