Personal vs. Personalized

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Lots of agents say they are doing personal marketing, when what they’re really doing is personalized marketing. Greg explains the difference and shows how one format is much more effective than the other.

February 2003, By Greg Herder

It happened again yesterday – an agent walked up to me at a seminar I was conducting on personal marketing and told me, “What you say about personal marketing makes complete sense, but I’ve been doing personal marketing and it’s not producing the results I need. Can you tell me why it’s not working and how I can fix it?”

I agreed to review his marketing if he would send me samples of his all his personal marketing materials, as well as his marketing plan, a statistical analysis of his target market (farm area) and his goals.

When I received his package of materials, I instantly saw the problem. What he called a personal marketing campaign was instead a series of personalized formats with some trendy marketing platitudes on them. I called the agent and told him that the reason his personal marketing was not working was because it was not personal marketing! His reply was similar to that of so many agents – he thought that because he had put his name, picture and a small about of biographical information on nice looking formats that he was creating personal marketing.

A Critical Difference

As we talked, I could tell that this agent was struggling to understand the difference between personal marketing and personalized marketing. Understanding that difference is critical to creating a campaign that lead to success, rather than frustration.

When you take any pre-existing format and overprint your name, picture, logo and phone numbers onto a previously created generic template – that’s personalized marketing. Almost every large real estate company provides these types of templates to their agents. There are also tons of printing companies that sell a wide variety of these “ready to personalize” formats. Many of them look great, and have cleverly written copy that sounds like the perfect thing to say.

The challenge with even very well done templates, however, is that they never totally resonate emotionally with a prospect. What they are missing is the personal touch. It’s sort of like receiving a romantic Hallmark greeting card in the mail and instead having a suitor write a few sincere hand-written words at the bottom, you find a rubber stamped signature. The sender made the effort to send you a card, but you feel like there is something missing! It just does not connect with you at an emotional level. What’s missing is sincerity or believability.

Make an Emotional Connection

Personal marketing, by its very nature, is built upon the values, history and essence of who an agent is as a person. This type of marketing takes that intimate information and presents it to a specific target market in a way that is meaningful to that market. When a prospect reads the material, it resonates emotionally with them. It makes the emotional connection that allows the personal message to get through.

The most amazing thing is that in today’s fast paced world, people are so inundated with marketing messages that they are incredibly discriminating. Only messages that have true authenticity get through these filters and resonate with a prospect. Over the past 17 years, Hobbs/Herder’s creative staff has written more than 30,000 personal marketing campaigns for real estate agents. During that time, we have never found any two agents that could use the exact same story line and graphic presentation to create materials that would appeal to both of their prospective clients and create that emotional resonance.

Worth the Extra Effort

Agents always ask me how to capture their true personality and present it in a way that connects with a particular target market. The problem is that agents don’t like my answer because it requires hard work, time and money to do it right.

At Hobbs/Herder, we start by having agents complete an in-depth personal questionnaire. It is designed to uncover a person’s personality, style and most importantly, their core values. We also ask detailed questions about the marketplace that the agent wants to appeal to. The completed questionnaire is then used by one of our professional writers whose job it is to conduct an in-depth phone interview with the agent and develop a story line that will make the emotional connection. Before we allow that story to be sent to our client, our writers present the concept to one of our “pitch groups” and must receive a consensus that the story will make that critical connection. Each marketing piece we create is also critiqued by our creative directors and feedback is provided from many different people throughout the process.

Unfortunately, most agents say that this process takes too much time, money and hard work. Rather than put forth any or all of these things, they try to shortcut the process by slapping their name and photo on a template that seems close to what they are looking for. But in today’s competitive marketing environment, close is not good enough. That is why the vast majority of personalized marketing campaigns lead to failure rather than success.

No Shortcuts to Success

Looking for the shortcut to creating a successful personal marketing campaign is a trap that many well-intentioned brokers fall into as well. They want to help all of their agents succeed, especially when agents are new or struggling to make ends meet. So they say, “Let’s develop some templates that everyone can personalize so they will save money.” The end result is that both brokers and agents spend money and end up frustrated with the results. Even when a template produces some results, it takes longer to start working and never generates as high a return as a well-designed, custom personal marketing campaign would.

The reality is that an effective personal marketing campaign must consist of materials that are so personal, such an extension of who you are, that no other agent could copy the campaign and dream that it would work for them. Accept the fact that every personalized marketing piece ever created is simply an attempt to take a shortcut.

The real power of a great personal marketing campaign is presenting materials that are a true reflection of who you are and what you stand for. It will create such a strong emotional connection to you that potential clients will pick up the phone and call you. When they talk to you or meet you in person they will find that you are exactly what they were expecting and say, “I can trust them – their marketing message is a true reflection of themselves.”