Our Guest: Wendy Forsythe
Chief Brand Officer, Fathom Realty
Recorded January 6, 2021 at 1:30 pm CST where we discussed building your real estate brand in 2021!
- What is a brand?
- How has branding shifted?
- How does branding matter in real estate?
- How do I create a positive, memorable experience for my audience?
- How do I build my real estate brand?
0:00:00.0 Geoff: Wendy, welcome to the show.
0:00:02.7 Wendy: Hey Geoff, thank you. Welcome to 2021 and don’t jinx us by sharing that last show of 2020 story. We’re gonna [0:00:12.3] ____ today with no technical problems.
0:00:15.6 Geoff: That’s right.
0:00:16.2 Wendy: But I’m very excited to be here and…
0:00:19.3 Geoff: Turning a chapter, turning a corner.
0:00:20.9 Wendy: Yeah, as I said I see the Facebook feed, we got lots of people watching, so we’re gonna talk about how to brand yourself as we sort of move into and are into 2021 and a new year.
0:00:32.9 Geoff: Alright, so look forward to that. Real quick, we have a contest winner. So if you’re commenting right now, you’ve already entered into that drawing, but last show’s winner was Lee Taylor, so congratulations on that. You win either yard signs photo listing package or GoSocial Leads service. Speaking of which, if you haven’t checked him out, check out GoSocial Agent. They offer affordable and effective social media solutions to help agents grow their business, and they’ll get you set up, help with automated postings, agent branded articles. This will help your branding by the way, so you have a consistent and constant message about who you are and what you’re doing, they’ll help set up Facebook ad campaigns to, all the help to grow your online community and generate leads. You can learn more by visiting gosocialagent.com. If you haven’t subscribed yet, click the notification bell, follow us on Facebook and you’ll be notified right away of the show. So let’s get to it. Branding today. Wendy, what is branding? [chuckle]
0:01:33.2 Wendy: Great question, and the topic of the day, for sure. I just wanna give a shout out to Lee, our contest winner. Lee wasn’t feeling well over the holiday, so this is a great way to start a new year, Lee, so we hope…
0:01:44.6 Geoff: There you go, a get well soon gift.
0:01:47.8 Wendy: Yeah, a get well soon, win. So let’s talk about branding. So we talk a lot in real estate about building your brand and the importance for all of you, and I assume the majority of folks watching, are real estate professionals, either with us here at Fathom or within the industry. So let’s think of a branding from a macro perspective, because branding is not a product or service or logo or tagline. It’s much more of an emotional feeling that we have about either a product or a service. So particularly for us in real estate, the brand really is us. You as a real estate professional are your brand. Now your license or licenses, those [0:02:44.0] ____, they’re choosing to work with you because of the brand attributes that you have, because of the experience they would have working with you. So what we’re gonna focus on today is really how do you build your personal brand then in your local marketplace with your database, with your sphere of influence. So you’re growing what we call mind share, that when people think of real estate, they think of you.
0:03:12.9 Geoff: Great, great, so a brand is how somebody feels and thinks about something instinctively, basically.
0:03:18.8 Wendy: That’s right, purpose and gut action.
0:03:22.0 Geoff: So if I think about the Dollar Tree, I think great place to get a bunch of cool stuff for a buck, that’s their brand. They might have a tag… I don’t even now if they have a tagline, I guess everything’s a dollar. That’s it. Or Lexus, I think, Great quality cars done with excellence, that’s not their tagline, but that’s my gut reaction. So that’s what we want to help build for real estate agents with these building blocks.
0:03:49.2 Wendy: That’s right. We want [0:03:49.8] ____ empirically, we want people when they think… When you ask somebody who’s your doctor, you can probably give us a name, Dr. So and so. Who’s your dentist? Dr. So and so. Who’s your mechanic? So and so. Who’s your realtor? How do we fill your name into that answer for people so that they’re connecting you as their real estate person, their real estate professional?
0:04:15.5 Geoff: So we live in a noisy world and there’s a lot of people competing for your attention, so why is this topic so vitally important for real estate agents? Isn’t there already too much competition out there for being the agent in somebody’s mind?
