Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing Essentials: Outhink, not Out-Spend Your Competition

Perhaps one of the most important principles that luxury real estate marketing professionals need to understand about personal branding for real estate agents is this: Out-think, not out-spend your competition. If you want to out-smart your competition find something, some niche that you can do better than anyone else in your marketplace. Choose an arena in which you can become the break-away brand. Don’t waste your time or your money becoming a “me-too” in a niche that your competitor dominates.

Every year in the United States companies invest close to $300 billion in marketing products and services. A huge portion of this is spent on introducing new brands in the marketplace. The majority of these new product launches never get off the ground.

Microsoft is at it again! They are in discussions with Verizon Wireless to launch a touch-screen multimedia cell phone on the carrier's networkearly next year, in a bid to compete with Apple’s iPhone, the break-away brand in the smart phone category. Didn’t they learn from their mistakes with the Zune as a head- on competitor with Apple’s iPod?

As a luxury real estate marketing professional, the size of your advertising budget does not guarantee your success if you fail to form a strong emotional connection with your target market, whether it be consumers or referring real estate agents from outside of your marketplace. Win the hearts and minds of your target market in a niche you can own like Apple has done with iPod and iPhone.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Personal Branding for Real Estate Agents: Are You a Secret Agent?

As a luxury real estate marketing professional, have you ever asked yourself any of these questions*?

  1. Why am I flushed with cash one month and struggling the next?
  2. Why do competitors with less ability consistently get more business than I do?
  3. Why do I never seem to reach my income goals?
  4. When does it get easier?
  5. Why am I the best kept secret in my community?

If you have been pondering these questions you most likely are a secret agent. But, there is help, if you want to become the standout in your marketplace: Real Estate Agent Personal Branding. The biggest struggle most luxury real estate agents have is not standing out in the minds of their target market.

To stand out you must stand for something that is remarkable. This gives people the opportunity to remark about you to others. The missing ingredient that personal branding offers is making it easy for other to tell other about YOU! If you are blending in you are missing out on the leverage of word-of-mouth marketing which personal branding accomplishes when it is well executed. The lack of a personal brand is what is making your job more difficult than it has to be.

If you no longer want to blend in and be a secret agent, you must become remarkable. Start by asking yourself these new questions: How am I extraordinary, amazing, notable, outstanding, noteworthy, significant, incredible and astonishing?

*These are some of the questions aptly posed by Peter Montoya in his book, The Brand Called You.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Personal Branding for Real Estate Agents: Stretching Your Marketing Dollar with Buzz!

Got Milk?

The aim of personal branding for real estate agents is to communicate, in a instant, the essence of your personality, your personal values and why someone should do business with you instead of your competition. Successful communication occurs not only when your ideal clients recognize that you are someone they can trust, but also when they can easily convey to others why they chose you for the job in a few words. If you get the message right you can spark word-of-mouth advertising or buzz marketing which is the best way to stretch your marketing dollar.

The right message triggers an emotional response by quickly establishing your professionalism and your likability. It also compels people to do business with you because it transmits your unique selling proposition, your promise of value to them, in a nutshell. The ultimate message, conveyed by a symbol, a slogan or an image creates buzz. It gets people talking about you.

Did you ever see the commercials for Charmin toilet paper with the fictional grocer, Mr. Whipple? George Whipple told customers, "Please don't squeeze the Charmin!" in more than 500 commercials between 1964 and 1985. The promise of value of this product, softness, was conveyed in just five words, in seconds. But, it compelled customers to do just the opposite: to squeeze the product and buy it. Was this product actually softer than the competitor’s product? Most likely it was not. But, it got people talking about Charmin not the competition.

Perhaps the most famous and most imitated product slogan is “Got Milk?” which positioned milk as the drink of choice with cookies, cakes, peanut butter, etc. This campaign was credited for reversing a 20 year slump in milk sales. It has been running since 1993 with no signs of the buzz ending. With this slogan, they summarily dismissed all other potables and captured an indelible place in consumers’ minds. According to the Got Milk? website, the campaign has over 90% awareness in the U.S. In 2002, the ad was named one of the ten best commercials of all time by a USA Today poll.

