Brand Identity for Real Estate Agent
November 18, 2016 4:21 PM   Subscribe

A friend, who is a real estate agent, is looking at creating a personal brand.

A friend, who is a real estate agent, is looking at creating a personal brand.

She has moved to another agency and sees how a personal brand identity would make it easy for potential clients to find her and allow her to promote her own portion of the business even if she moves again or creates her own business.

Creating this identity is the tough part. Not sure where to go or who could help. Logo sites, like 99 designs, are easy to find but this more basic part is perplexing.

Any advice would be great.
posted by ashtray elvis to Work & Money (11 answers total)
My opinion is that for realtors, a phrase is more important than anything. For example, there is a local agent who puts "Sold by [Name]" on just about everything. I think it's helped her a lot, especially being able to put something different to read on the yard signs. She also maintains with her listings. I'd suggest your friend should come up with a few words that she's willing to shamelessly promote, and then she can find colors and such that fit that later.
posted by michaelh at 5:04 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

What michaelh said: the most successful Realtors in my area come up with a very short positioning phrase that targets what their speciality is in a large regional market, such as "[Realtor's Name] Sells the Foothills."

Almost of them seem to hinge their visual branding around a photo of their smiling face.
posted by jamaro at 5:17 PM on November 18, 2016

She needs to think about her market, what makes her highly effective in that market, and develop the brand from the results of brainstorming that. What makes her different or better and how to sell it.
posted by vrakatar at 5:18 PM on November 18, 2016

Years ago, you'd see agents capitalizing on personal quirks (e.g. The Hat Lady), the idea being that you played on something memorable about yourself. This was when agents started using headshots on their business cards.

Around the 2000s, the branding emphasis was on teams (e.g. The Michaels Team), emphasizing a full-service business within the brokerage business that relied on the star power of the principal. Blogging to raise one's profile by sharing expertise also became popular, though that proved ineffective because the vast majority didn't know how to expand their blogs' reach.

More recently, the branding trend is to keep one eye on an exit strategy, which is to say, selling your book of business when you decide to get out. A business built on the personality of the principal is going to have less market value than a going concern named something like "International Specialist Group" or "". This trend has included getting the principal's face off of business cards. (Successful agents today are tech savvy and, in part, use telephone, email and text systems designed to capture the casual Internet browser.)

Today, it's hard to differentiate yourself. You do it by being first, and being best. You have school data, crime rates, community info and area sales stats memorized. That is, you need to know everything about your market that the casual Internet browser doesn't know, and be willing to share it with them the moment they inquire about an ad (or whatever) to keep them on your hook.

So... branding emphasis? Expertise. Experience. Responsiveness. Reliability. Warmth and friendliness. (That's right, nothing new here!)
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:45 PM on November 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Something connecting the realtor to the market is important - my favorite realtor (whom I've recommended to people a zillion times) brands her group as "your home team," as in, you're buying a home (duh) but more important, they really, really, really, REALLY get the specific market they're working in.
posted by Pearl928 at 7:48 PM on November 18, 2016

My favorite realtor and a couple of her business partners brand themselves here in Seattle by the name of a local species and are very involved in community sustainability and environmental issues. Obviously this kind of thing may vary in success depending on the cultural factors in the community at hand.
posted by matildaben at 8:00 PM on November 18, 2016

If you're looking for outside help, your friends could best be assisted by a marketing firm or a freelance marketing consultant. That person could help your friend evaluate the market, and guide your friend through designers and figuring out how best to hit her target market.
posted by hydra77 at 8:17 PM on November 18, 2016

Some great responses. As I was reading them I hadn't realized how similar even the :Sold by (name) approach was across the country.

Seems like motto and photo are both helpful on signs?

An out of the ordinary motto I like from Web Foot Painting is "Seriously Great Painters, Serioulsy," Can humor be used when creating a good brand and identity?
posted by ashtray elvis at 3:32 AM on November 19, 2016

Dunno how effective it is, but there's a prominent realtor in my area who trades on her name "Faith" and Christianity/hope in a variety of ways.

There's another realtor who acquired a moving truck, put his photo and name on the side, and also a phrase something along the lines of "If you buy through me, you get to use this truck for free."

A lot of female realtors, especially more photogenic ones, around here feature their likeness on adverts.

Many realtors around here with a non-Anglo name usually add an Anglo-sounding 'nickname' to their adverts. Non-Chinese realtors often include their Chinese names in their adverts.

When my mom was a realtor way back when, she always used the phrase "house" to sellers and "home" to buyers.
posted by porpoise at 8:51 AM on November 19, 2016

Your friend is on the right track. A strong brand helps realtors in a lot of ways; referrals is one of the key ones.

First, determine what service or segment they will focus on providing. Often realtors are naturally more talented/suited for one service than another. They can think back over their work history and consider when they have delivered the most value to their clients -- when have they really connected with their clients. Also think about when the job has been the most stressful. Are their particular kinds of services or clients that seem stressful? Any patterns or trends that can be identified are useful here.

Typical service delineations are residential buyer representation, residential seller representation, residential buy-sell, commercial buyer rep, commercial seller rep, and commercial buy-sell.

