August 28, 2020

JF2187: Branding With Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr

Tonya and Michael are partners from Brandface, a personal branding firm that helps real estate professionals differentiate themselves. They discuss the importance of creating a personal brand, especially in the real estate industry. You will pick up some tactics on what you should be looking at when it comes to creating and managing your personal brand.


Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr  Real Estate Background: 

  • Tonya is the Founder of BrandFace a personal branding firm that helps real estate professionals differentiate themselves
  • Brandface has clients in 41 states
  • Michael is the COO and America’s top-selling real estate auctioneer.
  • Michael has over 60 investment properties
  • Tonya is from Columbus, OH and Micheal is from Jefferson GA
  • Say hi to them at:



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Best Ever Tweet:

“People don’t do business with a logo, they do business with a person” – Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr


Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. My name is Theo Hicks and today we’ll be speaking with two people. We’ve got Tonya Eberhart and we’ve got Michael Carr. How are you guys doing today?

Tonya Eberhart: Good Theo, thank you for having us.

Michael Carr: Every day is Saturday, Theo.

Theo Hicks: That’s what I like to hear, and thank you for joining us. Looking forward to our conversation. Before we get into that though, a little bit about Tonya and Michael’s background. So Tonya is the Founder of BrandFace, a personal branding firm that helps real estate professionals differentiate themselves. Tonya and Michael are partners in BrandFace. BrandFace has clients in 41 states. Michael is also the COO of BrandFace and America’s top-selling real estate auctioneer. So maybe he can give us an example of talking super fast. Michael has over 60 investment properties. Tonya is from Columbus, Ohio. Michael is from Jefferson, Georgia, and their website is So maybe starting with Tonya, and then transitioning to Michael, could you tell us a bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Tonya Eberhart: Yep. I won’t be as fast-talking as Michael, but I can get it done. So years ago, I sold vacuum cleaners to pay my way through college. I did it for about three years, and then I sold a vacuum cleaner to a radio station engineer who suggested that I take a sales job at the radio station. And fast forward 18 years later, I was still in media sales. While I was in media sales, especially the very early days of my radio career, I noticed that when certain business owners walked into a room at an event or convention, they were almost like rockstars, and the things that differentiated them were that they were the face of their business, and they were almost always number one in their industry in the market as well.

So I understood very quickly between selling myself as a poor, young college student selling vacuum cleaners, and then helping to sell my own clients in developing their personal brands, how much it impacted their business. So that’s where BrandFace came from years later, and I’ll let this gentleman talk about how we met each other. He was actually the first real estate client for BrandFace, and hey, we became partners and I’ll let him take it from there.

Michael Carr: Well, my background is as an auctioneer. I started off my career as an automobile auctioneer. My dad had a car lot and I didn’t really want to be in that industry, but I loved it, and the guy that trained me to be an auctioneer, he said, “Hey, go get your real estate license because you might be able to call a farm sale one day, pick up an extra paycheck.” The industry was called a circuit auctioneer. So I worked a certain circuit in the Southeast, and next thing you know, I ended up with a Georgia real estate license and then a South Carolina real estate license.

Fast-forward to the year 2000, I really just used my real estate license to buy my own investments. I started buying residential properties in 1994 and I continue to buy them today. I just use my license as a way to get some kickback and commission. If anybody was invested in the late 90s, you could get 125% of what it was worth and make a commission on top of it to boot. It was fantastic years. We had to pay for it, of course, after the dotcom bust and all of that.

Fast-forward to 2006, I partnered with a company out of Irvine, California, and we got the Bear Stearns residential portfolio when they went under and we auctioned it off. We thought it would be about three years’ worth of work and ended up being about seven, and to date, I’ve been involved in over 78,000 residential transactions as a broker and an auctioneer. And then in 2013, we were working ourselves out of a job as all great auctioneers do, and I knew that REOs were coming to a flatline, and I just wanted something to do. So I came back to Jefferson, left the office in Irvine, the office in Seattle, Washington, came back to the office in the suburbs of Atlanta, opened up a arm’s length transaction brokerage, and needed help on marketing, met Tonya, and the rest, as they say, is history. She asked me after I executed the BrandFace principles to get known in the area as an investor, as a real estate broker, as a builder and developer. Then she asked me to co-write the book with her for BrandFace for Real Estate Professionals, and it’s number one in eight Amazon categories, including International Business. So it’s been a wild ride.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Well, thanks for sharing that. So the name is BrandFace. You already mentioned, Tonya, in your background, how back in your radio days, you’d walk into certain events and business owners would just walk in and certain ones of them were just rockstars, and you mentioned because number one, they’re the face of their business; number two, they’re the number one in their industry. So BrandFace, they’re the face.

