Every business has a brand.
Yes, every single business.
Even your real estate investing business has a brand (whether you think it does or not, and whether you’ve intentionally done anything with your brand or not).
Since every business (including your real estate investing business) has a brand, you might as well take charge of your brand and build it intentionally.
Building your brand intentionally gives you the most control over how others see you, whether they do business with you, and what they can expect from you when you work together.
I’ve been helping real estate investors build brands for years. I’ve observed, made notes, tested, failed, succeeded, learned, and built a significant playbook on real estate investing branding. Yeah, I boasting. Whatever. It’s the result of years of toil (mostly good toil) and I’m proud of what I’ve built and how I can help people. From all of this work, I’ve found that there are really just 3 types of real estate investing brands. Of course there’s a lot of subtle variations within each of these 3 but there are 3 big categories of real estate investing brands.
So if you’re thinking about how to brand your real estate investing business, consider how each of these brands might play out for you. Here are the 3 in no particular order…
The Corporate Brand
With a corporate brand you position the company first. Usually the business name is prominently displayed on the site. There are often images of the properties you work with. Images of people on the site are often stock images of ideal customers or, professional headshots in an “Our Team” page.
Memphis Invest (they’re a client) is an example of a corporate brand.
The corporate brand is the most formal of the three brands I’m talking about in this post. (It doesn’t have to be so formal that it seems like you are a robot sent from the future to generate cashflow, but the brand typically has a formality to it).
At times, this corporate brand can impart a “big business” feel to your investing company (although that’s not always the case, especially if you use the corporate brand approach but work toward a “boutique firm” feel).
This brand scales really well so if your business grows from a one-investor-operation to a team, there is no real impact on the brand itself.
This brand works well with professional, experienced investors and high net worth investors. And if it doesn’t seem too formal and bureaucratic, it’s also a good brand when dealing with sellers because they can get a sense of assurance from the structure and professionalism (however this is a fine line to tread so be careful).
I should warn you, though, that there are a BAZILLION of these brands out there already (most done poorly but they’re out there anyway) so you need to find a way to be unique among them.
The Celebrity Brand (or) The Lifestyle Brand
The celebrity brand positions YOU as the brand. You’re the rockstar investing expert who can help sellers sell fast or buyers buy for massive cashflow. Sometimes it’s all about you and your larger-than-life personality… but sometimes it’s about your lifestyle and how real estate investing lets you life your life on your terms.
Donald Trump (not a client) is an example of a celebrity brand. He’s got a massive personality that is notable and magnetizes people, and his gold-plated lifestyle also adds to the brand. One of my clients, Mark Evans “The DM”, loves to travel the world so we have positioned him as a “world-traveling virtual investor” (meaning he can invest no matter where he happens to be). Another client, Sunil Tulsiani of the Private Investment Club, has positioned himself as “The Wealthy Cop” because he used to be a police officer and is now a full-time investor and founder of an investment club.
The celebrity brand is usually far less formal. The person themselves (or the lifestyle they live) is front and center.
All the content in this brand — from websites to blogs to emails to images — all center around the person or their lifestyle. In some cases (with a few exceptions) a lot of the content comes directly from you, so your blog might say: “I was climbing in the Himalayas last week when an investor called to do a deal…” The language is “I”, “Me”, “My” to help establish YOU as the brand.
This brand is harder to scale because the entire brand is built around one person and that can sometimes cause confusion among investors if they think the one investor is doing everything behind the scenes. (There are ways around these, such as by mentioning that you have a team). It’s not impossible to scale but there can be challenges.
This brand is also harder to break free from if you want to do something else or if you start on the wrong foot. One example (outside of the real estate investing space) is Tim Ferriss and his Four Hour Work Week. This is a celebrity/lifestyle brand and Tim has said publicly that the “four hour” piece of his brand has been both a blessing and a curse because everyone thinks that Tim really only works four hours a week… when even he admits that it’s not true.
