Sell it with a story
Coldwell Banker’s David Marine shares ideas for building a winning marketing plan
Coldwell Banker’s Senior Vice President of Marketing David Marine, the mastermind behind the highest-rated commercial in real estate, says storytelling breathes life into real estate marketing.
And fittingly, Marine starts his interview with OnCourse Real Estate with a story.
Marine’s career didn’t start in real estate. After college, he landed a job in 2000 with a marketing agency for high-tech companies. He worked there for two years; then, 9/11 happened. The tragedy dried up money high-tech clients had to spend on marketing, and Marine found himself out of a job. “I bought a house in September; I got married in December and got laid off in February. So, new wife, new house, new mortgage, no job,” he said. “For two months, I was on unemployment, searching for a job, wondering how I was going to pay bills, and I came across a job on [an employment website that has since closed] to be the electronic product manager for Coldwell Banker. Fifteen years later, here I am as the SVP of Marketing for the brand that I’ve come to know and love.”
Not part of the plan
OCL: Is it a daunting task for agents to execute a marketing plan? Marine: It can sound daunting, at first. When you look at the majority of what agents do on a regular basis, it’s simply translating the conversations they are having with buyers and sellers and people every day, and moving it into a marketable format. Whether that be through video, through social [media] or public relations activities, it’s important to be proactive. [Reporters are] always looking for good stories; yet, often, in real estate, we’re hesitant to reach out to reporters and say, “Did you realize this trend is happening in the local marketplace…?” There’s a certain element of being proactive about it that’s required in taking those conversations [to a marketing level]. Think about when that person stops you in the grocery store and says, “Hey, what’s really going on with the marketplace. I hear that inventory is an issue. What does that mean?” If someone is stopping you to ask you that at a barbeque or a PTA meeting, chances are there are 100 other people who have that same exact question. If we can take that and translate it into social content or videos or a blog post or a page on a website, it will find a lot more success than a simple marketing plan where one just sends out business cards. OCL: Are there things happening in the industry that are making marketing more important than ever in real estate, like the trend for people to do their own research for a home? Marine: The advent of aggregator sites and the ease with which consumers can go online and find real estate information has the perception that it is downplaying the role of the agent. However, I think it is doing just the opposite. The consumer is doing a lot of the groundwork that the agents used to be required to do because access to the information wasn’t available. Instead, what the consumer needs today is for the agent to be a guide, a mentor in “How do I get through this process?” People who are buying homes today want that guidance. They want to make sure they’re making the right decisions. And we’ve found that to be an advantage for Coldwell Banker, because we are a trusted brand that has been around for 110 years and continues to develop our offerings to entice today’s consumers. Being that guide and mentor … is probably the most important aspect of anyone’s marketing promotions. So, while you want to get the leads that come in and drive traffic from the website, the real key is to be able to be that trusted source for today’s buyers and sellers.
Building a viable marketing plan
OnCourse asked Marine to tell real estate agents about what he has learned and give tips for how to build a marketing plan that works.
OnCourse Learning: Are there things that consistently work and don’t work in marketing? David Marine: A good story always works. Some people may relate to that strictly from an advertising perspective, but when you can tell a story of a product or of how you can help a consumer, effectively, that always cuts through the clutter. Really, to touch people less on the fact and figure side of things, which many in our industry are focused on, can translate into that emotional connection, which is so very important in communicating with consumers, as well as agents who have been in the industry. What doesn’t work is buying leads and relying on purchasing of leads. This is something that has been going on for decades with the advent of the internet, with [agents] saying I need more leads and have to drive more leads to my business. Give me more, more, more, more. And what has actually happened is that desire for more leads has actually translated to more work and less efficiencies than focusing on, “Who are the people that want to work with me or that are going to fit the profile that I’m trying to reach?” So, you don’t need more leads; you need better leads in this industry. And when we can start focusing on not just volume, but on quality, that’s really when business is going to pick up. OCL: Is it important for real estate agents to build individual brands or should they rely on the bigger brokerage or companies like Coldwell Banker? Marine: What I’ve seen with a lot of the top Coldwell Banker agents is that they’re not looking for a brand. They have a brand with Coldwell. What they’re doing is looking to create an image within the local community—an expertise within that community. For some reason, there’s a perception that a national brand fights with that local image of the agent. If anything, it’s complementary. Some of the biggest and most successful agents in the country that are part of the Coldwell Banker brand have done that extremely effectively. A great example of that is an agent in Wilmington, N.C., Jessica Edwards, who has been with Coldwell Banker for her entire career. But Jessica has created her own image through the use of video and social, and that has allowed her to connect with others in the Coldwell Banker network [and] to extend her business into the luxury space, which she has continued to build and grow. So, it’s not necessarily a brand [that you’re trying to market]. If you’re part of one, the bigger brand is going to be able to provide you that national recognition and some of the tools that you’ll need to be successful. But it’s up to you to be able to have that local expertise—to be able to connect with consumers at a super local level, when it’s time to have that discussion at the dining room table.
The national brand can help you get into that front door. But it’s up to you, as an agent, to be able to close the deal at the dining room table.
OCL: What elements are needed to build that individual marketing strategy? Marine: I would say the most untapped area of marketing with agents today is the use of video. It’s something that I feel like I’ve been preaching about for the last six years. If you look at any type of internet study that shows you the amount of consumption online of video content, versus static content, it’s astronomical.

It’s about putting yourself on camera and talking about what’s going on in your local marketplace; not just showing a slide show of photos about a property, but picking a room in that house to give details and that interesting perspective. Talk to me about that community. People are searching online every single day on YouTube about local communities and what’s going on in certain marketplaces. And there just isn’t enough quality real estate content out there. So, the agent who does that effectively is going to be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in the marketplace. Yet we’re still hesitant to really use video effectively as individual agents. There tends to be a general fear about being on camera, which is ironic because this is the industry that puts a picture on every business card. We shouldn’t necessarily be afraid of how we’re going to be seen and perceived because we are in front of people every day, talking to them. If you could take that offline activity that you’ve been doing forever and translate it into the digital space, your business is going to succeed.
During those years, Marine has filled many roles within Coldwell Banker’s marketing landscape, including product development, online media, digital and social media and advertising. All those roles have prepared Marine to oversee all marketing for the Coldwell Banker Real Estate brand. Among his newest project launches: the brand’s “Storytelling” campaign,” which features the tech suite of tools that Coldwell Banker has to offer, including the
Smart Home Staging Kit, a proprietary application called CBx and the real estate company’s CB Zap web platform.
“We’re showcasing these tools in a way that will actually help to tell the story of how they solve some real-life problems and issues that agents are dealing with, every day, with sellers and trying to find buyers,” Marine said. “On top of that, we’re really excited this year that we launched a continuing partnership with We call it, 'Somebody to Love,’ and it’s the highest rated ad of all time in real estate and one of the top 20 highest rated ads of all time, according to Ace Metrix. So we couldn’t be more pleased with both the consumers’ reception of that, as well as the agents in the industry’s recognition of that spot.”
“A good story always works.” — David Marine
Storytime "Somebody to love"
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