A Crash Course in Brand Building for Real Estate Agents
When was the last time you made the decision between two products and chose a brand that was completely unfamiliar to you?
Pretty much never, right?
You're not alone.
The Global New Production Innovation Survey performed by Nielsen says consumers prefer to shop familiar brands at least 59% of the time.
And if they prefer familiar brands when buying soap, snacks, or shoes, then why wouldn't they prefer a familiar brand when they buy a house?
After all, a house is the most significant purchase the average American ever makes. Wouldn't your customers want to work with a brand they trust during this process?
Brand building is uncharted territory for many real estate agents. After all, you know plenty of about contracts, but you never passed a test on creating a fully-functioning brand designed to reel in new, loyal customers even when you're sleeping.
What Is a Brand?
What is a brand, anyway?
When most of us think of a brand, we think of a symbol or an advertisement. We think of the Nike swoosh and a Coca-Cola jingle. While these things are critical, they're not branding, per say.
Instead, a brand – and your brand – is the perception of your business.
Brand building means discovering:
- How your business makes customers feel
- How you create a customer experience
- How you communicate
Certainly, advertising, signage, and your website each have an essential role to play in becoming a brand.
But what you're trying to build isn't a good website. Brand building means designing cohesive experience with every facet of your customer's experience that says “Choose me.”
But before you get down to branding, you need to ask yourself one all-important question:
Who are you?
Who Are You and What Is Your Brand?
The customer experience you produce is all important for your brand. But before you create that experience, you need to know who you are and what kind of experience you're equipped to create.
If you don't know who you are, then you (and your brand) are almost like adolescents. Heading out into the world without a real sense of self is confusing, overwhelming, and often leaves other people with different impressions of you.
Whether it's because you go out of your way to please people you can't or you're just not sure what way you'd prefer to go, starting a business without understanding who you are and what you do is a good way to burn the candle at both ends.
Every brand needs to know who they are and achieve self-actualization. And the best brands do.
Nike didn't come up with “Just do it” because it sounded good. “Just do it” represents all that Nike is at heart and all it hopes for its customers.
Before you go any further, take a look at the personal branding workbook created by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It'll take you through many of the questions required to start articulating your brand.
Why Do You Need a Brand?
Now, you know what a brand is. But you may still be wondering why brand building is important for your real estate business.
We can say there are two reasons.
First, it lets customers know who you are and what they can expect from you.
Remember your own buying tendencies. Aren't you more willing to part with your money when you know the experience will meet your expectations?
Second, a brand reminds you of who you are.
Ultimately, you need a brand because the work you put in will do all of the following:
- Deliver the most important messages
- Establish you as credible and trustworthy
- Motivates clients to contact you
- Establishes an emotional connection before you meet
- Drives loyalty (and referrals)
And a brand keeps working even when you're home with your family or on vacation. Brand building is a marketing strategy that just doesn't quit and can even add value to your business.
Psychology First: Creating a Strong Brand
Brand building is critical for everyone, including real estate agents. But it's not enough to build a brand – you need a strong brand attached to psychology. Effective brands, or strong brands, have a discernable identity that consumers relate to.
Developing an identity or personality requires a good handle on the psychology of brand, namely on the core dimensions of the brand's identity and the behaviors it hopes to change.
The psychology of branding includes five distinct dimensions that must be present to create a strong brand. As USC notes, these aspects are:
Together, these five dimensions create what is called “unconscious branding.”
Unconscious branding occurs when a consumer remembers how they felt about a brand even if they don't remember the advertisement or even the company that made them feel that way.
How Do You Use Psychology in Brand Building?
If your brand needs to instill sincerity and excitement to create the effects of unconscious branding, then you'll need to find a way to work those feelings into your brand.
Through the use of psychology, of course.
The use of applied psychology in brand building is almost limitless. It exists in the choice of:
But instead of randomly choosing the color of a logo or a message, psychology demands a structure.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a great way to apply to psychology in branding.
Published in 1943, Abraham Maslow's theory features a pyramid of things we need to survive all the way up to the things we need to be happy.
At the bottom are our physiological needs, like food, water, and oxygen. Following those needs are the need for safety and security, both physical and in our health, family, employment, and property. Then, there is the need to belong, which is accompanied by the need for friendship, family, and romantic partners.
The top levels include esteem (confidence, respect, achievement) and self-actualization (creativity, problem-solving, morality).
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to engage in a brand building strategy that appreciates these needs in your target market.
