Publisher’s Muse

Successful Real Estate Agents vs Unsuccessful Ones [26 Habits That Differentiate Them] - Written by Warren Dow of DIGS

Successful Real Estate Agents vs Unsuccessful Ones [26 Habits That Differentiate Them]

1.3 million Real Estate Agents in U.S.

The real estate industry is fascinating to me on several levels – 
1.) It’s a commission-based industry that has super competitive real estate agents
2.) It involves the largest and most significant emotional and financial purchase of peoples’ lives.

According to the National Association of Realtors member report, there were 1.3 million Realtors in the U.S. in 2018, all fighting it out for their share of the roughly $60 billion in annual real estate commissions distributed annually.

It’s an industry I’ve spent the last nine years in as an advocate for real estate agents – call me crazy, but as a career salesman myself, I’m passionate about the challenge agents have in differentiating themselves in this hyper-competitive and crowded space.

The real estate industry is truly “feast or famine” and survival of the “marketing fittest.”

It’s a big challenge and getting bigger by the day.

Differentiating a commodity.

Simply stated, real estate agents perform the same exact basic function in the marketplace – they act on behalf of buyers/sellers as an “agent” in the real estate transaction.

To better understand, there are approximately 200,000 active and about 95,000 active brokers agents in California in 2019.

So, what differentiates successful agents from unsuccessful agents?

Are they all the same, are some better?

Let me answer that question with a question. 

Are all Plumbers, Electricians, Physicians, Surgeons, Car washes, Dry cleaners, Coffee shops the same?

Of course not.

That’s why to me, working with realtors is a marketer’s dream.

DIGS was created for the sole purpose of helping top agents differentiate themselves:
Helping uncover their unique value-proposition
Building a strong personal real estate brand in the local communities they serve.

While I have your much-valued attention, let me share:

26 key differentiators between successful real estate agents and unsuccessful agents

  1. If you go-to-market like a commodity, then you’re a commodity.
  2. If you’re out of sight in the local community, you’re out of mind.
  3. Who are you? Why are you doing this? What’s in it for me? Know thyself, be thyself.
  4. Value, consistency, frequency, relevance, audience & story – marketing 101.
  5. Stop interrupting, soliciting, and spamming – it’s the best way to destroy your brand.
  6. The goal is to be sought, not found.
  7. Remember that knowledge is your real source of income – transfer it.
  8. You’re not in the transaction business, you’re in the “relationship for life” business.
  9. Don’t fall prey to the “this” or “that” marketing trap (i.e. “print” or “digital”?).
  10. Don’t start with the marketing channel/distribution, start with your customer.
  11. If you have listings (active or sold,) keep them visible in the community you serve, it’s the best “call to action” marketing content you have and demonstrates performance.
  12. Marketing your brand is an investment, not an expense.
  13. Don’t litter every social media channel with content for the sake of content – make sure your content has purpose and adds value.
  14. Before you ask, give.
  15. Don’t be a marketing island, go to where the real estate attention is being paid.
  16. You’re not smarter than the market, your consumer, or your competitors.
  17. Don’t send out the same bad template email newsletters that every other Realtor sends out, unless you want to stay a commodity.
  18. Don’t be “all things to all people” – stand for something, be authentic, have a point of view & remember it’s okay to be vulnerable.
  19. It’s not about you – in fact, nobody cares about you! It’s all about them.
  20. There are no shortcuts, slow and steady wins the race – stop chasing.
  21. Practice permission marketing (see Seth Godin).
  22. Start with the Why (see Simon Sinek).
  23. Clarify your message, build a StoryBrand (see Donald Miller).
  24. Become a “real estate mayor” of your community (see Gary Vaynerchuk).
  25. Don’t chase shiny new objects (see Warren Dow on LinkedIn). 😉
  26. “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.” ~ David Ogilvy
marketer's love shiny new objects - written by Warren Dow

Marketer’s Love Shiny New Objects

Marketers love shiny new objects.

And in today’s attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) marketing world, this just adds to the noise, confusion and eroding trust that consumers have with brands.

