Chris Kelly is Head of Digital Marketing at real estate agent Foxtons, who sell and let properties across London and Surrey.
He sat down with Econsultancy to talk about his varied role, the skills needed to be an effective Head of Digital Marketing, how he measures success, and how to find the marketing position that’s right for you.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Chris Kelly: At Foxtons our core proposition as a brand is to provide our customers with an exceptional level of service, however they are interacting with us. My role as Head of Digital Marketing is to deliver that high level of experience across our digital channels, while bringing more qualified traffic to the website.
We have lots of different customer types from renters to buyers, sellers to landlords – and even investors – all with different needs, so as you can imagine the role is quite varied.
My role as Head of Digital Marketing at Foxtons consists of three core areas:
1. Digital acquisition – How do we drive more customers to our website? We do this via a number of channels but the main ones are Paid search. Paid social, SEO & display
2. Onsite optimisation – Once a customer is on our digital portals, how we do ensure their experiences are as slick as possible? I do a lot of work with our internal IT team and our MVT agency to conduct a number of tests to ensure we’re constantly improving the website, this can be from anything from updating the online valuation form to a design change on the homepage.
3. Customer relationship management. Making a decision on where to live, when to sell, where to invest is an extremely important decision and one that isn’t made overnight. Therefore, having a robust CRM program is key to helping a customer make the decision that’s right for them.
We’ve done a lot of work in this space over the last 6 months to understand how digital communications can help support a customer through their decision making process but to also support our sales and branch staff when communicating to customers.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Chris Kelly: I report in to Steve Rodgers, Marketing Director and I sit within the marketing department.
Within my team we have a Digital Marketing Manager and a CRM Executive, but within the marketing department we all work very closely with each other it feels like it’s one big team, all with the aim of providing great marketing to our customers.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Chris Kelly: My role is no different to another senior role within a large brand; to be effective in your role you need to be able to understand stakeholders and influence key decision makers. All of this boils down to being a good listener and great communicator.
Personally over the years I’ve found that seeing the bigger picture is a great skill to have. Yes, you have to focus on the here and now; but you always have to be thinking about what the next month, the next six months, the next year will look like.
Without this, you’ll find that you’ll end up focusing all your time and effort on projects that won’t make a significant difference to the customer or business. Ultimately the brands that innovate are the ones that continue to grow so having an eye on the future will help with this.
Organisation is key too – this is linked to the above point on prioritising what’s going to have the biggest impact for the customer or business. Fortunately, I work in a department that has so many great ideas that it’s more of a case of deciding which ones to go live with first. Being able to prioritise, and being organised, helps with this.
Finally, a bit of a no brainer when it comes to digital and any other marketing role: you have to be analytical. If you want to be successful in any marketing role, having a good eye for numbers will help you succeed.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Chris Kelly: From reading a few of the other day in the life features it feels like there’s all one thing in common and that’s there isn’t ever a typical day. There are a few daily routines I try to keep to, though.
I live in Sussex, so I try to make my train time as useful as possible by catching up on emails from the previous day, reading industry news or working out my top priority for the day.
I’m a creature of habit, so when I get in, I have the same breakfast whilst checking all the major analytics tools to understand how performance was for the previous day. After that, it really depends on what meetings I have and who I bump into in the lift. It’s safe to say I have daily conversations with all our media agencies and our MVT agency, as well as catching up with the team about any challenges they might have.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Chris Kelly: I really enjoy being part of a company that wants to embrace digital. I’ve worked at a number of places where this is the aim, but in reality it’s a box ticking exercise, so working at a company that wants to and is actually doing so is really fun.
Having a marketing director who comes from a digital background is great too, as we can bounce ideas off each other. I wouldn’t say anything really sucks – the role is exactly what I’m looking for, and I can see great things happening for Foxtons over the next few years.
If I were to get pushed for a dislike, it would be constantly seeing houses that I’ll never be able to afford!
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Chris Kelly: My main goal is delivering new vendor leads. We do this by asking customers to fill out an online valuation form; this gives the customer a feel of how much their property is worth.
This is at the very top of the funnel, so over the last six months, we’ve moved to a more sophisticated view of measuring ROI. Working with our amazing business analysts, we’ve developed a lower funnel reporting flow, so now I can not only see how many customers have landed on the website and made an enquiry, but can see how many customers completed a valuation and instructed too.
