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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   December 2014

Unmasking Your New Brand

Transitioning to a new company requires hard work and a local touch

Picture for a moment a job opportunity you wouldn’t want to pass up. Hold it up like a mask and look into an imaginary mirror. What would it look like?

Perhaps it’s a chance to pioneer a national brand in your market. Or maybe it’s a chance to open your own shop. Either way, the opportunity promises more flexibility, greater autonomy, access to a wider variety of programs and the freedom to market them — and yourself — in ways you think might work.

So you take a chance and don a new mask. That’s when the real work begins. Along with the freedom and excitement a new job brings, you’re also faced with the responsibilities of rebranding yourself — constructing that new mask. You must announce the new business, help people find you and build your new company’s name recognition.

Along the way, you may find that some marketing efforts succeed right away, some succeed over time and others are nearly impossible to measure. By combining corporate resources with hyper-local and personal efforts, however, you can build a foundation of growth while keeping your core business strong.

Build a digital trail

If you’ve been at one company for some time, your name has likely become fairly synonymous with the name of that company — to former clients, to Realtor colleagues and to Google. Updating everyone’s memory of who you are and where you work starts with updating your online profiles.

You don’t want to make a move and discover months after the fact that the No. 1 search result for your name is still a cached bio page on your former employer’s website. Worse yet is finding an old LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook business profile with outdated information and a forgotten password you can only retrieve through your old corporate e-mail address. Good luck with that.

Rally the connectors

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell described a specific slice of the population as connectors — “the kinds of people who know everyone” and who thrive on bringing people together through introductions and referrals. Realtors are natural connectors, so make sure your Realtor contacts know about your move.

Visit Realtor offices to meet people, drop off co-branded materials or give presentations. You’ll not only get to touch base and fill them in on the change, but you also can gauge their honest reactions and be available to answer their candid questions.

You may encounter things you didn’t expect, like a level of curiosity about your new company’s brand, its reputation, status, or the pros and cons of working with a mortgage lender versus a bank (if you’re switching business models). Certain concerns only come up when you meet face-to-face, and they’re always important to address.

In addition to dropping in, an announcement mailer can leverage your new brand and complement your other efforts. You may even get a local marketing professional or agency to design the piece so it speaks to your market and feels authentic to you.

Make your office an asset

If you’re opening a new office, you may play a role in choosing the new space for your operation. If a significant number of your clients work in town, find office space that works for them, such as a highly visible spot where they can’t miss your sign and have the convenience of dropping by on their commute or at lunchtime.

If you can find the sweet spot at the gateway to downtown where density is lower and parking more available, that’s a bonus for catering to out-of-town clients and those who spend the day in the suburbs. In addition to prominent traditional signage, consider having a local graphic designer create professional window decals with the company name and brand insignia.

Consider whether your office interiors fully convey your professionalism. Do you cover every detail of your transactions? Hire a decorator to cover every detail of your interior design. Do you go above and beyond with personal touches for your clients? Stock your office with quality coffee for clients, coloring books and crayons for kids, and snacks for everyone. Does your company use new technology to make customers’ lives easier? Reinforce that with a modern, clean and freshly furnished office space.

What's different about your market? Blog about it,
share it on social media and get found.

Then, by all means, bring people in. After your soft launch, host an open house for Realtors and other industry contacts. This will give you an opportunity to thank them for their continued trust in your services, and get them through the door to see your space.

People are creatures of habit, and welcoming friends into the office once will get them over a mental hurdle. Even for those who can’t attend, your invitation won’t be wasted. It’s just one more chance to put your new face in front of them in a friendly way.

Utilize traditional advertising

To expand efforts beyond the scope of your personal mailing list, consider traditional broadcast or print advertisements. Have a television spot produced locally to run on cable stations during those first few months, or do the same with radio.

This approach can work particularly well if you’re in a smaller media market. Local spots can provide a platform that will give you plenty of exposure with your target audience. You’re likely to be amazed by the positive feedback and congratulations on the move you’ll receive from friends and contacts around town.

Local newspaper ads tend to generate a similar response and, when combined with broadcast ads, can provide rare and crucial access to that slice of your audience that doesn’t spend as much time online. In addition, with fewer local businesses using traditional media these days, your message is likely to make an impression.

Create an online strategy

To cater to the rest of your customers and to broaden your reach over time, you’ll need to build a strong presence online.

If you’ve never had to chart these waters, consider working with a freelance writer or marketer who knows your industry and your market. A local writer can help you develop and execute a digital content strategy that may include newsletters, social media, blogging and more.

Online professionals may also help people find you by creating content that answers area-specific questions that can’t currently be found via an Internet search. By focusing on hyper-local topics, you’ll provide unique value to the people you want to reach and create warm, inbound leads.

When you think local, you’ll discover there’s plenty of subject matter to work with. For instance, Maine has a unique housing stock that requires intimate knowledge by its industry professionals. The history and character of neighborhoods, streets or individual buildings has bearing on value, and the abundance of older homes, coastal properties, camps and investments all bring nuance to the process, as well as influencing product choice.

What’s different about your market? Blog about it, share it on social media and get found. Just don’t make the mistake of putting all your eggs in one social media basket. Returns on social media efforts seem to vary based on time investment, market location, target audience, and the tools and support you have available. In addition, you are always at the mercy of changing algorithms, page designs, rules and fees.

Remember, social media networks may be free platforms to promote your business, but they’re best if used to support, not replace, your other marketing and networking efforts.

Find an authentic voice

Authenticity goes a long way. You probably haven’t come across too many people who appreciate a sales script, and in many ways this makes life easier. If you’ve built your business on product knowledge and helping customers rather than selling, keep that up. It works.

Eventually, your company will become a household name and not just a new face in the crowd, but in the early stages, your name and what it stands for is the strongest brand you have. So be yourself and let your clients make the hard sell.

Those clients you lose because they’ve paid their mortgages in full are particularly good at this. Stay in touch. Thank them and congratulate them, and they’ll tell their friends what you helped them accomplish. That’s the best marketing you can ask for.

•  •  •

Shaking off an old brand and building a new one while keeping up with a heavy workload will challenge any originator. But if a new opportunity allows you to grow, it’s a chance worth taking. Harness the energy of that fresh start. If your new company gives you plenty of support and allows you to be yourself, take advantage of the creativity, grit and opportunity to be found in the process of starting something new. 


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