From choosing a niche market and the right logo, to marketing property as a lifestyle, branding experts in the real estate profession advise agents to create their own specific identity—and then sell it, sell it, sell it.
By Annie Vazquez
Building a winning real estate brand is something Katrina Campins knows exactly how to do.
After working as an agent for brokerage firms such as Wimbish Riteway and Jeanne Baker Realty, the former reality television show star from The Apprentice launched her own boutique real estate firm called The Campins Company (TCC) in Miami Beach.
Campins opened the firm on famed Lincoln Road last year with her husband, Ben Moss. Her mother and her sister are also on staff.
She says she decided to explore the business venture because she wanted a firm that specializes in luxury real estate. She saw there was a need for differentiation in the marketplace.
“People are bored with a lot of the typical real estate brands out there and the way most property is marketed. Many buyers and sellers, as well as agents, do not want to deal with a large company and all of the bureaucracy that comes along with having a national focus. By way of starting The Campins Company, I am able to build on my vision of what I believe to be an edgy and exciting approach to branding within the luxury sector.”
She says part of her strategy for developing her brand is to create unity and team-building by bringing aboard the right mix of people, such as family members and agents who specialize in certain markets.
“The office is really like a big family. I am here to support them and provide them with an environment that is unified, which creates a true win-win relationship and loyalty from both sides.”
In addition to working with the right team, Campins says choosing a niche market, highlighting one’s key strengths and creating a logo are things that can help agents form their own brand.
“The most important thing in this business is to stand out,” Campins says. “Don’t be afraid to do things differently and shake things up. Brand recognition is the basis for every marketing strategy. The brand starts with the logo. I went back and forth quite a bit before I was satisfied with my company’s logo. You must feel your logo. If you aren’t 100 percent confident in it, then keep searching until you find exactly what you feel.”
Targeting a certain customer and a certain type of property is what finding a niche market is about.
In Campins’ case, she targets only five percent of the market. She says her client base consists of people who yearn for the hottest brands and lifestyles. Her clients, who are business executives, entrepreneurs, athletes and entertainers, make up the three divisions of TCC: the luxury residential division for buyers and sellers; the sports and entertainment division, which provides athletes and entertainers nationwide service in real estate; and the project marketing management division, which handles marketing and sales assignments of boutique real estate developments.
In 2006, TCC completed 42 transactions in their sports and entertainment division. Many of those deals were completed outside of South Florida in cities such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
Although many agents might feel that spending a lot of money on advertising is going to help them land deals, Campins says this is not necessarily true.
“I don’t believe in advertising just to advertise because it’s often not the best use of money,” she says. “I think public relations are more important.”
Campins says her clients have found her because she continues to expand her sphere of influence and remains visible to her contacts.
“Networking and personal relationships are hands-down the most effective way to create that lasting impression,” she explains. “I work hard at this every day, and it’s how I am able to grow my business. I have some relationships that I have been cultivating since I started in the industry 10 years ago.”
She also says bringing her clients private deals helps keep them loyal. Aside from this, she says the fact that she is a perfectionist who is straightforward with her clients makes her a good agent.
“I tell it like it is, and people respect that. I also make sure to set expectations up front. My time is as valuable to me as my clients’
time is to them.”
Like Campins, Michael Miarecki, a managing partner at The Branding Group, a company that develops brand presentations for real estate projects and businesses, believes developing a brand is about making an emotional connection with the customer.
“We live in a brand-centric world: Coca-Cola, Neiman Marcus, McDonald’s … consumers are bombarded with choices and offers to be part of a ‘brand image’ thousands of times a day,” Miarecki says. “Companies and businesses who effectively articulate their brand story or equity are more likely to obtain and retain consumers who realize the benefit from being part of a brand’s story, whether real or perceived.”
Miarecki says real estate agents need to craft an identity and present unique selling propositions in the marketplace in order to succeed.
“Support your brand with consistency and regular presentation of your message through targeted advertising, public relations and marketing to earn brand equity in the minds of potential customers,” Miarecki advises. “Brand identity is an asset that needs to be managed, nourished, invested in and leveraged. Done well, it is the constant reminder of the naming of the brand.”
Investing in brand identity is beneficial, according to Miarecki, because it makes it easier for customers to buy. It allows sellers to sell with customer familiarity by eliminating “cold-calling” scenarios, and it facilitates developing brand value.
He also says a buyer’s decision to buy a home or a condominium in a particular location today is as much influenced by brand as the consumer’s decision to drive a particular car, wear a certain brand of clothing or bring friends and family to a particular restaurant chain.
“When a buyer chooses to buy into a brand, they are buying into the brand of lifestyle of the property. They are choosing to become a magnifier of that brand. They let the brand statement announce to the world how they choose to be perceived.”
Miarecki and his company have been involved in some Florida projects such as Infinity at Brickell, W Hotel and Residences, Ten Aragon, Waterside at Coquina Key, Hudson Lake Ranches and The Preserves at Martin Arbors. These projects range from mid-city high-rises, to condo conversions to equestrian communities and large luxury real estate.
Miarecki says land is currently the hottest commodity in the market for investors. He points to the increasing challenges pre-construction condominiums face, and notes developments such as Hudson Lake Ranches as being one example of a land purchase, where acreage is sold, rather than construction. This development was marketed and sold as a private equestrian community that sits on 1,200 acres of land minutes from Lake Okeechobee.
As for advice to Realtors looking for a market, Miarecki advises agents to search niche markets with customers who are being underserved and become an expert on those markets.
Mastering a certain field of real estate is what most Majestic Properties agents have learned to do. Majestic Properties is a full-service, independent real estate company established in 1995. The firm employs close to 200 agents and staff.
Marcela Catapano Criscito is one of those agents. Criscito believes in saturating advertising avenues to secure prospective clients. After working as a Realtor for six years, she says she markets herself through publications such as The Miami Herald and Condo Living.
For her, repetition is important in branding.
“If the audience sees and hears something enough, it will stick in their minds.”
In the end, whether you choose to sell condominiums, single-family homes, high- or low-end properties or commercial sites, developing a brand will surely help you sell.
Your own brand as an agent will combine both your company’s reputation and your personal repute. And components such as a logo, filling a need in a niche market and advertising, are the tools that will help you to succeed.