Century 21 - social savvy marketing strategy

Century 21 - social savvy marketing strategy

Most of our friends know that at ROBYN, we are focused on honing our marketing skills... And we enjoy sharing what we have learned! To this end, we are thrilled to introduce a side project we've been working on: The 7 Minute Smarketer.

The premise behind the podcast is to sit down with innovative marketers who are experts in different disciplines and give them 7 minutes to make us smarter. The podcasts are hosted on the 7 Minute Smarketer website, which you can hear by clicking the button below...


7 minute smarketer          Matt Gentile




Bobby: Well, hello everyone. Welcome to Seven Minute Smarketer. Whether you are a small business, a sole entrepreneur or you manage a large marketing department, this is the fastest place to get caught up on tools and techniques to make you a smarter marketer.

Today our guest is Matt Gentile, Director of Public Relations and Social Media with Century 21 Real Estate. We are sitting here at the BlogWorld and New Media Expo. Matt, what in the world is Century 21 Real Estate doing at BlogWorld?

Matt Gentile: Well, it's, as you might expect, a question that I've been asked a few times since we've been out here. Fortunately I've had some practice as we also sponsored BlogWorld in New York City earlier in the spring.

The short answer is not why is Century 21 Real Estate here at BlogWorld but why are we the only real estate brand here at BlogWorld? If you consider the fact that American consumers are spending more time on social networks like Facebook than any other online site, and the fact that 90 percent of consumers are beginning their real estate search online, there is no reason not to be here.

It's an incredibly important media that all sales professionals need to learn how to adapt to and leverage.

Bobby: This is a topic I'm very excited to talk about today. Now Matt, you know the premise. Basically you have seven minutes to make us a smarter marketer about your topic or you owe me a beer, a bigger one than this one, too.

Matt: All right, all right.

Bobby: So let's talk about this, social media and sales, because there has been this dichotomy. There's almost this block, mental block. Social media ‑‑ that's fine for sales and marketing and PR guys, but we're sales. I mean, we make things happen with sales transactions. Where's the intersection happen? How can you make us smarter marketers? How do we learn how to integrate all the social with sales, and what's happening now in the digital space to make us pay attention to that?

Matt: Sure. I think the one thing that you're starting to see, and I get this question a lot, certainly from my leadership team, is how are you proving ROI? It's great. We understand we need to be in this space. We need to have a full-throated presence and be at events like this. But how are you tracking success? How are you tracking conversions?

What we've managed to do is to literally create a system by which any of our social media outlets, whether it be facebook.com/century21, our Twitter, our blog @C21 ‑ Home Matters, any of the pieces of content that we're putting out into those spaces, we are tagging with a customized bitly link. So that we can now track where that piece of content originated all the way back through our dot com to a lead conversion form, a contact form, whether they did a search on our dot com.

And then all of those leads are converted out and distributed out among our 115,000 new sales professionals around the world.

Bobby: You must have a pretty big role in not only convincing ‑‑ you have multiple audiences you have to convince and convert on using social tools for sales, because you also have the sales reps themselves. Are you finding this a very welcomed... Is this largely driven by the sales force? Are people now going, "Give me more tools that I can use"?

Matt: Yeah. I'm glad you asked me that. I do want to correct my statement. We don't distribute from the U.S. We distribute our leads only to the U.S. only. So we have approximately 70,000 U.S.‑based real estate professionals that we distribute listings to.

But in terms of what's driving it, yes, we are absolutely being asked by our brokers throughout the United States, how do we develop and how do we leverage these platforms to drive more business? How do we drive them into our brokerages? How do we get our sales professionals using this media to drive more sales?

The one thing that we've done, in the last two weeks we announced a Century 21 app for Facebook, which we position each of our brokers to have a customized business page so that they can take advantage of best in class practices that we developed at the corporate level. And now they can leverage that throughout their own independent Facebook pages.

So consumers now, not only do they have the opportunity to find a listing through a local Century 21's web presence, but now they can actually find that same information on their Facebook business page. I think that's where you're going to start to see a dynamic shift in the performance and the optimization of social media for business. We're trying to be ahead of that curve.

Bobby: Yeah, that's fantastic. Is this an opt‑in type of program?

Matt: It is. Since the app was announced, we've had approximately 550 brokers already adopt it out of roughly 2000 U.S.‑based brokers. So as more and more brokers understand the value and how easy it is to install this app and the types of benefits that they're starting to gain from it, the easier it is. Once somebody has success, it's very easy for it to be adopted.

