September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. Tips for better branding and in-depth features on how to take advantage of marketing tools provided by Zillow, Redfin and other platforms are all in the works in addition to insights from experts. You’ll find it all at Inman, as well as our two-day virtual, flagship event, Your Playbook for the Fall Market, in October.
This article was last updated Sep. 8, 2022.
For the top luxury agents and brokers, luxury marketing is about more than selling their services. It’s about building a track record of performance that creates demand from discerning luxury sellers.
According to Craig Hogan, vice president of luxury for Coldwell Banker, moving into the luxury space is all about creating credibility through experience.
“Partner with people who are at the top of their game, and learn from them. Learning, time on task, mentorship and partnership is key. You can’t be selling multimillion-dollar homes if you don’t know what you’re doing because those buyers know.”
How do you ensure that your marketing plan allows you to compete in this rarified portion of the real estate market? By employing the latest technology, high-end promotional materials and a global reach that gets your luxury listing in front of the right high-net-worth individuals, no matter where they are.
Table of contents
- Remember less is more when it comes to luxury messaging
- Put technology to work for your luxury listing
- Work with long-distance buyers and agents
- Learn the language of luxe
- Define luxury marketing
Gone are the days of over-the-top logos, script-based fonts and pseudo-formality when presenting a luxury brand or a luxury property. The agents we spoke to consistently repeated the same refrain: Less is more when it comes to a luxury aesthetic.
“Clean it up, make it purposeful, and [get rid of] all this busyness that you see. Make your images count. Make your words count. Choose wisely,” Hogan said. “It’s amazing what an image and a few words can say about ‘do you want to move right now?’ Keep it simple. Keep it elegant. Edit, edit, edit.’”
Hogan said that whether you’re shooting magazine layouts or planning online marketing, the clarity of a cleaner, more minimalist aesthetic helps cut through the clutter of an oversaturated digital and commercial marketplace.
“This afternoon we’re wrapping up our new magazine which will be on newsstands around the world,” Hogan said. “There are several pages that are single images. It’s all about a clear, concise message because our world is complicated right now, and our marketing doesn’t need to be busy.”
Laura Blossey of Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty also sees a cleaner aesthetic working for luxury properties. “People’s attention span is less than 30 seconds, so if you haven’t captured their interest in that time, you’ve potentially lost a buyer or a sale,” she said. “Beautiful, high-quality images and brief verbiage is always effective for today’s buyers.”
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Buyers in every category start their home searches online, and luxury is no exception. Technology is an essential part of any luxury marketing strategy. Here’s why.
Michelle Ouellette of Sotheby’s International Realty Westlake Village Brokerage said that luxury marketing requires a broader strategy than traditional marketing, which often focuses on the local market “to expose the property for more of a national or global reach.”
It’s also essential to think about the property within the context of its category, including beachfront, city, winery, or upscale golf and country club, rather than in geographic terms.
According to Keith Strombotne, director of strategic partnerships at Adwerx, one of its platform’s tools, Top Producer, involves targeted 30-second commercials linked to streaming services such as Hulu.
Linking to streaming services consumers love not only has the advantage of a high-end look and feel, but it also offers “messaging in hypertargeted areas and in front of specific people. There are ways to market a home that don’t break the bank if it’s hypertargeted geographically and to a custom audience.”
Ouellette sees digital marketing as a cost-effective tool, especially for agents just starting in the luxury category.
“It’s an issue of finding all and any digital marketing opportunities to leverage, working with your brokerage to understand what they offer for marketing properties, and making smart decisions for the best return on investment with the budget you have for the property,” she said.
Blossey said luxury buyers have higher expectations and likely other options, so it is essential to offer the highest quality photography and videographer services to adequately capture their attention and showcase the property and surrounding community. “The online visual footprint presented makes it easier for buyers to get a feel of the listing before being on-site,” she said.
Strombotne sees products like Adwerx’s streaming platform as a potent competitive tool for luxury agents. “If I’m going to move upmarket and I can say ‘I’m going to run an automated digital campaign with a walkthrough of the property to be shown on Hulu,’” that technology and targeted capability is an immediate differentiator for sellers.
