This article was originally published in Washington Realtor Magazine:
“Fake it ’til you make it.” While not everyone loves the saying, the underlying message is one of value. For the small business that’s new to an industry or reinventing itself, finding ways to look like a top-tier outfit without the marketing budget to match is the key to presenting a consistently high-quality image to clients and maintaining a lean expense sheet.
Luckily for us, today there are a vast number of companies online offering products that allow us to brand, market, and differentiate without having to create our own marketing department. Presenting an outward image of a sophisticated real estate agent, team, or brokerage just takes the dedication to define a brand, and then work with vendors like the following to consistently propagate that brand across all of your marketing channels.
$100 (or Less) Image Upgrades
Your Domain Name: $12/yr
Your company website at johndoe.bigbrokerage.com isn’t doing you any credit. Get a real domain name ($12 at Google Apps for Business). You can register JohnDoe.com, DoeRealEstateTeam.com, BestCityHomes.com, or any other branded name at apps.google.com.
Company-Branded Email: $5/mo
No more emailing your clients from an @gmail.com or @aol.com address. While you’re registering your domain name on Google Apps, set up a branded (bestcityhomes.com) email address. Now, when you email your clients, you’ll still be working in the gmail interface, but they’ll see email@example.com in their inbox.
If you don’t have a logo yet, take your company name over to fiverr.com, and have a couple of designers give you some options. Tell them specifically what you’d like, and if you have a preferred color scheme. For about $20/each you can get some creative logos in a large-scale printable format. If you’re looking for even higher-end design options, try 99designs.com. Take the time to get this right. All of your further marketing themes will begin with your logo and color choices.
Company Website With Modern Design and IDX: $99
Now, get a website with a modern look and your own custom IDX/property search. Websitebox.com is one option. It’s $99, one time, with no ongoing fees. If you need phone support, pay the extra $99 for the first year. Pick a theme with a consistent color pattern to your brand/logo. Once you’ve branded the site with your new logo, you won’t be embarrassed to put your website on your business card any more. Bestcityhomes.com will look like you’re web savvy, and won’t cost you a dime going forward.
High-quality graphic business cards – $70 for 500
Most agents have a white business card with a little colored logo from their brokerage and black text. This is fine, but it’s not exactly promoting your personal brand. The difference in price for getting a full-color, glossy, front-and-back card with stunning logos and imagery is minimal. You can create your own cards at Vistaprint.com from the many templates they have, and upload background images of your local city, your logo, etc. If you want to go even further, go back to fiverr.com or 99designs.com and ask them to create a specific business card image for you. Don’t forget to put your website on your card. Both sides of you business card become a billboard for you brand, and are much less likely to get tossed in the trash.
Consistency – Free
Once you’ve found your branding niche, make sure you use it everywhere to reinforce your organization’s image. Postcards, letters, yard signs, and all of your online media can now all share a consistent color, logo, and theme. You’ll feel just a bit more confident when you hand out that business card, your budget won’t be stretched too far, and you clients will be impressed.