Successful branding is key to building a successful company, but it does not happen overnight or by happenstance.
When I began as a Century 21 broker in 2003, I realized it would take tremendous effort and investment to build a strong broker brand within the extremely identifiable corporate brand of Century 21.
What I didn’t realize, however, was the hard work it would take to maintain my brand — or the fact that my biggest challenges wouldn’t necessarily be external competitors, but my own internal agents.
Challenges with branding
Branding is about ensuring that a client’s experience is in line with your company standards at every touchpoint. As brokers, we are in an interesting position: We not only have our real estate clients — people who choose to buy and sell their real estate under our brokerage brand — but we have agents who are also our clients.
Agents are the backbone of every brokerage — they are the reason clients choose to do (or not to do) business with the company. So how important is it that agents are branded correctly? It’s critical, but here is the challenge: Agents not only represent our brokerage, they represent themselves as real estate professionals.
Although it’s true some represent themselves better than others, I can assure you they all have an opinion about how they want to be represented through the use of pictures and bios. For years, I allowed agents to provide their own photos and bios, first, because it was the easiest way to go, and second, because they all had their own idea of a good picture.
Some pictures were from decades ago when they were thinner or had more hair; others were glamour shots that had been retouched so much you could hardly recognize them; and then there were selfies taken from their phones. All of those might be great for a Facebook profile, but not for your company website.
A different approach
About six months ago, we were revamping our website, spending countless hours on keywords, logo placement, font selection, meta tags, search optimization and then we got to the agent profile page.
It was a hodgepodge collection of our agents with different backgrounds, sizes and quality of photos making us look like we just slapped together a yard sale poster rather than a professional website.
Our solution was to launch an in-house agency that consisted of a team of photographers and copywriters who worked with each agent to develop his or her own story.
The key to agent branding is not just a great photo but also developing who that agent is beyond real estate.
- Who are they as a person?
- What are their hobbies and passion in life?
- Why is real estate so important to them?
- And most importantly, why would our client choose them as an agent over every other real estate agent they have been introduced to?
In addition to their all-new professional photo and eye-pleasing, matching white backgrounds, we opted to spend a little more time and money to have the photographer take lifestyle pictures. We personally know our agents, so wouldn’t it make sense your clients would want to get to know them also?
Sometimes it’s hard for people to be objective about themselves, and that’s true for agents as well. I can’t tell you that every agent is in love with his or her new updated photo, but I can tell you that our Agent Profile page is something our company can be proud of.
Amy Gallagher is the Corporate Broker of Record for all 11 Century 21 Hometown Realty offices.