In real estate, your reputation counts. Customers come to you to guide them through a transaction that may be most, if not all of their financial worth. Choose the wrong realtor, and they’re potentially headed for a very expensive mistake.
Customers are aware of this, and look for proof that you can deliver the goods. Giving them this proof is how you get hired. So let’s look at what makes up your reputation.
First, there’s your years of experience and how many transactions you have under your belt. More experience means a naturally better reputation and the chance to say that you’ve been around a long time.
Second, there are customer reviews. In today’s online industry, customer reviews are one of the premier indicators of a good reputation. Having 400 reviews on Zillow.com is important when lots of people are shopping online.
Next up is referrals from friends of your customer or other professionals they interact with. If you get a referral from someone else your customer trusts, they almost instantly trust you, too.
Your parent company is the last component of your reputation. How important these associations are is debated. Some realtors claim the right parent company is important, while others claim that the parent company is often overlooked by the customer. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. While the parent company is definitely important as the cherry on top, ultimately it won’t make up for a poor personal reputation in itself.
So how do you improve your reputation? You can’t suddenly get more years of experience. Customer reviews take time to acquire. Building referrals is also long-term. You can always change your employer, but whether this will have a positive impact on your reputation is uncertain, especially if you’re already under a big brand.
“Natural” reputation building, then, is a slow process. That doesn’t mean you lack options, however.
If you want to build your reputation faster, co-branding is one option. For example, just say you have 200 reviews on Zillow.com. You co-brand with a mortgage lender who has another 200 reviews. You can then, honestly, run direct mail which says “Between us, we have 400 positive reviews on Zillow.com, and have experience in all stages of the real estate transaction.” This sounds much better than “I have 200 reviews and can help list your house.”
Of course, co-branding’s not a free lunch. If you want to build your reputation, you’ll need to bring something to the table, too.
While you don’t need 400 Zillow.com reviews to use co-branding, or 10 years of experience, it still helps to have a defined personal brand. What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for? What do you do better than your competitors, and what’s the key value you bring to the real estate transaction?
By being clear on these questions—fundamental points for defining your own personal brand, you can clearly articulate your value as a co-branding partner to another professional. Demonstrating how they will gain from the arrangement, and gel with your own brand, is crucial to making a successful co-branding proposal.
Co-branding isn’t reputation risk-free, however. It is possible to harm your reputation by picking the wrong co-branding partner. If your co-branding partner does something contrary to your own brand, you could find your brand diluted, or even tarnished.
In a previous post, Realtors, Widen Your Advertising with this Proven Technique, we discussed a few questions to ask to avoid this. Doing your due diligence is very important. In particular, it is super important to make sure you and your co-brand partner share the same brand values.
However, in this post I’d like to add one more: Keep some control over the co-branding agreement. Your co-branding partner will be advertising for you, so it’s important that you are able to communicate with them and have review rights of all outgoing advertising that bears your name.
Don’t let these risks put you off, though. While you need to be aware of them, co-branding is one of the few techniques that can give you serious street cred in the space of months, not years.