Real Estate Branding: How to Stand Out from Every Agent in Your Market

You’re doing and saying everything an agent is supposed to do and say. Problem is, all the other agents in your market are doing the same stuff. Everyone’s swimming in a sea of sameness.

“There are too many agents and brokers out there not to always be differentiating,” says Brian Boero, CEO and co-founder of 1000watt, a marketing and creative agency that works exclusively with real estate clients.

Today on The Walkthrough, Brian shows you how to develop a point-of-view and separate yourself from the crowd. He shares the one question to ask yourself to start the process of becoming a brand and, more importantly, the kind of agent that people remember when it’s time to buy or sell.

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Links and Show Notes

Full Transcript

(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host) Pretend for a moment that you need to choose a lawyer. You’ve been hurt in an accident and you don’t know who to call. So you visit their websites, you read their reviews and testimonials, you check out what they say on social media, but it’s tough because they all sound the same. “We’re proud of our record-setting results. We fight for our clients’ interests. We’re with you from beginning to end.”

(Sound: snoring)

Nothing against lawyers, but that’s boring. How do you tell them apart? How do you choose a lawyer when they all sound the same?

You guys, that applies to real estate, too. How can a buyer or seller tell you apart from any other agent in your market? What should you be doing right now to stand out from your peers? Answers are straight ahead from one of the most distinctive voices in real estate marketing today.

This is The Walkthrough.

(INTRO MUSIC)

Hey everyone, how are you? I’m Matt McGee, editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. On this show, you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. And we believe that by helping agents like you be even better at serving your clients, the entire industry improves. If you’d like to reach me with feedback, ideas, or questions about The Walkthrough, send an email to walkthrough@ [at] homelight.com. And breaking news! We also have a new Google Voice number just for this podcast. You can call and contribute to future shows by leaving a voicemail. I’ll give out the number after today’s conversation and invite you to send in questions for one of our upcoming guests. Sneak peek, it’s one of the top coaches in the industry.

Before we launched The Walkthrough, I made a list of guests that I wanted to have on the show. One name on the list was actually a company, 1000watt. I’d been reading their weekly email newsletter for a few months and was super impressed. They have a point of view. They don’t sound like every other marketing agency out there. In other words, they have a brand. There are thousands of agencies in the U.S. but there’s only 1000watt.

Wouldn’t it be great if buyers and sellers said the same thing about you? There are hundreds or thousands of real estate agents in your market, but there’s only one Sam or Sally or Jessica or David. How great would that be? Here’s the cool thing — the way they did it is the same way you can do it.

1000watt works exclusively in real estate with teams, brokerages and even some of the big platform vendors. They’ve been around since 2006 and have built a brand with a great reputation.

On today’s show, I’m visiting with Brian Boero. He’s the co-founder and CEO of 1000watt. Brian’s in the trenches with their clients and he says, agents, have a unique opportunity right now to separate yourself from all the sameness in real estate. Grab a pen or whatever you use for notes and listen for Brian to talk about

  • the question that will differentiate yourself from other agents
  • his thoughts on bad real estate ads and memes, and
  • what agents can learn from Uber and other brands that are getting it right and wrong right now

Are you ready to learn how to brand yourself to make it easy for buyers and sellers to tell you apart from all the other agents in your market? Here’s my conversation with Brian Boero of 1000watt.

(BEGIN CONVERSATION)

Matt: Early on when this pandemic first hit, I heard someone say — I’m not positive who it was, I think it might’ve been Tom Ferry, so I want to give credit where it’s due if that was him — but the quote was, What you do now during this crisis will determine your brand. I’m sort of paraphrasing there, but the point was in a time like this, you sort of reveal who you are. Do you agree with that?

Brian: Yeah, I agree. Right now, if you are a real estate practitioner, whether you’re an agent or broker, you’re running a team, what have you, I think that people are not only scrutinizing what you’re saying and doing and not doing more than they normally are, but they are listening. You have their attention. We wrote a blog post a few weeks ago to that effect.

Right now, people are listening. You have their attention. If you have something smart to say, it will hit them and you will realize the benefit of having said something smart. If you are marketing in a frivolous way or a tone-deaf way or otherwise acting like a bozo, that will hurt you more than it would before. So this is an important moment when you have people’s attention for better or for worse. It’s an opportunity to make the most of.

