September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.
Consistency and quality content are two of the most important factors of a winning marketing strategy. As agents know too well, staying on top of clients’ minds in the age of distraction is no easy feat. But how do you market yourself or, in the case of brokerages, build your company’s brand during a protracted pandemic and uncertain economic future?
David Marine, chief marketing officer at Coldwell Banker, says it comes down to staying true to your values but also knowing how to pivot to meet shifting needs – whether that means becoming a source of relevant information for your clients or developing a messaging campaign that fits a specific market.
“Any good marketer and brand advocate knows that when the downturn comes, you don’t stop advertising,” Marine told Inman. “The tried-and-true method is to continue to own that share of mind that will eventually lead to market share in recovery.”
We spoke with Marine about what it takes to develop a solid marketing strategy — no matter what the pandemic and other world events might throw at us. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Inman News: What has been happening in the marketing world in the last few months?
DM: The world has changed, and so has the real estate industry. Even outside of marketing, the need to bring processes entirely online has been accelerated. It’s been something that the industry has been moving towards for the last decade, and then basically in four months, because of pandemics, we’ve accelerated that adoption rate to the point that having a fully online transaction is now the norm.
How can companies and agents develop long-term marketing strategies when the pandemic has made the future so uncertain?
Right in the heart of everything, we sat down the marketing team for a big ideas meeting. Everybody was supposed to come to meetings with one crazy idea. And from that came the conversation about how we rule recovery.
The thing I took away was that in order to rule the recovery, we must first get on the road to recovery. We decided that we were going to continue our plan of creating consumer messaging that our agents could use to engage their sphere of influence and our brand could connect with.
Any good marketer and brand advocate knows that when the downturn comes, you don’t stop advertising. The tried-and-true method is to continue to own that share of mind that will eventually lead to market share in recovery.
No one knew when recovery was going to happen, but because we had that foundation and put those plans in place, we were able to be one of the unique voices within our industry that’s out there talking to consumers as a brand in today’s real estate market.
Big changes and tumultuous times often offer opportunities. What are the current marketing opportunities for agents?
Funny that you say that. We started out of the ashes of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. We were forged in crisis, if you will, and we have seen economic upturns, downturns, natural disasters, World Wars. We went through all of that. Not only did we survive, but we continue to succeed and we’re still operating 114 years later.
It comes down to knowing the target that you’re trying to reach. What is their profile? Their persona? Which sites are they interacting with?
It doesn’t even have to be a specific type of person but rather a behavior. That’s really what’s proven useful to us. We have an advertising program called DARE, which is an acronym for Dynamic Ads For Real Estate, and that has proven to be a really great lead driver and also interaction for our agents and consumers.
Even though the market is strong, many people are out of work and struggling. How can agents, particularly luxury ones, reach those who can buy while remaining sensitive to those who can’t?
When you are trying to market and connect to your brand, you have to do it in a way that is already true to who you are, what you stand for and your values. When you’re stepping outside of that and trying to sound a certain way and fit the environment in which we currently find ourselves, it’s going to come across as disingenuous.
We have a history at Coldwell Banker of showcasing not only the rational side of homeownership but the emotional side as well. Recently we launched a campaign we call, “All We Have” and some have referred to it as a recovery campaign. It uses network-submitted videos as well as consumer-generated content to tell the story of appreciation for what we feel is the greatest destination on Earth and probably the destination of the year, which has been home. While we have been told that we have to stay [at home] and we’re kind of sick of being here, it’s really the place that has kept us safe. We wanted to showcase that, even as we start to to go out and things start to open up, it’s still the place we want to go back to.
Does that messaging work for all price points? What strategy are you using for luxury buyers?
As a chief marketing officer in charge of a national brand, my objective is to be able to cast a wide net that connects people to your brand. So, people in certain areas will connect us directly with being a leader in luxury, but then there’ll be other places where we are in middle America and they see us as being the house for sale that’s across the street from them.
But then a specific market is really based on what is going on and what the economy looks like in that specific area. You’re going to want to tailor to that because I can be on the phone with a broker who is having year-over-year increases that are in the double digits, and then others who saw a downturn and are just starting to come out of it.
It really depends on who you’re trying to message based on a price point. It has to work with whatever the local market conditions are versus trying to paint that picture nationally.
How important is having a personal brand right now?
Personal branding is something that never goes out of style. The question is what your personal brand stands for. If you’re part of a larger national brand, how is it connecting to that national voice?
Personal branding is not just a logo or a letterhead but how people perceive you. Whether it’s a LinkedIn profile, Facebook reviews or whatever it might be, one of the initiatives for years to come is focusing on branding and how people are coming across on a digital destination.
What other advice would you give agents and brokers in regards to marketing?
The ability to be nimble in marketing, to see change coming and be able to act quickly, has been crucial. Having the right team around you also makes all the difference in the world. Having a team who is reactive and also looks ahead and sees what changes are potentially coming is what really gives people an advantage.
It may sound obvious but I think that’s proven to be even more true in today’s crisis-ridden world.