branding

Moving Forward

Great brands are more than just fancy (or simple) logos, more than just vision statements, or cutting-edge marketing. The core of a great brand rests in their actions and the actions of those associated with the brand. It requires that you take the words off the page and live your creed. But to build a great brand, you have to have more than branding - you have to have character. 

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Take, for example, Uber. This is a brand that despite their one-time lofty valuation of $69 billion dollars, has had their fair share of struggles. In fact, many of my friends have fully abandoned Uber as a result and moved to other rideshare providers such as Lyft. But Uber as a brand is making an effort to come back from their setbacks through their new Moving Forward campaign. Now, taken at face value there is nothing particularly remarkable about Uber's moving forward campaign and many probably see it as a mere effort to regain the sought after appeal that they once had. Frankly, I thought that. But then I experienced what my hope is the campaign in action. 

Last Friday night, my wife and I took an Uber to dinner to see our friend play music at a local restaurant. After some glitches with the app, the driver, Vicki, called us to ensure that she was headed to us on the fastest route. This was my first inclination that we were about to have a great experience, but at the time, it didn't seem any more than good customer service. She was pleasant to talk to during the ride and very accommodating asking us standard questions such as "would you like the air adjusted?" or what type of music we preferred. I jokingly asked her if she had ever considered real estate. All in all, 5-stars! 

Now, when it was time to come home, my wife went to call another Uber to take us home. What are the chances, but it was Vicki again! We laughed to each other when she picked us up exclaiming how that never happens. We chatted with her our whole ride home and learned a lot about her story and even about her recent homebuying process. The fact that we asked about that, we'll just call an occupational hazard. Vicki dropped us off, wished us well, and went on her way. 

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Here is where things get interesting. On Sunday afternoon, our doorbell rings. I couldn't figure out who would be stopping by, and when I answered the door, it was Vicki! I was obviously surprised to see her, but she immediately held out her hand with a set of car keys explaining that she found these in her back seat and she thought they might be ours. They weren't. So, I asked her, "what are you going to do now?" She went on to explain that we were her sixth house and she had about fifteen more to go by to see if they had left the keys. Talk about living your creed of making the rider experience next level! Vicki is the example. She's living it. 

You see, Vicki probably doesn't even know about the Moving Forward campaign. I didn't until the other day either. And she probably doesn't have any personal connection to the company's leadership. Not to mention, she does this as a side hustle. But what Vicki does do is she lives the commitment the brand is making to move forward, to improve every ride, and to put people first. I can think of a long list of things that Vicki probably would've rather done on Sunday afternoon than drive around to all of her riders pick up points, but to her, it wasn't about what she preferred to do. It was about the commitment she had made to a brand, to the rider, and to herself. That's something to be proud of. 

5-stars, Vicki.  

Begin

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There is something refreshing about a beginning. So much of our lives are spent in preparation mode. We're always preparing for something - our next listing, our next step in our career, our next step in our relationship, etc. The problem with approaching life this way is that we miss so many opportunities. 

One of the biggest reasons people don't accomplish what they set out to is because they fail to ever truly begin. They spend days, months, even years of their lives preparing to begin and fail to ever take the first step. Here is the secret: you will never be fully prepared but some of the best things have come from inadequate preparation. Ask just about any parent. Most of us were probably ill-prepared to have kids, heck, most days I still feel that way. But they have been some of the great treasures of my life. When I began Compass South, there was no question that I wasn't adequately prepared. Sure, I had the value to share with clients, but I didn't have the systems in place, the lessons I have learned over time, or the experience that time has brought me. That's the thing though, had I waited and prepared, I never would've learned all that I have by starting before I felt ready. 

Your odds will never be perfect. Your journey won't be easy or hassle-free. But, the lessons that you learn along the way because you are approaching your journey with the humility of someone who doesn't have all the answers will be the key to grow beyond your wildest measure. There is no time like the present to begin.

It's your move. 

Love Is A Verb

Well, just like that, February is here. The month of love. Love is something we're pretty familiar with in real estate. Homes are often bought and sold during moments of falling in and out of love. And of course, there is the ever-popular sentiment of "I LOVE my clients."

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Now, I'm not saying that you don't love or appreciate your clients. I actually believe that you genuinely do. All I'm asking is: do you make a an effort show that to your clients on a regular basis? This thought took me back to the John Mayer song, Love Is A Verb. You see, the act of love requires effort, presence, patience, and action. My guess is that you likely showed your appreciation through a lovely closing gift, but what are you consistently doing now to continue to show your clients you appreciate them? The transaction has finished, but have you fallen out of love? Closing gifts are great, but when you have a stack of branded swag in your office that you grab on your way to closing, it comes off as a generic token of obligation.  I mean, I can't recall the last time someone sold a house because of a knife set their agent gifted them at closing. Worse yet, what if things didn't go smoothly? Still thinking a knife set is a great idea? Instead, why not jump at the opportunity to leave someone with a smile? Take the time to come up with something personalized that show you value who they are and the opportunity to work with them. Sure, it will take more time and more thought, but haven't they earned that from you?

As I was scrolling my Instagram feed this week, I came across The Amy Curtis Group's post about their Vision Board Party. I instantly thought to myself, what a genuinely engaging way to show your appreciation for your clients and friends! And what better way to connect, I mean really connect with people than to explore their hopes and dreams together. The entire idea really got me thinking how lucky we are as agents to help people navigate, achieve, and live so many of those dreams. It is pretty powerful. Isn't it the least we can do to show them, love?