Matt: I’m seeing that in certain parts of the country, there’s this concept of reopening and real estate agents in some parts of the country are able to do more than real estate agents in other parts of the country. In some parts of the country, we’re two to three months into this situation, in other parts we’re maybe a month just depending upon what has happened in your state or your county. If an agent has not really taken that message to heart, is it too late to start right now?

Brian: No, because the uncertainty has not abated as you just said, Matt. We don’t really have a greater sense of clarity about the future now than we did a month or two ago. Sure, we may be in different stages of shelter in place or different stages of emerging from shelter in place, but the questions remain, if I’m a seller, what can I do and not do? What about people coming through my house? How do I price my home given this situation? If I’m a buyer, is it a good time to buy a house? If I decide to buy a house, I’m hearing lots of crazy things about the mortgage market, will I be able to get a loan to buy that house? So no, I don’t think it’s too late because all of those questions and all of that uncertainty remains and I think the uncertainty is gonna be with us unfortunately for a long time to come.

Matt: If I am an agent, what am I doing with those questions knowing that I am getting the same questions from people in my market? Is that that’s what I’m supposed to be answering on my Facebook Live videos, on my blog, on my agent website, that sort of thing?

Brian: Short answer, yes. Here’s a really simple exercise to answer that question of, “Hey jeez, what do I say now? What is marketing now? What do I put on Facebook or Instagram or in my drip email campaigns now?” Pretty straightforward. So you’re out there dealing with clients, people in your sphere, prospects, you’re talking to buyers, sellers, owners, renters. You’re hearing the same questions over and over again. So write them down.

What are the top five questions you’re hearing from people who are interested in buying? What are the top five questions you’re hearing from people who are thinking about selling? Write them down, write out clear, concise, honest, candid answers to all of those things and you have now your social campaign, your email plan, your newsletter for the next month.

So you’re creating a feedback loop. You’re out there talking to people, you’re hearing the same questions, you’re answering those questions in a one-on-one context, now you have a chance to answer those questions at scale publicly. People are gonna react to your answers. You’re gonna get new questions. So you create this feedback loop where if you want to be attuned to what people that want to hear, you listen, you answer, you listen more, you answer. It’s not rocket science in my mind. It’s simply being attuned to your customer or your prospect.

Matt: And is that the first step if an agent is thinking, I want to define who I am during this pandemic, I want to brand myself better, is that the first step towards doing that?

Brian: I think it’s the first step towards doing that absolutely, but you have to answer those questions well. You can answer those questions ambiguously or evasively or without a great deal of thought and actually harm your brand. I’m assuming this, you know, you’re gonna be intelligent and forthright in your responses. So, you know, I’ve always said Matt, that the essence of marketing, and I’ve said this elsewhere, I’ve said this for 10 years, the essence of marketing is doing or saying what your competitors are unwilling to say or unable to do and therein lies differentiation.

Matt: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a second. Listeners, did you hear that? I’m interrupting the conversation after the fact because I should have interrupted Brian right at this point and asked him to repeat what he just said. It’s so important. So let’s hear that one more time.

Brian: The essence of marketing is doing or saying what your competitors are unwilling to say or unable to do and therein lies differentiation.

Matt: That is such an important point. I’m gonna say it again — the essence of marketing is doing or saying what your competitors are unwilling to say or unable to do, and therein lies differentiation. If you take only one thing away from this episode, that quote is it right there. So I had to jump in after the fact and make sure you caught that. Fortunately Brian had all kinds of great ideas and wisdom to share so let’s get back to the conversation. We’ll pick it up right where we left off with Brian talking about what to say now to separate yourself from other agents.

Brian: So your answer to those questions need to reflect your own point of view, your own research on the marketing, your own voice. How are you gonna address those questions and concerns in a way that distinguishes you?

Matt: That sounds familiar. I believe you wrote a blog post talking about point of view. This is — the beginning of having a point of view is knowing, asking yourself what can we say that no one else is saying in our market?

