Broker-owners DJ and Lindsey DellaSala share the TOP marketing mistakes they’ve made over the past 14 years and how real estate newbies can avoid them
BY MARIAN MCPHERSON | September 28, 2020
September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. Tips for better branding and in-depth features on how to take advantage of marketing tools provided by Zillow, Redfin and other platforms are all in the works in addition to insights from experts. You’ll find it all at Inman, as well as our two-day virtual, flagship event, Your Playbook for the Fall Market, in October.
This article was updated on Sept. 7, 2022.
Since DJ and Lindsey DellaSala started their real estate careers at Coldwell Banker 16 years ago, the duo’s become one of St. Augustine, Florida’s top independent real estate brokers and the official real estate team for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The duo credits their success to their marketing and creative teams, which have helped them rebrand from Ancient City Real Estate to DJ and Lindsey Real Estate, while building a listing strategy, virtual video tours and stunning social media posts — all while becoming a mainstay in their community.
The DellaSala’s sat down with Inman to share their top marketing do’s and don’ts for newbie brokers and agents. Here’s what they had to say:
DON’T base your brand on a logo or a look
The DellaSala’s say a common mistake independent brokers and agents make is basing their brand on aesthetics, which may include a catchy name, a snazzy logo or a bold color scheme and font. Although those things are important, Lindsey said it’s crucial to know that consumers are looking to do business with a person — not a logo.
“Initially we were really focused on marketing a logo, and I think we found what worked way better for us was when we changed [our branding] to something a little more personal,” she said. “So now [our branding] is our names and it’s our face.”
“People like doing business with people they like, they know and they trust,” she added. “[The change to the DJ & Lindsey Team] allowed us also to be able to expand wherever we needed to go because it had nothing to do with the location, and it had everything to do with who we are.”
In the three years since the DellaSalas’ rebrand, which has included a name shift from ‘The DJ and Lindsey Team’ to ‘DJ and Lindsey Real Estate,’ Lindsey said she and her husband have doubled down on making sure consumers know who they are and the value they provide.
“We are definitely staying on that path,” she said. “We really went all in on building this really big brand and what we’re trying to get across to consumers was when they work with us, they get a better experience.”
Lindsey said effectively marketing their value proposition became more important than ever during the pandemic-induced buying and selling frenzy that pushed sellers to lean on iBuyers for lighting-fast deals.
“In 2020 and going into 2021, we had the same board for a while, but then there were a lot of iBuyers and new iBuyer programs coming out,” she said of the company’s ‘Sell for more’ billboard campaign. “We wanted the consumer to think, ‘I’m thinking about selling my house; I’m going to at least call [DJ and Lindsey] because I want to sell my home for more.’”
“We thought it was heartbreaking for a lot of sellers that have earned equity over all of these years, and they were almost being duped into taking these guaranteed offers,” she added. “And so all of our branding for 12 to 16 months was ‘Sell your home for more — DJandLindsey.com.’ It was timely marketing, and it worked.”
DO stay consistent with your marketing efforts
The broker-owner duo said agents don’t give their marketing ideas enough time to create a return on investment. DJ and Lindsey said they consistently try an idea for a year before deciding to keep it or scrap it since the generation to conversion pipeline takes anywhere from six to nine months.
“I think what teams and agents do a lot of times is they try something out for 90 or 120 days and they can’t tangibly place any kind of ROI so they give up and who knows, they might have been very close to any kind of breakthrough,” DJ said.
“Whether it’s generating online leads, advertising on Facebook or Instagram, on TV with slots where you know people will be watching or at big local events, you need to constantly keep your brand in front of people all the time,” Lindsey added.
DJ and Lindsey said they track their advertising results through a CRM, which lets them know where each lead came from. They track each marketing effort for at least six months before revising it or moving onto another idea.
“We’re very specific on tracking where every single lead comes in and a lot of that nowadays is automated,” DJ explained. “Any type of marketing needs to happen for minimally six months, and then you can [revisit] it because a normal deal pipeline usually takes about 90 to 120 days to see any sort of traction.”
When it comes to the six-month test, Lindsey said it’s important for real estate agents to be proactive and make needed adjustments as the months tick by.
“You have to do more than commit to a campaign where you just say, ‘I’m gonna pay the bill, and I’m gonna see what happens, right?’” she said. “It has to be like active marketing — observe what’s going on because if something isn’t working at all, then you do need to be able to pivot and change courses quickly.”
