Are you branding yourself and your business?
Your brand is how you portray your business, as well as how your business is perceived by others. So the first step is to figure out how you want to be perceived.
But first, let me give you a quick definition of “brand” so we’re on the same page. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”
You might be familiar with how cattle ranchers used to brand their cows (and some still do). Each cattle rancher had a unique symbol that they would burn onto each of their cows with a hot iron. Let’s say the ranch was called “Lazy R Ranch”. So maybe the brand would be a big “L”, or something similar. When someone saw that symbol on a cow, they would immediately know who the cow belonged to. A person might even call to mind what they know about the owner of that cow, maybe that he’s a friendly guy who is always willing to help his neighbors.
You may be wondering how that applies to you. It’s relatively easy to figure out if you have a physical product you sell. You may think about having your logo on the product, and that’s a part of it. But what about if you’re in a service-based business like real estate investing?
Well, branding is more than just slapping your logo on things. You don’t even have to have a logo to have branding, though it’s not a bad idea. In reality, branding is pretty similar to your reputation. When people hear your name or your business name, what comes to their mind?
Do they say, “Who?” That could be if you’re just starting out or haven’t done a lot of marketing, but the longer you’re around, people should start to become familiar with you and have some sort of impression.
Essentially, branding is everything that conveys to your customers/clients that you can uniquely provide the solution to their problems. When someone hears your business name or sees one of your ads, what is the overall mental image that comes to mind for them? That is tied very closely to your brand. Obviously, you want them to have an overall positive image of your business and know exactly what service you provide.
It includes how you treat people, whether you keep your word, whether you can provide solutions, whether you’re fair, etc.
To illustrate this, think of how Burger King builds their brand: Their advertising, store appearance, and their marketing campaigns are all built around how to build – or further – their brand. When you go into one of their restaurants, you have expectations about what their food will taste like, how you’ll be treated, etc. Everything they do is carefully staged to further the Burger King brand. So, too, should it be with your real estate investing brand.
Your marketing efforts must be carefully coordinated to further the brand of ‘Your Real Estate Investing Business, Inc.’ You need to think about what image you want people to have, what you want to be known for, and then make sure every point of contact you have with people portrays that image consistently.
Proper branding will state your message clearly. There shouldn’t be any question about what it is you do or how you can help people. Of course, most people aren’t going to understand the specifics of what you do behind the scenes, but they don’t need to. Back to the example of Burger King, the customers don’t know the recipes for the food, but they know how it tastes when it’s all put together.
Similarly, your clients aren’t going to know exactly what investing strategies you’re using and what all is happening behind the scenes, but they should know clearly what the result will be for them. In other words, they’ll know what service you provide and how you can help them.
For instance, they see your name or business name and think, “Oh, that’s the guy who buys people’s houses when they’re behind on payments.”
Your branding should also help to gain people’s confidence and trust, confirming your credibility with them. Of course, your efforts to build confidence through your branding are useless if they’re not backed up by your actions. Treating people right and handling your business in a professional way is vital. That’s your foundation. Your branding just emphasizes that that’s the way you do business.
Your branding efforts should attempt to make a connection with people on an emotional level. Often emotions play a big part in people’s decisions, whether they realize it or not. There is a certain amount of psychology involved.
Again, let’s use Burger King as an example. You can pick just about any successful business and see these same elements at work. But Burger King’s slogan right now is, “Have it your way”. It’s really simple and most people probably don’t stop to really think about it, but it’s designed to connect with people on an emotional level.
It’s basically telling people, ‘When you come to Burger King, you’re in control. You get to make the decisions and whatever you want, you can have it.’ In a sense, they make you feel like you can be the “king”, and have things your way. People like to have their way.
In Burger King’s own words, “It’s a brand that celebrates individuality and choice.” That sums it up nicely. People like individuality. They want to feel like they’re unique (even if they’re ordering the exact same burger as millions of other people). People like to feel like they’re special. On a more basic or practical level, Burger King is telling you that you can customize your order, which is also nice because people like choices.
In reality, I don’t think there are really any more choices available at Burger King than McDonald’s or any other fast food place. And I would bet that just about any fast food place is going to let you customize your order. If you say “no pickles” I doubt any restaurant is going to tell you they can’t do that.
So do you really have more choices or control by going to Burger King? Probably not. But you do have choices, and that’s the angle they decided to take. In essence, most fast food burger places are about the same. But each one has to stand out in some way.
One place may focus on choices, one may focus on taste, one may focus on bigger portion sizes, while another on freshness of ingredients. What it comes down to is the business had to decide, “What can we do to make ourselves stand out and make people remember us? What do we want people to associate our name with?”
You’ll notice that most successful businesses tend to focus on just one point and try to be superior in just that one way. The reason is that if you try to focus on too many things, people won’t remember you. What if Burger King’s slogan was, “We give you choices, have the biggest and best tasting burgers, and use the freshest ingredients.” Would anyone remember that? No.
