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Building Your Land Agent Brand

Building your land agent brand can be a challenge in a saturated market, where many people think they can be real estate agents, and many of those agents also think they know enough to play the land game. Differentiating yourself from the social media savvy rookies who may be all hat, no cattle, is a newer battle land agents face today. However, the ongoing dilemma is sharing your unique advantages from even the seasoned agents, whether you share the same brokerage firm or are an independent agent competing with big name firms.

The foundation of consistently communicating your distinct value is a well-designed brand promise. You must be able to communicate not only the problems you solve, but how you solve them uniquely, in order to get people to part with their cold, hard cash.

The formula is simple: your name + solves this specific problem + uniquely this way + for these specific people.

However, filling in the formula with your details is not-so-easy. In fact, most people get stuck on the uniquely this way and for these specific people parts. Some of the vanilla answers business professionals use in an attempt to differentiate include claiming, “exceptional customer service” or “very experienced” as their unique way of solving problems, and identifying “anyone who wants to buy and sell land” as an ideal customer.

The reality is, countless agents in your market, let alone the country, could likely claim those exact same things. So they aren’t unique, nor are they specific. It is essential that you dig deeper, evaluating who your best clients are and what they all have in common. When you find the sweet spot of clients you enjoy working with and who are also your most profitable clients, it is time to study those people and try to replicate them through your branding and marketing efforts.

A Tale of Two Brands

To illustrate how a clear brand promise can increase your reach and revenue, consider the power of two high-end brands that consistently gain market share, despite their substantial price tags and limited audience: Rolex and Louis Vuitton.

You will never see them market, nor advertise in the same places as Wal-Mart or Dollar General. Wasting time and money advertising to the eyeballs that are interested in budget-friendly retail is not in their best interest. They are clear on who their exact ideal customers are so they can:

  1. Share their brand promises through compelling storytelling that emotionally triggers their ideal customers.
  2. Visually uphold their brand promises in a way that delights their ideal customers.
  3. Deliver on their brand promises in a way that meets the high expectations of their ideal customers.

How to share your brand promise through compelling storytelling

Your personal story holds all of the clues you need to differentiate yourself. By following the breadcrumbs you have left behind in life, patterns will emerge that combine your personal satisfaction and your ability to effectively contribute to people and situations. Consider all of your professional and personal experience when reflecting on what makes you unique. For example, if you have served in the military it communicates that you have achieved a special kind of discipline and dedication. You are likely to attract others who have or do serve in the military, as well as those who especially respect people who have military service. Does serving your country have anything to do with selling dirt? Not exactly, but it is a piece of your story that can create an emotional connection with your ideal customer.

Perhaps you have political experience, empowering you to navigate the law and key stakeholders involved in a deal. Or maybe you not only broker the land sale, you also offer land management. Or perhaps you are the third or fourth generation in your family to be a land agent. How do you think that stacks up against a rookie when you can reference a lifetime of multi-generation land conversations at the dinner table?

Be intentional about telling such stories through your blog posts, videos, social media, website copy, while networking, in media opportunities, when speaking, or through any other marketing activity you pursue.

land agent branding

How to Visually Uphold Your Brand Promise

Rolex and Louis Vutton both have visually compelling brands that invite prospects and customers into their story of luxury, prominence, and success. They are sharing a glimpse of what it feels like to sport their products. Their visual branding is designed to evoke an emotional response to trigger a purchase.

Of course, another reason why it is important to understand your target market is to understand what other brands they enjoy, thus giving you a roadmap of how to visually stimulate your ideal customer. You can simply ask your previous and current clients what their favorite brands are via a survey, or you can simply observe along the way. For example, if your ideal customer wears an Apple Watch, has an iPhone, and is concerned about how close the nearest Whole Foods is to the property you just showed them, you can do a quick scroll through those websites and social media profiles to get inspiration for your own visual branding and messaging. Whether it is font selection, the amount of white space, color selections, or the style of images, you can easily use those visual cues to help you craft your own visual brand.

Remember, you can’t illustrate a book until you write the story, so be sure the visuals for your unique visual brand represent your unique brand story. The visual side of your brand is merely an aid to telling your brand story. Importantly, your branding should always be consistent, so be sure whatever path you choose is the one you remain on day in and day out through all marketing channels.

rolex branding

How to Deliver on Your Brand Promise

If a Rolex watch or Louis Vutton purse had any issues, undoubtedly, its owner would know the respective company would fix it in short order. They are trusted to deliver on their brand promises of quality, excellence, prominence, and more. In the same way, you must make it clear that you will always deliver on your brand promise.

