Thursday Thoughts: Kapok, Crab & Writing Great Real Estate Narratives!


It is amazing how much more you see when you walk.  Yesterday we had a late breakfast at Joe's Café in Santa Barbara.   We had to pick up some fresh crab for our crab cakes dinner last night, which we had ordered the day before.  

We decided to walk over there (12 blocks round trip) instead of drive.  It was a beautiful day, and it had rained the night before, the air was fresh and intoxicating.  On our way back we noticed this tree. 

Those avocado shaped bulbs will open up as you can see on other branches into a form of natural stuffing known as Kapok.  Kapok is also the name of the tree.  At one time it was used for pillow stuffing, however with the introduction of polyester/polyurethane foams, its use has declined. 

And for those of you who love crab cakes filled with crab and not breading, we recommend Pat Conroy's recipe.  Pat Conroy was a great American writer and authored, The Great SantiniPrince of TidesBeach MusicSouth of Broad and many others.

We have often recommend that our clients read South of Broad, just for the way he describes the city and the homes of Charleston, South Carolina.  You feel like you are there with him and everything comes alive.  Here are a couple of sentences that made us want to book the next flight there:

"You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the low/country, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes."

It is a great lesson for writing community and home descriptions!  In one of his books, he describes San Francisco.  Have been there many times before and after we lived in Napa, we were enchanted by his description of the city.

Wishing you a delightful Thursday!



Luxury Real Estate is a high stakes game. Commissions are substantial!  If you want to be the market leader, the personal or company brand that your target market thinks of first and refers most often, you must be able to clearly and quickly articulate your unique selling proposition.  We live in a time starved world where you are battling for the attention of your target market. For that reason you need an Elevator Statement to accelerate the process of distinguishing yourself or your company in a sea of sameness.

Can you state how you are different and better than your competition in under 30 seconds? Your Elevator Statement is a succinct and persuasive summary of your extraordinary promise of value, your unique selling proposition.  You should be able to answer each of the following questions in about 20-30 seconds (the time frame of a short elevator ride):  What do you do? - How do you do it?  -  How are you different?   

Words like "integrity", "local market knowledge", "great negotiation skills" are not differentiators.  They are the price of admission in the realm of high stakes luxury real estate marketing.

As luxury real estate's leading brand strategists we can help you get to the listing table more often and win listings more frequently.  Distilling your extraordinary promise of value into a Elevator Statement is an essential component of your success formula.

Watch the video above to see and hear how we do it. 

The Gift of Listening: Is There Anybody Going To Listen To My Story?


We have always been proponent of “listening presentations” versus listing presentations.  Mindfully listening can make the difference in whether or not you get the listing.

Perhaps given the natural disasters we have endured in our area, we have noticed in our community how much it means for someone to be listened to. Listening mindfully to someone’s woes or happiness is a thoughtful gift you can give someone.  Both of us feel that this gift can be instrumental in turning someone’s life around.

Yesterday, one of our neighbors came up to us as we were leaving to just talk, and mostly to have us listen to her.   She related how 10 people/friends from her church died in the recent mudslides, and how she had driven through one of Montecito areas that had been completely devastated.  She was in tears.  We listened until she smiled.

Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at Trader Joe’s.  One of the employees told us she was so glad we were alive.  She had asked other employees if they had seen us in the store!  We stood there and listened to her story. The same need to tell the story has been repeated over and over again at restaurants we frequent, even as far as the wine country, which was not impacted by the mudslides.  They all had a story to tell, and we continue to listen mindfully.

Although the news vans are gone, the clean up continues.  Mercifully, we think they are done in our area, although a bulldozer is still parked at the entrance to the creek behind our home, where it was used to clean the 6inch mud accumulation.  The stories will continue to be told.

Mindfully listening to someone woes or good news has the benefit of making you feel good also.  It is easy to do, and you will also find that others will start listening to you mindfully instead of interrupting you, fidgeting or sneaking glances at their smart phone. Is there anybody going to listen to your story?

HOw To Add More $$$$$ To Your Bottom Line: Time is Money!


In a time-pressed world, time becomes the ultimate luxury. Consumers will pay a premium if you can save them time and the aggravation of wasted time.  As a luxury real estate marketing professional, think about how you can save your clients time and aggravation every step of the way.

