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Let's Talk About Your Face

These days introductions are hardly needed for Teresa Boardman here in the Real Estate Blogosphere.  She’s sassy, honest, insightful and clear.  We love her contribution, calling it as she sees it each week.  This week the real estate blogging goddess knows it’s not her face that has you recognizing her name, it’s what you’ve learned from her.

When a consumer, or potential client goes to your web site what is the first thing they see?  Let me guess, is it your face?  If you are like most of the 2.8 million real estate professionals out there I guessed correctly.  I’ll bet you have a wonderful face and you are very proud of it too, and so is your mother.

Where is my face?  Other agents ask that question, when they visit my real estate web site or blog but I have never heard a potential client or consumer ask.  My face can be found, or at least half of it on both my web site and my blog by going to profile pages. I was once asked if I am hideously disfigured, I’ll never tell.  Last week I was asked in an interview “what’s up with Realtors® and their faces?”   I had a lot of fun with the question, and I am sure when the interview is broadcast my peers will let me know that my opinion is just wrong.

We have been taught to market by using our faces. I have been told that my face is a way to brand, and that it is a friendly approach.  I would argue that a face not only detracts from what the consumer is really looking for which might be homes or neighborhood information, but it also makes the site look like a marketing piece.  Of course it is a marketing piece but it might be more effective to make it about the consumer, or the information that they seek instead of making it look like it is all about a real estate agent.   Maybe good effective marketing materials should be for home buyers and sellers and not about the person doing the selling.

My face can not be found on my marketing materials, business cards, or property brochures. My philosophy is that people look at property brochures to find out more about the home, they use my business card to get my contact information, and they come to my website or blog because Google tells them that I have the information they seek, and we all know Google is always right. When and if they need to see my face I am happy to show it, but prefer to focus on them until we have been properly introduced.  After all when they are on my web site looking at houses I can’t see them either.  How fair is that?  

Marketing_pieceI change the picture in the spot where my face should be on my web site almost monthly.  It would look bad to have a big gaping hole in such a prominent spot, so I feature a seasonal photo.  My site currently features one of Saint Paul’s finest on horse back writing parking ticket.  They probably don’t know that the officer is writing tickets, and are impressed with the old world charm that can be found in our city.  

If they knew that living here involves a lot of parking tickets they may want to move to Minneapolis where they don’t have any parking at all.  After a person has looked around and are interested in what I have to offer they can easily get my contact information and if they are just dying to know what I look like they can find my face on my profile page. 

My blog has pictures of St. Paul, and other graphics designed to go with the content.  The most important parts of a web page are in the left and right corners and on the top, and that is often where I find a Realtors® face.  I use the space for contact information, so they know who’s blog they are reading and for a home search button so that they know they can skip the reading and start the searching. 

This is kind of a delicate subject but I think it needs to be discussed.  I won’t show any examples but there are pictures of real estate agents on the web that are really bad, almost frightening.  One of my favorites is of a particularly, lets say average looking couple, holding their dog.  The dog has a red ribbon in her hair.  When I visit the site I am so put off by the picture that I don’t notice much else.  It is nice and friendly to show a face and a pet, I understand the concept but think that the picture detracts from the content that consumers go to web sites for. 

Real estate web sites are all too often all about the Realtors®.  I am noticing the same trend with the real estate blogs.  On the other hand, let’s pick on the Tomato.  Jim’s face isn’t on the front of his blog.  Instead we are greeted with a tomato, and a banner that states that juicy news for online Realtors® can be found on the blog.  On the left top corner there is a whimsical call to action that kind of looks like a box for cereal or maybe crackers.   On the right side we notice that he has readers, and maybe think to ourselves that we should read some of the blog too.  If the headline doesn’t grab us, our eyes might wonder to the “popular articles” link on the left.   

We came here to read the 'juicy news' and there it is right in front of us.  After reading the Tomato for awhile, we eventually click on “about the author”.  Jim’s picture can only be found by readers who look for it because we want to know what he looks like.  He is actually kind of cute, but his face glaring at us while we read would break up the theme on his blog and distract us from our mission to find the juice.  

He provides information for us, we read it, and then we want to know more about Jim, so we go look at him.  He does not force himself on us and we don’t have to see him if we don’t want to.  When we are curious to know more because we have been properly introduced we go take a peak and there he is staring up at us.  I don’t think it would improve his picture to include his dog, even if the dog was adorable.  He looks like someone who is working, yet he looks friendly and approachable. 

My own lack of face in marketing materials sets me apart as a Realtor®, so please ignore everything I have written on this post.

Teresa Boardman is an exceptionally professional Realtor in the St. Paul, Minnesota area.

Her website:
Her blog:
Voice: 651-216-4603
Thank you Teresa.  As always, it’s a pleasure having you 'on the Vine'.

