On today’s episode of Perspectives podcast, we are joined by John Passerini, the Global VP of Interactive Marketing for Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, LLC. John shares unique, extraordinary marketing strategies and ideas with us on the show that can help global and local real estate brokers and agents improve their marketing efforts by incorporating an interactive approach.

The primary focus of the Marketing team at Sotheby’s is to try to get in front of a global audience, to help drive traffic and clients to their partner’s websites and offices, and to create interactions and awareness of the brand to their brokers all over the world. John explains how collaborating with the company and utilizing their unique approach as well as their network can help grow local firms, maximize profits, and become more connected to their buyer’s market.

“We all work together to reinforce the brand, globally and locally.” – John Passerini

In This Episode of Perspectives:

  • What the interactive marketing team does to help local brokers and global firms.
  • How the team’s interactive marketing techniques can help real estate affiliate brokerage companies.
  • Helping affiliates and brokers create tools, platforms, and marketing initiatives that help them do their job better.
  • How the team creates campaigns to meet the varying needs of each local market.
  • How the team is utilizing AppleTV to help agents increase awareness and sales of properties.

Connect with Sotheby’s International Realty:

SIR on Facebook

SIR on Instagram

SIR on Twitter

Tune-in to learn more about Perspectives:

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Sotheby’s International Realty Podcast Transcript:

On this week’s episode of Perspectives, brought to you by Louisville’s luxury real estate brokerage, Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty, I’m speaking with John Passerini, the Global VP of Interactive Marketing for Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates. John, it’s good to talk to you. Thanks for being on the show.

John: Hey, Greg. I’m so excited to do this. This is really cool. Thanks for having me.

subscribe-via-itunesGreg: My pleasure. Why don’t you give us a quick introduction, where you are, who you are, and what you do for Sotheby’s International Realty.

John: Yeah. I’m the global VP of interactive marketing, and what I do is all aspects of marketing, really, but the focus here is we’re trying to get in front of a global audience so that we can drive clients and interactions and awareness of the brand to our brokers all over the world. We’re going to be in 70 countries. We have 20,000 agents across the globe. What we try to do in the interactive team, we cover everything from our SEO, SEM initiatives, our media placements on large media companies, websites, apps, our Apple TV app, our social engagement, virtual reality that we do, property syndication to get exposure for properties all over the globe.

It’s pretty a wide-ranging thing that we do. The lines between what people may have said is traditional marketing and digital marketing really doesn’t exist. It’s all marketing. There’s nothing that we do here that isn’t designed to get in front of people wherever they are, whatever medium they’d like to use.

Greg: You must have chosen to use the word “interactive” for some reason. Instead of saying VP of marketing, it is interactive, so is there more of a emphasis on websites and digital, or not? Am I reading too much into the title?

John: No, most definitely. We’re focused on platforms, apps. We’re focused on our online advertising, whether that be paid search through Google or Bing or what have you, websites, of course. All the marketing initiatives are set to drive awareness online, because that’s where the consumers are. 90% of the real estate consumers are going to a website and doing their research and then connecting with an agent. But yes, yes, interactive. We’ve got a focus on platforms, online marketing initiatives and those such things.

Greg: Awesome. All right. For anyone listening, I just want to make a distinction, you’re at the Sotheby’s International Realty, the mother ship. You’re at the international headquarters. I’m in an affiliate office in Louisville, so why do I like you? I’m a small market guy. Why are you important to me? I like you because you’re nice, and we like talking, but from a marketing point of view, why are you important? What you guys do there, how does that affect me?

John: We all work together, right? We’re all trying to reinforce the Sotheby’s International Realty brand globally and locally. We’re involved in all aspects of marketing from a global perspective, but we want customers to feel we have a consistency, a quality experience no matter where they are, no matter how they interact with us, whether it’s online through some of the websites and platforms we create or with you at the local brokerage or agency. We want our marketing to be consistent across the board.