It’s also why so many brands are unsure and frustrated with their marketing efforts and results.  Marketing at the highest level has become a race to nowhere.

Did you know the average tenure for a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is about four years?  Why? Shiny new objects.

Churn. Burn. Repeat cycle.

While it’s easy for me to sit on my throne and pontificate, I’m actually fascinated and passionate about marketing, building brands and how the continued disruptive landscape makes the challenge to get right infinitely harder.

As an entrepreneur, it’s also what keeps me up at night as I try to better understand and reconcile the evolving marketing narrative.

Sadly, much of today’s marketing is vapid and lacks empathy.

“Even on the highest throne, we are all still sitting on our asses”
Michel de Montaigne


7.7 billion media companies worldwide

Well that’s not true actually, it’s the estimated population of the world in 2019.  But the absurdly high number I’m using to illustrate my point is that in today’s connected world, everyone has the ability to produce content and distribute at scale. 

Therefore, in theory, we’re all media companies – producing posts, images, messages, tweets, videos, blogs and so on.

The end result – we’re all competing for attention, not just brands…everyone with a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/YouTube/Pinterest account, a blog, website and an email address.

With an unlimited capacity and potential to fill the world with content comes limitless ways to market and distribute it, which is why there are over 402 million results when you google “best marketing strategies.”

Thus, the marketer’s paradox.

Slowing down the game

The best professional athletes in every sport all share a common trait – they’ve found an ability to “slow the game down” and in doing so are able to compete at an entirely higher level than their peers.  (Think Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant and their ability to take over games and score at will – to always be one step ahead because the game was moving much slower for them.)

This is precisely what businesses and marketers need to do today to break through and have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Today’s marketers want to be magicians, snap their fingers and magically the ace of spades appears in their hand.  The real world doesn’t work this way.

So, what should you do next? 

First, take a deep breath, go back to the very beginning and reset. Revisit and get clarity of why you exist, your purpose and what problem you’re trying to solve for consumers and what unique value you bring to the market.

Next, clearly articulate and understand the story of your brand.  Remember, good stories connect us to our purpose, our vision and allow us to celebrate our strengths and creation journey – how we got from there to here.

Simply stated, your marketing should be a projection of that.

Slow down and shift your business mindset back to its core origin – as Seth Godin likes to say, “people like us do things like this.”  ‘There is no more powerful tribal marketing connection than this.’


Say no.

Don’t chase shiny new objects.

Don’t start with a distribution channel. (“What’s our Facebook strategy?”)

Don’t constantly react to the marketplace.

Don’t play “intellectual tennis” with blathering marketing buzzards.

Don’t try to be the smartest marketing guy in the room.

There are no absolutes in marketing.  Play the long game. Slow down, it’s not a race.


Your story driven brand is your funnel.

The ultimate marketing outcome is that your brand is sought out versus being found. 

That your brand attracts and magnetizes like-minded people and gives them a story to tell and a community “tribe” to be part of.

Brands need to develop a marketing mindset versus a product mindset.

Before you spend your precious marketing dollars, remember this:

Market buzzards are tactical and one-dimensionally focused on selling products and services.

Market wizards are strategic, multi-dimensional and obsessed with articulating and amplifying your story-driven brand purpose and unique value proposition.

Perhaps, Peter Drucker said it best…

“The purpose of marketing is to make selling irrelevant.”

Until next time ~


Intellectual Tennis — The New Game In Marketing

The new game in marketing.

I’ve been having all kinds of interesting marketing conversations lately, which got me thinking.  Today’s marketing dialog has changed for the worse. 

I call it “intellectual tennis.”  Back and forth the ball goes, no clear outcome, only monotonous boredom, mental fatigue and finally exhaustion. 

In the marketing world, everyone has something to say and a “pitch.”  After all, to be a marketing expert today one merely has to amniote themselves with the title.

My personal marketing worldview can be defined in a single word…


:: talk long-windedly without making very much sense

:: to talk foolishly at length

:: voluble nonsensical or inconsequential talk or writing

But I’m not giving up, there is hope and an opportunity to educate and inform here – it’s become a personal passion for me, so much so, that I feel a “fiduciary responsibility” as an entrepreneur in this space.

