If you met someone today, would they be able to look you up online six months from now when they need a Realtor? The answer depends on the effectiveness of your brand identity, writes trainer and author Bernice Ross.

In March’s Marketing and Branding Month, we’ll go deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, Realtor.com and more. Top CMOs of leading firms drop by to share their newest tactics, too. And to top off this theme month, Inman is debuting a brand new set of awards for branding and marketing leaders in the industry called Marketing All-Stars.

This post was last updated March 27, 2023.

Effective branding is at the heart of every successful business, but it is a rarity in the real estate business. If you’re ready to generate more leads from your branding efforts, here are the do’s and don’ts you need to know. 

Build your brand on your strengths

Before you decide on your branding strategy, go through your current and past client list looking for patterns in the types of clients you have attracted. If they’re clustered in one or two primary price ranges, locations, or property types, etc., then part of your branding should be focused on serving these specific niches. 

Discover what your customers say about you 

To create an effective brand, you must have clarity about what your past and current clients think of you and your business. Use the following process. 

  • Contact at least 10 to 20 past and/or current clients and ask, “What are the three to five words that best describe me?” 
  • Follow up by asking, “What are the three to five words that best describe my business?” 

The words you consistently hear will let you know what they love (and dislike) about you. Use those words in the process of creating your brand as well as your marketing materials. Any reviews that past clients have posted online are also great resources.

What constitutes a great brand?

A great brand does each of the following: 

  • It’s memorable.
  • It immediately brings the product being sold to mind.
  • It identifies a specific target market.

Three examples of great branding from outside the real estate industry include: 

  • Netflix (Provides “flicks” or movies on the “net.”)
  • “The happiest place on earth” (Disney’s irresistible brand slogan and value proposition)
  • “The Ultimate Driving Machine” (BMW)

What constitutes an effective real estate brand? 

In terms of major real estate brands, the best branding in the business belongs to “NextHome.” Notice how their logo and branding clearly convey what their company does.

Now compare these major real estate brands that could be mistaken for businesses other than real estate:  

  • Is Coldwell Banker a bank? 
  • Is Compass in the GPS business? 
  • Does Redfin sell fishing gear? 

What constitutes a great brand for a real estate agent? 

Great branding for individual real estate agents does the following:   

  • It references the words “homes,” “real estate” or “properties.” Examples are “Savannah Historic Homes” or “Lake Travis Waterfront Properties.” 
  • It helps agents “get rich in a niche.” In their classic book Marketing WarfareAl Ries and Jack Trout explain that large companies lack the financial resources to compete for small slivers of the market. Avoid being a generalist. Instead, laser focus on a very specific market to become the go-to expert in that niche. 
  • A great brand often uses a specific market niche based upon geographical location, city and zip code. For example, “Live in Westwood 90024” or “Key Biscayne Homes 33149.” 

The most common branding mistake agents make — branding with their name

Here are just a few of the issues associated with using your name to brand your business. 

  • People have a difficult time remembering names because they are constantly bombarded with thousands of names of people, products, places and services. 
  • Memory research shows that we forget 70 percent of what we have learned within the first 24 hours after learning has occurred. Consequently, even though a lead may remember your name today, there’s a 70 percent chance they won’t remember it tomorrow.
  • Your company brand normally has much higher name recognition than your personal brand, especially if your company has lots of advertising and signs in your local market. Furthermore, if you’re branding with your name and you work for a company like Keller Williams, a potential client must remember four names rather than two.  
  • Using your name to brand your business greatly diminishes the desirability and value of your business if you hope to sell it when you exit the business. 
  • If you are using your name to brand your business, simply expand your branding to include the specific niches and types of clients you serve. 

People remember functions rather than names

How many times have you met someone, and you couldn’t remember their name but did remember what they looked like and what they did for a living? 

For example, if we met at a Little League game and I introduced myself as “Bernice Ross” and was wearing a cap with my company’s logo on it, chances are you would remember where we met and probably that I was wearing a baseball cap. The probability you would remember my name six months from now when you need to move is less than 10 percent. 

On the other hand, if I introduced myself as Bernice Ross from Austin Probate Sellers (and had my logo on my hat), you still may not remember my name but you would probably remember the “blond lady who sells probates in Austin.” If I have properly branded my site with “AustinProbateSellers.com,” chances are I will be easy to locate on the web. 

People search for homes based upon the city, state and ZIP code

According to Oodle, which powers major classified advertising websites for companies like AOL, the New York Post, and Walmart, the three keywords most people use when searching for property are “street name,” “city” and “zip code.” 

The biggest omission Realtors make on their websites is leaving off the state where they work. A great example is “Springfield, Illinois” and “Springfield, Oregon.” The most notable example, however, is the 46 different cities named Riverside. Your website visitors need to know that they are searching in both the right city and the right state. 

Using these guidelines, you can turn the specific branding above into a URL that will maximize the number of searches you receive. Examples include: 

  • HorseshoeBayNewHomes78657.com
  • LiveInCherryCreekDenver80126.com. 
  • WestlakeVillageGolfProperties91371. 

These pages can be standalone websites or they can be added as additional landing pages on your current site. 

Always test your new brand before creating any marketing material

Be sure to check with your clients and sphere of influence to determine if your new brand is easy to remember. If not, keep working on refining your brand until it’s easy for people to recall six months from now when they need your service. 

You can have multiple niches with different websites and marketing campaigns

When it comes to creating URLs for your brand and marketing your services, one-size-fits-all simply doesn’t work. First-time homebuyers obviously have very different needs and expectations as opposed to a luxury buyer or a senior who is right-sizing. 

To illustrate how this works for a subdivision with a lot of entry-level condos and homes, provide information on down payment assistance, facts they need to know about purchasing, and be sure to use photos, videos and a URL targeted to the needs of this group. The more highly targeted your brand and marketing is, the more effective it will be in attracting the right clients for your business. 

When it comes to creating an effective brand for your business, going hyperlocal and following the “Do’s and Don’ts” in today’s column will give you a huge advantage when it comes to potential customers finding you, no matter when or where you meet them. 

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

Bernice Ross
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