Are You Packaging Your Services Right? Simple Tips For Real Estate Marketing and Branding In Atlanta

Cupcake Theory

cupcake-branding-marketing-real-estateA cupcake wrapper without a cupcake is of not much value. Yet, a cupcake without a cupcake wrapper is a nuisance. You can’t bake it without a wrapper and you’ll get messy when you eat it. You need a wrapper. A wrapper is a a type of packaging and packaging is a multibillion dollar industry. It is for a reason. And it’s not just for a practical reason. The looks, the appeal, the attraction are also invoked by smart packaging.

In a way, a realtor is a master of packaging, you, my great Atlanta Realtor keep things from burning, YOU help avoid sticky circumstances and deliver a pleasant experience.

If someone threw a cupcake in your lap, you wouldn’t enjoy it, you probably wouldn’t eat it either. Imagine buttercream icing soaking deeper into the fabric of your favorite suit! A wrapper is both convenience and quality presentation. Apple products come to mind. Ever unboxed one? Then you know what I mean.

Is Your Branding Consumable, Pleasant and Helpful?

Too often we forget about the wrapper, we focus so much on the cake. It’s understandable, it is what we want and it is what we want to share with others. But nobody wants messy business. The desired end result is a practically and esthetically pleasant experience.

Are you throwing all effort into the cake forgetting the wrapper? Are you keeping the desired end result in mind? Is your product or service presented in a consumable, easy and pleasant way? If not, it’s time to pause and reflect.

The meat (or in this analogy – the cake) of your work is the sales process. You love the real estate business and you love to help people buy or sell properties. What you need to see is that branding and personalized marketing is your packaging. But a great sales person is not always a great marketer. It’s normal when an agent struggles to independently create a nice branding portfolio. All those cheesy slogans on bus benches? Umm, yup! Creating a “You” brand takes time and creativity, demands searching deep within yourself, becoming self aware and going all in on your strengths. Many real estate companies offer help with marketing and branding, take advantage of it. Yet you will still need to implement a lot individually, and if that’s not your strong suit – hire a professional.

Marketing and Branding Must Be Useful

If there was one thing I’d want you to take away from this message, it wouldn’t be just a fact of you needing a presentation and looking good. I’d say it’s this: don’t just look pretty, be useful too.

Marketing and branding is not just story telling. It’s also doing something useful. Your stories shouldn’t just tell a good story about you and showcase your product or service – your stories must draw tears because of the positive action your marketing brings to the lives of others. Need help marketing your services/products in Atlanta, Marietta, Alpharetta, Roswell and other Metro Area? Give me a call (727) 418-9016

Advice To New Realtors – Where To Begin?

Practical advice to new real estate agents

living-room-snell-isle-tampabayHello, wonderful Atlanta Realtor! You passed your real estate exam. Congrats! So, did thousands of others this year, eager to join an army of a couple million Realtors in USA.

You already have a plan… or not. Or you just asked the person sitting next to you in class about reputable brokerages in town and now you put together a list of brokers you want to interview. Chances are you are in one of the following scenarios:

  1. Your job sucks and your friends say you are great with people and should sell real estate. You already quit your job, and after your 63-hour course and exam, which I’m sure you passed on your first (or second) try, you are ready to rake in those thousands of commissions dollars, like next week!
  2. Your kids left home for college and you’d like to take on a new adventure in life. Yes, the spouse works, but you just want to make a few extra bucks you can spend anyway you want.
  3. You worked at a real estate office as an assistant and now ready to venture out on your own.
  4. You have a friend already making tons of cash and he/she invited you to join forces and start a team. (no! run! I’ll explain later)
  5. Or a dozen other scenarios, but it doesn’t matter…

…What matters is your very next step. Your first activity as a licensee will be forever etched in your memory and I really hope one day you can look back and smile because you made a good decision.

Being your own boss is not easy but doable

You will have to join a broker and once you hang your license there, it’s up to you to make sales happen. There may be training and some help at a cost of your commission. Your broker may provide paperwork assistance and floor time. But training and floor time will not get you far. If you are in it to win it, get ready to hustle, cold call, solicit every relative and friend you have, reach folks on social media and knock on your farm’s doors. I did and disliked all of these, but if your skin is thick enough, there will eventually be result, it may take a few month and over a year before you get on your feet financially. It may be easier if you were in real estate related business like lending or insurance where you can prospect to your client database. Still, it will take time for them to trust you in your new field.

