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Beware Of Brokerage 'Freebies'

March 26 2012

Christopher Leo of Leading Agent shares this article on his blog. As you read on, one thing to keep in mind is that some brokerages have stricter guidelines about their agents' marketing materials. We recommend that you always check with your broker and ensure that your marketing decisions are not violating any company policies.

As the owner of a marketing agency that mostly deals directly with REALTORS®marketing agency that mostly deals directly with REALTORS® and not necessarily always with the brokerages, there is one thing that comes up time and time again. Not a week goes by that we meet with someone in person, or talk to them on the phone, and when asked about what they are doing for their print marketing, the response we get is some variation of:

“My brokerage has a deal on postcards, so we just use them. They aren’t the best, but they work.”

Let me be clear, I am not writing this article to bash brokerages. Quite the contrary. I think brokerages are a good thing. Many of them we deal with on varying levels are run by top notch people in the industry that really know their stuff.

The thing of it is though, that on an agent level, this is BAD branding and not doing them justice. I get it. Cheap, especially in this economy, is good. But as the adage goes: “You get what you pay for”. To those ends, here are a few reasons I propose that you strongly reconsider just going for “easy” with your marketing, build YOUR OWN brand, and get noticed.

1) Your brokerage’s postcard options may brand the brokerage #1 and you #2
This is perhaps the biggest reason that every agent should take notice and be cautious. The fact is that the postcards from your brokerage’s vendor aren’t cheap because they charge less money than anyone else.  It’s probably because your brokerage is subsidizing the cost of the postcards (trust me on this).

While that subsidy does make it cheaper for you to send your cards out, the price to pay is this: your brokerage is going to want to make sure they are getting bang for their buck. In this case, this means making sure their brokerage is getting exposure. Oftentimes this means big logos and small agent photos, or limited areas for agent contact info, slogans and other branding info (e.g. a personal logo or icon may not be permitted).

Look at it this way, for a few extra bucks, you can have anything you want.  The sky is the limit.  You can have the exact layout you want, with your contact information and photo displayed, as you want.  Of course you want to do this within reason (e.g. If your brokerage’s logo is burgundy and black, DO NOT turn it pink and green), but you get the idea.

2) Your choices of layouts are most likely going to be limited
This is a tough one. In fairness to every brokerage out there, they plan as well as they can, and set up as many variations of templates as possible, to serve every agent’s need. The reality is that no two properties are the same, and the unique ones often require a unique marketing piece.  Your brokerage could have designed one million postcard templates, and I guarantee you that at one point or another, you WILL find that they don’t have what you need.

What is wrong with this? The problem is that many times, your brokerage’s printing vendor is not allowed to deviate from those templates. This puts  you in a tough spot. Another “hooray for custom templates and branding” moment has appeared.

Having your own templates and branding gives you the flexibility to make your marketing fluid, yet your brand identity intact.  You can switch stuff up as needed, making you look like a rock star to your clients, and also keeping your branding consistent, making you look like the professional you are.

3) Computers are nice, but human beings are nicer
Another super common thing we learn from new agents is that many brokerage marketing solutions require the agents to log online and build their postcards themselves, on the computer, to submit to the printing vendor. This is another reason that these postcards may not be a good deal. A brokerage usually works with a vendor to get the pricing as low as possible (totally fair; it’s called “doing business”).  The vendor however can’t have human beings designing these things for the agents (if they wish to continue to be profitable, and stay in business), so they put everything in an online store, and require that the agents design their products online and order them, themselves.

What are the problems with this?

  • Agents are busy. They don’t have time to figure out how to use an online store. They need to delegate this to someone.
  • Agents ARE NOT graphic designers.  While online stores are easier, the photo requirements (specific resolution of photos, or size requirements), may make it impossible for an agent to get an order placed. It will just keep erroring out on them, frustrating them even further.

    Having a “human being” (I know, a novel idea) to help them, even if it costs slightly more, is light years easier. This gives the agent the ability to talk to someone that can interpret their needs, rather than a computer that only understands literal requests.

    The net result is a project that is nicer than the alternative, gets done faster than the alternative, and frees the agent up to do other things (like conducting business). As they, say my friends, “time is money." Even if a postcard order ended up costing you $50 extra to order it from an outside firm that had a dedicated graphic artist handle it for you, in the time you saved, you just might be able to go out and secure a new listing (rather than be strapped to a computer). It's easy to see the value in that!

So again, I am not bashing brokerages. I am however reminding REALTORS® all across America that they  are running their own business, where they ARE the brand. Because of that, they need to treat their marketing and branding no differently than a brokerage approaches marketing.

If you're looking for help with your real estate marketing, or if you'd like to read the original article, visit the Leading Agent blogLeading Agent blog. You can also read more articles from Leading Agent on RE Technology.