This is one of the reasons Amazon is a huge success.  They patented the one-click check out. We were in a new Grocery store yesterday and they have a large section dedicated to convenience meal kits that you can put together in no time. And saving time is a priority for all of us.  Time has become the ultimate luxury.

Last week, we were shopping for a new car.  We noticed a sign in the show room stating that belonging to a specific airlines mileage club would give us an additional discount.  All we had to do is log in to our account, go to the section on benefits, and proceed from there to find out what the discount would be.  The salesperson would then apply the discount to the price of the car.

Although we are frequent fliers on this airline, both of us dislike accessing the site, because of the time it takes (and caching the passwords does not work).  When we buy tickets, we do not sign in to our accounts. We wait until we get to the airport to add our mileage number.

We have been on the phone with their online support many, many times. They have always been courteous and pleasant to work with, and admit that their site is hard to work with.  This was a daunting task, but we were going to do it.  It took both of us working together 30 minutes to get the number that our salesperson needed, and 5 more minutes to print 6 pages.  

When we design websites for our clients, we keep the consumer/user experience in mind, because saving time is a priority for all of us. Saving time applies to the user experience on your website from their first encounter with you. And, it applies to every other encounter they have with you or your team. Here are few items to consider when you perform your Time-saving Audit:  

1.     Does your website navigation save the user time in finding exactly what they came for? 

2.     The simple act of listening to your client’s specific needs and only showing them the properties that match those needs saves them time.  Do you preview the homes you show them to your clients?

3.     If you are the listing broker, do you prepare detailed home-showing instructions for cooperating brokers so that they do not waste their clients’ time?  Their clients may be the perfect buyer for your listings. 

This will get you started with your Time-saving Audit. Your high net worth clients will certainly appreciate you for doing these things because time is the ultimate luxury.  But, just as important as it is to save your client’s time, you should also be including, in your audit, all of the ways you can save yourself time.  Value their time and value yours as well.  A time saving audit will add more dollars to your bottom line..  

How Does Branding Differ From Marketing?


A brand is an expression of the core values of a company or an individual.  A brand reveals the fundamental reason for its existence, and how it is differs from others in that category. A brand also defines the principles that it lives by.  When someone likes your brand, they are essentially saying, my core values match yours.  People like doing business with people like them.

Marketing is having your brand seen in the right places by the right people who are a match to your brand.  It is based on thoroughly researching the psychographics and demographics of those whose values match yours. The Internet is just one source. Take time to survey your marketplace.  That means actual face-to-face time. And in the long run it will save money, because you will be communicating to the right people rather than taking the scatter shot approach.

In an earlier post, we mentioned the importance of this type of research by citing the example of the agent who when jogging noticed that the homes in his target market read the Los Angeles Times.  When he started advertising there, his listing and sales numbers significantly increased.

Psychographics is a relatively new concept in the marketing and advertising world.  Large firms have made the mistake of opening stores or buying companies that did not fit the overall core values of its brand.  In our town, 8 years ago, Louis Vuitton opened a store at great expense and closed a year later, even though the demographics (i.e. incomes) are some of the highest in Santa Barbara. 

They neglected the psychographic research of the community, whose fundamental values are that their own initials are good enough.  Had they taken the time to research the psychographics of our different communities, they would have opened their store in another section of Santa Barbara, where they would have thrived to this day.

Brand comes first and marketing flows from the brand’s reason for its existence.  Marketing is promoting your brand in the right places where the right people will identify with it.

The Three Important “R”s of Real Estate: Advice to Newbies & Others: Part 3


The third R is Resilience.  Resilience is the ability to bounce back from any situation. Not all deals will close even when everything is aligned.  Like a surfer, you stay with your goal, and bounce back! With our recent tragedies of fire and mudslides in Santa Barbara and Ventura County, many escrows and loans have screeched to a halt. 


It helps to have an income stream or what we refer to as a “drop dead  fund".  That income stream or fund will give you the confidence and the staying power for those unpredictable moments that happen in life.  It also gives you the freedom to drop clients from hell as well as to rethink and retool your strategy and marketing as your goals may change.  