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Because luxury homes are marketed to a more select buyer pool, luxury agents and brokers will find themselves working to capture the attention of far-flung buyers, including international buyers. The most successful marketing strategies incorporate ways of communicating that allow you to appeal to this discerning audience when competing with properties worldwide.
Aside from the photos, videos, and other marketing materials and platforms you use, what follows are the most critical elements for effectively marketing your luxury listing to the right audience, whether they’re around the corner or the globe.
From the initial contact through the transaction, exceptional communication is essential, both with your clients and the luxury buyer’s agent or broker. Go the extra mile to let them know what they can expect from you throughout the process, and make yourself or someone from your team available at any time.
In addition, offer information about the community and the lifestyle they can expect along with information about the property itself, especially for those who may be moving to the area from far away.
Luxury buyers might have more complex needs, especially if they are international buyers. Assure them that you are well-versed in the language of luxury, finance and contract law, and that you can handle the complexities of the transaction through a streamlined, professional process by highlighting the wealth of experience you bring to the table.
Luxury buyers emphasize discretion and security when looking for, negotiating on and moving to a property. Understanding and anticipating their needs through nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), document security, and other privacy measures will go a long way toward making them comfortable working with you while also building your reputation in this exclusive market.
Work with buyer’s agents to streamline the logistics of in-person visits and help to ensure that the tour of your seller’s property is enhanced by a high-end experience overall. Consider ways to make travel more comfortable and convenient, and offer information on the best high-end local transportation, hotels and dining options.
Your professional network is essential in helping to address the complex needs of luxury buyers. Real estate attorneys, tax accountants, interior designers, stagers, contractors — you will need to be able to draw on a variety of experts at a moment’s notice to get questions answered and offer reassurance.
Nurture your relationships with these professional colleagues, and luxury buyer’s agents and brokers in markets worldwide.
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According to the agents we spoke to, the luxury marketing package is markedly different than a traditional marketing or promotional campaign. Although it’s based on professional content such as photography, videography and copywriting, the finished product will offer a more luxurious feel.
Of course, the best marketing images start with flawless luxury staging. “When it comes to staging, we have to present a beautiful picture of what something can be,” Hogan said. “Most buyers don’t have a grasp on filling in empty rooms. People just don’t have clarity, though they think they do.”
Once a beautiful space is staged, either physically or virtually, and captured in professional photos, videos, and text, Hogan emphasized print material’s importance alongside tech-based marketing.
“A lot of people think print is dead; it’s not,” he said. Top publications have increased, rather than decreased, their budgets, which indicates their continuing strength and ongoing demand, according to Hogan.
Blossey also mentioned the importance of print marketing and of properly targeting that printed material. “I would recommend homing in on the targeted buyer down to the neighborhood to decide which publication is most appropriate, whether a local magazine or a hand-delivered magazine to specific neighborhoods in a feeder market.”
Ouellette sees one necessary piece of luxury marketing collateral as a beautiful book offered to the buyer after the showing. Calling this book “a memory gift,” she compared this essential element to the “more conventional approach of handing the buyer a two-page brochure, for example.”
The luxury book is designed to mark the end of a fabulous home tour similar to ending a fabulous dinner with an incredible dessert that you will always remember, she said.
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We asked each of our experts to define the elements that differentiate luxury marketing. Here are their assessments:
“There’s a new movement, and I would say in marketing for luxury, is that luxury whispers, it doesn’t shout,” Hogan said.
Keep simplicity and elegance at the forefront of your luxury marketing through judicious editing of the space itself, the text and images, and the collateral.
“Luxury property marketing is going to involve a more global strategy, a detailed marketing plan and more capital investment from the listing agent,” Oullette said.
Be prepared for the increased investment needed to market a luxury property in terms of time, skill, effort and budget.
“As a luxury agent, investing a lot more time and energy into educating both buyers and agents about the lifestyle and community differentiates my marketing strategy when selling a high-end home,” Blossey said.
Your expertise, market knowledge and property knowledge are critical elements that differentiate your effectiveness as a luxury agent.
The primary differentiators are “client expectations and quality. Aligning what you’re able to do when marketing that listing with client expectations is key. When we’re talking about high-end luxury properties, sellers know what their home’s worth and what type of marketing is going to speak to a luxury buyer,” Strombotne said.
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Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.