Real Estate Agent Podcast Episode 68: Differentiation in Real Estate
Your brand is like a book. It is your story, but you can't possibly put the entire contents of your story on the cover.
About This Episode
Tonya and Michael are real estate branding coaches who want industry professionals to stand out. Whether you work for a huge brokerage, work by yourself, are new to the industry or a veteran, they want people to distinguish themselves. And as hard as it may seem, to sell the qualities that will force clients to go with you.
Find out more about Tonya and Michael at their website.
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Ian: Hey, everyone, and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I'm Ian St. Clair and joining me on this episode are real estate branding coaches, Tonya Eberhart and Michael Carr. Tonya is the founder of Brand Face and Michael is the COO. And he was actually a client before he became a partner in the company. Make sure you visit their website, brandfacerealestate.com. Tonya and Michael, thank you for both taking the time to chat with me.
Tonya: Thank you, Ian.
Ian: Tonya, you and your company for each be bold. Why is being bold so important?
Tonya: Because it's a great alternative to boring, you know, being bold is something that honestly, if you know, we coined the real estate sea of sameness because what's happening in today's real estate world is you have the big box brokerages. And you know, they're not the only culprits. There's a lot of smaller brokerages too, but kind of giving everybody the same type of business cards, the same type of websites. And so everybody kind of starts to look the same and that's why we coined it, the sea of sameness. And so being different for a lot of people is a bold act and it takes something Mo more bold to stand out in today's world. And, and you know that as well as we do, I mean, so many advertising messages we're bombarded with every day and 90% of those are real estate. It seems like in any way, but that's what it takes is being more bold and kind of stepping a little bit out of that comfort zone.
Ian: Michael, why is it so important for agents to set themselves apart, especially today in this climate where there's really the sea of competition and everything is basically blending together?
Michael: Well, that has become something that like right now, it reminds me the real estate business reminds me of buying tech stocks in the late ‘90s. You just about couldn't go wrong, right? If you could get in, then you could lead me to set up a real estate agent and you probably know several people that won't try to buy a house. And then you get in the mix with fighting with what few houses we have left in inventory. But the problem with that is however successful. You might be able to be in the climate that we live in right now, anybody that has been around in real estate realizes that climate changes. But the one thing that never changes is what makes you different and what sets you apart against your competitors. And so, like I tell Tonya all the time, like we're dealing in my opinion, in the nation with a certain sickness, right?
Because right now, you know, you, like I said, you stick a stake in the ground with a flag and you're probably going to get some business. That's the people that last in this business are the ones that are taking that success and they are turning it into a differentiator and they are allowing themselves to be bold, like your first question and stand out and say, this is what I stand for. This is what makes me who I am and why that is important to you, the client. And that is what's going to be remembered. That is what's going to cause the longevity when this market turns and in whichever direction, and we, maybe we have more inventory than we can sell and which, which can happen over the course of several years, if a building boom starts,
Ian: You talk about the dangers of agents accepting the establishment scripts and templates for branding, Tonya. What do you mean by that?
Tonya: Good question. I'm so glad you asked because a lot of times, and it's true of any industry, you know, when we come into like a lead generation program, a CRM, there's certain templates or certain scripts that come with that you know, if somebody says, here's a list of all the people to call, here's your phone script for calling you know, the fisbos, the expireds, those kinds of things, those scripts actually were developed for a purpose. It's not that they're bad scripts. They actually, you know, are, are good. But what if you and 50 other people are calling the same 100 people with those same scripts and then it becomes irritating to the consumer. So how do you, once again, be bold utilizing what's already been approved in concept, you know, the scripts work, you know, unless everybody's using them, right. But how do you then infuse your own brand and messaging better yet differentiation into that script?
So, for instance, instead of calling and saying, ‘Hey, I saw your house was on the market and it, you know, that listing has expired. And I think I can help you. In fact, I might have three or four buyers available right now.’ That's the typical type of a script. It may not be verbatim and that might be one of 12 scripts out there, but that's kind of typical instead of that. How about something like I'm a transition agent and you know I'm calling today because your home has been on the market and now it's off the market. I'm a transition agent and I help people specifically like you to transition from one phase of life to another. And I do that because I know the people looking for your lifestyle and I can help me.
