Are you itching to create a brand that matters for your business, but can’t figure out how? Here’s a simple process to help you define what makes you different, and help you stand out in your market. Get ready to make choices that will make your business thrive.
Unparalleled. Successful. Integrity. Progressive. Heartfelt. Expert. Trained. Professional. Active. Ethical. Leading. Extraordinary. Unmatched. Experienced. Full service. Exclusive. Dedicated. Sophisticated. Luxury. Superior. Smart.
I hate all of these words (and many more). Not because they’re bad in and of themselves. I despise them because they’re like leeches, sucking out the power of your brand.
Consumers could care less about words like these. They skip right over them. YOU skip right over them. Why?
They say nothing about you, your business or why you’re different.
How can your prospective buyer or seller make the choice to hire you, when everyone says the same old thing?
Who are you kidding with words like “unparalleled service” or “ethical” expressions of “professionalism?” Who cares about “progressive” and “sophisticated” marketing?
It’s as if real estate is stuck in some automatic slogan generator, where the only thing that comes out are meaningless one-liners. Maybe that’s because it’s easier to be everything to everyone, and in so doing, say nothing of meaning.
Ever noticed that real estate, for all of the logos, websites, collateral and advertising, is surprisingly brand-free? Real estate is awash in nearly identical slogans and marketing-speak. We buy templates, content, drip campaigns and direct mail, and just swap in our names and our logos.
Take this challenge, if you dare: Visit five of your competitors’ sites. Go to their “about” page. Cut and paste their about descriptions into a document and remove the company’s name from each one. Close the document and reopen it 48 hours later. I’ll bet that you can’t tell one from the other.
If you can’t, how can a consumer? How can your prospective buyer or seller make the choice to hire you, when everyone is saying the same old thing?
Want to have a compelling brand? Well, it’s simple. It’s daring. Most of all, it’s hard as hell. You’ll have to make choices, and stick to your guns. But you’re already ahead of the pack — you’re reading this article.
Remember that most brands are larded up with pronouncements of excellence and superiority, which are meaningless.
You’ll have to be harsh and forbid those who wish to destroy your clarity of purpose with blandishments meant to appease those who are afraid of making choices. For most real estate agents and brokers, the concept of making choices and saying exactly what their brands are — and aren’t — is an anathema.
What will happen, they say, if I choose a target market (for argument’s sake, let’s say first time buyers)? Will I be forever and ever branded with a big scarlet “B” on my shirt that prevents me from ever again working with a seller?
I say no. But in real estate, most agents and brokers are running scared of saying anything that might promote specialization. Most agents and brokers I talk to say they’re in business to sell any type of real estate to any customer in practically any neighborhood.
Sure, you can probe a little deeper and uncover some serious expertise in a particular neighborhood, type of property or category of clients with almost every agent or broker. But heaven forbid that expertise should be made clear, and into a brand asset for all to see. That would mean making a choice to say whom you are and what you do best. Sure, that’s simple and straightforward. It’s also why it’s hard.
Simplicity = Sophistication
Here’s what to remember. Simplicity is the art of subtraction.
It’s about the essence of a thing. Simplicity is sophisticated, and compelling on multiple levels. The best brands are simple and direct. They make choices and in doing so, stand for what they do best.
They don’t use words like excellence or integrity to describe what they do. They use words that are both compelling and relevant to the audience that is trying to understand the brand at hand.
How can you create a brand that matters?
First and foremost, you must figure out EXACTLY what your purpose is — and that’s not simply to sell more real estate. It’s beyond making money. It’s why you do what you do. You could sell Teslas, monkey chow or sprinkling equipment, for example, but you don’t. You sell real estate.
So if that’s the case, why do you do it? I’m pretty sure that you don’t do it just to extract dollars from your clients’ pockets.
I suppose it’s possible, but I haven’t met a real estate agent or broker yet who will readily admit to such a purpose. That’s not to say that you’re working for your health or don’t care to make money from your efforts. It’s just that lucre is not your sole motivation.
