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Joe Ferrara is very sick.
Many reading this know Joe Ferrara. If you haven’t had the honor of meeting Joe in person, then you are missing out on knowing one of the finest human beings to ever walk the face of the planet.
He’s been recently diagnosed with a very aggressive malignant brain tumor. I’m not a doctor, and I haven’t been able to speak to Joe since the diagnosis, but he is having a rough time right now and is currently in an Intensive Care Unit in a Pennsylvania area hospital.
Read the whole story here
More than ever Agents, Realtors® and other service professionals (like me) are told we must build and nurture a “personal” brand. The term has gained traction with the proliferation of social media, with SM being the go-to tool to build one’s personal brand.
This leaves me questioning:
Do personal brands exist, or are we really talking about reputation?
What is a brand?
A brand identity is made up of a clearly defined set of characteristics/attributes (adjectives) identified as best representing the desired brand. These are used as a standard by which initiatives, both internal and external, will be measured to ensure they are “on brand” to deliver on the brand promise.
A reputation is the judgment or recognition of a quality or characteristic that is earned/developed by what we say and do. I’m of the opinion you can get a reputation faster than build a brand, but that’s a topic for another post.
Are personal brand and reputation synonymous?
As human beings, we are what we do – that’s what creates a reputation. And, the Interwebs don’t allow us to hide from our history so our reputation can actually precede us.
Brands are all about association, and people will associate with a brand based on experiences (which and include reputation and ethics).
So, are brand and reputation then synonymous, as they seem to roll experience, ethics and experience all up into one?
Or are they dissimilar?
You can have a reputation as a jerk, yet be known as the best at what you do (think: a temperamental, difficult chef that can create a culinary masterpiece). And, one can have a relatively unknown personal brand, and a stellar professional reputation.
Or, you can have a huge personal brand (vis-à-vis a huge SM following), but not really be known professionally. For example; think of the people that have a huge online following, but are known solely for their social media prowess, as opposed to their profession.
One person that IMO has it right is Peter Shankman. Originally a Facebook list, he built HARO – a huge online following of fellow PR types – to help further the industry. So his following is relevant to his career.
But, my question remains: did Peter enhance his (already solid) reputation or did he build a personal brand?
This is where I see the problem…
If you could, in fact, boil yourself down to a few key words that represent your desired brand, you’d be one dimensional.
As human beings, we are complex, emotional sorts and differ daily depending on our mood, social setting, etc.
“Hey idiot, do I need to dumb this down for you?”
That was cleared up a few days later, when during a one-on-one call I asked him “Do I present myself in a manner that leads you believe it’s necessary to speak to me like I’m four years old?” (ok, perhaps I didn’t say it in such an eloquent manner) To which he replied “What the *f bomb* are you talkin’ about?” (I *heart* New Yorkers – no ambiguity)
I explained my perspective, and he replied, “It’s the equivalent of you Cali types following a thought wth ‘ya know’.” (“Cali?” Totally not cool.)
… our regional slang is colorful and meaningful – to us – but it could be insulting to an out-of-towner.
Fast-forward to this post. As my encounter illustrates, our regional slang is colorful and meaningful – to us – but it could be insulting to an out-of-towner. What’s more, it’s fluid – evolving as new terms and phrases are created and edited from the mash up of regions and work functional areas & industries, thus increasing the chances of an unintentional insult.
Make certain you know where your clients are from, and don’t ever assume they “get” your industry jargon or regional slang.
There seems to exist the premis that the business of real estate requires an agent to build “long-term relationships” with buyers/sellers. I can’t help but wonder why. From my side of the fence, the home buying/selling process is a transaction, which doesn’t necessarily require a relationship.
In my mind, the relationship with a first-time client develops throughout the transaction process, eventually becoming some sort of ongoing relationship.
Question: Is sending a monthly newsletter, holiday (or other) card, adding to your FB, etc. considered a relationship? Doesn’t a relationship require some real life interaction on a somewhat regular basis.
The exception being repeat clients, friends and family, in which case the relationship did in fact did precede the transaction.
It’s not an enterprise sale, it’s a transaction
Typically around a solution as opposed to a transaction, enterprise sales are a lengthy, complex process that includes multiple stakeholders on both sides that contribute to the ultimate decision. Once the sale is “closed” the vendor or service provider remains actively involved in the deployment and ongoing execution of the product or service – thus the “relationship”.
