Coming from a creative agency and media production background that includes Tribeca Enterprises (owners of Tribeca Films and the Tribeca Film Festival), Matt Spangler was looking for an opportunity to apply his skills to disrupt a larger industry.
In October 2014, he found an opportunity to do just that in real estate with a New York-based company called Compass.
“I looked at the industry of real estate and thought that it was truly one of the most ever-present industries in the world,” said Spangler. “Everyone at some point is thinking about where they’re going to live, whether it be buying or renting, but the industry has seemingly been untouched by the powers of great design and storytelling, media, and content generation. I thought it was a big opportunity to craft the company and marketing team to make us one of the more innovative companies in the space.”
Using Content to Tell Stories
Spangler noted that he always thought it was confusing for agents to show empty homes in their publicity pictures. Instead, he concluded that injecting some life into the photos would help set his company apart from the competition.
“We’ve [added people] into our social media content, our videos that we do for our listings, and our print publications. I think it’s unique in the industry and the feedback that we’ve received is that it really helps to tell the story. All of these things are really more meaningful to people when it comes to a purchase that is such a big deal and so expensive.”
The results have been tremendous. In less than a year and a half, Spangler has transformed the company into a tech-powered real estate company enabling its rapid growth—from its small office in Union Square and a handful of satellites to nearly 20 offices in six major cities and a significantly larger headquarters building in New York.
“The word ‘storytelling’ is being thrown around in all kinds of different industries today, and I think it’s always been there and been an important part of what people consider to be marketing and entertainment—so the reality is that we need to be telling our story outwardly every day across our own and operated channels and building up our audiences.”
Assembling a Team of All-Stars
To meet his aggressive content marketing initiatives, Spangler assembled a team with specialized skill sets in media production.
“We needed people with editorial backgrounds that could tell stories and great designers that have multiple skill sets such as motion graphics, print and digital design, editorial design, etc. Our head of creative production is from Pixar. Our head of editorial used to work at Condé Nast. Some of our marketing and account people have come from vastly different backgrounds—from beauty or consumer products. What I think the real magic of Compass is that we’re bringing mindsets and different expertise from the world’s best industries [and applying them] to the problem of real estate.”
Staying on Top of Best Practices
Spangler and his team stay on top of best practices in marketing not only by looking at what other industries are doing, but also by creating a feedback loop with the agents—the ones that are ultimately using the content to enhance their individual businesses.
“From a best practices perspective, I’m learning every day, and that forces me and our team to constantly be looking on the industry—not just our industry, but other industries—as to what are those best practices for marketing.”
To communicate regularly with Compass agents, Spangler’s team produces a brand bulletin every few weeks that highlights what’s happening across the network, new marketing initiatives being produced, and soliciting constant feedback.
“We have an enormous resource here including hundreds of top agents from around the country in six major cities. These are the best and brightest in the industry, so I have direct lines of communication with those individuals. Having these top agents in house allows us to constantly learn about the tools and the things they need to do their business better, and then we are continuously inventing and innovating on those tools to help them improve.”
Ultimately, Spangler notes that their products are not the homes that they sell, but their people. “The fact is that this is truly an all-star team of agents across the nation, and [our job is] to tell their stories,” he said.
Create the Experience First, Then Figure Out the Best Format to Distribute
“It’s not about the format. It’s not about the fact that it’s printed on paper or that it’s a magazine, It’s the fact that in this one piece, we can tell the story about the agents and their backgrounds, and why they’re interesting. We can tell the stories about all the cities that we’re in and what the markets look like there. We can show in-depth the beautiful homes that go beyond just seeing a regular photograph and one single image and expecting to know the story about why that home is meaningful to you. That’s what I mean by storytelling—it lets us dive a little bit deeper, and the combination of great photography, words, design, and more that helps those stories resonate when someone sees it.”