Now is a crucial time to talk about brand-building. Why? Because the middle has been hollowed out of real estate for a long time, and the pace is accelerating. Whether you’re a solo agent, part of a team or run a brokerage, you’re seeing real estate consolidate and divide into just two camps: convenience-based tech giants and community-dominant brands

Technology is changing. Consumers are changing. Values are changing. If you’re not willing to join Big Tech — but you’re also not already incredibly well-known in your market — then you may not survive. Your only path forward is to build a big brand starting today. To get you started, here are my top five do’s and don’ts of building a brand.

The do’s

Do become the dominant authority in your market

Does everybody in your market know your name? Do they see you as the real estate authority in their neighborhood, city, state or region? If not, then you need to get there fast.

Because today, you’re either a real estate authority or you’re becoming a commodity at the mercy of Big Tech. The first option can lead to incredible growth and success. The second is unsustainable — and frankly, not fun.

Do own one thing first

When people ask me about brand-building, they often jump to granular things like: How much should I spend? Should I use billboards? How about radio and TV? What they should be thinking about is what word or concept they can own in the marketplace.

In our real estate business, it’s the words “Guaranteed Offer.” We’ve made a huge investment in associating those words (and that program) with our brand, and we will continue to do so.

Do listen and ask questions

I can tell successful entrepreneurs within minutes of meeting them. Most people I meet for the first time are eager to tell me how great their businesses are. I look for the ones who instead ask a lot of questions about my business, because they have the innate curiosity that leads to personal and professional growth.

Kris Lindahl Real Estate was founded on asking the people we knew how and where they spent their time. For example, we want to know: Do you order groceries online or go to the store? Do you commute or work from home? Do you belong to a gym? When do you usually go there? What’s your favorite social media platform? If you want to build a brand in real estate, you have to know the many places that your customers call “home.”

Do think like a consumer

You’re probably not that different from your target audience. So, what new habits have you formed in the last year? How has your media consumption changed? Do you still listen to your favorite DJ in the car, or have you switched to listening to podcasts at home?

Thinking like a consumer will tell you a lot about where you should market and what you should say. 

Do rinse and repeat. Then repeat again

The conventional wisdom used to be that you had to say something nine times before anyone would actually hear it. Today, it’s 9,000 times.

Do the words “15 minutes will save you 15 percent or more on car insurance” ring a bell? That’s because Geico has spent more than the GDP of Argentina on drilling that message into your head. If people are tired of hearing you say the same thing over and over again, then you’re doing something right!

The don’ts

Don’t think you can get away with outsourcing everything

Here’s a simple question: Are your customers really yours? Most agents don’t realize they don’t own their customers, because they swipe their credit card through a tech company to get their leads.

If you truly want to build your own brand, you have to own your own tech and your own customers. 

Don’t confuse ‘advertising’ with ‘building a brand’

I’ve heard too many agents say some version of this: “We did some [radio, billboards, TV] for two months, and it didn’t do anything for us.”

Anyone can advertise. Building a brand means committing 100 percent. You’re in it for the long haul. When everybody noticed our billboards, we did bus wraps. When everybody noticed those, we literally flew planes with brand messages over local sporting events. It’s never enough. 

Don’t play it safe

When you invest in building a brand, you’re often tempted to get more conservative the more money you spend. As a result, you end up promoting a generic message that doesn’t cut through.

Some people say that my company took a risk in being named for one person, using my face and image in most of our advertising and pushing “Guaranteed Offer” instead of trying to cover a dozen different messages. But that mentality is exactly why our branding has cut through against the “sea of same” in real estate.

Don’t spread yourself too thin

This advice can apply on so many levels, but I’ll give you one example that’ll drive the point home. Lots of brands buy more billboards in our Minnesota market than we do. Yet, if you did a survey, people would say we have more than anyone else.

A lot of factors go into that, but one is the fact that we position ours in the highest-traffic areas and group them along certain busy stretches to create a multiplier effect. Other brands have a smattering of billboards all over the state, and no one notices.

Don’t be blinded by a good 2020

Lastly, a word of caution: In real estate or any business, you’re most vulnerable when times are good. Most people I know are coming off a surprisingly great 2020. The pandemic has spurred online house-hunting, and “home” is more important than ever before.

You might be thinking, “We just had our best year ever, so we don’t need to build our brand now, right?” Wrong.

The industry is changing faster than you know. And is your growth real if you bought your leads using someone else’s technology? Trust me, you’re being disrupted. The clock is ticking.

Bottom line: Today, you either stake your own territory and own it, or you risk getting swallowed up by Big Tech. Does everyone know who you are? If the answer is no, then you have serious work to do building a big brand in a short time.

Kris Lindahl is the founder and CEO of Kris Lindahl Real Estate, the #1 team-owned independent real estate brokerage in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and #12 nationwide.

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