Stay resilient, the next wave is on its way.

The Three Important “R”s of Real Estate: Advice to Newbies & Others: Part 2


Another equally important “R” in creating a successful practice in real estate is “Relationships”.  One has to like people, and understand that real estate is a relationship business.  It is not about fancy gadgetry, optimized to the max websites, videos, driving the right car or having the most followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Hashtags,or Linked In.  You have to like people, not just say you do. You really, really have to like people of all persuasions and walks of life without judgment or prejudice.   


Real estate both for the buyer and the seller is an emotional experience: there are highs and lows in the process of buying or selling a property.  A real estate agent’s job is to be the shock absorber in the process of highs and lows. 


As a shock absorber one should stay neutral and focused on the outcome of a transaction and not the minutia and the hissy fits that both buyers and sellers are bound to have.  There is no doubt that as an agent you will be frustrated, just go pound a pillow and get it out of your system.  Do not take sides not matter how tempting it may be. Stay focused on the desired outcome and both sides will thank you, when the deal is done.  And whatever you do, do not discuss this on line in any social media platform.  Nothing is private online! 


Staying consistently in touch with your sphere is another fundamental tenet of good relationships.  We often tell the story of one of our clients.  At the market she saw “a friend” to whom she had a sold a home 7 years before, and asked her why she did not call her to list the home.  Her friend responded, “I thought you were dead!”  Absence does not make the heart grow fonder in real estate.

The Three Important “R”s of Real Estate: Advice to Newbies & Others Part 1


The first R is “Research”.  As a newbie you should research and find the market area where you would thrive and grow.  One of our very first clients was a newbie.  Everyone was surprised by her meteoric rise in the business.  What was unique about her is that she researched and knew exactly where she would fit like a glove in her real estate market place.  She had it down to neighborhoods, streets and school districts.


How?  She walked each street, talked to people walking their dogs, watering their flowers, or just sitting on their porch.  The minute she announced her new career to everyone she knew, the calls came in and the listings and sales followed.  As her preferred lender said, “she hit the ground running, and then flew!”


In order to gain trust in business or any relationships you have to know what you are talking about.  That means research, research and research.  Today, we have an abundance of information thanks to the Internet.  However, not all information on the Internet is accurate or factual.  You have to also research who the author of this information is.  Are they skewing the information to suit their point of view?  


When it comes to marketing everyone has an opinion!  The truth is as we have often said, “marketing is not a one size fits all mu-mu.”  Your market is unique, and you have to research what makes your area tick.  Someone recently mentioned that postcards is what the majority feel works in real estate.  When we pick up our mail, we notice that our neighbors throw all postcards real estate, plumbers, et al   in the recycling bin, just like we do.  In this area, we will open handwritten envelopes!


Watch out for the marketing guru who says: “all print is dead!”  An agent recently mentioned that when he was jogging early in the morning in his preferred listing area, that every home had the Los Angeles Times on their doorstep!  When he started advertising his listings there, his statistics for listings rose dramatically!  Marketing is a living form of communication, it waxes and wanes, and like a surfer you have to be able to read the waves of change.   You cannot read the waves on the Internet.  


To make money, you have to spend money on marketing and use professionals for photography, video, etc.  Our broker/owner clients use the same photographer for their real estate inventory, whether is it a humble home or a significant estate.


Spend you money wisely by researching.   One of our clients was approached to enroll in an expensive international affiliation group.  When asked what was the return on investment other than perception, the salesperson kept referring to prestige and visibility on the net.  For our client, it was less expensive and more profitable to place a monthly ad in the local magazine where a significant number of listing calls and sales came from.  The ads generated income as well as the prestige of success.  


When it comes to research, you cannot be lazy and take someone’s word for it.  You have to doubt and verify, doubt and verify.  We are often queried on a marketing strategy, and we will respond with: “We do not know!”  We may have an idea, but until we research, check and double check, we will not say a word.

