Category Archives: Professional

Don’t underestimate your value!

Are you solving the right problem?

Personal Brand vs. Reputation. One in the Same, or Different?

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?

Semantics first

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.

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Watch Your Slanguage … You Follow Me?

Recently one participant on a conference call kept asking “You follow me, Brandie?”  Perhaps it was his Brooklyn-esque speech patterns, but what I was hearing was

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.)

Ah Ha!

… 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.

The takeaway

Make certain you know where your clients are from, and don’t ever assume they “get” your industry jargon or regional slang.

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Why Does Real Estate Require Relationships?

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.

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Freedom of Speech can Co$t You

It’s nice that we enjoy “Freedom of Speech”, but we are still responsible for our speech, and lawsuits are a reality when an individual must protect him/herself from abusive or inflammatory allegations. 

Read a definition of Defamation:

  • Defamation is the issuance of a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer harm.
  • Slander involves the making of defamatory statements by a transitory (non-fixed) representation, usually an oral (spoken) representation.
  • Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a fixed or medium, such as a newspaper or blog post.

So, if you make derogatory statements that result in damage to someone’s reputation or subject them to contempt or ridicule, you could be exposed.

But, what about transparency?

That’s a big buzz word.  That and authenticity.  Yes, we have a right to our opinions and we now can express them to zillions with a couple key strokes.  But, is writing or commenting around one’s character and professional capabilities being transparent & authentic, or is its intent to derail?  

Social media doesn’t eliminate the responsibility we have to mind our words.

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Nurturing Creativity – Elizabeth Gilbert at TED – AWESOME

Another Niche To Consider Marketing To – Mothers

Last year I wrote a post on marketing to women as a niche buyer.  To further target this buyer, try appealing to mothers.

Compelling stats

There are 75 million mothers in the U.S.  According to the Marketing to Moms Coalition this group is responsible for $2.1 Trillion in spending. 

  • 5 million moms own their own businesses
  • 88% of mothers refer to themselves as household CFO
  • 40% of boomer moms are involved in purchases for their aging parents

We know some things about this group.  According to Neilsen’s Moms Annual Media Survey these busy ladies’ most common online activity is paying bills, reading the news, researching products and shopping.   Check out this November 2009 survey for more details.

Also compelling is the marketing upside.  58% of moms surveyed believe ads that target moms are effective, particularly when they are relatable depicting daily life scenarios such as having fun with the kids, or multitasking.   

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If You Are So Great, Why Hasn’t Anyone Heard of You?

Are you sacrificing trust for a following?

I’ve noticed a shift in my perception of folks on Twitter, FaceBook and other SM sites.  I no longer consider follower count as a measure of credibility.   A couple years ago I did. 

It’s just too easy now to trick systems, especially on Twitter where several services exist simply to boost followers. 

I can’t really go by blogs, either.  Comments can be crafted and are filtered – much like LinkedIn recommendations, about which I wrote last week.  Therefore, I don’t put too much merit on blog comments, particularly if they are too flowery. 

Lately I’m left wondering if my new follower is simply “collecting” me to boost his/her numbers to build some sort of façade that will help him/her with the bottom line.  

Trust isn’t automatic

Let’s face it, we’re all cynics.  We don’t just automatically trust everything we see/read, even on a SM site.  In that case, why try to trick people by collecting huge followings as opposed to a smaller following  with which you have more credibility and an earned reputation?

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When You Recommend on Linked-In, is it Worthwhile?

I noticed something when I logged onto Linkedin … a recommendation for a former exec from a peer that didn’t think much of that person. This intrigued me. Why, I thought, would he write a recommendation for her? So, I asked him.

His response: “You never know when she might recommend me and I get a job out of it.” (Note to self, his recommendations are likely without value)

Are Your Recommendations Valuable?

It depends on a few things: Who’s recommending, who’s reading them and the recommendation itself. So, to be appropriate in context of this site, let’s call it client recommendations your potential clients might read, and how they could interpret them.

All puff & love

Let’s face it … we just don’t believe these. Call us jaded or callous, but a big love fest just doesn’t ring true. It’s assumed we only surface positive, glowing recommendations. But, if you have too many of these, can they be real? (Unless, of course, you are an agent in Stepford)

The bad makes the good believable

Let’s look at how we weigh the experiences of others in our decision making. For example, when I look to Yelp for a restaurant review, I sort by negative/low star feedback to make my decision. I’m looking for a deal-breaking scenario. So, if a reviewer felt their food server was snitty, that’s subjective so it doesn’t hold too much weight – unless it’s a common theme. On the other hand, finding a roach in the soup is a deal-breaker.

Not relatable

If your testimonial was for a luxury high-rise condo buyer, and I’m a family sort hunting in the burbs, I may not relate. Likewise, if I’m reading the experience of a Trump-esque buyer of their 3rd mansion, I surely can’t relate! Make sure you have a representative sampling of the types of clients you want to attract, by lifestyle and demographic.

The conundrum

How can you get a variety of relatable, realistic, believable testimonials/recommendations? It’s not ethical or authentic to write them yourself. Plus, who has the time. But, for most of us sitting in front of a blank screen is daunting, so how can we ask clients to endure such a painful process?

Mad Libs, anyone?

I’m outing myself on age here, but when I was young and went to summer or sports camp, we entertained ourselves with Mad Libs. Mad Libs were pre-written paragraphs with _______ areas to fill in a verb, noun, adjective, etc. Of course you wouldn’t be that literal with your clients, but you could offer a few Mad Lib type templates to help make it easier for them to pen a quick recommendation that is more meaningful.

In fact, it could make for a fun page on your web site or blog – a fill in the blanks page.

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