Kick off the fall with Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. We’re going deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, realtor.com and more. Top marketing executives drop by to share their newest tactics, too. It’s all you need to take your branding and marketing game to the next level.
One of the key elements in building your brokerage is branding, which is more than just marketing and advertising.
“Think of marketing as the actions you take to connect with your customers and get them to buy your products or services,” according to VistaPrint’s 99designs. “Branding, on the other hand, is the marketing practice of actively shaping your brand. Branding is about defining who you are as a company.”
Branding covers everything you do and say, every point of contact with consumers, from your logo and signage to your office design. Even how your people answer the phone falls into your brand.
Years ago, most branding was clearly broker-centric. The broker had a logo and created the signs and marketing, and everything revolved around the brokerage.
Over the past few years, the tide has turned, and many agents (and teams) have evolved to take on their own branding efforts, even under the broker’s umbrella. Team branding serves the team’s recognition, but it might be unclear to consumers who the brokerage is and who the team is.
Even when agents or teams create their own logo and brand themselves, the broker must retain an element of control. Agents and teams operate under the broker’s umbrella. The broker has the right to review all marketing and advertising agents produce. Brokers should make sure agents abide by state advertising rules and regulations and the broker’s brand standards.
“Branding is about defining who you are as a company.”
Ultimately, the buck stops with the broker. I believe agents and teams should prominently display the brokerage logo and branding in all advertising. Consumers should be able to discern which company agents are aligned with easily. To make sure this happens, follow a few rules when it comes to your branding.
From business cards to websites and direct mail, all marketing efforts should match the company branding rules. The broker should approve all. Check that the logo is displayed prominently and clearly on all materials and that it is clear that the agent or team is with the company.
To make things easy for the agents, provide a list of approved vendors. Create templates for them to order marketing materials if the company does not provide supplies to the agent.
I recently met with a broker where the agents all ordered their materials — business cards, postcards, etc. — and were not provided with templates or guidance.
Each agent had a different set of marketing materials, and the result was a disjointed mess. The broker felt that the agents were not working as a team together, but the real problem is that these agents were sent out on their own to create marketing materials without guidance.
Once the brokerage customized its cards and websites, it was easier for the group to bring in a coach and work cohesively.
Make sure everyone is consistent
Creating your brand starts with the colors and logo of your company.
Once you’ve set your logo and colors, everyone must use them.
You cannot create a brand feel if you don’t have brand and logo consistency among all marketing channels.
I recently saw an ad where the team’s colors directly contrasted with the brokerage branding. The two brands were in harsh conflict with the company’s logo and colors, making the ad seem disjointed.
If you are a broker who allows agents or teams to create their own logos and marketing, I suggest you require them to use your company designer to create a matching (or at least complementary) campaign. I’m not against teams within a brokerage or agents using their own logos — it’s just not a good look for the brokerage to have ads with team advertising that looks out of place.
Work with the agent or team to create something that builds on the brokerage branding, so everyone wins. The agent should stand out with their unique logo and marketing while using the brokerage branding to leverage their efforts.
One train of thought is that consumers choose the agent they want to work with, not the broker. In some companies, this might be a fair statement.
Depending on the situation, both statements may be true. In many boutique independent brokerages, the opposite is true. Consumers pick the indie brokerage first and then work with the agent they are assigned.
I run a “small but mighty” brokerage where the second statement often rules. Yes, we have times where consumers pick one of my agents and would work with them no matter what brokerage name was on the door. But in most cases, people prefer our office due to its prominence in the community and its strong reputation.
Our branding makes the phone ring. I choose to order (and pay for) my agents’ signs and business cards and run all marketing campaigns for the office as a group. I control our branding tightly.
As a broker, you must decide how you run your office. Suppose you operate an office where agents pay for everything and must order their own materials. In that case, you must decide how you will monitor office branding and compliance with your marketing rules. That’s not how I choose to run my brokerage, but my name is on the door, and I want to keep our branding under control.
Remember, branding is more than just advertising. Logo and colors are just a starting point — it’s every touchpoint with a consumer. They are the easy pieces of the puzzle. Don’t let others take that control away from you.
Even if your agents create their own materials and start designing logos for their business, you should pay attention and monitor their marketing as the broker. After all, you are still ultimately responsible for your agents’ actions. And you want to make sure they align with your company’s branding.