It's Good to be Better, but it's Better to be Different
If you aren't fascinating, you aren't memorable.
-Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist
We are driven by evolution to stand out. It's what helps us find a mate to pass on our genes. It's what helps us resist disease or overcome challenges in our environment. If we aren't different, then we get left behind. Anyone who has done a little bit of online dating knows how easy it is to get lost in the sea of profiles. I think women have a better understanding of this because they get dozens of emails every day of pretty much the same guy with the same shirtless pictures and the same bio telling them they are different than all the other guys out there. If you are 1 in a million, there are 319 of you in the United States alone. You could all get together and form a club.
When you are trying to stand out, it's good to be better than everyone else. But it's better to be different. Speaking in the terms of a real estate agent marketing him or herself to the hundreds of thousands of home buyers, how do you be different? I think so often we are tempted to do what other people are doing because it seems to work for them.
Don't be a copycat.
Case in point, when I first started my real estate photography business in Utah I had a hard time getting some traction with my marketing. I spoke to other photographers around the country to see what they were doing. One guy printed off some brochures and passed those around to different agent offices and he claimed to have gotten 10 new clients that way. I thought, "Great! I'll do that." And I printed off a box of flyers and dropped off 10 or 15 at different agent offices. Not a single phone call. Ok, what next? Another photographer said he direct mailed postcards to 200 agents and he got 10 new clients that way. "Great! I'll do that." I sent out 250 post cards...and not a single phone call. Perhaps you got one of my postcards last year and thought "Meh." I wasn't doing anything fascinating. I wasn't doing anything different. I was just copying what has already been done a hundred times. I was just another drop in the bucket for real estate agents who get hit up all the time through email, snail mail, and phone calls.
When you are marketing yourself, it is easy to think that if you do what another agent is doing you'll get the success that she gets. But that rarely happens. You are already putting yourself behind the curve by copying someone else's marketing plan (a marketing plan that probably wasn't very well thought out in the first place). One of the biggest problems I see with agent marketing is that everyone is doing something similar. How many agent names and faces do you see on a billboard or on a moving truck parked on the side of the road? How many agents are claiming to be Utah's #1 Agent, or Utah's Top Agent, or Utah's Most Experienced Agent? This marketing plan is expensive and probably won't give you the ROI you expect. The best advice I got as a young entrepreneur was:
Find out what everyone else is not saying, and say it.
So let's not focus on trying to make a better magazine ad, or have a better sign glued to the side of moving truck, or a more slick listing presentation on your iPad. Focus on being different. Because the more replicable you are, the easier it is to replace you. Don't copy someone else and think you can do it better. The goal here is to be different than everyone else. Because being different is what makes you noticeable.
Let's give this a shot. Try to find the yellow dot in the picture below:
How hard was that? Now, what if I had said, "Try to find the better grey dot." What would you have done? Which one is better? What is the litmus test for a better grey dot? This is what is going through your client's minds when they see a thousand real estate agents all clamoring for their business. They all look the same and they'll be attracted to the one who is different.
Ok, let's talk about how you can be different. First up, what is the first thing you give people when you meet them (aside from your winning smile)? Probably a business card, right? It's easy! It's portable! It's expected...! But you're not standing out unless your business card it made out of acrylic or laser cut aluminum or something crazy (crazy expensive) like that.
"But my business card has my picture on it!"
Well, that's fine, but how many other agents have the same business card? I got a card from someone that had a fun design on it. 6 months later, I was eating at a diner in Panguitch, UT, on my way home from Zion National Park, and saw the same design on a stack of business cards on the cashier counter. I realized it was just a generic template on a business card website. I'm not saying that you shouldn't use spot gloss or vertical orientation, just don't make that be the one thing that makes you stand out. As soon as one other agent hands a potential client the same design, or the same gloss, or the same "whatever" that you have, you both are now lumped into a pile of "grey agent" along with everyone else and you'll need something more. If you want to make a business card that stands out, I suggest a digital business card. Not only is it different, but it helps you connect with your potential clients through images, copy, and video in a way that can't be done with a piece of laminated card stock.
