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2007-08-31 12:38:00

Real Estate Agents Should Brand Themselves Like Their #1 Listing

Real estate agents are experts at selling properties – but when it comes to selling themselves, a few basic tips on branding can mean a big boost for business.

Agents should sell themselves like they sell their top listings – creating a consistent marketing campaign that underscores the property’s differentiation and advantages over similar properties on the market.

Most salespeople don’t think of themselves as brands, but in real estate sales people have more power over branding than they might realize.  Eighty-five percent of brand decisions are made face-to-face between the sales agent and client.  So while corporate branding initiatives are clearly important to position the company’s points of differentiation, the salesperson will ultimately close the deal.

Real estate sales people are often viewed as commodities.  They all do the same thing – they represent buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants.  How do they set themselves apart from the swarms of other agents in the marketplace?    I recommend a four-step process based on a strategy model called VRIO by Dr. Jay Barney of The Ohio State University. 

In order to have a brand advantage in your market, your must differentiate yourself by doing four things:

1. Define your Value.  Specifically, you need to define your value to the client or prospect.  What do you offer that makes your services valuable?

2. Define Your Rarity.  The attributes that make you valuable must also be rare.  In other words, other sales people must not have this quality.   For example, many sales people say they are valuable because they “Put the customer first.”  A valuable service indeed, but since everyone else is saying that and every client expects it, it’s not enough to differentiate you.  If you can get more specific about your value, it will be harder for others to imitate.  For example, a residential broker in New York City is open 24 hours per day.  This can be a great value for clients who just don’t have time during the day to handle their real estate transactions. 

3. Be Inimitable.   If you have something to offer that is rare, make sure it is also difficult for your competitors to imitate. After all, if someone imitates your point of differentiation, you are no longer rare. For example, if a salesperson has a proprietary selling method that will take a home from list to close in 30 days, that’s valuable and rare, and something that may be difficult or impossible for the competition to claim or imitate.

4. Leverage Your Differentiator throughout your Organization.   In other words, remind people regularly about the value you bring to the table.   In the example above, a salesperson may create a tagline “List to close in 90 days.”  And have this line included in all marketing materials, brochures, emails, etc.   Your audience should become so familiar with your differentiator they will always associate it with you.  Just like people associate Nike with “Just do it” or Campbell’s with “Soup is Good Food”.  If you focus on one point of differentiation, people will remember you
Points of differentiation I have seen being used by real estate agents include:

  • One-stop shopping services– representing buyers and sellers, financing, staging the home to prepare for sale, and moving services.
  • Using a different business model that makes properties sell faster and for a higher price. 
  • Using a proprietary inventory system that enables buyers to see more properties in a shorter period of time.
  • Having the highest market share in their area.

I have seen agents significantly increase their income and get higher fees when they were able to show a point of differentiation.
One of the best definitions I’ve heard of branding is, “what people say about you when you’re not around.”   Isn’t that when people really get honest?  What do your clients and prospects say about you in comparison to your competitors?    Can they define what it is that makes you different and valuable to them?    Your clients may know your differentiator better than you do.  

It’s a great idea to survey your clients and ask questions like:

(1)  What other brokers did you consider?  (shows your competition)

(2) Why did you end up choosing me? (shows  point of differentiation)

(3) What do other sales people offer that you don’t? (show competitor’s point of differentiation.)

If you continue to revisit your differentiator using the VRIO model, you will have a sustainable competitive advantage in your market place.   Market yourself as if you were marketing your best listing.   Set yourself – not just your properties – apart from the competition.   Be specific and consistent and you will continue to brand and expand.

(Sandra Sellani, MBA, is a brand strategist and author of the new book, What’s Your BQ: Learn How 35 Companies Add Customers, Subtract Competitors, and Multiply Profits with Brand Quotient. She is also the former VP of Marketing for commercial real estate company, Sperry Van Ness.  To learn more about your ability to brand, take her free BQ (brand quotient) lesson online at

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