If You Could Be a Brand...

What brand would you be? Make sure it’s one that’s built on your fundamental knowledge of the business.

July 11, 2013

I believe in the power of reinvention.

Many businesses modify their brand to keep up with ever-changing consumer needs. Walgreens says its stores are “at the corner of happy and healthy.” That’s clever since the company’s site-selection strategy is to have stores located on the heaviest-trafficked corners. And it appeals to the masses: Who doesn’t want to be happy and healthy, right? 

The changes we’ve experienced in real estate over the last several years have created numerous possibilities for reframing our business models and brand. Even the best of us can’t begin to offer everything in terms of the various specialties within real estate—estate sales, short sales, luxury sales, commercial, foreclosures, leasing.

My brand came about haphazardly. In college, I knew I wanted to be a community counselor. “Mary Listens” came to mind, and I bought the domain name. This catchphrase came in handy when I was running for local office, and then I used it when creating my real estate Web site in 2005. People probably don’t use my professional services just because my Web site is MaryListens.com or because my e-mail is MaryListens@gmail.com, but it’s easy to remember and a good conversation starter. It gives me the opportunity to tell clients that I have a master’s degree in psychology and that my business is built around determining clients’ individual needs.

As the real estate market started to tank in 2007, my business kept growing so I added the tagline “Results in Any Market.” That worked really well because I could set myself apart from agents who were having trouble changing with the times. I have also used my “30 Under 30” recognition from REALTOR® Magazine (2007) and my ranking on The Wall Street Journal/Real Trends Top 1000 (No. 99 last year) to give me instant credibility.

No doubt you’ve thought about the skills and accolades that set you apart. But remember that  business success comes from being known as a local market expert and your ability to build strong relationships with clients. My advice: Master the market expertise and people skills before spending too much time on reinvention or brand strategy.

Mary Wallace, 30, is with Coldwell Banker in Oak Lawn, Ill. She closed 213 sales and 59 leases in 2012 for a total sales volume of $25.6 million. So far in 2013, Mary has closed more than 130 sales and 36 leases, exceeding $21 million in closed volume. She is currently serving her second term on the Oak Lawn Park District board.