Building a ‘Better’ Real Estate Brand23 Nov, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response
Sherry Chris and Camilla Sullivan use direct response methods to launch Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate to the top of the market.
Chris’ lesson was more personalized, yet just as valuable. “A family-owned real estate company hired me as president,” she says. “My vision was to keep pushing out and marketing new products and services, as a way to entice consumers and hold agents. I came from more of a corporate background. The owners of the business tried to convince me that, at their size, it was crucial to measure the usage and success of marketing these new opportunities before continuing to push things out. I didn’t listen and continued along the same path. Well, it turned out the adoption rate for a number of these products and services ended up in the low single digits — with way too much money spent. ”
Of course, working within a corporate marketing environment on direct response programs requires effective and responsive partners — something Sullivan says the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate team has been fortunate to find.
“Being a startup and needing to move quickly, we made the strategic decision that, rather than parking with a big agency, we wanted to work with a small group of best of breed partners,” Sullivan contends. “I brought in a number of these companies from experience in my previous life as a consultant.”
For design, Sullivan brought in the New York and Toronto-based Infinia Group. “They do very strong B-to-B and consumer work,” she says. “They are our sole design partner.”
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brought in Kwittken and Co. as its new public relations agency of record during this past summer — mainly because of its understanding of social media. “They know how to integrate social media into a PR platform, which ties DR to PR,” Sullivan says. “They understand that social media is becoming part of our core marketing strategy.”
For its production needs — “We have a lot of DR-style lead generation video on the Web site,” Sullivan says — the company brought in New York-based video agency Covermax Communications.
At the same time, the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate team has been fortunate enough to work with the magazine edit, art and Web teams at Meredith, maximizing the brand potential brought by the owners of Better Homes and Gardens, the magazine. “Our Web partner for both development and interface is Genex, which is owned by Meredith,” Sullivan adds. “They’re famous for delivering the extremely popular Acura Web site.”
This extremely strong group of partners has allowed a company that formed barely two years ago — and just began officially operating less than 16 months ago — to earn a number of marketing honors. From a 2008 Gold MarCom Award to a Silver Galaxy Award in the same year, the company has earned more than a half-dozen honors for its marketing efforts to date. Not only that, but Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate was named by Bond’s as one of the hottest new franchises of 2009.