I can help you define who you're going to this house to in a much clearer way and get right to those people because you can't, you, you can market a house to everybody, but not everybody's in the market for that house. Some houses appeal to a certain type of clientele. So the transition agent understands the lifestyle that somebody is looking for, helping them transition. And so that's just one type of brand identifier, if you will, or brand that you could utilize and infuse that into that typical otherwise typical conversation. And that turns it to an atypical conversation that people remember when they start to think about selling their house transition agent, you know, that's me, I'm transitioning, I'm going through a major life transition right now. And that's who I need to work with.
Ian: It feels personalized.
Tonya: Very much, very much it is.
Michael: Yeah. You have to have the shiny now you know, we were bombarded with it, everybody at every turn, not just in the real estate business, although real estate realtors or real estate professionals are really bombarded, right. Everybody's gotten to the golden key. But it's that way really in any industry and every industry, everybody wants a portion, everybody wants their share of the prosperity. And so there's a certain amount that is good. But if you don't stand out from that, like if you can't create that shiny to get somebody to pause for a second, like the book of like a cover of a book, Tonya talks about that all the time, you know, back when we walked into bookstores and, you know, you looked for the section that you were interested in of that subject matter. And then you looked in your eyes scan, and you're probably going to pick out based on where it's put on the shelf and what it looks like on the outside.
You're going to catch some, it's going to catch your eye, but that in and of itself, isn't enough for you to pick the book. You would take that book off the shelf and open it up and maybe read the first, or maybe even flip it over on the back and read a little bit more. So like a brand identifier that breaks that see us sameness. It is like that book cover. It's like the back of that book. And then now you're interested now you're hooked a little bit. Okay. I want to know more. And you go to the introduction, you go to the preface, you followed a point. And if you've built a brand, right, they'll follow chapter after chapter, after chapter after chapter, mainly because it, it really, it really affects them. And that's the thing we have to remember the most, the most important thing is how does it affect the client? Because the client, although they're wonderful people, they have only their interest involved, but what is the best for them as they should. And we have to be able to get that across as real estate professionals. It's very hard to do
Ian: Now that we have a basic idea of the kind of messaging that can separate and make realtors or businesses stand out. How can agents tell the difference between basic branding and personal branding?
Tonya: I love this question. You know, when we think about branding, there is a typical definition out there.The definition is what people think of you, right? Your experience with them, but when it comes to actually marketing that brand, most people think if you have a photo, a logo and a tagline, you've got the brand, right? As long as you're putting the same logo tagline out there, pictures of you everywhere, that's a brand that ... those are indeed a few of the branding elements, but that is not a total and complete brand, because how does that differentiate you? It goes much deeper than that. And it's just like what Michael was talking about. Your brand is like a book. It is your story, right? Your brand is your story, but you can't possibly put the entire contents of your story on the cover.
So you've got to put something on the cover that captures that attention. Like Michael said, just walking into that bookstore and getting them to want to dig a little bit deeper, to know a little bit more, but you've got to connect with somebody on the surface and and you know, the logo and the photo and the tagline, they help with that. Absolutely. But that's not the entirety of a brand and the photo logo and tagline have a lot to do with your differentiation. And you've got to figure that out first, you don't just go get a photo shoot and get some headshots and say, there you go, I'm branded because you need to know what kind of photos are you having? What are you wearing? What kind of expression is on your face? Are you holding any props? What's the background behind you? A lot of those kinds of things are subconscious. If you will, to the brand helping you to attract exactly who you want to work with,
Ian: Michael, why is it so important for agents to showcase their point of differentiation without alienating their Broker and say, if they're working for a big brokerage, why is it so important for them to point out their differentiation and how they're separate?
Michael: Well, because they are individuals. And so, like, it doesn't matter how big, you know, the brand grows too, right? You can be at KW with nearly 160,000 agents, right? Worldwide. And I think it is the number now. I mean, that's an astronaut astronomical number, right. But inside of that, nobody's doing business with KW just because they read a book from Keller, from Gary Keller, like that nobody does a business on the street like that. I have a boutique brokerage in Atlanta. I can tell you that, you know, anybody real estate knows this as a broker. You own that client. So every agent that I have in my firm at every location, they, every one of those contracts belong to the brokerage. But anybody that's been a broker for more than two minutes, realizes that they have the relationship with that client, with that person.