No alt text provided for this image

Running with the bulls.

Marketing terms and proclamations are everywhere in the digitally driven world we now live in.

If you have talked to a marketing expert in the last 5 years, you have likely heard some or all of the following “must be true” statements.


…It’s all about digital.         

…It’s all about social media.

…It’s all about video.          

…It’s all about content marketing.

…It’s all about SEO.

…It’s all about #HashTags.

…It’s all about Influencers.

…It’s all about Blogging.

…It’s all about retargeting.            

…It’s all about podcasts.

…It’s all about Facebook/Instagram       

…It’s all about (insert favorite social platform here.)

…It’s all about SMS text messaging.

…It’s all about audience targeting.

…It’s all about geofencing.

…It’s all about apps.

…It’s all about landing pages.

…It’s all about lead generation.

It’s all about (I could go on and on here but let me get to the point!)

Please excuse my vulgarity in advance, but my response is…

…”It’s all bullshit.”

Google “Best marketing strategy for 2019.”

Are you surprised to see that there are about 413,000,000 results? 

I’m not. These days, everyone is a marketing expert, which only means that no one is a marketing expert.

Think about the “best marketing strategy for 2019” question for a minute.  At its premise, the question assumes that the answer is the same for everyone.  The local dry cleaner, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, hair salons, fitness centers, plumbers, car dealers, Starbucks, etc.

Let’s be real. 

If the world operates as American novelist Thomas Berger states “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge,” – we may have a problem here!

If I may, allow me to riff off of French philosopher Voltaire’s famous quote, “Judge a marketing man by his questions rather than by his answers.”


You may have heard of the expression, “garbage in, garbage out.”  This perfectly captures the spirit of the moment – in marketing, as in science and mathematics, the quality of the output is directly determined by the quality of the input.

The best marketers don’t sell anything.  They don’t start with an input.  They start by asking intelligent questions and search to find the authenticity and value propositions that exist in the subject brand. 

The best marketers ask “why do you exist and why should people care about you?”  Once fully understood and articulated, they tell stories that engage, connect and resonate with an intended audience.

Today’s worst marketers are like shoe salesmen – “here’s our shoes, what’s your size?”  They start with products and services to sell.  They specialize in shoe sizes.  Their purpose and mission is to sell shoes.  The end results are no surprise – garbage in, garbage out.

A license to market.

If you want to sell financial securities, you need a stock broker’s license and must pass a series 6 or 7 exam.  If you want to be a Nurse you need an RN license. If you want to drive a bus you need a Class B commercial drivers’ license with a “P” endorsement.  

Should marketers need a license to market?  

After all, marketers are responsible for billions of dollars spent annually on marketing services.  

This may sound absurd, but so is the current state of marketing.

Consumers and brands deserve better.

The question is, are you giving them better?


DIGS Magazine celebrates our 200th issue | South Bay DIGS & Westside DiGS

Reflecting Back on DIGS 200th Issue

Life Before DIGS

I started my career in media in 1992 as an account executive at BAM magazine.  BAM was a free bi-weekly music magazine founded in 1976 by Dennis Erokan in San Francisco and covered musicians, the music scene and its culture.   As a musician myself, this was an exciting time for me as I was able to work on something that I was truly passionate about.

The media landscape was much different back then, as the internet was in its infancy and marketers still relied on and leveraged traditional media channels like (print, TV, radio.)

BAM was a case study in the niche publishing model and was able to capture the attention of an audience around a topic that they were passionate about, (music) and thus created a lot of value for both consumers and advertisers along the way.

My time at BAM was invaluable – I was immersed into the world of guerilla marketing and I learned how to create ad campaigns from scratch for local music retailers that ultimately would have to deliver results.  And best of all, I was part of a community who had shared interests, passions, and dreams.


Start The Press

In 1995 my media career took a 180˙ turn when I joined a commercial printing company, (where DIGS magazine prints today!)  With aspirations to become a Publisher at some point in my future, this was a logical  progression as I became an expert in the printing process, which is typically the highest cost center for a magazine business.

