Real Estate Branding
Realwords (the software that produces real estate advertising copy for industry professionals) is produced by digital advertising agency, We Promote. In our ongoing quest to supply quality marketing information for agents, We Promote brings you this interview with real estate branding expert, Angela Mogridge. This chat is packed full of handy information and quick tips for real estate agents.
But now, on to the interview!
James: Angela, thanks for joining us!
Angela: Thank you! Thanks for having me today.
James: Today Angela and I are going to explore the concept of branding and how consistency is so important for real estate agents. Brand consistency plays a critical role in establishing an agent’s presence both on and offline. Angela, you’re in a lift and you need to convince a real estate agent why they need to worry about branding. Elevator pitch, GO!
Angela: In today’s marketplace, there are more platforms to convey your brand message than ever before – making it even more difficult to remain consistent. From smartphones, apps and mobile websites to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the face of marketing has changed drastically. To give potential buyers and listings a clear depiction of your brand, you must deliver a cohesive message across all advertising channels.
James: Ding! We just made it to the top floor and I am convinced. Okay. So, consistency and branding you’ve just laid it out, why should I do it, that’s bright. Now we all know about real estate branding, tell us about the benefits of branding for a real estate agent.
Angela: Well, real estate is a highly competitive market as we all know and I’m going to go and must stand out and stay top of mind. So those agents with consistent, relatable and personable branding are usually the ones that get the best results.
James: Now you mentioned personable branding, what’s the difference between personable branding and personal branding?
Angela: That’s a really good question. Personable branding relates to how the people can relate to you and the key message that you’re portraying, and personal branding comes down to anything from the way that you present yourself, the way you talk, the way you speak and even what cologne you wear.
James: Oh, okay then. So what else do we need to worry about with the benefits of branding?
Angela: Well bright branding will ensure people will remember you when they need to sell their house and trust you when they’re buying from you which is super important.
James: So talk to us about trust. What’s something that you might do that might ruin that trust?
Angela: Well we’ve all seen some social media mishaps. Everything that you do on social media will be analyzed so people will check you out before they actually interact with you, so make sure that every touch point is building trust and not wrecking trust.
James: Right. Do we have any examples of what a unique voice might be?
Angela: Well, I think an agent really needs to think about how they can stand out and find their unique voice.
James: Okay, and what do you mean by unique voice?
Angela: Just the other day, I saw an agent creating a promotional video in a one-page website, purely to promote himself as the guy to go to for the top end products which makes him unique. If I wanted to buy a top end unit, he’d definitely be the person I’d be willing to go to.
James: Or list a top end unit.
Elements of Branding
James: So okay, real estate branding. What elements would be included under the definition of branding? Because it’s an airy-fairy term bended around, “Oh you’ve got to have branding and branding this and name ID,” but why don’t you tell us what elements are included?
Angela: Real estate branding can relate to any touch point customers would come in to contact with such as deal flyers, newspaper ads, PR stories, billboards, business cards, video presentations and even those “FOR SALE” signs out the front of properties.
James: Okay, so it’s essentially anything that has the real estate agent name, logo, and other key messages on?
Angela: That’s right. So if you covered up certain elements of those marketing collateral pieces, would they all still resonate the same message and communicate the same thing.
James: Are there any other things that we need to think about elements under real estate branding?
Angela: Yes, so once you’ve considered all the touch points, it’s vital to make sure that your key message is clear and concise, and that the marketing collateral’s look and feel is consistent across all those touch points.
James: Alright, now that’s really important, what you’ve just said there because branding doesn’t just have to be words, does it?
Angela: That’s right, branding can also be visual in terms of the colours and the photos as well.
James: So what you’re saying is that you wouldn’t use a colour photo in one thing and a black and white for another or two different photos or anything like that?
Angela: That’s correct.
James: You just want to reinforce that message?
James: Right, okay. Larger agencies have guidelines for their agents, the smaller ones have a little bit more flexibility, doesn’t necessarily mean they should go and have a hundred different things because we’re talking about consistency, so how can agents work within the corporate guidelines set down by the agencies?