First, you must do good work. While that seems obvious to the experienced land agent, it is unfortunately not the norm. Simply doing what you say you will do will go far for your brand reputation. Further, be sure to secure testimonials as soon as you delight your customers. Allow your customers to toot your horn for you and reap the powerful benefits of peer reviews. Be sure to note any awards, certifications, education, and media coverage you received, as appropriate, which are also forms of social proof that you are great at what you do. While you may feel like you are bragging, any such announcement is a small blip on the radar of the average person who consumes an incredible amount of content each day. If you do not share your successes, how do you expect anyone to choose you instead of a less worthy agent who may not look out for their best interest? Save your potential clients from a lazy or inexperienced agent for the job by simply sharing the proof that you will have their best interest at the forefront of all you do.

Clear Branding Equals Clear Marketing

When you are clear on your brand you become clear about how to strategically market your brand for results. Understanding who you serve, what problems you solve, and how you solve them uniquely, empowers you to position yourself through targeted campaigns and strategic networking. You can’t be everywhere, all the time. Not every social media channel is for you, nor is every magazine, conference, or website somewhere you should invest time and money, as your ideal customers are not everywhere, either. Further, when you are clear on your brand, you can get clear on your internal processes and train your team to uphold your brand promise, as well. Remember, no one wants to be sold to, yet your ideal customer wants to buy from someone who attracts their business. If you effectively share your brand story and the results it gets, you will become the only option in your ideal customer’s mind, eliminating competition altogether.

Amber HurdleAbout The Author: Amber Hurdle Consulting empowers companies to strengthen their brands from the inside out through talent optimization. They do this in three ways: By working with leaders on their personal brands, so they become self-aware and see and harvest the greatness in others. By using a scientific, repeatable method to recruit, retain and inspire top talent, amplifying world-class employer brands; and by leveraging those strong leaders and a “best places to work” environment so that happy employees are serving happy customers, ultimately elevating their business brands. Amber is married to Geoff Hurdle, ALC, and together they have three children and a fur baby: Kristen and Brittany, also in the land business, Derek, a junior in high school, and Nashville Gibbs the Cavapoo, who continuously works on being Instagram famous. Learn more at amberhurdle.com.

Shift Your Brokerage into High Gear

This piece was originally featured in the Summer 2018 edition of Terra Firma Magazine.

Five years ago, I was a hobby farmer in Western Ohio, on the prowl for a new career. After 19 years in the automotive industry, working my way up from lot porter to salesman to GM and president of a dealer group, I was ready for a change.

I was eager to apply my background and experience in consumer marketing to a new line of work, one that preferably highlighted my passion for land. Should I get a broker’s license or go to work for a management company or call up a trust department to see if they had any openings? I honestly had no idea how to proceed. Fortunately, my wife, Jessica, made a brilliant suggestion: Call the publisher of that magazine I was always raving about, and see what he had to say. You probably already have an inkling of how things turned out.

I lobbed an email to The Land Report publisher Eddie Lee Rider, and that very day I got a call back. The sales guy in me immediately liked this. Not five minutes into our initial conversation, we both sensed an opportunity. My gut told me to sign on with the Magazine of the American Landowner. After a heart-to-heart with Jessica, that’s exactly what I did.

Almost immediately, I recognized that the tenets of marketing and branding that build successful dealer groups also applied to the successful marketing of land. I guarantee the lessons I learned as I worked my way up from the mailroom to the showroom and finally the boardroom can better your book of business.

 Consistency is Key

One of the principle tenets of automotive marketing is that reach without frequency equals wasted money. Eddie Lee hammered home this very same point to me. “If someone wants to buy a one-time ad, tell them not to waste their money,” he says. “Selling land isn’t about when a broker is ready to market a listing. It’s about when a buyer or a seller is ready to pull the trigger.”

“Consistency is key” is especially true when marketing land and your services. A well-crafted branding message, delivered consistently, creates top-of-mind name recall. In my humble opinion, this could well be the factor that generates that all-important phone call from a potential buyer or a motivated seller.