“Did you change up the mailers? Were you seeing which QR codes got the most scans? Were you constantly tweaking it for your hosting events or open houses? Were you also dropping them voicemails?” she continued. “You have to actively commit to your marketing efforts — not accidentally commit to it.”
DON’T do it all on your own
Although Lindsey has a strong marketing background from her days with Coldwell Banker, the duo realized they needed outside help as their team ballooned to more than 60 agents. That’s when DJ and Lindsey began searching for an in-house marketing expert who could spearhead their team’s marketing efforts and allow Lindsey to focus on transactions.
“We’d already brought on buyer’s agents, listing agents, admin people, accounting and transaction coordinators, a full-time photographer, videographer and editor,” Lindsey said. “It only made sense to bring on someone that all they do is run ads, whether it’s on social media or for print campaigns.”
“Real estate agents think they should do everything, but they’d find they would be able to do more things like transactions if they segmented out all those different aspects that go into a real estate transaction,” she added. “Find someone who is a good fit for you and your business and can do all of those things.”
“That single decision has really helped our company grow.”
DO put the consumer first in your marketing
Although having a social media feed of beautiful listings is great, DJ and Lindsey said agents and brokers should take time to highlight the consumer experience — which is what will drive buyers and sellers to work with you.
“We always put [our clients] first and they know that we are so focused on the consumer experience,” DJ said. “We put that in all of our marketing, all of our branding — and all of our copy we write is focused on them.”
“They see us everywhere and we make sure we’re living up to those expectations of being able to deliver,” he added. “It’s about making sure you’re always positive and being on the cutting edge of everything as new things are coming out and informing your clients about that.”
DON’T show favoritism with marketing listings
DJ and Lindsey said each of their listings gets the same marketing treatment, whether it’s a starter home or a luxury estate. This, they said, lets consumers know they’ll receive stellar service no matter what. Each of their listings has professional photos and video, a 3D video tour and dedicated social media posts.
“It’s just about consistency,” DJ said. “Everyone in every department, from admin to the listing coordinators to photography to videography, is always accountable for making sure every part of the listing process is seamless.”
“We sell houses at all price points for all people, and we want the consumer to know their experience is just as special as anyone else’s,” Lindsey added. “I think that’s where we’ve really set ourselves apart -— everything gets the exact same amount of attention and effort in marketing.”
DO get personal
In addition to changing their name from Ancient City Real Estate to The DJ and Lindsey Team, the DellaSalas said they’ve been more open with showing their personalities, sharing their goals and activities outside real estate, and getting involved with their greater St. Augustine community.
“We’ve put ourselves and our agents out there and we’ve documented a lot of things,” DJ said. “We’ve put out a lot of videos during the pandemic as we went around and tried to help local businesses by shooting free videos [for the businesses] and pumping it out on social media.”
“Not only that but I’ve also logged in and shared personal things whether it’s me riding my Peloton while I’m trying to reach a 250-ride workout goal,” he added. “We put our family events on there so there’s personalized things kind of sprinkled in on a consistent basis.
Lindsey said their personal and community-focused posts helped them expand their reach and allowed them to have a head start once shelter-in-place orders lifted in Florida. She and DJ tripled their sales volume and staff within the first couple months after the orders lifted, which paved the path for the duo to make the Inc. 5000 list in 2021.
Fast forward two years later, Lindsey said they’re still dedicated to highlighting their personalities through video content and a new podcast, On The Mic. However, they’re now more focused on giving their agents the spotlight.
“We’re doing a lot of videos about them, their life, their goals and their successes, and posting them on podcasts and interviewing them,” she said. “That has been like a really nice change, to be able to celebritize our own agents, so their friends and family and consumers are able to connect with them.”
She added, “So it’s still branding this big brand of DJ and Lindsay Real Estate while really making it personal for each agent that makes up the company.”
DON’T be afraid to think outside the box
When the DellaSallas rebranded their company last year, they changed everything from their name to their logo and font to their color scheme. The duo ditched their black and white color palette for a bold, royal purple.
“I felt like we were providing an experience for buyers and sellers that wasn’t currently being provided, so why not choose a color that isn’t being used?” Lindsey said. “It’s important not to overthink it.”
Lindsey and DJ said it’s easy for independent brokers and agents to fall victim to “analysis paralysis,” where they spend most of their time thinking instead of doing.
“Just make sure [your brand] is clear and concise,” Lindsey added. “Make sure it’s something that is easy and pleasing, but you don’t need to look at 30,000 fonts and get 30,000 people’s opinion.”
“If you like it and it’s clear, just go with it.”