Are you building a TRUE brand, or a business totally dependent on spending money to earn revenue?

It’s a question each and every one of you should be asking yourself. Allow me to expand on the branding discussion I started a few days ago.

Every business has to evaluate their marketing strategy and weigh both the short and long term cost of their revenue sources to determine the best way to grow their business. Real estate is certainly no different. Where are your leads, clients and revenue originating from? Organic SEO? Zillow? Trulia? HomeGain? Google adwords? BoomTown? Referrals? Or direct traffic? What do each of those sources cost you? Which of those sources adds long term value for your company?

It’s no secret referral and direct traffic are the most valuable sources of traffic — because they aren’t dependent on spending money. If you do nothing marketing wise and spend NOTHING on advertising for an entire month (or two or three), your direct and referral traffic is still going to show up day in, day out (assuming you are still giving them the same current information & a great user experience that attracted them in the first place). Even organic SEO traffic is not immune to natural business climate shifts. Google can decide to change their algorithm at any time (and they do), which could vastly decrease (or increase) your organic traffic overnight. My friend Dan’s site, Bankvibe, got hit by the Panda update and he’s still recovering. All the other sources are pay to play — once you stop spending, your leads go to zero overnight.

The importance of building a brand is growing by the day. There is simply too much noise on the web — in every vertical. The internet is filled with people trying to make a buck, no matter what it means. As much as it pains me to say it, the world is NOT filled with people building TRUE brands.


Well, that’s easy. Building a brand is hard work, and takes time. More than a month. More than 6 months. More than a year. More than 2 years. And most people quit because they simply don’t care enough to see it through (related: watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech from 2005). Apple has built a brand. Starbucks. Zillow. REI. One company that puts a premium on branding is Evernote — and it involves running your business fundamentally differently than most. Look at what Phil Libin at Evernote wrote when they raised $50 million [H/T to Jeff Turner]:

…when we make any big decision, whether in fund-raising, or product design, or partnership strategy, we ask, ‘would this make it more or less likely that we’ll be around in a hundred years’, and if the answer is less we don’t do it.

And THAT’S why building a brand is so important — it gives you long term strategic flexibility. Further, the bigger your brand gets, the less you have to fight tooth and nail every month to find clients to pay the bills. The business shows up at your door by itself.

A real estate broker’s online lead sources are likely to include a mixed blend of organic SEO, paid adwords, Zillow leads, referrals, and direct — but nothing other than direct and referral traffic is immune to changing business conditions.

And those traffic sources come ONLY from building a TRUE brand.

How do you build a true brand? Well, there’s no short answer. Marc Davison certainly has a few ideas on the subject worth reading. In short, your focus should be to build a destination people remember and visit over and over — on their own without Google or anyone else. Building a brand is expensive, but if you’re in your business for the long run, it’s the only way to go.

I’ll leave you with this:

Are you building a TRULY special BRAND that people will remember? Or are you just building the same crap everyone else is?