How To Differentiate Yourself in Real Estate...Differently

In this episode, Jennifer shares her thoughts about the most common question she gets asked and that is "How do I differentiate myself in such a competitive industry?"

We've all been taught the standard ways of differentiating yourself, but if you truly want to stand out, you've got to do that differently too.

Hello and hello friends and happy new year. I hope that you all were able to enjoy the holidays despite this ongoing nightmare otherwise known as Covid. We personally decided to cancel all our plans with friends and family over the holidays, so it was pretty low key, although having 4 kids around certainly helps keep things from ever getting boring.

Alright as usual I need to send a Shout out of love to Dani, Liza, Staci, Chloe and whoever left the reviews titled This Podcast is Gold and Favourite Podcasts. Love you ladies so much for taking the time acknowledge the work that I put into this podcast. It means the world to me and for any of you Spotify listeners that have reached out to me in the past, apparently you can now leave reviews on Spotify, so I would be forever grateful for anyone that would do that.

Ok today’s episode was inspired by one of the most common questions I get asked and that is “How do I differentiate myself in such a competitive industry?” Because let’s face it, there are a lot of realtors out there and there are new ones getting licensed every single day. The barrier to entry isn’t very high and the rewards can be huge, so it attracts a lot of people. I would gander a guess that every single one of you has been told you have differentiate yourself if you want to stand out, because everyone already knows at least 10 realtors.

So if I were to ask you ‘What makes you different and better? Why should a buyer or seller choose you over someone else? what would you say? The truth is most realtors have no clue what their value really is. They’ll often talk about the services they offer, but if everyone offers those same services, then you’re just a commodity and when people are choosing between commodities, they pick based on price. Some agents will say things like I’m passionate. I love helping people and I love houses. None of those are tangible or even measurable. And what do they really even mean for the consumer? Do they add value? No.

So what does differentiate you and more importantly how can you convey that to people? Because it is true, if you want to succeed in this business you’re going to have to stand out, but the good news is that there are actually loads of ways to do this, you just have to be creative and think of it a little differently and that’s exactly what you’re going to learn in today’s episode. 

Let’s dive in...

Before I got into real estate I worked in marketing. I was trained by some of the best minds in the industry and was taught all about the strategy behind how to differentiate with branding and creating a value proposition and knowing who your ideal client avatar is and what their pain points were and how to craft messaging that resonates and yada, yada, yada. When I got into real estate, I thought I’m just going to apply everything I know and I’ll be good to go. And while that knowledge certainly helped me fast track my success, I noticed something was different almost immediately when it came to the real estate industry. The marketing rules that applied for every other industry, didn’t always apply in real estate. I started noticing that there was a lot of really successful realtors that didn’t have any strategy at all. Their marketing was terrible, they had no brand, no messaging, they didn’t really even advertise much or do anything different and sometimes there were actually terrible agents. It seemed like all they had to do was put for sale signs up on lawns and everyone would just call them to list their houses automatically. Often not even interviewing anyone else. I’m sure you’ve got a few of these usual suspects in your market too. So I spent a lot of time interviewing sellers over the years to better understand their thought process and over and over again I heard the same response. They hired the most well-known agent because they just assumed they were the best. So all of the brilliant marketing strategies in the world are great in theory, but in real estate for some reason, they don’t always work as well in practice. If you are only focusing on differentiating yourself at the point when someone is making a decision of who they’re going to hire, you’re too late. You’ve got to stand out and differentiate yourself well before they are making that decision, otherwise many will just hire the most popular agent in the area.

So throughout this episode I’m going to give you a bunch of ways that you can differentiate yourself, well before someone needs to hire a realtor. Some of them you’ll have heard of before and some will be things you never thought of. Think of them as buckets and then spend some time really brainstorming out all the ways that you could differentiate yourself in each of the buckets.

We’re going to start with the obvious ones and then we’ll get into some of the more creative ways.

Differentiator #1: Your Visuals

The first way that you can start to stand out, is with your visuals. Nothing new here, but still really important so worth covering. Your visuals are the things that people see, a lot of people confuse this with branding, but visuals are just a part of your brand. They include your headshot, your logo, your fonts and your colours. These things do matter and they convey a lot more about you, than a lot of people realize. Your headshot gives immediate impressions based on your facial expression, your body position, what you’re wearing and where you are. If you saw an ad for a realtor that’s a guy in a fitted suit, with his arms crossed in front of him and his legs a little spread out standing in front of a private jet with a smirk on his face...what impression would you form? I don’t know about you but I’d want some crackers to go with the cheese and would assume he’s a slimy self-absorbed, fast-talking wanker.

