How To NOT Write Your ‘Bio’ — The One Mistake You Can’t Afford To Make

Biographies are an important part of marketing and very vital. They are quick snapshots into what your business is and how much experience you have in your field. More often than not, they are the first impression of what potential clients and contacts have of you and it is very hard, and often impossible, to rework a first impression. Indeed, when you get right down to it, the one thing that almost “everyone” will do when they hear your name or are going to work with is to look at your bio.

So it would make sense that your biography needs to be top notch.

When I see most biographies they tend to read as such (for a real estate lawyer):

“Ms. Smith has experience in all aspects of commercial real estate and has handled complex mezzanine financings, construction financings, bridge loans, joint ventures, platform investments, hospitality transactions, [and every doggone thing she has ever done in a long and extraordinarily comprehensive list]…”

The list goes on and on and on and by the time anyone reads it they have forgotten everything you listed. To be even more blunt, no one will actually read it as it sounds like this to the reader …. “real estate lawyer blah blah blah….”

Service providers typically feel that they need to list “every single” piece of expertise that they have because if they leave out that one thing then they will lose all of that “huge” business they “would have gotten” since that specific client will not realize that she can do this work.

Bottom line — this is the exact wrong way to do a bio.

I have learned over years of marketing that potential clients and contacts will take away “one” message that you give them – and only “one” message. Not two or three or more. If you give them one message – strongly – they will remember it. If you give them two or more they will remember nothing and hardly remember you at all.

This needs to be reflected in your bio. How about this for Ms. Smith

“Ms. Smith is known as one of the top lawyers nationwide in the area of real estate joint ventures. Although she routinely handles all aspects of her real estate law practice, clients consistently turn to her for their most complicated and intricate joint venture transactions. Her strong focus in this area gives her a major competitive advantage over those less skilled in this area, which consistently inures to the benefit of her clients.”

Dare I say that this is Ms. Smith’s Power Niche?

To make the same point I make again and again in my writings:  Once you determine your Power Niche you should be drilling that message into your biography and every other place that mentions your name.

So, it might make sense for you to take a quick look at your bio….

Note – My Marketing Book If You Want to Get Rich Build a Power Niche now has a target publication date of late third quarter this year. This book will contain “all” of my marketing secrets, which I have developed over ten years of relentless focus. I hope I am not being too much of a humbug in saying I wish I had this book when I was starting my career. Where would I be now?  Sigh….

A Super-Easy Marketing Thing You Can Do – But So Many Miss This…

Sometimes people are brilliant at what they are doing but overlook an opportunity that is right under their noses.  So here goes some hopefully useful thinking …

What is the absolutely easiest free marketing and sales pitch any company can make in the real estate world – or really in any world?

Answer – your name – i.e. the name of your company!

Every single time someone says it, asks for it, googles you, emails you, gets your business card, tells someone else about it, your name is used.  You can’t get away from it.

If done right a name can be explosively useful (which I will discuss below), yet oftentimes I come across companies that name themselves with acronyms like:

  • XBT Companies

Possibly the CEO’s kids are named Xaiomi, Beth and Toby, but the problem is that the name is almost impossible to remember; accordingly, the CEO loses out on a marketing opportunity every single day many times a day.

Sometimes – going too far in the other direction, people come up with a name that covers all aspects of what the company does, such as:

  • American and European Realty Debt and Equity Partners and Investors

This name – although on the surface informative – still results in the same result – that no one can remember it, nor does it achieve the upside that I will describe below.

Along these lines sometimes people come up with an acronym.  If they want to be real estate investors that invest in debt strategies throughout the capital stack they use:


This stands for Real Estate Debt Strategies, but once again, is not memorable and doesn’t achieve the upside that I will describe below.

Finally, sometimes people hire a naming specialist or marketing or advertising agency to come up with a “name”.  This can be useful, but only if the third party consultant is thinking in the manner I outline below.  And it is critical that senior management be deeply involved.

Okay – I apologize if I have inadvertently insulted some people’s company’s names.  I mean no harm and I am trying to be helpful.  Here is what I think you “should” do in naming your real estate company.

