Real Estate News & Commentary

Tips for Building Your Brand in 2014

Expertise: Real Estate Marketing, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Business Management, Real Estate Wholesaling, Landlording & Rental Properties
145 Articles Written
Building Your Brand this Year

I have talked a little bit about building your brand previously. But I believe it is even more important now than ever before. There is just so much competition in this real estate investing niche.

Here is the big question –

How many of you have consciously given branding serious thought much less put even a rudimentary plan down on paper? I would like to formally declare this the year we work on building our brand.

What Is the Definition of Branding?

“The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product or service from other products or services”

That’s it in a nutshell. A brand is what sets us apart from our competition. Your logo and the look of your website are certainly important parts of your brand. If you sell a product, your packaging is part of your brand.

 BiggerPockets has built a very definite visual brand with its logo and its colors. They have also done a great job of communicating exactly what they are about, and have built a community around their brand.

What about Other Brands?

  • Coke is always red; it is never green or blue.
  • Shell is always an orange/yellow colored shell outlined in red
  • McDonald’s has golden arches
  • Google and Starbucks are easily identifiable brands

There Is So Much More to Branding

The “look” of a brand is important, but there is so much more to creating a brand.

If done property, your brand will tell your customers exactly who you are and what they can expect from your company. So it is vital that you give branding some serious consideration before you dive in to this project. Your particular brand comes from not only who you are, but who people perceive you to be. Here are some examples:

  • The Dollar Store – the cheap guy
  • Mercedes – the expensive guy
  • Domino’s Pizza – the fast guy
  • Levi’s Jeans – the dependable, mid-priced guy
  • BiggerPockets – the complete resource for real estate investor’s guy

Can you see how your brand is all about perception? What perception do you want to create?

Creating Your Own Personal Brand

I believe that you should not only brand your real estate investing business, but you should brand yourself. In most cases they can (and should be) interlinked.

First of all, everyone should own their “name domain”. If you haven’t already purchased yours, then take a few minutes and do that today. Head on over to GoDaddy.com or one of the other domain sites and get your name in the form of a domain. You want to be in charge of your name recognition and your reputation, and the best way to achieve that is to create it (your reputation) yourself.

The last time I wrote about this, I had just purchased Sharon.vornholt.com. I have to admit that I never got the site up and running. So now that I am officially “on notice” for not completing this task, I will get it done within the next 30 days. So that is the first step. Get your name domain. Then put up at least one page “about you” on your site.

Secondly, everyone should have a business website. You can create one yourself on WordPress for just the price of hosting which costs from $8.00 to 10.00 a month in most cases. If you don’t know how to do this, you can hire someone from fiverr.com to do that for you for just $5.00. You can also get one of the “done for you” websites that include hosting in many cases pretty cheaply too. So there really is no excuse for not having a website.

Branding 101 for Real Estate Investors  

Here are 7 tips for creating your brand:

  1. You need a great logo. If you intend to cross brand your business site and your personal site, this can simply be a picture of you. After all, you are the face of the business.
  2. Determine what message you want to create about your brand. Who are you? What do you want to communicate about your brand? Are you the best in your city? What do you offer that the competition doesn't offer? Write it down and get clear about who you are. Why should your customers care about you?
  3. Your brand should be consistent. Your brand includes every aspect of your business. Things like your email signature, how you answer the phone, products or books you create, freebies you give away, and possibly even some of the clothes you wear.
  4. Develop a tagline for your business. When I had a home inspection business my tagline was, "Inspecting Louisville one house at a time". My tagline for my real estate investing business is, "We Buy Houses – We Solve Problems". Your tagline should be simple and easy to remember.
  5. Your printed materials should all reflect your brand. Things such as letterhead, marketing materials, newsletters etc. should all contain the same branding; the same colors, logos, taglines etc. This is how you establish your brand. Consistency is once again the key.
  6. Create the persona you want your brand to reflect. – Is your brand friendly? Do you work with average folks on a daily basis?

*Are you working with high end clients where you need to look and speak a little differently; perhaps a little more formally?
*Are you working with folks in distressed situations that need extra empathy and hand-holding?
*There is one point I want to make here; be genuine and just be yourself.

As the saying goes:

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”.