Buy leads

To make money as an independent agent you will need to have cash to invest before seeing any of it come back. In addition to “old school” prospecting, buying leads, zip codes on Zillow and Trulia and hosting other agents open houses will be your good options.

Are you a team player?

If you are not too keen on cold prospecting and spending thousands of dollars to generate quick business is not an option, you will have to consider other scenarios.

Joining a team is different than becoming a partner. Unless it’s with your spouse, business partnership should only be considered if you know the person well, duties and responsibilities are written in stone and possible exit scenario is well discussed and documented. Additionally it’s desirable if both partners are bringing a book of business to the table. As a new agent you simply will not have one. A new agent becoming a partner will often see failure within months.

Joining a successful team, on the other hand, is a great scenario. Find a few successful agents with a team in your market and pursue them. You may start as a buyer’s agent, team assistant or office manager. If the team rocks, so will you. Hustle hard, don’t mind low commission splits (you are learning after all) and build relationships with vendors and clients.

If you decide to go solo, be willing to pick up other agents “unwanted” business. Take tough clients, lower end buyers and offer to host open houses. Remember, your local community will bring you business, so volunteer for events and take part in non-profit activities.

Lunch Value

After five years in real estate I was surprised how few of the vendors wanted to build a relationship with me. We like to gage success with dollars. Ok, so what if I told you the highest ROI I’ve ever had was from a cup of coffee? Simply building a relationship with a prospective client on social media and then asking if I could buy her a coffee? Simple as that. Those clients are now most loyal. Many of them have become friends too. Stop thinking money and ROI, start thinking about building genuine relationships with people you want to do business with. My suggestion – in your first year never eat lunch alone. Who’s the most successful agent in your brokerage? Offer to buy him/her a burger and pick their brain! And if it’s coffee with a potential client – they already know why you are inviting them, so don’t say a word about business! They will ask you.

How To Win With Print

How to win with print

Print-marketing-tampa-bayWith the perpetual Internet (r)evolution, we’ve moved from print articles to blogs, from paper advertising to Google Ads and from magazine-featured spots to Facebook Pay-Per-Click.   However, when done well, print can bring a powerful message the Web can’t.  Gone are the days when mainstream buyer browsed classifieds in the paper for real estate deals.  Placing ads in local well-known publications in Altanta or Marietta will help you with your personal branding and name recognition, but probably won’t do much directly to sell your listing, or will it?

Today expensive print ads in glamour magazines are almost a requirement for high-end luxury real estate agents.  Thousands of dollars every month for one or two glossy pages.  Understandably, magazines are eye candy to behold while relaxing in your favorite chair.  But without proper call-to-action, “pretty” is all they will remain.  On a shelf.  On a coffee table or in your bathroom.  So, should you still use print ads?  Yes, but be smart.

So how do you do it right?

If you plan to continue investing in print ads, think about how you can maximize your return.  It’s not cheap, so do yourself a favor: stand out.   In fact, be stunning!  Standing out in amazing ways can actually be very simple.  Here are a few suggestions:

–          A good rule of thumb – don’t overdo it, stay simple and to the point.

–          Make your images pop but not so much as to appear fake.

–          Keep your wording concise and creative.  You can have a little fun, but don’t be silly.

–          Less is more, so keep your personal glamour to a minimum.  Remember, the ad is about your services and your clients’ homes, not so much about you.

–          Don’t show off your 17 designations, only a doctorate degree is worthy of presentation.

–          Hire a professional photographer to do your magazine shots.

–          You can’t go all out on print but cut production quality.

And Now A Few Big Points

1)      Showing off your social media in print. 

I’ve seen print ads with Facebook and Twitter buttons but no address next to them.  Think!  I can’t click on paper!  And if I find your YouTube channel and you have no videos there – you are disingenuous.  Sorry, that’s how clients think.  Give them a “why” (remember previous post?) to connect with you.  If you are open, list your personal Facebook address and say: “friend me on Facebook and see me share the best real estate deals downtown”.   Don’t just show your phone information, say “my real estate advice is free, call me any time”. And how about “Subscribe to my YouTube channel.  You will love my home videos!”