Brian: Absolutely. There are 1.4 million Realtors in the United States, all of whom are now chasing about 50% fewer transactions because of the situation we’re in. Differentiating yourself is absolutely imperative. You have to say something different, smarter, better, more insightful, more emotionally resonant than the next guy or gal. You have to. Right now what the world probably needs to hear from you is did my house just decline 20% in value because of this? What is your best answer to that question? What is it that you’re able to say that nobody else is gonna be able to say? So stay on target, stay in your lane. When you go outside of your lane, that’s where you tend to see people making mistakes and stepping in it and doing stuff that’s like, oh God, no, no, that doesn’t sound right. That doesn’t feel right for right now.

Matt: What are some things that in your mind and with the clients you’re working with are things that just don’t sound or feel right right now?

Brian: I think the notion of self-celebration is probably something to be wary of right now. A lot of real estate agent marketing for decades has been sort of around this projection of success, which is okay. If you’re doing good work, if you’re selling lots of homes, you want to project that success into the world. Success, self-celebration, your personal prosperity may not be the best angle of approach given the times.

So let’s say you just sold a lovely listing and happened to get asking price or over asking price and just did a really great job on it. Maybe rather than, you know, using that as an opportunity to celebrate yourself, maybe you write the story of how that transaction came together given all of the challenges that were thrown in front of you to the extent that your sellers were willing to share part of their story, share their story.

That’s just something that may strike you as a completely ridiculous idea but this is what I’m getting at when I say do things that are different. So if you were the listing agent, you sell this listing, you did that in partnership with a buyer’s agent, you co-broker that deal with somebody else. Maybe you want to weave them into the conversation and have them contribute to the story of that homeless soul. Now, is that unusual? Would you ever do it before? Maybe not. I think what now is is an opportunity to break old patterns and question old assumptions about how you tell your story and how you market and how you communicate what achievement and success looks as a real estate professional.

Matt: So in that case, the agent is basically recognizing that we’re in an unusual circumstance. The fact that I just closed this house this weekend wasn’t all my work. This was a partnership and a cooperation between my client, the other agent, their client, and let’s recognize that it was everyone’s work that got this done, not just me.

Brian: Yes. That feels to me like it’s more appropriate for the mood of the times. It’s also a story. When you send out that postcard that says, just sold 20% over asking, 15 offers, that’s great. That’s great. It shows that you do a good job and you may do a good job for somebody else, pretty basic, but it doesn’t allow you to tell a story. And we as human beings are in our sort of primordial brains wired to be drawn to stories. So every sale is an opportunity to tell a story.

Matt: When you talk about this idea of having a point of view and differentiating yourself, what if we’re afraid that our point of view is going to turn some people away?

Brian: Your point of view should turn some people away. If you try to appeal to everybody, you’re gonna appeal to the far fewer people than you would if you actually took a stand and had a point of view. Does everybody like Harley Davidson as a brand? Does everybody like a certain clothing brand? Does everybody go for the same restaurant? No. People are drawn to things that actually create, to a certain extent, a feeling of difference. Not all of us want to drive a Honda Civic, right? Some of us, you know, want to drive a Ford Mustang or an Audi. You’re never gonna succeed trying to appeal to everybody.

Matt: Is there a chance though that you can take that too far? Like you’re not suggesting that our point of view venture into politics or venture into the debate over should we stay locked down or should we reopen. Where do you draw that line?

Brian: Oh, I don’t think you want to go there. I’m simply talking about what type of real estate professional it is. What’s your worldview? What do you believe as a real estate professional about the way real estate should be done, how buyers and sellers should be treated? How people should view this momentous decision in their lives? No, I absolutely do not think you should be talking about or wading into the political fray and the course if you’re real estate marketing, I think that would be an ill-advised decision.

(BREAK: Hi, everyone. If you’re enjoying The Walkthrough, we’d appreciate it if you tell the real estate agents in your network about us. Even more, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. Your feedback helps us get better and in some cases can also help new listeners find and here us. And when we get around to having you on the show, the more listeners the better, right?)

Matt: Inside or outside of real estate, are there any examples you can think of of agents or brands, big or small or whatever, marketing you’ve seen, whether it be TV, commercials, radio, whatever, who’s getting it right right now in your mind?

Brian: There are two real estate companies, one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast that have done versions of the same thing. And that is to daily give people a capsule snapshot look at what is happening and not happening in their market. Here are the number of new listings that were signed in the last 24 hours. Here are the number of sales that went pending. Here are the number of deals that fell out of contract day by day by day. People’s desire to know what happened over the previous day when they wake up in the morning whether you’re an agent or whether you’re a consumer is almost insatiable right now. So whether you’re doing that on Facebook or whether you’re sending out an email newsletter, however, you’re doing that, just feeding people what’s happening now as regularly and as clearly and as simply as possible is a good way to approach this.

