The real estate buyer journey has changed a lot in the past 15 years. So naturally, marketing that process to individuals must evolve along with it.
“Our dependency on technology and digital platforms is only increasing. And real estate has seen that same level of disruption,” according to Esther-Mireya Tejeda, the first enterprise-level CMO at Anywhere Real Estate, parent company of Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Better Homes and Gardens and others. “The process of buying a house… is really different today, because there’s so much more information available on the internet around housing inventory, neighborhood, school districts, expert opinions and peer-to-peer opinions.”
In light of that shift, the company is on a mission to incorporate B2C marketing tactics into its B2B real estate business. “It’s more of an ‘and’ strategy than a ‘replacement’ strategy,” she explains. “While agents, brokers and franchisees continue to be the lifeblood of our business, we also realize there is no business without the end user, which is the buyer and the seller. So it’s bringing those things more closely together in a way that is integrated and seamless and, importantly, digital-first.”
We spoke with Tejeda about what that transition entails; the company’s goal of transforming the consumer experience within the real estate industry; her approach to segmentation based on emotional motivators; and the critical importance of understanding and marketing to Latino buyers.
Chief Marketer: What was the impetus behind adding a B2C component to your B2B business?
Esther-Mireya Tejeda, CMO at Anywhere Real Estate: We are the largest leader in residential real estate, and we’re also in the title business, insurance business, corporate relocation business and the mortgage business. What has happened in the business of real estate over the past 15 years or so has happened across industries all over the map, with the ubiquity of digital and technology transforming the way human beings experience the world and navigate through life. And our dependency on technology and digital platforms is only increasing.
Real estate has also seen that same level of disruption. The process of buying a house, in terms of how a consumer approaches the idea—the research, where they want to move, all of the things to prepare for the eventual home transaction—is different today. There’s so much more information available on the internet around housing inventory, neighborhood, school districts, expert and peer-to-peer opinions.
Because of that, we realized that in order to super-serve our agents and brokers, and in order to future proof and live up to the expectations of consumers in today’s day and age, we had to think a little bit differently about what the consumer experience looks like. How do we meet those expectations? How do we engage buyers and sellers in a way that makes sense to them and provides that value to our agents and our brokers, which are the heart of our business?
This is less about shifting from B2B to B2C. This is about thinking of B2C as an additional component of our existing and robust B2B business. Because wherever and however we can super serve the buyer and the seller, we are adding more value to the agents and the brokers who are ultimately interacting with that buyer and seller.
CM: What does that strategy look like in practice?
E-MT: This is more of an “and” strategy than a “replacement” strategy. Agents, brokers and franchisees continue to be the lifeblood of our business, but we also realize there is no business without the end user, which is the buyer and the seller. So it’s bringing those things more closely together in a way that is integrated and seamless and, importantly, digital-first.
[We’re] thinking about ways to make the business of buying or selling a house more simple for the average buyer or seller. What are the ways that we can use technology to improve the experience of a home buyer or a home seller, for example, in the contract-to-close part of a journey? When you look at the way that, on average, we approach the transactional piece of buying or selling a house in 2023, it is not that different than the way we would have closed on a house in 1998. I recently closed on a home and I had to fly down to the state of Florida and sign a hundred pieces of paper in a lawyer’s office in order to do the close. It was very analog and cumbersome. And it really hasn’t changed much in the past couple of decades.
CM: What’s an example of how this will create a more seamless customer experience?
E-MT: One of the ways is with the smart implementation and integration of technology, of digital products. How do we bring all of these tools at our disposal to significantly transform the way the industry interacts with human beings, so that it is more simple? Imagine how many more people would be able to approach or access home ownership if it wasn’t so darn complicated.
I mentioned that web search is one of the leading ways people are stacking up their information and getting their ducks in a row. But there’s a sense that consumers want to be in the driver’s seat; they want to be the knowledge center. They want to enter the relationship with their agent or their broker feeling like they’re grounded and steeped in the knowledge, and they have an idea of what they’re about to embark on and what they want out of that relationship.
So, how do we simplify that upfront experience of the average buyer and the seller so that they’re able to have that agency? And they’re able to do that preliminary research in a way that makes sense, with simplicity and technology at the root of how that comes to life.
CM: What are you specific goals with this? What will make it a success?
