Realtor® Shannon T. Schmitz learned patience amidst turmoil while building her business.
In San Juan, Puerto Rico last week at the Leaders in Luxury (LIL) conference, Shannon T. Schmitz was among the elite of upscale residential real estate agents. It was an exclusive, invite-only group – and they were hanging on her every word.
“Do you want to know how to create a strong brand?” Schmitz asked her audience at the outset of her presentation. “Set yourself on fire and see what’s left when the flames die down. Actually, I don’t know that I would recommend that technique, but that’s how my brand got to where it is today,” Schmitz said.
It was no accident that Schmitz was asked to speak at the conference, which is a yearly gathering of more than 100 top real estate professionals serving the upscale residential market. Last year, after working in tandem with local marketing gurus FingerPulse Media, Schmitz & Smith was named LIL’s award winner for Overall Excellence in Personal Marketing with Emphasis on Agent Branding. As a result, she and FingerPulse President/Creative Director Jennifer Asbury-Hughes were invited to provide their insights on building a personal brand.
For Schmitz, the branding process didn’t happen overnight. Nor was it part of her original business plan. The need to redefine herself and her business arose in the midst of some serious turmoil. The trouble began a few years ago when Schmitz and her partner, Morgan Smith, hired the wrong employee – and gave him too much control of the business. What followed was a nightmare scenario in which the employee, disgruntled with the decisions and direction his bosses were taking, tried almost everything in his power to bring down their business.
Months later, with the disgruntled employee finally out of the picture, Schmitz worked hard to rebuild. With the help of FingerPulse, she tapped into the things she loves about being a luxury agent in Austin, and found ways to share that with clients. Schmitz and Smith had a reputation as a homegrown agency that knew every mile, and every neighborhood, in Austin. And business was growing.
But a series of personal tragedies for her and her husband dealt Schmitz another crippling blow. First, her husband’s best friend died unexpectedly, and then a close family member tragically lost her life, as well. Both losses took a heavy toll on her husband and, in turn, Schmitz. She lost focus, her business slowed, and she had a difficult time seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
As it turns out, it would be one of her clients who would help her through the darkest times. “She told me, ‘you need to allow yourself time to process your grief,’” Schmitz said. “Allow yourself time to grieve! That was the first time anyone had said anything like that to me,” Schmitz said. “And from that moment on, just knowing that all I needed was to allow myself time to go through that process gave me some encouragement.”
After some time and soul-searching, Schmitz found a measure of peace – and a strong desire to get back to the goals she had let drift. Throughout all of the challenges, she and her partner Smith had continued working closely with FingerPulse to build a robust marketing presence for Schmitz & Smith. A video campaign called “Austin Street Beat” provided virtual tours of neighborhoods around the city. The tours provided familiarity for prospective buyers who weren’t able to do their own drive through the area.
They hosted a “Welcome to Austin” event at their office, partnering with a sushi shop across the street. It was a success: “Everyone loved how creative it was,” Schmitz said. “It even generated some social media buzz with lots of tagged thank you posts.”
“This was the first time we felt our new brand really making an impact,” Schmitz said. “Our name was getting out there.”
Together they developed “LOCALE Austin,” a smart, professionally crafted magazine that FingerPulse’s Asbury-Hughes describes as “more than just a pretty publication,” and much more than just listings for new home sales. The quarterly magazine engages the reader with destinations, cultural experiences and other aspects that are unique to Austin. They have also recently created a new, annual publication, “Schmitz & Smith’s Guide to Austin.”
Through all the turmoil, there was one more lesson Schmitz needed to learn: patience.“If you know me, you know that I wasn’t the most patient person in those initial meetings – I wanted results in the form of closings,” Schmitz said. “I understood that our social media outlets were developing a strong concept of voice and authenticity, but the listings and leads weren’t coming.”
Today, the leads, closings, and professional achievements are coming. And Schmitz is thankful that they stayed the course.“We still have sit-down meetings where we re-evaluate where we are, but now, I find I am more patient – I have faith that the process works,” Schmitz said.
“After all, trusting a process was helping me heal from all of the tragedy that had happened … and it didn’t hurt that I was already seeing a firm uptick in sales. I was actually getting back on target to reach my goal.” As the process moved forward, Schmitz was able to measure real results.
“I could see that the work we had done had helped us create some great campaigns that were getting us attention – and buyer leads – and listings, too. Our next issue of LOCALE Austin garnered a ton of attention … our social media and blog analytics were jumping off the charts. And the best part? The phones were ringing!”
Schmitz said that when she learned they had won the LIL award last year, she felt exuberant.“It was the perfect bow on top of the gift of coming through such a year of adversity and making it to the other side,” Schmitz said. “It was the culmination of more than a year’s work, and is why I talk about having been branded by fire.”
“I am proud to tell you that we blew our 2014 goals out of the water and our business is continuing to grow. In fact, we just hired a new buyers’ agent. We’re on track for an even larger goal this year.”
About Schmitz & Smith at KW-Portfolio Austin Real Estate
Nationally recognized for their approach to marketing and branding, Schmitz & Smith at KW-Austin Portfolio Real Estate is a neighborhood-focused upscale real estate group that matches their clients’ lifestyles to ideal niche areas in Austin, Texas. These Realtors® leverage their extensive network to create a concierge-style home buying or selling experience. Their quarterly magazine, LOCALE Austin, and yearly Schmitz & Smith’s Guide to Austin are available in many high-end Austin hotels. For more information, visit SchmitzandSmith.com.
About FingerPulse Media, Inc.
Austin, Texas-based FingerPulse Media is a full-service marketing firm with a special focus on real estate agents, companies and the industry as a whole. FingerPulse brings its award-winning creative approach to custom marketing campaigns, high-end publications, social media outreach and branding initiatives. With an emphasis on research and proven results, FingerPulse markets real estate agents and listings like major brands market themselves. For more information, visit FingerPulseMedia.com.
About The Institute for Luxury Marketing (ILHM)
ILHM is an international training and membership organization for real estate professionals who work in the luxury home market. The institute awards the Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist designation, which is the official designation for many national and international real estate brands. Find information on live and online training atLuxuryHomeMarketing.com or by phone at (214) 485-3000.