If you try to follow what you see out there in the culture, you end up kind of being lumped with everything. I saw a YouTube video last week where somebody made a parody of basically all of these COVID-themed television commercials basically regressed into being the same commercial. For as well-intentioned as they are, they all kind of start with the same somber piano music, the same visuals of the same people doing the same sorts of things and the same spirit, and at that point, it becomes…it ceases to lose meaning. So do what you’re able to do, which is tell your people in your market, in your subdivision, in your neighborhood, here’s what’s happening now.

Matt: An example that I love and I wonder if you love it as well and it’s okay if you don’t, Brian, and this is outside real estate, have you seen the TV commercial that Uber is running where it’s scenes from the front lines. It’s all the first responders, you know, it’s people, you know, it comes across very genuine and I wouldn’t expect this from Uber, just knowing the history that they’ve had and some of the struggles that they’ve had. But then it ends with this — the tagline is something like, “thank you for not using Uber right now.”

And I thought that was a really good way to put themselves into the conversation and say, this is not the time for you to be using our service. What are your thoughts just based on the way I’ve described it? It’s probably not as good as the actual commercial, but what are your thoughts on that kind of thing?

Brian: Okay. So that’s an example of saying something that when I said marketing was saying what your competitors are unwilling to say or doing what they’re unable of doing…unable to do. So Uber said don’t use our service. That’s a hard thing for any business to say and it’s likely something that Lyft hasn’t said or any of the other smaller ride-sharing companies if there are any really, have said. So, yes, I think that that’s an example of playing against type, doing something or saying something you never would have said under normal circumstances and that’s the type of stuff that sticks.

It’s like five years ago, Patagonia ran a campaign where they basically took out full-page ads in major newspapers with a picture of a jacket, one of their puffy jackets and they said, don’t buy this jacket. And what they were doing was they were making a point about sustainability and how we have come to view clothes as disposable. And their idea was if you have a Patagonia jacket, don’t buy a new one, just repair it or keep using it. And in so doing, Patagonia has built a brand that is based around sustainability in a way that’s really meaningful to people. So yeah, I think that’s a great example of doing something different.

Matt: Yeah, I think I like that. And you’re right. I don’t think I’ve seen any other…I certainly haven’t seen Lyft do it and that’s what made it stand out to me. On the flip side, and I worry slightly about asking you to call people out, so if you want to like maybe…it’s up to you if you want to call them out or not, but are there any that are getting it wrong in your mind right now? Who’s not doing it the way they should be doing it?

Brian: Yeah, I’ve seen some bad real estate ads in the last month or two. A lot of them have to do with, you know, hey, find your Corona hideaway, your Corona shelter. In fact, I saw one that actually used a bottle of Corona beer and let’s get away to your Corona retreat and have a beer. Like, I mean, I don’t know how anybody can look at that and think that it was a smart or a humane thing to do but I guess people are. I think you need to be real careful with humor right now. We’re all wired to process that differently, so don’t try to be cute and clever. I see a lot of that and it rarely works.

Matt: I’ve seen a lot and more so in the early weeks of this. Can you imagine yourself being quarantined in this house — kind of thing?

Brian: Yeah. Yeah, don’t do that. Nobody thinks that’s cool. I mean, this sucks. It sucks for everybody. It’s painful. It’s tragic. There’s death involved. Don’t be cute.

Matt: I get a lot of emails from some of the branding and swag type companies that, you know, they put your logo on this. One of the things I’ve seen probably three or four emails just in the last week, put your logo on a face mask. Does that seem appropriate to you?

Brian: Well, I don’t know. Why would you do that? Among all the things that you could possibly do to market yourself right now, why would you try to brand a piece of protective equipment that people use to get a potentially life-threatening disease? I just wouldn’t make that choice as a marketer. There are a million other choices you could make that would probably be smarter than that. I always go back to basics. What are your clients in your sphere asking you? Answer those questions better than anybody else in your market and stick to your guns. Stay in your lane.