E-MT: The big picture goal is to create a new way that the housing and the real estate industry operates, and to disrupt the existing narrative that buying a house is intense, challenging, complicated, stressful. And make it so that it is on the list of simple, easy things that can be done by the average American across the country. That’s the North Star for us. We are in this unique seat as a leader in the industry to actually make some headway and drive some of this transformation.
CM: As the first enterprise-level CMO at the company, what is your directive?
E-MT: My role is new… and that speaks to the intent to look at the experience holistically, end-to-end, with a user-centric, consumer-centric perspective that is new to our organization—and I would say, to the industry. We need to get smarter and better at understanding consumer insights. For me, that means understanding with granularity, precision and science the emotional makeup of buyers and sellers.
CM: You’re doing that through the implementation of “emographics.” Can you explain the process?
E-MT: This is really about the discipline of marketing. We have historically targeted, segmented and thought about our consumers in demographic or psychographic terms. We profile and segment based on household income, level of education, geographic location, gender, likes, dislikes. We use focus groups. We use surveys to try to get insights on who our people are, how they operate in the world, and what they expect from our brands and businesses. But the reality is—and especially in housing—most decisions are subconsciously emotionally-driven.
With housing in particular, we’re trying to engage them at the heart level. Marketers have been talking about the importance of emotional connection for as long as I’ve been in the business. That part is not new. But what is new, and what I am pushing forward here, is driving emotional connection at the beginning of the conversation. But scientifically trying to figure out the emotional profile of our variety of consumers and systematically creating marketing systems, campaigns and structures that actually target and personalize our messaging and our creative based on those emotional profiles—and actually actioning on the concept of that emotional connection.
It’s one thing to say we want emotional connection; it’s another thing to design for it. At Anywhere we are segmenting based on emographics as the additional layer of understanding the complexity of our consumer—the scientific segmentation based on the deep subconscious emotional profile of our consumer. And by doing that, we can create that relationship, we can create messaging, we can target and personalize our campaigns in a way that gets to the root of what makes that human being tick.
CM: What’s an example of targeting based on a specific emotional profile?
E-MT: We’re using neuroscience and behavioral science to try to tap into the motivation. We are using metaphoric images to elicit unconscious reactions and responses of consumers to those metaphors. And we’re able to then extrapolate the feelings, emotions, aspirations, fears, anxieties, excitements—whatever that looks like below the surface for that person.
Once we do that, we can create personas that go beyond this income bracket, this level of education. We can now also add the emographics, if this person falls into any particular emotional profile that we’ve built once we segment.
So, now we know if they’re aspirational. We know if they’re fear-based. We know if they think of housing as a success, an achievement, a thing they must accomplish. We know if they think of housing as an issue of stability and security and roots and home—which is really based in fear. We know if they’re the type of consumer that thinks about home in terms of roots, legacy and wanting to leave something behind, which has a different emotional profile associated with that.
CM: Shifting gears a bit to the discipline of marketing in general… As a Latina CMO who is also younger than the average marketing chief, what makes your perspective unique?
E-MT: In real estate specifically, Latinos are going to make up the lion’s share of the growth of housing in the next decade or more. So, if we are not uniquely centered on the opportunity to engage with, connect with and understand the Latino buyer, we have missed the boat as an industry. That’s not to say that nobody else is buying homes, but the incremental growth of home transactions is going to come from the Latino community. You must be part of that.
Taking it out of the industry, this is the thing that all CMOs should focus on: There is such diversity of consumer mindset all across the U.S. that is really complicated to segment and to parcel out in a strategic and smart way.
To your question around age and experience, I think what sets apart a good CMO from a great CMO is the openness to innovation and the reality that the world is digital-first and will only continue to be more so. I think there’s a benefit in being a person in the world that is interacting with brands and businesses that are already digital-native, because there’s an anecdotal understanding of what people consider a good experience. Your exposure in this new way of living is greater.
CM: Do you have any advice for aspiring CMOs, in terms of what skillsets they should focus on developing?
E-MT: The single biggest currency for any CMO is understanding the user—whether you’re B2B and your user is other businesses, or you’re B2C and your user is the consumer. Having that deep, granular understanding of who your people are, how different they are, and what they want is the foundation for any great marketing. Period. Understand your customer with a level of precision that exceeds anything that you have done in the past. Because the closer you can get to your customer, the more successful you can be at just about every aspect of a comprehensive marketing strategy and operation.