Developing a Personal Brand (That Potential Customers Will Remember)

People don’t recommend run-of-the-mill real estate professionals to their family and friends; they pass along the names of agents that are standouts. To achieve that kind of status, you not only have to be uniquely talented, you also have to establish a unique personal brand.branding

A personal brand not only projects a positive image, it also allows you to emphasize what it is that makes you better suited than your competitors.

Time for a self-assessment

The best personal brands combine some warm and memorable personal attributes (your red hair or oversized glasses, your company mascot, your big family, etc.), with some serious business advantages (your years of experience in a particular niche, your record of accomplishment, your one-stop collection of value-added services, etc.) Examples include:

 

  • The urban-living specialist with the cute Chihuahua dog.
  • The unpretentious “girl next door” that buyers and sellers can always count on.
  • The rugged former home builder who can help buyers discover the hidden potential in properties.
  • The successful business woman with an inside track on luxury properties.

 

Forget about the personal-brand basics, attributes like “friendly,” “experienced,” “ethical” or “knowledgeable.” Those are things all your competitors can easily claim as well (and usually do). They don’t set you apart from the pack, and they’re so basic that prospective clients expect them. Instead, focus on the attributes that come naturally, have real appeal to your target audience, and are good for the bottom-line.

 

For most agents, this kind of self-assessment can be really tough. Consider asking family, friends and long-time clients for their honest feedback and input about what makes you unique.

 

Add a tag line

A tag line does not make a personal brand. But it is an important component. Consider hiring a professional writer to help you create one that hits all the right notes (differentiates you from other real estate professionals, sticks in the minds of consumers, but isn’t overly corny). Or, consider adapting one of the examples below:

 

  • Your edge in a competitive real estate market
  • A trusted resource for local real estate
  • Luxury real estate services for select clientele
  • The urban-living specialist
  • The Central area specialist
  • The right realtor for this market
  • Setting the standard in San Jose real estate
  • Leading the way in the local real estate market
  • Building real estate relationships since 1984
  • Opening doors for real estate deals since 2001
  • Service that goes beyond the sale
  • The service you deserve. From people you can trust.
  • Service so superior it’s legendary
  • A passion to perform
  • Same price. Better real estate services.
  • A tradition of trust
  • Our local real estate roots run deep
  • Two real estate experts for the price of one
  • The advantage of a neighborhood specialist
  • Everything I touch turns to sold

 

Hire a graphic artist

Once you’ve settled on the attributes that best represent and differentiate you, it’s time to hire a graphic artist. A professional designer will be able to turn all of the above concepts into a memorable logo and a complimentary palette of colors that you can incorporate throughout all your marketing materials.

 

The final step

To make your new personal brand catch fire, you need to use it consistently – incorporating your new logo, tag line and corporate colors into everything you do (from business cards to blogs, marketing postcards to event sponsorships).

 

After a while, you’ll probably grow weary of using all the same things in all your marketing materials. And you’ll undoubtedly think of new ideas you could incorporate. That’s a mistake. Remember: Prospective clients are not seeing your branding on a regular basis, like you are. They come across your marketing materials only occasionally – and your branding needs to be consistent each time they see it. A strong, consistent personal brand is the way to build a memorable reputation.

Generate More Money with a Good Listing Photo

Now that every prospective home buyer is using a computer or smart phone to review property listings, the quality of the property photos has moved to the top of the list in terms of importance.

goodphotosIn the latest home-buyers survey from the National Association of Realtors, 97 percent of the home-shopping public ranked the photos on a listing as being one of the most important factors.

A study published in the Wall St. Journal some years ago even tried to attach a dollar value to a good listing photo. Their conclusion: Listings with quality photos get more online attention; and the property can sell for anywhere between $934 and $116,076 more than a listing with average photo quality (unless the home is a loser to begin with).

So how can you generate more money from your real estate photos? Keep reading.

