Matt Heinz, senior director of marketing for HouseValues Inc. and a Summit attendee, says to test-- but not for too long.
Matt Heinz is senior director of marketing for HouseValues, Inc., a marketing services company providing residential real estate professionals with technology and marketing solutions. Heinz has more than 10 years of consumer and B2B marketing experience with technology, real estate and retail products. He has previously held marketing positions at Microsoft, The Boeing Company, Weber Shandwick, The Seattle Mariners and the Washington State Attorney General's office. Heinz holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington.
iMedia: What's your current greatest challenge when it comes to marketing in general, and interactive marketing, specifically? How are you tackling it/them?
Matt Heinz: We launched a new service for home buyers and sellers in the fall at HomePages.com. Our challenge was to quickly build a brand for this site, and develop credibility, awareness and traffic in a very short amount of time-- especially with the busy spring home-buying season looming. Our team has done a great job getting things rolling, including launching a significant new TV campaign, an exclusive partnership with MSNBC.com and lots of great promotional and loyalty marketing initiatives in the mix.
iMedia: With which online marketing tools (email, behavioral targeting, display advertising, et cetera) has your company experienced marketing success in recent months?
Heinz: We've been experimenting with blogs more actively, especially as a tool to communicate with professional services customers in the real estate and mortgage industries, and to communicate a broader story about our company and products than had previously been available. Our blogs (at http://www.athousevalues.com/ and http://www.agentceo.com/) have become great places for us to informally and quickly communicate with a wide variety of audiences, in an unfiltered, more relaxed and accessible environment.
iMedia: With regard to this success, what are some lessons learned that you can share with our audience? What worked? What were some challenges and how did you overcome them?
Heinz: One of our biggest lessons had less to do with the test itself, and more to do with the fact that we identified an opportunity and moved forward with it quickly. Many large companies spend too much time building consensus and creating the perfect launch environment vs. just rolling up the sleeves and getting something done. Even a test done 80 percent right, but done quickly, more than likely will yield better results than something that takes months or years to plan and get off the shelf.
iMedia: Think about your company's favorite online marketing tool or mix of tools. What advice would you give to marketers interested in trying these out for the first time?
Heinz: HouseValues has been successful in part because we're not afraid to test a wide variety of marketing tools. We're a very ROI-driven company and are able to take various ideas and plug them into an ROI equation to measure success. Projects that don't stand up are stopped quickly, but projects that work are given more fuel. It's a dynamic environment that allows for an incredible amount of creativity and innovation. We wouldn't be able to grow as quickly as we have without it.
iMedia: What's the most out-of-the-box thing you've done in your marketing efforts to reach a hard-to-reach demographic or meet a specific goal?
Heinz: When we launched HomePages.com in October, we also launched an online game called House Invaders. It was an old-school, "Space Invaders"-type game where "home owners" could blast away at household pests-- bugs, ants, even tornados and lightning. It was a lot of fun to play, and helped us get incredible word of mouth coverage for the launch. The blogosphere would write about the new site, but finish their posts with "And have you played House Invaders?"
iMedia: Consumer-generated content is scary for many brands because of their inability to control it. It sounds like you embrace it. What has your experience been, and what advice do you have for other marketers?
Heinz: Customer-generated content can be among the most powerful marketing tools in a brand manager's arsenal. Good marketing starts with a superior product, and if your product is delivering what it promises, then it's easy for customers to proactively sing your praises. The explosion of citizen publishing (via blogs, podcasts, et cetera) makes it much easier for average consumers to riff on any number of topics, including your product. This should be cultivated and harnessed at the same time by smart marketers.
iMedia: Online video is coming of age. Has it impacted your marketing yet? Do you plan to do more of it soon?
Heinz: Yes, we definitely use online video and other online interactive formats to market our products. We make heavy use of online videos to show testimonials, including a corporate testimonial video and several individual customer testimonials. We've also leveraged flash-based interactive tools to drive interest in our products among professional services customers, including a flash presentation to launch HomePages with real estate agents last October. This tool was very successful, in that it simultaneously got real estate agents excited about the new service and also allowed them to order the product immediately online.
iMedia: What are you most proud of from the past year? Why, and what should other marketers learn from that?
Heinz: One of my favorite reads in the past couple months is Think Big, Act Small. I joined HouseValues when it was approximately 80 employees three years ago, and now we're over 600 full-time employees in two locations. But despite our growth, we still work hard to act small. That means finding the fastest, most direct path to success while providing the most valuable products and services to our customers. So I guess the lesson there for any company or marketer is to fight hard to stay scrappy, stay focused while enjoying what you do and find the most effective and efficient means of getting things done.
iMedia: Anything else you'd like to add?
Heinz: If you're looking for a home, check out HomePages.com. It's homes for sale, neighborhood information and aerial maps all wrapped up in one site!
(Another example of acting small? Don't be afraid to promote your products, even in an iMedia interview!)
Dawn Anfuso is senior editor for iMedia Connection.
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