The best part, my clients were publishers of prestigious magazines and newspapers – I was in good company, to say the least.

FUN FACT: The Daily Breeze, Beach Reporter & Easy Reader were all personal clients of mine back in the day and I helped the Breeze outsource the printing of the daily paper to our company to print alongside the National edition of the
New York Times.


The Digital Revolution

I spent the next 14 years in commercial printing, working my way up from sales to eventually becoming the President & CEO of a $250 million company.  It was during this period of time that I was fortunate to be immersed in the media world, having a “front row seat” to the transformative and disruptive change that the internet would bring.  I got to see firsthand, how the largest media companies of the day were doing to adapt (or not) with the changing landscape – it was a crazy time, to say the least, and highly educational.


“You Must Be Crazy!”

In 2008, I decided to leave the printing industry, do some soul searching and explore the possibilities of “reinventing myself.” 

With a keen understanding of the perilous future of print in the new digital age, I decided to go against the grain and do something that made little sense to any rational person at the time – start a magazine!  My friends, peers, and family all thought I had lost my mind, but my ignorance was truly bliss.


Finding My Place

It was 2010, the economy was bad, and the real estate industry was worse.  I started to imagine what it would be like to be a local real estate agent during this time – how the old rules were changing and how hard it was going to be sustain and grow their business. 

It didn’t take long before I was convicted to the mission – I wanted to try and solve this problem, or at least add some value along the way.

But not from some high-minded “top-down” media owner or publishers’ perspective, rather from a “bottoms up” guerilla marketing perspective.  It was about challenging the status quo – align with the disruption in the market and harness it to elevate across the board.

With a marketing approach and mindset, it was all about helping agents and local real estate consumers “find your place” in the community.   And with that tag line, DIGS was started in the summer of 2010.


DIGS is Born

Going to market with a marketing company mindset meant I could break all the rules in publishing.  Everything about DIGS, from the size of the magazine to the frequency, was engineered to maximize marketing results for our agent partners.

In the summer of 2010, I began to reach out to as many top agents and brokers as I could and tried to set up a meeting.  The local real estate community was still reeling from the effects of the great recession, which was fortuitous for both
of us as it allowed for an open dialog and open-mindedness.

As I look back and reflect on these first meetings, I’m reminded how grateful I am to those first few agents that took a leap
into the void and decided to take a chance on a total unknown. We would have never existed without them!

Fast forward a few months – the first DIGS magazine was published on October 8, 2010 – 28 pages of hope, sweat, and inspiration.

In my very first Publisher’s Muse, I wrote:

‘Our mission is to build the market-leading communications platform for the South Bay community “real estate experience” – a 360˙ real estate marketplace that connects the local real estate consumer to real estate professionals who live and work in the community.’


Reality Bites

With no investors and a substantial personal investment to get this going, the money clock was ticking fast. 

I’ll never forget this moment – it was a cold and cloudy mid-December day, DIGS had just released its 5th publication and I went to the bank to get a current account balance.

It was $354.00.

Okay, maybe this is going to be harder than I thought. 

It might have been a happy coincidence, but it was at this time I first heard the phrase, “fake it till you make it,” and the timing was poetic.

South Bay DIGS celebrates our 200th issue


Patience. Perseverance. Progress.

The rest, as they say, is history. 

I could probably write a novel on my personal journey on how DIGS came to be and the process of building a brand from the ground up.

The reward and success is in the journey – the ups and downs and the twists and turns along the way.

The one thing that has stuck with me since the early days is how welcoming and encouraging the brokers and agents were to me day one, inviting me to the office meetings and introducing me to other agents. 

The South Bay real estate community is special and unique.

I’m still in awe and humbled that this community has allowed us to exist for what will be nine years this October, and the fact that this edition marks the 200th publication is truly remarkable.  (Did you know…our Westside DIGS magazine celebrates our 4-year anniversary this month? No wonder my hair has turned grey!)

Today, DIGS distributes over 100,000 magazines per month in the most affluent communities in the South Bay and Westside of Los Angeles.  Each combined edition has $1 billion worth of properties that are advertised for sale – an indispensable resource and marketplace for agents and consumers to connect.