Some segments they might consider focusing on are new home buyers, downsizing couples, senior citizens, minority home buyers, out-of-town buyers/sellers, and other.

Once they have identified a service delineation and ideally a segment, get thee to the google. They'll want to make sure that there isn't already a very well established realtor and or agency in this same niche. It can be expensive to gain ground there. Second, they should do some soul-searching and ensure that they have the necessary experience to serve the segment they identified. If the realtor doesn't have an understanding of the hierarchy of the Hispanic family unit, for example, they shouldn't try to sell homes to Hispanic home buyers.

A common question here is whether or not a realtor can take business outside of their segment and niche. Of course they can. But they should do so only when financial survival depends on it. Specialization takes time to develop but it is worth it. I should also note that they should size the specialization in the market -- that goes beyond the scope of a mefi ask answer -- but make sure that there are enough of that kind of client in the area where you do business.

Ok, good, they know who their services will be marketed to and what those services are. Now it's time to learn a lot more about those clients. Ideally I would recommend that they interview 5-10 clients in that group who are in various stages of the service they will offer. Find out what the clients like or don't like. Take note of the clients' language. They'll want to use this specific language later. You'll probably have to compensate other peoples' clients for 30 minutes of their time. A $10 gift card usually will work.

Now they can develop a value proposition and some of the tag and copy lines that will come in handy later. There are a lot a great guides for this on the web. If they're not fabulous wordsmiths or strategists, hire some help for this step. It can be a bit of a struggle. And it is impossible to get right if the steps above are skipped.

Then (still with me) it's website time! Every realtor should have a site that is separate from the "canned" site that their agency provides them with. Agency sites allow little customization -- and they go away when the realtor leaves the agency. To start, build a basic website that features your value proposition, has great local SEO, etc. It can redirect back to your agency page for listings if necessary. Don't forget to get that email address. There are more complex things with the website that are going to be important, but get it built. I do not recommend using any of the services out there. I would get a simple WordPress site build using Thrive Themes or something similar. There may be great options that I am not aware of -- new products are launched for RE each day.

Of course the site will feature the realtor. Get that professional photo taken. Make sure it matches not what the standards of professional realtor photo say, but what will be most appealing to your chosen segment. Senior citizens do not want to see casual, but first time home buyers don't want to see a suit or pearls and a scarf. Dress appropriately.

Post testimonials with pictures of homes (if they are buyers) on the site. These are very important as they give visitors another reason to trust you.

Add content to your site on a regular basis that will be of interest to your segment. Get a lot of good out of that content -- post it on social, send it out to your email list, etc. You can curate some, write some, contract some.

Respond to leads within the hour always. Promptness is key in this business.

Okay, I hope that helped a little. I would recommend for a lot of good tips on realtor branding. It does have a subscription fee but it's worth it IMHO.
posted by Kalatraz at 3:48 PM on November 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

We have a Hat Lady agent here who I admit stands out in my mind. That said, the local agent who most sticks out in my head is a woman who simply has fantastic hair. It is not dyed an odd colour, it is not particularly high-maintenance; it is just really remarkably well-done hair. Tidy, modern -- "relatable."

> first time home buyers don't want to see a suit or pearls and a scarf

As a first-time buyer I was put off by my agent's casual dress, which said "I am not a professional," and it seemed red-flaggy. She ended up being a terrible agent to use, and the sad part is I can't even poormouth her around town as not long after I bought the house her occupation switched to "Groomer -- PetSmart." (Quelle surprise!) I don't think there are classes of buyers large enough to be worth noting who could find somebody too professionally dressed. I would avoid the "US female politician" look with the brightly hued suits and giant costume jewellery, but a J. Crew suit offends nobody.

If I wanted to move I would look for somebody committed. I'm not sure how to convey that in advertising. Your full-service... Always on call... Taking care of the details... A neighbour tried to sell her house with no luck. I recognised the agent as one I had contacted while househunting.

Me, via e-mail: Hi, I'm interested in the property at [address]. A few quick questions: [...]. Thanks! Looking forward to hearing from you.

Him, via e-mail: Thank you for your interest in [property]! Please telephone me at...

Me: [on to next listing]

She was using this dude. I knew from living next door that the septic had been totally replaced not that many years ago. I suggested the problem might be with the realtor. I had a friend contact the realtor to ask the age of the septic. He replied quickly -- to tell my friend that the seller did not know. He certainly did not ask the seller, who I'd told I was running this little experiment and who was expecting him to ask her. Big feature of the house, lazy-arse realtor. "Detail oriented" is reassuring. You know what else would be good? If she took some basic courses in home inspections and sold herself as knowing real estate AND knowing houses. Too many agents seem to be kind of house-clueless and unable to answer much. The stupidity of outright lying about the septic to a pretend potential buyer was bad, but it was also bizarre that he hadn't thought to ask my friend at the get-go so he could find out if this costly and critical part of the house was, age-wise, a feature or something to downplay.

Testimonials, especially speaking to honesty, hand-holding, patience, and thoroughness, are good. She should encourage Yelp reviews instead of just offering cherry-picked titbits on her site, too.
posted by kmennie at 10:13 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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