Sharon Vornholt goes over 5 critical steps you need to take to get your business out there to the world. Without proper branding and marketing, you’re going to be invisible in your market.
From having a compelling story to professional photos of yourself, there are steps to take to help build your credibility in the business.
Mike: Welcome back to the flipnerd.com REI Classroom, where experts from across the real estate investing industry teach you quick lessons to take your business to the next level. And now, let’s meet today’s expert host.
Sharon: Hi, this is Sharon Vornholt of the Louisville Gals Real Estate Blog, and I’m happy to be back here today for another REI Classroom show. One of the things I’m very passionate about is branding. In general, real estate investors don’t think about branding when they’re just starting their business. They’re concerned with marketing. Well, these two things are intricately tied together, so that’s what I want to talk about today.
Mike: This REI Classroom real estate lesson is sponsored by theinvestormachine.com, FlipNerd’s private investor coaching program and your blueprint to investing success.
Sharon: You know, and I want to talk about five steps for building a brand that will make your competition irrelevant. So maybe this sounds like you. I mean, have you ever felt like you were invisible in your marketplace? If you can honestly say yes to that question, then it’s because you’ve got weak branding. That’s just the best way to put it. So maybe you feel like the best-kept secret in town. Maybe you’ve got a good reputation, but you’re not well-known throughout your community. So the people that do know you and have used your services, maybe you’ve bought their property, helped them out in some way, they feel good about you, but not very many people know about you.
Now, maybe you’ve been at it a while and you’ve got some customers, but you just want to expand that. You know you’re doing okay, but you know you could be doing better than okay. So you know there’s something needs to be changed, something needs to change, but maybe you’re not even sure that it’s branding. You’re not aware that that’s what needs to change. But when all things are created equally and someone is trying to choose between you and the next investor, it will almost always be because of your brand that they make that choice.
Oftentimes, people will take a lower offer, but they will like the person presenting that offer better than the other investors that have been there. So that’s what branding is. It’s when you marry your marketing with your brand. So marketing is what gets them in the door, and the branding is what makes them choose you.
So let’s dive in a little bit and talk about what the components are for up-leveling your brand. Whatever stage you are, if you implement these five things . . . there are really five major components to build out a big, bold brand, and you can take them one by one and get started. So here are my top five. The first one is your compelling story. Now, I’m not talking about, “I lived on the streets for a year before becoming a real estate investor,” or, “I had this big tragedy in my life.” That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about your true story about you.
Everyone has a story about how they got started being a real estate investor. Now for me, my story all began when I was a little kid and my dad, who was a general contractor, he used to drag me around on job sites, and I just got this love of construction, of seeing things go from being a “nothing” to being a finished space. And what he did was commercial stuff, but it was the same concept.
So when I talk about how I got started, I always go back to that. That’s where it all started. Your story may be different. Maybe you came from real estate parents, or maybe you came from corporate America and you hated being in corporate America. But somewhere inside you, you have a story of how you got started. And while people may forget your name, they may forget who you are, they’re always going to remember a great story. So think about your story and then get used to using that story when you talk to people, when they say, “Well, how did you get started?” “Well, I first got started when . . . ” and then you tell your story.
The other part of your story is when someone is asking you, you know, “Why should I choose you?” You can say, “I help people who have a house they need to sell quickly.” So you need to marry these two pieces, and it needs to just be really simple. It needs to be short, it doesn’t need to be rehearsed, but you do need to practice saying what you’re going to say. So it needs to seem natural. And of course, like I said, it needs to be true.
Now, the second part of your branding is trying to be all things to all people. You know, everyone has an ideal customer. For a real estate investor, we usually break those down into niches or groups of people. So for instance, I like probate investing, so if I’m going to create a marketing campaign for probates, I need to be very clear on all of the pieces. So I want to use the correct mail piece for probates. I want to have a message that is the correct message for them.
I don’t want to try to be everybody. And while there are certainly some times when you’ll just send out a very generic postcard, the better you can narrow down who your target audience is for that particular piece of marketing, whether you’re going to do a talk in front of a group of people or you’re going to have some kind of written content or video, know who it is that you’re speaking to.
Relate what you have to say to these people so that you get it right, because like I said, you can’t be all things to all people. It just isn’t going to work that way. But if you are authentic in your branding, you will attract the people that are meant to work with you. You will just naturally be a magnet for those type of people, which by the way are a whole lot easier to work with than when you try to stick yourself into a situation where you don’t fit.