Michael: So I have never had an agent leave my firm that I did not reach out or somebody on my staff to every one of their listings or their clients and say, you know, look, they, they, they're moving on to higher ground, or they're moving on for, for personal reasons. And you're, you are welcome to stay with us, or you're welcome to go with them. I just wanted to reach out to you and say, extend our services. Right. Which is also something that many big brokerages can't do. They can't offer even that kind of personalization. I don't know that I've ever had anybody stay with the brokerage. They go with the agent and are open to go with the agent because the agent has that relationship. And how do you build that relationship? When you go to church or your kids play in a ball team, or you go to your synagogue, or you go to your organizations, or you go to places to go to your bars or places that you hang out where you have all of your sphere of influence that are right there readily available at your fingertips.
And you ask any of them, how many realtors they know if they don't name you five, they haven't been alive. Right? And so we all know realtors like everywhere. They're out there and there's realtors that do it. Part-Time and REALTORS® just want to make vacation money. And there's REALTORS® that want to make it into a career. And then there's REALTORS® that want to grow it into something huge. And we all fit in those gambits, but every one of them deal individually with that client. And you must stand out alone with your brokerage rules. Of course, you must stand out from those other five, six, seven realtors that every individual, you know, can name. And if you do it correctly, they'll not only name you your name, they'll name, what it is that separates you they'll say Michael Carr. Oh, they used their abundant life broker.
Right? Because you put that brand out there enough that they understand that if big brokerages are never going to be able to do that. So like, I know it's long winded, but like in my boutique brokerage, I have nearly 50% now of my agents who are all personally branded with their own personal brand. Any one of those, you can pick them up. Any one of those that have a personal brand, they outsell everybody who doesn't have a personal brand put together. And they do that because we built the culture where I'm the overall umbrella. And my ideals were what built the firm. And they take those ideals and they take their individualism to them. And it works.
Ian: Tonya, how can agents graciously let their customers know they can't live without them. And why is it so important to do this in a gracious nature?
Tonya: Okay. So I think that the brand actually does that for them, because what happens Ian, when you, when you have a really strong brand, that super strong brand has to answer five questions, it is what sets you apart? Who do you serve? How do you serve? What qualifies you to serve them? And how does it make their life better? Your brand has to answer all five of those. And when you do that, that lets your clients know you have spent time and effort on yourself, on your craft, on explaining what it is that you're bringing to their lives. And to me, that's a gracious way of doing it. That's not walking up to somebody and saying, Hey, you know, you could try to sell this home by yourself. It's, you're just gonna, you're, you're gonna suck at it, right? You're not going to be any good at it.
That's not very gracious, but building your brand and really building it in a way that helps you attract those people for positive reasons. So they see all the things that they can benefit from when they do business with you. That's the gracious way to say, Hey, here, here I am. Here's all the things that I can do for you. You can't do that. You can do this without me, but it's not going to, it's not going to be as smooth, right? It says it for you. It's kind of like your brand precedes you before you even talk to somebody or, or especially meet them in person. They should already be familiar with you and what you stand for. And that's your brand getting out there ahead of you or proceeding.
Ian: Michael, how can agents transform their real estate coaches system from great to unbelievable? So we just shifted from branding to coaching, but how can they do that?
Michael: Let’s go back to your first question. Why is it important to be bold? So like what we've noticed with people that have taken their brand and begin to live it. And we, when we worked with them on a brand, we talked to him about that. And we say, look, we want you, this is the suit that you put on every day, right? So we want you to do this, to infuse your entire life. We want this to be at the tip of your tongue all the time. We want this to be at the ready. We equip you with tools to be able to do that at a moment's notice at a moment's notice that kind of thought process forward. This is who I am. This is what represents me.