Angela: Every real estate agent is a brand within a brand so the good thing about that is the visual hard work is usually done for you by the agency so things such as colour palettes, typeface, logo usage and image styling is already created by the agency.
James: And that would include things such as “Here’s a logo to use on the web, here’s a logo to use in print?”
James: So you don’t use the wrong one in the wrong spot?
Angela: That’s correct.
James: Got you. What else have you got?
Angela: You can also draw upon internal resources within the agencies such as deal flyer templates and other previously created collateral to stick within the constraints of the brand and create the marketing collateral you need easily and efficiently.
James: So let’s just talk about that. Previously they had their deal flyer templates done up, they’ve got brochures if they had a new listing, they drop in the text, they drop in the photos and so on and send it off to their favourite printer but what if they don’t have time to do that themselves?
Angela: Just because the templates are available, doesn’t mean you have to do them yourself. You can contact any graphic design services or design agencies and they can set this up for you.
James: Okay. You’re talking about consistency but then you also said a unique message, what do we do with parameters?
Angela: Well, I would still advise to play within the parameters but have some sort of license to bring out your own personality.
Marketing Budget For Real Estate Agents
James: Okay, that makes sense to me. It’s a competitive game, real estate, most of the time agents aren’t flushed with the extra cash because they work on tight margins, a lot of vendors choose not to want to pay for their marketing, what are some tricks that agents can use for consistent agent branding as opposed to consistent agency branding and from marketing on a budget?
Angela: I think the first step would be to set a marketing budget, most people sort of miss that vital step, so set aside a certain percentage of your income for marketing activities each quarter.
James: So we’re not talking specifically marketing a particular product, we’re talking about ongoing marketing?
Angela: Yes, that’s correct.
James: Could you suggest a percentage or have you seen percentages previously or anything like that?
Angela: I’ve been sort of hearing that the rule of thumb is around about 20% of your income is a good amount to put aside for marketing.
James: Okay, now of course that doesn’t just include advertising, it also includes promotions and material and public relations and so on, doesn’t it?
Angela: Absolutely. So once you’ve set the budget, then work out what marketing activities you can do within this budget. How many flyer drops can you do, what billboards will you do, what other promotions, etc.
Marketing Budget Efficiency
James: Alright. So let’s talk about getting the most bang out of your marketing buck, do you have 4 tips that we can give to real estate agents on getting the most bang for their buck?
Use Agency Staff
Angela: Yeah. I would say utilize your agency’s in-house staff first and foremost. So if you’ve got an in-house PR person, get them to see if they can get you a free newspaper article. My second tip would be utilize social media.
James: Social media have massive potential for real estate agents and it’s very low cost, isn’t it? Can you give us an example of what they might do on social media?
Angela: They can do anything from posting a listing or something that they’ve just sold to–
James: To spread that message?
James: And that should be done basically daily really, shouldn’t it?
James: Yeah, okay. So third tip?
Find An Intern
Angela: University students will sometimes be happy to take on design jobs for free in return for the experience. So if you’re a little bit tight on budget, you could approach a design sector of a university and they might be able to whip up some designs for you.
James: Alright, and you’ve just got to make sure they keep them within your branding consistency guidelines, right?
Angela: That’s right. Absolutely.
James: Don’t let them go off and be little designers coming up with their own creations.
Angela: Yes, you’ll have to be the brand custodian there and direct them as to you see fit.
Use Marketing Spend Wisely
James: Alright now drum roll, what’s the fourth point on how to save money or getting the most bang out of your marketing buck?
Angela: I would say that don’t waste money on things that just really aren’t going to work so really know your area. For example, don’t put a flyer in a letter box saying “list your house” into the letter box of somebody that is renting.
James: Right, of course. So if you’re using Australia Post or Salmat, you don’t really get that option but real estate agents could be doing 400 houses either side of a new listing but what you’re saying is they should do a bit of a reccy on the data that I’ve got available and only letter box drop, only door knock the houses.
Angela: Yes, absolutely. If you have a tight budget you can’t afford wastage.
James: Alright, now we’ve got 4 great tips there and some tricks for consistent branding on a budget, from here, what do they do?
