What is a ‘personal brand’? Just like company or product branding, it’s built around imaging and messaging that is designed to create a feeling. And in the case of personal branding, it influences how you want others to feel about you. From your photos to other brand images, elements and even content, there is a lot that goes into creating your unique brand. Displayed correctly and consistently (across all marketing platforms), a well-defined brand can elevate agent recognition and help to establish credibility and authority. However, when executed incorrectly, the effects are lackluster at best, and harmful at worst. To help you avoid the pitfalls of personal branding, we’ve compiled a list of what we feel are the 7 deadliest sins.
Branding is not about being known for your profession. It’s about being known for being different in your profession. If all agents were the same, how would your customers know who to choose? Lack of differentiation is by far the #1 personal branding sin. We love to tell the story of a real estate agent who expressed to us that she was already well branded in her area. She stated, “When I walk into a restaurant in my community, people already know I’m a real estate agent.” And while that is a great start, it’s nowhere close to successful branding. Let’s assume I walked into that restaurant and noticed her. But I also noticed two other agents in the same restaurant. Now, who do I choose? Which ‘brand’ stands out to me? What lets me know that one of them is uniquely positioned to serve my needs?
In business, you can’t be all things to all people. Many have tried and failed. In order to have a successful business and brand, you must clearly define your ideal customer and how you will super-serve that customer. In other words, declare and develop a specialty. By being focused, it does NOT mean that you stop doing all business outside of your specific focus. That would be quite difficult. It does mean that, over time (if done correctly), you will do more and more of the exact kind of business you want, and conversely, even stop doing the kind of business you don’t want. And that’s what a great brand is designed to accomplish.
Recognizable personal brands can be very clever and memorable, but if your brand isn’t ‘you’, it won’t last. If you try to put out a persona that is different from your own and the way you live your life, people will take notice over time. The most incredible personal brands weave professional and personal qualities into one. Your brand becomes an extension of you. You should be able to ‘breathe your brand’ in everything that you do. This is important not only for your customers, but perhaps most importantly for you. There is a tremendous amount of confidence that comes with knowing that you are who you portray, and that you have the habits, inspiration, knowledge and expertise to back it up.
You can have a recognizable and memorable brand, but if you don’t display those branding elements correctly and consistently across all of your marketing platforms, it does you little good. In order to accomplish this task well, you must step back from your marketing and see it the way others do. You see your social media channels every day. You see your business cards, postcards, brochures, etc. Other people don’t see them nearly as often, so don’t apply or compare your own habits and exposure to theirs. Repetitiveness in marketing is not only a good thing, it’s essential for retention. Once you determine the overall messaging and look of your brand, that look should continue across literally every marketing platform you touch.
The ultimate goal of personal branding is to become known as an authority in your chosen niche. That means that you must demonstrate the knowledge, expertise and/or experience to back up your position. Content that best expresses you and your brand could be as simple as a series of photos, quotes, e-books, video shorts, etc. Choosing the type of content you’re most comfortable producing is the key to keeping it simple. No one wants to be bogged down with producing content. But on the flip side, no one knows how much you know until you share it. Great content demonstrates your knowledge and helps your customers at the same time. In addition, it serves another purpose with search engine optimization and attracting prospects online.
NO CALL TO ACTION
You’re spending money to market across multiple platforms, so why not take the opportunity to extend an invitation for your prospects to engage with you? It can be a simple call to action, such as ‘call me first’ or more specific, ‘contact me for a free home staging assessment’ or ‘download my e-book and learn how to invest using other people’s money’. Your call to action may change with different marketing channels or purposes, but you should always, always have one. If you want people to do something, tell them what you’d like them to do. That’s how you move prospects one step closer to becoming customers.
Why is this included in branding, you may ask? Because your brand is your bond. It’s your handshake. When you say you’ll do something, how can people trust you if you don’t follow through with your promise? This is often the element that people forget altogether. And in fact, in our communication with hundreds of agents, follow-through is at the top of the list when it comes to customer complaints. You don’t want to be that person. Putting an incredible message and image out there isn’t enough. You must live up to those standards with every customer, every transaction.
Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr