Why Brand Marketing Trumps ‘Call to Action’ in Real Estate

by | BiggerPockets.com

I know there are many like me out there . . . book geeks who love to patrol the aisles of the local Barnes & Noble bookstore looking for the latest business titles that will inspire and drive me to gain that extra little edge.  I am constantly reading new books looking to learn the latest tips and techniques and I sometimes find it funny how none of the books I am reading lately have anything to do with real estate.  They seldom do!

Real Estate is not a business.  Real Estate refers to property.  Houses, apartments, commercial buildings, raw land – real estate can come in many different forms, but so many people still refer to the real estate business as just that – the real estate business.  When it comes to marketing this same mistake is made.  Too often, the messages being delivered by real estate professionals are ‘hire me’ or ‘buy this’ or even worse – the hand held video walk through of 123 Maple St. – all practically begging whomever is looking to do business.  I learned a few years ago that I was not in the real estate business – I was in the ‘ME’ business.  No, I did not say the ‘me first’ business or the ‘I’m better than you’ business, but, just the ‘ME’ business.  I had to sell me, my company, my team, our process . . . these were the things that made us stand apart from others and the real reasons that my audience should want to do business with me.  It just so happened that I bought and sold real estate for a living!

The more I read, the more I learned that marketing could be a huge, complex undertaking and yet it could also be incredibly simple.  If you can identify what makes you special, the thing that sets you apart from anyone else in your business – your Core Competency – then you have the beginnings of a brand and the best marketing decisions you can make revolve around building that brand by telling your story.

Why Brand Marketing Works In Real Estate

My 10-year old son may be one of the smartest boys I have ever met.  Now granted, beyond his friends I don’t know a lot of 10-year old kids so my reference group is a little small, but he seems pretty smart to me!  Recently he was with my in my home office and looking at the books on the wall behind my desk and wanted to know why I had so many books with funny titles like “Roar” by Kevin Daum and “Juggling Elephants” by Jones Loftin and even “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh, and I told him that those were some of my business books.  He walked over to another shelf and told me he thought these were my business books.  The shelf he was looking at had all of my real estate titles and I had the chance to explain to him how my job worked.

I told him that my job was to help other people see the real me.  Not the fake one they expect sometimes after getting hit over the head with fancy marketing pieces and inundated with hokey letters and postcards from others.  People, I told him, were tired of being ‘sold’ what others were selling and this was especially true when it came to people selling real estate.  In my experience, what people really wanted was a little honesty, mixed with some humility and don’t forget a dose of empathy and patience finished off with the ability to listen and adapt.  It was my job first and foremost to make sure our team had those traits, and more importantly, I had to point that out to prospective clients.  The real estate we bought and sold was completely secondary to our ability to:

  1. Connect on a personal level with prospective clients.  They have to understand who we are and what makes us special
  2. Get them to tell us why they want to buy real estate and all of the parameters that are important to them

I explained to him that if I did this right from the beginning with the marketing plan I developed, then, I would never have to sell anything.  We would naturally attract the real estate investing clients that fit our products and those that did not would move onto other shiny objects that caught their eye.  I told him I preferred to tell the story of our company instead of shouting how great our products were.

Now, only a 10-year old can come up with his understanding and reply.  Most people who know me and have met my oldest would tell you that he is my spitting image in every way.  Neither of us has ever met a stranger.  Neither of us has fear of talking to other people nor as amazing as it sounds, have fear of carrying on conversations on almost any subject.  We love to talk!

So he tells me that this is how he got his part in the school play.  I chuckled and asked him to explain and he told me that he didn’t have a slick looking costume or a voice and acting coach like some of the other kids and when it came to singing and dancing, well let’s just say those are not his core competency.  So he went into that audition and told those judges exactly why he needed him to be in that play!  The judges realized quickly that this kid was not scared of anything and found a role for him.

Brand Marketing Build Long-Term Results

I loved it – my kid figured out what 99% of the sales people and marketing gurus in the world can’t seem to grasp.  If you concentrate on your brand and build a relationship based marketing program, you will attract your IDEAL clients and they will desire to do business with you because you are a perfect match.  When clients are SOLD based on a companies need to sell, and this is especially true with investment real estate, there is no trust and there is no solid base on which to grow a business.  Clients are left wondering what makes your company tick while you are busy searching for the next person to ‘buy’ your goods.

