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Should agents focus on building their personal brand?

One of my favorite TV shows is The Apprentice, so much so that I even watched the US version and developed a slightly worrying crush on Martha Stewart. Some of the best bits about the apprentice are the short interview sound-bites which the producers continually show us to remind us how driven and unhinged the contestants are – effectively the reasons why they are a threat to normal society.

One of these sound-bites that has got the nation laughing recently is from a guy called Stuart Braggs, who has come out with the classic “everything I touch turns to sold”. But the statement that he’s received most abuse for is  “I’m not just Stuart Braggs, I’m Stuart Braggs the brand”.

Whilst I have laughed along with the rest of them and I can see that the way he presented this view is pretty funny, I can also see that he has the right attitude and that his business success depends on his personal brand. And to be fair on Stuart Braggs, the youngest ever UK Apprentice candidate at 21, he launched his own telecoms company at the age of 19 and is clearly successful in his field.

On my recent visit to the US, I saw how seriously you take building your personal brand and it seems to come as second nature to those I’ve spoken to and connected with online. As one speaker at NAR said “it is in (y)our DNA” and is no doubt considered as a vital ingredient to being a successful real estate agent in the hugely competitive market you have.

It’s not in our DNA

In the UK however, whilst we accept that people buy people, there is very little focus on repeat business or building personal brands. We simply don’t have it in our DNA. We don’t actively promote ourselves as brands and the idea that a real estate agent would build a long-standing relationship with the home-seller for future business and referrals very rarely exists.

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My view is that business owners should train their employed real estate agents to be personal brand builders; in the same way they train them to provide great customer service, to be good negotiators, even to answer the phone correctly. It should be a skill that all business people are trained and encouraged to develop.

There seems to be little desire for this to happen, neither from the individuals nor from the real estate agency business owners. They are almost solely interested in meeting their immediate need for business and bringing quick results, but not focused on long-term opportunities.

If this remains the case, then it certainly gives those who do build their personal brand the chance to stand out from the crowd, hopefully in a more positive way than “Brand Braggs”.

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Written By

I'm a UK property geek and blog at housingdabble.com My day job as Director at The Property Academy involves consulting with property professionals to define and implement best practice in their businesses. We also do marketing, PR and Social Media. We also help them celebrate their success by organizing the Estate Agency of the Year Awards in association with The Times. Have no fear, I've seen the future and it will be.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Bruce Lemieux

    November 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I lived in the UK a couple of years and had experience (very limited) with real estate. I think that you nail the key difference with the suggestion that “business owners should train their employed real estate agents to be personal brand builders.” Here, every agent is his/her own business. That’s why development of a personal brand is so important allowing one to building a business (not career) while being associated with one or many brokerages.

    In the UK, my impression was that agents were employees of a brokerage. It was a job/career – not an individual enterprise. If that’s the case, then companies would never encourage agents to develop their brands – it’s not in their interest. Also – at least in the Northeast yeasr ago – the commission structure was much lower. This attracted agents who were more like office clerks, not entrepreneurial sales people. That may or may not the case now…. or in other parts of England.

  2. Coleen DeGroff

    November 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Hi Ben,
    If your business focuses on marketing, PR, and social media, I would hazard a guess that self-promotion actually IS nestled on that British DNA of yours. 🙂

    I can’t wrap my mind around the notion that agents in the UK aren’t falling all over themselves to create their own personal brand. What is the difference between the UK and the US in that regard, do you think? Are all of your real estate agents independent contractors as they are here in the US? Because if they are not, then as Bruce Lemieux pointed out earlier on this thread, that could be the key difference. I would love it if you would share more re how real estate brokerages are structured in the UK.

  3. Ben Harris

    November 19, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Bruce you are correct and on my wavelength. I do think though that employers should help them to develop their brand, because they are almost sub brands of the brokerage and if you beleive it is in their best interest then its also in your best interest. Employers should want to help their staff better themselves and if they truly look after them, they will remain with them.

    Coleen, I hope it is in my DNA, I sure try hard to do it myself. I will explain more about our different structure in future posts

  4. Greg Lyles

    February 4, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I would venture to say that many agents will never succeed in creating a strong brand.

    A brand is much, much more than a logo and a catchy tag line. Branding is much more about creating a set of perceptions in the minds of your clients, but also within your target market, that will cause them to choose you over another realtor. But the catch is that once they choose you, those perceptions must be confirmed and reinforced in a positive manner. So positive, in fact, that they are willing to tell others about you.

    When most people talk about brands they think of the big boys – Coca-Cola, Ford, McDonalds, and so on. Those folks have spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating and managing perceptions – and making sure that those perceptions are not left unfulfilled.

    So, when agents think about branding, they need to determine what it is that they want to be known for, whether its performance, being the short-sale king/queen, whatever.

    Then they should evaluate the competition – is anyone else already well known for that in your area?

    Next, it is prudent to decide if what it is you are attempting to brand yourself as is truly relevant in the minds of your target audience. If it is, then the agent should define their brand, what the promise is to potential clients and how that promise will permeate everything you do in your business to reinforce the promise, and therefore, the brand.

    Once a complete service proposition has been developed you can work on your logo and tag line because it should reinforce the brand identity you have created.

    Use all of your advertising, social media exposure, etc. to reinforce the promise to potential clients of what you stand for and then make absolutely certain you deliver on those promises without fail.

    And keep doing this for about ten years.

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