THE NECESSARY EQUIPMENT

The study mentioned above found that the type of camera used was particularly important. But that’s not all you need to capture a high-value listing photo. Here’s a list of the bare necessities:

 

A quality SLR camera – Photos taken with a phone or a point-and-shoot camera almost always lack the richness and detail necessary for a printed marketing document. A quality digital single-lens-reflex camera will allow you to adjust for low-light situations (especially when shooting indoors), take wider-angle shots, generate high-resolution results, manipulate your photos in post-production, plus much more.

 

A camera tripod – Once you start adjusting the exposure on your camera to account for the amount of light present, it becomes much harder to hold the camera steady enough to avoid blurring. A tripod solves that problem (plus ensures that the camera isn’t tipped at an odd angle). Quality isn’t that important; even an inexpensive tripod will work.

 

Two clamp lights – You’ll find clamp light fixtures for sale at most big-box home-improvement stores. They’re often used to temporarily light a room while construction work is ongoing. The light housing is made of highly reflective, lightweight aluminum. In the center is the light bulb holder. And attached to the back is a simple clamp that allows the light to be temporarily attached to doorways, furniture, etc.

 

Two Cree light bulbs – Traditional incandescent light bulbs (100 to 150 watts) have always proven effective for lighting interior settings for photography (when used with a clamp light fixture). But they’re being phased out in exchange for lower-energy alternatives. Plus, they’re too fragile to be used in movable fixtures. A rugged replacement that gets high marks is the Cree 18-watt LED bulb (equivalent to a 100-watt incandescent bulb).

 

HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR) PHOTOS

Want to create the same kind of stunningly realistic images you see in glossy home magazines? Switch on your camera’s automatic exposure / bracketing setting, and start using high dynamic range software.

 

Step 1: Select the right settings

Set your camera to automatic exposure / bracketing. And set the shutter button to rapid-fire or drive.

 

Step 2: Take the photo

Each time you push the button, the camera is actually capturing three images at various exposures. Needless to say, it’s very important that you use a tripod to keep the camera from moving while the camera is snapping the photos.

 

Step 3: Edit the photo

After the shoot, upload your images to HDR software (Photomatix is the most popular) and blend the three exposures into the most accurate rendering of all: one image rich with detail, highlights and shadows.

 

Don’t go overboard

HDR-processed photos can sometimes show so much detail that the final image looks faked. The trick is to find a balance between highlighting the details and bringing out too much detail.

 

INTERIOR SHOTS

Prospective home buyers will study the interior photos most, because that’s where they’ll spend most of their time if they buy the place. Unfortunately, taking accurate, attractive interior photos is the hardest part of listing photography.

 

Interior lighting

Proper lighting is one of the most important aspects of taking a quality interior photo.

 

The built-in flash feature on your camera is excellent for lighting things within three feet of the camera but, by itself, it’s hopeless for lighting up the interior of a room. At best, it creates a flat-light effect that makes the room look lifeless. Instead, use the clamp lights and Cree bulbs recommended above. Place the lights on both sides of the camera (as far as 8 feet from the camera in a large room). Move them around to see the effect lighting can have on the space.

 

Other tips for proper lighting:

 

  • Learn how to adjust the shutter times on your SLR camera to drink in the available light. But remember: Longer shutter times mean the camera must be held perfectly still (with a tripod).

 

  • Try using two different bulbs in the two different clamp light fixtures (one 13.5-watt and one 18-watt) to create a subtle, three-dimensional shadow effect.

 

  • Try using your camera’s built-in flash in combination with the clamp lights.

 

  • Replace the bulbs in the room’s light fixtures with 150-watt versions to not only help illuminate the room, but also make the fixture pop in the photo.

 

  • If the natural light is too bright, wait until dusk. Shooting at twilight is another option. But avoid taking photos after sunset.

 

  • The effect you’re going for is even, balanced lighting, with some subtle shadows. To achieve that, try taking the shades off some of the out-of-frame lights, opening/closing doors to adjacent rooms, opening/closing shades.

 

Interior angles

You never want to make a room look smaller than it really is. So use the wide-angle setting, and position yourself in the doorway (or tight in a corner of the room).

