Think Before You Brand

Most commercial real estate companies have similar goals: serve clients well, achieve profitability, grow the business. While identifying your company's goals is important, determining how effectively you are reaching your intended audience is just as critical. "Businesses have a vision of what their companies are about, but what's really important is what their clients think," says Ian Latham , chief executive of Latham & Co. Brand Consultants in Atlanta.

Latham suggests doing your homework before spending money on a new company logo or ads in the local paper. First, assess what your current and prospective clients think about you and your business. "What ideas do they have about you" You want to be sure you are properly understood in your market," Latham says. In phone interviews, Latham uses structured questionnaires, open-ended questions, and other techniques to gain "a vivid, dimensional picture of the client brand, which provides a framework for strategic planning and development."

Next compare your own views of your company's mission, goals, and performance to those of your clients and see what matches up. From there, companies can determine how a branding strategy might help them bridge the gaps between market perceptions and their actual performance.

To successfully build a company brand, every employee must thoroughly understand, buy into, and demonstrate it, Latham says. "Consistency is important -" with follow-through, day-to-day contact, negotiations, the close," he says. "You have to build an image that is almost like a living person," says Todd A. Gold, CCIM, president of REOC Partners in San Antonio. "Employees must identify with it to be able to give clients a unified, professional image," he says.

In the end, a sound, well-run company is truly the most important prerequisite for a successful branding strategy. For the brand to manifest, "you must have the goods -" experienced, seasoned people and market knowledge -- to back it up," Gold says. Latham agrees: "Branding can't fix a business that is not good."

Jennifer Norbut

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