Let’s think of what a great name can do for you, which can be dramatic, and I am not exaggerating here.  Let me peel away the onion and show you just how to do it.  There are just three steps:

First – consider “why” you are in business – see the great book by Simon Sinek, Start with Why, for some guidance.  What is the purpose of your business?  What is your message – internally to yourself and your employees – what gets you and your team excited to go to work every morning?  If you don’t have an answer for this, see my prior article on this subject, as you have some work to do.

At the same time, consider your external message, to customers, lenders, investors, borrowers, landlords, tenants, buyers, clients, etc.

It is critical – and excellent – if the two messages are the same and dovetail together.

One way or another, hone your message down so you can say it in just a few words.

Second – once you have your message – your name has to be edgy, provocative and memorable.  Don’t worry about offending people; instead, worry about getting noticed and remembered and telling people the entire story of your company in a couple of words.

Third – and finally – do not delegate this initiative!  The owner, principal, CEO, top girl/guy has to do this project by his/herself.  There is no way out of it.  It is fine – and good – to brainstorm with a ton of people and keep an open mind into the workings of your own mind.  Even hiring a third party expert could be very useful.  But be honest about who you are and what you want to do in your business and “why” you are in business.  If you just want to make a zillion dollars and really don’t care about anything else, well, I guess that’s what you’re about.  Don’t try to fake being something you’re not.  People will figure it out.

So here is an example of exactly what I am talking about….

Pretend your message is that you will look at making loans or investments that no on else would consider.  Your theory is that the borrower or sponsor should come to you when they have exhausted every single possible alternative.  When everyone turns down this borrower/sponsor, then the borrower/sponsor should come to you.  Your theory is that when a borrower/sponsor comes to you, you will hold all the cards since, by definition, everyone else has turned them down.  You will then be able to write your own terms for the loan/investment that could range from (i) just saying “no” because it really is a bad idea, (ii) charging a ton of interest or other upside to compensate for the risk, or (iii) changing the structure and nature of the investment so that it is not so crazy after all, i.e. you box the risk.

Is this smart or dumb?  That is not the question here and I am not advocating this strategy – it is purely a metaphor – but right or wrong that is your strategy.

The first step is a short statement of the message, which is something like “when everyone else says ‘no’ give us a call”.

Now for the second step, which is making the name memorable and edgy and exciting.  Here are some ideas:

  • Whacky Capital (hard to forget the name and implies you will do things others won’t do)

  • Effing Fearless Capital (see above)

  • Crazy Capital (but of course you’re not really crazy are you?)

  • Boxy Capital (implies like a fox and/or boxing risks)

  • The Last Resort Capital Company

Are these great names?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But they tell a story.

When someone gets hired by Effing Fearless Capital and – with raised eyebrows – asks why is that the name, someone at the company has to tell her that the CEO is the opposite of fearless and instead has the business model described above.  There are even stories about how everyone said making the loan was nuts, but then…
And that same story registers with potential sponsors and borrowers, doesn’t it?  Everyone will remember it.  How many times will a borrower go to a “normal” lender for a loan and the lender might say something like….”well I don’t see how we could do something like this.  Why don’t you try Whacky Capital.  They’ll do almost anything.”

Try forgetting the name Whacky Capital, after all.

So that’s it.  Have an amazing name that is the fulcrum of your business – that tells everyone internally and externally the story – keeps the heart of the company beating – and is unforgettable.

Of have a not-that-interesting name that people have to just strain to remember and does nothing at all for you.

The choice is yours.

By the way, naming things is my hobby.  If you want to brainstorm with me about the name of your new company – or maybe a re-name of your existing company – I am here to help.  It will be fun.

PS:       Oh – and my law firm’s name – you might be wondering about.  Ummm, Bruce, if you the great and wonderful Real Estate Philosopher are so smart, how come your law firm is named Duval & Stachenfeld.  Well you have a great point, but there is a great answer and that is that in New York we lawyers have to name ourselves with partners in the firm.  Or – believe me – I would have a different name for our enterprise.  Dang!

Power Niche Marketing: The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing

I don’t know if I should share this information so broadly — but here goes — I have a publisher agreeing to publish my upcoming book “If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche.”  I am sure the excitement of my readership is off the charts right now.  Anyway, hopefully later this year….

In the interim — in hopes of teaching you what I know about marketing in real time — I will mention that I recently read an exceptional book called The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout (affiliate link).

