In the age of the internet, people are often exposed to your reputation—online or offline—before they even meet you. Most of us Google companies and people we are considering working with, or skim their LinkedIn profile, blog, or Facebook page before we go into business with them, especially when the work requires a close relationship.
The goal of having a compelling personal brand is to create a recognizable visual identity that maintains your professional reputation and builds customer loyalty and trust, bringing you more leads. However, as the internet becomes increasingly crowded with new information and businesses, it can be hard to make a lasting impression. And as a new agent, deciding how to showcase your brand can be daunting. How do you create a name for yourself before you have even made your first major sale?
Follow these five steps to build a memorable personal brand that always communicates your unique value.
Step 1: Consider how you want people to see you.
You may be a real estate agent, but that doesn’t entirely define you. After all, there are thousands of real estate professionals out there competing with you; how do you stand out from the crowd?
Consider what you do best and think outside of the box. Are you an excellent chef? Do you have a knack for DIY home repair? A background in fine architecture or art? Start to deliberately prioritize which qualities you show off publicly. Your brand shouldn’t be 100 percent focused on real estate, but as an agent you certainly will want to be remembered for your professional expertise.
Think about specific words or content you can use to describe your unique value and perspective. Much like a building a brand for a business, the way you describe yourself should be memorable.
Step 2: Audit your online presence.
Without a good idea of what your current brand looks like, you won’t be able to begin refining it. Start with a simple Google search for your name. Sign out of all your social media pages and view the public version of your profile to see what you look like to a stranger. How easy is it to find you, and what do people see first when you pop up in their browsers?
When it comes to branding, make sure you’re always in control of the conversation about yourself. Don’t let others decide how to represent you. Create a Google alert of your name so you can keep track of what is being said about you online. As a new agent, there might not be much traffic around your name, but it’s important to know when anything comes up. That way, if you receive a negative review online, you will be able to respond promptly to the complaint.
Step 3: Build your social pages.
The best (free) way to rank highly in Google search is to set up a robust presence on social media. Make sure your profile picture is professional and clean; you can use the same headshot across all your profiles to stay consistent. Spend time drafting a brief, 100- to 200-word biography that describes your personal style and your experience. Usually, just a few social pages are enough to reach your main audience; focus on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
When you post content, stay in engaged with your audience. Respond to comments on your posts and encourage your clients to reach out. You can even use Facebook and Instagram’s live features to extend your reach and allow your followers a more personal view of your life. Social pages are an excellent way to make yourself accessible to your clients and showcase your expertise online.
Step 4: Start to produce content.
There is no better way to establish a name for yourself online than to become a thought leader in your area. The real estate market may be crowded with other agents doing the same, but if you’ve already established how you can add the most value, you will stand out.
Be deliberate about everything you share online. Every blog post, tweet, article, and photo you share directly impacts your brand. However, you don’t have to stop being human to curate a strong personal identity. In fact, authenticity is a huge part of building trust with your personal brand. For example, Ed Hutchinson—who worked with us to create a successful online reality show to build his personal brand—often shares images of himself surfing, or of his fluffy dog, on social media. The episodes that included personal life details got the most views.
Lesson learned: People care about you as a person as much as or more than they do about your business. The golden rule for building a brand that emphasizes your skills is to post content that offers entertainment or adds value for your audience 80 percent of the time and content that promotes your business the other 20 percent.
Step 5: Engage and build a network.
Your personal brand does not exist in a vacuum. If you publish excellent content on your blog or YouTube channel, and no one watches or engages with it, the value is lost.
Strike up online conversations with industry leaders about relevant topics to get the ball rolling. Feel free to stake a strong stance on an issue (it helps you stand out) but avoid topics like religion and politics. If a client engages with your content, always reply to show you are listening.
Networking offline is just as important. Visit trade shows, set up a happy hour at local bar, or attend neighborhood gatherings. Keep track of the people you meet and consider how you can add value to their lives, even if you can’t sell them anything.
Invest in a stack of thank-you cards; a simple, handwritten note can make a lasting positive impression on a client, mentor, or friend. Each interaction you have, online or offline, is an opportunity to strengthen your personal brand and underscore how you want to be remembered.
Personal branding is the key to standing out in a 21st-century business environment. As a new agent, you must show potential clients why doing business with you is a worthwhile investment.
Of course, you should always strive to provide excellent service to all of your customers—answering emails and queries promptly, resolving last-minute dilemmas, and listening to their concerns. Nothing can replace the impression you leave when you delight your customers. But it’s important for new agents to realize they don’t have to wait until they make a sale to build a reputation. Define your unique value proposition from the start, so you can stand out from the crowd.