Rather, it seems likely that you might like to help people achieve financial independence. Or make good investments. Or live in a house that makes them happy. Whatever your reason, it’s typically deeply personal to YOU — and by default, frames the scope of your business.
Defining Your Purpose and Mission
Your purpose is typically larger than you and grounds every other element of your brand. Be cautious though — it’s easy to make your purpose vague by throwing in words like “superior” or “excellence.” Don’t do it. Make your purpose simple and unimpeachable — so that a six-year old can understand it.
Let’s say your purpose is:
“I help clients make great investments.”
Here’s the thing about your purpose — you need to have one. Not a million. Not “I help clients make great investments, remodel their houses, optimize pricing, find the best school districts and get the best financing. ”
At the end of the day, you should have one overarching purpose that anyone can understand — and most especially, one that you believe in with all of your heart. But your purpose isn’t the same thing as your mission, and this is where many people go astray.
Your mission is a strategy to achieve — to effectively realize — your purpose. It should be simple and direct. It’s not some lofty thing loaded with terms like “unparalleled” or “world-class.”
Let’s put this into practice. If your purpose is the help clients make great investments, you could have a mission like this:
“I enable clients to find investment opportunities in emerging neighborhoods.”
All of a sudden, we’ve gotten specific. And that’s really relevant to what type of clients you plan to attract. Does such a mission make choices? Absolutely. Does it make it perfectly clear to potential clients what you do? Yes.
Do Missions Scare Away Clients?
Now, the question will arise: Is such a mission exclusive? Will it scare away clients?
I say NO. What prospect doesn’t want to work with an expert who can help a client make a great investment? Clients don’t have to buy into every aspect of a mission like the Stepford Wives; they can and do think for themselves and can find your mission generally acceptable and exciting, even it if doesn’t fit them like a glove.
The point of a brand with a clearly defined purpose and mission is to paint everything you do with the same brush. But you can paint different pictures within your brand to appeal to different constituencies. A good brand is built to accommodate nuances in tone, audience and content.
Yet your mission must always deliver on your purpose. When your purpose and mission are out of alignment, you can easily find yourself slipping into the tar pit of wasted time and money.
When your purpose and mission are simple, direct and a straight line from one to the other, it’s pretty easy to think about your vision. That’s the next step in your branding journey.
Creating A Vision
Your vision is what you (and your team, if you have one) focus on to ensure you stay true to your mission. It’s a picture of the future only you can paint. It’s important because it sets the tone for everything you do. It’s the clarion call of your marketing.
So if your mission is to enable clients find investment opportunities, your vision might be:
“I will find every valuable investment property before it goes on the market, so that my clients get first dibs on the best opportunities available.”
You may never (or probably won’t ever) publish your vision, but it’s easy to see that committing to it will guide your business planning, right down to the relationships you choose to develop, which clients you attract, and the business tools you decide to employ. Visions help you focus on where you’re going.
You can see now that your purpose, mission and vision have to be aligned, so that you can set clear and measurable business goals. And notice: Only now are you ready to start thinking about taglines, logos, websites, advertising, collateral and all the other bric a brac that is part of a proper marketing program.
How to Create a Tagline
So what is a tagline? It’s not some fluffy, forgettable or frivolous slogan.
Instead, your tagline must actually be meaningful to you and your clients. It needs to set you apart in plain English a child can understand.
What might be an appropriate tagline, given our focus on delivering amazing opportunities and returns to clients?
“Find. Invest. Grow.”
Now, I’m not suggesting that’s the greatest tagline in the world, but it’s succinct and conveys what you’re all about. You help people invest wisely in fabulous, new opportunities only you can find. And nowhere does it get mired in tired old saws like “superior service” or “professional ethics.”
We don’t need to qualify the tagline with “real estate,” since it will always appear in context within your overall brand materials.
This tagline pretty much says what it is that you do. It’s a seamless, straight-line expression of your purpose, mission and vision. And that is exactly what a tagline is supposed to do. No fuss, no muss — just good business. Most of all, it’s the foundation of a solid brand — because it’s based on who you are and what you do.