Make Your Personal Mark

What sets you apart in this business? Play it up.

July 11, 2013

When people seek out a real estate agent today, it’s not because they can’t get information on their own, says Patricia Martin, author of RenGen: The Rise of the Cultural Consumer—and What It Means to Your Business. It’s because they’re looking for a connection they can trust, she says.

Branding yourself can be a powerful way to demonstrate trust, says Debbie Millman, president of the design group at Sterling Brands in New York.

Socrates Knew It

A personal brand, like a brokerage brand, defines your business around a set of values that appeal to clients.  Establishing your personal brand starts with an idea that dates back at least to the ancient Greek mantra, “Know thyself.”

“You’re trying to convey a message about you,” says Millman.  That means identifying a niche or expertise that differentiates you—and the more passionate you are about it, the better.

“Why are you selling houses, as opposed to driving a bus or teaching third-graders?” she asks. “You need to be able to identify and articulate why you’re passionate about your work. If you can’t, maybe you shouldn’t be selling real estate.”

To bring focus to your passion, think about your skills, says Bruce Tait, founding partner of Tait Subler, a branding consultancy in Minneapolis. Do you have an eye that lets you see the bones of a house and its potential? Can you size people up well and know what they want or need? Identify that thing you do better than just about anyone else. That way, you’ll be able to  speak with conviction about why buyers and sellers should work with you. “Talk to others you have done business with, and ask them what they think your strengths are,” Tait suggests. “If you hear something that rings true to you, you’re probably close.”

Market trends also play a role. For example, “solo living is huge and getting bigger every year,” says Martin. (According to the 2010 Census, 27 percent of U.S. adults live alone.)  “That’s important for someone selling real estate to understand. Ask, ‘What does that mean to me? Is there something there I can offer?’”

Own Your Image

You don’t have to be a shameless self-promotor to make sure your branding is visible online wherever you are. Start with a Google search, says Ernie Graham, senior director of product management at Move Inc., which operates®.  “Your prospects are Googling you,” he says. “Do it yourself and find out what they’re seeing about you.” Graham’s research shows 75 percent of click-throughs come from the top five or six Google returns. So what’s showing up  in your top five? An empty profile picture? Nonexistent or outdated company information? Fill out online profiles on those top sites where your name pops up. A blank profile means prospects are “bouncing”—moving on to somewhere, and someone, else.

Rather than ignore third-party listing aggregators, use them to get your information out to prospects and clients. “Make sure all roads lead to you,” Graham says.

“If that site ranks No. 2 when you Google yourself, don’t close your eyes and pretend it’s not there.” And be sure to claim and populate your profile on®, a site with more than 50 million monthly visits, to avoid losing out on untold free client referrals.

Be Consistent and Real

It’s best to use the same branding message across all platforms, from social media sites to your paperwork. Inconsistencies diminish the brand’s power. They make people step back and reconsider. Remember, says Martin, everything communicates your brand. “What you are wearing, what you are driving, every piece of paper, every photograph, every place you do or do not have a presence,” she says.

If you are positioning yourself to take advantage of consumers’ growing interests in energy-efficient homes and green materials, “don’t pull up in a Hummer,” she says. “Drive a hybrid.”

Use a professional photo for your social media, advertising, and marketing. Make sure it’s a current photo, not one that’s years out of date. Clients notice, and they are less apt to trust someone who’s not honest about their appearance, Graham says.

Having a personal Web site strengthens your credibility. If you don’t have one,® and other providers offer free personal sites. “Link to it from every social media site and online profile,” Graham says. And be sure your site is mobile-enabled; a growing percentage of search traffic comes from mobile devices.

“Real estate has incredible opportunities for those who set parameters about how they do business and what they will and won’t do,” Martin says. “That’s called making a brand promise.” The key is not to promise what you can’t deliver: There’s no forgiveness for a broken brand promise, she says.