2)      QR-codes.  Yes or no? 

Meh…  Leave those to for an instance when you can’t have much wording or where the only thing you can fit in is a QR-code with just a few words.  Possibly on your window at eye level. Think like a consumer: where and why would you scan it?  For me it’s when I am on-the-go, in the street, in a hurry, holding a postcards near a restaurant, a perk on a window, a special deal, etc.

I’ve tried to love QR-codes, but they are just plain ugly.  Another important note – always explain what the client will see or get once they scan the code.  “Scan and see a list of all upcoming waterfront listings in Snell Isle”, “Scan and watch exclusive video walk-through inside this home”, “Scan to get 2 free martinis – no joke!” – and so on, be creative!

3)      Bleed-through is hot!  

I’ve seen some hideous frames and graphics around images in magazine ads that absolutely make no sense.  Editors allow you to do this because, well, because you pay.  But look at magazines’ covers and pages, what do you see?  Images often bleed-through (no framing) with words posted over the image.  The fonts are beautiful, often custom made.  Images are crisp and shot from perfect angles.  A lot of this is subtle but little things like that can create a million dollar look without big expensive.  Simply watch the style trends, or have custom templates created by a cutting-edge web design company.

4) Call to action.

Perhaps you are a successful agent and you have several luxury listings you’d like to show off in a slick local magazine.  You have beautiful images, but you can’t possibly give ALL the information about every home on one page.  (FYI, If you’re trying to do this your ads are ugly.)  So, lead them to your website where they can see more photos and learn more details.  Also consider the general appearance of your site.  Do you have dedicated pages for each property you listed?  How about buying a custom URL with something like www.oldnortheastbungalow.com and if that one is taken, you can use something simple like www.1234MapleStreet.com .  Then place that web address over the picture in bold font, and say “see more photos, description and video interview with the owner on this site”.  What interview, you say?  I know, it’s scary, but you can do it.  Record yourself interviewing the owner about why they bought this home and what they love about it.  Make a short 2 minute video and place it on your site.  Buyers love it! Oh, and that one homeowner browsing through the pages of a magazine, they just might like your creativity.  You never know where your next listing will come from.

What now?

So, you made it look good, you made it smart and creative and you have a great call-to-action layout.  Now who pays for your ad?  I’ve heard of agents who hardly pay for their print advertising because their vendors love to pick up the tab for them.   So you never know…

Otherwise, this is when you can partner with other service providers. Put their name on your ad and give them business that comes from your print advertising.  Be sure to follow the legal guidelines.

It’s going to be a while before (if ever) print advertising will go out of style in Atlanta or anywhere else.  Why? You can roll a huge glossy page and put in your pocket – something you can’t do with a tablet or laptop.  And a two-page magazine spreads can be impressive and hard to beat. Computers and mobile devices are making a huge footprint in our history, but paper and magazines still bring about feelings and emotions that our digital friends never will.  Print is here to stay, so make your print ads a powerful tool.

Geographical Area of Services

Where Do I Offer Real Estate Photography In Atlanta

Currently I service all areas of Atlanta and Metro Area. After 13 successful years in Florida my family and I moved to Atlanta, which has been our dream for a while. I also travel as far north as Canton, Milton, Alpharetta and even Chattanooga without additional trip charges. I’ll be happy to work on projects beyond Atlanta Metro, please request a quote. My services include Architectural Photography, Real Estate Photography, Twilight Photos, Real Estate Videos (Video Tours), Drone Photos and Video and Headshots.

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Shooting Condo on Peachtree Rd

Peachtree Condo Photoshoot In Buckhead

In the summer my family and I moved to Atlanta area. We are OTP, as they call us here. 🙂 But we very much enjoy it. After 14 years in the middle of the city life in Florida we are now enjoying a little peace and quiet of Atlanta massive suburbia.

I’ve started working with some very good people and talented agents. Had a great shoot with Emmett Carr at his listing at 2828 Peachtree Rd. What would be the tallest building in St Pete, Florida here is just normal average building. Yet the place was full of nice amenities and the floorpan of the unit we shot was very desirable with great city views.

Here’re some shots from our session.

