We hear a lot of questions like this when we talk to agents about real estate marketing and personal branding:
“How do I advertise myself to potential clients?”
“Should I make a custom logo?”
“What is everyone else doing?”
“How do I stand out from the crowd?”
“I’m not a marketer, how do I even do this?”
You may also be wondering what it even means to market your personal brand- how is that different than just posting on social media or putting your face and phone number on a bus bench?
There are a lot of real estate agents competing to be heard in the digital world and learning how to market yourself will not only help you stand out from the crowd, but you’ll also start attracting and building trust with clients you enjoy working with.
Marketing is about more than just awareness and sharing posts on social media. We’ll discuss what marketing and personal branding mean and share our secret marketing weapon with you so you can start marketing yourself as a real estate agent like a pro.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is persuading someone to take action or make a change by telling them a story. That action could be purchasing a product, subscribing to a podcast, signing up for a service or choosing to work with a real estate agent. Marketing your personal brand is showing people how you can solve their problem by telling your story. Clients don’t work with your company, they work with you. So how are you marketing yourself?
“Marketers make things better by making change happen.”
We’re not talking about making yourself a logo and putting it on a billboard. There’s a lot more to it! Marketing is not advertising and agents should learn to market themselves beyond just using a logo. To successfully do that, agents should be able to build a brand that tells their story.
You don’t have to be an expert marketer to learn how to attract an audience, tell your story, and generate clients. In fact, many of our agents do not think of themselves as marketers. But we have a secret weapon that we share with our agents to educate and empower them to market themselves. We want to share it with you.
The Marketing Book Every Real Estate Agent Should Read
Seth Godin is the author of 19 international bestselling books about business, marketing, education and leadership. Godin is the former vice president of direct marketing for Yahoo and has more than 30 years of experience in helping businesses and entrepreneurs around the world make positive change and connect with each other.
‘This is Marketing’ is Seth Godin’s definitive overview of marketing- the definition, principle tenets, real-world examples of good (and bad) marketing, and realistic advice for building your own marketing strategy.
We recommend this book for one simple reason: it really helps real estate agents understand their personal brand and how to effectively market themselves.
The 6 Most Effective Real Estate Marketing Tactics for You
Below you’ll find the six most important points the book makes about marketing with actionable steps for you to take. We’ll also share how agents can use these to create a personal brand and start building an effective real estate marketing strategy.
1. Seek the smallest viable market.
If we asked you who you want to target with your marketing, would your answer be ‘everyone’? It’s a pretty common answer because most agents don’t want to exclude anyone who could be a potential client. But in today’s crowded digital landscape, it’s just not effective to hope everyone and anyone hears you.
“The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average…it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone. It leads to compromises and generalizations.”
It’s impossible to serve everyone and trying to appeal to the mass market will only result in an average product. Your efforts are better served by determining the minimum number of people you need to influence to make your efforts worth it (the smallest viable market) and then grow from there.
Your Action Steps
1. Be very specific about the change you are trying to make and who you’re trying to change. Always ask yourself two questions: Who are your clients and what problem are you trying to solve for them?
2. Identify your main client base and keep your marketing efforts focused on them and the problem you’re attempting to solve. Are you mainly working with first-time homebuyers who need an experienced guide to answer their questions and help them achieve their dreams of homeownership? Perhaps your clients tend to be older retirees ready to sell the family home and downsize. Or maybe you work with growing families who are ready to upgrade to a bigger home. Whatever your audience, keep your services and marketing focused on their specific needs.
When you’re specific about who you’re trying to serve and what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s easier to measure your efforts, and finetune your services and marketing messaging.
This kind of focused approach to marketing sets you up for success.
2. Segment your audience into tribes.
Godin continues to emphasize the importance of identifying specific audiences by discussing the creation of “tribes.” You can use the concept of tribes to group clients based on their shared dreams, goals, interests and languages. You’re essentially using psychographics to better identify clients rather than demographics.
For example, instead of targeting all 25-35 year-olds in a specific city as potential clients, seek out first-time buyers dreaming of achieving homeownership who need an experienced agent to help guide them.
