Having a real estate license means that you can practice your profession, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that customers will be knocking down your door to work with you. There are more than 100,000 REALTORS in Texas, which makes finding new clients extremely competitive. Every agent — even if on a team — is responsible for his or her own success. That’s why branding is so crucial. For real estate professionals, it’s the best way to differentiate oneself from all the other agents out there and attract new clients.

Of course, before tackling a branding strategy, REALTORS need to have a foundation in place. That means maintaining a professionally designed website. Having a blog helps, too, because it can help the site rise higher in search rankings faster.

As far as marketing materials go, diversity is the name of the game. Real estate branding experts suggest distributing printed brochures at open house events, using lawn signs and starting social media accounts on all the platforms home buyers use early in real estate transactions, including Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

One strategy that’s either innovative or common sense, depending on your point of view, is to train customers to associate a brand with specific specialties and expertise. For example, on marketing materials, and especially online, agents should identify the geographical areas and types of transactions they specialize in. According to the Logo Company’s Real Estate Branding Guide, 69 percent of home buyers who use the internet for research start their search by Googling the name of the city or neighborhood they’re interested in.

Here’s why content is important for real estate branding. During a one-week period in mid-June, according to Google Trends, several dozen users searched “homes for sale Texas Hill Country.” A website, regardless of the agent’s reputation or knowledge of a particular zip code, will only come up in a web search for this phrase if there’s an SEO strategy to compete for that specific search term. And more than just SEO, blogging is a proven way to attract new business. According to a HubSpot marketing report, about 80 percent of consumers feel more positive about brands that publish content.

Branding is also about promoting a well-rounded persona. Candace Comer has been an Austin REALTOR for two years and is an agent with Compass. She started her career working in artistic fields like the music industry and fashion footwear. After getting her real estate license, Comer quickly found that those earlier gigs prepared her well for her new career.

“I learned that marketing and branding is core to presenting a product,” says Comer. It doesn’t matter if the product is a band, artist, fashion label or a house. “In my mind, as a real estate agent, I’m essentially a product. I have value and if I want to engage customers and grow my customer base, I need to find a way to present my brand in a way I’ll be remembered.”

So Comer developed a persona that she could use to promote herself as a product. “In my personal life I value social justice, economic equality and inclusivity,” said Comer. “So I carried my personal values over to my professional persona, specifically on my social media.”

There’s an analog component to branding, too. Many older and more established agencies are drawn to traditional approaches. JB Goodwin, REALTORS, is a perfect example. The 50-year-old real estate firm has a reputation for being stable and trustworthy, a message that’s reflected across their branding efforts.

Tony Zavaleta, JB Goodwin’s director of marketing and communications, says, “What we strive for in all of our branding efforts is for clients to think of us as friends they can count on.” So while they do utilize social media and digital platforms, JB Goodwin customers are particularly receptive to traditional promotional methods. That might not sound very innovative, but catering to what your customers want is the most important thing. When you experiment with your brand, you might attract some new clients, but you risk losing loyal customers too.

Zavaleta adds that team members are encouraged to develop their own voice and place in the market. “We believe there’s a balance to be found there,” he says. “Think of it as a sweet spot.” And because JB Goodwin is already such a familiar brand in the real estate market, the company wants its agents to leverage the brand and brand materials in their own promotional efforts. For REALTORS just starting out and those who don’t have a lot of marketing experience, access to an established brand persona like JB Goodwin’s is a huge advantage. It’s an instant boost of credibility.

There is a time and place for experimentation. Like when a business decides to rebrand. One of the most exciting rebranding initiatives in the real estate market was Austin Board of REALTORS’ “Be a Member” campaign. In January 2019, the association had just undergone big structural changes. Emily Chenevert, the new CEO at the time, along with the board, wanted to communicate that ABoR was shedding its reputation as a staid and uninspired association. The campaign launched with a video titled “We’re done with this Sh*t” and included a link to a new recruitment website. As soon as the video dropped, so did jaws. “The video went viral with over 10,000-plus views in a matter of days,” says Chenevert. “And it was shared by more than 40 associations across the country.” Chenevert received countless compliments when she featured the video in presentations at multiple conferences. “Our goal was to dramatically shift the way we engage our members using a fresh bold voice and tone,” says Chenevert. It worked. The campaign doubled ABoR’s average engagement numbers and led to the development of a new member engagement structure. “Our membership loved it,” Chenevert adds, “because we spoke to them like people who are members of our community.”

And that’s a sentiment that goes back to Comer’s branding strategy and why it works. Customers want to do business with brands that demonstrate beliefs in similar values.

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