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7. Finally, create a brand that embodies your values. You need to be consistent in delivering that brand. If you are not able to deliver whatever your brand promises, you will have little chance of getting referrals or staying in business in the long term. Live your brand on a daily basis.

Final Thoughts

Real estate investors and “we buy houses” companies are a dime a dozen in most areas. There is more competition than ever. So if we are to be successful in this business over time, it is absolutely essential that we carve out a very specific niche for ourselves with consistent branding.

What can you do this year to differentiate yourself and your business from all the other real estate investors in your area? Weigh in below.
Photo Credit: Urban Woodswalker

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become...
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    Levar
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Branding is so important regardless of the industry you find yourself or those of you with entrepreneurial pursuits. It takes some creative thought to capture “yourself” in a few words but it is worth it in the end.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    It does take some time to do that Levar. But you are right when you say it is worth it. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    It does take some time to do that Levar. But you are right when you say it is worth it. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    It does take some time to do that Levar. But you are right when you say it is worth it. Sharon
    Tim Herriage
    Replied over 6 years ago
    I agree with these points. Another point is to be aware of trademark law, and copyrights. I am a HomeVestors Franchisee and Development Agent. Unfortunately part of building a brand, is protecting it. This means HomeVestors must pursue any violators we are aware of. At times, I have actually had to have the corporate office send demand letters to friends. So, when building your investing brand, my quick advice is do NOT use the word Ugly with regards to houses, or the word HomeVestors. So: uglyhousesinsanfrancisco.com will get you a letter from us. i wanted to make this comment to be clear, we (HomeVestors) do not send these letters out of spite or meanness. We send them (the same way you will need to be prepared to) in order to maintain our copyrights and trademarks. The moment you do not, there is case law where you can lose it! Good post as always, Sharon.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Tim – I agree with the fact that you have to protect your brand, but I really have to disagree with you. To say that no one but your company can use the word “ugly” is crazy. That is just a word in the dictionary. All of us buy and market for ugly houses. You can’t trademark a word like ugly and demand that no other business it. Trademarking the name “Homevestors” is something entirely different. Thanks for reading. Sharon
    Tim Herriage
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon, I do respect your opinion, but the case law on this issue is very clear. Trademark law provides protection for phrases, in connection with a trade/industry. HomeVestors has never lost, and I’d invite any trademark attorney to disagree. I am not here to argue, but I am here to help. I’d recommend you read up on Trademark law prior to advising the readers to violate it. The purpose of my post was to simply help investors avoid a headache. HomeVestors does not enjoy the actions, but it is necessary to protect what we have invested in for 17 years. If anyone would like a reference to the general Council at HomeVestors, to obtain the paperwork supporting this position, you may contact the legal department at HomeVestors of America, Inc. HomeVestors of America, Inc. 6500 Greenville Avenue #400 Dallas, TX 75206 Telephone: 972-761-0046 Fax: 972-761-9022 From the corporate webpage: “We Buy Ugly Houses and HomeVestors are registered trademarks of our main company HomeVestors of America, Inc. We defend our trademark vigorously. Although some people say imitation is truly the sincerest type of flattery, HomeVestors is not flattered at all when other companies infringe on our trademarks, especially “We Buy Ugly Houses” and “Homevestors.” We make great efforts to protect our HomeVestors® franchise and franchisees by taking fast legal action against individuals and companies using our trademarks who have no business relationship with us that allows them to do so. We enjoy a 100 – 0 record as we have never lost a trademark infringement action.” REFERENCES: http://www.inman.com/2012/12/19/we-buy-ugly-houses-franchisor-wins-domain-name-dispute/ http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/homevestors-continues-aggressive-trademark-enforcement-in-second-quarter-210570451.html
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Tim – I can see that you have trademarked “we buy ugly houses”. That does not prevent folks from using the term “ugly houses” in their marketing. That exact phrase isn’t what was trademarked. I’m pretty sure people all across America have included a very large number of the words in the English language in their trademarks. So – the rest of us can’t utter those words? This post was only for general information on how to branding your company. My final word on this subject is that this is absolutely the wrong place to boast about your company being corporate bullies. Sharon
    Tim Herriage
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon, I am sorry you feel me agreeing with you and adding that while building a brand, beware of trademarks makes you think of us as corporate bullies. I am merely trying to help. Just last week, Duncan Wierman advised one of his students to turn over two URL’s with uglyhouse in them. Whether you agree with me or not, I don’t think you should call names. i am merely stating documented facts, in an effort to help investors avoid problems. Consider it a speed limit sign. If any of you would like to speed, go ahead. There is nothing stopping you, except the law.
