Building a Personal Brand

August 26, 2010

Source: Kelle Sparta

Chances are, you already have a brand, whether you've made a conscious effort to create one or not. The question is: Is it the one you want?

Many real estate pros market themselves as having "integrity" or being "the best." But those qualities - while important - don't necessarily differentiate them. What specific skills and knowledge do you offer, and how should you promote these characteristics?

What Is a Brand?
A brand is the sum total of the impressions that clients and prospects have of your business. These impressions are made through the words you say, the images and colors you use, and the ways in which you interact (or fail to interact) with your target market. Corporations spend billions of dollars each year on improving their brand images because they know that those images directly affect whether or not people buy from them.

Good Brands vs. Bad Brands
A good brand is something that inspires a positive emotional response. Either your prospects and clients can feel a sense of camaraderie and connection to it or they can feel safe and secure putting themselves in your hands. A bad brand is something that's entirely in your head - an intellectual exercise using words that sound good but don't make an emotional impact.

Classic Bad Real Estate Brands
Here are a few of the classic bad real estate brands that you see everywhere across the country:

I'll sell you your dream home
I've got the key to your new home
Honesty, integrity, and trust
Because I know the market
I'm a professional

What makes these brands bad? Well, the first two are trite clich s that mean nothing. In fact, the first one is usually a lie. Most buyers don't get to buy their dream home; they end up buying what they can afford, which frequently isn't their dream home.

The third one isn't something that you can advertise; it's something you have to demonstrate. Can this be your brand? Yes, but you have to demonstrate it through client testimonials and the ways in which you speak to your prospects and clients. You can never say it out loud or you diminish it. The last two are bad brands because either they are a given - agents should know the market and should be professional - or they come off as you dissing the competition, which is always a bad idea.

Good Real Estate Brands
A good brand for your real estate business will show how you differ from the competition. If you don't know how you differ, then you should look closer. Your personality alone is a differentiator. Your knowledge of transactions and how they work; your experience dealing with people; the types of houses and neighborhoods you like to work in; the types of people you like to work with; the number and extent of the testimonials you've received; what ratio of your business is buyers vs. sellers; how much of your business is by referral; what systems you have in place to market, promote, and close deals - all of these things make you unique. From there, it's a matter of turning your unique qualities into a workable brand.

A Personal Example
My own strengths were educating my clients, having a deep understanding of them and their needs, and being a true advocate for them. This included having a strong hand at guiding them through the transaction, a high level of integrity, and systems, and being a professional in the marketplace. I was also a top producer, but I chose not to call attention to it because I wanted my brand to be about the client, not about me.

A part of any presentation I gave was the phrase, "I won't always tell you what you want to hear, but I'll always tell you what you need to know." It said that I would tell the hard truths and also implied that I would put the clients' needs before my own. If I'm willing to tell someone the unvarnished truth, it says I'm also willing to take the risk that I'll upset them and lose them as a client. That's a risk of a loss to me in order to serve my client. That's one way of saying that you have integrity without speaking it out loud.

Consistency of Message and Experience
Your brand image isn't just what you market, it's also every experience a client or prospect has with you. Once you settle on a brand image that really reflects who you are, make sure that your client experience always reflects that. If you're going on high integrity, then make sure you follow through on promises. If you're emphasizing that you have systems, make sure you have them for every part of the process. If it's all about the clients, then be certain that you slow down enough to be fully present with your prospects and clients whether they are in front of you or on the phone, and don't take calls from other people when you are with someone. It's all about the consistency of the experience.

No Matter What, You Will Brand Yourself
The fact is that everything you're doing right now is creating a brand for you. Whether you are conscious of your choices or not, you'll create an image in the eyes of the public, your clients, and other practitioners. Wouldn't it be better if that image were consciously created rather than the result of a bunch of random choices that may or may not be consistent?

Kelle Sparta is the author of The Consultative Real Estate Agent: Building Relationships that Create Loyal Clients, Get More Referrals, and Increase Your Sales(AMACOM, 2005). She is also the founder of Sparta Success Systems , a real estate training company.

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