By Alex Craig
What if everything you have been led to believe about building a real estate brand is wrong? At least wrong for you.
I cringe inside every time I hear somebody suggest that real estate branding can be a magic pill that will separate you from the thousands of other agents in your market and help you get more clients.
Not only is this advice a waste of time and money for a real estate agent, but it also represents a common misconception about real estate branding and what it takes to successfully launch and build a real estate brand.
Stop building your own real estate brand and instead work with the one you’re already a part of. Here are reasons you need to stop building your real estate brand.
Less Brand Awareness
Your own real estate brand will never be able to achieve the brand awareness of your real estate broker, especially if they are part of a national franchise like Keller Williams, Century 21, or Coldwell Banker.
While there are a lot of factors that go into building a brand and creating brand awareness, an important factor is brand exposure—as measured by the number of people who see or experience your brand.
So, let’s compare an individual agent’s brand exposure to that of a national franchise, like Century 21.
Independent Agent: An independent agent gets their brand in front of people when they do any marketing—free or paid. For most agents, this is limited to Facebook and some direct-mail.
National Brand: When you focus on the broker’s brand, you get more exposure. Every time another agent in your office does marketing, they build the brand of the broker. A franchise, like Century 21, spends money to be associated with companies like Disney, Major League Soccer, and ESPN. Plus, any marketing you do exposes the brand since agents are required to place their broker’s information on their marketing.
When I compare these situations, hands down, an independent agent is hardly going to be able to build a brand that beats a national franchise brand.
When you focus on branding with your broker instead of your own brand, you can leverage that brand awareness.
You Compete Against Yourself
Agents have good intentions for building their own real estate brands. They hope to be top-of-mind with clients and leads when it comes time to sell or buy a home. But by building their own brand, they are competing against themselves and getting fewer results today.
In the past, when options were limited on products, consumers could memorize their options and recall certain brands. Today, there is a surplus of real estate agent options and that makes memory-based choices less relevant. Consumers’ can’t memorize all of the options for hiring a real estate agent.
By introducing our own brand to the mix, we are just adding to the confusion and making the decision-making process more complex. People cope with this information in two ways:
- They ignore it.
- They outsource their decisions to Google and friends (e.g. ask for referrals).
When you throw two logos on your marketing in an effort to build your brand, you compete against yourself and increase the odds of both brands being ignored.
It’s More Ethical
If you’re a REALTOR®, which most real estate agents are, then you agreed to do business by a certain code of ethics. I would dare argue that marketing with your own real estate brand, even when your broker is included in your marketing, can be construed as unethical.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) states the following in their Code of Ethics:
“REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations.” – Article 12
When interpreting this clause, I have to ask myself, by trying to build my own real estate brand am I being honest and truthful in my communications and presenting a true picture? And the answer to that can be hotly debated.
Personally, the co-brand real estate agents tend to do is a gray area. When you smack your broker’s logo on a piece of marketing material but change the color scheme to match your brand and apply your logo, I am not so sure that we are presenting a true picture to consumers.
By getting rid of our own real estate branding with our marketing, we sit less in the gray area. It’s far more ethical to use only your real estate broker’s logo and branding instead of trying to build your own.
You Need Clients Today
If you’re like most agents, you need more clients today. Not next year, three years from now, or a decade from now. Spending money to develop and build a real estate brand won’t help you get clients today, and you need clients today to succeed as a real estate agent.
You need to focus on the fundamentals of generating leads, following up with those leads, and going on appointments. Yes, in the post-pandemic world, you might, for example, need to focus on delivering the fundamentals through digital marketing rather than an approach like traditional open houses.
Any time spent building a real estate brand takes you away from being able to do these fundamental activities that will drive sales and production into your business or career.
By leveraging your broker’s brand, you can instantly deploy marketing that looks professional without spending the time or money to develop your own brand.
At The End Of The Day…
When I talk about no longer building your real estate brand, I’m not telling you that you need to send all of your customers and leads to your broker. That’s just foolish and bad business practice.