    Jason F
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Lol…good luck with that one champ. By the way; I have the word houses trademarked. Expect a letter from us shortly.
    Alan Mackenthun
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Agreed. I’m not sure how to refer to the earlier poster. I can’t think of anything printable that would do him justice. Nice to see that he’s too obtuse to quit digging.
    Tim Herriage
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Jason, You are more than welcome to look it up, or even try it. I am not a part of the corporate office, but I do report violators to the general council. This is to protect the brand. I recommend you ask you attorney if utilizing the phrase “Ugly House” is a violation of HomeVestors trade marks. If you disagree, please seek council. We have never lost, and have won against several gurus, like Robyn Thompson. Regards, Tim
    Kurt K
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Tim from a quick search “we buy ugly houses” is trade marked. Is “ugly houses” itself trademarked?
    Jason F
    Replied over 6 years ago
    I have been buying ugly houses here in Idaho since 2004. Sometimes I buy nice houses. I have marketing materials that explain all of the different types of houses I will buy from someone that needs to sell their house quickly. I have never heard of home vestors and I don’t care about what words you think only you can use in your marketing. Why in the world would your company trademark a word or phrase that is very commonly used with investors all over the country and then threaten a lawsuit whenever you suspect it is being used. It seems to be a great way to alienate yourself from the rest of the investing community of whatever market you are in. Bigger Pockets forums are a great place to network, share and learn new ideas. Your threats are not welcome and from reading most of the other posts on this thread, neither is your company.
    Tim Herriage
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Jason, I made no threats. If you disagree, so be it. I agree with you about the uses of BiggerPockets. It was my intent to share my opinion. If you disagree, good luck to you.
    Jason F
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Lol…good luck with that one champ. By the way; I have the word houses trademarked. Expect a letter from us shortly.
    Kurt K
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Wow, ugly is off limits, homevestors is definitely the ugly brand. I never had an opinion on these guys until reading related threads on the forums Reply Report comment
    Kurt K
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Wow, ugly is off limits, homevestors is definitely the ugly brand. I never had an opinion on these guys until reading related threads on the forums
    Jason F
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Don’t worry. You are not alone.
    Roy Schauer
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Great article and points Sharon! Definitely have seen the need for branding and making sure the materials are higher quality. There are so many that take the cheap route, and that’s great, but we didn’t want to. We spent the little bit of extra time to create a good logo and have quality printed materials and it has paid off. I’ve had several people tell me the reason they called was because we looked more “serious and professional”. Our materials gave the impression before they even talked to us. While I know some like a more informal approach, we deal primarily with people in preforeclosure who get offers of help all the time. Our goal is for them to believe we will be able to help them in a professional manner.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Roy – It sounds like you have made great strides in your branding. Congratulations on that. I agree that in most cases people like to do business with folks that appear to be professionals. You don’t have to be a big company to have that appearance either. Just a few tweaks here and there. Thanks. Sharon
    Martin Cortez
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon – Along with my ventures in real estate, I have spent nearly 25 years in the graphic arts and printing industry, so I enthusiastically agree with you about the importance of a consistent and professional look for all of your marketing materials. I think it is especially important for beginning investors to establish themselves with marketing graphics that stand out and promote credibility. Please feel free to take a look at my website (shameless plug), where I have combined real estate investing and graphic design in an attempt to help real estate “newbies”.
    Arthur Botting
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon, Do you think instead of a “webuyhouses” style of name for a REI company a different style can be effective? For example, our company is La Piedra Properties LLC. We couldn’t find a name using “buy” and “houses” that wasn’t already taken. If you don’t think that’s effective what would you recommend? BTW – Thanks for sharing all of your marketing and wholesaling tips with every one on Bigger Pockets! Arthur Botting
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Arthur – Yes it can. Stop and think about all of the brands you are familiar with. It is ultimately about the people involved in the business. There are many other aspects of branding besides the name. Thanks for reading the articles Arthur! Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    I will definitely do that Martin. I think real estate investors by and large are really small companies that struggle with branding. You should jump in here are write some articles for the BP blog. See how good I an getting at outsourcing! Thanks for your comments. Sharon