Defining your tribe by psychographics instead of demographics gives you insight into potential clients’ worldviews. Once you understand your tribe’s worldviews, it’s easier to understand their motives, desires and the problem they need you to solve. So if your main tribe consists of first-time buyers, focus your time and effort on reaching them and position yourself as an experienced agent who can help them achieve their goals.
Remember, people love to connect with other people who share similar interests. Godin refers to this feeling of unity as “people like us do things like this.” Use this as your guide to understanding the culture of your tribe.
Not everyone is going to want your product, in this case your services as an agent. Don’t waste your time trying to reach the “non-believers”- you won’t change them. You’re not appealing to everyone because mass is average. Focus on your specific tribes and what you can do to reach them.
Your Action Steps
1. Sit down and determine what tribes your audience members belong to. Go through your roster of clients and the clients you want to reach and figure out what their commonalities are. What are their worldviews? What do they dream about? Do they all share the same problem? What challenges are they facing?
2. Create personas based on these characteristics. A persona is a fictional person with all the characteristics of a specific audience you’re trying to reach.
For example, you could have Jane the First-Time Buyer. She’s 30, lives in an apartment downtown and is ready to start looking for her first home in the suburbs. She needs an experienced agent who can guide her through the process, anticipate problems she might encounter and help her achieve her goal of homeownership.
Hubspot offers a free tool to help you build a buyer persona so you can better understand your audience and effectively market to them. You can find it here.
Each of your tribes could have one or two personas to represent the characteristics and worldviews of the tribe’s members. This will help you piece together exactly who makes up your tribes, what their needs are and what you can do to earn their attention (and their business).
Shun the nonbelievers and focus your marketing efforts on the people who make up your tribes. They’re the ones you’re going to be most successful in reaching.
3. You can win by understanding your clients.
It’s easy enough these days to get your message out into the world. Social advertising is cheaper than ever and anyone can pay for Facebook ads or buy ad space in the local paper. Don’t waste your time fighting for space in a crowded ad landscape without taking the time to understand who your ads are reaching.
Once you’ve segmented your audience into tribes, you should have a clear picture of your audience’s needs, desires and motivations. What are they looking for? How will you provide a solution to their real estate problem?
Everyone has a narrative in their head that they use to navigate the world. What is your tribe’s narrative? “It doesn’t make any sense to make a key and then run around looking for a lock to open,” Godin says in ‘This is Marketing.’ “The only productive solution is to find a lock and then fashion a key.”
Your Action Step
1. Instead of trying to persuade people to listen to you by reading your ad or clicking a link to your site, try listening to them instead. Find out what makes them tick and what motivates them to work with one agent over another and then tailor your services and marketing to meet those standards.
Case Study: VisionSpring
Godin presents a case study that illustrates this in action.
VisionSpring is an organization that provides reading glasses at a low cost to people in underdeveloped communities who don’t have access to them.
In the case study, Godin recalls travelling to a poor village in India and setting up a table in the middle of the village to display all the style options for the glasses they were selling. All the villagers had to do was take a quick eye test, try on a sample pair of glasses and take the test again with the glasses on. Then they could pick out the style of glasses they wanted from 10 different options and only pay $3 for a new pair of glasses.
Only one third of the villagers who took the eye test bought a pair of glasses. Godin and the VisionSpring team were mystified- why would these villagers pass on the option to buy something they needed at such a low price? What were they doing wrong?
The answer turned out to be simple and once Godin put it into action their sales immediately doubled.
He took all of the glasses off the table.
Anyone thereafter who took the test and tried on the sample glasses were told “Here are your new glasses. If you like them, please pay us $3. If you don’t want them, give them back.”
These villagers had spent most of their lives living in poverty and didn’t shop for fun like we might. We’re used to browsing through the options in a store and taking a risk by spending money on something new because we know it doesn’t hurt us if the risk doesn’t work in our favor. Godin calls this desire for gain vs. avoidance of loss.