It is super short — I read it on a plane flight — and it is chock full of excellent advice.  For example:

  • The Law of Leadership — “It’s better to be first than it is to be better.”
  • The Law of Perception — “Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perception.”
  • The Law of the Mind — “It’s better to be first in the mind than first in the market.”

It is an old book — written in 1994 — and it struck me that 24 years ago these fellows figured out things that are just being learned today.

For example, their Law of Category is as follows:

The Law of Category: “If you can’t be first in a category then you should create your own category that you can be first in.”

This is pretty much the same as my Power Niche concept, isn’t it?

So, 24 years ago, Ries and Troutman point out how important it is to own a niche.  Twenty-four years later, people like me — and others I have read — are still writing about it.  However — what boggles my mind — is how rarely people actually put this critical “law of marketing” into practice.

So let’s stop for a moment here.  This is a major revelation about marketing.  All of the smart people — I mean all of them — Porter, Thiel, Godin, Drucker, Ries & Troutman, etc. — are all saying that it is absolutely critical to differentiate yourself in marketing, yet so few parties receiving this advice actually take it.

Why is that?

I guess I don’t know the answer for sure; however, I suspect it is that being different means you have to STAND OUT, and when you stand out it might cause people to make fun of you, which terrifies most human beings.

But, whatever the reason, the good news is that if you are one of the (relatively few) parties who can receive this important message and not be afraid to implement it, the way to success in rainmaking is very achievable.  The absolute most important thing is to be “different” and STAND OUT — typically within a niche (Power Niche) that you own and can easily stand out in.  If you aren’t doing some version of the foregoing, you have already lost the battle.

I will keep this article very short and ask you to read it a couple of times as this is a very important message.

Creating Good Karma With Your Marketing

When you meet people, network with them, talk to them, and connect with them. It is a great thing if you aren’t always thinking about yourself and how you can benefit.

Think about the other guy. Try to do nice things. Do your best to be helpful.  Spread good karma and just see what happens.

Most of the time, good things will come back to you in unexpected ways because people will think you are a good person and they will want to reciprocate or help you. Marketing is all about statistics and you cannot predict outcomes.  All you can therefore logically do is set things up so that outcomes are likely to occur and be positive for you. What could be better than just doing a ton of really nice and helpful things for people in your core industry?

Along these lines, don’t be a jerk!

If you have power over an adversary in a business dealing, or in representing a client, don’t rub it in their faces. Be respectful and as friendly as the situation permits.

In particular, when people are in trouble, don’t let them wither on the vine, but rather choose to help them out in any way you can. Indeed, times of trouble are when we all figure out who our friends are.

Along these lines, some obvious admonitions are the following:

  • Don’t screw over your partners or colleagues.
  • Don’t blow people off — perhaps by saying that you will do something, but then not getting around to doing it.
  • Don’t mistreat those below you. The junior associate lawyer you treated like crap because you thought he was a moron and likely can’t cut it at a law firm may someday be the same person you will run into as a very senior (and maybe very powerful) in-house counsel at a major client or prospect. Gulp! Boy will you wish you could turn back the clock and undo all the meanness you gave him when you had that power. When you have power over someone else, overdo not misusing that power. What comes around goes around sometimes… in both a good way and a bad way.

If you really do your best to just be a good person, good stuff will happen to you — and the converse.

One thing that is somewhat metaphysical is that if you act like a jerk to people, you will never know how many referrals and opportunities you didn’t get because you acted that way. Think about it for a moment: all sorts of good things that could have happened just don’t happen and you don’t know what could have been… sigh.

In this vein, a short story is as follows:  One thing I do, is I make a ton of referrals for my clients. In other words, if two clients might do good business as a team, I refer them to one another. Both clients typically greatly appreciate that I do this.

Well, I had a client who was so gosh-darned awful that I finally fired him as client. He was just not a nice person. I couldn’t in good conscience connect him with any of my other clients as it just wasn’t right to do it. What was I going to say?  “Toby, I would like to introduce you to my other client, Tobias. He is a major jerk and you will love working with him.”

Ironically, this client’s business was very suited to that of my other clients. He has lost out on at least 20 introductions (no exaggeration) that I would have made to him. He doesn’t know how much business he lost by acting so negatively though, and he never will. Too bad, so sad….