Going to this level of granularity is really helping us understand the investment needed across each channel and how we optimise each channel, helping me understand not only a cost per enquiry, but crucially now a cost per instruction.
Conversion rate is a key metric for us too. Over the past two years we’ve developed our own online valuation tool. We do a lot of testing on this, from simple designs changes to functionality of the form to new conversational style forms. As this is our primary lead generation tool, conversion rate is a metric we constantly look at and area where were always looking to improve.
Digital communications has been an area that the real estate sector as a whole has been slow to pick up on. Over the past six months, we’ve embarked on an overhaul of how we communicate to our customers through digital channels, but with the backdrop of making sure each communication is either benefiting the customer or helping support the sales and branch staff.
Over the past six months, thanks to my talented CRM executive, we’ve launched more than 40 campaigns, so key metrics for us are engagement rates such as open and click-through rates. We’ve started segmenting audiences, too, so understanding what type of content resonates with a particular audience is crucial.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Chris Kelly: It’s an old one, but still a good one: Google Analytics is still top of the tools for me. It’s permanently open in a browser tab on my desktop, and gives me a great view of performance and website behaviour.
We’ve also moved to start using Google Data Studio, too: I’m all for automation to speed up tasks, so having Google Data Studio has enabled me to self-serve and get access to data rather than asking our agency for it.
As part of our MVT testing we use Maximiser, so again this is a useful tool for me to quickly get data or a snapshot of how live tests are performing. We also use Hotjar to help us understand performance across the website too
Aside from those, I’m also a fan of SEMrush to help with SEO.
How did you get into marketing in real estate, and where might you go from here?
Chris Kelly: I’ve been fortunate to work for a number of companies across different industries. I really enjoy working for brands that are really keen to push digital forward, and from the moment I walked into Foxtons head office I got the sense this was the aim for the business.
I also really enjoy working for industries that are getting distributed. When I was at PizzaExpress, the emergence of Just Eat and Deliveroo made us sit up and really take stock of what we stood for as a business and a brand, and there are very similar challenges facing Foxtons with the emergence of the online players. Competition is ultimately healthy (unlike the food at PizzaExpress!)
Personally, I’ve always had an interest in real estate having done major renovation work on my own properties over the past few years.
I never look too far in front of me; currently I’m really enjoying the role and I’m super excited about the next few years.
The brands that embrace new ways to talk to customers will be the ones that grow.”
– Chris Kelly, Head of Digital Marketing, Foxtons
Which marketing campaigns or customer experiences do you admire?
Chris Kelly: There are lots of great marketing campaigns out at the moment, but there’s been a few brands that have really stepped up their marketing efforts over the past few years.
I’m a Manchester United fan, so it pains me to say some of the marketing Manchester City are doing is great. They’ve understood the importance of communicating to all their customers but crucially, understand the difference between match goers and oversees fans and how their engagements with the club need to be different through the forms of global and local content. Also, they’ve done a great job of leveraging partnerships such as their recent joint marketing campaign with Tinder.
Customer experiences are crucial to meeting customer needs; there’s nothing more frustrating than a poor customer experience. One brand that clearly spends a lot of time of UX is ASOS. Sure, their mobile and desktop journeys are great with simple navigation, clear design and timely trade up messages, but what I’m really impressed with is their latest chatbot offering.
Many brands launch chatbots that ultimately have very little functionality. ASOS launched Enki this year, and it ticks all the boxes with its easy to use Style Match technology and personalisation. The brands that embrace new ways to talk to customers will be the ones that grow.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get into marketing in your sector?
Chris Kelly: I’d take a step back from this question and think about what you want from your marketing career. I’m a marketer who needs to get excited about the work and the brand, and crucially, I need an interest in it. If you have one of the three, then the role probably isn’t right for you. If you have three out of three, then you’re onto a winner and a role you should certainly take.
I’d also put a lot of emphasis on your team. It’s an underrated aspect of a role that people look for, but if you have a great team who supports each other then this goes such a long way to helping you in your role. You never know – you might even end up enjoying work!
One final piece of advice is to always be curious. Chat to new suppliers, chat to stakeholders, chat to people in your team about ideas. You’ll find you get a lot more out of your role.