For me, I’ll give you this example. I really hated working with folks in foreclosures and pre-foreclosures. It’s a terrible time for them, and I just didn’t feel like I was particularly the person to help them with that situation. So when I tried to work in that niche, while I could do it, I didn’t like it. And that came through when I was talking to people. I was trying to be someone, trying to help someone that I wasn’t meant to serve. So just be clear on who your ideal customer is. Write it down on a piece of paper. Give them a name. You know, make it like your marketing and your branding is going to be attractive to this particular person.
Now, the next thing that is really important . . . and we won’t even go into the fact that I’m going to assume you have a website. You absolutely must have a website for credibility. The reason is it used to be that people would look at your marketing, whether it was a postcard or a letter, whatever it was, and then they would pick up the phone then they would call you and say, “Hey, I’m Sharon, and I have a house to sell.” Well, there’s another step they’ve put in the middle of this process now. They’re going to get your mail piece. They’re going to then stalk you online. They’re going to look you up, look at your social media profiles. They’re going to try to figure out who this person is.
And the way you solve that is you put an “About me” video on your website. You know, a minute, two minutes. Again, tell your story. “Hey, I got started in real estate investing, and here’s my story, and here’s how I help you. Here’s how I help people just like you.”
So you make it all about them, which it always is all about them. But this should be a one to two-minute video. And it should be actually you sitting on a stool or a chair looking into a camera presenting yourself, presenting your brand, which at the end of the day is yourself, presenting that to the person on the other end of that camera.
So the next piece, the fourth piece, is photographs. This is the thing that almost everybody is guilty of. I was guilty of this one myself. I thought I could skimp by on iPhone videos and that sort of thing. Well, you need to get some professional photographs. You’re probably looking at, if you don’t have a friend who’s a photographer, you’re looking at maybe $125, $150 tops. You can get it done cheaper than that too. But get them to take some branding photos.
If you are a coffee drinker like me, I might have a photo, one of those photos might be me with a coffee mug. If you’re a golfer, it might be you . . . you know, certainly shots of just you, but there might be a shot of you in there with a golf club. Present the real you in your photographs so that people will get to know you.
Now typically, a real estate investor is not going to put on a suit and tie to get their photographs done. That’s generally not who we are. If you’re a casual person and you’re going to show up casually at the seller’s house, then present a casual appearance. That’s the simplest way to put it. Just be yourself. Once again, this is going to cause you to attract the people that are meant to work with you. So invest in a professional photo shoot and get some good, quality photos for your website and for your marketing.
Now, the last piece of the puzzle, and this is the one where people run, is your authority book. Having an authority book for a credibility piece, for a marketing piece, is really essential. Now, if you’re not a writer and you haven’t been a writer, you can hire someone to do this for you. There are ghostwriters out there that do interviews and they can put together a book for you. I hold a couple of times a year “Branding, Books and Beaches,” this is one thing that we do. We do a brain dump, you put all your ideas down, break it down into chapters. And it might be . . . now I know you’re probably thinking “novel.” Don’t think novel.
One of the gals in our last class, she was realtor and an agent, and she did a little Leap Behind book called “Buying Your First or Your Next House,” which was a great title, by the way. And she had a great tagline too. Her tagline was “I’m the realtor you want to tell all your friends about,” which I thought was . . . well, it certainly is her and it’s her brand, so that’s how she did it. Another person in our group, he wrote a book on his specialty, which is now “Turnkey Properties.”
So it’s all about putting your expertise on paper. And a lot of people begin, maybe they were bloggers first. Maybe they did videos. But they’ve created some kind of content so they are able to put their knowledge in place for people. And if you’re not a writer, and a lot of people aren’t a writer, you can find someone to create that book for you.
But those are my five tips, so take those one by one. I would say one of the easiest ones to start with is go get some great branding photos. Get those and put them up on your website, then sit down and make your “About me” video. You know, determine who your ideal audience is, and then just go through each of the steps. But once you’ve done this and you get out there and you network and you meet people, I will guarantee you that you’ll have a brand that stands out above everybody else in your industry.
So this is Sharon Vornholt, and if you have any questions, just be sure to shoot them to me and I’ll do my best to get them answered.
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