And then the boldness in which they put out, put that out there is what transformed them into incredible is that is what makes the difference. Because people are interested in it on the street. They, again, they're not going to just do business with a logo just because of the logo. I, they may say that, but it ended the day. We teach people that it's because you didn't prove your value at that time to that person. Now, that's not saying you did anything wrong, necessarily. Maybe that person wasn't going to receive your value. No matter what I like to say, you can't lose what you never had, but you have to be able to portray that value. And what you do that is to put that brand suit on everyday and live that brand very bold in everything you do and infuse that everywhere that you go. And that's what takes them to incredible
Ian: From your guys' perspective, and I'll direct this at Tonya. One thing that I'm getting is you have to sell yourself. And that is just not something that people are innately willing to do. They don't like to do it. How difficult is that for both of you to be able to just teach people, to sell yourself, get that out there? And that's how you create this personalized touch. It's natural. It's distinctive. It differentiates you from everyone else. How difficult is it to get people to, to start allowing themselves to say I'm selling myself and I'm going to do it and be bold with it?
Tonya: Yeah. You know, it's actually it, when you first talk to somebody, when they're coming into our program, they do have those they're intimidated by that somewhat they're, you know, very timid about putting themselves out there because they, they don't want to be judged or they don't want to be seen as narcissistic, or you get listicle, but it takes maybe five minutes at most to say, you know what? Don't worry about that. That's not, you, you don't have to continually sell yourself if your brand is doing it for you. So you've put your brand out there. That's, you know, it goes back to what I just said about don't ever walk into a room or even pick up the phone and call somebody unless they have already been impressed by your brand. In other words, get something out there. If you're going to have a three o'clock phone call this afternoon, send your spotlight sheet.
That's one of the pieces of marketing material that we work on with our agents and that's seven or six or seven elements of their brand at a glance. And so before you even get on the phone with somebody, they know who you are and what you stand for, you can do that through a video. You can do that through a lot of different things to allow you to your brand, to precede you. But when you have those things already defined and the brand is already out there, you just have to walk into a room because they already know you. And that's what makes it so easy. You don't have to resell. There's no reinventing the wheel here. You put your picture, your, you put your story out there. You put all the branding elements out there. We teach you how to use them. And they work on your behalf. It's like a soldier working for you, 24 seven, as Michael says, even while you sleep.
Ian: One thing that I've gathered over the course of talking with multiple real estate professionals is how important a coach is. So Michael, why is a real estate coach system so important?
Michael: I think mainly for the discipline and we were big coach fans. We definitely believe in coaches. We believe in scripts that teach and, and the discipline of having somebody there to hold you accountable effectively. There are parts of the real estate business, all realtors hate. Like we were speaking at real estate, one group in Michigan, in Detroit last month at the largest brokerage in the state of Michigan. And one of the owners is two two brothers that own the company. Now fourth generation, 96 years old, fantastic company. And he stood up and he goes, look, real REALTORS® have been around forever. REALTORS®, hate prospecting. That's really what it boils down to. We hate it. We're not good at it. We don't want to do it. That's why we're a service business. He said but prospecting is a very important part of what we do.
And I think a coach can definitely bring that element to the game and help you get over some of the things that you just, you would be lax about. If you didn't have somebody saying, Hey, you need to, you need to do this. You need to do this. When you infuse your brand into what your coach is telling you to do, that's where it totally makes a difference. That's the game changer, because now not only are you doing the things that a very large percentage of our counterparts won't do, which is hire a coach and, and be held accountable. But now you're adding in the flavor of that personal brand that you're building in your geographical area, that you want to dominate, which you should be looking at it like that. Even if that's just a one neighborhood situation, then you've, you've risen yourself. One more time, like a cream rising to the top. One more time, because you've taken that brand. You've listened to what your coach said. You infused that brand into everywhere you go. And everybody that you touch that your coach helps you get to you. Hold on to, because you're all right.
Ian: Let's take a quick commercial break. And after we do, we'll discuss if iBuying is a threat to real estate agents.
Ian: Welcome back from the break. Tonya, how can branding hurt an Agent?
Tonya: If it's poorly done and you know, if they're putting out something that is not authentic, that can hurt an agent, or if it's incomplete, um, because let's face it. You know, everybody has a personal brand. In other words, if you don't tell them what you stand for and tell them your story, they're going to assign one to you and you may not want the one they assigned. So those are really the only two instances I can think of when it's not fully defined, developed, and displayed, or when it's not authentic.
