Kick off the fall with Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. We’re going deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, realtor.com and more. Top marketing executives drop by to share their newest tactics, too. It’s all you need to take your branding and marketing game to the next level.
Matt Spangler has been with Compass almost since the very beginning, helping the company transition from being a fledgling platform for New York City renters to a real estate powerhouse with 23,000 agents in more than 50 markets across the nation.
Now the company’s chief marketing solutions officer, Spangler has been laser-focused on building and improving Compass’ marketing technology, which includes an in-house design studio and the all-encompassing marketing center platform, which enables agents to create slick digital and print advertising with a few clicks of a button.
As the quest for a digital end-to-end transaction experience gets closer to becoming reality, there’s often the fear that real estate will lose its personal touch. However, Spangler says that’s far from the truth. Here’s what he has to say about technology, automation, marketing and how it enables agents to better serve their clients.
Tell me about your marketing journey. Where did your love of marketing come from?
When I think about my career, it really is an incredible combination of being able to leverage storytelling, design and communication to tell stories about things that are worth telling. There’s also the combination of creativity, data science, and learning about people and what they care about.
I also have a love for service. For example, during my time working for the Tribeca Film Festival, we were really focused on building a bridge to help rebuild Downtown Manhattan and using our marketing creativity in the service of others. So much of what we do at Compass in marketing is really about serving our agents, and I get to see that play out in a beautiful way every day.
I’m glad you brought up the Tribeca Film Festival. Many of the CMOs I’ve interviewed started their careers outside of the real estate industry. How have your experiences in the arts and entertainment world informed how you approach marketing at Compass?
All great marketing is about being able to build stories across any channel — across [print and digital] designs, across film and video — and be able to know how to build the team to be able to do that. As I’ve worked, I’ve had a bunch of products to sell, right? But, I feel like the same lessons about delivering value to people, and crafting a message that is meaningful to them and personalized to [them] in a deeper way, apply to any industry.
The reality of home is one of the richest areas or sources for marketing because it’s something that we all connect with. All these experiences I’ve had have helped me be successful and confident at Compass.
I’ve noticed a lot of real estate companies have dug into the idea of home in their marketing over the past year and a half, and have focused on their place as a pillar in various communities. How has the pandemic impacted the way you market to consumers and agents?
More than ever, it’s important to make meaningful connections. We’ve been listening to our agents and creating tools that allow them to deliver a personalized experience, which has come out to be so important over the past year. The core of great marketing is to be able to deliver a personalized experience for somebody with several methods that they care about.
Every agent knows that personal touch is the key to long-term relationships with prospective and repeat clients, and we’ve been building tools that enable personalized marketing efforts across more audiences in less time. That’s really been a focus, and not necessarily because of something that happened during the pandemic. We really were focusing on this before, but we’ve really seen the power of it more than ever and the adoption of those digital tools has obviously been accelerating.
Our agents are visible in their market and they have great, high-touch service, but our tools empower them to do more and create personalized messaging that only goes to someone who cares about it, all from the palm of their hand. Great marketing allows you to show that you care about someone beyond just setting them up for random management.
How has this year impacted how you’ve helped Compass the brand market itself? The IPO certainly drew more attention to Compass than ever before — I mean, my 70-something aunt even mentioned Compass to me.
The experience of going public was incredible. I’ve been able to watch Compass grow from being Urban Compass and then going through our first funding round as Compass. It’s been truly exciting and every step of the way, we’ve been driving marketing initiatives that are about listening to our agents. Going public hasn’t changed our focus, or our relationship with the driving force, which is our agents and how we serve them.
[The IPO] certainly elevated our awareness [among the general public], but Compass’ has always awareness driven by our work in the industry. You think about what we’ve done this year: Sure we had our IPO, but we’ve also launched eight new major markets and had tremendous growth across the country, operating over 50 markets with 23,000 agents. So I think that growth has also contributed to more consumers knowing about us. I’m so proud of the team and the work they’ve done to bring all that to fruition.
We’ve talked a lot about storytelling, offering personalized marketing, etc. What does executing those objectives look like on a day-to-day basis?
A lot of times, I start my day with my team. I spend a lot of time meeting with leaders across the various departments of marketing at Compass and I often join large groups, such as sales meetings, where I share ideas — what they should be thinking about as they go into a new market, share some of the new tool updates and integrations, and how to grow business.
Then certainly, I’m thinking about planning for the future. It’s all centered around how we can better serve our agents and every conversation I’ve had with my team members is around the outcomes we’re trying to drive for them. My day-to-day is about focusing on one thing in the middle, and then all the things that are required to deliver on the goals that we set.
Looking forward, what opportunities do you see for not only Compass but for the industry as a whole, to better connect with agents and consumers and fulfill their needs?
Personalization is only going to grow in importance, especially when it comes to digital technology. The second thing is automation. All agents are the leaders of their own business and they have their hands in many different aspects of it, including marketing. We know what they do every time they bring a listing to market or when they run a social campaign, and so we’re building and launching tools that automate those tasks so they can focus on what they’re great at.
In the past, I got an email from an agent in the Philadelphia area, Mark Silver. Mark was trying to figure out how to do digital advertising and in two minutes, I created a customized video with music for a listing I wanted to promote, sent to it a target list for my CRM, and on Instagram and Facebook, I targeted that to a particular specific audience that I knew would care about it and find specific value.
After the call, Mark took the time to do the same thing [in our marketing center] and within the first 24 hours, he got a lead from someone within his sphere, but someone he probably wouldn’t have thought to reach out to. I think that is a good example of every aspect of what we’re building — automatic is going to be more and more important for agent success. So many networks are not allowing people to really reach volume organically anymore, and they’re requiring a lot of paid media.
Being able to learn all the expertise around making videos, customizing them, creating targeted Facebook ads or Instagram ads, and publishing it themselves is an enormous amount of work. But automation makes it incredibly simple and frees agents up to build relationships with and service their clients. That’s really the path around personalization and automation.