So when thinking about your visuals, how do you want to be perceived and how can you convey that in your visuals? In my photos, I wanted to be seen as friendly and approachable, yet confident, assertive and professional. Your headshot is important as it’s often people’s very first impression of you, so spend some time thinking about how you want to look and then work with a professional who delivers it. The last few things I want to say about headshots, if you’re in a suit with your arms crossed or in a power pose, get rid of it. Remember we’re trying to differentiate you here, not be like every other realtor and for those of you that don’t want a head shot because you’re worried you’re not attractive enough or young enough or skinny enough ...I’m going to let you in on a little secret....this industry attracts a lot of attractive people because they think their looks are going to help them succeed. It’s not. When people are hiring a realtor, it’s to help them buy or sell the biggest assets they own and looks fall pretty low on their scale of what’s important in a realtor. If a troll will get them the most money for their house, they will hire the troll over the super model 10 out of 10 times. Being attractive will not help you be successful in this business and believing you’re unattractive will not hurt you. So get over that self limiting belief. Look around you at the top producing realtors in your market. I can pretty much guarantee that they’re not all super models.

By the same token, when it comes to your visuals on your social media, be mindful of the impression they give. Remember that we are realtors, we’re not influencers. If we want to be taken seriously as knowlegeable, professional women, the bar needs to be raised by how women are portraying themselves in this industry. Ok I will get off my judgy box, but before we move off visuals, I just want to quickly chat about logos, colours and fonts. If you want to stand out, Yes you need to have a logo that is different than your Brokerage’s. You should also select a few fonts - one heading font, one body font and maybe an accent font. But once you’ve picked them, stick to just them throughout absolutely everything you do. When it comes to colours, don’t be afaid to stand out. My brand colours were bright pink, lime green and tiffany blue. Not exactly the typical real estate palette....but they played a huge role in our success. People often hired us because they loved our branding. When I’d ask what about it they loved, they all said they just loved that it was different and outside the box and they wanted to work with realtors that were different. So I took that feedback and created bus shelter ads that was a picture of our team, which was 4 ladies at the time and we were all dressed in the exact same outfit. Same grey jeans, same white blouse, same grey blazers, but our high heels and jewlery were in our brand colours and the ad copy just read Same same, but different. We got so much business from that ad campaign it was crazy. I remember being at a bar one night in downtown toronto and this guy came up to me and he’s like omg you’re one of the same same but different girls. He loved the ad and after chatting for a bit hired me to sell his condo. I’ll actually put a picture of the ad in the show notes on my website if you want to see it.

Differentiator #2 - Niches

Alright the next way that you can differentiate yourself and this one has probably been drilled into your head well by now and that is to identify a Nich or a Niche depending where you live, that you are known for. There’s a saying that the riches are in the niches, however I am going to challenge how you think about niches a little when it come to real estate. Before we get into the weeds on this one, I just want to address the fear that a lot of agents have when it comes to niching down. People falsely think that if they have a niche that they will lose business from everyone else that doesn’t fall into their particular niche. I understand the logic and had the same fear myself when I got into real estate. My marketing background knew we needed a niche, but my bank account was like no, no, no I don’t want to turn off anyone, we’ll take everyone. But when you try to attract everyone, you attract no one. You have to start somewhere and create messaging that speaks to someone and resonates with them. So our tag line was We Find Homes For Families and then all of our content and our ads and our marketing materials and our messaging centered around families. Guess what? we attracted a lot of families and after awhile we reached the tipping point. The tipping point in real estate is where enough momentum has been achieved that you no longer need a niche. People know about you, they know you’re experienced, you’ve got social proof and you’re established. As long as you know how to ride that momentum and you don’t get complacent, you don’t have to do a lot at that point. Your business will sustain itself and if you know what you’re doing, you can continue to grow it pretty effortlessly.

But in the beginning, you need to stand out in all the noise and you need a message that speaks to someone so that they notice you. In my coaching program I take agents through an exercise of how to identify what your niche could be to start attracting their ideal client. Your niche will have 3 elements to it - who the person is, what they’re buying or selling and where. But that is just the standard part of a niche and on it’s own isn’t enough to differentiate you. Your messaging has to go deeper and address how you help people and why it matters, But we’ll talk more about this a bit later.

