Who cares about the photo on your business card?

Services for Real Estate Pros with WAV Group

There was an intriguing article on Agent Genius today about whether or not to include your photo in your real estate branding.

The article generated a lot of good feedback from agents on both sides of the fence. 

Actually I think is fundamentally the wrong question to ask.  As the former VP Marketing for Fisher-Price, in my opinion, branding has NOTHING to do with whether you include a photo or not.

Brands are built on a clear definition of your unique value proposition.  They are also built on DELIVERING against your value proposition consistently and better than anyone else.  Fisher-Price, for example has a strong brand because it delivers high quality, well-thought out, developmentally appropriate and FUN toys for young children.  If you provide an inconsistent delivery against your brand promise, your brand gets tarnishes. When Fisher-Price experienced a huge product recall a couple of years ago, for example, it tarnished their brand.  Consumers trust was violated. The brand they thought of as safe and high quality had let them down.

Toyota is another good example.  This car manufacturer had ‘raving fans” and a sparkling reputation for providing reliable, fuel-efficient and safe cars.  The acceleration fiasco they went through last year damaged their brand, possibly even irreparably because the consumer trust was again violated.

The same concept of brand holds true for real estate agents.  If agents want a strong brand, they also need to deliver a consistent, high quality product.  They need to set expectations with their clients and then exceed those expectations whenever they can.

We just completed consumer focus groups this week and we learned a lot about what consumers are looking for.  They want REALTORSÒ to guide and counsel them through the very complicated short sale and REO transactions they are struggling through today. They want to be educated about what’s happening in the local neighborhood or market they are interested in.  They want REALTORSÒ to stay on top of the ever-changing regulations for loans from government agencies and banks.

We have coined a phrase for this type of marketing we call Edutizing. Check out our paper on the subject to learn more about you can use “edutizing” to build your client base.

In the focus groups, consumers also told us they are happy to conduct property research and narrow down the homes they are looking for, but they need REALTORSÒ to guide them through the rest of the transaction. They want quick responses and explanations of complicated contracts and disclosures.  Consumers also need their agent to adjust to their communication preferences.  They might like email for documents and text messages to answer quick questions, but they might also like to ask you to join them for Happy Hour via Facebook.  The successful agent will adjust their communication habits to match the needs of their client. 

Here’s another ditty from consumers. They REALLY want more transparency about your past performances. They want to see what past customers say about you. They want legitimate agent ratings from your past clients, not some unsanctioned site where anyone can comment on anybody. 

Bottomline, Don’t worry about whether you include your photo on your business cards or not - it is irrelevant to real estate consumers. Focus on delivering the best service you can in the most consistent and reliable method you can. That will strengthen your brand a whole lot more than any fancy marketing piece will do for you. Remember you are working with them on the most important purchase and decision of their life. It is a very important job and consumers expect you to take their life decision very seriously. Focus on making the experience as fulfilling as possible and your brand reputation will take care of itself.  One of the smartest guys I ever worked with at Fisher-Price would also say “Build great product and the rest takes care of itself".   In real estate deliver great service and your brand and business will take care of itself too.



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Tim Maitski
Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage - Atlanta, GA
Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal

Someone might care about your picture on your card if they have trouble remembering names.  If they have 6 agent cards, and only one with a picture, I bet that one with a picture has a better chance of getting a call back.  But that's just me.

Oct 07, 2010 02:26 PM #1
Jane Wemyss
Compass - Dover, MA

Marilyn - I agree with you. I worked for corporation America prior to selling real estate and would never even consider putting my photo on my business card in publishing. The facts always speak for themselves. it appears the real estate industry has been so closed and full of fluff for so many years it's hard to see through the clutter!

Thanks for the great information and reinforcement.

Oct 07, 2010 02:28 PM #2
Nina Rogoff
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Medfield, MA
Sells Real Estate!

Marilyn, what a well-written, excellent post. (Just suggested it for a feature). I've always believed that in any industry, the lion's share of the business goes to those who deliver the best quality with the best service, and who provide the transparency so their clients can have a real sense of who is behind the product/service.

Oct 07, 2010 02:33 PM #3
marilyn wilson
WAV Group - Arroyo Grande, CA

Thanks for the vote of confidence Nina!   I couldn't agree with you more.   I try to bring the voice of reality - the consumer to the table whenever I can. I don't think we focus nearly enough on the needs of consumers in the real estate industry!

Oct 07, 2010 02:38 PM #4
Mike Jaquish
Realty Arts - Cary, NC
919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate

I walked into a coffee shop this evening for a meet.

The person I was to meet stood up, approached me with a smile, and greeted me.

There was no question about it:  She knew who I was.

I credit my photo.

Oct 07, 2010 03:50 PM #5
Eric Kodner
Wayzata Lakes Realty: Eric Kodner Sells Twin Cities Homes - Minnetonka, MN
Wayzata Lakes Realty: Twin Cities, Madeline Island

I agree that an agent photo on a business card has zero to do with marketing.  Instead it seems to be a vanity item that gives the agent a feeling of "belonging" to their company.

Oct 07, 2010 03:53 PM #6
marilyn wilson
WAV Group - Arroyo Grande, CA

I am not arguing that photos are a bad thing - my point is that effective branding is NOT dependent on your photo.  It's dependent on the quality of service, experience and guidance you provide to your customers.  Branding is a strategy, NOT a tactic.  A photo on a business card is just one very small and relatively insignificant method for building a strong brand.

Oct 08, 2010 06:29 AM #7
Jeannette Kohlhaas
Keller Williams Jacksonville Realty - Jacksonville, FL

I actually put my sellers listing on my business card! and YES, I get new cards all the time. It's a great form of advertising, and the sellers love it! I've been told by many marketing people that I'm NOT consistant with my branding, but who cares...I'm getting listings, because I'm thinking outside the box.

(PS, anyone know any buyers interested in buying this GORGEOUS home (pictured above) in JAX Golf & CC community in Jacksonville, FL)

Jeannette Kohlhaas - Professional Realtor & LPGA Golf Professional

Keller Williams Realty Jax




Oct 10, 2010 01:58 AM #8
Craig Chapman
Call Realty / Access Appraisals - Mesa, AZ
The Value Guy

I agree that an agents "brand" or approach to their business does not typically need a photo.  There may be times when it might be needed, depending on the "brand" I think.  There could even be times when your picture could hurt your marketing.  I tend to look younger than I am & can remember back, several years after I started in Real estate loosing a couple deals because the sellers thought I looked too young to know what I was doing. They listed with an older agent who told them a high unrealistic list price & I watched the listing sit there until they eventually lowered it to the price I had told them before it sold. I think that a picture could possibly be a distraction to the brand on a card. Does that make sense?

Jan 13, 2011 03:45 AM #9
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