This is a rough draft of a talk we are giving to the Dunwoody Bar Association at on September 5th, 2019 about brand-building. It was crafted for a group of attorneys, but really pertains to anyone with a small business.
My background is in restaurant ownership. I graduated from UGA with a finance major and dream of entrepreneurship. My father and I took out a huge loan to buy a local pizza shop back in 2003. It was a small franchise out of Pennsylvania. We were making good money and expanding, helping the franchise open up 6 other locations under the same name. Around 2015, after paying that franchise for 12 years on a 10 year franchise agreement, we decided to go our own way and rebrand the store. Not so fast though. Since we had continued to pay them for those 2 extra years, the court system saw that as a continuation of our franchise agreement. So now we are in court fighting for our livelihood. If we lost, we’d lose everything. There were non-compete clauses saying that I wouldn’t be able to DO the only thing that I knew how to DO. The whole legal battle went away eventually as this is a “right-to-work” state, and the term “all or nothing” was used for franchise agreements.
During that stressful period, I started studying to get my real estate license. After the court decision, there were a lot of branding opportunities that we didn’t have before. The other franchise did most of our marketing till then. I was listening to podcasts and audible books learning everything I could about digital marketing for the restaurant. Especially things that could help us sell more pizza through Facebook. Changing names and rebranding offered up a lot of new opportunities online. Our Facebook followers loved seeing pictures of the food and employees, but the posts that got the most engagement were the ones about the local community. Our store is in Lawrenceville, so I set up google alerts for the words “Lawrenceville” and “Brookwood”, the local high school. Anytime a story was published about the area, I’d get the alert and hit that share button, posting it to our Facebook page. We became known as part of the community, and it was very easy to take 5 minutes a day and share some posts. Our Facebook following grew right along with our revenue. I even started consulting and doing digital marketing for other businesses in the community.
I had gotten my real estate license and began posting all about real estate to tell everyone what I was doing. There was a big problem with that though. Nobody wants to follow content from a real estate agent. It’s boring! Same reason people don’t follow your legal business page. Nobody cares about your profession until they need the service. How many of you follow a real estate agent on social media that you don’t know personally? Nobody. I knew I was a talented digital marketer, but I’d get 1 or 2 courtesy likes from the same 4 of my friends or other agents I knew. I even started creating original content like recording little bits of video from local restaurants. When Bluetop opened in Chamblee, I went over and filmed my kids playing in their grassy area on the patio and told everyone to come check it out. Y’all know Dave’s Cheesesteaks off Peeler and Winters Chapel? I saw him in there one night and asked if I could make a little free commercial for him. I got a great 20 second video of him hyping his shop. It sounded like a mixtape drop. “Best cheesesteak south of Philly!” After he finished, I turned the camera around to record an intro and said What’s Up Dunwoody…! I posted that video and immediately changed the Facebook Page name from “Dogwood Team – Keller Williams Peachtree Road” to “What’s Up Dunwoody”. I continued to post a little real estate stuff, maybe 10%. The other 90% were local articles that I shared. Stuff from the local papers, the Dunwoody Crier and the Reporter always got the best engagement. Engagement on Facebook is a click or a like or a share. Something that tells the algorithm that people enjoy what you’re posting. Facebook is in the business of collecting information about us. They know that your best friend Karl isn’t clicking on your posts, so Karl isn’t going to see your next post. If you aren’t putting out quality content, this has probably happened to your page, and it takes time to build back up.
So I’m building my little brand by posting stories from other people’s websites. I formed a few Facebook groups called the Dunwoody Area Community Forum and one about Restaurant Reviews. When I would see an article about a local restaurant opening, I’d post into that group. There were enough local stories to spread around to all of the Groups and Pages. If one of the Group posts did well, I’d share it onto the page. This technique is growing my reach on Facebook, and building some brand recognition while creating communities. But if I wanted to sell homes (sell myself), I had to make it more personal. As a REALTOR, and in your legal profession, you need people to KNOW, LIKE, AND TRUST you before they need your services. Video is obviously best for that, and the few videos I was making did great, but I never got comfortable being in front of the camera.
As a podcast listener, I knew that was a medium that was exploding in popularity. I mentioned the idea to my brother-in-law Justin, and he said, “alright, let’s do it.” We sat on Justin’s back deck and talked about Dunwoody over a few beers. I think we recorded 2 shows around 15 minutes each. After listening to them later, we decided to trash those and start again. Probably a good choice, even though the next 3 sucked just as bad. The show improved as we got more comfortable and we started getting better interviews.
If you’ve listened to the podcast before, I mention both our professions at the beginning of the show, and then we talk to a guest. Here’s where I’m going with this. I’ve closed on 4 homes in the past year directly from the show, and I’m working with another client now that will probably be 2 more. The 4 deals totaled around $50k in commissions. Those include podcast guests and clients that knew me directly from hearing me on the show. Justin has made connections that have led to at least 2 pools signing long term contracts with pooldues.com. We are using What’s Up Dunwoody as a LEAD GENERATION platform, and it’s working. We’ve become known and recognized in the community, and made some incredible connections on the way. The podcast has become kind of a trojan horse. It gets us into places that guys like us aren’t usually invited, sitting down with people like Attorney General Chris Carr and GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurray. Mayors and councilmembers. But the coolest part to me is when we interview a local business owner and get them huge exposure and asking nothing in return. You keep providing value and keep helping others and it comes back to you.
What we’ve done is something most of you could replicate in your own way. Let people get to know you personally. You aren’t just an attorney. You’re a gluten-free father of 3 boys who watches too much soccer and went through a painful divorce a few years ago. Start a Facebook Group called Gluten-Free Dunwoody. Record a podcast for Atlanta soccer fans. Write a blog telling your journey dealing with divorce. Do a daily Facebook Live about raising your 3 boys as a single father. Base it around something personal and important to you. Make sure you open up and let people know what you do for a living. Most importantly, provide VALUE with the content you create. Create content that you would subscribe to. Think outside the box. Put yourself out there. Do something outside your comfort zone, because you never know what’s going to pop.
Here are a few of my favorite books on building a personal brand.