The Hand Shaker's Guide For New Real Estate Agents

Here is an excerpt from the upcoming book.


When I first started my real estate career, I had no marketing budget! Zero! Luckily, my company provided me with a name badge and a box of business cards. That was the extent of my marketing campaign for the first 2 months! Over the years, my business improved, and I was able to try many different marketing strategies—including a moving truck, large newspaper ads, and even a television commercial. But after 20 years in the business, I still believe the most productive and cost-effective marketing tools are my name badge and business cards.

For starters, they are by FAR the cheapest marketing possible. One name badge can last your entire career. A large box of business cards costs less than one nice dinner. So, if you are new to real estate, you do not need a Venture Capitalist to fund your real estate start-up. And make no mistake, starting as a new real estate agent is like starting up a new company that the public does not know! Even if people know you, they do not know that you are now doing real estate.

The power of a business card is obvious. It helps a potential client remember your name and contact information. But if we are honest, we do not hand out many business cards each day because they are not an ice breaker. Current social norms do not allow us to walk up to a stranger and place our card into their hands; especially in an opposite sex situation or when there is a large age difference.

So, in what ways is your simple name badge powerful? There is a small caveat here. If you are an agent who prefers not to talk to people face-to-face and plans to run your business completely over the internet, the following does not apply to you. However, if you live in the same area in which you help clients buy or sell real estate, it is inevitable that you will run into past, present and future clients as you live your daily life. I have noticed 6 ways my name badge has helped me this week. 

I never wear my name badge while wearing causal clothing. If I put on my name badge, at least
I am wearing slacks and a dress shirt; never sweats or jeans. Because of this, I have begun doing my errands before coming home for the evening. Does it make a difference walking around the grocery store with my name badge and business clothes versus jeans or sweats? Of course it does! With my badge on, I am more confident! I am more likely to make eye contact and say “Hello” to somebody walking nearby. I am more likely to ask an employee where they have hidden my favorite spice. I am more likely to proudly tell somebody that I am a real estate agent! In contrast, when wearing jeans or sweats, I am more likely to dash in and dash out quickly. I will more likely be wearing a baseball cap so as not to be recognized. I call this “incognito ninja shopping”! Not good for finding new business!

Ice Breaker

This happened to me today. Going to my dentist’s office, a woman entered the elevator at the same time as I did. I realized that without my name badge, I would have probably only said Hello, she would have said Hello and that would have been it. It is usually not socially appropriate to start a long conversation with somebody in a small, enclosed space. However, because I had my badge on, the conversation went quickly from “Hello, Nice weather”, to her asking me, “How’s the market?” Bingo!!!! “How’s the market?” The greatest question anybody can ask a real estate agent!  She saw my badge and knew that I was “safe” to talk to because I was a professional. Likewise, if you are in an elevator with a FedEx driver, of course you will feel safe starting a conversation with him/her or anybody wearing a “uniform,” such as a mail carrier, a maintenance person, a firefighter, etc. A name badge and business clothing are the real estate agent’s uniform.

Excuse me, do you work here?

After leaving the dentist, I went to an office supply store. I had on slacks, a dress shirt and my name badge (knowing that I was going to the dentist, I did not take a sports jacket). As I was walking back to the front of the store to check out, a woman asked, “Excuse me, do you work here?” I smiled and said, “No, I work at RE/MAX over there. I’m a real estate agent. But I am here all the time, what are you looking for?” Bingo! She initiated the conversation. She felt safe. In our culture, a name badge signifies somebody who is there to answer your questions and to help you. Think about it—a thief never wears a name badge! J

Remember My Name

When you meet me for the first time, and I introduce myself as Jeff Bettger, you probably hear Jeff Becher or Jeff Becker or Jeff Bettinger. But realistically, you probably only remember Jeff. Unfortunately for me, Bettger is not a common name. BUT if I am wearing my name badge—Bingo! You hear my name and you see my name at the same time. You are able to process the information at a deeper level. During the course of even a short conversation, you will probably look down at my name badge 2 or 3 more times. So, the chances of you remembering “Jeff Bettger” after hearing it and seeing it several times is infinitely greater than if you had only heard it once. Also, when I wear my badge and people see my name, they are more like to break the ice by asking, “What nationality is the name Bettger?”

Long-term Memory

Last week, a man walked by me and said, “Hi Jeff, I met you about 10 years ago. Do you remember me?” I politely explained that I did not. He went on to remind me of the reason we had met at a specific property a decade ago. I then did remember him, and we had a nice conversation. The important thing is that I noticed he had looked at my name badge. Obviously, when he first saw me, he had the feeling of knowing me, but when he saw my name and that I was a real estate agent, it all clicked for him. How many times have you seen someone at the gas station, knowing that you recognize them, but cannot remember their name or why you know them? Probably often, and in those circumstances, you probably did not run up and start a conversation with them.

Power of the Balloon

One of the greatest benefits of working under the RE/MAX name is the power of the Balloon icon. Everybody has seen it and knows that it stands for real estate. Because they have seen it for years, they also know it stands for quality, consistency, and dependability. When somebody looks at your name badge, they are looking at your name, but they also see the RE/MAX balloon. They already have a more positive impression of you than if you had an unknown company logo. It also means that they know there is a RE/MAX website and a nearby RE/MAX office where they can find you in the future if needed.

Wear it!

So, in summary, the simplest and least expensive things are often the most useful. In real estate, you need to be always marketing yourself—your face, your name, and your company. The most productive opportunities are those face-to-face meetings that happen as you go about your daily business. There is nothing more simple, inexpensive, and effective for marketing yourself than a name badge. Wear it!