Before we move onto the next differentiator, there is one other way you can differentiate yourself when it comes to niches and that is create a network niche. People like to work with people they like that they share things in common with. To succeed in this business, you’re going to need to grow who you know, so you might as well do that, doing things you already love where you can meet more people doing it too. I love playing tennis, so I joined a private tennis club. Can’t tell you how many deals I have done over the years with people I met playing tennis. When I had my first baby it was during the summer and the public health department didn’t run their moms group program, so I stuck signs on poles around the neighbourhood with my phone number asking any other new moms to call me. That was over 16 years ago and I am still super close with those moms and many used me multiple times over the years. Side note, the ones that didn’t use me, didn’t bother me for a second. Nobody owes us anything and everyone should have the right to hire who they choose, for whatever reason they choose. If your best friend was a gynecologist, should she expect you to use her just because you’re friends and you’re supposed to support her business. No! The sooner you let go of all expectations about who should use you, the happier you’ll be. I promise!

Ok I went off on a tangent as usual. The bottom line, spend more time spending time with people who have things in common with you. Doing this will help differentiate you with them as a side effect. Now that is obviously dependent on two very important factor.s...that they like and trust you.

Differentiator #3 - Be Likeable & Trustworthy

Now I know the whole know, like and trust thing is overused, but let’s just break it down a bit because it’s super important. Because fact....People will only work with people that they know like and trust. We’ve already covered the know part, but let’s chat about the like part. Why do people like each other and how does it develop? Once we have that figured out, how do we do more of it? What do you hear over and over about you, what do your friends and family say they love about you? If you want to differentiate yourself, be intentional around doing more of what people naturally like about you. If you’re a really good listener, show off that skill to anyone and everyone. If you’re funny, let that humour shine, if you’re thoughtful, look for more ways to be thoughtful with more people. Take what you already are and just expand it and shower more people with it.

Now If you can’t figure out what makes you likeable, stick with the universal law of likability. Make an effort to show an interest in other people’s lives. Ask questions, listen, pay attention and remember the details. Be present and focused. Spend more time getting to know them and less time talking about yourself and they’ll like you. It really is that simple. People love to be seen, heard, understood, validated and appreciated. Believe it or not, this is a differentiator. Most realtors are so focused on themselves and trying to get something, that you will naturally differentiate yourself when you take a different approach.

When it comes to trust, this is one is a doozie because people will not work with someone they don’t trust. We often confuse the word trust and assume it’s only related to integrity. But trust is much bigger and goes much deeper than that. People you know may trust that you have integrity, but may not trust that you’ll be on time for meetings or they may not trust that you’ll be detail oriented or that you’ll keep a calm, cool head in stressful situations.

When it comes to people that don’t know you, you’re starting with a blank slate, but you have to earn their trust in all areas and it can only be built in baby steps. They have to trust you know what you’re doing, that you have integrity, that you’ll do what’s best for them and the list goes on and on. So how can you differentiate yourself when it comes to trust? How can you make sure you’re intentional around demonstrating that you can be trusted where and when it matters? You need to find opportunities to showcase it and one of the ways you can do this is through the content you create. Specifically your video content. I talked all about why video content is critical to grow your business and differentiate yourself in the last episode, so if you haven’t listened to it, make sure you check it out.

You also need to demonstrate that trust factor with your sphere of influence, before they’ll ever hire you. So that means consistently demonstrating the traits that are important to people in your day to day life. You can’t show up late to dinner parties and coffee dates all the time with your friends and family and be shocked if they don’t use you as their realtor. Being on time might be a really important trait for them and if you don’t consistently demonstrate that trait in your day to day, they won’t TRUST that you suddenly will as their realtor. So be intentional and demonstrate the qualities that people would want in a realtor, all the time, not just when you’re being a realtor. Be on time, do what you said you’d do, provide value, be professional, know your shit. As soon as people find out you’re a realtor they will almost always ask “How’s the market?” Be able to answer this question intelligently and thoroughly.