If you’re out there selling homes right now, you probably have lots of good stories about how people have surmounted difficulties in order to make transactions happen. Tell those stories. Those two things, you have sort of the rational side of it and the emotional side of it, but they’re both squarely in the lane of real estate in the moment.

Matt: The clients that you are working with, whether they be at the team level or the brokerage, what are the questions they’ve been asking you with? What are you hearing from on the ground what the struggles are that they’re having at the moment?

Brian: Well, I think we passed the point of whether or not I should be marketing or not. I think now that we have been in this and I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area and I’m headed into week eight of shelter in place. So we’re all just living life in this new way now so we passed that point. The questions that we get are what can we do now that’s different? Which is one of the reasons I… I mean I always… You have to…you differentiate in this business or you die. There’s simply too many agents and brokers out there not to always be differentiating, telling a different story.

And those are the things that we’re working on now with clients. We’re doing a lot of marketing audits. Two months ago, here’s everything you did for marketing. Here’s your checklist, let’s go through each one of those things and determine if A, they’re appropriate, B, they’re really producing results and C if they might not be replaced more profitably with something else and different given the circumstances. We’re in that mode now. You still have to go on with your business, you still got to market but what does that look like now?

Matt: If normal marketing isn’t okay right now, how does an agent know when it’s okay again?

Brian: Well, I think normal marketing… Look, you may have to change up your tactics. Marketing’s okay right now. So actually it’s an opportunity. So what’s going to happen is when this terrible thing finally dissolves into the past, we don’t know when that is, and everybody goes back to real estate marketing as it was before COVID, what a wonderful opportunity to be the agent who continues to think differently. Everybody else goes back to feeling comfortable, you remain in this state of questioning assumptions, questioning yourself, thinking strategically, that actually is an opportunity. So let the rest of the world go back to what was, I’m gonna continue to stay in this state of discomfort that allows me to do things differently.

(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host) As I said at the beginning, Brian and 1000watt have a point of view and that makes them unique. It makes them stand out from other agencies. It brands them. In fact, for more of their point of view, I highly recommend you sign up for their weekly newsletter. Just go to their website, 1000watt.net. It’s numbers and letters, 1000watt.net, and you’ll see the sign-up form there. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed and I’ll put that link in today’s show notes, too.

Okay. Let’s do the takeaways segment and then I’m gonna tell you how you can contribute to The Walkthrough via voicemail. I feel like there were probably 50 takeaways from this episode, but I want to keep it simple, so here are four big ones that stood out to me.

Number one, Brian said you have people’s attention right now. If you say smart stuff, you’ll benefit. If you say dumb stuff, it’s gonna hurt more than normal.

Speaking of what to say, Brian suggested you write down the top five questions you get from buyers and sellers. Answer those on your blog, in your videos and your email newsletters.

Number three, this quote was the heart of the conversation, “The essence of marketing is doing or saying what your competitors are unwilling to do or say. That creates differentiation.” Let me say that again. The essence of marketing is doing or saying what your competitors are unwilling to do or say. That creates differentiation.

And then the way you put that into practice is takeaway number four — develop a point of view about real estate. How should it be done? How should buyers or sellers be treated? What’s different about how you do business? Get that message out and let that become your brand.

Okay, you know we love getting your input and I usually ask you to do that via email. You still can do it that way. walkthrough@ [at] homelight.com is the address and it goes straight to me, but we know not everyone is big on email or maybe you’re like me and you just can’t stand typing on your phone, so now you can just call. This is our new Google Voice number. Put it in your phone if you want. 415-322-3328. I’ll repeat that in just a moment. When you call, it’ll go straight to voicemail. You can use it to send feedback and to contribute to future shows.

In fact, let’s try this. Do you have a question for Tom Ferry? He’s arguably the number one real estate coach around and we’re scheduled to have him on The Walkthrough in just a couple of weeks. So send in a question or two for Tom and we’ll see if we can use it during the show. Be sure to speak clearly when you call. You know how voicemail can be sometimes. Again, the number is 415-322-3328.

That’s all for this week. Thanks to Brian Boero for joining us. Thank you for listening.

Remember at HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. And we believe that by helping agents like you be even better at serving your clients, the entire industry improves.

Go out and sell some homes or stay in and sell some homes if you must. Either way, we’ll talk to you again next week. Bye-bye.

Header Image Source: (ProStockStudio / Shutterstock)

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