    Arthur Botting
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Martin, Can you give us your web address so we can visit your website? Arthur
    Martin Cortez
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Arthur – absolutely! My web address is http://www.NewInvestorGraphics.com Feel free to pass along the address to anyone you think it could help. Thanks!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Nice site Martin, and also nice postcards. Sharon
    Paul Haughton
    Replied over 6 years ago
    There’s lots of food for thought in this post. I’ll definitely be coming back to reference these nuggets. The branding process certainly takes time and effort to refine. My approach has been to commit to it over the long-term, develop a plan of action, and follow through with baby steps daily. Great advice about purchasing your domain name. I’ll have to take action on that. Thanks Sharon.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Paul – Branding is a process and yes it does take time. I would definitely get your domain name ASAP. In come cases you have to add a middle initial, middle name, or change it up in some way.Then I would just start to think about 5 things you can do to improve your brand and work on those. Then pick 5 more. Best of luck. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Paul – Branding is a process and yes it does take time. I would definitely get your domain name ASAP. In come cases you have to add a middle initial, middle name, or change it up in some way.Then I would just start to think about 5 things you can do to improve your brand and work on those. Then pick 5 more. Best of luck. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Paul – Branding is a process and yes it does take time. I would definitely get your domain name ASAP. In come cases you have to add a middle initial, middle name, or change it up in some way.Then I would just start to think about 5 things you can do to improve your brand and work on those. Then pick 5 more. Best of luck. Sharon Reply Report comment
    Brian Gibbons
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Hi Sharon, what is your point of difference? Mine is – We solve house problems. If we cant, we know someone who can. No Equity? Divorce? Making 2 Payments? Ugly House? If you dont call us, we cant help. ———————- I see your tag line, We Buy Houses, We Solve Problems Nice point of difference! 🙂
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Brian – It is getting harder and harder to be different. We are all in basically the same business. I don’t have a problem with that where personal branding is concerned, But it is a whole different story for our REI businesses. That is one of my goals this year; to get this nailed down. Sharon
    Shaun
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Great action steps for building a brand. I did put a little more effort into getting a professional logo designed, and then plastered it on everything! Have it on nice Polo shirts I’ll where to meetings and appointments, I have pens, notebooks, sticky notes, notepads, mousepads, calculators, address labels, letterhead and even my business checks with it on there. People know who I am at the local meetings by picking up on the visual. It also definitely helps reinforce the message.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Your marketing is much like I did for my other business. We had all of those things. Who did your logo? Sharon
    Shaun
    Replied over 6 years ago
    It was actually done by the husband of one of my sister-in-laws good friends. He is a professional graphic designer in the corporate world but does some side projects for people in his “sphere” sometimes. Very legit where some of his signature work were large campaigns at the Boston Garden for the Bruins and Celtics. It’s been a few years but I believe it was like $230 and I got the logo with all the digital files (color, black and white, various formats and resolutions for different applications) and a business card design with the logo and a few alternate backsides for easy upload to online printers (I tend to use Vista Print). Clearly a lot more than if I found someone on Fiverr or E-lance or something but pretty good deal for someone with that level of skill and experience.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Thanks Shaun for the info. Sharon
    Brian Gibbons
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Got a link for your logo? 🙂
    Shaun
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Click on my name here and it is on my website. Also is on my BiggerPockets profile: https://www.biggerpockets.com/users/smreilly
    Brian Gibbons
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Got a link for your logo? 🙂 Reply Report comment
    Suzanne De Vita
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon, Terrific tips! Something else to consider: uniform branding across multiple platforms online, not just with printed materials. It’s so important to convey consistent messages, whether it’s through a blog, videos, even signatures on message boards…
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Absolutely Suzanne. It should be consistent across all platforms. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Absolutely Suzanne. It should be consistent across all platforms. Sharon
    Jaz Cook
    Replied over 6 years ago
    So often with real estate, we are our own brand. Who and what we do on a personal level, especially when your name is your domain, needs to be consistent, just like our marketing materials.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    I agree completely Jaz. That’s why it’s so important to buy your name domain. Sharon