If someone brings up that they’ve been thinking about buying or selling, do yourself a favour and settle your excitement jets. The last thing you want to do is start salivating at the potential opportunity in front of them. Most agents in these situations jump on the chance to try and get a client and they immediately start trying to get them to take the next step by saying things like “oh the market’s hot right now you should definitely sell” or “oh if you don’t buy now you won’t be able to afford the same house in 6 months” While those comments may in fact be true, saying them immediately completely diffuses your trust factor. The better response is to learn more about WHY they’re thinking of it. Say something like ‘oh what’s making you think you may want to move now? Be casual and conversational, don’t interrogating them. Just seek to understand more about their personal situation. Then look for opportunities to tell them the opposite of what most realtors will say (provided of course it’s true). Tell them why now might not be the best time to buy or sell, tell them why something might not be the best investment. Now I’m certainly not suggesting that you lie or make things up, but surprise them by being different in how you respond. You’ll build both trust and differentiate yourself from all the other salavating realtors already calculating their potential commission check.

Differentiator #4 - How You Market Yourself

How you market yourself and your listings, is a direct reflection of how you’ll market someone’s home. If you put time, care & creativity into how you market things, people notice that stuff and it translates into a belief that you’ll market their home well too. I can’t tell you how many people would call us to list their house, years after they had visited one of our listings with their realtor at the time, who wanted us to sell the home they ended up buying, because they loved how we presented our listings. We got loads of referrals from people that way too. So even if it’s a sellers market and your listings sell themselves, don’t make the mistake of missing the opportunity to differentiate yourself and demonstrate that you’re a rock star. When you present bare bones listings, you may save a buck or two, but you’re just telling potential clients that you’re lazy and cheap.

Another way to differentiate yourself in your marketing is by creating videos. You might have a false belief that everyone is creating videos and that you have nothing new to share or don’t have enough experience to provide value, but none of that is true. Those are all limiting beliefs that are holding you back from using video to differentiate yourself and this is what I teach in my Attract Accelerator. Video content is the fastest way for people to connect with you. It allows people to see that you’re relatable and they start to feel like they know you. It’s exactly what’s happening right now with you listening to this podcast. I’m sharing value and you’re getting to know, like and trust me. You’re connecting with me and I could never accomplish the same thing through postcards, or social media posts or even blogs. A lot of what I share isn’t new information, I guarantee you someone else is saying the same stuff, but if you’re a regular listener of my podcast and at some stage you decide you want to work with a coach, I will make it on your short list, because I’ve paved the path for you to think of me and consider me. You can do the exact same thing with your real estate business.

Differentiator #5 - What You Stand For

The next way you can differentiate yourself is with your messaging around what you stand for. Messaging isn’t a tagline. It is so much more than that. It’s a point of view and It permeates everything you do. It’s got to be genuine and authentic. You own it and live it day in day out, not just when it’s convenient for you. One of the things I stood for was people trusting me implicitly. I would tell them that they would end up trusting me more than they’d trust themselves and they did. Because they knew I would never let them make a decision I wouldn’t make myself. I did that because I couldn’t sleep with myself any other way. So what do you want to be known for and how can you demonstrate that quality in your interactions with people everywhere and all the time? How can you also convey it in your content? You’ve got to spend some time thinking about this stuff deeply. Brainstorm it out and make an actual plan of how you’re going to live it. I also stand for giving people the straight goods. I will not tell you what you want to hear. I am opinionated and I don’t hesitate to share my opinions. You either love it about me or hate it. I stand for being a go-giver. I have a philosophy that you’ve get to give more in value, than you take in payment so that permeates everything I do. Figure out what you stand for and how you can demonstrate that in everything you do and it will help differentiate you. Another example would be standing for a particular cause or charity and giving back a portion of your commissions to that cause. That can make people feel good when they choose to work with you, to know that they’re supporting a great cause.

Differentiator #6 - What You Offer & How You Offer It

Alright moving along, when people think of how to differentiate themselves, this is what they often think about first and that is the services you offer. But the reality is it’s hard to differentiate yourself on your services and you certainly shouldn’t try and differentiate yourself on this alone. The reality is that most agents offer the same stuff. The standard stuff may differ from market to market, but for example where I’m registered, absolutely everyone offers professional photography and pre-listing home inspections and floor plans and feature sheets and then a lot of agents offer staging and cleaning and some agents even offer painting services. The reality is that our price points are so high (almost impossible to find anything other than condos under a million dollars) so our average commissions are pretty high. Even with all of those services, there’s still a fairly healthy margin. So trying to differentiate yourself on services alone is pretty fruitless, what you have to do is market your services differently. It’s how you present your offering that can differentiate you. You’ve got to get creative and package yourself better. Create signature buying and selling processes that are appear proprietary to you and then focus not on the features of your offering, but the benefits of them. This is marketing 101 - people don’t buy features, they buy benefits. You have to educate consumers around why it matters and what problem it solves, You can educate consumers through conversations, through content and through your buying and listing presentations. This brings us to the 7th way you can differentiate yourself .