 

To avoid distorting the edges of the room, keep the camera lens parallel to the floor – then bend down, or kneel, to get all the furnishings in the picture.

 

Try also taking a few shots from atop a step ladder, with the camera angled down.

 

EXTERIOR SHOTS

Attractive exterior photos are easier to capture but still require the right lighting and angles.

 

Exterior lighting

Use the clamp lights mentioned above to light up outside areas, too – like covered porches/entryways, which can often be too shadowy even on a bright, sunny day.

 

Exterior angles

When possible, choose a camera angle that allows you to crop-out utility poles and wires, not-so-nice next door houses and other things that might make potential buyers think twice.

 

If the footprint for the home is good-sized, include some shots of the front that also include a view of the side so potential buyers can see the home’s depth.

 

Use a tripod. While blurring is less of a problem for outdoor shots, a tripod will help guard against crooked, wide-angle shots.

 

Some houses look better when photographed above ground level. You can use a ladder to increase the height of the shoot, or there are special camera extension poles.

 

AFTER THE PHOTO SHOOT

Even if you don’t use high dynamic range photography (see description above), you can still edit your photos after the shoot using photo-editing software (adjust the colors, crop the edges, etc.). Photoshop is the software program used by most professionals. But free software is also available online (and may even be included with your camera).

 

The ethics of editing

Whenever you edit a real estate photo, you want to make sure you do not materially misrepresent the property:

 

Ethical:

  • Removing cars, garbage cans, chairs, children’s toys and other mobile objects from the photo.
  • Brightening the sky, removing dark clouds and making other weather changes.
  • Adjusting the resolution and contrast to improve the image quality.

 

Less than ethical:

  • Improving the look of fences, walkways, grass and other permanent features.
  • Demonstrating what it would look like if the carpet was removed and the hardwood floors underneath were refinished.
  • Repositioning the sun in the sky so it appears an area of the yard gets more sunlight than it really does.
  • Removing utility poles, power lines and not-so-nice neighborhood houses from the photo.

FINAL ADVICE

The best way to learn more about photography is to take a hands-on photography class. But if you’re an agent with a listing that just can’t wait, we’ll leave you with one last bit of advice: Take lots of photos. Try a variety of different angles and lighting techniques. Position yourself – and the furnishings – in different places. Take some multiple-exposure shots, and some single-exposure versions. When all is said and done, and you’re staring at it all on your computer screen, you’ll be glad to have so many options to choose between.

 

Get Creative: Design Tips for Custom Marketing Postcards

Most agents love how simple it is to launch a prospecting effort with Xpressdocs’ pre-designed marketing postcards. But did you realize there are blank templates you can design yourself?

For those who want to let their creative side shine, here are some tips from the Xpressdocs design team:

designInvest in a quality SLR camera – Photos taken with a phone or a point-and-shoot camera almost always lack the richness and detail necessary for a printed marketing document. A quality digital single-lens-reflex camera will allow you to adjust for low-light situations (especially when shooting indoors), take wider-angle shots, generate high-resolution results, manipulate your photos in post-production, plus much more.

Make sure your image is 300 dpi – Any image you include on a postcard (a photo, a logo, a graphic) should have a resolution of 300 dpi. Lower-resolution images (typically 72 to 96 dpi) are fine for viewing on a digital device. But for a printed postcard, the quality needs to be much higher.

Get inspired – The best (and easiest) way to develop ideas for a custom design layout is to study other great layouts. Click through the Xpressdocs postcard designs and make note of the elements you find particularly attractive (layout, design, colors, images, fonts, etc.), then combine, rearrange and replicate those ideas to develop something totally unique.