It can be a hard decision to pick what one thing you’re going to excel in because that means you’re going to have to sacrifice drawing attention to other areas that you may be really good at too. And you may feel like you’re passing up other opportunities by focusing on just one thing. But in the long run, you’ll usually come out ahead by being focused.
Let me give you an example. What do you think of when you hear the name “FedEx”? What service comes to mind, and what is the advantage of FedEx? Most likely you think of FedEx as the service to use when you need to get a package or document somewhere as quickly as possible. You may immediately think of their overnight service that they’re famous for.
When FedEx first started, they offered 3 different services: Priority 1, 2, and 3. Priority 1 was overnight delivery, Priority 2 was two-day delivery, and Priority 3 was three-day delivery. They were primarily trying to compete against a company called Emery Air. Their focus was to offer better service at cheaper prices.
That sounds like a pretty good goal, right? So how did that work out for FedEx?
In its first two years, the company lost 29 million dollars.
Ok, so what went wrong? Well, think back to their focus: to offer better service at cheaper prices. Do you see anything wrong with that? At first glance, it sounds pretty good. But you might have picked up on the fact that they were trying to focus on two different things: quality and price.
You might be thinking that the problem was that it’s difficult to compete with both quality and price because usually when the quality is higher, the price has to be higher, and I’m sure that’s a factor. Even if they could pull it off, in the minds of consumers, generally price and quality go together. If you want quality service, you generally have to pay a little more. So it’s possible some people were skeptical.
But the bigger issue is that they weren’t really focused. They were trying to compete in two different areas.
How could they really stand out in the marketplace if they were trying to be both better and cheaper? It’s not to say that they can’t be both better and cheaper, but to get attention, you have to focus on your biggest competitive advantage.
And whenever possible, you should focus on something that is a weak spot for your competition, something where others are lacking that may cause frustration among their customers/clients, something where you can really excel and stand out as better in some way.
So what happened with FedEx? We know they’re still around today, so they must have changed and done something right. So what did they do?
They put their primary focus on one thing: quality. To be exact, they focused on the quality of just one service: Overnight Delivery. They dropped their 2-day service and renamed their 3-day service “standard air service”. They adopted a new slogan: “Absolutely, Positively Overnight.”
So essentially, they put all their marketing efforts on just their overnight service, even though they still had a 3-day service available. And you can see there was no mention of price. They didn’t say, “Absolutely, Positively Overnight for Less”. They just said, “Absolutely, Positively Overnight.”
Again, they focused only on quality. They essentially are saying that they are the most reliable carrier for your documents/packages. If you don’t want to worry about whether it’s going to get there, or whether it will get there on time, they are the one company to trust.
Can you see some of the emotional ties here? When people ship something, they want it to get there (obviously). And that’s especially the case with something you’re willing to pay to have overnighted. It’s obviously something important that is worth paying extra to get there quickly. So you wouldn’t want to take any chances with it getting lost in the mail. So in a sense, FedEx is telling you that with them, that’s not going to happen.
But besides definitely arriving, they say it will definitely be there on time also. Obviously that’s another concern people would have. You wouldn’t be overnighting it if it didn’t matter when it got there. It needs to be there a.s.a.p. – maybe yesterday or today, but no later than tomorrow. You can’t have it taking 2 or 3 days to get there. So FedEx is assuring you that it will get there on time.
Again, there is no mention of the price. Does that mean FedEx is higher than everyone else? Not necessarily. They’re not the only overnight carrier, so they have to be competitive. But they’re not promising to be the cheapest, they’re promising to be the best. And with a document that really has to be there tomorrow, wouldn’t you go with the service you felt was most reliable even if it was a little higher?
Clearly, with a service like this, they focused on the right thing. So what was the result? Well, for one thing, they’re still around today. But the last profit report I checked, they had over a 2 Billion Dollar profit for the year. So clearly their focus paid off.
You might notice that they now offer quite a few different services. They are very well established now and a big player in the shipping business. Everybody knows their name and trusts them and it makes sense to add more products and services. But their focus is still on quality.
One of their more recent advertising slogans was, “Relax, it’s FedEx.” This also plays on the idea that there is nothing to worry about if you use FedEx – your package will definitely get there and on time. Plus, they’re putting in another subtle message: that you can relax if you use their service, something that’s going to appeal to business people who are often stressed out.
Ok, so what does this have to do real estate? Well, it’s a good example of both branding and focus. You can learn a lot by looking at what successful people and businesses are doing and learning from both their example and their past mistakes, even if they’re not directly related to real estate.
In fact, you’ll often get some of your best ideas from unrelated industries. Sometimes within a certain industry, the ideas are passed around and recycled so much that everyone is doing the same thing and there’s never anything new.
To really excel and stand out as different, sometimes you need to get ideas from outside sources. You’ll often have to adapt things a little bit to your market, but it’s a good way to get a fresh perspective on things and think outside the box that everyone else is working within.
So start thinking about what you should focus on and how you can build your brand through your marketing.
What did you think about this information? Please leave comments below. Thanks!