EHomes broker-owner Jackie Soto shares how she successfully navigated a merger and rebrand that led to one of her best years ever in real estate.

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.

Almost two years ago, eHomes broker-owner Jackie Soto almost gave up on her real estate career. Soto had just opened the doors to her first indie effort, Divergent Realty, which was gaining attention and traction beyond her home base of Chino, California. However, life threw her a personal curveball that led her to question everything she’d worked so hard to build.

“I just didn’t know what to do,” Soto said of the day she almost called it quits in March 2018. “I was very lost [and] very emotional, and I reached out to Sara Sutachan, who’s still head of broker relations for the California Association of Realtors.”

She had just launched WomanUP! in 2017,” Soto added. “We sat for lunch and Sara walked me through every reason that I shouldn’t give up. She gave me stories. She gave me contacts of other industry leaders. She connected me with Inman. She just elevated me on every level possible.”

With help from her WomanUP! crew, Soto powered forward with Divergent and became a mainstay at conferences for Zillow, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and the National Association of Realtors’ Young Professionals Network where she shared her passion for representing and serving diverse communities.

“With everything going on right now, we have to be intentional about diversity and elevating women,” Soto said. “I didn’t give up, and I’m so happy that I didn’t because fast forward to 2020.”

Soto’s work ethic and stellar reputation opened the door for her to merge with eHomes, another California-based independent brokerage founded by long-term business associate Elmer Morales.

“We started the merger in late 2019, but we officially [completed] the merge in January,” she said.  “This month we helped 79 families. I was steadily growing with Divergent — one month, I did three transactions then I did eight and eventually, we had 20 transactions in a month.”

“But with eHomes, we’re consistently growing,” she added. ” We have industry partnerships with Opendoor, with Zillow, and with so many of these huge companies, and now we have a third partnership with this stellar team out of Orange County.”

Although Soto was elated to move forward with Morales, it meant she had to give up her original brand — an emotional process for any independent broker who’s gone through the process of building a brand from scratch.

“When I was launching my Divergent and growing my baby, Divergent stood for something and what it stood for, for me, was very intentional,” she said while reiterating her passion for building a more diverse industry. “I wanted to define my brand and be the broker that I needed in the brokerage that I never had.”

“When I took time to develop the Divergent logo and brand that took me three months, and then after you have the logo done, it’s living true to what you said you wanted to do with this brand,” she continued. “It’s so emotional to give that up.”

However, her WomanUP! mentors stepped in again and reminded her rebranding isn’t giving up — it’s growth.

“WomanUP! comes in again because I felt like [rebranding] was giving up,” she said. “And they’re like, ‘You’re not giving up. You’re just redefining and elevating yourself; you’re pivoting right?”

Soto and Morales called in Soto’s mentor, Stacy Stateham, to help them revise the eHomes brand so it equally represented the two broker-owners’ personalities and mission.

eHomes’ new Newport Beach team. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Soto and Melanie Hunley Photography)

“When we did the rebrand with eHomes, it was just very important that Elmer and I got on the same page and we had the same vision,” she said. “We had to define who we were and the ideal agent who was going to be the agent of the future for eHomes.”

Soto, Morales and Stateham embarked on an extensive rebranding plan, which included doing market research in the Inland Empire, identifying who “the eHomes” agent is, the communities they wanted to serve, and how they’d stand out from the competition.

“I wanted to make sure that we humanized our brand,” she said. “We did some market research to appeal to our clientele out in the Inland Empire in our marketplaces; knowing who our consumer was, knowing who our agent was, was huge for us.”

On the aesthetics side, the team cleaned up the eHomes logo by removing the key and brightening the original orange and charcoal grey color scheme with a vibrant blue.

“With Jackie and Elmer for eHomes they’re serving Inland Empire, California, which I know LA in general, but I was not as familiar with what that specific demographic is,” Stateham explained. “So I did some homework about who their people are, and what was cool is [the brand] really fits who they are.”

“So they’re really in the right pocket,” she said. “Then we take that and then we start looking at like color theory. How does what colors evoke the feeling of the eHomes but will also attract the people that they want to do business with?”

eHomes’ old and updated logo.

Soto said the brighter and cleaner color scheme and logo just didn’t look better but reflected who she and Elmer wanted to be for their agents and their community — the true mark of a successful rebrand.

“[The new color scheme] is happy, and we wanted to make sure that people felt happy and calm, and a big part of our business is consistency,” she said. “What we pride ourselves in is removing the emotional rollercoaster for consumers, and we wanted to make sure the brand evoked that consistency and trust that we weren’t going to put them on the emotional roller coaster.”

“We enjoy what we do, and we never want to be the company that you can catch someone on a bad day,” she added. “A huge thing we say at eHomes is ‘control the weather,’ because [our offices’] environment is everything.”

Soto and Morales kicked off the eHomes with a series of videos and marketing materials that introduced the merger, the revamped brand, and the diversity, unity, and excellent service they wanted to bring to their market.

Elmer

Thank you Stacy Stateham for the AMAZING job you did making sure our new logo was a reflection of who e*homes is 😍😍 It took 6 months and well worth the…


“One of the things that was really cool with working with Jackie and Elmer is that they really had a clear vision of what their DNA is,” Stateham said of launching eHomes’ new branding. “The difference with the brokerages who are really doing something in a unique way is that they’re really driven by something, and with eHomes, they were really focused on their clients, and while the world is kind of complaining about how tough millennials are, eHomes is 100 percent serving those folks as well as everybody else.”

Soto and Morales’ rebranding efforts have already paid off, as evidenced by their growing list of industry partnerships and the addition of a new team in Newport Beach under the leadership of Chris Giannos.

“You have to fail forward,” Soto said of her real estate journey over the past three years. “You may not have all the pieces but don’t say no, don’t question it.”

“Don’t put up self-created barriers,” she added. “We’re always putting these self-perceived walls where it’s like, ‘I will do it when I have that office manager, I will do it when I have this account that I’m trying to learn. or I will do it when…”

She continued, “You have all these what-ifs in your mind, but you need to keep moving forward. You just have to believe in yourself and you have to trust the process and go for it.”

Email Marian McPherson

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