This brand works well if you have a great angle and/or a big personality or ego. (Nothing wrong with that). For an angle, you need something that will attract your ideal target market. For example, investing from the beach, or cellphone investing, or investing in your underwear, or investing by the pool, or investing from your South American villa, or investing from your private jet, or investing from your motorcycle, etc. See where I’m going with this? Your angle needs to be some attractive aspect of your lifestyle that makes other investors think: “I want that!”
This brand works well to attract new or experienced investors (and depending on your brand, you can increase one or the other). I don’t recommend this brand when working with sellers, since you don’t want to put your flashy lifestyle as the front-and-center piece when you’re talking to them. (However, it’s possible that a celebrity-style brand may work with sellers but your celebrity will need to be built around generosity and helping others).
If you don’t like the spotlight, don’t pick this brand. However, this is probably the fastest way to create a unique brand.
The Educational Brand
The educational brand is, as the name suggests, focused on educating others. The entire brand is built around showing others how to achieve their goal, whatever that goal might be (selling fast, buying for cash flow, flipping, wholesaling, whatever).
This type of brand is slightly more formal (like the corporate brand) but most importantly has a layer of instruction to it.
This is a great brand to build if you want to attract brand new investors or if you want to focus on building a passive income stream of information and coaching. My client REIN (the Real Estate Investment Network, a Canadian network of investors) does this very effectively.
The potential is also here to attract sellers by educating them, however I’ve seen a lot of seller education brands struggle because they potentially educate sellers out of selling. (I’m not saying it’s impossible to build a seller education brand; I’m just pointing out the challenge).
When done appropriately, you can do deals with your students using an educational brand — you just need to be cautious that you don’t come out of the gate swinging with deals when the student might want to take a slower approach. One challenge, however, is that many people start out as real estate investing students and they STAY as students and rarely move forward. So a component of your education should include encouraging them or enticing them to take action.
In many ways, this brand straddles the fence between the formality of the corporate brand (which tends to be more trusted among students) and the lifestyle aspect of the celebrity lifestyle brand (which tends to attract more students), but the most important thing is to give good instruction. The more instruction you give — the more step-by-step and easy-to-follow instruction, the better for your students to become your investing clients.
This brand can be easier to scale because a lot of the information can be automated through autoresponders and video and PDF ebooks/reports so it can take a lot of work to set up initially but you can potentially do a lot of deals to your students later.
There are many educational brands out there (and it’s growing all the time) so you need to find your own unique angle.
The Hybrid Brand
I said there were 3 brands, and that is true. You’ve just read about them. But I realized that there’s technically another brand — a hybrid of the 3 above. For example, with the right approach, you can build a hybrid model of 2 or all 3 of these. A good example from among my clients is Kent Clothier, who has built a very professional investing brand (it’s a celebrity brand but it’s ALMOST corporate), and he is a very prolific educator.
So What Should You Do???
If you’re not sure where to start, consider the following:
Consider who your avatar (ideal target market) is. The more experienced your buyers are, the more formal they may want to be. (i.e. they may not necessarily be attracted to education or your lifestyle). I have a client who is somewhat famous before becoming an investor and we were going to build a celebrity brand for him… until we analyzed his target market and realized that they were actually more famous than he was. So it wouldn’t make sense to go with a celebrity brand, instead we’re building a corporate brand.
Think about whether you want to build multiple brands (one for sellers and one for buyers, which you should do if you are using a celebrity model for buyers — you need something for sellers) or whether you only want to build one brand (which is easier to do when using the corporate brand). With a corporate brand, you can put a buyers side and a sellers side on the same website pretty easily. With a celebrity brand, you should only focus on one and keep the other very separate.
Decide if you like the spotlight or not. (Nothing wrong if you do; nothing wrong if you don’t… either way, it helps to inform you of the direction to take).
Narrow your focus a little and then test out each approach. You don’t have to invest a lot of time or money but just do a bit of brainstorming and think about whether you can sustain a one-post-a-week celebrity lifestyle blog for a year, or whether you have the experience to deliver helpful education to students.
There are so many possibilities and variations but these are the 3 brands I build for my clients over and over and over again.