Our agents in local markets, wherever they are, are really the representation of the brand in person. What we do here is we try to create tools, platforms, marketing initiatives that help them do their job better. We want to funnel that down to the local brokers and their marketing teams, people like you, and then turn that into something that’s locally relevant. What we’re doing here is creating those core assets, creating that brand awareness around the globe and then helping you guys use that in your local markets, help those agents serve their clients and gain more clients.

Greg: It’s not really where the most expensive property is. There are certainly people who move here and relocate to Louisville, but it’s not a Miami or an LA, so we don’t have the same kind of international exposure that a lot of the bigger markets do. You’re saying it’s not necessarily trying to get the most expensive properties in front of the most international buyers. There’s a lot more that goes into the marketing that an affiliate agent anywhere can access and use to become a better, more successful agent.

John: Yeah. We’re not about price point. We’re not about anything other than a quality experience. We want the lifestyle that you represent to come through, through the marketing that we do, through the marketing that you do, but it’s not about any sort of price point. It’s about a quality experience. You look at different brands around the globe, Mercedes, they have different price point options, but when you’re driving a Mercedes-Benz, it’s a quality experience no matter what. Again, that’s all it’s about. We want the marketing to be consistent no matter what price point we’re talking about. We want the experience, the face-to-face experience with the consumer to be consistent so what we do is relevant no matter where we are.

Greg: You embrace that expectation, and we do. I should say that all of us do, that when you go to a different market, like you said, you kind of know what to expect if you deal with a Sotheby’s International Realty affiliate, that it is going to be a higher level of service. I think you said it well. The price point’s not particularly important. It’s the service.

But when you’re putting your marketing together, when you’re kind of thinking of a new either product to use or new campaign, how do you factor in …? Because your markets that you work with are so different. Even in the U.S. they’re very different, internationally they’re different. How do you figure out how to put a campaign together that’s going to benefit everyone, or do you have to put different campaigns together to benefit different kinds of brokerages?


John: Yeah, it’s a mix of both, really, and it is a tough challenge. There really isn’t a global real estate company like ours that have offices in all these countries. The benefit of that to us is we learn what’s relevant in the local markets across the board. It takes time. We’ve been doing this now for going on 13 years, and we’ve learned how to adapt our marketing initiatives to different parts of the world. We’re going to have a consistent global approach that’s going to be universal across the board, but we’re also going to look for opportunities that are relevant particularly to each market.

For example, we’re looking for media partners that stretch the globe, so companies like News Corp or The New York Times or Architectural Digest. We’re also looking for locally relevant initiatives like our partnership with Juwai or MyFun, which both focus on the Chinese buyer looking outside of their country. Also, The Times of London, looking for European-type exposure or the Financial Times, looking for that financially savvy person in the European market.

We do have to adapt and create marketing initiatives that are global, and it is a tough challenge. We translate our content. We don’t use machine translation. We use human translation so we’re locally relevant to a consumer that may come through sothebysrealty.com or may look at some of our advertising and such. We focus on the way things are structured outside the United States. Location structures are different, so when people do searches on our website, we have to think about the way things are organized, that there’s no Zip Codes, for example.

It’s a big thing that we try to do, and we think it’s relevant to everybody in our network. Whether you’re in Louisville or you’re in Paris, we’ve got this connection and this expertise and this knowledge that can be shared amongst the entire network. Whether it’s connecting to an agent for referral opportunities, that someone maybe wanted to move to Louisville, you’ve got this vast network to connect to.

You also have local expertise in the brokerages for marketing initiatives. Maybe some ideas have come up in a local market that can be shared amongst our network, and it’s really unprecedented how willing and able our network is sharing ideas and concepts, whether it’s amongst each other within the network or up to corporate. We don’t sit here thinking that we know the answers to everything. Many of the great ideas that we get are coming from the field and filtered to us and then we’re figuring out how to spread that around the globe and make it relevant locally and globally.