Showing appreciation is a constant process. And with any process, it requires mindfulness in order to continue to deliver. But, mindfulness is hard. Much like love, it requires time, patience, and effort. But it isn't impossible. This month, I challenge you to find little ways of letting your clients - past and present; your friends; and yes, even your loved ones know that they matter and you appreciate them. Maybe it is a quick text with something that made you think of them or maybe it is an email to reach out and check-in. Maybe it is even giving the gift of your time and enjoying their company. Regardless of how you choose to show your love, make sure you remember what John Mayer says....

Love ain’t a crutch. It ain’t an excuse. No, you can’t get through love with just a pile of I-O-Us.”
— John Mayer, Love Is A Verb

Start Small, Think Big

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By now, most of us have heard the story of Apple, which started in a garage with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in 1976. A true bootstrapping effort of brains, wit, and ambition that built one of the most successful companies in the world. The remarkable thing about their story isn't just the amazing growth of their company though. It is the fact that they were willing to start small to build something they truly believed in. 

Apple isn't the only example of this type of story. Take ice cream moguls, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (better known as Ben & Jerry's) for example. They started their careers taking a $5 class on fine points of preparing ice cream. They opened their first location in an abandoned gas station eventually growing their business to developing creative flavors and selling ice cream to distributors - now a household name. 

Entrepreneurs are really more similar than they are different. Most of us don't work just for the money. Entrepreneurs could trade the unpredictable nature of their business for a stable job, reliable paycheck, and health insurance whenever they want. So why don't they? 

The truth is, we're in it for far more than the money. Sure, money pays the bills, but our motivation is found in customer satisfaction, great experiences, and a desire to make a difference. It can be a little daunting when you're in the garage starting small, but my advice is keep going. It doesn't matter if you start small, it just matters that you start something that matters. 

Swag That Sticks

don't know about you, but I love good swag. Not the junk that someone tosses in a gift bag, but something I like to call "sticky swag." Swag is really just a vehicle to tell your brand story or start a conversation. Isn't that the goal? To get your consumers/clients to tell their story that you were a part of? I think so. To me, there is nothing more frustrating than combing through the meaningless trinkets that are brought home that don't resonate with me. Why? Because they don't make sense. They seem wasteful and thoughtless. In a world where every dollar matters - why are you wasting money on swag that doesn't tell a story or that you need a manual to figure out? Like this pen that BMW sent me a few years ago that took me 15 minutes to figure out was a pen!

So who are some companies with great swag? A few of my favorite companies with "sticky swag" are Contactually, BoomTown, and Giveback Homes. Why? Because their swag is second to none and their story always resonates. They have "sticky swag" in that none of their swag feels like they just dug through a closet in the marketing department and gave you the random junk they found. Their swag has thought, has story, and most of all - has purpose. As a real estate agent, you should have the same intent when you give away swag. You should want your swag to be useful, interesting, and meaningful. 

Take for example, Contactually. As a Contactually Ambassador, they take the time to send me swag from time to time. What is fun about Contactually is that they find a way to give away swag that you will use on a regular basis. More than that, they have swag that can save you in a pinch, like when you need to give your phone a little juice or your 5-year old forgot sunglasses on your Bahamian vacation. But, more than the physical swag, Contactually has a way of showing you that they care. Like when they sent me this kaleidoscope after I shared a very personal story of the meaning of kaleidoscopes to me on stage at Inman Connect San Francisco last year. 

Contactually understands that the impact of swag isn't always in the item, it is in the story. When I share how they took the time to not just send me an item, but seek out and have a hand-crafted item created to show me how much they value me as a customer...I think, "wow, that has impact." Are you conveying how much you value your customer's business? 

Personal connection drives growth. Just as the meaning of swag is more than the item, the reach should be too. "Sticky swag" is swag that your client's want to share and show off. These don't always have to be high-dollar items, but showing to clients that you value when they share your story and your brand is a great way to maximize your reach. 

On a recent vacation, my fiance was wearing some swag sunglasses given to us by BoomTown. The sunglasses met the basic criteria of "sticky swag" in that they were slick looking, comfortable, and something that we wanted to use. This is something that BoomTown does extremely well! Their swag is always high-quality, which is so worth it, because it has a much longer shelf-life. They also have the BEST t-shirts of any company that I have come across. 

I digress...well, as we ventured out on our first day of vacation, we had arranged to swim with the dolphins. When the trainer asked my fiance to borrow her sunglasses so Astro could take them for a spin, we were excited to watch. Luckily for us (and for BoomTown) there was a professional photographer on-site. The remarkable part of this story, besides the dolphin's ability to balance the sunglasses as he swam, was that the first thought we all had was "make sure the photographer gets a shot so that we can share this with the BoomTown team!" How amazing is that? Not only were we utilizing the swag, we had the desire to share it because the company made us feel valued. The company made us feel like that would matter to them. 

So, if you think about your swag - what makes it "sticky?" Do consumers find it useful, engaging, and important? Swag is just like content in that what you put out is a true reflection of your brand. It has to make sense. Let your swag tell your brand's story, have a little fun with it, show your consumers that your value them, and you never know - maybe they'll send you a picture of your swag on a dolphin someday. Imagine the possibilities! 

*Disclaimer: I am a Contactually client and a past BoomTown client

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