When it hits your eye, you can’t help but groan.
Or perhaps it’s so unremarkable that it doesn’t register with you at all.
Those are the effects of bad branding.
Rarely do you see an agent whose branding is so unique—so different—that it stands out above the rest. That memorable brand clearly articulates who the agent is, what the agent specializes in, and the level at which they do it. And it motivates you, as a consumer, to want to work with that agent.
Branding is the one area of their business where most agents fail miserably. Some aren’t aware of the power of branding at all. Most believe they can cut corners on this important area of their business. They decide to “do it themselves” or hire a friend. (By the way, this is what I call the “my mother’s brother’s sister-in-law’s niece’s college roommate is a graphic designer syndrome” … and it’s deadly to your business. See Mistake #7, below!) An agent figures, “What’s so hard about sitting at a computer and designing something that looks pretty?”
But that’s NOT what branding is. It’s so much more than that.
The entire philosophy surrounding branding is one of creating visual images which not only grab your attention, but also transmit to the world everything about you—who you are, what your business is all about, and what you represent.
Doing this successfully involves a whole lot more than just putting together a few pretty pictures. You have to ask yourself some important questions, such as:
- “Who am I trying to connect with?”
- “What look and feel best matches the services I perform?”
- “What message matches my target audience, both in terms of design and content?”
I’ve seen many, many branding disasters. Here are the top seven branding “sins”, or mistakes, I see agents make over and over:
Mistake #1: Not branding for a target market.
The most important part of branding is defining your target market. Not all real estate buyers (or sellers) are the same. You are much better off selecting a segment of people and serving them, rather than trying to please everybody with a more generic brand. You will have more success marketing to a smaller target market than you will to the world at large.
Don’t agree with me?
Think about great marketing. Pepsi and Coca-Cola have targeted the youth market since their beginnings. You don’t see many Coke ads made for retirees. They match their branding to their market. They understand who their market is and they create design and messages aimed specifically at them.
On the flipside, Wall Street investment firms do not make ads with the Jonas Brothers. And they don’t buy TV spots during American Idol. They target older investors with ads that appear during Sunday morning political talk shows.
Who is your target market? Do you even have one? Or have you decided that you’re going to help anyone — no matter who they are? If this describes you, then maybe it’s time to specialize. You’re much better off serving a niche audience with their peculiar habits and likes. Make sure the brand you develop will “speak” to your target market.
Mistake #2: Not considering branding an investment.
Most agents consider branding an expense, not an investment. Make no mistake: branding is an absolute necessity.
Yes, it costs money to create superb materials. Yes, you need to take time to get it right. And yes, you need to do this now—not “someday” when you’re making more money.
The only way to make that money is to be a true professional in every sense of the word. True professionals invest in professionally developed branding. If you don’t invest the time and money into getting it right, then you’re not a professional – and you won’t reach your potential in this business.
Mistake #3: Choosing branding based solely on what you like.
See Mistake #1. (I can’t emphasize enough how important it is not to pick branding simply based on what you like. Your brand must resonate with your target market.)
Mistake #4: Going overboard.
Too much everything, and too little focus. Too many colors. Too many words. Too many graphics.
This is going in the opposite extreme. I have seen agents who decide, “Well, if I’m going to do branding, then I’m going to go all out!” Unfortunately, this thinking creates lavish materials that are overdone and don’t ultimately connect with the target market.
Mistake #5: Creating a logo … and thinking you’ve created a brand.
Some agents create a logo and say, “I’m done!”
Sorry, but you’ve hardly begun! A logo is not a brand. A logo is just an element of a brand – and it’s not even a necessary element. When you’re creating a brand, there are many elements that must work cohesively to create a complete picture.
Mistake #6: Not testing a brand.
If you’re deciding between two distinct brands, then it’s important to split your database into two lists. Send a mailer using one brand to the first list. Then, send a mailer using the other brand to the other list.
Determine which one resonates more with your database based on response. Who responded? Who didn’t?
The direct response advertising industry is famous for taking this to the extreme. They are constantly sending out different versions of the same direct mail campaign to segments of their database to test response. Whichever one pulls the most orders is the one they eventually mail to the entire list.
This process isn’t just for big direct mailers. It also works on our level. Test, test, and test some more. When you do, you may be surprised at what works—it’s often the opposite of what you would expect!
The bottom line is that you want more clients. Pick branding that pulls in the biggest numbers. Period.
Mistake #7: Not hiring a professional.
Why do so few agents have stellar branding? The answer is simple: very few agents invest the resources to hire experienced professionals to develop their brand.
There are lots of graphic artists and branding companies out there—but branding a product is much different than branding services. Real estate is a service and must be branded by someone who understands this market.
That’s where my company comes in. The Lones Group lives and breathes branding every day. We know what works … and what doesn’t. If you need to develop – or redesign – your brand, give us a call! You have nothing to lose by chatting with us.
Just call (360) 527-8904 or send an email to [email protected]. When you fully realize the power of branding—the RIGHT way—you’ll be very glad you did.
By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI