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RISMEDIA, July 11, 2011—What exactly is branding and why should you care?

If you have ever been to New York’s Times Square, you have probably seen Naked Cowboy. If you have watched any television or read the paper, you have heard of Donald “The Don” Trump. Both of these people have worked hard at developing a brand for themselves and it works!

On a ranch, cattle are branded to identify the owner of the animal, especially on open range land when cattle can become mixed with other cattle. The cattle rancher learned a long time ago that there needed to be an easy way to identify his herd and to prevent poachers, but how far back does this practice go—1800s, 1600s?

Yes, we are all familiar with brands such as General Mills and Proctor and Gamble, but forms of branding, including cattle branding, can be traced back to the Babylonians in 3000 BC. So is branding new? Not by a long shot. In a similar way that social networking is not new, but the way we use it today in the real estate industry may be new to many of us.

Companies brand their image, people and products, so these assets are not confused with other companies or products of similar size and shape. In the same fashion, you may want to consider how you brand yourself in order to stand out from the crowd.

Picture a herd of cattle in the distance and all of the cattle are brown—except one. The one cow in the field is purple, yes a purple cow! Now imagine if you are a home buyer or seller looking at all the real estate agents in the “field.” Do you choose from among the brown cows who all look the same, or do you choose the one purple cow that stands out from the rest? Be the purple cow and you will set yourself apart from the rest!

Here are five ways you can brand yourself and stand out from the crowd:

1. Identify what makes you unique. Ask yourself the question, “Why choose me?” Once you can pinpoint your key strengths, experience and skills, write them down and use this as your base line for all your marketing.

2. Create a memorable slogan. Use your name, your skills, talents or even your area of expertise and develop a memorable slogan to help people remember you.

3. Develop your marketing brand. Include colors, logos, banners, and a slogan that represent you and your image and brand. Create marketing materials to match, including a website, business cards, and even social networking sites such as a blog, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel with the same unique look and feel.

4. Elevator speech. Write and memorize a 30 second “elevator speech” that includes your slogan and tells people who you are and why they should use you. Use this every time you meet someone at an open house, in the grocery store and around town.

5. Let it shine! Don’t hide your brand, show it to the world. When you get a listing, don’t just put the required pictures online and send the standard “Just Listed” postcards. Instead, create a virtual tour with personal narration and include your agent banner, your logo and your brand colors. Use a virtual tour provider that includes a YouTube video uploaded to your personal YouTube channel and connects to your social networking sites.

Branding is simple, but it’s not easy! It requires thoughtful self-evaluation and a determination to stand out from the crowd. It requires dedication to being the best and not just one of the rest! And last but not least, it requires consistency. Use your brand in everything you do and with everyone you meet.

Remember, the most recent National Association of REALTORS® statistics show over 90% of home buyers say they looked online for their home before purchasing! In the field of real estate professionals online, are you standing out as the Purple Cow or blending in with the herd?

Tim Denbo is president/CEO of VirtualTourCafé, LLC.

VirtualTourCafe, LLC is based in Dublin, California and was co-founded by Timothy Denbo and Hannele Rinta-Tuuri. The business is operated as a limited liability company and has an advisory board made up of professionals in the real estate, technology, and marketing fields. VirtualTourCafe donates 10% of all net proceeds to charity.

For more information, please visit VirtualTourCafe online here.