Differentiator #7 - Solve Problems & Serve Solutions

And that is by solving problems and serving solutions. Your success in this business will depend on how well you can identify problems, solve them and serve people solutions to those problems. This is ultimately why people buy products and hire people for services, because they have a problem that they need solved. When it comes to the process of buying and selling real estate, there are literally thousands of problems that realtors can solve. There’s the big obvious ones of course, but the real magic and the real way to differentiate yourself lies in solving the less obvious problems. Especially the problems that consumers aren’t even aware of. When you can get good at making people aware of problems they hadn’t thought of on their own and weren’t aware of and then provide the solution, that is how you can eliminate competition. Why? Because you become invaluable. People need you. So to help differentiate yourself from other realtors, spend time identifying all of the pain points and problems that come up for people in the course of buying and selling real estate and then determine how problem aware people are and how solution aware they are. Then use content, conversations and presentations to educate them. Now this process takes effort up front, but once you figured out the formula, it’s really effective. This is the type of content I teach people to create in my attract accelerator and I use a formula called the ASS acronym.

Differentiator #8 - Be More of You

Alright the next and most important way that you can differentiate yourself in this crazy competitive industry, is to be more of you, share more of you and show more of you. This is your secret sauce and the competitive advantage that literally eliminates all the competition. Because nobody else can ever be you. Despite whatever limiting beliefs you may have about yourself, you are brilliant and one of a kind. There has never been, nor will there ever be someone with your unique gifts, skills, ideas, traits, mannerisms, qualities and perspective. If you have ever had friends and family and partners who love you and appreciate you for who you are, then there will always be more people that will feel the same way about you. There are people that will like you and be drawn to you and want to connect with you for reasons that are hard to define and articulate. They’re subjective and it’s often an energy or a vibe that attracts us to people. My husband can be the most annoying man on the planet and then 5 minutes later the sexiest man. And the stuff I find adorable and sexy can be really stupid and weird. The other day we were hiking and my husband and kids had a race and something about the way he runs and I was like ‘damn, my man is sexy.’ So random and so stupid but it was something about that drew me to him. Now 30 minutes later we were eating lunch and the sound of him eating was making me want to gag. So he’s lucky I like the way he runs.

Anyway I know it can be hard to know what these things are about yourself, but a few things you can do to figure it out: What do you hear over and over about why people like you and are drawn to you? If you don’t know, ask! Seriously ask. It will make you feel really good and you’ll learn what you need to do more of. My point here is to let your true authentic personality shine. Don’t try to be someone else, because who you are rocks. So look for opportunities to differentiate yourself by letting people see more of you and get to know you and connect with you. That is why video is so effective and such a great differentiator. It will do all of that for you and quickly.

I’ve always had a motto and it is when everyone else zigs, zag. Don’t do what everyone else is doing because you assume it works and you should do it too. Don’t follow, be a trailblazer and you’ll become known for that and it will differentiate your.

I’m probably going to age myself with this reference, but it’s a good one and I think of it often when I start to watch instagram reels and see the same reel audio being used over and over and over again because it’s “trending” and yes I’m using air quotes. It reminds me of a movie back in the 80s called Can’t Buy Me Love and Patrick Dempsy stars in it, who was McDreamy on Greys anatomy and gawd even that might be aging me. But anyway he’s a geek and pays the most popular girl in school to pretend to be his girlfriend so that he can be popular. She thinks it’s ridiculous and won’t work, but low and behold all of the sudden he’s the most sought after guy in the school. Well they end of breaking up and he takes this other girl to the prom, but he’s never been to a dance before and doesn’t know how to dance, so he watches this show on tv that he thinks is how people dance but it’s actually an African Anteater ritual dance. Well he goes to the prom and starts doing this dance routine looking positively crazy, but what happens? Well because everyone thinks he’s cool, they all start copying him doing the dance looking like complete fools. My long winded point here, is don’t follow what other people are doing just because you think you’re supposed to or it’s what you have to do to succeed. Stand back and watch the show, but go do something different.

Alright that’s it. If you enjoy the show I’d love for you to take a minute and show me some love by leaving a review and remember the more you learn the more you’ll earn....but only if you actually implement what you learn!

Until next time.

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