I am a pretty active guy, always on the go and always pushing toward the next goal. I get up, go to my desk start working until I”m exhausted and can go to bed. Working, making time for my daughters and my wife allows for precious little quiet time or time for reflection. However, in the quiet hours of the early dawn, when the sun is just breaching the horizon, my mind starts turning, its at that time that mistakes of the past, failures and missed opportunities start to haunt. In these moments my belief system guides me toward peace and brings clarity to unanswerable questions. My faith is strong and it’s what I rely on to answer the haunting of failure and the screaming of pressing goals. Its what drives me to desire a better balance to my work and personal life, to be more to my children than my parents were; to love my wife the way she deserves to be loved. My essence is defined in the foundation of my belief in God.
However, my foundation is not something that I will use to gain an upper-hand on my competition.
Misconceptions and Perceptions
When first licensed, I branded my business as a “Christian Agent”, I wouldn’t advertise in the church bulletin or pass out cards at church, but I perceived that my belief system would bring like minded clients. The heterogeneity of beliefs is a funny thing. Being a person who believes in God, or any other Deity means so many different things to so many different people. I quickly found that regardless of what we called ourselves, the clients that were drawn to me through the use of religious imagery on my business cards or webpage, did not necessarily think the same way that I did. Within my first year, I dropped using any reference to religion in my business marketing. I was far better off once I had made that separation. The perception from competition is typically, that they think you’re merely using your church as a way to gain an unfair advantage. The perception of most consumers is that they don’t care or will see you as an easy target.
What about Fair Housing
As a Fair Housing instructor, I get tons of questions in class, e-mails and phone calls tattle-telling on one agent or another who has a fish or a cross on their business card. Recently I saw an advertisement for an agent stating that she was “The Lord’s Realtor.” I personally find this exclusionary marketing line, offensive. However, so long as these marketing venues of the practices of the agents aren’t ‘limiting the choices” of a protected class, there is nothing illegal about them. Do I think they are a good idea – no.
Are you Attractive or Offensive?
Beliefs are typically very personal to people. It has been my experience and feedback from other consumers that they do not feel comfortable working with people who are so zealous about their beliefs as to use them a marketing ploy. You also have the group, who may believe the same as you, but are offended that you would try and use their beliefs as a gimmick. My personal experience is that the folks who I’ve worked with in the past, who profess to be on the same belief are typically the most difficult to work with. When you combine all of these ideologies and experiences – what exactly was the benefit of using religious imagery in your marketing?
I feel the same about religious bumper stickers 😉 No one drives well enough to be a banner for your Deity!
Let Your Passions Influence Your Work
If you are passionate about your beliefs than continue to let them be a guiding force in how you conduct yourself and your business. I completely encourage you to allow your faith to be a cornerstone, however it shouldn’t be a stumbling block. Not everyone believes in a Deity or religion for that matter, and they certainly do not all believe the same way. One of my very best and most trusted friends has completely opposing views as I do, on this matter; but she is trusted and cherished as a friend, non-the-less. There are many good, ethical people out there practicing real estate and it has nothing to do with their attendance at a Synagogue, Mosque or Church. Treat clients fairly and honestly regardless of the personal beliefs. People will start to sense your passions soon enough – regardless of if you “advertise” them or not.
October 31, 2008 at 8:53 am
Thank you, Matt.
I think that we should LIVE our beliefs – not advertise them.
October 31, 2008 at 8:56 am
You said: If you are passionate about your beliefs than continue to let them be a guiding force in how you conduct yourself and your business.
How absolutely true. It doesn’t matter one iota to my clients if I believe, what I believe, or how I believe. An ideology, religion or belief system is personal and is better served through intrapersonal communication and/or reflection.
October 31, 2008 at 9:44 am
Great post Matt.
Speaking from the UK, I always find it bizarre that religion is used in marketing in the States. I see lots of real estate pros using their religion in their email signatures, business cards, websites etc and just think ‘OH MY GOD (excuse the pun) WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?’. I’ve never ever seen it done here.
For some reason the whole thing just angers me and I can safely say that I would never work with someone that wanted to ram their religion down my throat. I find it offensive. And I know a lot of other people would feel the same, it just isn’t relevant to business.
I’m very proud of my faith, but to wear it as a badge of honour seems silly. As you say, my religion influences my behaviour and ethics anyway…so why do I need to stamp it on my business card?
