November’s New York Real Estate Summit played host to a fireside chat by Interior Marketing Group (IMG) Founder and CEO Cheryl Eisen. Eisen’s visionary marketing insights and exceptional staging acumen make her one of the most sought-after voices in interior design for marketing luxury residences.
Her keynote described how IMG has integrated public relations, social media, event planning and other platforms along with staging to create a 360-degree marketing opportunity for luxury properties.
I sat down with Eisen minutes after her keynote at New York Real Estate Summit to discuss her vision for real estate marketing as well as what makes her business so extraordinary. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell me about some of the main things you talked about in your keynote today.
I explained our business model and how I came into this business, from selling real estate myself to understanding the need for staging and learning to differentiate my business, as well as how IMG has grown and evolved from there.
Can you talk a little bit about the idea of expanding design from staging to the entire marketing presentation?
I think this is an interesting aspect of how we’ve evolved. I think staging is not a new story, and we’ve been involved with staging since the beginning. So now that everyone’s staging, how do you differentiate staging to make a sale happen and for more money?
So we’ve put together a full-service marketing plan for each property, and that’s not only staging to appeal to the right luxury buyer, but also to use marketing techniques to build awareness for the property through press coverage, social media marketing and to create a branded launch event. This brings in brokers, developers and buyers who come in to see the property for themselves.
How do you tie the presentation together on social media and create a coherent visual across platforms?
Well that’s the other thing we do that’s sort of unique. We’ve all seen a million real estate listing photos, and they all look the same: fisheye lens with a lot of background, ceiling and floor. So one of the things we do at the beginning to differentiate is to bring in a photographer to create a more editorial look. It reads visually more like a magazine spread. That’s step No. 1.
Step No. 2 is translating that into social media so that it catches the eye, develops buzz and goes viral. Then we incorporate influencers into marketing the space. They come and take photographs in the space; that adds to the viral aspect and promotes the property even further.
We know that millennials are more likely to buy because of influencers than because of brokers. It’s a whole new world, and I think you have to use every channel you can to bring attention to and market your property.
Are there cues or visual elements that you carry all the way through the design and the presentation in social media or media at large?
For staging, to maximize a broad appeal, we work in neutrals, largely. So to create more visual interest and depth and drama, we use texture, oversized art and lighting to create interest. One of our signature elements is a wall of mirrors to create light and space. We do floor-to-ceiling sheers and drapes as a visual differentiator.
If there’s a theme in a building, we use that. We recently did a penthouse in a building, and their theme was an ultra-modern, Jetsons-like aesthetic. We carried that aesthetic throughout the model apartment, furnishings and the art we used. It was all futuristic. We follow the branding of the building, often, in determining the look.
How do you connect to the media to get coverage for these listings? Are there strategies agents can use to make a splash in their local media market?
I think it’s an understanding of Marketing 101. What is the story, and how do you sell that story? Sometimes it’s a theme or what is unique around the building and its history.
For example, with The Woolworth Tower Residences, we built a story around that to make it newsworthy. It could be the old office or residence of a noteworthy individual. That’s how you attract press interest.
If you’re not a professional stager, and you don’t have a budget, but you want to get attention for a listing, what can you do?
I started out selling real estate, and I didn’t have a budget, but there are tricks that I learned that are low-budget and DIY enough that anyone can implement.
- Go to Ikea, and buy a giant mirror to lean against the wall.
- Invest in a beautiful light fixture.
- Hire a painter to do a nice accent wall so that the space visually looks different.
Then brand as much as you can. Do a hashtag for the property, and get a following on social media. There are places that do affordable social media campaigns to bring attention to the space, or approach your brokerage or parent company to have the listing shared on their social media platforms.
Anything you can do to differentiate yourself is important and helps you stand out among the 20 or more other agents in your market.
Maybe you’re specializing in a particular niche or making properties look more expensive and upscale. That can help you stand out. That’s how I used staging — that was what I could do that no one else could. Figure out what your “thing” is, and create a brand around it.
How are you using video to create interest in a property, to make it more exciting so that it isn’t just a flip book of the property photos?
I do think it has to be more than a home tour. If you can be creative, you can do it on your phone, which makes it accessible to everyone.
I recently saw a broker who talks about the sales like a news story — the biggest sales of the week, market movements, etc. — and shares it on social media. He’s talking about things that other brokers don’t and differentiating himself.
Hire an editor, and make some beautiful graphics to add to your video. Anything that can make your content stand out.
How do you think being a woman-owned business impacts your approach?
I think women understand women and having that emotional intelligence creates more freedom for the women who work with and for us. I think by understanding how women work and feel, that creates an environment that empowers career growth for women.
In terms of design, I think there is some visual empathy women have about how the home and the idea of nesting resonates emotionally; maybe that carries over into the design.