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Virtual Tours and How To Use Them Correctly

When I shoot real estate in Atlanta agents often request a virtual tour.  I always suggest doing a full-motion video tour instead but virtual tours are still popular and they are less expensive than video tours. A virtual tour is an online slideshow often provided with background music and some property info.

Here are 6 observations I made in regards to virtual tours and things you need to be aware of when using virtual tours:

1) Quality. If you use crappy photos, you will have crappy tours. The quality is often reduced even further because some brokerages use automated virtual tour providers who pull the photos from MLS where they’ve already been reduced in size and quality.
2) Number of photos. If you are using an automated tour, all your clients will see is a slideshow of photos they have already seen. Offer value to your clients, edit your tours separately and add more high-quality photos to it.

3) Music is cheesy. It take only a couple minutes to login to your tour and change the music, don’t go for preset cheesy tracks. Some providers will allow you to upload your own song.

4) Load time. I’ve only found a handful of VT providers where photos load quickly and with good resolution. Most of the tours will be turned off before they load by the potential buyer.

5) Your listings go to Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia and other outlets. Check at least these 3, make sure your virtual tour link shows up.  Your virtual tour will not upload to Realtor.com automatically. VT vendor has to be approved by PicturePath and Realtor.com and they have to upload manually. Some big vendors who might have a contract with your broker are able to upload them from MLS to Realtor.com immediately but remember, login to your tour and upload high-rez photos. If your broker has such agreement with a vendor and you decide to use your own, the broker’s vendor’s tour will have priority and will show up on Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia – you have to make sure you place your own link on MLS and then update it on Realtor.com.
6) You can plug it in (embed it) VT tour vendors provide with HTML code of the tour, so you can copy/paste it on your blog easily. A little harder with social media, though. You can post a link on Facebook, for example, but it will open a new window when you click on it. It won’t play directly on your Facebook wall, like YouTube videos do. Facebook doesn’t like when people leave their site, so I can bet you that your exposure will be limited. Much better to post a photo or a video. Fortunately you can convert a virtual tour into a video format and host it on YouTube or Vimeo, though quality of images will be reduced.

If you stay aware of these details about virtual tours – you will get the most out of them. If you need a virtual tour provider or a real estate photographer in Atlanta and Metro Area,  text/call me at (727) 418-9016 and I’ll be glad to work with you.

How To Take Perfect Kitchen Shots

st-petersburg-kitchen-photoMost real estate agents in Atlanta will admit that updated kitchens and baths significantly increase the “sellability” of a home. Not only will it sell quicker but also for more money. We spend a lot of time cooking, eating and bathing. And having these activities in a nice, updated setting is simply a pleasure. Not to say that moving into a new home without the worries and thoughts of investing in updates is a positive thing for most home buyers.

As a real estate photographer in Atlanta and Metro Area I could add that the first introduction to a potential home is done via photos or video tour that clients find on Realtor.com, Zillow or Trulia. So when you have a new listing, will you make sure to showcase the important spaces correctly?

Kitchens are often small and require focus and good composition to present it properly.

Here are a few tips on how to take good kitchen shots

straight-on-kitchen-real-estate-photography-tampa-bay1) I personally love straight on shots with high focal length. Meaning try to avoid using extremely wide angle lenses when shooting a kitchen. The bigger the focal length the more realistic the photo will look. Of course add a couple corner shots too.
2) Level your camera with the bottom of the top cabinets or slightly higher. Nobody cares to see what the cabinets look like underneath. Taking a shot from your belly hight might be appropriate for a living room but not for a kitchen.
st-pete-fl-kitchen-photography3) You are selling counter space, so remove most of the objects from the counters, even coffee makers and toasters. Trust me, the kitchen will look more spacious and easy for an eye to take in.
4) Got cabinet lights? Turn them on. Microwave light? Turn it on.
st-petersburg-real-estate-photo5) A small vase with flowers can work nicely, just make sure you don’t block anything important with it. You could also look in your fridge, find some fruit and place them in a bowl on your island or counter.

The rest is your technical skills with camera settings and lighting. It’s all in your hands from here on!  To get more ideas on how to take good kitchen photos visit my Kitchen Shots album on Flickr.

