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By Cliff Baird

RISMEDIA, October 2008-In a previous article on branding, we determined that there are really only five objectives that a great brand must achieve:

1. Delivers the message clearly
2. Confirms your credibility
3. Connects your target prospects emotionally
4. Motivates the client to action
5. Cements their loyalty

Laura Reese, marketing manager for The Creig Northrop Team of the Clarksville, Maryland Long & Foster Real Estate office, is a dedicated fan of the Northrop brand. It is an amazing story of what can happen if someone consistently focuses on not only creating a brand but zealously guarding the message.

It makes sense, therefore, to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition-that’s marketing. Branding is about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem.

Cliff Baird: What is the Northrop brand message?

Laura Reese: It is simple really and everyone would say the same thing-it is the rest of our branding systems that categorically set us apart. The Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. is the #1 Real Estate Team in Maryland and the #2 Team in the USA. We are here to provide the highest degree of professionalism and expertise to meet and exceed the needs of our clientele.

CB: Give us some highlights of your brand.

LR: The Northrop Team is the “eagle eye” of real estate throughout Maryland. We are a team of highly qualified, full-time, dedicated real estate professionals with a strength of presence and a proven track record throughout Howard, Carroll, Frederick and Montgomery counties.

Our proven systems, team structure, and year-over-year success, make it far easier for clients to achieve their real estate goals. Creig and his entire team of real estate professionals are extremely goal focused, disciplined, attentive, responsive, experienced, knowledgeable, innovative and always express an appreciation for their clients.

All of our branding compliments our brokerage brand. All of our print, online, direct mail, TV and billboard advertising go hand-in-hand so that The Northrop Team marketing is quickly recognizable.

Our personalized service, sophisticated marketing systems, and powerful negotiating define The Creig Northrop Team edge.

CB: Do your logos, slogans and graphics sell and emphasize your brand? How?

LR: Absolutely! Our graphics are clean, crisp, and consistent. The Northrop Team has established a color scheme that is used across all advertising. Our colors are a deep blue, PMS 541, deep red, PMS 201, and our most popular and sophisticated element recently added to our arsenal is the Northrop Team Certified logo-a seal-that represents the solidarity of our service.

We take the time to expertly review our logos before finalizing so they are not always evolving. Consistency is the key.

The Northrop Team often implements the following messages in our marketing efforts:

– “Extraordinary Service at No Extra Charge.”
– “Perfect Presentation. Exquisite Service. Legendary Results”
– “We Sell Every Price Range Every Day.”
– “The #1 Real Estate Team in Maryland. The #2 Real Estate Team in the Country!”

These messages are not just slogans. They represent the true nature of our team. For example, it does not cost more to work with the best, so, as a client, you truly get more when you work with the Northrop Team. So we like to drive that point home by using the “Extraordinary service and no extra charge.”

The “Perfect Presentation” message emphasizes the VIP service we give each and every client. We treat every listing with precision and expertise. All of our staff members from our listing coordinators to our virtual tour coordinators and stagers are professionally trained so that everything we produce, every end result, is top quality from settlement documents to home brochures.

Due to our extensive advertising, much of the public believes that we only sell or work with high-end clients, which is absolutely not true. So we often include the sentiment “We Sell Every Price Range, Every Day.”

CB: Are you credible at being experts and finding solutions for your clients? How?

LR: That is exactly what we are experts at doing-finding solutions. Creig would have it no other way. He is often heard saying, “Get it done,” or “Make it happen.”

There are no excuses on the Northrop Team. And no one is afraid to go out of their comfort zone to ask for what is needed, even if asking is difficult. We will find a way to achieve whatever is needed. Creig has exemplified this concept for his entire team and holds them extremely accountable. We have systems in place if something out of the ordinary comes up on a transaction that triggers a swift response from our team.

CB: Do you truly connect with your clients and do you stay connected? How?

LR: Yes. Our team values the communication between our agents and our clients. It truly is the glue that keeps us together. We know that failure to communicate is typically one of the biggest complaints clients have of their agent.

