Real estate is quite a unique industry from a design standpoint. Not only must we present our own product to the market in its best form, but our client’s product too – their property.
Designing something amazing – whether it’s a new brand, website, promotional video, business card or logo – is becoming especially difficult. Only the best designs can cut it in this competitive world and it’s incumbent on you, as well as your marketing and brand team, to consistently meet the increasing expectations of consumers.
Design is arguably one of the most subjective elements in business. Everyone has an opinion on what colours should be used, how big the logo should be, what the website should look like and so on. It’s one of the most debated subjects in marketing meetings around the world and, sadly, often the discussions around design focus only on aesthetics and peoples personal taste.
Oftentimes the discussion around design starts with what ‘it’ should look like rather than what the business is aiming to achieve. Design without strategy is like macaroni without cheese, it may still pass as food, but something about it feels off and the meal is definitely forgettable.
You can always design to a strategy. But you can’t strategise to a design. Sadly, many businesses do it the other way around and it is why many businesses rebuild a website, design a new logo or completely rebrand every couple of years. They get to a point where the team starts criticising the company website or logo as the reason why they’re not competitive in the marketplace or attracting new staff, when in fact it’s likely got nothing to do with those things. It’s usually either a lack of strategy or consistency that are to blame – or both.
In an industry that likes to copy each other, plus or minus 10%, there is no shortage of copycat brand style guides or templated websites that are used across hundreds of different brands. Being inspired by another company and using certain elements on a new website is one thing, but completely copying another brand’s website or style guide is another thing entirely.
I’ve heard some people repeat Pablo Picasso’s quote for how you should approach design and branding in real estate:
But in an industry like real estate – with a public trust problem, and an issue differentiating one business from another – this is a lazy and potentially harmful mantra to live by.
The most copied brands in real estate have invested heavily in a ‘strategy first’ approach and it’s one of the reasons why they don’t need to completely rebrand or build a new website every couple of years. They’re too busy riding the success of their clearly defined strategy to worry about fixing something that isn’t broken.
An Example of Strategic Thinking in Design
The choice to rebrand a business, create a new logo, design a new flyer or build a new website often starts with the business owner saying to the marketing team something like “Our website is a bit tired”. And just like that, the marketing team get thrown a new project – building a website no less – on top of all the other work they have on their plate. The team start compiling a list of websites they like and fire off enquiries to various website design firms.
But before jumping into a rebrand or building a new website, brand, logo etc, here are some questions to ask yourself and your team:
- Why are we doing this?
Why do you want this new website? Why are we updating the look and feel? Why is this new functionality so important? This a valuable question as it helps to determine the final result you are looking for.
- What is our primary measure of success? PICK ONE
More website traffic (brand awareness)? More leads? More recruitment? More time-on-site? Better SEO?
- What is realistic?
How much money can we invest if we’re confident all of the above KPI’s will be achieved? How soon can we get it live? Would we compromise on functionality if it meant we could launch sooner?
By asking yourself these questions before you reach out to a branding or website specialist, you are setting your business up for success. Your new brand or website will not only be informed by a clear strategy with clear goals but the end result will be truly one-of-a-kind.
Too often we see very pretty real estate websites that underperform when it comes to leads and sales because someone, at some point, made a design-related decision that compromised their strategy. Something as small as replacing a call-to-action on a website with a video or a photo, or filling white space, can have major consequences on a business’s bottom line – especially if your primary measure of success is based around lead generation.
Too often we see design-related decisions either limit or significantly decrease lead generation opportunities – especially in website design.
As marketers, our role is two-fold: increase revenue or decrease the cost of acquiring a new customer. Design plays a huge part in our success but it should never be just about how pretty things look but about how clear your strategy is that underpins it.
When making design-related decisions around a rebrand, a new website, logo or style guide, always consider your primary measure of success – whether it be lead generation, recruitment or otherwise. Doing so will put you in a ‘strategy first’ mindset and this is exactly where the magic happens.