Why San Francisco's Climb Real Estate is doubling down on content

San Francisco is a playground of innovation and branding, something Climb Real Estate strives to embody.

A visit to the 6-year-old, 113-agent firm’s headquarters in the Golden City’s Design District makes this clear right away. The open-layout office design reflects its hometown’s filigreed, lavish aesthetic with conference rooms boldly decorated to match the city’s noteworthy neighborhoods.

But the Inman News 2016 Innovator Award nominee knows the real provenance of design’s power is the mind. That’s why it’s investing in a new content strategy that will bring the firm’s tech/design-infused aesthetic to life for consumers, its agents and potential agents.

It’s in the process of completely redesigning its now-quiet real estate-focused blog and continuing to beef up its innovation channel, Climb Labs, with more content.

Three months ago, the firm hired a full-time communications director, Graham Carlson, 26, with a mandate to spin out content -- blog posts, social media posts and more -- and experiment with new media and technology and expose what Climb is doing with it. (Carlson recently did a post on the virtual reality app Xspaced the firm is testing out, for example).

Carlson recently completed a month-long experiment, with four Climb agents, with Snapchat and chronicled his thoughts around its utility for real estate agents in a four-part series on Climb Labs. He’s currently experimenting with Pokemon Go and prepping a post, leaking out some of his thoughts on Climb’s social media accounts.

In short, Carlson’s job is to show the firm stays on the cutting edge of innovation and experiments with new technology and design, he told me during a visit at the Climb office this week.

The genesis

Climb decided to refocus its content strategy from a somewhat random event.

A few months ago, Climb co-founder Chris Lim heard one of the firm’s employee’s daughter talking about Snapchat, Climb’s marketing director Gianni Lyle told me.

Choey’s ears perked up. Lyle remembers Choey saying something to the effect: “We say we’re so innovative but we don’t know about that.”

The new content marketing strategy is also a recognition that the traditional marketing B.S. just isn't as effective nowadays, Lyle said. Consumers crave something genuine and valuable, and tend to ignore the rest.

The challenge of measurement

If content is bunnies, sunshine and light, evaluating content strategy ROI is Dante’s seven levels of hell: obscure, hard to navigate and not fun.

Currently, Climb doesn’t have a mechanism for analytically measuring its redoubled content play, said Lyle, who manages Carlson and oversees the effort.

The biggest tool is agent feedback, Lyle said.

If Climb’s content efforts encourage some of its agents to adopt new technology, other agents to join the firm and reinforces Climb’s innovative image in consumers’ minds, it’s been successful.

Right now the firm relies on anecdotes to measure success.

Part of the challenge is one inherent in all content marketing -- it burnishes a brand, demonstrates expertise, domain skill and caring, but it doesn’t necessarily directly generate leads or close clients, Lyle said.

But, when done well, it fertilizes the ground for sustainable, organic business growth like few other marketing efforts, Lyle and Carlson said.

Header image: One of Climb's San Francisco neighborhood-themed conference rooms. Image courtesy of Climb Real Estate.

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