So I’ve talked to people about branding before a lot in the podcasts, and there seem to be two camps. The one is, be the face of your brand and the other one is to not be the face of your brand. Think of any major corporation. So why is it that being the face of your brand in real estate is better than being behind the scenes, making it more like a logo or having multiple people be the face? What’s the main benefit towards the face, making it personal, you’re the man or the woman?

Tonya Eberhart: Okay. It’s about a personal connection. In fact, you just hit on something, Theo. On the back of all our books, our mantra says, “People don’t do business with a logo. They do business with a person.” If you think about it, in every instance where you do business, there’s a person involved. So in real estate, on a local level, we already knew coming into BrandFace — we worked with many different business owners and entrepreneurs. Real estate has been our biggest sector so far. Number one, because of the success of this gentleman with me today, and number two, because it is an industry that already leans toward that way. A lot of real estate agents already have their photo on their yard sign or their business card, and they were one of the first industries to really go all-in with that, because they realized that no matter how many people are in a brokerage, the brokerage name is great, the brokerage might have their own brand. However, it’s the individual sitting across the table from you that is going to make you decide who to do business with.

Theo Hicks: Oh yeah, perfect answer. So follow up question, for some context. So do you focus mostly with real estate agents or is it agents, investors, anyone?

Tonya Eberhart: All of the above.

Michael Carr: All of the above. We work in every genre of business, from lawyers to honestly, to medical profession. It doesn’t matter. Anything that is customer-facing, we put a face forward.

Theo Hicks: What would you say, out of all your clients, the top maybe two or three? Just if you can focus on those ones?

Tonya Eberhart: I would say real estate agents, real estate investors, and then the others is splintered, because entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. We have one surprisingly, that’s doing super well, is a skin care consultant, and she is doing incredibly well because she realized they were–

Michael Carr: On a global scale.

Tonya Eberhart: On a global scale. She realized there were many, many thousands of people like her and she wanted to set herself apart, for two reasons. Number one, for the customers who would purchase the end product, they would be the end-user of the product, and then for recruitment purposes too, because a great brand not only helps you to sell your products and services and connect with people on a human level, but it also helps you recruit the right people in for the culture you want to build.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So most people listening to this show are going to be investors, so let’s talk about that. So let’s say I’m a real estate investor, and I either have no branding at all or I’ve been focusing more on having a really nice company logo and all of my content on my website is focused towards my company, and the only place where my face is on there is maybe in the bottom corner from my bio. So what’s the first thing that I need to do in order to start working towards building up my personal brand?

Michael Carr: The most important thing is to define what it is; that’s really big. When we build a brand, we look at about 77 different criteria, but they all boil down to defining the brand. So we take personal experience from people and their life experiences and what has brought them to where they are. We try to find a natural point of differentiation. We all have them as humans. We’re all uniquely an individual and uniquely special in that way, and then we also have other people who are naturally attracted to us and attracted to not just our facial features, but the story behind why we do what we do. So you have to define what that position is, and then you have to flag it and own it. That’s the most important.

Tonya Eberhart: Yep.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so you would say, come up with some stories in your past, and then figure out a way to make that be your main brand. So maybe give us a few examples.

Michael Carr: Well, let me tell you an example of a guy actually in the Atlanta marketplace that uses this principle extremely well. There is an investor in Atlanta, and you see his billboards all over the place, and he does it extremely smart. He’s got one point of differentiation – Get a guaranteed offer on your home. He buys remnant billboards all over the city, he puts his face on there, his name, his website. There’s not even a phone number to it, and everybody on earth knows that when you see Mark, he’s going to give you a guaranteed offer on your home. That’s a point of differentiation, and that is defining that point of differentiation, and then holding that position until the business comes to you, so much as you going after the business. Does that make sense?

Theo Hicks: So is the differentiating point the billboards, or is it the guaranteed offer?

Michael Carr: No, it’s the guaranteed offer on the home.

Theo Hicks: Guaranteed offer, okay.

Michael Carr: Yeah, get a guaranteed offer on your home, and that’s his point of differentiation.

Tonya Eberhart: They can range, Theo, from many different things. They can be personality-driven, they can be attributes, or things that just set you apart in how you conduct business. They can be a promise of doing business. It can be a differentiator that says, “I service this area or this type of customer.” It can really be anything you want it to be. The most important thing is, first of all, you’ve got to look in that definition phase who you’re trying to attract. Who are those ideal customers?