0:04:34.6 Wendy: Yeah, that’s exactly why this is such an important topic because there are almost a million and a half real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors across the country, it is very noisy. And how you build your brand is really how you cut through that noise. And one of the things that has really shifted branding is that it’s not about features and benefits. So in the past, we would talk about I’m a great agent, I’m very honest, I’m trustworthy, I’m a local market expert, and you would see these sort of attributes that agents would market themselves or promote themselves with. Well, the challenge with that is that everybody can say that, so how do you set yourself apart? How do you not become a commodity, and how do you become the agent of choice in your sphere of influence mind out there in your local market? And that’s where we’ve seen the rise in branding of what we would call more experience branding. So how do you share that experience of why working with Wendy or working with Geoff would be different than working with agent X or agent Y? And that is a shift that branding has made really over the last decade.
0:06:03.5 Geoff: See, because I think, probably, a lot of people, when they think of branding, it’s thinking of like, “How’s my book cover gonna look?” It’s the front thing that my logo, my color scheme, all that kind, that’s branding. That’s part of branding, but branding is more about the truth about who you are and what you are to people and their impression of that.
0:06:26.2 Wendy: That’s right. Those are physical things, right, my logo, my color scheme, my design on a marketing piece, how my For Sale sign looks. They’re all components of branding but without adding some of the other fundamental building blocks to that, you’re not creating differentiation. You’re not creating awareness. And I use the term, mind share, which is a term that we often use. You’re not creating mind share of why you’re different because whether your logo is pink or your logo is purple, it doesn’t tell a buyer or a seller why you or they should work with pink logo or purple logo agent. And that’s where branding really can increase your business tremendously.
0:07:13.6 Geoff: So, if there’s a million and a half real estate agents out there, to me, that presents an opportunity then, right? Because there’s… Not every real estate agent’s a great real estate agent. So, I can build a brand that differentiates myself just by being a good agent.
0:07:34.6 Wendy: Yeah. You absolutely can. And that’s where… The first question that I often get asked by agents is, “Okay. I wanna build my brand so, what do I call my brand?” And the advice that I give on that is starting out, your brand is you. So, brand yourself around your name. So, get your URL built around your name but make sure your name is prominent on all of your marketing materials. We’re gonna talk a little bit about social marketing, be more on Facebook right now. Build your brand story around your name. Later on, as you progress in the business, we get people starting team names and we talk about team names and things like that. You can bridge and pivot those things as you build, but if you are new or at a stage where you are in a brand building stage, you wanna connect your name with real estate, with marketing experience within your local market.
0:08:42.4 Geoff: Excellent. So, that’s what I call my brand, me. So, it’ll be Geoff Stertz Real Estate or The Geoff Stertz Group or something like that or I just have my name on my signage, my card, my website, all that stuff. Then, when it comes to the content, there’s obviously my service, who I am, how I answered the phone, all that kinds of stuff, what content, though, should I focus on generating?
0:09:08.2 Wendy: Yeah. So, the easiest way to put this is, you wanna tell your real estate story out there in the marketplace. And I’ll start with some don’ts and then, we can segue into some do’s. So, some don’ts are… You wanna make your story more about the experience. So I just took a new listing. That’s a great success point. You wanna sell that new listing. You wanna service the sellers and get the information out there. So, I can just put a link to that listing from my MLS website up on social marketing tools like Facebook, as an example. After that, to really demonstrate the experience that I would have. The better way to do that and build your brand is do some behind-the-scene video of maybe the professional photography shoot that you have done on that listing that are getting the great photos. Maybe, snap some photos yourself of the photographer doing the interior photos and share that part of the story.
0:10:13.6 Wendy: So now, you’re still promoting the fact that you had a new listing, you’re getting that information out there, you’re maybe sharing some of the features and benefits of that particular property but you’re giving your audience, so to speak, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to work with you. And that’s why social marketing has really changed branding tremendously over the last decade because it’s not a newspaper anymore. It’s Facebook, it’s Instagram, it’s TikTok. It’s all of these great tools that we have, that by the way, don’t cost us anything, that we can use to build our brand story. So, that’s part of giving people that experience.
