With big real estate companies competing to entice more agencies into their group, it isn’t unusual to frequently see offices across the country changing from one brand to another.
Becoming part of a real estate group, or in contrast, leaving one, can be very beneficial to your agency, but only if completed carefully. These seven expert tips guide you through the real estate brand change process.
What’s in a brand? Isn’t it just a logo that you tack onto the front of your office, print on your cards and slap on your website?
The emphatic answer to that question is NO!
Your brand is so much more than just a pretty picture.
It is the visual identity of your business; a symbol of your history, values and offering; a way for new and previous clients to know and recall you; and of course, it is something within which you can build equity and one day consider selling.
Regardless of its value, sometimes agencies choose to change real estate brand for various reasons.
Some agencies are perhaps enticed by the increasingly competitive offers from and recognition of the big groups. Others are disenfranchised by what their group fee is providing them and look for independence.
The fact is, there are agencies changing brand all the time. But if you don’t do it strategically, plan it and execute carefully, you risk losing a lot more than that pretty picture that once adorned your store-front signage.
1. Plan your brand change carefully
Planning your change means thinking about implementation of the physical change, but also working out how to best communicate the change internally and externally.
Create a plan that breaks down all the factors and stakeholders involved and exactly how you will execute the change in order to meet business and consumer needs. Some of the areas to consider in your plan are listed in the following six points below.
If nothing else, get the plan down on paper — don’t shoot from the hip and change impulsively or you’ll end up with a mess!
2. Give yourself enough time
Recently, we watched a member change brands basically overnight.
On Friday, they were one brand, on Monday another. And while this would be fine if that action was a result of a careful plan with all i’s dotted and t’s crossed in the lead up, unfortunately it wasn’t.
Changing overnight with no plan, resulted in this company facing legal challenges that it didn’t anticipate, loss of awareness in the local community, and employees who were not happy or on board.
3. Get your employees on board
Your people are the embodiment of your brand — they represent it everywhere they go and to everyone they meet. Having employees who seem confused about their professional brand identity, or worse, who resent a recent change, will not win you business. In fact, you may lose business!
When planning your change, make robust internal communication and consultation a key part of your process.
4. Do it all at once!
If a brand change is poorly planned, it isn’t unusual to see, for example, the office signage change to the new brand, while the staff business cards remain under the old brand — after all, why waste the money that was spent printing the cards?
Some important advice: waste the money that was spent printing the cards!
Having a brand change that is taking place in stages looks unprofessional, it is disruptive and it is confusing for both employees and clients. If you’re changing brand, change it all at once.
5. Avoid co-branding
Sometimes when a real estate agency changes brand, especially in the case of the purchase of the business by a new owner, the decision is made to co-brand for a while so past clients marry up who you were with who you are now.
Co-branding should never be a necessity if a brand change is completed correctly. As part of your plan, make sure you have scheduled communication to clients, past and present, that announces the pending change and justifies the reasoning.
Emphasise that aspects they like, such as the friendly service and excellent processes, won’t change, but new benefits and positive improvements will occur.
6. Cover your legals
In real estate, sales and managements can be voided and commissions or fees not paid if the correct paperwork isn’t in order. This can include having the wrong business name on paperwork.
In the lead up to the change, ensure, if needed, new agreements have been signed with existing clients, and get some advice on how you can promote past sales — can they be shown as sold by your new agency brand, or only by the old brand? Consider if you can advertise current listings without re-signing the client.
7. Let people know who you are
A brand change should be accompanied by a marketing program that starts to build awareness and recognition of your new brand.
In regional areas especially, people can be dubious of and opposed to change. If a brand changes, they might automatically assume the agent or director they trusted is now no longer on board, fees will change or the nature of service will change.
Create an integrated marketing plan that gets the word out there about your brand and change, who you are, what you represent and what clients can expect, so you set the identity of your new brand and don’t let rumours do it for you!
Changing real estate brand isn’t a decision to be made lightly, and implementing the change isn’t something to be undertaken half-heartedly.
If you want to give your business the best chance to grow and succeed under your new logo, make sure you have planned the change, mitigated any risk, and you start spreading positive brand messages from day one!