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I don't use a photo either. Not on websites, signs, business cards, blogs, etc. I had to fight my previous broker over it. And lost in most cases. I've argued with the local newspaper as well. The compnay I use for virtual tours still forces me to use one. Why don't they understand that I am not selling my face I'm selling my service? So you will only see my photo where I absolutly have to have it.

Reading Teresa's posts is like taking good medicine for me. I'm constantly forced to revisit my priorities and redouble my efforts...all the while facing the music: This woman is smarter than me.

Here's hoping that I can get to where you are.

I have a real estate web site in Oakland with no head and a really cool graphics thingie for the header. It hasn't sold anything. I have a bunch of web sites with heads that have sold things. I suspect from a conversion perspective the correct way to settle the question is with controlled A/B testing, but then how do you test for the fact that everyone has a different head? I don't know. It's a philosphical conundrum of epic proportions, or it's no big deal depending on your point of view.

When someone contacts me and in the course of the conversation they ask me about "Tobey" - not about "the dog" or "the beagle" but about "Tobey" - or if I go on an appointment and someone asks where Tobey is, I tend to believe the marketing is working.

I'm not a huge proponent of heads, but they work. Or at least they ought to. Being attached to your shoulders 'n' all. I don't even like my professional head. My cheeks are too pudgy. But clients say they like it because it looks like me. They say other agent heads don't. They look like "glamour shots" or like they had 10,000 photos shot and chose the one that looks most like Ben Affleck or Gwen Stefani. Ot worse, it looks like their high school yearbook. But you're absolutely correct, Teresa, the ones with the dogs (out here in California, lots of agents shoot photos with their horses), well, the critters are more interesting. The sky is more interesting. Especially speckled with a few clouds. But a photo should not detract. That's why over at About, you will not find a huge head. I have a teeny, tiny, almost miniscule if-you-blinked-you'd-miss-it head. And at least the head on my business card is such that a termite inspector waiting in the street for me, tapping his toe, holding my card in his hand, can spot me walking toward him; and the clerk at the grocery store can say, "Hey, I read about MSNBC plagiarizing you." So, I think I shall keep my head. I'd be lost without it.

Wow. I guess this is a pretty "heady" conversation. It seems to be way over my head. Perhaps I'll head out for some shopping and get a hat to cover my head.

Great read! I agree that plastering your face all over your advertising is weird when you actually think about it, but I think most people have been conditioned to look at the faces of agents. Therefore, I would fear that the faceless agent would miss out.

People want to trust the photo. In the back of their minds, they're are looking for a face they can trust or identify with. Without meeting you, a face helps you appear more transparent to the possibly weary buyer. On the flip side of this, back to the agents holding the dog - thanks to your profile picture I probably wouldn't hire you. :)

Agreed. Realtors have enough trouble battling the stereotype of being cheesy without having our pictures posted everywhere. It is not Glamourous. A great example in my market deals with the default report that people can print out from our MLS online. The realtor's picture is as large as the default picture of the property. Our MLS has finally allowed us to make changes on that report, and I am scrambling feverishly to figure out how to reduce my self pic. I do plan to keep it on there, however small. I work in a second home market, and most of the time the first time I physically meet new clients is on location before showings. I think it helps them identify me when we meet. So - realtor pics are one of the rare cases in life where smaller is better.

I agree that the headshot is agent-centric. However, I think in small town marketing it is really helpful. People from my neighborhood, my church, my networking group, ultimate frisbee, etc tell me that they have seen my ads. Without the head shot many of these folks wouldn't put the ad together with me. When I go to restaurants or grocery shopping, people recognize me. When I slid my truck into a Suburu at an icy intersection this winter, the other driver recognized me. Photos help brand us in a way that a logo might not. My photo on my website helps in another way. I sell a lot of homes to vacation buyers from out of town. when I meet them at a restaurant or other location they recognize me without me needing to wear a pink carnation or white fedora. I was agreeing with you when I read the article, but the more I think about it the more I realize my photo works for me.

Finally someone agrees with me on this. I do have my picture on my grown-up site and one of me in my jammies on my blog but they are both small. I will not put my picture on my business cards. My doctor doesn't have his picture on his business cards and I trust him. Ditto my lawyer and accountant.
I will say this however. I worked with a team of graduate advertising students and their research focused on this very topic. The results didn't please me. In real estate, it seems people want everything the other fine folks have mentioned in their comments, but they do look for that picture. It turns out that no matter how much info has been provided, before they pick up that phone, consumers seem to want a glimpse of what their Realtor looks like. (So shallow...)
Thanks Teresa for a great article, but it looks like we are stuck with at least one mug shot.
Norma Newgent

Norma - I agree they do want to know what we look like and I am O.K. with that which is why my picture is in my profile pages. I just want people to know something about me before they judge me based on my face.