0:10:57.5 Geoff: What about my interaction with customers? How is that a component of it? And I’m probably gonna set things off here but…
0:11:11.3 Wendy: Yeah. I’m giggling because we’re kinda setting each other up here for this. So, the Geoff has seen me get on my sandbox about this. This is not rocket science. And those of you that are listening, you know what this is like. If you’ve ever tried to reach a fellow agent and have been unable to contact them and you’ve called them, and you’ve left voice mails, and you’ve sent emails, and you’ve sent text messages, and you’ve got no response. That is frustrating for us as professional to professional. Imagine what that’s like for buyers and sellers out in the marketplace. Now, we’ll take it from a buyer’s perspective. I’m pre-qualified. I’m excited to buy a property. I know inventory is very tight in most of our markets across the country. I found a property I’m interested in and now, I can’t get a real estate agent to respond to me. And this happens every single minute, across the country. So when we think about building our brand, think about the attributes that you wanna build that brand around. And one of the most important ones is customer service and a big part of customer service is being available. So, clean out your mail box, I can’t tell you how many people I call, how many agents I call, and I get the messages, that your voice mailbox is full. It’s a new year, delete all of those messages, right? We’re doing a lot of advanced stuff for everyone here, but go delete those messages on your voicemail. Respond to your text messages, respond to your emails.
0:12:58.3 Wendy: We work with so many agents that spend really good money on online lead programs and then they don’t respond to the online leads. So, respond to your online leads. So, when you think of building your brand, all of those things matter. If you walked into a department store and was looking for somebody to help you make a purchase and you couldn’t find anyone, you would be frustrated by that. And the frustration is… That’s up to each of us, that’s to buyers and sellers out there.
0:13:34.3 Geoff: Awesome. [laughter]
0:13:37.0 Wendy: But I’m seeing some comments like, give me a comment on Facebook. It’s like, you can give us an, “Amen” on that. You guys all know that that is a real work part of what we do.
0:13:50.7 Geoff: Yeah and you may have heard that before on the Fathom live show, just answering your phone.
0:13:55.9 Wendy: Maybe, yeah.
0:13:57.4 Geoff: But yeah, I do think it is more than just answering your phone, it’s being somebody who’s… Your number one job is to be available for your clients and to help and serve them, and if you can’t do that and answering… You’re sort of dead in the water. So I’m hearing there’s different components of your branding. So, I could say, “I’m Geoff Stertz. I’m the best real estate agent in the world”. But then I never answer my phone, I never respond to emails, I’m not very nice of a person, that kills my brand. Or I could be, Geoff Stertz, I’m the nicest person in the world, I answer my phone, but then there’s nothing out there, my brand is suffering one way or the other. So it’s sort of a multi-dimensional aspect of… Or part of what branding is.
0:14:45.5 Wendy: So there’s three areas that I suggest that we focus on, right? So, the first one is to that, “Be yourself”, we are all unique people, like, let your personality shine through as you share your real estate story. And so, that’s one element of building your brand. The next element is what we were just talking about around, “Create great customer service and serve your customers”. So we’ve honed in on the, being responsive, part of that, there’s a whole bunch of elements of that.
0:15:18.1 Geoff: A lot more of that. Yeah, right.
0:15:19.8 Wendy: Yeah, be yourself, create a great customer experience. And then the last component of that is, “Share your expertise.” So, you’re a real estate professional, you’re building your brand around being a real estate professional. So things like, doing market talk, [0:15:39.3] ____… Update, Facebook live show, you know, last year that we talked about this, that one way of demonstrating your expertise to your database is sharing what’s going on, giving helpful tips on what you should look for if you’re thinking of buying a home. Giving updates of what’s happening in a local area. One of the challenges, I think when we’re doing brand strategy with agents is, they try to be everything to everyone. So, one of the things that you can do is really focus in on a hyper-local market. So you don’t need to be the agent in all of San Diego, I saw Kelly is watching on Facebook. You wanna be the expert in Carlsbad, or you might be the expert in Del Mar. Or you might even pick an even more hyper-local market in your area. So sometimes it’s not about making it more. You can’t be everything to everyone. You gotta pick, sort of, what are my brand attributes and then focus on building that.
0:16:38.9 Geoff: Awesome. Yes, less is more, less is more. If you’re 10 things in somebody’s mind, then you’re not gonna be anything in anybody’s mind, be that one thing. I am the Collin County realtor. I’m the Wylie realtor. Yeah. Awesome. Now, as it relates to brokerages and I know we have other people that are non-Fathom agents watching this, but one of our key values as a product, as a service to our agents is that, we call ourself an agent, an agent-first branding company. That might sound sort of, up here. What does that mean and does it really matter to agents in this kind of business?