Foodies Find Silver Lining - Part 2 Focus On A Niche


Had it not been for the recent Santa Barbara fire and flood tragedies that prompted us to get out of town for a break, we most likely would have missed the great culinary adventures that are covered in this article series. Rediscovering nearby Ojai, California, proved to be the perfect silver lining for two luxury real estate brand strategists who happen to also be major foodies. On our trip we not only found some great markets and restaurants but also a wine shop that exemplified excellence in niche marketing: Focus! 

Most luxury real estate marketing professionals are challenged to differentiate themselves from their competition in a sea of sameness.  Local wine merchants face the same challenge. So how can you set yourself apart and build a solid client base of loyal customers or clients? Focus on a niche!

Ojai’s Point de Chêne is a wine shop “with a focus on family-owned, terroir-driven wines, naturally-farmed”.  The main brand concept here is that they have a bespoke (tailor-made) collection of wines, personally selected for their target market that appreciates these values. The brand name incorporates the French word (Chêne) for oak trees, which proliferate in Ojai and also refers to the wood barrels where wines age. 


The key to the success of Point de Chêne is their focus, which resonates with the values of their target market. Family-owned means that the wine is not produced by a large conglomerate; you are experiencing the vision of the owners themselves. Terroir means the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. An example of naturally-farmed is using horses to pull the wagons that are filled with grapes during harvest vs. tractors that trample the roots of the vines.

The bespoke collection that Bob Huey, owner of Point de Chêne, has personally curated is based solely on this focus.  Once you trust Bob’s taste, which we do, you want to JOIN Bob’s brand, follow his lead and enjoy the journey. Plus, you naturally want to help spread the word to other like-minded wine drinkers who would also appreciate Bob’s focus. That is how niche marketing, done right, works!

On our first visit Bob was not there. But, Jessica Pregnolato enchanted us and clearly articulated the wine shop's extraordinary promise of value. We were instantly delighted and then hooked on Point de Chêne after tasting the wines Jessica personally recommended. 

We cannot wait to share our experience of a Champagne that Bob recommended. It is produced by one of the most up-and-coming young winemakers in the Champagne region. His family has been winegrowing for over 500 years and this young man has brazenly introduced the naturally-farmed methodology to produce a winner! Stay tuned for Part 3!


Two Foodies Find the Silver Lining – Part 1


Greetings from the fire and flood zone of Santa Barbara, California! We have been through a rough month here. But, everything is relative. We did not lose our home or our life, as did our number one market leader in luxury real estate. For us, this local tragedy represented a challenge to maintain our focus and also to keep our spirits high, to practice what we preach to our clients: Continuously look for opportunities and find evidence of a silver lining.

With our main Highway 101 closed (both north and south of us) during the aftermath of this tragedy and the intensive cleanup operations that have been ongoing, we were completely isolated. Finally, last week southbound 101 towards Los Angeles was opened and we took off like birds out of a cage.

Just 30 minutes away to the south and up into the mountains of Los Padres National Forrest is the quaint town of Ojai, which is known for its progressive, “New Age” thinking and also for its artist colony. Although, the fires reached the surrounding area it spared the town itself, so it made the perfect getaway. Besides, we had not been there for many years.

As two foodies we naturally discovered a great restaurant for breakfast and then found two wonderful independent grocery stores that offer unique organic and homemade delicacies that are not available in our own area. One major market find was the famous Cowgirl Creamery artisan cheeses brought in from Northern California.  Another was homemade sausage including hot Italian, country style and chorizo.

Breakfast at Home Kitchen of Ojai was a total delight apart from our own indecision over the extensive menu with too many amazing choices.  We settled on the Ojai omelet: Bacon, Avocado, Green Chili, Sour Cream, Salsa and Cheddar Cheese.  But, the biggest surprise was their complimentary “signature” Swedish Pancake that everyone was offered, on the house.

The pancake was a remarkable gesture that should give “food for thought” to luxury real estate marketing professionals. It certainly has sparked word-of-mouth advertising from us!

Be sure to catch Part 2 of this article series as we share our silver lining discovery of Point de Chêne, a wine store in Ojai that has absolutely nailed its brand positioning and messaging-another wonderful lesson for luxury real estate marketing professionals.

A Beautiful Brand Image: Can You Identify The Business?