An example would be the need for a company to purchase a customer relationship management system. Not only does this require lengthy system integration, but internal and perhaps external training.
Is real estate like car sales?
Let’s draw a parallel. Like real estate, cars are a significant, infrequent purchase often based on emotion. At a high level, the process looks something like this: The car salesperson determines your needs, recommends best fit, and shows several models, the choice is made, financial paperwork is completed and approved, and then the keys are handed over to the new owner.
At a very high level is it so different from selling real estate? (The reference may have you fuming. That’s not my intent. I have great respect for the amount of effort that goes into your profession.)
We’ve all purchased cars. Have you formed a relationship with your car salesperson? Personally I have not. This is not to say I would be opposed to referring folks or providing testimonial as to my experience, provided the service was good and I’m satisfied that my needs were met. However, I don’t consider being a referral or testimonial source a relationship.
The trust argument
Perhaps it could be argued that since the transaction is complex and fraught with paperwork, more trust in the competency of an agent is required. I imagine in light of recent events that is truer now more than in the salad days.
I’ve just returned from my annual trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, during which I live in a setting befitting a Corona Beer ad for seven wonderful, lazy days.
For a number of years I’ve vacationed at the same resort at this time of year, and I always look forward to reuniting with the other vacation “regulars” – all wonderful people. Vacation friendships rock.
I use this time to ponder pretty much everything, having brutally frank conversations with myself (not out loud) to reconnect with my beliefs. While there aren’t any epiphanies, it helps to correct some off-kilter perspective that tends to creep up on me over the course of the year.
In no particular order, here’s the mental grab bag from this year’s trip. Warning: random thoughts ahead!
Kankles are NOT a good look for me!
Kankles = the swollen ankles achieved by the skillful, precise combination of a week of margarita consumption and dancing in flip flops. (FYI, this year, I hit it out of the park!)
Mistakes create innovation.
In the process of problem solving, we may come up with better solution for another problem, particularly if we mess up along the way.
Create your own image.
Don’t let others define you, nor let society/social norms define your role in life. It’s about what we care about individually, not society’s influence.
Joy is where you find it.
I spent an hour watching a two year old boy picking up rocks on the beach, creating a meticulous pile, and then moving them one by one to create a new pile. He squealed with joy the entire time.
Nice guys can finish first.
Interestingly, I believe the rules on this are different for men and women. As long as you possess a strong belief in self, yet will strike back (sometimes hard) when attacked you can’t be considered a doormat. You can be strong and nice. Nice isn’t the same as weak.
Best isn’t necessarily good.
Without the pressure to innovate, complacency happens – be that at life or career.
Life is short.
Each year I look forward to seeing Tom and his wife Boots. It’s just Boots now. Tom died six weeks ago. He suffered a massive heart attack. He was 58 and extremely fit. As a reminder, don’t save the “big” things for “the right” time. Use your best linen, crystal and china on a random Tuesday. Who cares if it breaks?
People are remarkable.
Everyone has meaningful insight, no matter the geography or industry. It’s interesting to get out of the comfort zone of our circle and into the minds of others.
Too much politics, not enough moxy.
We need a shift in leadership to those who possess the fearless moxy necessary to take risks and move our industry through these tough times (in that I include, real estate, lending, and secondary markets – the entire value chain). Not reckless risk. Radical yet calculated risk.
Reputation is irreplaceable.
It takes years to build, yet can be damaged in a moment. Guard it with everything.
Plan everything all the way to the end.
It’s all about the end. The result. By planning for every potential pitfall and obstacle we can keep control and get to the end. But know when to stop.
I cry at sunsets.
Yep, I said it. Every night I watched an amazing sunset and cried. I don’t know why, but I always cry at a beautiful sunset (and the National Anthem at a sporting event). I guess at the end of the day, I’m a softie (not to be mistaken for weak).
The picture doesn’t do it justice. Can you blame me for the teaars? Imagine the view from the sail boat …
Ah, see you next year, Zihuatanejo!
** Disclaimer. The photos are from my Blackberry, so not that great of quality or resolution.