Brand IS Important, So Whose Brand Should YOU Be Building?

I just returned home from my very first trip to New York City for Inman Connect Real Estate Conference (January 2012)~ THE must attend conference of the year, absolutely chock full of amazing speakers; ideas and leading minds!

Inman’s Chief Evangelist Chris Smith (@Chris_Smth) and Social Media Director Katie Lance (@Katie Lance) led the first session with a real wake up call!

According to Inman’s survey of over 1500 agents (“Agents of tomorrow”) making more than $100,000 6/10 said they are thinking of leaving and starting their own brokerage…YOU heard me….6 out of 10! Something is broken.

Chris Smith said “The Agent isn’t the Brokerage’s consumer anymore – they are your competitor” (entire presentation with all of the data here: Diving into the Mind of Today’s “Free Agent” [FIRST LOOK AT EXPLOSIVE DATA] Profound data!)

So WHY is that?

At every Inman Connect or Agent Reboot inevitably I have some sort of an epiphany and it happened during the “Whose Brand Am I Building?” panel (moderated by Bill Lublin, CEO, Social Media Marketing Institute and CEO, Century 21 Advantage Gold, @billlublin; Nikki Beauchamp, Salesperson, Warburg Realty, @nikkibeauchamp; Jennifer Marchetti, VP, Marketing and Communications, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, @marchettijen; and Camilla Rustambekova, Chief Marketing Officer, Prudential Douglas Elliman)

Listening to Camilla Rustambekova say they keep a close eye on their agents doing their own branding tweaked the independent business woman in me! What’s the need to control? What are brokers so afraid of? Do brokers already realize that 6 out of 10 agents want to go on their own or “rogue” as it was referred to in this session?

Suddenly I’m making the connections… From a brokerage point of view, OF COURSE they want the Agents out there promoting the company brand! It’s one of their strongest recruitment tools! But the days of the big box brokerages name brands having any pull by virtue of their name alone is behind us in my opinion. They’re going to have to offer a lot more!

As Camilla spoke more and more to the Broker owners, I found myself screaming on the inside that they JUST DON’T GET IT!

Michael McClureMichael McClure – @ProfessionalOne
RT @TeriConrad: @Crustambekova CMO Prudential says their agents diluting Core brand by pursuing their own brands (Exactly! #ICNY)

Which launched an interesting debate on Twitter right then!

Steve BesteSteve Beste – @stevebeste
Then Prudential should put agents on salary, not hire Independent Contractors. . @ProfessionalOne @TeriConrad @Crustambekova #ICNY

Michael McClureMichael McClure – @ProfessionalOne
@stevebeste That’s fair. But does that necessarily mean that a brand can’t have a strong brand image/message? Is it even possible? #ICNY

Remember…I tend to come from the Realtor® point of view…

Teri Conrad Teri Conrad – @TeriConrad
What was more interesting to me is the overarching concern of ‘rogue agents’ diluting company brand. @utahrepro @ProfessionalOne

Michael McClureMichael McClure – @ProfessionalOne
@TeriConrad Totally agree. How can U let agents do whatever they want in terms of branding and then build a consistent larger image? #ICNY

innahamediainnahamedia – @innahamedia
@TeriConrad @utahrepro @ProfessionalOne ->>if brokers stopped hiring schmucks, that would solve the problem, no/

Michael McClureMichael McClure – @ProfessionalOne
@innahamedia Not necessarily. U could hire quality people but, if U let them “do their own thing,” how can branding be consistent? #ICNY

Teri Conrad Teri Conrad – @TeriConrad
IMO there aren’t many brokerages that have effectively created that #brand experience save a few like @BHGRealEstate @GoodLifeTeam #ICNY

Immediately following the panel, I was fortunate enough to take the stage on a panel of our own with my dear friends and colleagues (Debra Trappen Vice President of Training and Social Business at Coldwell Banker Bain/Seal (@debra11) and Michael McClure (@ProfessionalOne and Founder of @VerifiedAgent and my fellow tweeter in the thread above). We were discussing the importance of the Optimizing the Consumer Experience (moderated by the ever gracious and brilliant Matthew Shadbolt ~ Director of Interactive Product and Marketing for The Corcoran Group (@Corcoran_Group)) and while on stage we dove into it a little and I think we touched on something….perhaps the average agent just isn’t INSPIRED by their company brand? What is the AGENT’S core experience? (here is a snipet of that moment)

Suffice it to say that I believe Brand IS important! It speaks to your values, your experience and your vision. It’s what inspires me to work with you, for you and promote you! And don’t kid yourself…Consumers are driving the new business models and in this case the consumer would be the Agent.

Whose Brand should you be marketing? Agent or Brokerage? I think this debate will rage on particularly until we see more Companies like Corcoran Group and Professional One and Good Life Team and Better Homes and Gardens and Coldwell Banker Bain/Seal!

SOMETHING has to inspire and resonate with me to relinquish my own brand! What say you?