- Agent branding in concert with social media is the generation gap of our time.
- Doing business as (DBA) status at the agent level encourages entrepreneurialism.
- Branding allows agents to control their own lead generation.
- Agent controlled branding under transactions brokers will obsolete the national franchise.
It started as an exercise in branding. As we watch a questionable lifestyle brand being packaged as presidential timber, it crystallizes just how much our society has become brand mad. Truth and reality have always taken a back seat on Madison Avenue. But sadly, or perhaps more inevitably, branding has now invaded every aspect of our life.
Real estate is loaded with brands. Neighborhoods, communities, streets and buildings all have brands. In today’s branding-crazed world, how are real estate agents utilizing branding to their benefit?
Taking the temperature
To learn, we began by sampling opinions of our area’s most valuable real estate brands. This being Atlanta, Georgia, we discounted anything with the name “Peachtree” and ended up with a list highlighted by the names of old and established neighborhoods.
Near the top of everyone’s list: Inman Park. Inman Park was Atlanta’s first suburb and is now considered a highly desirable in-town place to live.
How were sales agents carving out a niche within Inman Park? Were they utilizing the Inman brand, and how were they reflecting that brand back on themselves?
We found the answers to be a mixed bag of old-school techniques and old boy networks. Either way, it was old. But, it was what we didn’t find that offered us an opportunity to test market a new branding idea.
A brilliant idea
Last year, Inman Park saw 41 transactions totally over $23 million in homes sales — certainly a market large enough to create a brand. A DOM (days on market) report for Inman Park shows under 20.
Clearly, this is a popular brand. The name, “Inman park,” has been woven through Atlanta culture for generations. In short, Inman Park is a realty brand powerhouse.
So, how could an agent who never sold a house in Inman Park suddenly become relevant? Start a DBA that reflects the brand. Start Inman Park Realty. In Atlanta, any sales agent can create his or her own DBA realty brand. Surprisingly, Inman Park Realty was available.
But, before we continue, let’s be very blunt about what we are doing here. This will be perceived as an agent squatting on the good name and hard work of others for personal benefit. And, that is exactly what we are proposing. Our thinking is: if no one is using the brand, should we ignore it, or should we try something new?
How we did it
For less than $250 any agent can have a DBA registered under their sponsoring brokerage. Your broker will complete the required paperwork for the state. The DBA process takes about six weeks.
While we waited for Inman Park Realty to be registered, we secured and set up our social platforms. The URL was obtained and a .com landing page created. A logo was developed. A Facebook page was established and a Twitter account created.
A Zillow Premier account under Inman (first name) Park Realty (last name) was also created for lead generation purposes.
In a matter of a few keystrokes, an agent can go from totally unknown to instantly being part of the discussion. Because this was a company experiment, we then set out to find someone interested in managing this new realty brand.
To make our squat more palatable, we created a concept called a CBR (community branded realty). The idea behind a CBR is to give back to the community being squat on.
In effect, paying a branding fee to the community. In the Inman Park Realty case, all transactions within IPR will have an HOA donation element. For the Inman Park Homeowners Association, the CBR represents an ongoing revenue stream for neighborhood development.
We launched Inman Park Realty through an email campaign to agents living and selling in the area. We asked if anyone wanted to run Inman Park Realty and be given all the branding tools we just created for free.
Details of our offer are still on the website. Perhaps naively so, we honestly believed the CBR storyline of local agents helping their community would be a compelling.
We knew Inman Park Realty, being a new concept, would have a rocky landing. And sure enough, our very first response was an angry rant, which is completely understandable.
In established neighborhoods, agents can spend years, perhaps decades, developing relationships, and seemingly overnight an interloper appears. Be forewarned, agents planning on developing this type of DBA strategy best develop real thick skin — fast.
In our case, we were giving the DBA away, which sadly demonstrates a trait far too common within the real estate industry. When presented with a new idea, most people would ask themselves: how can I benefit? What’s in it for me?
In the real estate industry, far too many new ideas are simply discounted out of hand. No!
We expected kickback and got it. It was the encouragement that caught us off guard. The prevailing sentiment was; nice idea, but this needs a younger agent. The profile of our responders is unknown, but it’s a safe bet their ages were probably more a reflection of the national agent average.
Could branding become the generational tipping point? A platform for transition from old school to new? Local community branding can certainly replace national franchise branding. Does this represent yet another crack in the franchise system? Will a new generation of agents armed with the latest in social media tools use branding as a differentiator?
What’s going to happen to Inman Park Realty? In the next couple of weeks, we will announce the management team. I can tell you we have opted for building a team from outside the Inman Park community.
In our experience, if you have an idea that brings both rage and enthusiasm, it just very well might be a good idea. Please join us in following along in the development of the first CBR: Inman Park Realty. (/InmanParkRealty, @InmanParkRealty, info@InmanParkRealty.com
Friend the idea; follow the idea; like or rail against this idea, we would love to hear from you.
Editor’s note: To the best of our knowledge, Inman Park has no ties to Brad Inman, the publisher and founder of Inman.