Every Northrop agent carries a BlackBerry, as does every member of the admin staff, so we know immediately when a client needs something. Creig, as well as all agents on the team, contact their sellers every Tuesday evening to check in on pricing, showings, need for open houses, and feedback about where things stand on their property.

We also e-mail our sellers daily to notify them of the agents who have shown the property followed by a feedback report the next day that gives a detailed explanation of every client’s personal remarks on the property, its location, décor, price. We send out a 45-day survey and Creig personally reads each and every one to ensure we are doing everything possible to achieve the client’s goals. We send out a Customer Satisfaction Survey at the end of the transaction as well.

CB: Are you motivating past clients to refer you? How?

LR: We believe in providing such outstanding service to our clients that they become raving fans and refer us to their friends and family.

One of the aspects of The Creig Northrop Team that is most inspiring to be a part of is Creig’s commitment to giving back to the community. He sponsors a number of local organizations like the American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis, the Ulman Cancer Foundation, and the Montgomery County Teacher Award program. Most notably, he, together with his wife Carla, created The Unsung Hero Award program to recognize students who go above and beyond to give back to their community. Creig also is the premier sponsor of The Northrop Fields at Covenant Park, an 8-field soccer complex that is home to over 7,800 area youths.

CB: Are you developing client loyalty? How?

LR: We keep clients informed about the latest news and real estate trends by e-mailing them our monthly e-newsletter and a weekly “Hot Properties of the Week.” We also send anniversary cards to all our buyers and host client appreciation events.

At any given moment, however, the “brand” is totally vulnerable to each and everyone who earns their living using it. In many ways the concept of “brand loyalty” must begin at home. The protection of the integrity and character of the brand must be the foremost thought on the mind of every team member. Team leaders need to vigilantly manage their brand by constant observance of their team members.

CB: What do you do to make sure that all your team members manage and promote the “brand” personally?

LR: Our entire team gathers for a monthly team meeting. This is held off-site at a nearby hall. It occurs at 8 a.m. the first Wednesday of every month. We prepare team meeting notes that outline sales goals. We award the top producer of the month, top producing office of the month, employee of the month, and discuss our future goals.

Creig conducts an update on the market, and goes around the room and asks every member of the team to share a “success story.” Creig and the agents also share personal stories about how important it is to represent the team no matter where you are or who you are talking to. For instance, at this past weeks team meeting, he shared that one of our agents was hosting an open house and a couple came through asking about the house. Even though this agent wasn’t the listing agent on the house, they spoke knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the property-so much so that the couple was ready to buy the house! And turns out, they were the sellers, checking up on how we conduct open houses. They were thoroughly impressed.

Another example-one of our agents was standing in the grocery store talking to a friend about a listing and how the listing was going. Creig preaches a positive attitude no matter what the market and so accordingly, the agent was positive about this particular home that had been on the market for several months and was speaking energetically about what we are doing to help market the home. Turns out, the seller was standing behind her the entire time. She was pleasantly surprised at the agent’s enthusiastic comments outside of the office.

Creig and our executive director, Karla Pinato, also conduct bi-weekly “hour of powers.” Internally, this event is referred to as HOP. All agents must attend. It takes place every other Saturday morning at 8:00 and includes training, feedback, market talk, mortgage updates and motivational activities.

Also, every Tuesday, the team hosts “Caravan.” This rotates from office to office each week. All agents from that office get together and visit the new listings for the week so that they can speak expertly about the listing to potential clients and get a preview of the home.

Everyone in real estate sales and marketing must strive to differentiate themselves from the competition. It is the essential ingredient to branding. Clearly, it can only be successful when the slogans and the logos are a real part of the value proposition as measured and evidenced by the consistent delivery of what the words and graphics imply.

The Northrop brand did not happen overnight. But it did happen because Creig and his team focused on their message and guarded its value every day and night.

Cliff Baird, MBA, PhD, has spent over 25 years coaching agents and managers to focus on business systems that lead to abundant success. He is the developer of The RealSTAR Online Recruiting System, which helps managers handle the recruiting process.

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