Godin and the VisionSpring team didn’t understand their clients at first. They couldn’t believe that a community so desperately in need of something as necessary as glasses wouldn’t take the opportunity to buy them. They needed to understand the villagers better and change the story VisionSpring was telling to appeal to the villagers’ worldview.
4. Marketing reaches people when it tells a story.
Remember when we said marketing is persuading people to take action by telling a story? Without a cohesive narrative, your marketing won’t effectively persuade people to use your services. Once you’ve defined your audience and tribes and discovered their worldviews, it’s time to tell a story that impacts their feelings and aligns with their values.
Why? People are more inclined to work with other people who think and believe what they think and believe (“people like us do things like this”). In fact, Godin says a good story “connects to our vision, reinforces core values and attracts customers who think like you do.” The team at VisionSpring had to tell a story that aligned with the villagers’ beliefs and lifestyles before they could successfully sell them glasses. Your narrative has to appeal to the audience you’re trying to reach and creatively reinforce the stories they tell themselves.
Take your audience on a journey with your storytelling using empathy and appeals to their feelings.
Your Action Step
1. What story is your audience telling themselves already? If your clients are retirees ready to sell the family home and downsize to a lakeside condo to start living the good life- there’s your story! You just need to use empathy and creativity to tell it in such a way that it appeals to people who have never heard of you before.
Your potential clients aren’t dreaming of finding a real estate agent, they’re dreaming of living out their golden years on the lake. Take them on a journey with your marketing: show them how your services as an agent will help them achieve their dream of lakeside living.
Identify the underlying human desires your clients have and tell a narrative that shows them how you can help them fulfill them.
5. What is your brand?
Everyone has a brand, whether you realize it or not. But your brand isn’t your name, your logo, your website, your social media or even the fact that you’re a real estate agent. Godin defines your brand as your promise to clients- what can they expect from you?
“If you want to build a marketing asset, you need to invest in connection and other non transferable properties. If people care, you’ve got a brand.”Seth Godin
When you tell a story to clients about the problems you can solve for them, you’re making them a promise. In order to build a brand, you have to make a promise, keep it and then keep doing it over and over again until people start to recognize you. You’re competing for your audience’s attention against a lot of distractions. Rather than contributing to the noise, try to stand out by consistently delivering on your promise to provide a valuable real estate experience for your clients. How are you helping them realize their dreams and desires?
Your Action Step
1. Deliver results and tell the story so potential clients can hear it. Keep doing this over and over until people realize that you will always meet (and exceed) their expectations. Your past clients will become dedicated fans who will stick with you because they know what to expect. They may even spread the word about you to the people they know (other members of the tribe).
Marketing your brand relies on emotional connections, rather than material things like a limited-time offer or sale. People are savvy about filtering out marketing that doesn’t appeal or apply to them.
Effectively marketing your brand means delivering on the promises you make them and sharing the results in a story that aligns with your audience’s values and emotions.
6. You can be a marketer.
You may have gotten all the way to the end of this article and still think ‘But I’m not a marketer! How do I do any of this?’
The good news is you don’t have to be a professional marketer to build your brand and tell your story. Build a business that you’re proud of, one that provides amazing experiences to clients trying to fulfill their dreams of homeownership. Provide value to your clients over and over again until your work speaks for itself. Then share those results with the people in your tribe so they can see exactly what your brand is and how it relates to them.
You don’t need years of real estate marketing experience, a marketing degree or a fancy logo to effectively market yourself. If you’re committed and creative, you can make change happen.
These six points just scratch the surface of what you can learn by reading ‘This is Marketing.’ We believe it will make a significant difference in the way you run your business and market yourself as a real estate agent. You’ll see your clients as members of a tribe who share similar dreams, ideologies and beliefs which will in turn make it easier for you to market to potential clients who share those same ideas.
You don’t have to be a professional marketer to find this book a helpful resource. In fact, we think it will help any agent learn exactly who makes up their tribe and how to tell them a story that resonates and communicates your solutions. What’s your promise to clients and how will you tell them a story?