But here’s what happens a lot of when it comes to branding. People think of marketing first and branding later, and they’re two very different things. Marketing is utilizing platforms and vehicles to get a message out to the world. Get a message out to your customers and try to draw them in. Your brand is the message and image that you put out there on those marketing vehicles. So if you think about it this way, how on earth would you even begin to know what to put on any of your marketing, what to even post on social media, for goodness sake, unless first of all, you knew who it was you’re trying to attract. So in that define phase, we look at ideal customers and point of differentiation; those two things. Does that help with a little clarity?

Theo Hicks: 100%.

Michael Carr: For me, mine’s “America’s top-selling real estate auctioneer” because nobody’s auctioned off more residential properties than me, period. Because of that, even though it’s an arm’s length transaction brokerage that Tonya helped me try to launch, I still was a very active investor, especially in those times when there was still a lot of remnants laying around that we could pick up.

I moved directly from buying housing to buying building blocks because there’s this lag time of years there where nobody believed land was ever going to be worth anything anymore until they ran out of it, but they were still very excited about paying too much for houses at foreclosure auction. So what we did was we took my point of differentiation from my experience level, and then she taglined “America’s top-selling real estate auctioneer”, and then the secondary was the confidence at that time – 65,000 transactions. We leveraged the fact that no matter where you stood in line, if you wanted me to sell your house, I can sell your house for you. If you want me to buy your house, I could buy your house, and then we’d just show them the door one, door two, door three, and then let you choose which door worked best for your family type of situation. So we took my experience, and then we’ve defined it that way, and then pointed it at the ideal customers that we were trying to attract.

Theo Hicks: I really appreciate you explaining that right there. You said the top auctioneer, that crystallized in my mind. Ours is “the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast”.

Tonya Eberhart: Yep.

Michael Carr: There you go.

Theo Hicks: It’s the same thing, same concept as yours.

Michael Carr: Yep, exactly.

Tonya Eberhart: It puts you in a position of differentiating yourself.

Michael Carr: Yep. Or even to the best ever, how y’all put “best ever” behind everything; that is a point of differentiation that makes you guys stand out and continue to stand out.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So I’ve defined my personal brand and know what differentiates me, I’ve got my tagline, and I’ve got my ideal customer defined. Now, what do I do?

Tonya Eberhart: What’s next? Okay, the next phase– and by the way, we call this our freedom formula. It’s three Ds – define, develop and display. I will tell you why it’s the freedom formula here in just a moment. But in the develop phase, what you’re going to do now is you’re going to develop a strong personal brand wrapped all around that point of differentiation starting with your brand colors, your personal brand logo, imagery that resonates with what you stand for and what’s going to attract your ideal customers, photos of you that are very well done and portray the image you want to portray, and most importantly, in that development phase, it’s the brand messaging that sets you apart from your elevator pitch to your biography to what we call signature sound bites, which are bullet points, if you will, highlights of your brand at a glance. The most important thing about a brand is living it and breathing it, and it all starts with how do you communicate what it is that sets you apart, and that’s done in your brand messaging. So once you’ve got the messaging and all that imagery ready to go, the development phase is complete.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, and then after that you said, define, develop and then display. So I’m sure display is get it out there.

Michael Carr: Get it out there. Use the billboards, the park benches, the social media, and it all needs to be consistent, and you need to know your ideal customer. I didn’t do it for a long time as a real estate agent. As an auctioneer, I did it naturally. When people came into an arena and I was auctioning off a group of houses or whatnot, I sized everybody up pretty fast. I could tell who my main investors were, I could tell who end user homebuyers were, I could tell– you size them up, but we don’t do that enough in business. You have a lot of listeners that are investors that are like, “Hey, I just want to attract more business and find more business, but what does that have to do with it?” Well, if you know what the lifestyle of those people are for that ideal house that you want to buy, if you know everything about that particular owner; it might be a multifamily, small one to four multifamilies or even all the way up to something bigger 200, 300, 800-unit apartment buildings, whatever that might be. If you understand that, then your messaging in the display, that messaging is clear and towards those people.

Then when you display it, you actually get a return on your investment, and you’re not just throwing out money just to get known because Zillow has enough money to be able to get known whether they knew what they were doing or don’t know what they’re doing. But for those of us like the Theos and the Mike Antonios, well you have to watch an ROI on how much money we spend out there in the display stage. It’s very important that you’ve pointed that in the right direction.