Leverage the power of color – According to Pantone, the world-renowned authority on all things color, every shade has a direct impact on a person’s emotions and psyche:

  • Red: Sexy, passionate, provocative, exciting and dynamic.
  • Hot pink: Shares the same high energy and spirit of red, but it’s more energetic and youthful.
  • Orange: Generally preferred by extroverted personalities, it’s perceived as playful, gregarious happy and childlike.
  • Yellow: Cheerful, mellow and soft to the touch.
  • Brown: Rooted, secure, down-to-earth and durable.
  • Blue: Reliable, trustworthy, dependable and committed.
  • Green: Refreshing and fresh.
  • Purple: Sensual and spiritual; artistic and unique; with a futuristic quality that speaks well for new concepts and technologies.
  • Neutral tones such as beige, gray and taupe: Solid, dependable and classic.
  • White: Perceived by the human eye as a brilliant color, and most often used as an eye-catching contrast color, white communicates clarity and cleanliness.
  • Black: Powerful, dramatic, elegant, expensive and strong.

Be consistent with your brand colors – Using color to establish a personal brand is relatively easy: Choose a combination of colors that defines your business’ attitude (and makes it stand out from competitors), then use that palette consistently on all your marketing pieces, everything from sidewalk signs to marketing postcards. The key is to be consistent. Trouble starts when you get tired of seeing those colors over and over, and you start mixing in new colors – which voids all the brand recognition work you’ve done to that point.

Consider using a professional – Designing marketing materials is a lot of fun, but creating something that looks truly professional is a lot harder than most people realize. So if your best try doesn’t produce the result you want, hire a freelance graphic artist to help.

How to Make a Name for Yourself in Company Meetings

Company meetings are a great place to boost your image and impress the boss. Yet many professionals today totally overlook these opportunities. Consider using one or two of the following tips at your next conference-room gathering.

Leave your phone at your desk

acing-the-presentationIt’s annoying to whoever is speaking when the other meeting participants are distracted by their phones. Be the only person who comes without their phone, and the personal connections you make by simply staring the speaker in the eyes will pay off big down the road. The best way to make deeper, more rewarding personal connections at work is to make those around you feel heard, understood and respected.

Be positive

When the boss uses a meeting to introduce a new program or a big change, most people at the table will immediately start thinking about the negatively impacts. It’s human nature. To set yourself apart (especially in the boss’s eyes), react positively – but without making any commitments you can’t keep. Say something like, “I’m intrigued by this. I’m going to gather my team first thing tomorrow morning and start brainstorming implementation plans.”

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No Fear: Seven Tips for Those Who Hate Public Speaking

Countless books have been written about how to make an audience sit up and take notice when you give a business presentation. But what about the people who become so nervous and anxious that they have trouble simply speaking and thinking clearly in front of a group? For those folks, we offer the following tips:

Consult with a professional

nofearpublicspeakingJust about everyone gets nervous before speaking in public. But if your nervousness is debilitating, the root cause is most likely something from your childhood: other kids laughed when you spoke in front of the class; an adult criticized your speaking; you watched a friend get humiliated in public. These are deep-rooted traumas that only a professional therapist (or hypnotist) can help you overcome. Make this the year that you finally put those childhood memories where they belong: in the forgotten past.

Start small to gain confidence

You can’t simply tell yourself to be confident. Rather, you need to gain confidence by actually experiencing some public-speaking successes.

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Clinton Counting on Marketing Postcards for Election Win

It’s true: Hillary Clinton’s presidential political campaign will almost certainly be relying heavily on marketing postcards and other direct mail to communicate her stands on important issues, drum up financial contributions, criticize opponents, encourage voting and more. Her last presidential run did. All political campaigns do – because direct mail is inexpensive, and it has a long history of being able to influence human behavior.

But that’s not really what this article is about.

The headline and first paragraph of this article are simply examples of a marketing technique called “Newsjacking.” In short, to illustrate how effective postcard marketing can be, we linked it to a trending topic in the news: Hillary Clinton’s latest presidential run. You can use the same technique to promote your business.

(And just to be clear: We’re completely impartial; we take no sides in this or any other political race.)

How to get started

newsjacking-how-to-do-itJust pick a topic (it doesn’t need to be political) that’s getting a lot of attention (news stories, social media comments, etc.) then think of a connection to your world of real estate sales.

