Brand your way to online success. By Michael J. Russer, printed in Realtor Magazine.
Russer is an internationally recognized Internet speaker, trainer, and author,
who helps real estate professionals leverage their people skills into profit on the Internet.
Dear Mr. Internet:
I've had a web site for several years, but I'm frustrated trying to make it stand out from the thousands of other real estate sites out there. What can I do?
Michael Bray, El Paso, TX
Differentiation is the key to successful marketing. This is especially true on the Internet, where it's easy to get lost in the vast digital ocean. One of the most powerful ways to differentiate your site is to create your online brand, a unique identification your target market will recognize and associate with valuable service.
Let's look at how three successful professionals set themselves apart.
Rick Miner and his wife, Joyce, are the branding geniuses behind the tremendously successful Duckin.com. From the webbed feet that form the "www" in the logo and URL to his site's trademark duck-yellow look, visitors know instantly this site is a duck of a different feather.
Miner's approach complements his target market: Seattle luxury waterfront properties. And his branding efforts don't stop at his Web feet - er, site. Miner and his team hand out rubber duckies emblazoned with his URL, as well as a yellow duck-embroidered, duck-billed baseball caps. They drive duck-yellow VWs touting the Duckin.com brand.
So far this year, Duckin.com is responsible for 90% of Miner's business.
Chester the dog is a central part of Judy McCutchin's DallasHomes.com Web site - one that generated more than $13 million in closed online business for her in 1999 ("Web Wonders," June 2000, page 48).
In addition to supplying an endearing branding theme, Chester provides context within the site. For instance, he appears as a schoolboy when visitors view Dallas private school information.
For more information or to schedule appointments, visitors can chat with Chester via a live service called Live Assistance. McCutchin even instructed chat operators to think and act like Chester.
Top producer Alice Held uses anthropomorphized cacti to give her Come2az.com site charm and personality. Like McCutchin's dog, Heidi's cacti are depicted appropriately to each section of the site. Like Miner, Held approaches branding in a way that complements her target market: people moving to Scottsdale, AZ.
Held has closed more than 100 transactions through her online efforts - another reason her cacti characters are so green.
These three sites share four qualities of successful branding. Each is
A fifth branding quality missing from most of the examples is an identifiable logo. A logo is a graphical element that becomes a site's primary identifier. A well-designed logo is unique, memorable, and consistent with other branding elements.
- Idiosyncratic. They reflect some aspect of their creator's personality.
- Memorably unique. They're presented in a way that isn't easily forgotten or copied by others.
- Attractive. They're pleasing, warm, friendly, reassuring, and fun.
- Congruent with the target market. The look and feel of the branding elements speak to the target audience.
There are no magic bullets to generating consistent business online. There are, however, sound strategies - and creating an effective online brand is one of the most powerful I can think of.
- Published in Realtor Magazine