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Angela: Well, the next step would be to think about what that key message is going to be: what images, what photographs, how you’re going to bring it all together.
James: Got you. Angela you’ve been doing this for a long time, you’ve been running Ruby6 for many years now, doing branding and graphic design and so on. You must have seen some great bloopers over the years, do you want to share with us some of the worst mistakes you see agents doing that erode their brand?
Angela: Yeah, absolutely. Unfortunately, we still see a lot of typos going on, low resolution images.
James: Both of which are really easy to fix, aren’t they? I mean, that takes a glance.
Angela: Yeah, it’s just a small end step just make sure you don’t miss that one.
James: Alright, what else?
Angela: We see people forgetting their key messages or call to action. I’ve seen a sign that actually didn’t have a phone number on it, big booby there.
James: That’s a real waste of putting a sign up, isn’t it?
Angela: Absolutely. The other thing is we see marketing collateral that is created for the wrong demographic or marketing to the wrong type of clientele.
James: Give us an example of a good one.
Angela: Recently I saw an agent in Paddington actually who positions himself as the town house specialist which is perfect for that area. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to be doing that if you were sort of in Sydney.
James: Right, because it’s more lodge house for family or something like that.
James: Okay. More bloopers? These are fun.
Angela: I also see people trying to create bit of a quirky point of difference and sometimes they just get a little bit too silly. So don’t be too silly whilst trying to be unique, be true to yourself.
James: Yeah, that’s important, isn’t it?
Angela: So many times you might see an agent out and they might be getting a little bit too boozed and that’s not really a good look.
James: Well, you work hard, you party hard but you’ve got to do it in the right spots, right?
James: Now, larger agencies have things called brand style guides. Small, growing and independent agencies may not have got around to having these developed because they don’t have the staff, so tell us what a brand style guide is and tell us why it can be so effective.
Angela: Sure. A style guide is a document that provides guidelines for the way your real estate brand must be represented. That might include visual styles, rules defining the way the brand will look, as well as language styles influencing the way the brand will sound or read.
James: Okay. How can a brand be influenced by sound and read? Is that just the way you write?
Angela: An example could be don’t write a headline all in capitals, it just makes you look cheap and desperate.
James: Okay, so if you’re positioning yourself as a more boutique agency or higher end, you want to make sure that your writing doesn’t have all caps and as title case or something like that, as an example?
James: Alright, and obviously the rules are intended to ensure that consistency of your presentation so keep going with telling us about a brand style guide.
Angela: If your agency doesn’t already have one, design agencies like ours can create one for you quickly and easily.
James: Okay, and what’s your design agency called?
James: Ruby6, okay good that’s a nice plug. Now let’s go through and talk about some quick wins that agents can have with their marketing. Once they get off the podcast, what can they do in the next 7 days?
Angela: The next 7 days, I would suggest, get that budget and action plan into place. Do a little bit of marketing everyday–
James: Okay, let me stop you there. A little bit of marketing every day, give me one example of something that a real estate agent can do every day?
Angela: Every day I would make sure that at least they would jump on social media and simply just putting a listing up every day or sending an SMS to one of your clients saying “Happy Birthday.”
James: Perfect, I love that.
Angela: I would also suggest to do a campaign such as “Just Listed” or “Just Sold” to stay on top of mind.
James: Tell me what you mean by campaign like that, do you mean they should go and get a deal printed for a house that they’ve just sold and letter box drop it or something else, am I on the right track there?
Angela: Yes, that’s things that I’ve definitely seen before so deal flyers are quite popular, also I’ve been seeing a lot of SMS marketing where I get a text message saying “Just Listed” or “Just Sold” and I think those are quite effective as well.
Angela: As I mentioned earlier, utilize the in-house staff so in-house PR to get some free stories in the newspapers and things like The Village News.
James: But if you don’t have in-house PR, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and do it, it’s not hard to whip up a press release, is it?
Angela: That’s correct. If you can just whip up a really quick press release and they’ll be templates online and submit those into your local newspapers, they’ll more than likely pick them up.
James: You’ve just got to figure out the angle for the newspaper to care about it.
Angela: That’s right, so it comes back to that initial thing of finding your unique voice and key message.
James: Alright, what else can we do in the next 7 days?
Angela: I’ve also seen some agents doing some charity work so that’s sort of a nice way, it’s a win win.
James: Alright, what else can agents do in the next 7 days?
Angela: They could do some charity work.
James: Okay, that’s interesting you should say that. I saw an agency, a couple of weeks ago I think, sponsoring National Tree Day in their area so they were, I assume, buying the plants and even if they didn’t, they had their branding on it so it looked as though they were really helping. Any other examples?
Angela: Yeah, I saw a situation recently where an agent actually donated a coffee machine to a school even including the coffee beans.
James: Why would they do that?
Angela: It had their real estate branding all over it so as all the teachers and the staff in there were making a coffee, they would see the agent’s brand.
James: And I guess if they’ve donated the coffee and the machine and they still charge you for coffee, then the school can use it as a fundraising mechanism.
James: Yeah, that’s pretty smart, I like that. So let’s talk about anything else we’ve got in the next 7 days?
Angela: You can also change your email signature to something a little bit enticing or something that’s relevant to what you’re doing at the moment.
James: So not just have first name, last name, phone number?
James: So while we’re talking about email signatures, why don’t we talk about social media? What do agents need to do for social media in the next 7 days?
Angela: If they don’t already have social media pages set up, a professional agency like ourselves can set those up for them. So another thing to consider is what social media platforms should they be on, there’s no point being on something like Snapchat, for example, for real estate agents.
James: Is Tinder classed as social media?
Angela: Well, I don’t know.
James: We’ll move along for now, what else have we got?
Angela: I would definitely recommend to get out there, word of mouth marketing is free and so important.
James: So word of mouth marketing, as an example, the guy who donated the coffee machine to the school could rack up, and I’m assuming it’s not just in the staff room, on event days they might use it as a fundraiser, so he could rack up 230 on a school day and start handing out brochures to the parents telling them “Hey look, we donated this coffee machine, make sure you use it to its full potential.”
Angela: Yeah absolutely, just tying that all in together and giving him that sort of presence in the area is perfect.
James: Yeah, okay. So I want to throw one in there, why don’t they try and get themselves on a local radio or on a podcast?
Angela: Oh, there you go. Absolutely. It seems like a great way to get their name out there.
James: Yup, now you just got to find the relevant podcast, right?
James: Okay, what else?
Angela: The other simple thing to do is make sure you hand a business card to everybody that you meet.
James: So you should have business card with you no matter where you are?
Angela: All the time. Social events, work events, everywhere. You never know when you’re going to bump into somebody that needs to buy or sell.
James: Alright, now what about signage? Is there anything we can do in the next 7 days for signage or exposure?
Angela: Get some car signage, become a driving billboard. That’s a very, very cost effective way to get out there.
James: Yeah, those cars that have real estate branding all over them really stand out, don’t they?
Angela: Yeah, they really do and I’ve actually grabbed the phone and called them
James: I saw a really cool thing on one of those cars, they had a little plastic container I guess, or tray, sort of double-sided taped to just under the door handle and they had their business cards in them so they wouldn’t fly out while they’re driving but people could come and get one out.
Angela: It’s taking it to the next level.
James: I thought that was really smart.
Angela: That’s great.
James: Yeah. Alright, so we’re coming to the end of our podcast. We’ve talked about why consistency in branding is important. We’ve talked about the elements of branding. We’ve talked about corporate guidelines and how agents can get some free or cheap tricks for consistent branding on a budget. We’ve talked about some bloopers which was fun and gave us some tips moving forward for the next 7 days. If people listening, if the real estate agents listening want to talk to you about some rebranding or corporate guidelines or anything like that, what do you recommend they do?
Angela: I would love to speak to them about that type of stuff so feel free to check out the website at ruby6.com.au or send me a personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James: Great. Now, Angela as we sign off, the quirky fact about you that I’ve found out is that you used to be the lead cellist at school.
Angela: I can’t believe you found that information.
James: Angela Mogridge from Ruby6, thanks so much for joining us here.
Angela: Thanks for having me.
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