Opulent home twilight photos on Snell Isle Brightwaters Boulevard

Twilight and evening photos on Snell Isle

Brightwaters Boulevard has become a regular destination for us. We’ve shot photos and videos here for agents from different brokerages and the homes we photographed varied in size and style. There were sprawling mansions, cute cottages, mediterranean estates and modern efficient homes. Twilights are some of our favorite shoots, and this time we had an opportunity to make twilight photos of this opulent home on Snell Isle’s famous Brightwaters boulevard. Before the sunset we even had a little time to do some evening interior and exterior shots. Take a look! Contact us for your own twilight photos, your sellers will love them and you’ll receive the attention of many buyers. I’ve now moved to Atlanta and service Atlanta, Marietta, Alpharetta and all Metro Area. Call me (727) 418-9016 to schedule!

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Real Estate Videos Don’t Sell Real Estate in Atlanta

They don’t, YOU do.  How would I know and why would I say this while being in business of producing real estate videos? Because before going into the photo/video business full time I was a Realtor in Tampa Bay for 5 years and I’ve used video from my first month in business.  To the very last day of me selling real estate full-time I’ve never had a huge and immediate boost in listings and sales because I utilized video.  What I did have was a gradual growth of clientele base who appreciated videos that I used in my marketing.

Real Estate Video St Petersburg Tampa FloridaI love photography and creating video content, so it was easy for me to choose and keep these tools in my marketing toolbox.  “Marketing” is the key word in the idea if using video, it’s not a sales tool.  Frankly when business becomes so very open and relational as it is today sales techniques diminish in their vitality.  They are still important but mostly refer to negotiating and closing skills. Marketing has become the lifestream of business.  The definition of marketing has become broader, fuller and more complex.

We choose marketing tools we like, feel comfortable with and believe will appeal to our clients.  We all know that producing a piece of marketing material is only a half of work done.  For it to be effective it has to be strategically placed. It works this way with video content too.  I’ve sometimes seen clients for whom I’ve produced photos and videos not really know how to showcase these gold nuggets to the world.

 

Here are a few tips from my personal experience on how video can boost your marketing campaign

 

1) Have a set schedule for your video production, by date and type

By creating a short video at least once a week you will soon have an impressive library of video content. But you have to be consistent and have a schedule.

 

2) Categorize your videos by:

– Informational (about real estate market in general)

People will come to you because you have real estate knowledge and skills to effectively sell or help buy a property. Informational video will help your clients understand your skills and level of knowledge quickly as well as figuring out if they’d even like to work with you. Sometimes we just don’t click with certain people, and that’s ok. You’d rather never have them come to you, than come and then leave. Your information videos will take care of that.

– Education (about specific neighborhoods in your area)

Education videos will help folks see that you know the area, and know details about neighborhoods, plus it adds value because you showcased the features and streets of the area they may be interested in. Eventually you will have a library of such videos and you can utilize them on individual neighborhoods pages on your website. How cool would it be to have a short video about a neighborhood and then list all available listing there right under the video?

– Home video tours

In your sphere of influence there will also be people looking to buy or sell. Producing quality video tours will capture attention of those looking to buy, because they just don’t see real estate videos all that often. Sellers will also notice because they will want one of their house done when they are ready to sell. Besides your sphere those looking at homes online always get excited when they see that little blue button with a camera on it. Motion video gets a lot more views than a slideshow.

– You can also do one on local activities and events, but keep those to a minimum, you are a Realtor, so stay with things relevant to your business.

 

3) Figure out how to distribute your videos and who your targeted recipients are.

 This topic deserves a separate blog post, look for it in the near future.

In conclusion

You probably don’t need video marketing if you don’t use internet to communicate with friends, family and clients.  Unless you buy TV ads most of your video marketing will be online.  But it’s not for everyone.  Either embrace it, use it, dedicate marketing dollar to it or stick with the tools you feel suit you best.  Remember, it’s all about quality.  Not production quality, thought it’ll help, but your content quality.  Step aside for a moment and take a look at your marketing pieces: email campaigns, Facebook feed, postcards, flyers, your website – does any of it deliver value?  Is any of it interesting, important, captivating? Is any of it telling a story?  Because if there’s no value or importance – we (your prospective clients) can at least enjoy a good story.