Looking Like a Team: 5 Real Estate Branding Ideas for Brokers
By Andrew Rapp
About Agent Basics
Creating a well-recognized brand is perhaps the greatest key to success in real estate. Branding your business effectively can result in years of reliable income from repeat customers and referrals.
Real estate brokers have a unique opportunity to build a brand, but also some unique challenges. The agents working under you can be a veritable army, promoting your brand to masses of consumers. However, they can also be destructive, tarnishing your real estate brand with just as many people.
Within the large real estate franchises there are firm brand management policies, but independent brokers have to set their own rules. Here are some simple (but powerful) strategies for real estate branding that can keep your agents looking like a team.
There are many aspects of branding, but the best real estate branding strategies all have one thing in common: They emphasize uniformity. Brand recognition and trust is a function of consistency. Consumers should see your name, read your messages, or see your logo and have a familiar experience each time. If your logo was blue on one sign and green on the next, consumers would not only be less likely to recall it, but actually become mistrustful.
Of course, your agents need the latitude to communicate their own unique personalities to customers in order to form strong relationships. Ideally you’ll create a balance between the need for your brokerage to promote its brand and the need of your agents in their real estate marketing to have their own identities.
Because agents work more independently than most professionals, ensuring consistent use of your brand assets (your logo, tagline, etc.) can be particularly challenging. So, the first four of these easy-to-implement recommendations focus on practices that make uniformity simple for real estate brokers to enforce within their brokerages. The fifth is a knock-out tip for working with agents to boost your website traffic.
Tip 1: Make logos easy to use
A logo is the most prominent aspect of any real estate branding strategy. It’s ironic, then, that digital logo files are usually a complete mess. Because everyone uses them, they get scattered everywhere, oddly named and badly distorted. Before long it’s impossible to find a good, clean copy when you need a business card printed or a website updated.
Solving this problem is easy and takes 15 minutes. Start with a master version of your logo. If your logo was created by a graphic designer they should be happy to send it to you. This file should be an Adobe Photoshop file (.psd), Tiff file (.tif), EPS file (.eps), or Adobe Illustrator file (.ai).
It should also be large — you can always make smaller versions of it, but enlarging a file is usually bad news. If it is a Photoshop or Tiff file, make sure it is at least 2,000 pixels wide. (Check this by selecting the file and viewing its properties: Right-click >> Properties on a PC or Command-I on a Mac.) If it is an EPS or Illustrator file, don’t worry about the size — it can be reduced or enlarged indefinitely.
Save this master file someplace and don’t let anyone touch it. Any time you need a new version of the logo it should be created from this file, so you don’t want anyone monkeying with this master version.
Next, create versions of the logo your agents can use. Creating different sizes and file types will help them get exactly what they need, and ensure they use a version that looks good. Here are some versions they will find useful:
- Large TIF. Size: Same as your master file. Use: Signs or other large printed materials.
- Small TIF. Size: Approximately 1,000 pixels wide. Use: Business cards, flyers, or other small printed materials.
- Medium JPG. Size: Approximately 1,000 pixels wide. Use: Banners or ads on the web.
- Medium PNG. Size: Approximately 1,000 pixels wide. Use: Banners or ads on the web.
- Small JPG. Size: Approximately 300 pixels wide. Use: Small badges or icons on the web.
- Small PNG. Size: Approximately 300 pixels wide. Use: Small badges or icons on the web.
Remember: The best strategy is to start with a large version of the file (like your master version) and make smaller copies. Trying to make larger versions out of smaller versions will make the image look horrible. You may be asking why you need both JPG and PNG versions of the file. That’s because PNG’s can have transparent areas, which you’ll need if you’re placing the logo on a colored background. A JPG will convert all “transparent” areas to white.
Depending on the type of your master file, you may have to try different software programs (like Paint on PCs or iPhoto on Mac) to find one that will open your file and let you save different versions. You can also find websites that will re-size images for you. Once you have your different versions, follow these two rules:
- Give each version a consistent, sensible name so agents can immediately identify which is which. Something like “logo_medium.jpg” should be adequate.
- Store the versions where everyone can access them. That can be a shared drive or an online storage option like Google Drive. Just be sure users have “read-only” permissions that allow them to download images, but not alter them.
Tip 2: Standardize key language
How your agents communicate with customers about your brand is essential. Large corporations review every word that goes out to the public; again, not practical for independent brokerages. But, you can take small steps to make sure your agents portray your company in a way that is consistent and enforces your brand identity.
