Ask yourself some tough questions when you are developing your brand to enhance your real estate career.
Questions such as “Who do we work with? Who do we want to work with? Who are we?” should be explored when you are thinking about branding, according to Diane Allingham and Jen Stewart of Royal Lepage Team Realty in Ottawa. The pair, known as diane&jen in their advertising and promotional material, note that brand recognition “keeps the phone ringing” and generates repeat business as well as new leads.
“Personal branding brings tangible results,” says Allingham. “Some 70 per cent of buyers forget their agent’s name a year after the transaction. We don’t want to be the ones they forget, and our personal brand helps people to remember us.” The Ottawa pair was among the speakers at REGeneration: Preparing for Tomorrow’s Clients, an event with a focus on real estate and millennials. Their presentation on “Developing your personal brand” was part of the closing session at the annual conference of the Ontario Real Estate Association, held in Toronto in March.
They identified their strengths as being ethical, professional, and down-to earth. They focus on core neighbourhoods within the city of Ottawa. They also wanted to convey to consumers that they are approachable and friendly, that they understand the competition, and that they are different from others in the field.
“We want people to choose us over others. Our brand encourages them to call us, and their trust keeps them calling back. Our business is largely built on referrals,” notes Stewart. “Our brand projects a professional image that people trust and count on. Most people who are referred go to our website and check us out before they meet us.”
To achieve lasting brand recognition, they committed to a certain look and feel in all of their advertising and promotional material. They suggest hiring experts and sticking with them, particularly for work related to graphic design and social media. “Personal branding is not our forte, so we decided to work with people who are experts.”
For their marketing and promotional material, they chose a highly visible orange colour palate and an emphasis on the ampersand punctuation symbol in the diane&jen logo. These choices came at the suggestion of a graphic designer, and the brand recognition from these consistent choices over the years has grown, they say.
For social media, they chose to work with a “millennial” who enhanced their business presence on Twitter and Facebook and helped them with blogging. Following their recent choice to develop videos, they also worked with a videographer who helped to produce it. “Some 73 per cent of sellers say they are most likely to list with an agent who uses video to market themselves, yet only five per cent of agents create videos,” says Stewart.
Know what the competition is doing, Allingham suggests. “Look at other REALTORS® worldwide to get ideas and stay current. We don’t want to be stagnant in what we’re doing.”
Devoting a certain percentage of your budget to marketing should be an annual exercise, and you may be able to reduce that percentage over time as public awareness of your brand grows. “Invest in your brand on an annual basis and talk each year about what your branding plans and initiatives are going to be,” says Stewart. They currently direct 15 to 17 per cent of their annual revenues towards marketing and branding. “Our goal is to maximize our return. Your percentage will be different depending on your goal and your stage of development in your business.”
Stay ahead of the curve and be prepared to examine and revisit branding plans and initiatives on an annual basis, they advise. “Your personal brand is often your first interaction with people, since they have checked you out online before they call or meet you,” says Allingham. “Commit to that brand, remain consistent with it and you will get results.”
Image: The trademark orange colour and enlarged ampersand symbol are elements of the brand developed by Diane Allingham and Jen Stewart of Ottawa, known as diane&jen in their promotional and marketing materials.