Once you’ve discovered a connection, create a blog post discussing it, dash off a tweet mentioning it, launch a postcard campaign featuring it, send out a marketing email focused on it. Among marketing experts, Newsjacking is most often mentioned in relation to blogging, but the technique can easily be applied to most any form of advertising / marketing you use.

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Part 2: Eight Ways to Turn Sales Leads into Valued Clients

In a blog post last month, we shared four things you can do to make a prospective home buyer – or seller – want to hire you as their real estate agent. This month, we’re back with four more:

Use CRM software

“Customer relationship management” software helps you manage all your sales leads more effectively. Wildly popular with sales people from a wide variety of industries, there are a number of very good CRM programs designed exclusively for real estate professionals. With a good CRM solution, you can:

  • Determine which leads are the most valuable, the most pressing and the most likely to turn into clients.
  • Keep track of which leads you’ve contacted, and when.
  • Be reminded when it’s time to reach out to certain leads.
  • Easily manage all the contact information for your leads.
  • Communicate different marketing messages to different types of leads.
  • Track the social media postings of your leads.
  • Plus much more.

part2-turn-leads-into-clientsLeverage those kudos

Compliments from past clients are very effective at swaying prospective clients. Keep a record of all the kudos you get (the more specific they are, the better), and hire a graphic artist to help you format them into an attractive flyer. Even better, use the complimentary quotes in a simple postcard marketing campaign: Mail a new postcard to your sales leads every four to six weeks, each featuring a different complimentary quote from a past client.

Flaunt your expertise

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USPS Postage Rate Increase : May 2015

The United States Postal Service has announced postage rate increases that affect all orders placed after 4pm CST on May 27, 2015. Xpressdocs rates for mailed products are being adjusted to reflect this postage increase.

 

Impact of USPS Postage Increases on Current Xpressdocs Rates
Products First Class Standard
Small Postcard – 5.5 x 4.25 in $.02 N/A
Large Postcard – 8.5 x 5.5 in $.02 $.01
XL Postcard – 11 x 5.5 in $.02 $.01
Folded Postcard – 8.5 x 5.5 in $.02 $.01
Mega Postcard – 11 x 8.5 in $.04 $.02
Rectangle Tri-fold Brochure – 8.5 x 5.5 in $.02 $.01
Newsletter $.02 $.01

Please contact any one of our client service specialists with questions by calling 866.977.3627 or email us at info@xpressdocs.com. We appreciate your business.

Part One: Eight Ways to Turn Sales Leads into Valued Clients

Xpessdocs’ list service is great for generating sales leads. But many real estate agents struggle with the next step: turning those prospects into paying clients.

The truth is, there is no “best” method for converting leads. There’s no telling when a potential client is going to make the decision to hire you as their agent. Every situation is different. Every prospect is unique. That’s what makes a sales career so exciting.turn-sales-leads-into-clients-part-1

But there are some lead-conversion approaches that have proven more successful. Included below are four of them. Next month, we’ll be back with four more.

Emphasize what makes you different

In the eyes of most prospective clients, it’s tough to tell a difference between real estate agents – which means, if you want to convert a sales lead, you need to emphasize the little things that make you unique (or at least seem unique).

Consider real estate agent Dan Kingsley. He sets his practice apart from the rest by playing up his paperless transactions:

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Dirty Mailing Lists Are Bad for Business

The last thing you want to do is waste time and money sending marketing efforts to the wrong address, to an outdated address, or to someone who no longer even has an interest in real estate services. If you want your marketing to pay off, you’ve got to keep your direct mail and email marketing lists clean and up-to-date.

Cleaning your direct mail list

dirty-mailing-lists-bad-for-businessAccording to the U.S. Postal Service, about one of every six families moves to a different address every year. That’s approximately 45 million people moving every 12 months. If you don’t have a way to accurately update the mailing addresses on your marketing list, not only are you wasting money, you’re losing touch with your contacts.

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