By Jen Ross
Building your business relies extensively on the quality of advertising and marketing you create and share. Your entire brand is communicated through each and every channel, from your business cards to your yard signs to your website and beyond.
If gaining clients and avoiding fines sounds appealing to you, read this post.
Don’t Use the Word “REALTOR®” If You Aren’t One
A frequent misconception the public makes is interchanging the words “REALTOR®” and “real estate agent”. Surprisingly, agents make this mistake, too, and use REALTOR® in their marketing and advertising though it doesn’t legally belong there.
According to Realtor.com, the definitions of real estate agent and REALTOR® area as follows:
Real estate agent: Anyone who earns a real estate license can be called a real estate agent, whether that license is as a sales professional, an associate broker or a broker. State requirements vary, but in all states you must take a minimum number of classes and pass a test to earn your license.
REALTOR®: A real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.
When an agent takes the steps to become a REALTOR®, he or she is expected to represent the highest caliber of a real estate professional. The code of ethics he or she must follow includes strict policies about using the REALTOR® marks and logos in their advertising.
If you are not a REALTOR®, it is considered an infringement of NAR’s legal rights of mark usage under the Lanham Act, a federal law.
Use a Tactful and Professional Headshot
Adding a headshot to your marketing is a must in the real estate industry. It’s important to give your marketing a human component so your clients and leads become familiar with you as you establish your presence in the community and build relationships to increase your sphere of influence.
Although you want your brand to be unique, it’s generally a good idea to stay away from photos that may incur confusion or unprofessionalism. The goal is to give clients an idea of who they will be working with during one of the biggest purchases of their lives. And remember, pictures speak a thousand words.
Headshot Do’s and Dont’s
- Don’t Use A Cartoon Character or Other Image In Place Of Your Face
It’s generally never a good idea to do this. Your prospects want to see who you are.
- Don’t Include Your Pets, Children Or Spouse
Unless any of the above are part of your actual real estate team, leave them out.
- Don’t Over-Pose
There’s no reason to stand or smile any way than you naturally would.
- Do Keep Your Photo Current
You want your clients to be able to recognize you when they meet you. Try to update your headshot every 2-3 years.
- Do Avoid Using Props
This practice can be distracting and depending on the prop, may be inappropriate for the message you are trying to convey.
- Do Wear Professional Clothing
Business clothing is always the best option. Stay away from complex patterns or colors.
Be Transparent and Compliant
Keep yourself compliant and your customers happy by being transparent in your advertising and marketing. This doesn’t stop at business cards or yard signs, either. Correctly representing yourself and giving clear contact information to the public needs to take place on your website or social media, too.
Clients want to know who you are, if you have any relevant credentials and how they can easily get in touch with you. They won’t hire you if they don’t believe they will be able to find you when they need you. Put your name, phone number, email and website url on your advertising. This shows clients you aren’t hiding anything and that they can contact you the way that’s best for them.
Stay Compliant, Avoid Fines
One advertising mistake you don’t want to make is being non-compliant. The National Association of REALTORS® and each MLS have different rules and regulations when it comes to marketing your brand. If you don’t follow the rules, you could find yourself owing a hefty fine.
For example, the Arizona Department of Real Estate requires that any public advertising an agent creates must also include his or her employing broker’s name. Further, Arizona agents must display their broker’s name “on the front page of the website and each subsequent page of the website, without the necessity of scrolling down, regardless of the screen size of the computer.” Each MLS may differ from another so don’t assume that what it means to be compliant in one MLS is the same as another–even in the same state. Play it safe and check with your brokers if you are unsure of your requirements or guidelines.
As for advertising ethically, NAR has a made their Code of Ethics available for anyone to view. Even if you are not a REALTOR® that is bound to adhere to these ethics, they give a thorough breakdown of best practices when it comes to traditional and digital agent marketing.
There are many other nuances to advertising yourself and your brand than these three topics covered here, but these are the essential building blocks that every agent should be mindful of.
Before you start advertising yourself, make sure you’re doing right.