In this month’s issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine, we spoke with Amory Wooden, chief marketing officer of CENTURY 21®, Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and ERA®, to discuss the importance of taking a digital-first marketing approach to engage the modern consumer.
Paige Tepping: How does your background working with technology-focused brands inspire what you’re bringing to real estate marketing?
Amory Wooden: I have a unique role in that I have the opportunity to work across some of today’s top global brands, such as CENTURY 21®. What’s really critical for each—both at the brand and brokerage level—is not only having a strong, unique brand proposition that stands out with target consumers, but also staying ahead of the ever-changing market. We’ve all seen how the real estate industry has undergone a significant digital transformation over the past several years. With my background in working with more digitally native brands and categories, I’m able to leverage that experience and knowledge to guide these powerhouse brands in navigating the changing digital landscape to maintain their power position against competitors.
PT: What are some of the key benefits in being able to look at the brand’s overall marketing strategy through a tech-first lens?
AW: In today’s real estate industry, it is imperative that we as a brand identify ways to make the agent’s job easier, more streamlined and allow them to focus their energy on the most important part—building client relationships and securing listings. The best way to do that is to look at technology and digital marketing as a means for efficiency. Things like dynamic Account Based Marketing practices, CRM tactics and segmented email sends are going to help get some of that behind-the-scenes work done quicker, allowing them to home in on the right target audience and then focus on taking service to the next level. We know that the best technology in the world will never replace the critical human element that defines this business. Technology is unequivocally here to empower agents and help them achieve that next level of success.
“We know that the best technology in the world will never replace the critical human element that defines this business. Technology is unequivocally here to empower agents and help them achieve that next level of success.”
PT: Why is now the time for real estate professionals to pivot from the traditional marketing practices they may be used to, to a more digital-first marketing approach?
AW: No matter the industry, business leaders often fall into the trap of these rinse-and-repeat marketing strategies that focus on building awareness through traditional campaign sponsorships. It oftentimes becomes all about reach and impressions. However, relationship-building is the one factor that the real estate industry offers that many others cannot—so the focus can’t simply be on making sure the company name is out there. For the CENTURY 21® network, which has over 144,000 affiliated agents across 84 countries around the globe, there exists a huge opportunity for the affiliated brokers and agents to enhance the brand at scale, from the bottom up if you will, while the corporate team works to reinforce their local market position from the top down. We’re thinking about building overall brand awareness and reputation while enabling affiliated agents to stand out on a local level with turnkey tools and assets that grab the attention of potential clients. This joint effort is what helps us all grow, together.
PT: What is your best advice for real estate professionals looking to build a digital marketing plan for today’s digital consumer?
AW: In the world of marketing, you want to be where your target audience is. You want to be where people are, and today, everyone is on social media. These platforms provide a unique opportunity to drive brand presence and reputation—the emotion, the pride, the excitement and the energy—while also being highly targeted to the agent’s specific audience. What I love about social media is that you can test and learn in real-time. In the digital landscape, you can very quickly see what they are reacting to, what they’re rejecting, what they’re responding to and what they’re liking. This helps inform where you invest your dollars. While it can get more nuanced when you think about channels and types of content, focus on where your customers are and use these platforms that are digitally and analytically minded to learn what your consumers want. This is where you build and communicate your own personal brand.
PT: Artificial intelligence continues to be a hot topic among real estate pundits and professionals alike. How are you looking to leverage AI as we head toward the future?
AW: What we are seeing already is that AI can help drive efficiency and productivity across several aspects of the real estate business. From helping agents kick off the creative process to helping brokers identify and recruit prospective agents with the most potential for growth, AI is best leveraged where it can make the real estate professional’s job easier and allow them to focus on the most important part of their business—building client relationships. On the other side of that, there is enormous potential from the client’s side as well, given the often-overwhelming nature of buying or selling a house. There is an opportunity for AI to help clients and customers prepare for the journey in really positive ways by providing an anonymous way for them to get information early on in the journey. For example, AI could help people source preliminary information so that they feel more comfortable and confident when it’s time to start working with an agent, picking a brokerage and a brand—they will feel empowered to have a more productive conversation.
PT: As the future unfolds, what are you most looking forward to?
AW: With just one year under my belt as CMO, I’m enthusiastic about where all three brands are headed. With the CENTURY 21® brand in particular, we have some fresh, social-first activations in the works that are sure to get our network excited. My team’s ultimate goal is to make CENTURY 21-affiliated agents stand out and showcase the relentless and knowledgeable professionals they are by focusing on the channels and the places where their customers and their audiences are. It goes beyond helping the agent capture their clients’ attention, but impressing them enough to drive that connection and ultimately win that listing.