June Laves, Marketing Manager
If you read part one, the value of protecting your brand’s consistency across all marketing channels is clear. But how can a broker encourage adoption of the brokerage brand without stifling the uniqueness and diversity of an agent’s own “brand image?” How do you remove the opportunity for a “rogue-marketing” agent?
What is co-branding?
To simplify crazy marketing terms, co-branding is any instance where two or more brands sponsor the same message, product or advertisement. We see it in all industries, from sponsorships of professional sports teams to blockbuster kids’ films on toothpaste. Co-branding is a widely-accepted marketing strategy to bring a larger audience to your message. In real estate, it’s strategically uniting the branding of an individual agent with the larger brand of their affiliated brokerage.
From my prior years as a marketer in a brokerage, I know that selling agents on the value of co-branding can initially seem like more effort than it’s worth. Don’t panic! It’s possible to show your agents hard evidence of the value that a brokerage’s brand brings to the table and make them feel empowered—not stifled. Peruse the 10 tips below and choose a few that you think will work best for your brokerage.
10 Simple Ways Brokers Can Win Over Agents
Brokerages are in a unique position of trying to deliver value to both the consumer and the agent. There’s a way to turn this into an advantage rather than a challenge: Use the same consumer marketing science that you use to promote your brokerage to homebuyers on your agents. Everyone is looking for very similar value from your brokerage; all you need to do is adjust the way you’re presenting your value to agents.
The Harvard Business Review has identified an incredibly-useful pyramid of “consumer values” that when met by a particular brand, encourage loyalty and advocacy from their customers. You can view just the hierarchy pyramid image or read the full release here: https://hbr.org/2016/09/the-elements-of-value. According to the researchers, the more “values” a brand provides for its customer, the more the customer develops a strong loyalty for that brand. Of these values, here are the top 10 that agents will closely identify with and can help you, your brokerage administration, and your marketing team develop rhetoric that encourages co-branding and brand consistency.
1. Co-branding is a Time Saver
Your agents save time by using co-branded collateral. Is there a more precious asset to agents than time?
The brokerage can provide collateral templates that have consistent branding and compliance marks, along with specific customizable sections for agents. Agents never have to “reinvent the wheel” and waste time starting from scratch for every consultation. Brokerages will develop powerful brand consistency (and brand recognition!) with the repetition of common design themes.
Try phrasing the value of co-branding as, “There are only 24 hours in a day, no more and no less. As successful real estate agents, you want to maximize every minute of the day working to build your business and serve your clients. Instead of dedicating precious time to developing marketing collateral, build your business off the professional materials created with the brokerage brand – and own that content as your sidekick the next time you meet with a client.”
We also recently released an infographic about the benefits of helping your agents save time! Click to view the entire image.
2. The KISS Rule. Keep it Simple, Stupid.
Whoever came up with that acronym must be proud. We’ve all heard it a million times from a million great leaders. Real estate is complex. There are many different components simultaneously evolving toward closing, and a real estate agent wrangles them all. This can create stress or anxiety for agents, but when their brokerage simplifies the process by giving their agents strategies or collateral built on the brokerage’s brand to work from, agents stress less and serve clients better.
For Katie Stephans, VP Information Technology at ReeceNichols Real Estate in Kansas City, MO, having a library of content “took the guesswork” out of it for agents – and because the process was so easy, it eliminated the motivation for agents to go “rogue” in their marketing. Hear more from Katie as our webinar guest in “Take Advantage of Every Marketing Opportunity.”
3. Crisis Averted, Captain
Co-branded advertising will help your agents avoid hassles. While similar to the idea of “saving time,” avoiding hassles and reducing effort is the idea that brokerages can provide a straightforward, streamlined marketing process based on best practices of successful agents, clearing the path for agents and removing obstacles.
Try phrasing the value of the co-brand as, “Through our years of experience, and many successful agents, our marketing process and messaging have been finessed to help create success for any agent in our market area. There’s no need to try and solve these problems on your own when agents before have cleared the path for you to thrive.”
4. Reduce Risk
Real estate as an industry is so glamorized with HGTV specials and dream-home Pinterest boards that brand-new agent recruits are caught off guard by REALTORS® stringent legal restrictions and detailed code of ethics. Meeting every governing board’s legal requirements in advertising can become quite a chore for many agents—even the most experienced. Lackadaisical adherence to the rules puts many agents at risk of losing their license every year. As the broker, you can mitigate that risk by providing materials for your agents.
Position the value of co-branding as legalese mitigation. Co-branded advertisements developed by the brokerage can meet the exhaustive list of legal requirements and keep agents out of “real estate jail.” Provide education and information about what is required of moral real estate agents and prove that co-branding with your brokerage is another way to assure consumers of the agent’s integrity. Many agents will offer gratitude knowing they’re following the rules. On the other hand, agents without the support of a co-brand may risk violating advertising laws and face penalties or fines.
