By Maria Patterson
MP: In a company as large as yours, how do you effectively keep a pulse on what’s happening on the ground level in the real estate industry?
Barbara O’Connor: That’s a great question, especially given all the recent market dynamics. We do quite a lot in a number of areas. In terms of more traditional interactions, we hold approximately 300 events, seminars and webinars yearly, where we are face to face with working REALTORS® and brokers. We also gain feedback from our smaller, more intimate REALTOR®, broker and MLS advisory meetings. In addition, we have a terrific industry relations group, led by Errol Samuelson and Curt Beardsley, that is constantly meeting with broker groups and associations. And of course, we leverage our sales force and customer care group whose fulltime job is outward facing; we include them in marketing planning. Listening and interacting with our customers and partners is key to developing initiatives and solutions that meet the needs of our many audiences.
MP: How have you stepped up your social marketing efforts to ensure positive word of mouth?
Barbara O’Connor: Just as we use many methods of interacting with our customers in person, we use social marketing listening tools and social programs to engage our audiences. After we understand what is being said, we make sure we are part of the conversation. We now include social hooks in just about everything we do. We seek to let our consumers and customers tell our story. We also pay close attention to any negative comments and seek to better understand what is behind them. By being authentic and following up with a disappointed customer, we have been able to solve problems we might not have known existed, and in many instances, not only fix the issue that might have impacted others, but converted that customer into an advocate.
MP: Realtor.com® has tremendous amounts of information at its disposal. How do you use this to your benefit?
Barbara O’Connor: We are well known for the quantity, timeliness, integrity and accuracy of our data, confirmed by study after study. We use this information and a great deal of analysis to better understand and communicate industry trends, share data insights with the press, inform our various marketing initiatives, and incorporate it into new product features and design. We also share our insights with our REALTOR® and broker customers and other key partners so that they can be as effective and “in the know” as possible. You will see many new initiatives in 2014 that further leverage our data advantage. Stay tuned. It is very exciting.
MP: How are you effectively reaching consumers, especially given the competition among listing portals?
Barbara O’Connor: Our integrated marketing approach leverages the best of what each communication channel offers. We use the time-tested marketing channels—such as permission-based email, PR, search and online advertising—in combination with newer vehicles, such as social, mobile and video marketing. We measure the contribution of each vehicle and continually hone our mix to optimize our approach. Our surveys indicate that the level of trust consumers give us is far above that of our key competitors (and I would say for good reason, yet that is an entirely different interview). We will continue to market aggressively and in some new, exciting ways, but will not do anything that would jeopardize that trust.
MP: Looking ahead to 2014, what are your marketing goals for the company?
Barbara O’Connor: We will continue on the path we started this year and innovate in key areas that our constituencies have told us are most important to them. To no surprise, our goal is to continue to grow and retain our audience base and partner with the industry to provide the best online real estate experience and tools possible. We already have an extremely strong Net Promoter Score, (a key metric assessing consumer satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend). We plan to keep it that way. We will provide even better tools, analysis and information to our real estate partners so they can be as efficient and profitable as possible. We will further leverage our partnership with NAR—there’s so much we can do together—and will also continue to enhance our consumer experiences across all platforms. As part of our new consumer branding introduced earlier this year, our tagline is “Where Home Happens.” In 2014, we will continue to provide consumers with the most timely and accurate information, so that with the help of a REALTOR®, they can love where they live.
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