Brand marketing is all about identifying what is your core competency and building a game plan around it.  I often tell people that my companies’ core competency is not buying and selling houses.  Our core competency, what we are the best at is Property Management and Customer Service.  It just so happens that we buy and sell houses as a company.  When I market our brand, all of my marketing is designed around those two core deliverables and over time, prospective clients identify those competencies with our brand.  I try to never deviate and enter the world of ‘Call To Action’ marketing, which is all about SELL, SELL, SELL!  There seems to be plenty of that style of short-term marketing out there today.  If you are looking to build a company that lasts and build upon repeat and referral business, then brand marketing, which may feel counter-productive to just saying ‘hey buy this – it’s great” is by far the better long-term marketing strategy.

About Author

Chris Clothier

In 2005, Chris Clothier (G+) began working with passive real estate investors and has since helped more than 1,100 investors purchase over 3,400 investment properties in Memphis, Dallas and Houston through the Memphis Invest family of companies.


    • Chris Clothier

      Hey Mark –

      You are exactly right. But, it is not only old school guys but also newcomers to the industry that make this mistake. The way you are viewed by your target audience is crucial for your success. Sales WILL occur when you build your brand and give people what they want. The old obsolete methods, to use your words, of SELL, SELL, SELL don’t actually build a long-term business.

      Thanks for reading and replying to the article.


  1. so true Chris! Your brand is a testament to that, and those that build relationships as opposed to hunting for transactions will develop a stronger business and better overall quality of life, because of the personal investment you can make with your clients! I hope everyone takes this to heart because your brand is a shining example!

    • Chris Clothier

      Kevin –

      I appreciate the comments and your taking the time to read and comment on the article. You bring up a great point and that is the over-all quality of our time and the over-all enjoyment we get out of what we do. Your point about hunting for transactions illustrates how you can get bogged down in the constant search for sales and truth be told…that is no fun!

      All the best –


  2. Great article Chris and I quite enjoyed your presentation at the summit. “…Property Management and Customer Service. It just so happens that we buy and sell houses as a company.” Love this. Customer service can bring one so much. Just today I started a relationship that may add $200K of financing to my arsenal. I am an investor first but I do have my license. I direct mail market about 700 mailers a month and once in a while I get a listing or something from the marketing besides a home from a motivated seller. Last month I got a call, determined the seller would sell owner financing, so I met the owner at the property. I couldn’t put together a deal that worked for me, but I was able to bring together the seller and a wood floor guy that works for me and get something in the middle. Fast forward a month to this morning; I was at the sellers home getting some paperwork finalized when the seller commented on how impressed he was with my professionalism, organization and COMMUNICATION. He commented that I must have a lot of listings etc. and I replied no, I mostly buy and sell properties. That started a whole new conversation which ended with “please call me when you need financing for your next deal”. I said yes I will. So the moral of the story is that good service builds trust and trust builds business.

    • Chris Clothier

      Gary –

      As a fellow investor, nothing is better than hearing a great story about how a deal comes together. Kevin made a great point earlier in this thread about being a customer oriented business and not a transactional based business. Your story is another illustration of that.

      I have a very clear belief that if I made decisions and take actions that are best for my clients or my partners or my staff, etc… then I will always win. I win every time those that do business with me win. And because of that, more transactions occur.

      That is what I am branding.

      Thanks for sharing your recent success. All the best –


  3. Dont want to parrot the (self-evident) myriad of reasons that make this article so perfect, but I’ll just add that it’s the best I read this week- thank you. The hard part for the young startup generation is to resist the urge to reach for the wrong type of customers, the multitudes that are still, regrettably, seeking the glittering unreal deals, instant gratification at the price of quality and long-term equity that come with the “Call to action” hype. There are far more of them out there, promising an easy buck to those that follow the “tried and tested” spruiker sales methods, and the lure is great- but it feels so fake, and rightfully so, that any self-respecting professional should naturally steer clear of it. I shudder to think how generations of prospects lived with the onslaught without shooting someone. Thank god I was raised in IT, where sales were almost ME and OUR TEAM oriented to begin with.

  4. Hello Chris

    Great article. Its refreshing to read an article by someone who gets it… As a guy who has studied marketing extensively, even written a few things on the topic, I can say that I cant wait for part 2.

    Branding and understanding how to market yourself is as important as how to buy sell or manage a real estate transaction especially if you plan on doing more than 1.

    And Congrats on you sons business savy and communication skills.

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