Sunday, April 23, 2006

Your Photo is Worth a Thousand Transactions

First impressions can make or break a real estate agent. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s essential to put your best foot forward all of the time – including the photo you put on your printed materials and emails.

On the traditional side of marketing, Dee Nott of Fayetteville, N.C., finds that the first impression created by her ads have led to an increase in business. “I get a lot of calls on my ad using my photo,” she said. “People comment that they called me because I didn't look like a stuffy agent. I even get recognized around town.”

The perils of a bad photo are many. George Wurtzinger of Machesney Park, Ill., told this story: “My first broker sent me to the photographer where they had a house account that was conveniently located across the street. Now, I know they didn't have much to work with, but she managed to capture blemishes that were still deciding if they would be born or not. I never saw a photo that was in such perfect focus. Portraits should be soft. Mine wasn't.” Naturally, George found someone else to take his photo.

Jim Wolcott of Burlington, Wash., said, “Methinks that in the case of the Internet, you only have about five seconds to make a good impression. Maybe less.”

So how can you ensure your photo makes a great first impression?

- Make it a head shot. If people can’t see your face, they won’t feel connected with you.
- Smile. Straight-faced mug shots are a surefire way to turn off a potential client.
- Avoid distracting or “busy” backgrounds. The most interesting part of the photo should be you.
- Look your best—but not so good that you’re unrecognizable in person.
- Stay up to date. If you change your appearance significantly—hair color, eyeglasses, etc.—it’s time for a new photo.

Eileen Landau of Naperville, Ill., offers this advice: “Find a good professional photographer. Make a hair appointment at least a day before, 'cause if you cut your hair, you'll need to feel comfortable with it. The ladies will know what I mean. Women should also use makeup. And consider what you're wearing. Bring several different outfits. With digital pictures you can immediately see what looks best. Then shoot away.”

After you’ve had your photo shoot, choose a photo that’s warm and friendly and use it consistently in your marketing. George Wurtzinger explains effective photo strategy: “[Personal marketing gurus] suggest action shots that tell a story. A few agents in my market are [using action photos] and what a difference! They really stand out.”

And that’s a key to winning more business.