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If you’re a real estate team leader, you might constantly feel like you’re dealing with a “chicken and egg” problem: “I can’t grow until I hire the right people. But I can’t attract those people until I have a bigger business.”
As a result, you get stuck. You keep hoping that you’ll reach your growth targets, but you can’t break through the ceiling. And the process repeats. How do you break out of the cycle? In my quick journey from solo agent to team leader to broker-owner, what I’ve learned is that the solution to this problem is building what I call a “brand-first business.”
To explain what that means, think about the emotional real estate companies such as Apple, Amazon, Starbucks and so many others own. They’re great at what they do, but there’s something else going on.
If a friend told you he took a management position at Samsung, Sears, or Proctor & Gamble, you might say “congratulations.” But if he told you he’s working for Apple, Amazon, or Starbucks, you’d say, “That’s exciting! What’s it like?”
Why? Because these companies have built brands around doing things differently, so they attract innovative people. Humans are brand-conscious. We’re more likely to buy from a brand that we feel like we know, and we’re more likely to want to work for brands that have a public presence and a reputation for being creative.
I’m not saying that your practice, team or brokerage has to be the next Apple. But we can all learn from the brand pioneers. It’s no secret that I’ve been “big on brand” since I started in real estate over 10 years ago.
And one of the many benefits Kris Lindahl Real Estate has enjoyed by working from a brand-first perspective is that we haven’t had to worry so much about recruiting great leaders. We built a brand first. And when you do that, an amazing thing happens: People come to you!
If you’re trying to grow a business, that’s a miraculous thing. You don’t have to spend vast amounts of time, money and energy trying to convince people to join your company — they already want to. At the same time, your agents appreciate that people already know and trust your brand, so it’s easier to attract both buyers and sellers.
How do you start building a brand-first business?
It ultimately comes down to three things:
Focus on your master brand
The traditional model of relying on agents to market themselves individually — especially using analog tools like bulletin boards, calendars and refrigerator magnets — is long gone.
If that’s your marketing strategy, then all you’re doing is building dozens of personal brands for agents who can leave tomorrow instead of one umbrella brand that can grow over time. Your agents are there to serve customers, not to be marketing experts.
Personalize and humanize your master brand
In real estate, people buy from and sell with other people, not corporations. That’s why the industry has traditionally relied on individual agents marketing themselves. It’s also why I created a master brand around my name and face.
It’s easier to ask consumers and employees to get to know one person instead of hundreds. Not every team leader or brokerage owner wants to be “out there” like I am. But however you do it, you have to build a one-on-one connection with your brand.
Every week, someone sends me a copycat marketing piece, like an agent or team with a billboard that looks just like mine. There’s usually only one or two of these boards, and nothing else in the person’s business reinforces that message. (They must wonder why it doesn’t change their business overnight.)
A brand-forward business invests aggressively, consistently and for the long term. Your billboards, radio, TV, digital ads and social media won’t work unless they reinforce each other and present a unified image to the market. And that’s a lot harder than it looks.
Many brokerage owners and team leaders are convinced that they can’t grow until they hire the right people, and they can’t hire the right people until they grow. Investing for the long term in building a brand that people recognize, see as innovative and want to work for is the only way out of that vicious circle. Build the business by building the brand first.
Kris Lindahl is the founder and CEO of Kris Lindahl Real Estate, the No. 1 team-owned independent real estate brokerage in Minnesota and Wisconsin and No. 12 nationwide.