 There is No Off-Season

Many industries target a certain time frame to ramp up marketing. Car sales is not one of them. It may seem as though dealers are doubling down when they do a “year-end clearance,” but that’s just one of many arrows in their quiver. How many times a year do you see ads about factory incentives? Or special dealer financing? By the time you factor in all the limited-time offers that are pitched – President’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Back to School, Black Friday, New Year’s Eve – a far more sophisticated strategy emerges. Automotive dealers market 24/7/365.

So if investors who buy and sell land have no off-season, why should you?

Yes, we both know that as the calendar year wraps up, so does deal pace. I equate this to an auto dealership’s year-end clearance. But if your own marketing slacks off during the off-season while your competitors are busy reinforcing their branding, guess who gets the cold call in the middle of winter? Guess who hits the ground running when the snow melts or school lets out? Not you.

As entrepreneurs, our instinct is to keep our powder dry when things slow down.

Yet the decision to buy or sell a legacy property is often a family decision that is discussed and debated during the off-season, a.k.a. the holidays. Does it really make sense to pull back your marketing at the exact moment you need to be building your business?

Like countless brokerages coast to coast, The Land Report shifts into high gear as spring turns into summer. Yet we consciously produce our biggest issue of the year, which features The Land Report 100, so it comes out in December. Why? Because we practice what I’m preaching. Our must-read content is on coffee tables and in private jets precisely when families gather for the holidays.

Effective marketing is a full-time, year-round commitment. The consistent marketing message that you deliver, even during spells of lower activity, builds brand equity and name recall. These are priceless.

Marketing is Not an Expense. It is an Investment. Treat it as Such.

Best practice dictates you establish a marketing budget and commit fully to it. Budgets create limits; you can’t have a presence everywhere. So, do your research, negotiate well, and pick your platforms based on their position within the industry. Only invest in favorable brand association. Demand added value for your marketing dollars. Above all, challenge your marketing partners to deliver your message effectively and specifically to the right audience. Trust but verify.

Please note that I said “platforms.” Do not put all your eggs in one basket, be it print, online, or direct mail. And that includes my own title, The Land Report. Do you go to the trade shows your target buyer attends? You’d be surprised how many of those events take place during the so-called off-season. How about hosting your own event, even if it’s just a cast-and-blast for a handful of key clients. Again, money well spent.

Fish where the fish are. By that, I mean make sure you connect with your target market in person, online, via direct mail, and in print. That’s a sound investment.

Branding is Not A Slogan. It’s the Truth.

I’ve always been a big fan of Ford’s slogan: Built Ford Tough. It’s confident. It’s catchy. And it hammers home the fact that more than a century after Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company, Ford is very much an industry leader. I know that for a fact because I spent the majority of my career with the blue oval.

Let’s apply that marketing savvy to your business. If your brokerage has been around for a while, what are you best known for? A specific land use? A certain market? A specialized expertise? Spell it out in an honest, straightforward manner. At The Land Report, we call ourselves The Magazine of the American Landowner. It’s confident. It’s catchy. And it hammers home the fact that we share the stories of America’s leading landowners.

But what if you’re new to the business and just starting out? What drives you? What inspired you to launch your business? Are you a longtime local? Then put those deep roots and your local ties to work for you. Maybe you relocated to the land of your dreams. If so, doesn’t your trailblazing decision make you the ideal candidate to pave the way for others who might want to do so? Do you love to hunt? Is life better on the back of a horse?

Consider these questions and write down your answers. Look at it closely. Refine it. Hone it. Buff it. THAT is your brand.

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Market Your Brand

The landscape of marketing choices for land professionals has never been more diverse. Traditional advertising is gone. Kaput. Once upon a time, advertising featured an “offer” that was deliverable through standardized channels. Today, it’s all about experience marketing. When I got my first paycheck in the automotive industry, Facebook, Google, and YouTube didn’t even exist. By the time I left, key influencers were creating billions of impressions with blogs and podcasts that reached consumers via their iPhones, a product that debuted in 2007. This avalanche of new technology has created exciting opportunities for small business owners to create and control marketing and branding. Use it to your advantage.

I’m a big fan of Instagram. The visual-forward nature of this rapidly growing platform and its ability to integrate video and drone footage gives a broker the unique opportunity to conduct virtual showings on multiple listings from a handheld device. If you are a land broker in 2018, an active Instagram account is a must, not an option.

Finally: hashtags, hashtags, hashtags. Marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuck insists that for real estate professionals, the most effective way to grow your Instagram following is through the use of strategic hashtags. This means the use of a minimum of 10 hashtags per post. I recommend including hashtags featuring the state where your listing is located as well as the type of property – i.e., #farm, #ranch, #timberland, #hunting. Keep the hashtags relevant and watch the interactions with your posts build.

