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By Beth McGuire

RISMEDIA, April 10, 2008-No longer are the days when all an agent needed to do in order to succeed was be a good salesperson. Today, agents need to be better marketers. The marketplace is overloaded with agents, and that can present quite a challenge in trying to stand out from the crowd. It’s really competitive, and it can be overwhelming for prospective clients.

So what’s the best way to stand out from the competition and be known in a market as the real estate expert? Create and maintain a personal brand that captures who you are, what you do and what makes you unique.

Everyone has a personal brand; a person’s current personal brand is positive, negative or neutral. The challenge is to define and build upon the brand desired. Branding oneself is not only used to gain attention, but to demonstrate to the target audience that you can provide a solution to your clients’ real estate problems.

What’s in a Brand?

The most telling indicator of a good brand is that it connects with a target audience on an emotional level. In order to develop a successful brand, however, it is important that agents truly understand the needs and desires of their prospects and customers, and then integrate that strategy throughout their business and marketing materials.

Motivational author Napoleon Hill states it better than anyone else: “People buy your personality and ideas long before they buy your products and services.”

Branding is the foundation on which success lies. Many agents wonder why it is that some less-than-personable agents seem to outsell them year after year. “It’s because they’re good marketers,” says Rob Murry, chief marketing officer of Lenexa, Kansas-based The Personal Marketing Company. “Real estate is an emotional business and, because the market has changed so much, visibility is often more important than ability. And it’s all because it creates the perception of success.

“To prospects, they attribute how much they’ve seen an agent’s marketing-and whether it’s good or not-to how good of an agent that individual must be,” Murry continues. “They think, ‘I’ve seen that guy’s signs everywhere. I get his mailings all the time. Wow. He must be good!'”

Being associated with a respectable real estate company may help influence a customer’s decision as a seal of approval, but it is not what sets agents apart. There are many other agents who also work under that same company umbrella. What sets agents apart are their personalities, identities and things they bring to the table that no one else does.

Oftentimes, agents will tell their clients that they’re number one when it comes to honesty, integrity and customer service. But how many number-ones can there be?

Besides, those are all expected attributes, and consumers can’t exactly evaluate an agent upfront on those types of characteristics when they have yet to work with him or her. So making statements like that upfront doesn’t really serve a purpose.

The Burning Question

So how do agents stand out amongst the competition? They do something different. Once they determine what makes them unique in their market, they develop a logo and a slogan that helps define their own brand-a brand that creates an emotional connection. Why?

Because choosing an agent is an emotion-based decision. If prospects like an agent-if they can find a connection-then they’re more likely to seal the deal. Furthermore, once the agent’s brand is established, it needs to be used continually throughout all their marketing materials in order to attract, solidify brand recognition, and keep that agent top-of-mind.

Let’s face it. Agents are known for their personalities but, truth be told, can only spend so much time networking. They know they need to stand out, do something different and specialize in one area or another. They can do that through an effective brand-one that keeps everyone in their target audience associating their name with all things real estate.

“This business is all about perception,” says Murry. “Consumers think that all real estate agents are the same. Because they don’t see any differentiators, they don’t see the perceived value, and are more likely to want to pay less if they think they can get the same thing somewhere else. But when you’re a specialist, you have a unique value and are known for something specific. Position yourself as a specialist and market yourself as such to get the business.”

The Personal Marketing Company has designed systems to help agents do just that. “In 2007, we worked with more than 70,000 agents in North America,” says Dena Kelly, a marketing development specialist for the company. “Our goal is to help them identify their positioning and then develop and implement their personal brand.”

A System Developed Just for Agents

The Personal Marketing Company helps agents establish a positioning. The process is simple and painless. Each agent works with a marketing development representative to fill out a questionnaire and personal marketing tool. The team at TPMC then reviews the responses and conducts an interview to help really determine the agent’s personality and what his or her positioning should be.

“We help identify and position you so that you stand out,” says Kelly. Once that is established, a logo and slogan are created. Other custom-made marketing materials usually follow, such as a personal brochure, market card, and house market flier, with all pieces carrying out the same look and feel-the brand.

“Consistency in the client’s mind is the way to gain ‘mind share,’ which is a way to move ahead,” says business coach and Realtor Shanan Steere of Keller Williams Realty Partners, Inc. “I’ve discovered huge strength in partnering with The Personal Marketing Company in helping set my image apart and gaining market share.”

The next step is to establish a personalized, 12-month marketing plan where TPMC can develop and distribute e-mail, design, print and mail traditional mail pieces, and consult on Web development and other personal communication tools.

“The idea is that we’re a one-stop shop,” says Lucas Stevens, a marketing development representative for the company. “We can do as much or as little as an agent wants. Basically, we take care of the marketing so agents can focus on what’s most important-their business.”

Randy Vanderpool, an agent with Keller Williams Partners, Inc., agrees: “They’ve really fine-tuned and helped me focus my marketing to a more personal level. But, quite honestly, the best thing about The Personal Marketing Company is the level of personal attention they give,” he says. “It’s really nice being able to talk to experienced real estate marketing people who can help me from planning through implementation.”

Stay Consistent-and Ahead of the Crowd

What makes an agent successful is not only standing out with his or her own unique brand, but perhaps more important, being consistent throughout all their materials, business, and face-to-face meetings. This can make the difference between chasing deals and actually buying and selling. Real estate has become a marketing business, and in today’s market, it is essential to have more than just attractive materials.

Agents can build their businesses by building market share through continuity, effective advertising and investing money where it matters most. Marketing themselves and what they can do for their clients is essential, as is considering where to spend precious advertising dollars. When they think outside the box, understand their specialization and focus on their niche, they start to see positive change. Choosing an agent is definitely an emotional decision. Now more than ever, the agent with the best brand will be the most successful.

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