It’s A Privilege And Honor To Serve You

A sincere thank you.

To the local community, for embracing us and allowing us to lead the real estate conversation. 

To our marketing partners, who continue to support and grow with us. 

To our readers, who keep us relevant and accountable to our mission.

In your service,

Warren Dow
Founder & CEO

architect richard neutra

Architect Richard Neutra Brentwood Home Available For the First-Time

We’re gearing up for our annual Architect | Design | Build special edition of DIGS, which publishes in December to close out the year, and this midcentury modern that just hit the market for $3M caught my eye. It’s located at the very top of Brentwood’s exclusive Tigertail Road and was designed by Richard Neutra in 1960 for Elsa and Robert Sale.

Measuring 1,632 square feet and sitting on a 1.02-acre lot, this timeless classic features walls of glass, built-in furniture and seating, wood paneling and vibrant mosaics created by the owner Elsa Sale.

1531 North Tigertail Road, Brentwood, CA 90049
3 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms | 1632 Sq. Ft | 1.02 Acre Lot
Offered at $3,000,000
Listing by Christina Hildebrand, Crosby Doe
Crosby Doe Associates, Inc.

Warren J Dow | Publisher | | 310.373.0142 x2461
Images courtesy of Cameron Carothers & Crosby Doe Associates, Inc.

South Redondo Beach home prices up

South Redondo Beach Home Prices Are… Up Up And Away !

Like most neighborhoods in the South Bay, home prices have appreciated significantly over the last five years and South Redondo Beach is no exception. Consider this – the median sold price for South Redondo Beach (all areas) was $1,001,437 in 2013 and rose to $1,639,937 in 2018 (Y-T-D) – a 63.76% increase in median home prices!

Here’s a look at home price appreciation for single-family residences per neighborhood in South Redondo Beach over the period 2013-2018 year-to-date:

Hollywood Riviera
Median Sales Price up 50.26%
Average Sales Price up 67.95%
Price per Square Foot up 46.22%

North of Torrance Blvd
Median Sales Price up 48.83%
Average Sales Price up 47.77%
Price per Square Foot up 39.87%

South of Torrance Blvd
Median Sales Price up 86.86%
Average Sales Price up 74.59%
Price per Square Foot up 36.90%

West of Pacific Coast Highway
Median Sales Price up 67.45%
Average Sales Price up 42.89%
Price per Square Foot up 41.93%

MRMLS single-family residence average sales in South Redondo Beach. Information is deemed accurate but not guaranteed.

Los angeles market trends - PV home view

Publisher’s Muse


Owned a home in Manhattan Beach since 2013?
Congratulations, the price of your home has appreciated at least 33% over the last 5 years!
Here’s a look at median home price appreciation for single-family residences per neighborhood over the 5-year period 2013-2017:

  • Sand Section 5-Year Median Sales Price up 59.44%
  • Tree Section 5-Year Median Sales Price up 43.68%
  • Hill Section 5-Year Median Sales Price up 51.54%
  • Village 5-Year Median Sales Price up 52.05%
  • Heights/Liberty Village 5-Year Median Sales Price up 33.58%
  • Mira Costa 5-Year Median Sales Price up 34.33%


    MRMLS single family residence average sales in Manhattan Beach. Information is deemed accurate but not guaranteed.

    Warren J Dow | Publisher | | 310.373.0142 x2461

Los angeles market trends - PV home view

Westside LA Q3 Market Trends

After much debate and discussion, it looks like the real estate market is slowing down. According to CoreLogic’s Home Price Index report for August, home appreciation during the month was the slowest in two years.

“The rise in mortgage rates this summer to their highest level in seven years has made it more difficult for potential buyers to afford a home,” stated Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. Dr. Nothaft also said that CoreLogic expects appreciation to slow further in the coming year.

Locally, we’ve seen plenty of price appreciation, but the real story is the decline in the number of sold properties, down across the board with the exception of Brentwood, (up a mere 1.05%) and Malibu Beach, (up 31.25%.)