The power of a great slogan leverages viral marketing and can save you a bundle in marketing costs. How can you stretch your marketing dollars with a great slogan?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Personal Branding for Real Estate Agents: Using the Right Slogan to Distinguish You from the Competition

Fauchon fashion eclairs,note Mona Lisa eclair above!

As a luxury real estate marketing professional one very important way to distinguish you from the competition is with a great slogan. Here is an example of a luxury food brand that gave itself a facelift and a terrific slogan that turned the company around.

Fauchon is a luxury food shop whose flagship store in Paris was founded in 1886 by Auguste Fauchon. In 2003, faced with severe competition and debt from rapid expansion, Fauchon hired a new CEO, Isabelle Capron, who had an extensive background in public relations and marketing. Ms. Capron embarked on a two-prong strategy: focus on the traditional strengths of the brand, and innovate by finding a new way to position the brand in the minds of luxury consumers.

Capron’s Strategy:

1. Maintain tradition by continuing their famous annual ├ęclair exhibit that honors the celebrated fashion shows in Paris

2. Redesign the stores to look like an haute couture boutique, rather than a food emporium. Go international-export the essence of Paris (high fashion and culinary extravagance). Create an avant garde slogan: “Paris On Your Lips!” reverberates the affluent French lifestyle to its core.

Fauchon now places ads in fashion magazines and on billboards above their stores that are eye catching, ads that are very edgy. For example, one ad shows a table setting with a silver face, hot pink lips with a fork and knife on each side of the lips. The Fauchon website features the Eiffel Tower with lips for the base of the tower. The subtle reference to haute couture as the undisputed arbiter of taste and relevance distinguishes Fauchon as the experts in the luxury food arena throughout the world.

By 2007, Fauchon opened the largest retail store in Beijing. Voila! The public perception of Fauchon took an about face; the turn-around was complete! And, people, like us, are buzzing about “Paris on Your Lips”, one of the best slogans we have ever heard. Why? Because, with this slogan they have staked claim to Paris itself—Faucon “owns” Paris, its place of origin.

How can you stake claim of your marketplace and distinguish yourself from your competition with the right slogan?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Personal Branding for Real Estate Agents: Maintaining Your Consistency & Traditions

One of the keys for success in personal branding for real estate agents is keeping your brand consistent. This is especially true for luxury real estate marketing professionals who have been in the business for some time. You can update your technology and even refresh your look, but there is much to be said about tradition and the brand equity it can build.

Take See’s Candies, founded in 1921 and purchased in 1972 by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. The company's distinctive white stores are ubiquitous in nearly every U.S. state west of the Mississippi River. See's also offers its product in select markets in kiosks at malls, airports and other shopping centers.

See’s optimizes consistency and tradition. And, you always get a free sample of their candy when you buy something. Mary See’s picture is still in every store.

If you have been in business for some time, don’t change the fundamentals of your brand. Instead, capitalize on them and stay consistent. Tradition is a strong competitive advantage.

How can you maintain your traditions stay consistent and build personal brand equity?

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing Essentials: Internationalize Your Practice “Overnight”

One of the most frequently asked questions by luxury real estate marketing professionals today is: “how can I gain more exposure of my listings to buyers outside of my immediate marketplace?” Agents who work in second home markets, especially vacation destinations, are asking the additional question: “how can I reach more international buyers?” We discovered a very exciting answer that not only can help you attract more qualified buyers, but also can help you stretch your marketing dollars: Proxio, the international MLS and global referral network.