Start by creating a one page document that provides your agents with language they should use in key situations. No need to be exhaustive, but here are some items you can include:
- Short Company Description. Length: 2–3 sentences. This is something agents can cut-and-paste into emails, newsletters, etc., that briefly describes your brokerage and its value proposition. Example: “John Doe Heritage Realty is a full-service residential real estate brokerage specializing in the luxury sales and rental markets of the Denver metropolitan area. Our experienced agents distinguish themselves by providing responsive, trustworthy service to buyers and sellers seeking a personalized real estate experience.”
- Long Company Description. Length: 2–3 paragraphs. This is something agents can use on their personal websites or in longer communications to provide background on your brokerage’s history, specialities, and unique qualities.
- Agent/Broker Relationship. Length: 1 sentence. Many consumers don’t understand the relationship between an agent and a brokerage, but this is critical to building their relationship with both their agent and your business. This statement is perfect for nearly any communication. Example: “Sally Agent is a proud associate of John Doe Heritage Realty.”
- Customer Quotes. Length: 1 paragraph each. Give agents a tool for impressing customers, and your business a boost, by providing two or three endorsement quotes from happy customers. Example: “John Doe Heritage Realty goes the extra mile to sell your home and makes the experience truly enjoyable. — Betty Customer”
Your agents will genuinely appreciate having this kind of “boilerplate” language available for their communications. Send everyone a copy of the document, and keep it on a shared drive where they can access it when needed.
“Ideas are in between strategy and execution.”
— MT Rainey
Tip 3: Create corporate email addresses
It’s shocking how many agents use Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL email addresses. Give all of your agents a corporate email account. If your domain address is johndoerealty.com, make sure Sally Agent uses the address firstname.lastname@example.org instead of her personal email account. Not only does this look more professional, it advertises your domain name every time an email is sent.
You can set up these email addresses with the company that hosts your website. Most web hosts let you create several hundred email addresses for no additional cost. Also, use the same convention for every name (like first initial, followed by last name) so customers know what to expect.
If your agents insist on using their personal email addresses, you can simply set up email forwarders, which will make it look like Sally Agent’s emails are coming and going from her corporate address, even if she’s using her personal Gmail account. The company that registered your domain can help you set these up, usually at no cost.
Tip 4: Use email signatures
Another best practice for email is using standardized email signatures (the closing of your emails that includes your name, title, phone number, etc.). Virtually every email system lets you create signatures which can be automatically included at the end of messages.
This is a golden opportunity to promote your brokerage. Provide every agent with a signature template that they must use. Include your company name, slogan, and contact information. Of course, agents will want to add their personal contact information as well, but make sure your brokerage gets visibility too.
One note: Don’t use images in your signatures. Images look nice, but cause major headaches. Recipients often get confused because it looks like every message has an attachment, and the image will not always display correctly.
Bonus: Your agents probably send lots of emails from their smartphones, but most people don’t realize you can change the default signature used by most phones (like “Sent from my iPhone”). Make sure your agents use your preferred signature format there as well.
Tip 5: Build links to your corporate site
Everyone dreams of their site being a top search result on Google. The traffic to your site would explode if you popped up first when users entered the term “homes for sale in (your area).” Guess what? You can make that happen.
One of the most important factors search engines consider when ranking your site is the number of other sites that link to you. If lots of sites have linked to your site, it must mean your site is pretty good and one that searchers would want to see. But getting other people to link to your site isn’t easy.
That’s where your agents come in. If they have their own personal sites (and they should), insist that they include links to your brokerage’s main site. For example, in their bio they should name your brokerage, and link that text to your site. Even better, write a blog post that they can use on their sites and include a link back to your site in the text. These simple steps can do wonders for your site’s performance on search engines, but be sure to follow three rules:
- Don’t always use the same anchor text for the link (that’s the text that users click on to go to your site). If the text is always the same, search engines will think it’s suspicious and may even lower your ranking.
- Don’t use the name of your brokerage as the anchor text. Instead, use key phrases for which you’d like to rank highly. A blog post that links “real estate brokerage in Denver” to your site will help you more than one that just links your name to your site.
- Don’t link to just your homepage. In line with the last rule, the best bet is when the anchor text links to appropriate content on your site. For example, the anchor text “Denver luxury properties” linking to a page on your site devoted to luxury properties is priceless.
Of course, this isn’t a guarantee that you’ll suddenly rank first on Google — no one can guarantee that. But, following these guidelines should do wonders for your site, and they’re easy to implement.
Want to grow your business’s online brand? See our infographic Personal Branding: The Complete A to Z Guide to Doing It Right.
What tips do you have for branding your business? Leave us your suggestions in the comments!
Published on September 15, 2014
Written by Andrew Rapp
I'm the Managing Editor at Placester, where I oversee the creation of great content that helps real estate agents be successful in their careers. When I'm not clacking away at my laptop I enjoy walking all around the great city of Boston.