4 ways to a better real estate brand
Last year, Amadeus worked with a Real Estate agent in the burgeoning area of Western Sydney. The mention of Parramatta once prompted sniggers from people in the inner areas; it is now geographically the ‘heart’ of Sydney. No more jokes. Many large corporates have set up home here, as have many NSW government departments.
When deep-diving into the Australian Real Estate industry, we discerned that the market generally comprises three distinct cohorts: groups at a national level, groups at a metropolitan level and independent agents and groups of agencies with less than six offices.
On the national group level we have some recognisable players with the likes of brands such as Ray White, LJ Hooker and The Professionals. These groups are made up of franchisees in most cases, who opt to become part of the larger network to leverage the brand, as well as share overheads. Metropolitan groups work in much the same way albeit on a city, or geographical level, with agencies such as Hocking Stuart in Melbourne, or McGrath in Sydney part of this group.
Then there are the independents, of which my client was one. The segmented this cohort as being agencies with less than six offices in a relatively distinct geographical location, for example BresicWhitney in inner Sydney and Chisholm & Gamon in Melbourne. They are independent agencies who leverage their reputation and aspire to become leaders in their geographical area. They typically absorb the overheads that come with being a stand-alone agency; the benefit being that they are to develop their brand as they like. They are also not beholden to a central office in the way that the franchisees of the large groups are. There are upsides and downsides.
Independent Real Estate Agents
Branding wise, the sophistication of these independent agencies varied. Some had obviously invested in their branding and marketing and could ably demonstrate their value proposition. They made it clear why a vendor would choose their independent agency over a larger, more well-known name. Generally a more personalised service was at the heart of this proposition.
On the flipside, many independents have an opportunity to make big improvements to their marketing and communications. In an industry of slick players, there was a real danger of being lost in a crowded market with branding that do with some sharpening up. If they couldn’t cut through the highly competitive space on a RealEstate.com.au search (the clear market leader in the real estate search game), or justify paying for more premium listing options, then they stood a very real chance of not attracting the depth of enquiry to get a good outcome for their vendors.
Three activities stood out as building a strong brand for independent real estate agents.
First, their visual branding was clear and executed with good graphic design principles. Logos were of a high design standard, and branding elements like colour palettes and font choices were well considered. The biggest differentiator was their imagery. Agents who went to the additional effort and expense of procuring high-quality imagery (both for their vendors and general marketing purposes) stood out in their markets as having a stronger and - often - a more trustworthy brand.
Secondly, their visuals were driven by clear written messaging. Good agencies could clearly articulate why they were good at what they did, and why a potential vendor should choose them. At Amadeus Brand, we call them ‘message pillars’: 4-5 key messages, generally one short sentence in length, supported by 2-3 sentences that extrapolated additional detail. These provide bite-sized chunks of information that people can absorb easily.
These pillars make excellent information for website homepages, which leads us to the third area of best-practice branding for real estate agents - the website. Digital marketing is crucial to attracting buyers in today’s market, and a good web presence is critical to this. Traditionally, this may have been the sort of factor that could influence an agent to join a large franchise, as the overheads of investing in and maintaining a good website were high. These days there are a raft of Software as a Service (SaaS’s) who can provide this service to smaller agencies at an affordable monthly rate. We helped our client navigate through this process and select a provider that would do just this. Companies like Siteloft, Aro and Agentbox provided great options, and in our due diligence process of selecting these, we came across dozens of independent agents who use these SaaS's to build a good brand presence, and also provide a relatively seamless user-experience (UX) for their potential buyers.
4 things you can do to build a better independent real estate brand
If you’re an Indepenent Real Estate agent looking to sharpen up your brand and stand out from the crowd, here's our checklist of things to focus on.
1.SEEK OUT Quality Design.
Access to brand design expertise to create a cohesive brand toolkit. Make sure you have a sharp logo that is supported by well-considered colour palettes and typography choices, and set these up in a way that all of your team can use consistently to produce quality marketing colateral: signboards, flyers, business cards, welcome packs, digital and printed advertisements etc.
2. Work on your message pillars.
Establish 4-5 outstanding reasons why you are the best at what you do. Each individual pillar need not be unique (I’d imagine every real estage agent would consider that they give great service) but the set of messages should be unique and memorable.
3. Invest in good photography.
Make sure you can capture high quality headshots that are well located and well lit; ideally shot by a professional. Also ensure that you have a bank of professional quality images to call upon that tell a story of your local area. Some agents have invested in drone-footage of their locality, which works well if your area has good geographical features to exploit, such as a beach or green parks. Imagery of high streets with coffee shops or iconic local parks with good playground for the kids also do well to sell your local area, and you can leverage across many of your marketing touchpoints. And top tip: see if you can use imagery to sell the end-game: happy people in happy homes. Sure, an expansive image of the kitchen/diner may look shmick, but people want to be able to see themselves in the property.
4. Use Social Media.
Nothing has the potential to build trust and credibility - in any industry - quite like social media. Agencies who had developed a clear brand voice (some were even quite humorous) and posted (and responded with) consistent, useful information were driving real connection. Some were even building communities on the channel, which can only lead to good top-of-mind awareness in the event that a potential client needs to recall the name of a reputable agent.
And remember – real estage agents, like every business, have a brand whether you invest in it or not. Even a relatively untouched brand is transmitting messages about your business and agents would do well to reflect on whether it’s the image they want to convey, or if there’s some work to be done!
Are you an independent real estate agent? What three things do you think are imperative to building a strong brand, and winning business?