Proxio has a singularly focused mission: to make it easier for you generate more referral income. Proxio empowers you to simultaneously promote yourself and your listings to referring agents in neighboring towns or across the globe. You can enter a listing in one of seven languages and it can be searched or sent to clients in any other language. Proxio can also provide a search engine on your personal or company website so your entire local IDX/MLS feed can be displayed in multiple languages for consumers. In short, Proxio makes it possible for you to expand your market reach and internationalize your practice overnight!

One of the reasons that Proxio is growing so fast is that entire MLSs, associations and prominent real estate groups are enrolling all their members at once. For example, Proxio recently added the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing and the Realtor Association of Miami Dade County as new Proxio groups. This alone added more than 10,000 new agents to those who were already participating in 50 states and over 60 countries.


Plus, Proxio is getting the attention of the media and industry pundits. Stefan Swanepoel has cited Proxio as a key player in internationalizing the real estate industry in his 2009 Trends Report. Bernice Ross, real estate coach, speaker and columnist at Inman News, featured Janet Case, Proxio’s CEO, at her recent AFIRE (Awesome Females in Real Estate) conference in Savannah, Georgia and in her most recent column.

Basic Membership is free on Proxio. Standard Membership, which allows you to share your listings in multiple languages and build your personal global referral network, is only $79 dollars per year (that is about $6.50 per month). You can also gain more visibility by upgrading your account so that your listings and your personal profile are displayed on top of property and agent search results. The cost for upgrading is very reasonable and well worth it.

To learn more about Proxio visit www.proxio.com. And join our new Language of Luxury Group on Proxio!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing Essentials: Exemplary Client Service

As a luxury real estate marketing professional, developing ways to provide exemplary client/customer service should be a continuing pursuit. Providing great service in ways that differentiate you from your competition is the best of both worlds.

On our drive back to our headquarters in Santa Barbara, California from Los Angeles International Airport last week we stopped in Century City for dinner at Gulfstream, in the Westfield Mall. From our perspective as commercial real estate brokers (we were broker/owners of a commercial real estate firm in Beverly Hills), this is, by far, the most exciting upscale shopping mall in California. They really set the tone for exemplary client/customer service.

The Westfield Group is an Australian company and the largest property group in the world by equity market capitalization. This multinational company owns and operates shopping centers in Australia, United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Century City is a highly trafficked, densely populated area, adjacent to Beverly Hills. Parking places here are at a premium and parking can be extremely expensive especially in the office buildings. The Westfield shopping center has emerged as a hub and meeting place for LA’s Westside population for movies, dining and shopping. Ease of finding parking here is mission critical. With retail tenants paying very high rental rates, Westfield must deliver extensive foot traffic, both at night and during the day.

Prior to Westfield’s ownership of the center parking was particularly difficult. Frustrated shoppers would often leave the center without being able to find a parking place. This could easily deter them from returning at peak hours of the day. Valet parking is an option, but an expensive one.

Westfield minimized the stress of finding a parking space with a very simple, yet extremely effective use of technology. When you enter the parking garage, you can easily scan the spaces that all have light sensors indicating if a given space is occupied. A red light indicates an occupied space, a green light indicates a vacant space and a blue light indicates a vacant handicapped space. Now, that convenience not only represents exemplary, distinguishable customer service, but assures more walking traffic for tenants (Westfield’s’ ultimate customer)!

How can you demonstrate exemplary client/customer service in your luxury real estate marketing practice?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Real Estate Agent Personal Brand: Learning from American Idol Part 14

This is part fourteen of our blog series entitled: Real Estate Agent Personal Branding: Learning form American Idol. It is a fun and easy way to learn the principles of personal branding. You do not have to be an Idol fan to enjoy!

Reclaiming Your Brand Signal


As a luxury real estate marketing professional have you ever experienced the feeling when you are right on your personal brand signal? Have you ever experienced the discord of being “off-key”?

Lil Rounds has been struggling for the past three weeks on American Idol. She has a major talent and a unique style. But, she has lost tract of her distinctive sound. you”. Last week, she sang/imitated Tina Turner's signature song, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" Here's what the judges had to say: Simon told Lil "It's literally like we have lost you". The new judge, Kara said, “We still haven't seen you leap from a singer to an artist”.