0:17:21.7 Wendy: Yeah, it absolutely matters. So again, this is a shift that we’ve had over the last decade. So when you think of building your brand, your brokerage, so in our case, Fathom, we are the supporting actor or actress in your blockbuster movie of real estate. You’re the star. So the star gets the marquee placement first, the star is the majority of the, “For Sale” sign. And the supporting role is a smaller portion of your, “For Sale” sign, it really could bring that down to real life experience for all of us. So one of the things that I always suggest to agents is, make sure you’re with a brokerage that understands that our job as your broker is to support you growing your business. We both collectively win when that happens, but in the local market, we know statistically and the National Association of realtors has done this study for years that, “A”, that sellers and buyers choose to work with you, they don’t choose to work with a brokerage name, they’re choosing to work with an agent. So we very much work with all of you as Fathom agents and any of you that are curious about what we’re all about here at Fathom, it is that agent first philosophy of, “How do we help you grow your brand?”
0:18:45.1 Geoff: Well, I know we could talk endlessly about this topic and debate things about branding and everything else, but if somebody wants to dive deeper into this subject, I have a book recommendation, but I know you do too. I actually just read Don Miller’s book last night, but what is your title here?
0:19:06.3 Wendy: Yeah, so I’ve got a couple of books as a takeaway, [0:19:09.0] ____ takeaways for taking the time out of your day to join us and watch this. So the first take away I’m gonna share is, we’ve written a brand guide for 2021 that we’ve posted at fathomcareers.com. And we’ll put this in the show notes and in the link on Facebook. So if you go over to Fathom Careers and click the freebies button, you’ll see it’s the very first freebie there that you can download for free. And we talk in there about how do you build your brand, what are the building blocks of the brand, what are some of the fundamentals and give you some of the to-dos that we talked about on the show. So that would be sort of takeaway one.
0:19:50.7 Geoff: Awesome.
0:19:51.7 Wendy: And then a couple of books, so Geoff asked for book recommendations. So I talked about sharing your brand’s story and that creating that experience and using that as an element to grow your brand is an important part of what we do. So there’s a great resource by a gentleman named Donald Miller, and his book is called The Story Brand. And it’s an easy read, but it relates so well to what we do in real estate, because we are a service industry, not a product industry. It’s different when you’re building a brand for a service than it is for a product. If I’m a tire, if I’m a widget, that’s a very different branding approach than service, and Donald really highlights that so well in The Story Brand. So highly recommend that book. I got two more, do we want two more?
0:20:47.8 Geoff: Sure here, well, I’ll let you have the closing word on this. This one, just from a branding 101, it is… There’s some old school stuff in here, but the words immutable, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. There’s so much unchanging stuff in there by Al Ries, so you can check that out. I Just finished that book as well in the last year.
0:21:10.4 Wendy: Al Ries is the grandfather of modern marketing and branding. Another book that I would recommend is Marty Neumeier’s book, which is called The Brand Gap. So a great resource, it’s called The Brand Gap. And then I’ll give you one more on that, and that is the book called The Transformational Consumer. And this one really highlights a lot into how social marketing has changed, and the author actually started her career in marketing at Trulia. So very much knows the real estate industry, so shout out to Nicholle Nelson, Tara-Nicholle Nelson on that one, ’cause that’s a great book, it’s called The Transformational Consumer. And again, we’ll write these in the notes and include them in the show notes over on YouTube as well.
0:22:01.5 Geoff: Awesome. Somebody asked, Could you repeat the first takeaway, and that was the building your brand PDF free download that we’re making available within the show notes and on fathomcareers.com under our freebies, so you can check that out. So, Wendy thank you so much, this is an exciting topic.
0:22:19.4 Wendy: I got one more thing before we sign off. So a lot of you might have seen posts on Facebook or all over social about a new social network that has launched. I’ve been getting lots of questions about this, it’s called Clubhouse, so it is an iPhone-only app and it is an audio network only. So it’s not video for those of you that we didn’t convince last year to get into video, but go check out Clubhouse. Find me on Clubhouse @brandWendy, follow me, and we’re gonna be doing some Clubhouse meet-ups on branding as an extension of today’s live show. So let’s go have some fun and test out the new social network as well.
0:23:08.9 Geoff: Very cool. Alright, I will check it out. So, very good, thank you so much. If you have more questions for Wendy or I, direct them at Wendy, but put them in the comments below and we’ll follow up on those. Again thank you for coming on here, and if you wanna know a little bit more about Fathom, check us out at fathomcareers.com. It’s a brokerage that works for you rather than the other way around and we provide the tools necessary for your success.