Note: I see agents putting their professional designations on their business card. Something like:
Next up, your website. The cold, hard truth is that no one is going to your website to look for listings. How many agent websites do you see that have some version of the following:
Thank you for visiting YourPerfectUtahHome.com! My site has access to ALL listings from ALL agents in Utah so you don't need to look anywhere else!! I can help you find your perfect Utah home!
And then there is an IDX feed for all the active listings in Utah (none of them yours), perhaps a few really nice background images of homes (that you had no part in selling), a link to your broker's website, and lastly, your contact information. This is an example of a website that is not interesting nor does it stand out. It is a "grey agent" website. There is no way to make this kind of website "better" so people will remember you and so you stand out. Besides, this is not what people want to see. Your potential clients are not going to www.yourperfectutahhome.com to find their next home.
First off, the user interface is awful. Secondly, it's a lot easier to go to Zillow.com. Thirdly, are you really trying to market your services to ALL of Utah? I'm guessing you are trying to stick to the Wasatch Front (or your specific geographical area). Make your website different so you stand out. People want to learn about YOU when going to YOUR website.
We can kill two birds with one stone here. Instead of having an IDX feed website that provides no value and wastes your carefully chosen domain name, turn your website into your digital business card as mentioned above. A simple, to the point, 1 page website tells your story far better than some generic listing feed. Your personal brand will get a boost by connecting with your clients and giving them something worth reading and watching. You can also set up sub domains on your website to host your virtual tours and listing pages. This keeps traffic coming to you instead of a third party.
Your website could include:
I also strongly suggest against using obnoxiously long domain names like mentioned above. These are hard to remember and even harder to type out. I met an agent at a Salt Lake Board of Realtors meeting, we'll call him Chad Woods. He had a cute URL, something like www.yourlifeinluxuryUT.com. I lost his business card and couldn't for the life of me remember what his website was. If it had just been www.ChadWoods.com I could have been there in a flash. Your name is your personal brand and it is much easier to find you that way. Sure, I understand that SEO is affected when you don't have UT, Utah, or Salt Lake City in your domain name, but remember, people aren't going to your website to find homes. They are going to your website to FIND YOU. They want to hear YOUR story. I suggest you use your name as your URL. Your name is your brand and you should be utilizing it. Chances are that your name is available as a domain name (or a simple iteration of it like John-Doe.com or JohnDoeUtah.com or JohnDoeAgent.com). It looks much more professional (and it's much easier) to direct people to www.JohnDoe.com instead of www.yourlifeinluxuryUT.com and have them misspell it 3 times before they give up.
Listing Presentations and Packets
Does your listing presentation include some fun slides, images, and text on an iPad? This was a great way to deliver a presentation to potential clients in 2010. Now, every agent is showing the same presentation on the same iPad to the same potential clients. Check out this link on 10 "fantastic" listing presentations. They all look so similar that the page should be titled "10 Listing Presentations That Make You Look Just Like Everyone Else." And the kicker? No client is going to remember any of it. Using an iPad has now become part of a "grey agent's" arsenal. With our ever decreasing attention spans, people want to get to the point. They don't want to squint at your tiny iPad for 45 minutes while you drone on about Q3 2016 home sales or why your brokerage is better than the other guy's. Tell them what you will do as their agent in less than 10 minutes and let them continue the conversation if they have questions.