Now, this is not a bad thing! Sometimes you need to experience the discomfort of being off signal to more clearly define who you are and what you stand for. As long as Lil doesn’t implode and uses this to hone her brand signal instead, she will re-emerge and have a personal triumph.

Obviously, her fans are rooting for her to reclaim her brand signal. She was in the bottom three last week which meant she is in danger, but she survived. Judge Randy says, “You are a mad talent”.

Personal branding for real estate agents is not just about getting a new look or a new website. It is all about finding your authentic brand signal and projecting, broadcasting your singular signal to your ideal clients. It is about accelerating the speed of trust in new business relationships. It is also about articulating your distinct brand signal in such a way that you make it easy for another to talk about you to others. Facilitating word-of-mouth advertising is essential!

If you find yourself, lost and “singing off-key” and not being “on-signal” realize that at the root of this is trying too hard to please other people, the judges in your life. Define who your ideal client is. Realize that your ideal clients, just like Lil’s fans, are rooting for you to be your authentic self, at ease with yourself. Hone your signal by sensing the difference in how you feel when you are on or off-signal then leap from agent to super-star agent!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Personal Branding for Real Estate Agents: Differentiate Yourself in a Nanosecond

As a luxury real estate marketing professional it is absolutely essential to sharply differentiate your brand of doing business from that of your closest competitors. When you are in a listing presentation, you must let your prospective client know, in a nano-second, how you are distinct from the others that they may be interviewing.

A new airline, Virgin American, which launched in December 2007, demonstrates the power of brand differentiation in the fiercely competitive regional California market.

In this market the choice is between:

1. Alaskan, 2. United, 3. Jet Blue, 4. Southwest,5. Virgin America

Last week we visited a client in San Francisco for a half-day meeting which required that we fly up and return on the same day. Since there are no direct flights from our headquarters in Santa Barbara we drove to Los Angeles to catch a 6:30 am flight to SFO (returning at 3:30 in the afternoon). For this trip we chose Virgin America airlines over our favorite, Southwest. The price was virtually the same but the in-flight experience was completely different.

From the moment we walked into the plane we experienced Virgin’s unique selling proposition:

1. the cabin featured mood lighting and mood music

2. an in-flight entertainment console with a touch screen, located above the seat-back table

3. multiple emails before and after the flight to establish a loyal relationship

The novelty was striking but was it enough to get us to come back? No! Flight time between L.A. and S.F. is only about 45 in-air minutes. Entertainment and mood enhancement is not our thing. Our inbox does not need more mail from vendors.

But, Virgin America did an outstanding job differentiating itself in an overcrowded market. Those who resonate with their differentiators will definitely gravitate to them and will most likely stay loyal if they keep up their good service.

Southwest will win our business back next time. We prefer what makes them different:

1. no penalties for changing reservations

2. a much easier online reservation and check-in system

Think of your closest competitor! How can you differentiate yourself in a nano-second as a luxury real estate marketing professional?

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing Essentials: Happy Easter -Twice

As a luxury real estate marketing professional it is helpful to understand multiple cultures and ethnic holidays. Your friends and clients will appreciate you for it. For, example, did you know there are two Easters?

Many people will be celebrating Easter this Sunday (April 12th), in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the internationally accepted calendar. The computation for the Easter date is based on the cycle of the moon. It can fall on 35 possible dates between late March and late April.

The revised Julian calendar is used for holiday celebrations by Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Christians. In accordance to this calendar, Easter must fall after Passover. Christ celebrated Passover prior to his crucifixion. So Easter must fall after Passover (April 9). The Eastern Orthodox Easter this year is on April 19th.