However, I think there is a way we can ethically drive leads into our business while leveraging and supporting the brand of our brokers. For example, we can put our broker’s logo on our marketing but ensure our contact information is there so that we can capture the leads.
Specifically, in my own business, I do this for all of my real estate market update videos. I use the Century 21 brand in my PowerPoint and ensure that people know I am part of Century 21 Looking Glass. However, all of the contact information is my own so that I can capture any leads.
So stop building your own real estate brand, and ask yourself how you can leverage the brand of your broker to save time and money while making sure you capture all of your leads.
Alex Craig, a real estate professional with Century 21 Looking Glass in Lansing, Mich., helps homeowners sell their homes for maximum cash in their pocket and feel like their agent did everything to get their home sold. He does this by taking a data-driven approach and executing a systematic marketing plan that uses current digital marketing strategies. Craig also runs the Dolinski Group (www.dolinskigroup.com), a company focused on helping real estate agents get more from their career and earn more without the heartache.
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Terrible advice. Considering that many agents will switch offices throughout their career makes this advice terrible. Also, many potential clients really don’t care much about what office an agent is out of. They seek out the agents skillset and what they have done. And to say personal branding is unethical? Come on man. What a joke. Talk about a biased article favoring brokers. No research whatsoever.
Jason Gelios, You are 100% correct.
Written by somebody who wants to justify not doing the work? Or who thinks real estate is a commodity? Good luck to you, kid. You can come work under my brand.
And by the way, most brokers are not providing leads and barely marketing, so I’m not sure who you think I’m competing against.
I read this article as unfairly promoting the big brokerage firms, especially his own. How many times did he mention C-21? (plus a couple of national competitors)
As a broker for our boutique real estate office, we approach branding as a team approach, focusing on RELATIONSHIPS. Decades ago, when I got my CRS, they taught us that relationships, referrals, and sphere of influence were the sweet spot we should all strive to develop.
Branding is for advertising…to strangers. The antithesis of the training we received and practice. We do advertise, of course, but our energies and efforts are focused on relationships with our past clients, our sphere of influence, and the people they know.
Agreed. This article promotes C-21, and unnamed big brokerages. Meanwhile, our big brokerages grab our leads from Zillow and our brokerages sites and distribute them to other agents in our companies, not us.
When we brand ourselves, we are strengthening our position as being the go-to Agent for our Clients and Neighbors, and hopefully, getting the leads to come directly to us.
This article being published here makes me wonder if N.A.R. represents big brokerages over us as individual Realtors now. Like the state of our nation, where corporate
entities have much more power than the people.
Agents should take advantage of brand association with their brokerage. At same time, shouldn’t they differentiate themself as a brand. Otherwise agents are employees – right?
The NAR Code of Ethics and most states law is clear about identifying an agent’s broker. NAR membership is by agreement and thus not relevant to discussion. NAR says nothing about allowing a licensed agent to differentiate themself.
Wait until the first time you decide to leave your brokerage. If your clients only think you’re important because you’re at Century21, they will call the Century21 office and ask for a different agent when you’re not there. Your clients *do not* care what brokerage you’re at, they want to work with you and will follow you anywhere. Once you leave a large brokerage and realize how much of your commission you were giving away to advertise *their company* you will be astonished. Your brand is your *service* and how you are the best realtor for your specific client profiles’ needs.
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Very informative blog.
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No one can deny the power of a successful, respected national brand and the impact that it has on the consumer. I agree, however, that we do not promote our most powerful branding, REALTOR, enough. With over one million members, NAR is a powerful brand and agents who choose to use the benefits of being a REALTOR as a value proposition can differentiate themselves from other agents. Let’s be proud of the brand we have and promote it.
Couldn’t really express how amazing this content. Love the part where you mentioned “You Need Clients Today” since I totally agree with this. You guys really have tons of amazing content on your sleeve and this is one of the best ??
This advice does not work in 2021. Agents are independent contractors and often times change brokerages to build their business. By building your personal brand you ensure you keep control of your business and livelihood.
I would argue as technology increases real estate will only become harder and harder for agents to compete. The ones who do not build a personal brand and stand out in their community as trustworthy, honest and helpful will not last.