How can you make your listing presentation different? There is no one thing but here are some ideas. Print out photos from 3 of your best listings on 8x10 photographic glossy paper and write on the back the details of each listing (print off some stickers and put them them on the back to make this easily repeatable for future presentations): date listed, date sold, list price, sale price, location, obstacles you overcame, etc. You could even include a comment from that specific client about all the amazing things you did for them. Have these printed at an actual photo print shop, not Kinkos or the kiosk at WalMart. The cost for each print is about $1.50. It will also really help if you have print-worthy listing images to make a huge impact with your potential clients as well. Include a copy of the actual listing flyer for each of these three listings to further show this client how great your marketing plan is. Tell them how you believe that giving their home the best marketing will help attract more buyers, sell faster, and get higher offers. Tell them about what things you do that you don't see other agents doing as far as marketing each of your listings. Send them to your website (not your IDX feed website we just talked about) so they can see for themselves that you provide the best marketing on every home you list and that you don't just pick and choose the more expensive ones.
Tactile variations is also one of the best ways to fascinate someone and be memorable in their mind. What this means is the more variation you have in size, texture, color, etc, the more pathways in the brain are created to remembering that event or person. Don't just give them a 45 page listing packet stapled together on Xerox paper. Give them an packet that contains many different items in shape, color, and size to engage their senses. Here is an example packet:
Put this together in a nice gift box or a sturdy envelope. Total cost for this packet is about $40. A pretty small price for an practically guaranteed client. What makes this work so well? It's different! This is something you will give them regardless of them signing with you. ESPECIALLY if they say, "We are interviewing multiple agents" you want to leave them with this packet. Why? Because it's different! When every other agent out there is delivering boring presentations on iPads and giving them a listing packet that starts off with "Dear Homeowner" you are making a real connection with them on a personal level. Even if they sign with you on the spot (which would be ideal) you still leave this with them to confirm that they chose the right agent. You could even land a few referrals from your outstanding and different listing presentation.
A Community Expert
This is a great way to stand out for all your clients but will take some time. As a community expert you can show knowledge of the area your clients are thinking about moving to or have purchased a home. You can tell them where the post office is, where the fire and police stations are, where the best local restaurants are, how far away are malls and movie theaters. You can tell them about the main street parade they do in this town every Christmas or the best park for viewing fireworks in July. I feel that so many agents are just trying to close a sale that they aren't putting any effort into the experience. People buy an agent, but they refer the experience. When someone has moved to an area they know nothing about, it is immensely helpful to know these things. You can put all this together in a little "Welcome Home" packet that they can reference once the dust from the move has settled. See more ideas on how to be a community expert here.
Client Appreciation Gifts
I have an entire article on giving good gifts. This is an incredible way to stand out. Not only do you show how much you appreciate their business but you give them a lasting reminder of the great time you had buying or selling a home together. A good client appreciation gift is something they will see and possibly use every day. It is a frequent reminder of how much you value their business. It is not a sales pitch or a plead for referrals. Don't give your clients a gift attached with the expectation that they will refer you to their friends, or even worse, asking them for referrals when you give them the gift. If they like you, which they should by this point, they will gladly refer you without you pestering them about it.
A Lasting Relationship
My last idea for this article is to establish a lasting relationship with your clients. Friend them on Facebook so you can keep up to date with their lives. Learn about their birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrate their children's achievements. It would take very little effort and very little money to put a reminder in your phone to send a birthday card with a $5 Starbucks gift card a few days before their birthday. It would take very little effort and very little money to hand write a note with a $5 SubZero gift card saying congrats to their daughter for her team winning first place in their little league baseball game. Doing stuff like this mean A LOT to the recipient and it keeps you fresh in their mind when someone asks them in 2 years, "Do you know a good real estate agent?"
Being different helps you stand out. This doesn't mean that you have to be great at everything. You just have to do what you do best and outsource the rest. For example, I'm great at real estate photography but I'm not great at project management. That's why I use a service to manage and automate it for me. You don't have to be perfect at every aspect of your business. You just have to be a really great real estate agent and then outsource the rest. Things like photography, video, internet marketing, bookkeeping, accounting, and even mileage trackers can all be outsources by a company or a phone app.
Being different will get you noticed. Remember, it's good to be better. But it's better to be different.
Keywords: better, different, how, interior, marketing, photographer, real estate marketing, salt lake city real estate photographer, stand out
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