Faberge Egg, Easter Surpise for Tsarina Maria Fyodoro

Easter is one of the most important religious and secular holidays for this sect of Christianity. Children are given large chocolate eggs or bunnies filled with toys and candies. Special breads are baked with colored eggs. In Greece Leg of lamb is roasted slowly over a spit basted with lemon, garlic and oregano.

The Russians make a special sweet bread (kulich) baked in coffee cans, and a pyramid shaped cheesecake (Cheese Paska) embossed with the letters XB, the Russian abbreviation for “Christ has risen“. Some families bring kulich to church for the midnight service to have it blessed, and to share after the service. The service includes a procession circling the church three times. Then the priest declares, “Christ has risen”, and the congregation responds, “Indeed he has!” Then everyone disperses home or to friends' homes to feast till the wee hours of the morning. The next day, people start all over again visiting friends and comparing the buffet and delicious offerings.

We celebrate it all! There are wonderful traditions in all religious feasts! These rituals get us to slow down and contemplate the wisdom and truths that are common to all of us. It is the celebration of the human spirit, and springtime when everything is born anew, nature’s resurrection. Happy Easter (twice), Happy Passover and Happy Spring!

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Real Estate Agent Personal Brand: Learning from American Idol Part 13 (B)

DIAL IN TO YOUR UNIQUE BRAND SIGNAL

This is part thirteen (B) of our blog series entitled: Real Estate Agent Personal Branding: Learning form American Idol. It is a fun and easy way to learn the principles of personal branding. You do not have to be an Idol fan to enjoy!

Perhaps the biggest challenge for luxury real estate marketing professionals, when it comes to personal branding, is consistently maintaining your true brand signal. It requires factoring out what other people think about you. Marketing is matching the needs and expectations of your target market. But, dialing into your own original signal and staying true to it without imitating others can be a daunting task. You must strike a balance between giving people what they want and expect and delivering that in your own inimitable way. Playing it safe by conforming to what has been tried and already accepted can become a trap if approval of others is what you are seeking. Pleasing yourself is all important. Imitation is a copout.

For the past two weeks, Lil Rounds has not been on her brand signal. You can almost hear the static in her voice. Simon said, “This was, to me, you singing to stay in the competition with a safe song”. In earlier weeks, Lil was an original. Once you have heard her clear, pure signal it is not difficult to sense when she is off signal. Sometimes, though you just have to get off signal to clearly know how to dial back in. It is a matter of fine tuning. This applies in all forms of branding. In the case of American Idol, the contestants get instant feedback from the judges.

But, you can be master the personal branding “dial-in” process yourself without outside judges. Just become sensitive to the way you feel when you are on your true signal and recognize how you feel when you are off signal. Being spot on signal feels great. Everything else does not feel as good.

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Real Estate Agent Personal Brand: Learning from American Idol Part 13 (A)

This is part thirteen of our blog series entitled: Real Estate Agent Personal Branding: Learning form American Idol. It is a fun and easy way to learn the principles of personal branding. You do not have to be an Idol fan to enjoy!

How to Discover Your Unique Signal, Imitation vs Artistic Interpretation

Artistic Interpretattion of floral arrangement

In luxury real estate marketing the tried and true fundamentals still work. For example , rapidly returning phone calls and emails, staying in touch with your data base, remembering birthdays, giving great closing gifts will always help to build a successful practice. But, what is your personal interpretation of these fundamentals, your personal brand, your own brand signal, (your own artistic flair) for executing the basics?

The performances on last night’s American Idol show revealed that some of the contestants were in search of their authentic signal. One of the ways you can hone in on your signal is trying out someone else’s. This is what Anoup did by imitating Usher’s performance. Because it was an imitation, it came across to the judges as a “wannabee” performance, rather than an interpretation of the same song. Imitation is known as the sincerest form of flattery. Interpretation is taking the established form and pushing it in new dimensions that are uniquely your own. This was evident in Kris’ performance of “Ain’t No Sunshine, When She Is Gone!” A 30 year old song became new again.

How can you interpret the fundamentals in a new way that makes you stand out?

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