It’s never too soon in your real estate career to establish a consistent, recognizable brand for your business. First impressions are key in real estate, and investing in a branding scheme that sets you apart — instead of just relying on home-printed materials or those supplied by a brokerage — is critical in the early stages of an agent’s career in order to avoid giving an inexperienced or amateur impression. As an agent becomes better known, having established and maintained that brand will pay for itself with a stronger public profile that can produce more leads. There are several important steps to take to ensure that you’re getting the most of your branding strategy.

1. Do Your Research First

A key step that agents often miss in setting up a branding scheme is making sure they fully understand who they’re marketing to. Analyze your local area and make sure you have a grasp on the likely median incomes of both buyers and sellers; what the cultural history, marital status and political leanings of your audience are likely to be; and what the most popular local pastimes are. Harder to quantify or pin down but just as important is what your audience values: dependability or boldness, relatability or professionalism, or some mixture of those qualities? This can be important in deciding what visual style and approach to adopt.

2. Determine What You Bring to the Table

Everyone has different strengths and skill sets. Some agents are unusually tech-savvy; others are masters of different types of marketing, have design experience or are particularly strong closers. There are many different routes to reach excellence in the real estate field. Honestly appraise what your particular strengths are, identify the four or five qualities that are your greatest strengths and make sure your branding reflects the value you add for clients while also providing services relevant to their interests and that no other agent can duplicate.

3. Engage Professional Design Services

Once you’ve done your preliminary legwork, ensure that you make the best use of that knowledge. The whole point of implementing a branding scheme is putting your best foot forward to the public. It may be tempting to cut corners by relying on friends and acquaintances with basic Photoshop skills, but professional design services can do a much better job of ensuring your materials look flawless and appear their best both online and in print.

The pros will start with an in-depth interview and generate artwork, logos, head-shots and more — and ensure that those materials can be easily reprinted on all kinds of surfaces, in both black and white and color and in reversible color schemes. Competent pros will also avoid common overindulgent errors of the amateur that can sabotage effective branding, like the overuse of gradient and shadow effects that are primarily effective in digital format or trying to use the font in your logo as the standard font of all your materials.

4. Make Sure Your Brand Identity is Current, Cohesive and Consistent

First of all, any materials you used should be current. An out-of-date headshot that wouldn’t be recognizable as a picture of you today isn’t helping to raise your profile. Beyond that, all your materials should be visually consistent across every platform and in every format, both print and digital, that you’re using to engage with potential clients. A branding scheme that doesn’t unify your business card and your online logo might as well not exist at all.

A unified, up-to-date and high-quality branding system is one of the most important marketing investments a real estate agent can make. Follow the above tips, make sure you give branding the attention it deserves, and you will find it pays dividends for your business.