Greg: Right. That kind of walks me right into a big concern that we have on the local level is when our agents go out to a listing presentation, we’re going to be up against maybe a fairly successful local brokerage and then we’re going to … another person who might be up for the listing will be from another national company. From your perspective, what is the benefit to our agents, to a local agent to sort of being both local …? I guess I’m giving you what I think my answer is. What’s the benefit of being part of the Sotheby’s brand, part of the Sotheby’s International Realty? You have someone banging you for not being local. Then you have someone else banging you for being international… I’ll just walk you right into it. To me, it seems to be the best of both worlds.

John: Yeah. That is exactly it, because we’re partnering with the best companies in each of the markets around the world. We’re doing that because we know that you know the local market. You’ve got that down, right? You know who you need to connect to. Your agents are involved in the communities. They know how great the bourbon is in Louisville.

Greg: There we go.

John: They know the great restaurants and all that stuff. They know what type of companies exist in Louisville. A good amount of the top Fortune 500 companies are based in Louisville. They know the market. They know the schools and all that. You come into that with that knowledge, but what you’re doing is coupling it with … probably the most world-recognized brand name in real estate is Sotheby’s International Realty. We have this extensive network and knowledge, as we were saying before, that we’re connecting you to.

It helps through your day-to-day connections, whether that is an agent reaching out to another agent within our network or day-to-day an agent locally in your market who knows her town, who knows the school systems, who knows the businesses, who knows what is great about working and living in Louisville. That can be shared amongst our network to create awareness of what it’s like to live in Louisville, why you should consider it a destination, an option. You also know your local market so well, so you can spread that awareness amongst our 20,000 agents. You have that ability to do that. Then you also have obvious awareness. It is the best of both worlds.

Greg: That really came home to me. I guess you, you plural, put together an international conference every, I guess, year and a half, and just the amount of knowledge that gets spread there is easy to then take back to your local market. The camaraderie is great. It’s always fun to go out and see, meet new people and have drinks, but the actual education, as you mentioned, you get to take from market to market. The people in the office who know their office so well, know their market so well, then get to go meet and talk about new technologies, what’s coming down the pike, what’s working, what’s not working. It’s a great network.

To me, that’s the benefit, is the marriage between the local market and finding out what’s going on in the bigger world, which leads me to the next question. Do you have any idea, something, new trend or some new marketing or something that’s bigger picture than I’m looking at in Louisville, since you are on the international side, and the national? Is there anything that we need to be paying attention to in the coming months, years?

Sotheby's International Realty Website screen

John: In terms of the marketing or technology trends, insights of what’s going on, we do try and stay ahead of the curve. We rolled out our Apple TV app, and so we can get the people in their living rooms and experience the brand right there through Apple TV.

Greg: Can you explain that one real quickly before we skip right by it like everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about?

John: Yeah, yeah, sure. Apple, with the latest release of Apple TV, they enabled it so people like us, marketers can develop apps like you can for your iPhone. You weren’t able to do that before. We took advantage of that, and we also are taking advantage of the amazing content that our network provides to us. We’ve always demanded high-def photography, high-def videos, so we’ve got this great inventory of content that adapted itself to the Apple TV device connected to your 50-, 60-, 80-inch screens, so it looks brilliant and beautiful. What the Apple TV app allows us to do is get in front of customers in another platform.

We’ve got the mobile devices. We’ve got desktop computers, we’ve got laptops, and now we have Apple TV. Right next to the Netflix app, you can have your Apple TV app. You can browse through all of our beautiful properties, look at the great high-def imagery and videos. We also have the Siri capability built into it, so you can search by voice, search for Louisville, Kentucky, homes and will get results and you can connect to an agent that way. We did something fun with it, too. We put a game in there, too, so you can guess the location. We show a home, and we don’t tell you where it is. You can guess the location. That’s fun.

The other initiatives that we’ve done is adapting virtual reality or 3-D tours on our website and then further syndicating that out. We are seeing trends there where we’re solving a problem with distance. When a consumer wants to go and actually visit a home … A lot of folks are looking for second homes or maybe they’re relocating or maybe they’re far away, long distances, so to give them an experience of virtual reality or 3-D tours, we’re actually seeing people buying homes sight unseen because they feel they’ve learned enough through the 3-D tour or virtual reality experience, that they’ve gotten enough information about every detail of the home, that they’ve actually put an offer in.

