The Most Important Question (that Most of Us Answer Poorly)


What do you do? It’s one of the most common questions we get in social networking. In person, online…it’s all the same. When people meet you and like you, they want to know what you do. Do you have a good answer?

It all Begins at the Beginning

Think of how crucially important the answer to this question is. It’s often asked right at the beginning of a relationship, correct? The beginning is very important, because you’re creating an impression. You’re establishing expectations for future conversations. This person whom you’ve met, who wants to know more about you, has asked you what you do. Depending on how you answer, they will form opinions about you that will shape your future conversations for weeks, months or years to come.

So how do you answer this question? With so much on the line, it seems like we’d have a really good answer by now, but most of us don’t! When someone you’ve met asks you “So what do you do?” how do you respond? Do you say “I’m a Realtor”? Do you say “I sell real estate”? I don’t know about you, but in my market real estate is very competitive. How much of an impact do you think you could make if you came up with a great way of answering this question?

Small Details = Big Results

We all know there is real power in a tagline. We all know a slogan or catch phrase can make or break any marketing campaign. What do you think you’re doing when you shake hands with people at an event or when you meet new people online via your blog or Facebook…or wherever you hang out? You’re marketing. You’re branding yourself.

We’ve all heard the same old taglines:

  • Your Realtor for Life
  • Your Real Estate Consultant for Life
  • Your Trusted Real Estate Advisor

Bleh. You’ve heard these, correct? Yet the problem is we keep on hearing them! And hearing them. They’re all the same, and you know what that means. It means it goes in one ear and out the other. It means it has no effect. It means you might as well not have a slogan at all!

We know the value of a slogan, so we slam one together. I encourage you to give it some thought. Give is a week…or two weeks. Take some time to come up with a truly powerful tagline for your business. Can you imagine how much more effective it would be if your tagline actually got people’s attention and piqued their interest? If your tagline made people want to inquire more about you, wouldn’t that make every single new contact you make that much more valuable?

What is a Bad Tagline?

Here is when you know that you have a bad tagline:

  • If anyone else anywhere could also use your tagline, that means it’s generic. It’s not specific to you. “Your Realtor for Life” could be used by any Realtor in the world, except for a Realtor specifically planning on quitting the business soon. Besides that, it works for anyone. That’s a bad tagline.
  • If upon hearing your tagline, people say something like “That’s nice”, that’s a bad tagline. Your tagline should pique interest. It shouldn’t meet with their approval. If they hear your tagline and approve, it means they already know everything they need to know about you. It means they probably won’t call you or think of you for business in the future, because you don’t stand out. “That’s nice” or “Cool” is a polite way of saying “Boring”.

What is a Good Tagline?

Here’s how to know if you have a good tagline:

  • Your tagline is short, descriptive, targets the true value you offer clients and is relevant only to you.
  • Upon hearing your tagline, people say something like “What does that mean?” In other words, your tagline should invite inquiry. It should entice more conversation.

How to Answer the Infamous “What do you do?”

So what do you do? Well, your response should be your tagline. Don’t say “I sell real estate.” Everyone who sells real estate says “I sell real estate.” You don’t want to be like everyone else, correct? So respond with your tagline, and make it a good one.

The way you write a good tagline is by answering some important but difficult questions. This is why I say to give yourself a week or so to figure it out. Of course, if you have a rocking answer right away, there is no reason to belabor it, but don’t rush it either.

Here are some questions:

  • What is your specialty, your favorite type of real estate, your most competent niche?
  • Why do your clients like you?
  • What problems do you solve?
  • How do you make your clients’ lives better?
  • What do you do that no one else does?

The answers to these questions can be challenging, but it is what will set you apart of the other professionals in your market. It’s essential. Your tagline should answer what you do, but it should also be unique. Coming up with your tagline forces you to really get in touch with your business and the value you offer your clients. The process of writing a strong tagline itself is a very valuable process!

Here are a few tips for producing a powerful tagline:

  • It should answer the question “What do you do?”
  • It should ideally refer to your niche. What makes you unique?
  • It should prompt inquiry. This gives you the opportunity to give your “elevator pitch” and talk more about why you rock. “Your Realtor for Life” gets no response at all, or the response is something like “Ah, nice.” Instead, say “I Create Bulletproof Residential Home Equity” or “I’m the Dangerous Multi-family Negotiator” Either phrase will solicit a response such as “What does that mean?” or “How do you do that?” All of a sudden, you’re interesting, and people want to know more about you. Cool, huh?
  • Branding what you do can be magical. Have you been in business a while? Do you have a specific, proven process you take buyers through to find a home? Why not name the process and use it in your tagline? Say “I’m the ‘Proven Sacramento Home Finder’ guy”. See? It answers what you do, but it’s not generic. It’s very specific, and it shows you’re clearly unique. You can brand anything you’ve created. Your buying or selling process, your personal MLS searching technique. Your lead follow up system. Your newsletter. Anything and everything you do that you’ve developed over time to serve your clients well, can be branded and offered in marketing as an asset and an identifying edge that sets you apart from others.

Photo: Stefan Baudy

About Author

Christian creates dangerous internet strategies at


  1. This is a topic I’ve been struggling with lately. I agree with you, I’m not like everyone else so I most definitely need a great tag line.

    Thankfully, our own master Josh helped me out recently and I came up with ‘Creative Real Estate Solutions Engineer’

    whatcha think about that?

  2. Christian Russell on

    I dig it Nick. If someone asks “what do you do?” and you respond “I’m a creative real estate solutions engineer.” they have to ask what the heck that means. That’s a good thing. The power question is this: does “creative real estate” truly encompass what you do? Do you own the word “creative” in your real estate business? Does it speak to the core of your operation, or is it just a catch phrase?

    For example, Volvo owns the word “safety”. Everything they’ve focused on for decades revolves around it. When you hear “safest car”, you think Volvo. It’s automatic. That’s how targeted and concise you want your tagline to be 🙂

  3. Hi Christian,

    A really good article.

    Here is my elevator speech!

    Person: “What do you do?”

    Me: “I am a professional real estate investor. I purchase positive cash flow townhouses in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with Joint Venture Partners. The Partner provides the money, and I do all of the work, such as finding the property, negotiating the price, closing on the property, finding tenants, managing the property, and the tenant relationship. I also take care of the sale of the property at the end of the holding period. The partner and I split the monthly cash flow on the property 50/50. Upon the sale of the property, the Joint Venture Partner first gets back all of their money invested in the deal. We then split the profits 50/50.”

    Neil. 🙂
    .-= Neil Uttamsingh´s last blog ..What is Real Estate Diversification? =-.

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