It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist or a Muslim, what matters is how you conduct yourself in business. And there are plenty of people of my own religion that I wouldn’t want to work with 😉
October 31, 2008 at 2:29 pm
Great post, Matt!
“Let Your Passions Influence Your Work”
This statement alone stresses the fact that we need to go on living with so much passion to everything we do. Do things that you dont want to and you’ll be having a hard time doing it right?
You perfectly brought the idea and I can relate to it well.
Thanks for posting!
October 31, 2008 at 8:15 pm
My faith motivates and undergirds everything I do, but it is only for others to see not for me to wear on my T-Shirts or broadcast.
November 1, 2008 at 6:34 am
There is a time and place for everything and I agree with you. I used to have my car wrapped with my name, business and phone number – it looked good, but it meant I always had to drive nice. I’m just not that good.
Passion is the one thing you can not hide or fake; when people see you have passion for your business and conduct yourself as a professional,religion doesn’t matter.
I never put the fact I am a Christian on anything business, because once again, I am just not that good.
November 1, 2008 at 7:15 am
I am not one to advertise or proselytize and therefore my faith is not something that I would discuss or even think of in a business situation. Frankly, I am bothered by agents who qualify their vocation by being a “blank” agent or broker – it seems to indicate to me that they have a predisposition that is not part of the real estate transaction.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I care so little what faith an individual finds comfort in that I don’t even want to discuss it in any context that is not philosophical or educational. I am not judgmental in any manner about someone Else’s faith, I just don’t need to have that impinge on things that are IMHO unrelated to the business experience we are sharing.
My faith does ask that I act as a righteous man, am charitable to others, and act in a manner that “heals the world”. In my own way I do these things every day, and that brings me a measure of comfort and a sense of fulfillment. And that’s what works for me. Everyone else needs to find their own answers.
November 1, 2008 at 7:48 am
Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!
It is the way that we act and operate in our daily lives and our business that shows people much more than words or taglines how we believe and what our core values are.
How many times have you been rudely cut off in traffic by someone with half a dozen religious bumper stickers on their car? It happens.
How about the religious advertising agent who gets involved in an ethical dispute, or even something more benign like “buying a listing”?
As in politics, with religion, I judge someone by their actions, not by their words.
November 1, 2008 at 8:15 pm
I agree and really like how Mariana said it as well. I don’t do business or not with people based on their religious or political beliefs. I think those are things you learn about people should I decide to continue to work with or be friends with them because of how they act and treat me, not what they believe. What they believe may determine how they act but I want to see it, not hear about it.
November 2, 2008 at 8:16 am
thanks for writing this. I recently got into a struggle with a company over this issue. They want me to do something for them but their marketing is “hyper Christian”. I respect all religious beliefs but have some strong opinions on using religion in marketing. I also have a core value that what we actually do is so much more important than what we say. I never discuss religion but those who know me know what my values are as they see them in my actions.
November 2, 2008 at 8:56 am
Thanks gang for reading and commenting. I was a bit nervous posting this, but feel that it’s a common issue that folks struggle with.
I do want to add on top of all the comments that some of you have added, this observation:
Too often in the practice of real estate, things just don’t seem “fair.” Those strategic recommendations I make to the seller-client may not be perceived as “fair” to the buyer-client.
The reality is that in the course of representation, often times one party needs to have a “smaller win” than the other. (for those unlike myself who believe there are no losers in RE).
If I’m marketing myself under my religion, than those folks who don’t “win” in the transaction will use it as one more evidential fact that (insert your religion here) is hypocritical…
Keep your convictions out of your marketing, but let them guide your service.
I’ve had a few off-topic comments to the contrary of my post and I am thankful that those folks at least gave me the opportunity to chat with them. We’ll have to agree to disagree.
Bill: I FULLY agree that you, of all the people I know, truly walk out your faith. You’re one the most self-less RE folks I’ve ever met!
November 2, 2008 at 6:40 pm
I need to chime in and agree. As a “born again Christian” I find it distasteful to my Lord to try and use Him in order to secure business. I glorify Him with the way I work. I know of a certain agent who has bible verses all over his profile – but I wouldn’t want him to help me buy a dog house.
It’s not being ashamed of Christ – as some may suggest. It’s honoring Him so much as to not make a commercial spectacle of my faith.