We are firm believers that a brand's image should always communicate the identity of the business at first glance.  In this instance, we were drawn to the aesthetics of the beautiful signage.   The artistry of the sign was evident by using a combination of wood and metal work.  However, the sign did not give us even a clue as to the nature of the business.  Can you identify the business based on the sign?

How To Break Into The Luxury Real Estate Business

                                   Torres Del Paine, Patagonia Chile

                                   Torres Del Paine, Patagonia Chile

If you are considering transitioning into the business of selling top-tier price homes, you need a plan and a strategy. There are always those who “fall into” a new business venture.  But, for most people, it requires preparation. As Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Recently, we were chatting with the ambitious young man at our farmers market that sells outstanding raw milk and cheese fresh from his local dairy. He had been on vacation with his wife and kids in Chile where he discovered a significant underserved market for his products. He and his family fell in love with the area and started dreaming about one day moving to Chile to start a large-scale dairy business.

He shared with us how he is going about preparing to make this business and lifestyle transition. He made a list of the skills he would need to acquire to meet the challenge. For example, he needed to learn to speak Spanish which he already has begun doing. He also needed to learn how to operate some heavy equipment.  And, he realized that he needed to develop an alternative income source to take care of the family as the new venture was getting up and running. So, he has started learning computer coding so he can get “gigs” in Chile remotely with just an Internet connection.

The same type of methodical planning, strategizing and preparation is what it takes to break into the luxury real estate business. It all starts by recognizing the right opportunity: the underserved or uncontested market niche that you can dominate. With enough preparation you are sure to get lucky!

Happy New Years - 2018!




Celebrating New Year’s Day On January First Thanks To Julius Caesar!

               Karl Theodor von Piloty painting of The Murder of Julius Caesar 1865

               Karl Theodor von Piloty painting of The Murder of Julius Caesar 1865

New Year’s Day is one of the oldest holidays celebrated by mankind.  Historically it originated in Babylon.  Babylon was a kingdom founded in Mesopotamia, 18th-6th century B.C., today known as Iraq. The Babylonians celebrated the New Year for eleven days on the first day of spring. Every culture in the ancient world celebrated New Year’s Day at different times of the year.

With the growth of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar wanted to simplify the calendar for all the empire.  Working with Sosigenes, the Egyptian astronomer and scholar from Alexandria, the Julian calendar was established.

Sosigenes was the brainchild of the Egyptian Calendar based on the movement of the sun. He divided the year on 365 ¼ days, 12 months. Each month was given 30-31 days, except for February with 28 days. Every fourth year (leap year) February was reduced to 23 days. The Egyptian calendar became the  model for the Julian calendar.

Julius Caesar decreed that New Year’s Day would be celebrated on January 1st.   And New Year's Day remains the oldest holiday celebrated by mankind.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas, Merry Every Holiday You Are Celebrating!


Ron and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Merry every Holiday Your Are Celebrating!  The above picture is of a Christmas tree that was taken at Westerlay Orchids Greenhouse.  Every year, they use live orchid spikes placed in water vials as the ornaments for the tree.

Cheers, Ron & Alexandra Seigel!

Branding Moment: A Wonderful Example of Taboo Branding And Marketing!

IMG_0148 2.jpg

Taboo branding and marketing is a great way to attract someone's attention.  In our time starved world, it can do the job effectively.  It has value in that it takes a person out of their humdrum existence, and gets them to notice the brand.  

Yesterday evening, we stopped at Carpinteria wine to have Jane the owner suggest a Zinfandel for our spicy dinner plans.  Zin is always a great match to spicy and smoked foods.

As we were discussing the pros and cons of several labels, we spotted this case of Zyn-Phomaniac, pictured above. Their slogan is hilarious also, "Zyn-Phomaniac, You can never have enough!"  

This Zin has won numerous awards, however, not enough to convince us to buy a bottle, just enough to convince to write a post about it. Here is the description from the website,

                                       The Sensuous Zin

Lush, fruit-forward Old Vines Zin from the well-regarded Lodi appellation. Smooth, full-bodied, arousing dark fruit aromas and rich, spicy flavors with a bold voluptuous mouth feel."

We do appreciate their taboo branding, and we have no doubt they will attract their perfect buyers and Zin lovers.

