When I sold my business 28 years after I started
it I sold it for much too much money according to industry standards. They paid me for my
sales. It was a great company making great sales. But then they paid me double for my
brand. Every minute I spent building my brand paid me back in dividends. You can’t just
work and work at building your company without spending equal time and attention at building
your brand. It’s what in the end is going to get you the most money and the equity for
your business. I discovered the power of the press by publishing
a statistical survey in the 1970s on the value of New York City apartments. I was a real
estate broker at the time. We had 11 sales to base my statistic on as the average apartment
sale. It was preposterous but, of course, thanks to the fact that I was so young and
too stupid to know any better I published the report and it was written up on the front
page of The New York Times real estate section, which was the bible of the industry. I realized
immediately it put me on the map. I had power in my brand immediately. People started giving
us listings. My salespeople even started respecting me more. Go figure. All it really was was
a third party endorsement. And a third party endorsement you can’t pay for but when they
give it to you your name starts to have meaning. Think of branding as good old-fashioned grandstanding.
Think what do I have, what little thing do I have that I could blow up and make really
important. In my business I had to get in every article that even addressed real estate.
So I invented stuff almost like P.T. Barnum. When I found out that the co-op boards in
New York City were not welcoming dogs in certain buildings and one board actually said they’re
going to interview the dogs, I invited a hundred dogs to Central Park and taught them myself,
on my knees, how to shake hands so they could pass the co-op boards. Was it preposterous?
Of course it was but did every single newspaper come out to cover it with a camera crew? You
betcha they did. Today nothing’s really happening in the
print media. It’s a sidebar. Everything that was in the print is now online. That’s
where the battle is won. And the good news is the little guys as powerful starting out
as the big guy because it’s a level playing field. You don’t have to worry about the
big guy cornering you because the truth is the little guy always has to corner in creativity.
The big guy’s got the corner on money. And money helps online but it’s not going to
build a brand as powerful as great creative thinking is going to do it. So today your
presence online is everything. And you could do it an inch at a time but you better be
working on it every single day if you want to build a powerful brand.