Ian: We've talked about branding and how to differentiate yourself, Michael, what are the dangers of not doing any branding?
Michael: I think it sort of piggybacks on what Tonya just said. If you don't tell people what you stand for, if you don't target the right people, then they're gonna just gonna assign you the you know, what they think of you and, and industry or the industry. And I think that's the biggest thing is the industry. And like just lumping, oh, another realtor, oh, another realtor, you know, you can, right. You know, we get it all the time, but sodas, car salesmen and insurance salesmen and any other industry, they all get the same thing. Oh, you know, here comes another landscape forever. You know, he put another tree cutter, like, and so you, you know, you need to tell your people like that. You're going after your ideal customer. And I think that the biggest breakdown with people in their business is they don't define what that is.
We have people all the time tell us, well, I'll sell a house to anybody at Walnut. Will you like, like, think about that really for a second, if you're new and you just started, yes, you absolutely will grab every commission. You can make every dime that you possibly can, but when your business starts to turn in 90 days or 180 days in a first year business, when that business starts to turn, you should have already figured out who it is that you enjoy working with, who it is. You can help who it is. It appreciates you, who it is that it's profitable to you. And those people are who you should be targeting your brand towards. And that way your brand is carrying. And they begin to understand in your community, in your geographical farming area, why it's important to them to work
Ian: Can't do a podcast and not mention the last year. So Tonya, how has the last year changed the real estate industry?
Tonya: I think that it has forced agents to realize just how important their personal brand really is because they can't be face-to-face as much anymore. You've gone from Fe well, you've gone from across the table from someone where they actually get a better sense of who you are. You've gone from there to, there was a gap there because a lot of agents were not even using zoom before COVID came around. Right? So there was a big gap there that they didn't know how they were going to stay in contact. All of a sudden here come the agents towards Zoom a lot. We're using it. We're a lot. And so it's taught us to learn how to communicate through this different medium of video chatting. And I think that's great because it means we're working harder on our backdrops. We're working harder on presenting ourselves on digital media in a different way, because person to person, you know handshake, handshakes have been out the window, and now we have this visual aspect.
We can see nonverbal communication, at least, you know, from, you know, perhaps the waist up or whatever, but it's changed that a whole, whole lot, you know? So I think it's forced to really take a look and see, you know, what my surroundings matter, how I present myself on camera matters. You know, how I brushed my hair and, you know, brush my teeth and put on my makeup, maybe for a zoom call, you know, that matters. You don't want to show up to a zoom call. You want to show up to a zoom call, just like you would show up to a lunch meeting. So these are the things that agents are really learning, how to use digital media to an advantage and why their personal brand matters more than anything because the digital world has really taken a step forward.
Ian: In terms of that digital world I mentioned, Michael is iBuying a threat to real estate agents? And does that threat make it even more important for agents to get in front of potential clients?
Michael: Really good question. That is somewhat complicated and somewhat super simple. So let's look at the numbers first. It blows my mind. The Zillow lost $312 million last year on their guaranteed pricing. Open door reported first quarter earnings of $286 million in the whole first quarter earnings knock is fixing to be public all for pads fixing to be public. So it blows my mind. This I buy movement is scary to those of us that are service oriented when it is such an economic failure. Now, the complicated part of that is I don't run Zillow, right? Rich Barton may see something that I don't see in the comments. I, you know, I have a national footprint. We sell properties all over the United States. We have a 41 state network of people we meet with on a weekly basis.
We see a lot of what's going on. I don't understand it. I don't understand why anybody on the street would take an 8% hit right off the bat. I don't understand why they would get beat up after repairs for that. There's a lot about that. I buy our movement that I don't understand. And the biggest part of it is the numbers. Because if the numbers don't produce and wall street is going to give up on the thought process, what do I do? I have a conjecture, if you'll allow me and the audience will allow me in that they are ahead of the game in inflation. And so they're losing money now, but they recognize that real estate in America is going to go up if inflation hits heavy. And so we're seeing that in lumber. So lumber costs have to be passed onto the end user.
