Your brand and reputation is what separates you from others in your market.

With that in mind, I have been scratching my head lately as some multiple listing services adopt technology that diminishes the brands of their broker and agent members by promoting the brands of private technology companies.

I struggle with the thought process of companies that pour a disproportionate amount of precious marketing dollars into systems that suppress their own brands in the name of leads from companies with names or technology gimmicks that mean nothing to your brand. Zulu, snap, click, find — you have to be kidding.

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s partner, recently talked about one of his key investing philosophies at an event the Wall Street Journal covered: “If you stay rational yourself, the stupidity of the world helps you,” Munger said.

Let’s focus on the word rational.

It’s rational to want leads with great ROI. At the same time, it’s just as rational to build long-term value for your company or personal brand, which in the end also produces real leads.

So can you do both? The answer is yes, but it takes some old-fashioned foundational work along with taking advantage of new digital age technologies and marketing methods.

First, make sure your Web and mobile apps, as well as all your marketing collateral, get to the heart of your company or personal brand. I’ve read lots of nice pieces on Inman and other sites how to create a great brand that gets to the heart of who you are.

In the end, if you build your brand, you create value. This value is something to sell down the line whether it’s your company or your next listing.

Once that is secure, judiciously seek third-party lead sources that let you extend YOUR brand, and stay away from those that turn you into competing agent cogs that build THEIR brand and potentially charge you ever increasing lead packages with declining ROI.

Technology is complicated, but there are many sources that let you take private-label, leading-edge technology and configure it to YOUR brand and business. It’s called software as a service (SaaS), and many large companies use this to support their brand without having to build or update the technology themselves.

Salesforce.com (CRM), Workday (human resources) and Concur (travel) are well-known examples of companies with “SaaS” offerings, and there are many such offerings in the real estate space as well. The best SaaS systems work to help grow your brand cost-effectively and on your terms.

Twenty years ago, my mom ran a real estate company. It was called Blumberg Associates (now Sotheby’s Soleil, and owned by one of her associates she trained). If you say “Blumberg Associates” today, many people think she’s still in business under that name. That’s a brand!

Like many successful brokers and agents who earn six-figure incomes consistently, she was her own brand. Like many of you, the community trusted her market knowledge, which eventually grew her reputation.

Before mobile technology, I remember my mom could walk down any street in our town and tell you about any home, how many times it sold, prices, features, flaws, owners. She had that unique flair of in-the-know exclusivity needed in our resort town, where a lot of second homes were sold.

She would try new marketing tools with the boundless enthusiasm of “anything is possible.” But she always focused on using those tools to augment her brand.

My mom is the one who taught me the easiest person to sell is another great salesman, who will recognize if you hit all the points. But she would never, never tarnish her brand or entrust it to someone else to cultivate on their website.

When you make decisions about where to put your brand, think to yourself, “Is this what Apple or Nike would do?”

Try to make sure the leads you buy, or where you advertise, can be branded to you and put into your own systems so you can do the agent-client nurturing you need to grow your brand. After all, your brand is your value because it’s you!

Brad Blumberg is the CEO of Smarter Agent Mobile.

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