Bobby: Yeah, that's true. This makes perfect sense for Century 21 Real Estate, because Zuckerberg himself said that referrals are the holy grail of advertising. That's nothing new, but we see what's going on with Facebook. We buy things that our friends recommend. That is just basic 101, my gosh, with social. It's just like on octane.

Matt: That's absolutely right. I think especially the next generation of homebuyers and sellers, we're seeing they are digital natives. They understand and live and breathe with digital media and social media platforms. They're much more apt to take a recommendation from their friend about the value of a service or a product or a person than they are to just blindly look at an ad and contact us that way.

So the value of social media for salespeople I think is only in its infancy. We're just now starting to see how marketers and how companies are adopting to it.

Bobby: It used to be the challenge was getting people to pay attention to social media. That doesn't seem to be the challenge anymore. I'm kind of asking this from two perspectives. One is I'm just curious, but I'm also really curious from a professional perspective. You're in the communications of a very large brand. What are some of the new challenges that other marketers are probably facing like you are? And any advice for them on how they can integrate large brands, whether it's a sales force, marketing, PR, the C‑suite?

Matt: Yeah. Absolutely. I'm going to be speaking a little bit about this topic tomorrow. But when I took over the role three years ago, social media, we had a Facebook page. We had a YouTube account. That was about it.

The function itself wasn't really centralized or managed from one point. It was something that I immediately took control over and started to leverage and bring all of those elements together so that we have a really robust social media platform.

But as I started to do that, obviously the growth and dominance of social media as a communication platform really took off. What we found was I was starting to get requests from training, from learning, from franchise sales, from recruiting, from other divisions within marketing, events, and saying, "We'd like to get on that social media train as well."

So it really took a holistic effort organizationally and culturally to make sure that all of the stakeholders within the organization were brought in and had their voices heard so that we could develop a much broader platform than just a marketing platform.

Bobby: Right. That's great advice. I can almost hear the struggles in all of that, because that was not easy. That's a big deal.

Matt: I think a lot of organizations struggle with that, because no one is quite sure who owns social media.

Bobby: Right. Well, we still have these perceptions about social media, too. Managing people's expectations seems to be a big part of it as well.

Matt: I think that's certainly true in terms of the sales professional and the brokers, because we're in the sales business so these people are out there every day working their butts off to try and make sure that they're providing for their families. If it's not an immediate return on investment, it's something that they're definitely going to be skeptical about.

Social media is not necessarily, unless you're a products company like an Amazon.com and you're selling a lot of online product, service‑oriented businesses, it's not going to be an immediate payoff. It does enable you to expand your sphere fairly rapidly. I've gotten friends from high school that are still reaching out to me that I hadn't spoken with or seen in 25 years.

So there are a lot of intrinsic value to the sales professional in terms of building your sphere, customer relationship management, and then soft sells, providing value through your content but also enabling that that sales relationship and the funnel to develop.

Bobby: I love hearing that long range. So it is a part of a long-range process. There's not a quick fix. I think part of the problem is because these properties are easy to get up, psychologically or subconsciously maybe we think it should be equally as easy. The return should be equally as easy but it's not. Very long process.

The sales guy in me hears Peter Shankman saying, "You can't eat leads and you can't eat likes and you can't eat friending and whatever else, +1s." But it is a part of the process. It's just understanding and the perspective of the process?

Matt: Yeah, that's right. You have to have developed a robust presence online. You're developing a personal brand, not only through your dot com now but through Facebook, through Twitter, through LinkedIn. All of these channels feed the general sales funnel.

So you've got to establish that presence today. Are you going to make that sale today because somebody came in through your Facebook page? Probably not.

But if you're striking up that conversation and you're providing some value to that customer who has maybe been in the market for three months and all of a sudden they friend you because they understand that this is a topic that you're very familiar and an expert with and they're getting some valuable tips from you on a regular basis, then yeah. You've shortened that sales funnel considerably and you've developed a trust relationship.

Bobby: That's awesome. Well, Matt, you've definitely made us smarter marketers today. I really appreciate it. The communications advice, the sales advice has been fantastic. Gentile, Director of Public Relations and Social Media with Century 21 Real Estate. Thanks for being on the program, Matt.

Matt: Thank you, Bobby.