September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.
Did you know the least effective way to brand your business is with your name? The first step in successful marketing and prospecting is to create an effective brand. If you are currently branding your business with your name, here’s what to do to fix it. An effective brand for any business does each of the following:
- It is memorable.
- It immediately brings the product that is being sold to mind.
- It identifies a specific target market.
For example, when 7UP wanted to take on Coca-Cola, they ran a campaign promoting the “Uncola.” While you may not know what BMW stands for, their branding is clear, “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”
Another example? Wheaties, which has branded itself as “The breakfast of champions” since 1924 — talk about staying power of the right brand! These products are easy to identify because their branding meets the three criteria above.
Are you using the least memorable brand in the business?
The least effective way to brand your business is to use your name. The reason is that we are constantly bombarded with thousands of names each day — names of people we meet, names in the news, plus hundreds of product and place names. It comes as no surprise people have trouble remembering names.
Memory research attributes this phenomenon to “interference.” While you definitely remember what you had for dinner last night, you won’t remember what you had for dinner a year ago because you’ve had 365 meals since then. The same thing happens with people’s names.
Making matters worse, Ebbinghaus showed back in 1885 that even if the person does remember your name, the probability they will forget it 24 hours from now is 67 percent, and at the end of the week, it jumps to 90 percent.
For example, if you introduced yourself as “Terry Agent from the John Smith Company,” does the person you’re speaking with know what you do or where you do it?
Have you told the listener anything that will cause this person to remember you six months from now when they actually need your services? Using your name to brand your business also creates the following additional challenges.
- If your broker’s brand uses a person’s name, the client now has two sets of names to remember.
- Your name does not reference the real estate industry, the specific area you serve or the niche you specialize in. There’s no way for potential clients to know whether you can assist them in the area where they are looking.
- Your name is normally not as recognizable as your broker’s branding. If you work for a major brokerage, your company spends millions of dollars marketing the company brand. As a result, potential clients are more likely to recall the name of your brokerage rather than your name.
- Your business is much more difficult to sell or transfer if you use your name in your branding. Furthermore, if your team has to introduce themselves as, “I’m Jim Johnson with the Sally Agent team,” and you work for Keller Williams, you now have six names to remember.
What people do remember
Creating a successful “name” brand is extremely expensive due to all the other brand names in the marketplace. What people do remember are functions. For example, if you were to meet me at a party, you would probably remember me as the blond lady who sells real estate.
Now, assume I meet you at a party and introduce myself as “Bernice Ross from AustinProbateSellers.com.” While you may not remember my name six months from now when you need to sell a probate property, you would probably search “Austin probate real estate” and my website should pop up.
Branding strategies that work
Follow the steps below to create an effective brand. If you already have a “name” brand, you can still add niche branding to your current brand using this approach.
- Begin by identifying a specific market niche where you do the most business or would like to specialize. In their classic book Marketing Warfare, Al Ries and Jack Trout explain that large companies lack the financial resources to compete for small slivers of the market. The old saying, “Get rich in a niche” is true.
- Make sure your new brand uses words that show you’re in the real estate business. Examples include “real estate,” “homes,” “estates,” “condos,” “relocation” or “probate.”
- Reference the geographical location or the market segments that you serve. For example, if you serve a specific geographical area, you may want to select a brand such as BrentwoodCondos.com or StoneridgeHomes.com. You can also brand with the city’s name and the type of properties you represent, for example, AtlantaHistoricalHomes.com or ChicagoLakefrontHomes.com.
- Use your ZIP code in your marketing since people often search based on ZIP code. You could use 45462GolfHomes.com or GolfHomes45462.com.
- The best branding strategy is to combine your geographical location with the specific market segments you serve. Each of the following examples references a specific niche as well as a specific geographical location.
Benefits of having a niche-based brand
Here are some of the advantages of using this approach. Because your niched brand addresses a specific location or market segment, your personal brand will often be more effective locally than your broker’s general branding.
If your company is acquired, changes its branding or if you decide to change companies, having your own niched brand allows you to continue marketing with no interruption in your marketing efforts.
Also, if you’re considering starting a team or already have a team, using branding that identifies a specific niche also allows you to effectively add new people to your team. Thus, if you add Jim as your buyer’s agent, he becomes Jim@ScottsdaleGolfHomesTeam.com. Even if Jim leaves your team, any future leads will flow back to you.
Lastly, as an agent or team, when you’re ready to leave the business, selling a brand based on your name is very difficult. On the other hand, if you have created the URLs as described above and then created a Facebook business page, an Instagram account, plus a YouTube channel for your brand, you will have an asset another agent or company will eagerly purchase.
Always test your new brand first
Make sure to test out your new brand before spending money on new marketing materials. To do this, ask your family, friends and acquaintances about what you have selected. Specifically, is the brand easy for them to remember?
If not, keep working on it until you have created something that works well for you and for the people you meet. Your goal is to create memorable marketing materials that identify you as being the real estate expect who is best suited to represent them in their next real estate transaction.
Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateC