When you think about a brand, the first thing that pops into most people’s minds are companies like McDonalds, Coca Cola, Apple, WalMart, and to get some Canadian content, CIBC, Air Canada, Canadian Tire, and Blackberry. Your first reaction is to not think of yourself as a brand, but really not much is different between those large mega-companies and your own start-up business.
When I got started as a realtor, I knew from the beginning, what differentiates successful realtors from fledgling realtors was awareness. I spoke to a number of veteran “middle of the road” realtors and asked what made them different and they proudly stated that they offered quality customer service. The problem is, typically customer service cannot be measured. Besides, EVERY realtor claims they provide top notch customer service. Heck, even the FSBO and mere posting companies advertise they offer quality support and customer service. Whether you think this way or not, if customer service is your only advantage, you really don’t have anything.
Yes, some investors or realtors eventually earn a reputation after years of quality customer service and that can lead to a decent living. But I don’t want to wait around a decade and decent just ain’t good enough for me.
Because of that, you need to create and constantly be improving your brand. The obvious way is spending big bucks on advertising, but if your brand isn’t that strong it is hard to sustain that growth, plus it is awfully expensive.
In the real estate sector, growth can come from enhancing your education. But other less obvious ways that may you a better brand include writing articles on different sources (blogs, magazines, newspapers, etc), doing speaking engagements. In short, you need to become recognized as an expert in your field.
I really like how Thomas Beyer puts it in his book, 80 Lessons Learned. He says it is like a circle you create a better product, then you can create better marketing, which creates more leads / inquiries, which creates more sales, which will generate higher revenue / profit, which allows you to create an even better product which starts the circle all over again.
I personally feel you need to start that cycle with better products in order to sustain growth. Remember, that cycle can always start to go in the negative if you don’t continue to improve your product.
If I can offer two suggestions to realtors or investors just starting out is to #1, work on your brand. Make yourself better. But then, #2, don’t avoid marketing yourself even though you are not the expert you wish to one day be. Get out there and promote yourself and start that cycle going.
The Thomas Beyer of today with 1000+ doors is a much more polished investor than the one just starting out. One term he refers to regularly in his book is “kaizon”. It is Japanese for “good change” or “small but continuous and steady improvement”. I’d never heard of that term before, but I suppose in my time in this business, I’ve tried to do just that.
This year, I am taking some of my own advice and will be spending more time and money marketing myself then ever before. I will be getting a booth at the Investor’s Forum in Toronto in March 2014, I am continuing to improve this website, I will be increasing the number of club investor meetings I will attend, and I will be trying to do more speaking engagements and articles published going forward.
It is difficult to know ahead of time what single event builds your business. But overall, I think it is obvious this activity will create more contacts and generate more leads. The cycle Beyer wrote about will keep rolling along.