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By Barry Hurd

RISMEDIA, Oct. 9, 2007-A few weeks ago, I wrote an article describing the strategy of “Conquesting” in the online marketing battlefield, which discussed the idea of dominating certain terms in an online market. If you realize a majority of real estate transactions start online and that the largest current real estate lead generators are Google and Yahoo!, then it is a simple matter to realize that names and keywords have very significant value.

Here, a slight change to the tactic I described earlier: brand conquesting – placing your brand in direct competition with your business rivals.

Real estate professionals spend a great deal of time establishing and developing personal and professional brands. For many real estate agents, a proper name is the way they market themselves. When many prospects meet a networking real estate agent at a social function, they remember a personal name and a friendly demeanor before anything else. On a broker level, that type of personal brand is often matched in recognition by the power of the company brand. For the company, the business brand is pushed across to prospects using marketing, public relations, and word of mouth campaigns. This company branding is costly and takes time. Between the personal brand of the agent and broker, and the professional brand of the company, the goal is that leads will be generated and homes sold.

Yet as agents, brokers, and companies establish huge brand campaigns in the real world – many of them ignore the online equivalent and don’t even know it exists.

When a prospect meets a competing agent, they usually talk for a few minutes, shake hands, exchange business cards, and move on. Sometime in the future the prospect will go online and do a search for one of two things: the name of the friendly agent they met or the brand name of the company and the geographic area they are in.

Here is where brand conquesting comes into play.

Rather than find the site of “Bob Jones” working with “House Brand A,” they find a page from “Jane Doe” and “Competitive Brand X.”

Jane Doe has carefully understood the nature of online search. She has written an informational piece about the other agent and company on her site and properly submitted it to the search engines. Individuals looking for Bob Jones may actually find the information they need to reach Bob Jones on Jane’s informational page, but the entire time they are reading about him, they are also being exposed to Jane’s competitive brand. Depending on how aggressive Jane is, the information about Bob Jones and his brand may be positive, neutral, or negative.

This type of competitive brand exposure is a way to leverage the huge budget of the real world and collect the benefit of another company’s marketing dollars. It is used by almost every online marketer to identify an audience painstakingly collected by a competitor, then purposely led to another point to be exposed to another company’s brand message. Many companies and professionals expect that when they go into a search engine and try to find a proper name they will be found at the top. In many cases this is not the case. Different profiles and negative reviews of them are typically more prominent, sometimes competitors have well designed pieces about them, and other times completely random information from a local news story or community member happens to mention them. In all of these cases they are losing a good portion of the marketing dollars they spend in the real world.

The corrective action for this is simple: understand how your brand is established online and understand how competitive brands are established online. Develop a solid online brand to protect your company from bad reviews online, to prevent competitors from stealing your traffic, to provide agents with another point of superior marketing, and to control information prospects read about your business.

To learn more about brand conquesting, see 3net Search Engine Marketing Blog

Barry Hurd is president of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid-1990s, Hurd has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included NIKE, REI, TMP Worldwide,, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RISMedia.

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