Tonya Eberhart: Yeah, otherwise you end up with what we call spray and pray marketing. You just spray it against the wall.

Michael Carr: Yeah, I’ve done a bunch of that.

Tonya Eberhart: You put something somewhere it sticks.

Theo Hicks: What’s the best way to find out after you have your target audience very finely tuned and defined to find out what marketing avenues to use like billboard or you said, park bench, social media? How do I know, after I know who my audience is, how to get in front of them the best?

Tonya Eberhart: Okay. Well, that one happens to be honestly, one of the easiest things. So there are many, many ways to get to an audience. First of all, you’ve got to figure out where your audience is spending their time. So for some of our agents, like in Phoenix, for example, we’ve got an agent who focuses on empty nesters who are moving into lifestyle-driven communities, their home is all low maintenance, they have a golf course; it’s all about the lifestyle and retirement age. So he actually started his own small newspaper in that area. Now newspaper, you’d ask nine people out of ten, they say–

Michael Carr: What’s a newspaper?

Tonya Eberhart: Yeah, what’s a newspaper? But that still works for him because his audience still reads the newspaper every day, and it’s someone else who maybe after say, first-time home buyers or growing families, they may find that reaching them is a totally different thing. Maybe they’re encompassed in a certain number of neighborhoods and new canvas and farm those neighborhoods with postcards and door hangers and things like that. So you’ve got to first drill down and say, “Where are they spending their time? How are they consuming media? What is important to them? What’s their lifestyle like, as Michael said?”, and once you dial that in, then you choose within your own budget range, what you feel you can afford to do. If all you can afford to do is do some door hangers and some postcards in one or two neighborhoods, then max it out. But if you can afford to do more, go to maybe a little local radio station whose listeners are people who share a certain lifestyle or a certain belief system, and certain things that make them alive. So it’s different for everybody. There really isn’t just one set answer to that. It’s different for everybody because it’s very dependent on the area and who the ideal customers are.

Theo Hicks: Well, there’s one thing interesting that I noticed from everything you said is it sounds like it’s better to get more maybe, I guess, I’d say local with it and smaller scale with it as opposed to saying, “Well, I’m just gonna market on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Google or whatever.” You didn’t bring up any of those. I thought that was interesting. Very interesting.

Michael Carr: Well, here’s the thing, Theo, and I find this to be the case so much. I teach this to any agents that are coming in and even investors that would come in. There’s a couple of points here. First off, if you’re buying single-family housing in developing areas, say, a major metropolitan area or whatnot, you might be dealing with elderly people or with out of town family members that are dealing with that asset. So you do have to have your social media to back up. That’s why it’s very important during the define and development phase that you complete all of that because it can’t say a different message. I told you about the guy in Atlanta that runs the billboards. Well, there’s another guy that I follow in Greenville, South Carolina, and he’s a heck of an agent, and this guy does the same thing as I’m talking about, same thing I do, same thing Mark does – will buy a house or will sell it for you; what’s best for you, you tell us. But every billboard that this guy puts up is a different message and every one of them are forgotten.

So I’m going back around to what you said. It’s important that we have Facebook and we have our Instagram accounts and we have our website, definitely. That’s your central processing unit, that’s where everything’s got to culminate because you want to push everything back to that because that’s a main source of information, but don’t spend the money on your advertising there if that’s not where that person is going to be. They might go and check you out there, but they might not find you there. I’ve got a friend on the West Coast and he’s got buyers from Huntington Beach, California, all the way up past the bay. He’s got 12 guys; he runs Pennysaver ads – I buy estates, and about one out of every 12 estates that he buys, which is all the knickknacks that people can’t get moved down in a weekend and overly ambitiously thought that they could, he ends up buying about one out of every 10 or 12 houses because he gets there, they’re sick of it, they’ve been working for three days trying to get grandma stuff out.

Grandma’s in a nursing home and they live in Colorado and the plane leaves in four hours, and here comes Big Bill; Big Bill’s buyers. They’re like, “Well, I’ll tell you what. You got nothing but junk left. I’ll hold it all for you. Oh, and what do you want for the house?” He does the bulk of his advertising in Pennysavers – I buy estates. At other websites, he uses his and he just runs I ads – I buy estates, and he gets house after house after house from that. But once you do that though, obviously they may say, “Well hold on. Who’s Big Bill?”, and you want your social media to back up your story, and this is where it goes all the way back, the importance of the authenticity of the defined state because people are pretty savvy, and they’re going to pick up pretty fast if you’re shyster, is just trying to harm them or if you’re a fair investor that deserves to make a return on their investment.

