When I received my Fellow of the Real Estate Institute (FRI) designation in my 20s, I believed that I had reached a new plateau in the real estate profession. Unlike many others, education meant little to me growing up; I was bored with school and was only a decent student in subjects that interested me. I could not wait to leave as I knew that I wanted to be a salesman (salesmen were the coolest people that I ever met).
The late Jim Mizzoni had befriended me, despite being a generation older than me. Jim went on to become a president of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). Jim expressed an interest in earning his FRI and insisted that I join him. I explained that I could not get into a university as I had barely been in high school. One day, Jim asked me to come to his office and when I arrived he presented me with forms to apply to Atkinson College at York University as a mature student. He refused to let me leave until I filled in those forms. Surprise, they accepted me! I went with Jim to the semesters needed to obtain the FRI and my life changed.
Instantly, I stopped thinking of myself as just a real estate salesman and started to
promote myself as a real estate professional.
I discovered that I had a thirst for knowledge and
I started on a road to higher education - spending the next four decades in college or
university courses. Today, I retain seven professional designations but I have probably
earned 20 throughout my career.
Earning the FRI designation was a turning point. With it I built a side business in appraisal that would become my mainstay years later. I used that FRI to obtain lender accounts and produced appraisals. At the same time I started into a career as an expert witness in real estate litigation matters with a total of about 600 court appearances over the years, all starting because I had my FRI. I was proud, to me it represented the PhD in real estate and that is how I carried myself.
From my past, my experience in promoting, and a seminar that I teach to new
Accredited Senior Agents (ASA) - a program that I created, here are 10 rules to keep in mind as ways to promote your designation.
Having a Professional Designation Will Not Automatically Bring You More Business.
Just having a designation means little. It is what you do with it. Not promoting it yourself
will not get a telephone to ring. If we can imagine a newly graduated university student just
sitting at home waiting for an employer to call them then imagine yourself not going out
to find employment, you have to be proactive and use that designation to differentiate
yourself from the herd.
Without Promotion, Nothing Happens. You have to send out notices about how you
have earned your designation, what that designation brings to the client (it is always about
them), how that designation sets you apart and how you have greater expertise. Learn to
write articles and from newsletters to professional publications and if you cannot, find a
ghost writer. Use Fiverr to find them.
Learn to Market. You market for three reasons, 1) to increase your number of
customers, 2) to increase your income per deal and 3) to increase your business volume.
Social media is where it is at but for a designation that targets a specific type of customer
I still believe strongly in print but via direct mail. And at least twice a week meet with a
potential customer for coffee or lunch. There is that old rule, “never eat alone” which is
Marketing Is Not Advertising. Marketing means to find your right audience and
from there build a tribe (read Seth Godin “Permission Marketing” and “Tribes” about
building your tribe). Advertising is not personal, marketing is. Marketing includes every
action that you take in your business and networking still remains the best choice to grow
Traditional Advertising is Outdated. Today, all must spin from your website. Give
a two-step approach, 1) a free book or information and 2) capture their contact
information. Give a free one hour initial consultation and remember, lead generation over
Your Target is a Secured Niche. Yes, most of us can do multiple aspects of real
estate. What is the greatest source of income for you? Who are your best clients? Work a
niche, become an authority on your niche and promote yourself as that authority. Who
makes more money, a GP or a medical specialist and the answer is obvious. Let others be
generalists, a commodity, a true professional is an expert and is hired as such and bills
You Must Recognize the Business That You Are In. It is easy to just reply, when
asked what you do, “oh, I am in real estate” versus “I am a real estate professional focused
in the area of......” Makes for people wanting to ask more and makes you stand out. You are
not in “the real estate business” you are in “a specific field of the real estate business.”
Commodity Versus Go to Expert. Look at the typical Realtor. Frankly, there are too
many of them and too many part-timers. Commission cutting, clients telling them what they
are worth by cutting them back. Clients with no respect for the person, only wanting the
service and commodity agents are always hunting for new business. A Go-To Expert is
different. They have worth, they bring value, they charge not only full fees but additional
fees and the phone rings for them. Business seeks them out. Commodity or Go-To, that is
the difference that promotion of a professional designation can bring. Not only do you live
by referral, you get referred by those who originally referred you. And, you can weed out
your clients and focus on those who respect you the most and pay the most.
Promote Your Designation. It has to be on everything you produce from business
cards to even your email signature. But it is meaningless unless you set out to the public
what is means and what it means to them. What benefit does your designation bring to
Ensure that Your Association Works for You. A professional association should
always be promoting for the members and letting the potential clients know the advantages
of their designations. They must be in trade shows, in publications, have articles in various
media, a good social media presence and website and be on panels across the land. In turn,
an association is only as good as its members. Volunteer, be on committees and learn and
absorb from peers. Contribute and the benefits will be greater than your efforts.