CMO of the Week: Realtor.com’s Mickey Neuberger

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Mickey Neuberger left eBay to join Realtor.com as chief marketing officer two years ago and his first order of business was to help set the vision for the company.

Mickey Neuberger left eBay to join Realtor.com as chief marketing officer two years ago and his first order of business was to help set the vision for the company.

“Our mission is to be a marketplace for everyone,” says Neuberger. “Our role is a trusted guide for real estate. So whether we're your partner in the process, whether you're an agent or broker, or a struggling first-time homebuyer or renter, we are marketing to you through heart, connection and intelligence.”

Realtor.com offers tools to help buyers and sellers understand the real estate market and understand the trends in their current location. Realtor.com’s aim is to build empathy with home buyers and home renters, as well as sellers and on the B2B side, the agents, brokers and landlords. The site looks to address the pain points these varying demographics face and offers tools to help.

The brand is particularly targeting first-time home buyers but also first-time sellers. “We use the phrases FOMO and FOSU – Fear Of Missing Out and Fear of Screwing Up,” explains Neuberger. “That's super prevalent with first timers, and that is the audience we think we can help the most.”

To drive consumers to their site, the company has turned to online video including an online reality TV show and a series of TikTok posts, several which have broken a million views.

Prior to Realtor.com, Neuberger spent nine years at eBay where he ran CRM and performance marketing. “We really understood how much incremental lifetime value we got out of every dollar we spent,” says Neuberger. “We've invested a lot in understanding optimization and intelligence. Heart connects intelligence. It's really tough to do all three. There's brands that do the brand piece well, but not the performance marketing well, and then there's brands that do performance marketing, but not the brand piece. We win because we can do all three well.”

Brand Innovators caught up with Neuberger from his office in San Francisco to talk building empathy, first-time home buyers and Realtor.com’s Close the Gap initiative. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you talk about how that shows up in your creative executions?

We have a media campaign. It's kind of our version of a reality TV show. It's called Beyond the Block that runs on the Tastemade channel. Tastemade is really geared at a younger demographic, which is our target audience. Its host is Andrew Tyree, who's a realtor. Andrew helps diverse first-time homebuyers from marginalized communities find and buy their first home using Realtor.com tools. Each episode follows a family. There's a deep connection to the community. I love this series because these are communities that are getting squeezed out of buying homes, and we're showing them have success with the use of a realtor and our tool. There's a lot of heart in that. It shows that homeownership is for everyone. That is a big part of our purpose or mission. Our realtors are in the communities connecting with local businesses. 

On the intelligence side, we really understand the traffic is growing. The conversion for Season Two was 4x higher than Season One. We have really learned what types of stories are resonating with our consumers. We've also improved the channels we use to drive the audience. Social is huge for us. When I started, we mostly used Twitter and Facebook. But we've added a ton of channels. We've really built our follower growth. And we've built both B2B and B2C channels. We’ve had a lot of success with TikTok, especially during the pandemic. It's shocking to me what works on TikTok versus other channels. For instance, there's the video of $100,000 fixer uppers. It was a really low fidelity video but these organic real clips work really well on TikTok. 

Can you talk about how the recession and interest rates going up is impacting your marketing?

The market has definitely been volatile. There's been a huge boom. During the pandemic, as people were rethinking home and all of a sudden, you can work from home and lots of folks are moving for lots of different reasons. Now, the markets are in a downturn due to interest rates and other things. But the housing market is cyclical. We're used to the upturns and the downturns. Our company purpose is a real estate marketplace built for everyone. Our mission is to empower more people to find their way home. We're super focused on first-time homebuyers, and they're getting squeezed out of the market. Affordability is a big challenge. Rising interest rates are a big challenge. 

We were really focused on them and building programs and campaigns to try to help them. There is a silver lining in this. Inventory has been very low since houses were flying off the shelf during the pandemic. But right now with the slowdown of the housing market, there is more inventory and prices are starting to come down, which could make it better for first time homebuyers. I hope that happens.

What are your brands' commitments to DE&I and how have those manifested in your work as a marketer?

Our company mission and vision is a real estate marketplace built for everyone. We empower more people to find their way home. That is part of our DNA. It shows up everywhere. It shows up in our meetings. It shows up in our town halls, it shows up in our marketing, it shows up in our product experiences. We've done a lot in the space of fair housing. 

For example, we recently launched the Close the Gap initiative. Black homeownership is 30%, lower than white homeownership. During Fair Housing Month in April, we partnered with the Homeownership Council of America and created a fund to raise money to help people of color buy their first home. Our goal was to raise $200,000 to put 10 families into new homes. We doubled that and we raised $400,000. Through matching and partnerships, we also have a downpayment assistance tool on our site. 

Also we've done a micro mortgage marketplace pilot in Louisville, Kentucky that helps homeowners get access to micro mortgages for homes under $100,000. We put our first homeowner into a home there. 

We have a home buying eBook in Spanish. Spanish is a big part of our fair housing initiative. Recruiting Spanish speaking agents is a major problem. Hispanic people will comprise 56 percent of all new homebuyers by 2030. So we have a Spanish-language site and Spanish marketing. 

Can you talk about how your experience at other brands such as eBay helped shape your approach to leadership in your current position?

One of the big things I learned at eBay and brought here is the importance of intelligence, which is really understanding the value of your marketing spend and understanding incrementality. If I wasn't to spend this dollar on this channel, what would have happened? Okay, now I did, what happened and how did that make a difference? There's a lot of sophisticated analytics and tech and data science to understand that spend channel by channel and then understand it across channels. I've brought that approach here and we've lifted our efficiency on marketing spend by over 50% by using that approach.

What are you most excited about for the rest of 2022?

My answer changes a lot. If you asked me this question two months ago, I might have a different answer. The thing I'm most excited about right now is we've just hired two heavy hitter marketing executives. We hired a new SVP brand and ECD. His name is Nuno Ferreira. He led brand at Lemonade. He was at 72andSunny. He specializes in bringing the heart out of the brand and making it come to life. He is going to elevate our brand and creative in a way that I'm so excited about. And he's really going to help us with heart and connection. We've also just hired another heavyweight marketing exec Laura Eddy as VP of research and insights. She comes from Bed, Bath and Beyond and she was also at Zillow. She's going to elevate our intelligence and insights game and really help us understand our consumers and customers. I already have a strong leadership team, but with these two, the rest of 2022 is going to be amazing.

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