Theo Hicks: Exactly. Okay, starting with Tonya then going to Michael, what is your best personal branding advice ever?

Tonya Eberhart: I would say it is about authenticity. So don’t try to be something you’re not; embrace who you are. We had an agent in New Orleans tell us last week how much she loved her brand and it had changed her life because she realized it wasn’t about helping her compete. It was really more about making sure she didn’t have to.

Michael Carr: Yeah, also an investor.

Tonya Eberhart: Also an investor.

Michael Carr: She has about 18 properties down there. So been an investor for years.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, and then Michael, what about you?

Michael Carr: Well, on the heels of that, if you’ve got the authenticity down, be bold. Prosperity favors the bold, and we say be bold. Some people would look at my career and say, “Hey, you’ve been pretty bold,” but I look at others and think, “Man, I wish I’d been bolder.” So I’d definitely say for me, it would be bolder.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, and then before we go into the lightning round, what was the three Ds. Is there a name for it? What did you call it?

Tonya Eberhart: The freedom formula – define, develop and display because it gives you the freedom to stand on your own merits. Take your brand with you wherever you go, because your brand is you.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Alright, are you guys ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Tonya Eberhart: We’re ready.

Break [00:24:37]:02] to [00:25:49]:08]

Theo Hicks: Okay, first question that I got. I like you both to answer these. Best ever book you’ve recently read.

Tonya Eberhart: Oh. Awaken the Giant Within. Reread it for about the fourth time.

Michael Carr: Every Man’s Tell mood.

Theo Hicks: If BrandFace were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Tonya Eberhart: I would do real estate investing. I’ve had a taste of it before. I would do it again because I absolutely love it.

Michael Carr: I’d find some way of helping people realize what they don’t realize about themselves.

Theo Hicks: What is it the best ever way you like to give back?

Tonya Eberhart: Right on the heels of what Michael just said, helping people unveil their inner star.

Michael Carr: I got to just stick with that theme, Theo. I gotta say it. We had a friend tell us a long time ago, “We love what you do because it’s hard to read the label from the inside of the jar,” and I think that I have to stick with that. The best part of our job is helping people realize the power that actually happens inside them.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what’s the best ever place to reach you?

Tonya Eberhart: Everything we do is encompassed there and shoots out from there.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Well guys, I really enjoyed this conversation. Branding is always a fun topic to talk about and from a personal business perspective, I could use this information from today. I know all the Best Ever listeners definitely get to learn something that you could apply to your business directly. The big thing we talked about was the freedom formula, those three Ds – define, develop and display. So essentially just define what a brand is, and then figure out who the ideal customer is, and then once you know what the brand is, you develop it around that unique differentiating factor that you have – your logo, pictures of you, your messaging, social media accounts, websites, and then focus on living and breathing that brand, and then obviously, determining how you’re going to direct that toward your target audience, and then display which is actually getting it out there and making sure that you are using the method that your target audience actually uses.

So figure out exactly how they’re consuming their media, what’s important to them, what their lifestyle is, then find a medium in which you can target them that you can actually afford. You also mentioned that Facebook and Instagram, the website are important. That’s more of a hub that people actually will go to once they actually find you and then how they find you. I thought that was a very interesting point to make distinguishing between the Facebook, Instagram and the other examples of billboards, park benches, local radio stations, things like that. Your best ever advice, Tonya’s was authenticity and Michael’s was to be bold. When you talked about the guy with all the billboards, I was like, “That’s pretty intense. It’d be weird driving around and seeing my own face on a billboard.” That’s definitely bold.

Tonya Eberhart: Michael has some billboards too, so I’ve never–

Michael Carr: I just don’t ever go that way.

Tonya Eberhart: That’s true. I’ll never forget the first time when we first started working together, I put him on shopping carts in the grocery store, and I said, “Michael, they just came out. The signs just came out. Can you please go in the grocery store and take a picture of one of those.” “Uh-uh, I’m not doing that.”

Michael Carr: I know.

Tonya Eberhart: He ended up doing it, but I think he did it in secret behind the produce.

Michael Carr: I did.

Theo Hicks: You should have done a video of you on the cart with the kids when they’re out of there flying across it. You should have done it and put it on Instagram or something. I enjoyed this conversation, Tonya and Michael. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we will talk to you soon.

Michael Carr: Thank you, Theo.

Tonya Eberhart: Thank you, Theo.

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