I think we’re a little early to this. VR is a little cumbersome when you go from the 2-D experience that your computer screen or your phone experience to putting the headset on. It’s not quite there yet. We’re a little ahead of the curve, but it’s going to happen. I envision our offices having VR stations in them so that a client can come in, and if they are interested in places outside of that current market, they can experience it, or even within the market. They can experience before they actually go to the home.

That’s all fun and good, the technology. We’re going to continue enabling our platforms to create great content like that, like the high-def videos and VR and the property videos that are just really rich experiences that you can just delve into it. We’re always going to be building lifestyle-type content and destination content that talks about our brand and our expertise within certain markets, but at the end of the day, I don’t see much changing when it gets down to that interaction with the real estate agent. They’re the ones who are the experts. They’re the ones who know the market. They’re the ones who can help guide a consumer through the process of buying or selling real estate.

Maybe some of the technology changes, maybe the way that you communicate with someone needs to be adapted. Maybe an agent who’s been in the industry for 30, 40 years needs to add some tools to her tool belt, but the fundamentals of that real estate interaction is going to stay the same, because the real estate agent is still needed to provide that expertise. What we’re trying to do as a global marketer and as the local marketers is really enable them with the best platforms, the best marketing initiatives so that they can communicate with a client no matter where they are or the prospective client or the new client or somebody’s moving from a different part of the world.

They need to be able to connect with that client the way they want to be connected with, whether that’s through texting or through social or through face-to-face or finding information on Apple TV or a mobile app or a website. We want to give them all assets possible to create that connection, and we want it to be a quality experience no matter what it is, face-to-face, the business card, the signs that we put in the yard, consistent quality experience from the Apple TV device to the business card to the phone.

Greg: All right. I’m not sure I can top that, so I’m not going to try. You said that very nicely. John, I really appreciate you taking some time to speak with us today. I suppose if someone’s looking for real estate, obviously we want to steer them towards their affiliate, but if they want sort of a high view, can they go to …? Is there one central website? Should they go to the Sotheby’s International Realty or should they search for …? What’s the best way for someone to find out marketing in general for our global brand?

John: Yeah. I think first and foremost is sothebysrealty.com. That’s the epicenter of our marketing. That’s the epicenter of our brand. We want to drive people … Anybody who’s curious to learn about our brand, great place to start is sothebysrealty.com.

Greg: I have to say, it’s one of the prettiest websites. You talked about the content and all the high-def pictures and the high-def videos and everything coming from all the different affiliates across the world. If you like architecture and you like houses and you like nice finishes, I’m just warning people who listen, you could get stuck here at this website for quite a while. It’s beautiful.

John: Yeah, for sure. Thanks, Greg. We all worked together on that. The reason why that website looks as good as it does, think about it. The visuals, the photos, the videos, that’s the content that our network is creating. The website’s really just a platform, a vessel for this beautiful content, the property videos, the photography, the great descriptions, all that stuff comes from our network of expertise around the world. That really is what makes it come alive, to life.

subscribe-via-stitcherThe same goes for the Apple TV app. If they want to experience the brand through the Apple TV, have the latest generation of Apple TV, go search in the app store for Sotheby’s International Realty and download it and enjoy it. It’s a free app. We also have our mobile apps. Search for Sotheby’s International Realty in the app store, and you’ll have a great experience.

Greg: John, that sounds great. Thanks again for talking to us today.

John: Thanks, Greg.

Thank you for joining Perspectives this week, presented by Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty. If you have an idea for a future episode or think you might like to participate, please contact us at podcast@LSIR.com for more information. Please, if you like this series, make sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher and leave us a review and share and like on all your favorite social media channels. You can find more episodes like this one as well as all available homes for sale in the Louisville market at our website, LSIR.com.