brand-graphicThere was an intriguing article on Agent Genius today about whether or not to include your photo in your real estate branding.

The article generated a lot of good feedback from agents on both sides of the fence.

Actually I think is fundamentally the wrong question to ask.  As the former VP Marketing for Fisher-Price, in my opinion, branding has NOTHING to do with whether you include a photo or not.

Brands are built on a clear definition of your unique value proposition.  They are also built on DELIVERING against your value proposition consistently and better than anyone else.  Fisher-Price, for example has a strong brand because it delivers high quality, well-thought out, developmentally appropriate and FUN toys for young children.  If you provide an inconsistent delivery against your brand promise, your brand gets tarnishes. When Fisher-Price experienced a huge product recall a couple of years ago, for example, it tarnished their brand.  Consumers trust was violated. The brand they thought of as safe and high quality had let them down.

Toyota is another good example.  This car manufacturer had ‘raving fans” and a sparkling reputation for providing reliable, fuel-efficient and safe cars.  The acceleration fiasco they went through last year damaged their brand, possibly even irreparably because the consumer trust was again violated.

The same concept of brand holds true for real estate agents.  If agents want a strong brand, they also need to deliver a consistent, high quality product.  They need to set expectations with their clients and then exceed those expectations whenever they can.

We just completed consumer focus groups this week and we learned a lot about what consumers are looking for.  They want REALTORSÒ to guide and counsel them through the very complicated short sale and REO transactions they are struggling through today. They want to be educated about what’s happening in the local neighborhood or market they are interested in.  They want REALTORSÒ to stay on top of the ever-changing regulations for loans from government agencies and banks.

We have coined a phrase for this type of marketing we call Edutizing. Check out our paper on the subject to learn more about you can use “edutizing” to build your client base.

In the focus groups, consumers also told us they are happy to conduct property research and narrow down the homes they are looking for, but they need REALTORSÒ to guide them through the rest of the transaction. They want quick responses and explanations of complicated contracts and disclosures.  Consumers also need their agent to adjust to their communication preferences.  They might like email for documents and text messages to answer quick questions, but they might also like to ask you to join them for Happy Hour via Facebook.  The successful agent will adjust their communication habits to match the needs of their client.

Here’s another ditty from consumers. They REALLY want more transparency about your past performances. They want to see what past customers say about you. They want legitimateagent ratings from your past clients, not some unsanctioned site where anyone can comment on anybody.

Bottomline, Don’t worry about whether you include your photo on your business cards or not – it is irrelevant to real estate consumers. Focus on delivering the best service you can in the most consistent and reliable method you can. That will strengthen your brand a whole lot more than any fancy marketing piece will do for you. Remember you are working with them on the most important purchase and decision of their life. It is a very important job and consumers expect you to take their life decision very seriously. Focus on making the experience as fulfilling as possible and your brand reputation will take care of itself.  One of the smartest guys I ever worked with at Fisher-Price would also say “Build great product and the rest takes care of itself”.   In real estate deliver great service and your brand and business will take care of itself too.