It starts with a basic sense of security. But as the needs become more emotional, your brand needs to create the needs in your typical customer's mind.
The way you address the emotional needs at the top of the pyramid is how you'll differentiate yourself from other real estate agents.
You and your competitors provide the same service. You both vow to help customers buy and sell their homes legally, safely, and efficiently.
You both address the bottom needs in the hierarchy with your service. But it's how you make the customer feel that drives them (and their referrals) into your arms.
To get there, you need a brand building strategy.
Brand Building Strategies
You won't create a strong brand without a solid brand building strategy.
Trying to put together a brand haphazardly will only result in an incoherent experience that likely says things about your brand that you'd rather not put out there.
A brand building strategy includes:
- Specific short-term goals
- Specific long-term goals
- Plan for achieving the goals
- Plan for measuring the goals
Then, build these goals and plans of action on the foundations of your brand: who you are.
It also needs to include:
- Emotional intelligence
- Employee involvement
- Awareness of competition
- Airs of loyalty
What strategies can you use to build your brand? We're going to break down four must-try brand building strategies and three strategies to stay away from.
1. Start with Content
The content you create does more to build your brand than almost any other strategy.
While your logo, tag-line, and advertisements offer a snapshot of your business, content is a brand building opportunity allowing customers a real window into your business – with no obligation.
Content may include your blog, but it should also extend further into social media posts, white papers, and any form of written advertising.
One of the biggest mistakes real estate agents make is focusing solely on promotional content. And while some promotion is necessary and even valued, it's better to hyper-focus on providing educational content.
More importantly, the content must be relevant to your core target market.
By promoting visibility through useful content, you're simultaneously marketing your real estate business while also bolstering your reputation and building a relationship with future customers.
2. Use Testimonials and Reviews
We live in the age of the testimonial. Whether it's a traditional review or asocial media influencer reviewing a product on YouTube,
people now rely on the advice of others, even strangers, before making a purchase.
Don't be afraid to ask happy customers to describe their experience for your website.
Not only does a testimonial make excellent marketing fodder, but it's also a real-time assessment of your brand and whether you're living up to your own branding goals.
3. Partner With Prominent Organizations
As a real estate agent, it's your job to know your community. Your knowledge should extend beyond property values and the location of good elementary schools, it should also include what other complementary businesses are working in your area.
Building partnerships with likeminded entrepreneurs is a great way to build your brand because you reinforce each other's credibility as brands.
For example, if your focus is on seeking out design-led homes and experiences, working with local designers provides an excellent platform for both of you.
Not only does a partnership show that you do, in fact, have great taste, but it demonstrates your commitment to remaining at the forefront of style in your community.
It also exposes you to a whole customer base dedicated to a non-competing business and vice versa. Who doesn't love that?
4. Show Off Who YOU Are
As a real estate agent, you and your brand are very closely related. So, why not let people get to know you personally?
Use professional photos that capture your personality rather than reflect the corporate idea of real estate. Then, share your interests and passions as well as your experience with the reader.
Go a step further and create an infographic or video to create something more personal and support your SEO efforts.
Strategies Guaranteed to Damage Your Brand
Avoid these brand building strategies to prevent damaging your brand.
1. Pretending to Be an Expert
Customers coming to you know what they want – they want you to help them find it. That's why they're visiting your website.
Rather than focusing on being an industry expert, focus on building a connection. Without that connection, prospective clients don't care if you're an expert because they don't know or trust you yet.
So, ditch the ‘best in the business' malarky and answer emails, get to know customers, and be authentic.
2. Keeping Up with Your Competitors
You should always be competitor savvy, but there's no need to keep up with them to compete.
Brand building strategies designed to one-up your competition are transparent to your customers. Instead, focus on doing what's right for your business while keeping your competition in mind.
3. Changing for the Sake of It
It's tempting to change up your brand to meet the latest trends. But changing for the sake of it is confusing and creates an inconsistent experience and damages your brand's reputation.
If you're going to make changes to your brand, look to see how it works into your brand building strategy first.
Build a Brand That Sells Itself
Your brand is more than a logo: it's the emotional experience you provide to customers embarking on one of the most important journeys of their life: homeownership.
By showing and telling customers not only what makes you unique but how your brand is well-suited to all their needs, you'll win customers hearts and minds without worrying about your competition.
Above all, the key to building a brand that sells itself is authenticity. But we also know authenticity is hard to articulate.
How will you build your brand? Let us help you express the best version of you for your customers. Get in touch today.