Whether you do it on the cheap or with a million-dollar budget, branding yourself requires careful thought. Careful thought about who you (as a real estate agent) are, who you’d like to be and why you do what you do.

Whether you do it on the cheap or with a million-dollar budget, branding yourself requires careful thought. Careful thought about who you are (as a real estate agent), who you’d like to be and why you do what you do.

With or without the help of a high-priced branding expert, you have the answers to those questions.

OK, so maybe you’re not ready to come up with a clever slogan, but you can still brand yourself in a way that communicates excellence, creativity and a great personality without spending a bunch of money.

Just stick to the basics, and stay consistent.

It’ll also help to a know a few tools of the trade. I’ll recommend some at the end to make this whole branding on a budget thing seem much easier.

Start with the fundamentals

Why do you do what you do? Simon Sinek, in one of the most popular TED talks of all time, preached the importance of leaders (and marketers) answering this question. (You can catch Sinek’s ICNY 18 discussion on finding your “why” in real estate here).

When you start with the “why” of your brand instead of the “what” or “how,” Sinek explained, you speak directly to the part of your prospect’s brain that makes what’s referred to as a “gut” decision.

Candy Miles-Crocker, a real estate agent and trainer, demonstrates how to start with “why” with her company name: Real-Life Real Estate Training. And you read it on her website:

“Just like you, I had taken the pre-licensing course on how to be a real estate agent, but it doesn’t teach you how to be a SUCCESSFUL real estate agent. With the Real-Life Real Estate Training program, I want you to learn from my experience, so you don’t have to waste time figuring out how to prospect, how to negotiate with the seller and the listing agent, how to grow your online brand, and so much more!”

It’s clear that Candy Miles-Crocker understands what her “why” is: to give new agents a different kind of education. She makes her “why” clear by emphasizing the “real-life” part of her training and the true “reality” of being a real estate agent. Crocker believes there is a better way to learn real estate, and prospects who feel the same way will flock to her.

Establishing a clear understanding and remaining mindful of your “why” will make its way through everything you do, even the way you interact with clients.

Intelligently embrace non-traditional tactics

Nicole Lopez, a Houston-based agent, branched out when she offered $250-worth of tacos to prospective buyers of one of her listings. The home sold to a real estate agent, and pictures of the sign that Lopez and her team put up went viral.

But because of the way Lopez had branded herself, she didn’t just go viral for the sake of going viral.

Her website proclaims: “We feature a marketing company first, real estate company second approach to business.” So, while the taco scheme was out-of-the-box, it was actually right in Lopez’s brand wheelhouse. Meaning Lopez didn’t just sell a listing, she also sold her brand promise.

What you should take away is simple: you can be creative, fun and non-traditional, and if you do it right, you’ll sell property and yourself in one fell swoop.

You don’t have to offer tacos with your listings. And in some cases — say, for an agent in a luxury market for retirees — offering tacos could even be bad for your brand.

But when you consider marketing schemes, think about what fits your brand. That way, you get a ton of mileage out of everything you do.

Go digital

With so much buzz about the advantages of digital, you’d think traditional advertising was dead. Not so, especially in real estate. That said, it’s pretty much impossible to beat the advantages of digital marketing if you’re trying to build a brand on a budget. I’ll let you in on a little secret about websites.

First, you’ll have to head over to Nicole Lopez’s website. Check it out. It’s pretty nice. Definitely doesn’t look cheap.

But get this: excluding video and photography costs, you could get yourself a website on par with that one for about $1,000. And that number could be even less if you can implement some of it yourself.

But even if you have no web design expertise, tools such as WordPress and access to freelancers, make building and designing a nice, four- or five-page website about as easy as putting together a print brochure.

Email marketing is another great way that you can digitally (and affordably) build your brand.

Putting together a monthly newsletter will take a bit of upfront time investment, but once you have a template dialed in, it’ll start paying dividends. Newsletters present a great way for you establish consistent, meaningful contact with your prospects.

Use these tools

If you’re building a custom website, you should try either Divi or Cornerstone to build a site on WordPress — Divi and Cornerstone are page builders that make designing much easier.

Divi is a bit more expensive at about $90 per year, or you can pay a $250 one-time fee. You can get the Cornerstone builder for $39 or just buy the WordPress X Theme for $45; that gives you the cornerstone builder plus some cool, pre-built themes.

All that said, you’ll definitely need help getting a website on WordPress up unless you have a ton of time to sink into learning it.

Squarespace makes building a website even easier, but for ease of use, you sacrifice a lot of functionality and your ability to customize. You can do Squarespace for about $216 per year.

If you need help getting a website done, Upwork is a good place to find freelance help. Just resist the temptation to go with the cheapest freelancer available.

Instead, choose a theme you like, find a website you’d like to emulate, get your content written upfront, and give the freelancer a detailed proposal.

That way, you save money because the designer can work faster with a crystal clear picture of what you want.

To create beautiful graphics with very little design expertise, try Canva.

For emails, MailChimp is a powerful tool that you can leverage even as a beginner. You could easily get all you need out of the free version of Canva without upgrading. Similarly, you can get a ton of mileage from MailChimp without paying a dime, but if you do end up using the paid version, the $10 per month version will serve you just fine.

Be your brand

At the end of the day, you are your brand — websites, brochures, social media ads and emails are supplementary. But that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Every expression of your brand — even if it seems insignificant — will either build or erode the confidence your clients and prospects have in you.

Keep that in mind, and get ready to do a little DIY, and you really don’t have to spend a boatload of money to build your brand.

Chris Meyer is the founder of CM Business Writing in San Francisco. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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