As for the pet thing I have seen some good pictures with pets and some really bad pictures. I ended up sending Jim one of the pictures I had in mind when I wrote the post and he had to agree that it was really bad.

I also think that pictures used should be no more than five years old and if they are to be displayed on the internet the dark background just doesn't work.

John Harper and I were actually just having an email conversation about this. He mentioned how he collected a number of business cards at an event but didn't really remember anyone that didn't have a picture on their business card.

Personally, I don't use my picture on my materials, but I have considered it. As others have mentioned, one reason for me is that other professions don't do it. Also, although it can be done very tastefully, it can easily look a little tacky and cheap in my opinion - but that is more a matter of execution.

I believe it was Bernice Ross who wrote an article some time ago suggesting that some experimentation had been done on marketing pieces which were identical, except that some contained an agent's photo and the others didn't. She said that the pieces without photos were more effective than those with photos. If I recall correctly, she believed that many people have a tendency to judge whether or not they'll like you solely on your photo.

On the other hand, I added a small series of personal images to my website to promote my blog and I have had lots of very positive feedback about them. People have described them as "fun." It seems to me that the leads the site has been producing over the last couple of months are fun people to work with as well so I've kind of liked the result. I wonder though if I'm failing to attract people who might be turned off by fun, but I'm not overly concerned at this point. Given the choice between fun and no fun, fun is much more fun.

I don't choose my attorney because of his photo on his card or website. I go with the attorney that has great referrals, highly educated, experienced, specializes in the area of law that I need, knows his stuff, etc. Why should it be any different when choosing a real estate agent? The only other professionals I know that run ads with their photos is the family-owned carpet clening company or pest control company. I would much prefer for my clients to be choosing me as their real estate broker with the same care as they do when choosing an attorney vs. the carpet cleaner.

I consistently get asked "what is it with real estate agents and their photos and their nametags?" (and then followed by a snicker). This question comes most specifically from people 40 and under. So I do think it depends on the market/age group you're marketing to.

When we talk about websites, I agree T, keep your mug shot on an "about me" page. In my humble opinion, it's important to tell people abot your accomplishments on your about me page, but not brag or sell. People want annonymity when they are surfing the web. AND, when surfing the web, they want information, not a sales pitch from a smarmy salesperson.

BUT- Print materials are different than your website. The rules, the layout, the font and the colors are all different. Pictures of you on your print materials are a good thing, when used correctly.

Oh, let me add, Norms's pictures on the sidebar of his web are funny. Definetely keepers :-)

Thank you for posting this! I went at is with several agents on a certain real estate community blog a while back about the same subject.

I refuse to put my face on my marketing materials, blog (except for the "About Author" page), business cards or listings. It's not about what we look like. It's about how well we can service and represent our clients.

I think that pictures of agents on marketing materials stems from the egos and pride of agents of old. As time has gone on, most agents have jumped on the band wagon. Perhaps agents need to start worrying more about what their clients want (and don't want to see) and less on their egos and pride.

Face can tell what inside us , anyone can,t hide his real feelings because his face will show every cell inside you
So I,m with you that our faces is the mirror which can reflct our soules

Red sea real estate

I wrote about this last week in a post called "Realtor Egos Gone Amok". Check it out as it comes with some sample realtor business cards and a dose of biting satire. :)


When you look at anyone first you look at his or her face because face reflex the real feeling.

sharm el sheikh properties

I have worked for several real estate companies over the years, with a five year stint at a major North Bay Residential Realtor....

...ah the memories......the endless lists and awards of who produced this and that...and the parade of mug shots....with face lifts, without facelifts and......

There just has to be a new, fresh way to promote Realtors without their dorky photos?.....

...but I just can't think of one!?...

I disagree with not having a picture on your business card as being a realtor and Norma's comparising with a doctor is comparing a apple with a pear IMO.
Doctors don't go into your home without knowing who they are. Realtors do and to me it is like a realtor is afraid to be seen if there isn't a picture on the business card. It is a red flag to me, and I would certainly do a background check on them. I had a bad experience once with a realtor who did a similar thing and was right to find out that this person had a criminal past. In all my real estate experience I have only one business card without a picture left at a home, all others had a picture on it and it isn't a beauty contest, just a trust issue.

Isn't it also for a client that if you see the face on the website and even on a business card (some relators advertise on post offices, gas stations by leaving their business card), it gives a trustful feeling when you meet the same person as seen before in the picture.
If you meet a lawyer or a doctor you most likely meet them at their office and that is also a trustful thing, so they don't need a picture on their business card. Most lawyers have pictures on their websites and how many times do you get a business card from a lawyer? only when you need them not that they are coming into your home when you aren't there.
Even if you do a background check you are able to see if the person is as who he or she is stating.

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