Thanks to Jessica’s suggestion, I’ve been on board with The Land Report going on five years now. Even better, I’m applying insights and ideas that I gained in one of the most competitive industries to my new career. I sincerely hope that one of these kernels of truth helps you take your book of business to the next level in 2018 and beyond.

P.S. If you want me to share more, reach out to me at davidz@landreport.com. I’ll even help you set up that Instagram account you’ve been putting off. 😉

About the Author: David Zawalich lives in west central Ohio with his wife, two kids and a Wire Haired Pointing Griffon named Zeke. His love of land and the outdoors was sparked as a child in the wilds of northeast Pennsylvania. He employs his unique vantage point as a landowner and marketing professional as the Associate Publisher of The Land Report.

Social Media And The Land Professional

First, we need to lay out the difference between marketing and branding.

Marketing is generally trying to sell a particular piece of property.

Branding is building brand awareness. Think of the tag line “nothing runs like a Deere”. That isn’t meant to sell a particular piece of equipment it is meant to be favorable and memorable for their company.

Now, we can go over some of the many social media platforms and what each is best used to accomplish.

Facebook is the online equivalent of a backyard BBQ. It is an informal place where everyone is at least a friend of a friend. There is a lot of opportunity to market a parcel but remember that it is better to post something intriguing that makes them ask you about it than to go straight into salesman mode. You wouldn’t walk around a BBQ asking “Who wants to buy farm land?” But someone who overhears you talking about touring a cool farm may ask “Where was that?” And it leads to a very natural marketing conversation about that piece of land.

This is an example of how branding can lead to an opportunity to market a specific deal.

LinkedIn is a more formal place to show your professional knowledge. Here is where you have a chance to build your brand. Your goal is become the ag economist of choice. Your greatest opportunity here may be to get referrals from other professionals. If a busy residential agent stumbles across a land listing they may try to figure it out on the fly. However, if you are top of mind as the land expert in your area, it would behoove her to send it to you and collect a referral fee from the expert. The idea is to show how specialized your expertise is and the value you add to a transaction.

Twitter is like a crowded club where you pop in and out of conversations and stay with the ones you find interesting. It is generally better to just do some branding and if they are interested in a particular deal they will contact you through some other means, like a simple phone call. If you create interesting content, people will like your post and possibly share it to their friends. Think about President Trump. He may be controversial, but he adds content consistently that all fits with his brand.

Instagram is similar to Facebook but is nearly all picture-based. It is an effortless way to tell your story. Take that great sunset picture over a pond. Don’t let a gorgeous sunrise go without taking a shot and sharing it. How better to show you spend your days on the land than to share pictures of land? This is a very easy way to build your brand. Then, if someone ask where it is, you can do a little marketing.

YouTube host videos. Remember that people only watch short videos unless there is a super compelling reason sit still for five minutes. A 45-second video with subtitles is better than a rambling 5 minute video. Most videos are played on mute so make sure to add subtitles to grab attention.

Insights for Land Pros

My lowest level and most effective use of social media is as an excuse to Call People!!!!

So, if you see someone on Facebook just got a new car you can click “Like” or you can call and say congratulations. I will venture to say clicking “Like” will not lead to a meaningful conversation. However, a call may very well end up talking about why I need four-wheel drive when selling land. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to see how we can end up talking about the land market next when I’m calling to say congrats on the new car.

Next, you must be consistent with when you add content. If you don’t engage with people, they quit seeing you in their feed. Put it on your calendar to work on Facebook at least five minutes at a time, twice a day to start. LinkedIn moves a little slower, so I suggest adding one or two good pieces of content every week. You need to make it a habit on a small scale before you can become a social media tycoon.

There are less than 100 REALTORS® with more than 50 videos on YouTube today. That means if you can commit to making one video per week, in one years’ time you will be near the top of the list out of all the members of NAR. This shows the amazing opportunities that are available for very little or no cost. What else could you do at such a low cost to be in the top 100 nationwide with no cash out of your pocket? Not much.

I hope this gives you a few ideas that you can implement in your business.

This post is part of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry and to bring valuable information to land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.

About the Author: Tim Hadley is an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Gladstone, MO. He joined the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2017 and is currently a member of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee. #cowboyrealtor