Pepsi or Coke? It’s one of the greatest rivalries in beverage history! Whichever side of the aisle you occupy, you’re not likely to cross over without some serious convincing. That’s because most of us are brand-loyal shoppers. Whether it’s soft drinks, shampoo or clothing, we all have our favorite brands, and we stick to them.
According to “Retention Science,” brand loyalty “has very little to do with prices or money, but has everything to do with how your brand is perceived by the consumer, whether through promotional activities, reputation or their previous experiences with your company.”
Keeping that in mind, the same feelings of loyalty that a consumer feels toward a company can be manifested in loyalty toward a person — like the consumer’s doctor, lawyer … or real estate agent. That’s why it’s crucial as an agent to build a strong brand for yourself in order to attract and retain more business.
Differentiate yourself and define a niche market
One of the best ways to build your brand in real estate is to differentiate yourself. As of last year, there were more than 1 million real estate agents holding membership with the National Association of Realtors. That means there are a lot of people to turn to for help when it comes to buying and selling a home or property. How do you stand out?
Think about what you’ve done to make yourself unique. There’s a pretty high-profile broker/agent who’s been affectionately called the “Condo King” since back in the 1980s. And he has reaped the rewards of the title. For years, his agency, Allan Domb Real Estate, has handled the majority of condo business in Philadelphia. His branding as the Condo King is a persona that defines him and has followed him all the way to becoming president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors.
Another way to differentiate yourself is to define a niche market. The best way to do this is through the communities you serve. Establishing yourself as the go-to expert on one particular neighborhood, type of sale, or type of community is a huge deal and a major differentiator.
You could aim to be known as the agent who has an “in” with the exclusive neighborhood where inventory is really tight. How can you do this? Make it a point to know the profile of the people who live in that neighborhood and why they choose to live there — for example, find out how long the typical commute to work is or if there’s an opportunity to rent out space as a vacation property. You should know who’s more likely to sell, what properties have pending status and what houses are coming on the market soon, so your clients can get in earlier than the general public searching online. Doing this will make you the go-to agent for that particular area, and as you grow as an agent, you can expand your area of reach depending on your business goals.
Weave technology into your offerings
Many agents are in the midst of growing their use of technology. That’s crucial, because it’s a way of life for so many would-be buyers and sellers, particularly those who are “Generation Y” millennials — the largest group of homebuyers, at 31 percent. The National Association of Realtors’ generational trend report indicates that “Generation Y” homebuyers are doing their home searching online or through a mobile device prior to reaching out to an agent. Once they’ve chosen an agent, younger buyers also base much of their satisfaction on their agent’s ability to communicate — especially through email or text. When you weave technology into your offerings, you’re building a brand that resonates with the fast-growing group of millennial homebuyers who are likely to refer you to their friends.
But technology use goes beyond just younger buyers and sellers. Leveraging technology in the right way can help you attract both clients and potentially additional talented team members. Our friends at Coldwell Banker Howard Perry and Walston do this through their initiative to be the “most wired” real estate company in North Carolina. They provide each of their agents with an iPad and access to the company’s proprietary mobile app, which allows them to conduct business anywhere, anytime. This not only attracts buyer and seller clients to work with them, but attracts more tech-savvy agent peers, providing you more opportunities to leverage their knowledge and learn.
Build a unique online presence
As an agent, you need to have an online brand that resonates with your consumers. It’s not enough to just be online; you have to have an online presence. A major part of that online presence includes an updated and well-maintained website. Creating a subpar website and then letting it sit untouched will actually do you a disservice and may make you look unprofessional. Be sure that your website looks modern and includes updated data. You should also include testimonials from happy clients. I like a service called Placester, which helps you build your website with quick setup, lead capture and mobile-ready designs. Potential buyers want to see that you’re knowledgeable and have previous experience successfully helping others just like them.
The other part of your online presence is built around social media. Check out my colleague, Leighton Dees, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Generations, as an example. Dees has developed his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to be personally and professionally acceptable. You can do the same by walking that fine line between being too open and not being open enough — always keep your audience in mind. Using social media is just as much about listening and engaging in other conversations as it is about posting your own.
Social media is one of the most underutilized tools when it comes to marketing a piece of property. If you have a strong online presence, which includes social media, you can build your brand there as a way to stand out.
Whether you’re online or offline, the most important thing to keep in mind when building a brand is consistency. You have to be the same across all mediums— be relevant, be true and be genuine to who you are. People can spot a phony from a mile away, which doesn’t bode well when you’re dealing with most people’s largest investment. So, be consistent in who you are, and also in the experience clients can expect.
The client experience should be seamless and consistent from search to post-close follow-up. Part of creating and maintaining that consistency is developing a team of people whom you work with regularly, and who are part of your trusted brand. People who are loyal to a brand (you) are more likely to try out other services from that brand (your colleagues). Those colleagues might include mortgage brokers, attorneys or moving companies who can also participate in the seamlessness of the transaction. Developing your brand to include these service providers ensures not only that your client is well taken care of today, but also will be in the future when they decide to return for round two.
The No. 1 referral source is still word of mouth. Friends and colleagues will ask each other, “Do you know a good agent?” You want them to say yes and then mention your name. Just as quickly as you make your choice between Pepsi and Coke based on their branding (and, OK, their taste, too), you want potential buyers and sellers to choose you based on the experience they can expect with a brand they can trust.
Joelle Senter is the vice president of marketing development at dotloop.