Would we recommend this type of branding or marketing for real estate? We have seen it done on several occasions.  It has shock value and can work to attract sellers, because the taboo effect is silently implying that the listing broker and agent will do whatever it takes to get the property sold.  Some sellers respond to this, and some sellers would not.  It depends on your marketplace.

Branding Moment: Choose Your Words Carefully To Convey Your Message!


Using the right words to convey your message is one of most important factors in branding and marketing yourself and or your company. The right words will emphasize your uniqueness and your value to your intended audience.

Last year, as we were meandering through the back streets of Florence, we walked into this wine store.  We were impressed with the façade and the interior of the store as pictured above.   We had a delightful conversation with the owner, and he furthered our knowledge on Italian wines.

As we walked out, we focused on the name of the store.!  Just to make sure, we knew what the word obsequium meant we looked it up.  We even researched the Italian dictionary to be sure that the meaning and nuances of the word in order to be certain that the meaning agreed with the English version. And they did!

Definition of obsequium.: the customary respectful behavior due from a freedman to his patron or former master under ancient Roman law including freedom from lawsuit by the freedman except with the consent of the praetor (the magistrate) and the duty to support the patron when needy.

Then, we went one step further in our thinking. The word obsequious as an adjective is not exactly one that is flattering. It is defined as: fawning or sycophantic compliance and exaggerated deference of manner.” 

We  cannot figure out how the word "obsequious relates to the wine industry. The logo font is adorned with a Roman column in the design is attractive.  It conveys history and heritage.  We enjoyed looking at their tastefully displayed wines (pictured below.).

obs 2.jpg

From our point of view, we do notunderstand how this brand relates to wine.  As far as this brand is concerned , we appreciate that it provided us with an opportunity to write a branding moment blog post.   Are you using the right words to convey your message? 


Throwback Thursday: Following Up On Spaghetti Marketing!


On February 27, 2014, we wrote a post called Luxury Real Estate Marketing Tips:  Spaghetti Marketing: Marketing Your Strengths.  We discussed the woes of the then Italian economy  (2 trillion Euros in debt). 

At that time the idea of developing a food theme park in Bologna was born, known as Eataly.  The entrepreneurs took over 80,00 square feet of warehouse space and 20 acres of land in Bologna.  This project included using the land to grow food.  It made its debut in November of 2015.   It became a resounding success and subsequently the owners opened stores in New York, and Chicago.


In November of 2017, the Los Angeles store in Century City conveniently situated between Beverly Hills and the Westside of Los Angeles has opened its doors.  Spaghetti marketing had made its mark in California, after opening in 2 locations in New York and in Chicago.


As we mentioned in our post yesterday, we bought fresh egg and spinach pasta as well as Proscuitto di San Daniele, considered to be the best in class. We made the classic Italian Dish, paille e fieno (straw=egg tagliatelle and hay=spinach tagliatelle), (pictured above).

The pasta is tossed with a cream sauce flavored with fresh shallots and garlic to which freshly grated Parmesan is added. When the pasta is ready, you add the prosciutto and fresh peas and toss and serve.

According to friends, the place has been mobbed since the day it opened.  We were fortunate to be there in the morning, and we had the whole store to ourselves to explore. And everything we bought was great.  Spaghetti Marketing,  or Marketing Your Strengths really works.

Branding Moments: Does Your Brand Make It Easy For Others To Refer You?


The value of a great brand in luxury real estate or any other real estate market is that it makes it easy for others to refer you and your business.  If there is a slogan that accompanies the brand, the slogan should further clarify for others the reason to patronize your business.  

We spotted Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille Sign (pictured above) in the Park Meadows shopping center near Denver, Colorado.  We felt that their slogan, “rare & well done,” described their promise of value. We also liked the double meaning in those four words.

Even though we rarely eat meat, we walked in to check out the menu. We found a fish dish as well as other seafood items.  This led us to make a reservation.  We loved the main course and side dishes we ordered, the ambiance, the wine list, and the dessert.  The service was just right. 

We also shared our experience the next day with all our family members at our Thanksgiving feast.  They live close-by and had not tried the restaurant.  Based on our experience, they are planning to dine there..

Does your brand make it easy for others to refer you?