Building a personal brand goes far beyond marketing. Before corporations and companies, cattle ranchers used a branding iron to burn their family logo onto cattle hides. This would help other local farmers identify each other’s livestock.
Even hundreds of years ago, the logo branded on the side of a cow was more than just a simple design. If farmer John’s cow showed up on your property, and farmer John had a mean attitude, you might feel uneasy about returning his cow. If farmer John was a good friend of yours, you might be excited about returning his cow. Your experience with farmer John was thereby tied to the image branded onto that cow.
A brand is essentially the feeling that a company conveys, which defines them in a consumer’s thought process. It’s the brand’s personality all wrapped up in the experiences that we’ve had with it.
To build your own personal brand, you have to understand who you are first. This is the most important step on the journey of building your brand from scratch. Here’s everything else you need to know.
Step 1: Embrace yourself
It’s tempting for real estate agents to create a facade of who they want to be known as, rather than who they actually are. History shows that this does not work well. For consumers to trust a brand, they have to trust that the message is authentic.
If a company’s message is the opposite of its customers’ experience, consumers will pay little attention to it in the future. Facades are not attractive. It’s better to have no brand at all than to have one that’s fake. So, you have to know yourself and be comfortable with conveying who you really are.
When defining what makes you who you are as a real estate agent, make sure to stay authentic. This is very hard to do if you’re not comfortable with yourself, which is why not everyone can do it. It takes a true entrepreneur to step out and make himself or herself into a recognizable brand.
As an agent, your personal brand covers every message that you convey about yourself. Every comment you put on Facebook is part of your brand. The people you choose to hang out with will affect your brand. The activities that you spend time on outside of real estate will affect your brand. Everything that makes you who you are is part of your brand.
Behind every brand is a package of information pieced together by the things we know about it. Here are just a few characteristics that people will attach to a brand name:
- Emotions: What feelings are associated with the brand experience? Does it make people feel relaxed, nervous, happy, defensive, disappointed, energized, tired, impatient, aroused, dull, inquisitive or uninterested? What are the main feelings that people would use to describe it?
- Ethics: Is it known for being passive or aggressive when it disagrees with something? Does it prioritize time, money or personal experience? What does it do when backed into a corner? What does it believe in?
- Professionalism: Does it work 20 hours a week or 60 hours a week? Will it work a deal until it’s completed, or will it bail once it’s put in too many hours of work? Does it outsource work that it’s not good at, or does it try to do everything itself?
- Physical marketing: Are its marketing materials consistent in design, or do they use different fonts and colors on everything? Is the marketing elaborate or simple? Does it appear inviting or indifferent?
If I asked 10 of your best friends to describe you based on the characteristics above, their answers should align to your branding. What makes you who you are? That’s the foundation of everything you’re going to build. Start with an authentic foundation, and the sky is the limit.
Step 2: Define yourself
Now that you have gathered some insight into who you are, it’s time to organize and define the characteristics you want to project the most. Here are a few questions to help you with this step:
- Is your brand going to be an umbrella for multiple people to work under, or are you the permanent face of it?
- Is your brand hyperlocal or nonterritorial?
- Does your brand like to let its hair down and party, or is it all business all the time?
- Does your brand offer discounts, or are your fees firmly fixed?
- Do you specialize in a niche, or do you work with everyone?
The more context you can provide for the questions above, the further you will clarify your message. This kind of introspection can help you build a brand that you enjoy working under. You will attract people who are like you and repel people who aren’t. The more you define your company’s characteristics, the brighter your beacon will be to attract your best clients.
Take some time to build an ordered list of the authentic characteristics that define you, and then ask your friends if your list is authentic. Once you have built that list and defined your brand, it’s time to work on your marketing.
Step 3: Create your approach
Real estate offers multiple avenues to market yourself to your city. Here are some popular things that real estate agents use to market themselves:
- Yard signs
- Business cards
- Direct mail
- Listing videos
- Neighborhood videos
- Email campaigns
- Google Business Page
- Client testimonials
- Referral network
- Local radio
If you’re a new agent, I recommend a healthy balance of internet marketing and personal networking. Both of these avenues will provide different pillars of income to your business.
Before you start spending money on advertising or networking events, you need to create a visual representation of your brand’s personality. This begins with a logo.
However, a logo means nothing until you put experience behind it. Assume that I’ve never heard of Adidas. Then, I buy a pair of Adidas shoes that hurt my feet. Their logo would seem unpleasant to me after my experience. Likewise, the design of any logo typically doesn’t convey an emotion until you attach an experience to it.
As a new agent, you can work under your brokerage’s logo and use a professional headshot of yourself until you are comfortable creating a personal logo. Whether you like your face or not, data shows that nothing is more memorable than your face. Our brains are designed to see faces and remember them more than any flat design or digital artwork.
Once you have a logo, it’s wise to choose two fonts and colors to use on everything. This allows your message to be consistent throughout your marketing. The more consistency you can convey, the more trustworthy your brand will be.
Step 4: Track your results
One of the biggest mistakes new agents make is that they don’t keep good records of their marketing efforts. When you’re just starting your business from scratch, this mistake can be costly.
Of the 20 real estate marketing avenues I posted above, most of them cost money. Expenses are the No. 1 thing that sinks small businesses. If you start your real estate career by signing a year-long contract for a billboard on the freeway at $20,000 per month, you’re likely to lose money in your first year. You need to define the methods that work best for your local area and your style of business.
Whatever form of marketing you choose to use, be adamant about tracking the results. There are 1.6 million real estate agents in this country. Find a few who are similar to you, and share your results. This will help you identify the marketing tactics that will expand your reach and yield a strong ROI.
Understand that “leads” are not always trackable measurements of your branding efforts. If you buy Google Ads and force people to register on your website, you’re simply buying leads.
It’s the things that you’ve built on your website that your customers communicate as helpful that will define your brand.
Remember, branding is not about a physical logo or website — it’s all about the overall experience that you provide with every tool in your arsenal. Leads are transactional. The experience that the lead has with your company is your brand.
As you’re reading through this, you might be thinking, “I’m not interesting enough to build a brand off of myself.” You might also be thinking, “I’m so interesting that this is going to be easy.” Either way, both attitudes are incorrect.
If you’re running a business, you have something to offer. Around 60 percent of the U.S. population works as an employee. You are already interesting. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Just find out what attributes cause you to stand out, and embrace them.
As you venture out and build your personal brand from scratch, remember to enjoy the ride. Most people will never get a chance to do something like this. Study successful people in your area, and get ready to put thousands of hours into your marketing efforts over the lifetime of your career. Your personal brand is one of the most powerful things you can ever build in real estate.