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Ryan Serhant, founder of tech-forward brokerage SERHANT., brought his “big money energy” to Inman Connect New York’s general session on Tuesday by starting his panel off with a group photo of himself with the entire Connect audience at the New York Hilton Midtown.
“Every moment is an opportunity for a photo,” Serhant told the audience.
Panel moderator Kymber Menkiti of Keller Williams Capital Properties asked Serhant to recall his beginnings in the industry when he started out as a newbie agent in 2008 and made a mere $9,188 during his first year in the business.
“Walk us forward to the brand you’ve built today,” Menkiti said. “How did that develop?”
“I saw really clearly that success begets success, and why would anyone work with me if they don’t know me?” Serhant told Menkiti.
Serhant realized he had to build his brand by getting the word out about his business, which he ended up doing by starring in Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York and then ultimately wielding the power of social media, and once it was invented, the iPhone, to create brand awareness at anytime and anyplace.
“With the iPhone, suddenly I had PR in my hands at all times,” Serhant explained.
The key to building a brand is authenticity, Serhant explained further, which is why he started off in the business marketing rentals to young professionals like himself in the city who were also trying to make it.
“You have to be authentic to you,” Serhant said. “It starts with your core identity.”
After establishing your identity, agents then need to create consistent content and “shout it out,” Serhant added.
Surprisingly, Serhant admitted that he actually wasn’t comfortable being on video when he first started out in his business, so he focused on written content to promote his brand.
“I don’t dance on TikTok,” he explained. “I did that once and it was the worst video ever.”
But ultimately, promoted posts on LinkedIn transformed into pushing content with listings photos, which ultimately transformed into video content.
Today, his company has an in-house film studio, SERHANT. Studios, that create content all day every day, which they push out into the world.
But Serhant noted that agents don’t need a professional film studio to create compelling video content that can garner views.
“The best content for building your personal brand is whatever makes you feel most comfortable,” he said. “What’s the most successful that I’ve seen is the messiest … [that’s] what people connect to.”
“And the engagement is a 1,000 times more than [if it’s staged professionally],” he added.
Serhant also urged agents struggling to find their brand to explore what makes them unique, and what they’re passionate about in their lives outside of real estate, to connect with other potential clients who share similar interests.
“What is your and?” Serhant asked.
Serhant cited agents who might be passionate about kayaking or cooking and said those interests — or even a passion for being with family — could be ways to connect with other potential clients.
“It has to be connected to that and so that people have something to connect to other than just a house,” he explained.
Serhant also encouraged agents to consider creating a personal website that’s in the format “yourname.com” so that they’re easily searchable online and that they have a consistent brand that will remain even if they change brokerage affiliations.
“Your personal website is your personal business card,” he said. “You need to be discoverable — there’s no shame in that anymore.”
When it comes to creating promotional content, Serhant told the audience that he focuses on promoting the business, the relationships created in the business and the real estate marketplace.
“Make it about the other person, and life will pay you back,” he said.
Another key to success in his business has been thinking ahead to his future self, Serhant added, and striving to get to that future self with actions every day.
“I’m very focused on me one year from today,” he explained. “That’s who I work for, that is my future boss. So I want his life to be great … Amateurs make decisions based on how they feel, adults make decisions based on their commitments.”
He encouraged other agents in the audience to think about the person they want to be in one year, write down that goal on a piece of paper or in their phone, and then look at that goal once per day as a reminder.
“You’ll remind yourself everyday that you will manifest the person you want to be,” Serhant said.
As the panel concluded, Serhant noted that agents should consider the future population of clients ahead, which will largely be made up of individuals who work in the gig economy.
“In our industry there’s no ceiling, and now there’s 1.1 billion people in the gig economy … which means they’re all going to be selling something,” Serhant said. “Think about that as you think about who you’re marketing to and who are your future clients.”
“You have to adapt and move with the generations.”