Over the last three years, Brown Harris Stevens' Chief Marketing Officer Matthew Leone—recently named a "Marketing All Star" by Inman—has seen the 150-year-old real estate company through arguably its most dynamic period since inception. From strategizing a national brand campaign to undertaking an aggressive content buildout strategy, the face of BHS is different, literally and figuratively, from that of 2020.
Among the challenges Leone confronted was balancing the need for maintaining the storied real estate brand's integrity while ushering it into a new era, one ruled by short-form, easy-to-digest content that must be as shareable as it is informative.
The solution? Utilizing digital platforms to enhance SEO value, curate brand awareness, and connect with new audiences. The result? A viral TikTok account, an industry-leading blog, a popular lifestyle Instagram, and a wealth of opportunities for the firm's 2,500+ agents to market themselves.
"We are not afraid to take chances and be bold ... We now know the true value of being storytellers in everything we do." — Matthew Leone
Read on to learn more about Leone's experience reshaping the BHS brand, tips for marketing in the digital age, and more.
What has been your most ambitious undertaking as CMO?
I would say building a brand messaging campaign, Mastery of the Craft, which spoke to who the new Brown Harris Stevens was following the firm's merger with Halstead Properties in 2020. This message was internal for our agents, B2B (industry-facing), and B2C, speaking directly to our clients. It was an incredible collaboration between our marketing team and AgencySacks that has proved very successful.
How do you feel Brown Harris Stevens’ content output has changed over the last five years?
We are not afraid to take chances and be bold. Five years ago, I am not sure we would have had the appetite for reaching a younger demo through the creation of a TikTok account, blog, in-house video production team, etc. We now know the true value of being storytellers in everything we do.
"Our numbers speak for themselves; we currently have the most-viewed TikTok video of all corporate real estate accounts."
What prompted you to start the BHS TikTok, and why is this type of social media promotion important for brand awareness?
TikTok was always on our radar, but we wanted to do it right. I worked closely with our content and social teams to create a strategy that allowed our legacy brand to effectively play inside that space. Our videos—some of which have garnered well over a million views—spotlight our top homes, share insights on neighborhoods, and allow our agents to offer tips to buyers and sellers in a way that is entertaining and informative.
What advice do you have for those in real estate looking to transform or enhance their brands?
Concentrate on your commodity, which is information. Always give out free samples of your analysis, insights, knowledge, and forecasting. Talk about what is great about the neighborhoods you service to present yourself as a local ambassador. Most importantly, one-to-one prospecting through use of a CRM, personal notes and emails, or phone calls goes a long way in the world of automation.
How should anyone approach their own marketing in the digital age?
Become a storyteller. Tell stories with passion that are in written, photo, or video format, and share them over social media, email, blogs, etc. Remember, once that content is published, it creates a footprint associated your brand that will last forever, so "quality over quantity," as they say. Always try to stay positive, and keep it sophisticated and respectful.