By LISA KLEIN
Real estate brokerages all across the world face intense competition, with major franchises and large companies making it hard to stand out in the crowded industry.
Having a strong identity, and making sure that the public sees it, is a key branding strategy for smaller, independent brokerages to rise above the rest.
“If you look at your competitors, the majority of them do not define who they are,” said Whitney LaCosta, principal and broker of record of the Northport, New York-based Coach Realtors, during Luxury Portfolio International’s 2021 Affluence Forum.
“Most people, employees and agents all want to align with a company’s core values,” she said.
Defining what kind of company a brokerage is and what its core values are is essential to developing a strong brand – it is the brand.
“As far as marketing, we look inside at ourselves first and define who we are,” Ms. LaCosta said, adding that all of her agents know their values from the inside out.
“That has been really, really valuable to us,” she said. “It guides our decision making as a company, it helps us plan for our future, and it helps our agents know who we are and where they work.”
Coach Realtors is a “mentor company,” and based its set of core values, including “the best work comes from the heart,” and “700 minds are better than one,” off of that identity.
Those values attract both agents and clients who associate with that mindset themselves.
“Every decision we make in our company aligns with those core values,” Ms. LaCosta said.
Giorgio Vigano Real Estate in Milan, Italy is another brokerage leaning into its stellar reputation.
“We work a lot on the fact that the company is traditional and made of well-mannered people,” said owner Bendetta Vigano, daughter of the company’s founder.
Family values are front-and-center with Ms. Vigano, her aunt, sister and daughters all paying personal visits to clients’ first-time showings and introducing them to the agent with whom they will be working.
Outside the pack
The Cayman Islands-based brokerage IRG-International Realty Group views itself as a more of a consultancy with core values such as experience, integrity and trust.
“We want to make sure that at all times we are seen to be a trusted partner as opposed to a real estate agent or a real estate broker,” said Jeremy Hurst, broker-owner of the company, which also underwent a recent rebranding exercise with the entire team.
The exercise revealed that to stand out, the brokerage should market itself as a specialist in a sea of companies that do a little bit of everything on the islands. This led to splitting the brokerage into four segments, one of which is luxury property geared towards affluent investors.
“That’s very important that they understand that we’re not a jack-of-all-trades – we specialize in each of those areas,” Mr. Hunt said. “And that’s the image and the message that we want to send to our investors.”
A fellow specialist brokerage in Singapore, One Global Property Services, also positions itself as a trusted advisor to investors in Asia with a focus on the international market.
“It’s quite difficult to get into the luxury space here, so I’m coming at it from a different angle,” said firm founder and managing director James Puddle.
“A lot of luxury buyers are looking to invest into other markets around the world, particularly the U.K.,” he said. “So we’re really trying to build that rather than just selling new construction properties and secondhand properties to really be able to advise them on their investments.”
Spread the word
Then there is the matter of revealing the brokerage’s identity to the public.
“The time and effort we put into our outward-facing message, I think, is absolutely key,” Mr. Hurst said.
While the 60-year-old Giorgio Vigano Real Estate is well-known in the local market, the company still gets its name out there whenever possible.
“I’m a very big fan of branding, I’ve always pushed branding a lot,” Ms. Vigano said.
“Nothing from this office goes out without enhancing the brand,” she said. “So everyone has always been aware in the Milanese market that we are – I don’t want to say above the others – but certainly special compared to the others.”
Coach Realtors adds its values onto everything. Even its folders say, “The best work comes from the heart.”
“We’ve come up with our mantras through our core values, and we make sure that they are stated in every ad and every marketing piece that goes out so the public, our agents and our competition are well aware of what we stand for,” Ms. LaCosta said.
Creative and targeted placement is important as well.
Giorgio Vigano Real Estate started buying newspaper ads not in the real estate section, but in the Milanese section so that it would be the only brokerage in the surrounding pages and receiving phone calls from outside its normal client base as a result.
Most marketing in Asia happens online, so One Global Property Services does a lot of short online videos and social media campaigns.
International Realty Group, for its part, began attending the Monaco Yacht Show to reach its international affluent audience.
“Our listers like that about us,” Mr. Hurst said. “They like to know that we’re out there walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”
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