I recently attended Gary Vaynerchuk’s Agent2021. In the final Q&A, Gary was asked what would withstand any disruption, downturn or disaster. He answered emphatically: your personal brand. While I fundamentally agree, something is being lost in translation when talking about what a personal brand is and what it is not. Let’s try to make some sense of this idea.
What everyone knows about personal branding
According to Wikipedia, the widely accepted definition of personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. A brand is the overall experience of a customer that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. The key idea is the experience of the customer and this is where most in the real estate industry miss the entire point.
Now, Gary V gets this. He preaches this idea, he encourages people to be their true selves, to be transparent, and to tell stories. But he also recommends that to break through the noise, you need to “think like a media company.” However, when everyone becomes so consumed about documenting every aspect of their life, they get lost in the busyness and forget that the heart of creating a personal brand is not the details of daily life, but the experience of your customers. Instead of breaking through the noise, we just create more of it. After all, not everyone is Gary V, and this strategy works for him because it’s applicable to what he stands for and his belief system. He’s being true to himself. He knows what value he has to offer and is creating this experience for his people.
Kicking it up a notch
The notion of creating memorable experiences was recently driven home for me. After attending Agent2021, I drove to Tampa to attend my son’s hockey tournament. Two industry friends, Bill Risser and Anthony Malaforte, came to watch. They showed up. They cheered. We high-fived over good plays. We connected. And, not just connected on a business level, we connected personally. They met my son, my hockey friends, and wove themselves into another layer of my life.
But here’s the thing, I was so touched they showed up. I was moved that they cared enough about me to cheer on my son’s team. My experience of this moment was amazing and deeply solidified my loyalty and our friendship.
I’m not suggesting that real estate agents should stop marketing, storytelling, and advertising, because they should not. These are valuable vehicles in which we connect and share. Video is an incredibly powerful tool and I’ve built many brands with a camera. But, I would argue the mindless, narcissistic content is not creating the brand experience you hope it will.
Here’s what I know to be true:
- When everyone else is focused on themselves, focus on your people. I mean, focus hard on them. Love them, show up, be thoughtful.
- Personal branding is bigger than you. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but you must stand for something more. What do you believe? What are you passionate about? What do you want to change in this world? These are the emotions that will connect people to you in a meaningful way. These are the stories you tell.
- More WE, less ME. Enough said.
- Serve. Embody a servant’s heart but remember as soon as you start to blast on social channels your good deeds, you’ve missed the point. The magic happens when others tell your story about what you’re doing and why their friends should care. The power of word of mouth and social proof is more validating than just about any other thing you can do.
- Make the call. Check in and show you care.
- Building and nurturing your relationships will always be good business.
My friend and mentor, David Baldwin, wrote the book on this topic called The Belief Economy. He understands this notion deeply and will be sharing his insights from the ICNY19 stage. This is a session this industry desperately needs to attend. I’ll be there, sitting in the front row, because it’s a message to be heard again and again and again. As David puts it, “personal branding is a verb, it’s a constant effort of following through on your promises and what you stand for.” So if you want to distinguish yourself from others and stand out from the crowd, ask yourself, do my actions align with my values? What experience am I creating for my people?