Let’s get personal: Why (and how) to build a personal brand

There are more than 1.3 million Realtors in the U.S. today. 

That’s a staggering number. 

If you want to stand out to earn your share of the market, you have to give clients a compelling reason to do business with you. This means that in addition to being a Realtor, you have to also clearly demonstrate your expertise and superiority in a meaningful way. But it’s not enough to just be better — you also have to be different.

Attract the right people

That difference is what will draw your ideal client to you and push the wrong ones away. 

Now, you might be thinking that’s an insane concept because pushing people away means less revenue, right? Not if you approach it correctly. 

When you serve your ideal clients, your business will run smoother and more profitably, and you’ll enjoy your job more. When you try to serve just anyone who needs a Realtor, your business will run poorly, profits will suffer, and your stress will go through the roof. 

In other words, focusing on the right clients means you’ll turn away some people, but you’ll more than make up for it by attracting the right people.

And serving your ideal clients requires a strong personal brand.

I’m going to say something here that most people won’t like: If you’re not willing to build a strong personal brand, you should throw away your real estate license right now and find a different career. I say this because if you don’t build a strong personal brand, you will struggle and likely become one of the 87 percent of Realtors who fail and leave the industry.

The good news is you don’t have to be a part of that statistic. I’m going to help you avoid it by showing you exactly how to build the kind of brand that will attract the right clients, streamline your business and empower you to become as successful as you want to be. 


Most Realtors believe that the key to success is being better than their competitors

That is false.

Don’t get me wrong — it certainly helps if you’re better, but everyone says they’re better.

There’s no way for a client to know if it’s true until they’ve worked with you, but people are generally not eager to take a huge risk. Especially when it comes to the biggest transaction in their lives — they go with the crowd. The “safe” choice.

That means they’re going to work with one of the top-producing agents in the area — the ones who dominate their market and are plastered all over billboards, Facebook, television, radio and every other marketing channel they can think of. The ones who have hundreds or even thousands of reviews. 

That is, unless you can give them a compelling reason you’re a better fit. A reason that differentiates you from the 1.3 million other Realtors out there.

This comes down to your specialization. 

We all know that specialization leads to greater proficiency. That’s why when you shatter your arm, you go to an orthopedic surgeon and not your family doctor. 

The same applies to real estate. 

Nicole Espinosa, a regular contributor at Inman, is a perfect example of this concept. She founded The Short Sale Queen to focus on —spoiler alert — short sales. 

Because of this specialization, Espinosa and her team have earned a reputation for being the best at it. As a result, when someone finds themselves in a position where a short sale becomes necessary, many will reach out to her company. And because many Realtors already know how difficult the process is and that her team is the best at this, they won’t even attempt to handle them. They just refer them to her company.

All because she built a brand around being the authority in short sales.

Think about it — if her branding said, “We’re the best in the country at short sales, but we’re also the best at working with first-time homebuyers, downsizing, veterans, waterfront, downtown, corporate relocation, mansions and tiny homes,” would that be credible? Of course not.

She chose a well-defined niche and focused on it with laser-like intensity. This differentiated her from 99.9 percent of other Realtors out there.

The key is to select a niche that is well-defined but large enough to be worthwhile. Some possible niches could be:

  • waterfront
  • vveterans
  • luxury
  • short sales
  • fly-in communities
  • first-time homebuyers
  • commercial
  • new home sales 
  • downsizing
  • investors
  • vacation rentals
  • flips
  • off-market 
  • eco-friendly 
  • farms

Choose a niche that suits you and differentiates you from your competitors, and focus solely on that. Over time, you will build a strong brand around your niche.


If your differentiation and your mission were part of a Venn diagram, there would be a substantial overlap. But your differentiation is what you do (and in some cases, how you do it), while your mission is why you do it.

Let’s continue with Nicole as our example. 

She was inspired to focus on short sales after working in the loss mitigation department for a major bank. While working there, she saw firsthand the fear, stress and frustration homeowners faced when going through a financial hardship that made them unable to keep up with their mortgage.

There is a lot of emotion behind this mission. It’s not just about the money or even providing a great service. It’s about serving a mission that’s bigger than her. That gives people a reason to connect with her brand on an emotional level. 

It creates a loyal audience. A tribe. And if you do it really well, you may earn a cult-like following.

The key here is to think back to why you got into real estate, and more importantly, why you chose to serve the niche you chose.

If you need another example, I’ll share my own mission. 

I’m not a Realtor, I’m a marketer, but my mission will help you to better understand the thought process behind this concept.

Several years ago, I faced a health crisis that nearly killed me. I spent two years on my death bed, during which time my business dwindled to nearly zero. I burned through hundreds of thousands of dollars and racked up just as much in credit card debt just trying to stay alive.

When I got back into the business world, I had to get back on top fast. I was way behind, facing massive debt, little income and no immediate opportunities in front of me.

I figured out how to leverage public relations along with social media and search engine optimization to put myself back on the map. It wasn’t easy, but I quickly established myself as an authority in my industry. When I realized how powerful this approach was, I pivoted to begin providing it as a service to others.

As a result, my mission today is to help people who are experts at what they do get featured in the media and leverage that coverage so they can become recognized authorities in their industry to attract more clients, create more opportunities and earn more money.

Distill your mission into a tight and concise statement and you’ll strengthen your personal brand and build a loyal audience and client base.


Most people are terrified of turning people away, so they make their content dull and boring in an attempt to avoid that. As a result, no one is even remotely interested in it. It’s missing their voice.

Here’s the thing — we live in an increasingly noisy world with marketing messages bombarding us everywhere we turn, so in order to be effective, we have to cut through the noise. You can’t do that with boring content.

You have to be yourself. Let your voice shine through in your content. All of it, from articles to social media to podcasts to video. Everything. 

When you do this, you have to be comfortable with the fact that not everyone is going to like you or your message.

When you put your authentic voice into your content, your brand will reflect you. That means you will attract more of the right people. But it also means the jerks online will troll and attack you.

It may be tempting to think, “No thanks, I’ll just water it down so that won’t happen.” It sounds like an easy way to avoid conflict, right? After all, we all know there are millions of idiots online who are just looking for something to argue about.

But watering it down does absolutely nothing to build your personal brand, which means you won’t attract the right people who could become clients or referral partners.

In other words, you’ll be completely wasting your time. So get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Be yourself. The real you.

This means that you need to talk about both business and personal topics. People need to see that you’re a human, not some kind of real estate cyborg. They need something human to connect to.

The way I do this, and the way I coach my clients to do it, is to identify five core topics they’re passionate about. Think of them like pillars that your brand stands on.

My five topics are:

  • publicity/PR
  • business
  • veterans topics
  • overcoming adversity
  • freedom

It’s worth noting that a wide variety of general marketing topics can also fall under publicity and business, and since I have a diverse marketing background, I often cover these as well. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just be careful not to drift too far from your core.

For example, topics on mortgages, title, HOAs, homeowners insurance, etc., all relate to real estate, so would be valid topics to include and would fall under the real estate pillar. It’s up to you to determine the other four based on what you’re most passionate about.

Each piece of content I create is related to one of those topics that support my brand. You should approach content creation the same way.

Each is crafted to clearly convey my personality — knowing full well that while some will love it, many will hate it. I’m OK with that. You need to be too. 

Be who you are, say what you believe, and be willing to turn away anyone who isn’t your ideal client or referral partner.

Follow these steps consistently and you’ll build a powerful personal brand that will attract the right clients, streamline your business and empower you to become as successful as you want to be.

Jeremy Knauff is the founder of Spartan Media, a speaker, author and Marine Corps veteran.

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