5. Reduces Cost
When you’re an independent contractor, even with a well-prepared pipeline, finances are never guaranteed or constant. If an agent builds their business around the support and strength of their brokerage brand, they eliminate extraneous marketing costs because they can use any collateral generated by the company. For example, maybe your brokerage has invested in a professional videographer to make a community-focused video for social media, commercials, and the website. Your agent can also benefit from that content by sharing it with their sphere—without the direct cost of hiring a film crew. The same value can be applied to high-quality pre-printed collateral, well-designed office space, or really anything a brokerage provides—it all proves to your agents that they’ve saved money because of their loyalty to the brokerage (aka co-branding).
I’ve met agents determined to invest in expensive media strategies attempting to garner leads (television commercials, radio spots, billboards) that only focused on their own individual agent brand. The money invested does not provide nearly the return on investment for their business that freely using company resources would have. Agents new to the business can be very conscious of what money they want to invest in advertising, and the value of a brokerage brand that provides high-quality material they can build off of would be a great recruiting sway.
Try phrasing the value of co-branding through cost-savings. Make sure to be clear with your agents about the specific values their commission split or fees cover in the brokerage. Then align that with cost values of added benefits of brokerage support. Clearly demonstrate the cost associated with the technology you provide, the brand advertisements the company runs, and then show agents how to reuse those pieces freely to benefit their own marketing strategy. As the brokerage, you should already be investing in brand awareness and retargeting strategies. Try developing collateral that answers the question, “what would an agent not with my brokerage have to spend money on that my agents get as part of their affiliation?” For example, some brokers provide signs and frames for their agent community. They would phrase co-branding as a cost-savings benefit because agents save hundreds of dollars by not having to purchase or maintain yard signs.
6. Polished Agents Look Like Professional Marketers
For many consumers, loyalty and choice can be dependent on the design and feel of the end product or service. Agents want (and deserve) to have polished collateral at their disposal. When their broker provides that support, adoption of brand consistency through loyalty and co-branding will follow.
Promote the value of co-branding like this, “Graphic Designers and Brand Consultants can be costly investments for an independent agent—even a team —but all agents deserve to have a polished image when marketing themselves and their business. By leveraging our brokerage brand alongside your name, you’ll always have a refined brand style that informs consumers you are professional and reliable.”
7. Wear The Badge with Pride
Co-branding becomes a badge of honor for agents and their marketing. Much like other products increase their perceived value by using highly-recognized approved logos like “certified non-GMO” or “USDA Organic”, the logo of a strong brokerage becomes a badge for agent marketing. Co-branding with the correct logos, colors, and sizes promotes to consumers that a particular agent professionally aligns with the brokerage goals.
Try phrasing this co-branding value to your agents as, “We want our agents to appear professional with every impression, through marketing collateral or face-to-face with a client. When our agents use our brand marks correctly and repeatedly, they are identifying themselves and their business as endorsed, successful, professional, and polished.”
8. Opening Doors
Sometimes marketing or PR teams will call it the ability to “open doors” or “provide new opportunities”—but either way you phrase it, agents find value in co-branding because the affiliation with a well-known brand can provide access to many benefits they would otherwise not have. Many local companies form unique partnerships where their agents have access to special services. Or, the brokerage has partnerships with home services providers and customers can benefit by using an agent from that brokerage because of the additional value and partnership that company as a whole possesses.
Some brokerages hold a large portion of a local publication, and agents can receive discounted rates because of that. While those agents have to follow brand consistent rules to access this high value advertising, they get it at a significantly lower cost than their competition.
Co-branding can provide motivation for agents. Routinely, toward the colder months of the calendar year,agents can feel a slump in their business and their energy. However, providing your agents with branded collateral during this time can motivate them to keep up with their networking and lead-building strategies. Who wouldn’t want something that’s easy to use?
Try providing processes or materials in a campaign format for agents to seamlessly integrate into their strategy. Your control of the content means branding consistency and helps agents feel motivated and successful even when listings are low.
10. Be a Part of Something Wonderful
Scientists of marketing and consumer behavior have found many different reasons that humans make decisions. While some motivators are internal, and some external, humans are ultimately social creatures. Most humans find value in being part of a team or group with similar interests or motives. Co-branding in marketing can help an agent feel as though they are part of something bigger, because they can affiliate with a well-known and well-established brand.
Try phrasing your co-brand value as, “Our company has been a leading real estate name in our market for many years. We are honored to get to serve so many of our friends and neighbors and we’re thankful to have great agents—like you—growing their businesses alongside this brand.”
As you go to utilize this Broker’s Guide to Co-Branding, keep that consumer value pyramid in mind. These 10 reasons for an agent to adopt co-branding aren’t the only reasons! Every agent will be in a different stage of need. Some may have most of their functional needs met, and care more about their emotional needs. Others may even need to see values that give them self-actualization or self-transcendence. But above all, it’s most important to always be listening to the feedback from your agents and optimizing your messaging. When you work with your agents as a team—side-by-side—loyalty, retention, advocacy, and brand consistency will all follow.
Have you tried some of the above approaches already?
What has worked well?
What has flopped?
June Laves, Marketing Manager at Imprev, Inc
Before joining the creative minds at Imprev, June worked as the marketing specialist for a top performing independent brokerage helping over 200 agents grow their business.