Of particular note, Santa Monica’s median sale price year-to-date is up 16.83% from last year and up 26.5% in September 2018 vs. September 2017.

Warren J Dow | Publisher | | 310.373.0142 

MRMLS single-family residence average sales in Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Malibu Beach, and Venice. Information is deemed accurate but not guaranteed.

South Bay Market Trends Q3

After much debate and discussion, it looks like the real estate market is slowing down. According to CoreLogic’s Home Price Index report for August, home appreciation during the month was the slowest in two years.

“The rise in mortgage rates this summer to their highest level in seven years has made it more difficult for potential buyers to afford a home,” stated Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. Dr. Nothaft also said that CoreLogic expects appreciation to slow further in the coming year.

Locally, we’ve seen plenty of price appreciation, but the real story is the decline in the number of sold properties, down across the board with the exception of El Segundo, which has experienced a 15.79% increase in closed sales this year.

MRMLS single-family residence average sales in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, South Redondo Beach, North Redondo Beach, and Hollywood Riviera. Information is deemed accurate but not guaranteed.

Warren J Dow | Publisher | | 310.373.0142 x2461

santa monica pier_ home prices

Santa Monica Home Prices Up 45% Since 2013


The average sales price for single-family homes in Santa Monica reaches a new record high in August at $3,386,000, up 16% from a year earlier. If we look back five years, the average sale price is up 44.76%, when the average sale price was $2,339,070.

The average price per square foot paid for single-family homes this year has also reached a new high at $1,219 and is up 42% versus 2013 when the average price per square foot was $860.

In August 2018, the average sales price in 90402 was $3,996,913, up 6.8% versus August 2017, 90403 registered $1,613,288, an increase of 6.7% and 90405 came in at $1,686,900, up 7.9%.



Vintage 1907 Craftsman

The highest recorded sale in Santa Monica thus far this year is a charming home with modern upgrades that pay homage to its original Craftsman character. Situated on a 20,236 square foot lot with lush park like grounds, this 5 bed, 5 bath, 5,501 square foot home features Mahogany and Douglas fir paneling and flooring, a vintage stone fireplace in living room, gourmet kitchen and commanding canyon, mountain and ocean views.

Original List Price: $11,999,000
Closed Sale Price: $11,100,000
Listing Agent: Kate Bransfield, Coldwell Banker Residential

*MRMLS single family residence average sales in Santa Monica Information is deemed accurate but not guaranteed.

Buyers pay more Palos Verdes Estates

Buyers Pay More in Palos Verdes Estates Vs RPV


Based on the median sales price for single-family homes in August 2018, buyers in Palos Verdes Estates pay 42.27% more than their Rancho Palos Verdes counterparts. (Keep in mind, this will vary depending on which specific neighborhood you are comparing.) However, the price gap may be narrowing. In the same August period in 2015, the median price premium in PVE over RPV was 63.50%, in 2016 it was 55.01%, and 2017 it was 54.81%. Therefore, the premium gap has been reduced by 21.23% since 2015. Interesting development.


average sales price in Brentwood up since 2013_Top Sale home

Brentwood Average Sales Price Up 47.3% Since 2013

The average sales price for single-family homes in Brentwood this year is $4,459,588, up 47.3% since 2013 when the average sale price was $3,028,045. The average price per square foot paid for single-family homes this year reached a new high at $1,128.44 and is up 31.4% versus 2013 when the average price per square foot was $858.53.

Check out the 5-Year market overview below for Brentwood.


French Chateau designed by Richard Landry

Formerly owned by New England Patriots Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen, then next by Hip Hop Mogul Dr. Dre, the estate is the highest recorded sale since 2013, this incredible European country estate sits on just under 4 acres and is covered with imported limestone.  Old World European architectural design with quintessential indoor/outdoor living, the estate includes 5 bedrooms, 9 baths, and 18,298 square feet of living space, with an infinity pool, spectacular lawns, and gardens.

Original List Price: $50,000,000
Closed Sale Price: $40,000,000

Listing Agent: Stephen Shapiro, Westside Estate Agency
Co-Listing Agent: Kurt Rappaport, Westside Estate Agency

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