We're selling new home constructions where they're signing up you know exhibits that are saying, if it increases more than 1%, sometimes 2% they can get out of the contract, but they're required if they stay in the contract for the sales price to change, because the builders are recognizing that they can't control this. And where's it going to come from? Like we don't know, sorta what's looming for us. And I think inflation is definitely something the fed is having to work with. So I'm not saying I buy our movements in public. Initial public offerings are dumb in any way, shape or form. I'm not saying I'm smarter than Zillow or Opendoor. All of those guys, it just blows my mind. There's such a loss in it. That's the positive to the individual agents because Zillow is never going to be able to hold the hand of your elderly client that is transitioning from their life-long house.
Maybe their spouse has passed. Maybe they're alone. Maybe their kids live in another state. Maybe that they're never going to take the place of that agent that is properly branded themselves to that ideal customer. Knowing every place I can put you, every elderly care place that are over 55 or maintenance free. Our lifestyle changes that we can put you in or communities where we can put you in here where you're self-sufficient, but we can move you to another section when you begin to need help. And then we can move you straight into a, maybe a full care facility, but you haven't changed anything about your lifestyle. So we'll never figure out Opendoor will never figure out how to do that for those individual clients. And that's just one client, right? And I mean, there, you could specialize in the military, you could specialize. I have an agent who specializes in medical care facilities.
And so she is a, her brand is real estate remedy, and it's a trademark brand of ours. And she is all she caters to is traveling nurses. And she sells property all over the United States, selling to traveling nurses that have their own network. And they say, you need to call Kelly. You need a call academy unit. And her business continues to grow year over year, over year, over year, because that's such an underserved industry. Well, when you tell an agent that says, I'll sell any property, want it, if you say, well, why don't you focus on nurses? Sometimes they can't see that you could never serve like a hundred thousand colleges. Couldn't take care of all the nurses in that industry. So I just listed two or three industries that people could focus on that are underserved and no IBR movement will ever fix that. And they won't. And I'll end with this. They still only occupied 4.2% of the market in the overall sales period.
Tonya: So, and I'll add to that, Ian, I, I'm going to be bold about it. It's a bait and switch. It's a bait and switch. It's pulling people in with a 1% commission or no commissions at all, just fees, right? And that's a bait and switch and American consumers are smarter than that and they will figure it out. Plus, they have all of that and they don't have the dedicated personal services that they would have with the local feet on the ground.
Michael: Yeah, for sure, absolutely.
Ian: Tonya, what is the one piece of advice you would give students about to get their license and enter the industry?
Tonya: I would say don't fall into the trap of just running straight for the marketing solutions and lead generation programs. People think I've got to generate leads, I've got to generate leads. That's true, but you've got to generate the right leads. You don't just need people to know you exist as a new real estate agent. You need the right people to know why you exist. So work on the brand first and then comes marketing. A lot of people think that they get the two mixed up. They, you know, interchange them quite often, but the brand, your marketing is actually taking a message and putting it out there through various marketing vehicles and platforms. You're getting a message and image out to your potential customers. Your brand is that message and image. And you can't work on that too well in the very beginning, it's defined, developed and displayed before you ever start to market and you'll save a lot of heartache and money and you'll have a lot more focus on success.
Ian: Let's wrap up with this. Michael, if you could go back to the beginning of your career and change one thing, what would it be?
Michael: I'd have been bolder. That's the honest truth. I'd have been Boulder. I mean, it just, you know, I can't, I was lucky enough to come up through the ‘90s when all the mortgage companies were offering 125% loan to value ratios on stated income. And I was buying houses where I was the real estate broker and my own real estate broker. And I was walking away from investment properties with checks, and I wish I had a ball a hundred times more than that. That's just it. I would be bolder. I would be much bolder about things. You have to go after it if you want it, and if you want it, I can tell you it is out there to be had. And so be bold. That's what I say.
Ian: Well, Tonya and Michael, I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me about being bold and how to separate yourself from the sea of competition and really take a hold of what it is that you want to take a hold of.
Tonya: That's what it's about. And thank you for having us on, Ian. It's been a pleasure.
Ian: Make sure you visit their website brandfacerealestate.com.