Walker & Dunlop is an organization that finances commercial real estate properties. The company’s SVP of marketing, Chris Zegal, is always focused on strengthening and expanding the company’s brand with an innovative approach to customer outreach, which became even more paramount amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was critical for the marketing team to communicate that Walker & Dunlop was still alive and well. The company had to let clients and prospects know that financing deals were still getting done and that they could count on Walker & Dunlop to be a voice of clarity and confidence in a market that was suddenly facing uncertainty.
Given the large sums of money changing hands, commercial real estate finance is an industry built on trusted relationships. Historically, sales teams across the industry relied on face-to-face client interaction to showcase their expertise, build trust and close deals at conferences, on golf courses, over dinners and wine and maybe even cigars. So, how could the company build virtual relationships — at scale — to instill trust and client engagement when travel and events had come to a complete halt?
Marketing identified several key goals to solve this challenge, such as:
- Continuing to display a confident brand and extending its leadership in core markets;
- Building awareness and fueling expansion for high-growth start-up divisions; and
- Providing marketing and sales support for financing and property sales teams across the country, spanning 250 brokers and bankers.
Walker & Dunlop’s CEO, Willy Walker, saw an opportunity to create a high-visibility weekly webcast that would help establish the company’s reputation as a thought leader in the commercial real estate space. To that end, he tasked the marketing team with “building our brand as big and fast as we can.”
After recalling that Walker wanted the webcast released “next week,” Zegal turned to Folloze, a buyer experience platform, to help his team build out a series of customer-facing webcasts featuring Walker and empower Walker & Dunlop’s 200-strong sales force to turn virtual relationships into revenue-generating opportunities.
The plan was to create an integrated, multichannel program with Walker on a virtual center stage, interviewing high-profile guests such as governors, NBA stars, Harvard professors and leading economists. The goal with “Walker Webcast” was to generate buzz for the company’s role in commercial real estate financing, provide fresh perspectives, create inspiration and foster education for all types of personal topics, including how to be a better leader, live a healthier lifestyle and become a better citizen.
The webcast series was launched in less than a week, with Folloze as the content and engagement hub. Walker & Dunlop relied on Folloze Boards, which are blank digital canvases that help marketers build content-rich destinations and campaigns across the entire B2B journey. The Boards are designed to transform customer data, such as firmographic, buying stage and intent, into memorable buying experiences that guide buyers through each stage of their journey.
Zegal said the proof of how easy it is to work with Folloze Boards is that no one on the team even talks about it — “it’s seamless: You create graphics, drag and drop and it’s done.”
Walker & Dunlop also built social media outreach programs around the webcasts, created a large YouTube following and turned the webcast into a podcast.
The webcast became a weekly engagement touch point with clients, investors, recruits and employees — keeping Walker & Dunlop top of mind.
“The weekly series has become the biggest webcast in our industry, with more than five million views across all channels — and we’ve surpassed more than 100 episodes,” Zegal said. “Folloze makes it easy to manage and showcase a huge amount of content every week.”
Key results of the collaboration with Folloze, the “Walker Webcast” and adjacent materials include:
- The podcast landing in the top 3% of all business podcasts, in terms of downloads;
- 1,500 registrations the first week of “Walker Webcast”;
- More than 5 million webcast views across channels;
- “Winning multiple awards and receiving several accolades,” according to Zegal;
- More than 100 episodes published and counting; and
- 150,000 visitors to Walker & Dunlop’s Folloze Board to date.
“People come to us for our expertise with something that’s pretty complicated, so there’s an element of trust and familiarity involved,” Zegal said. “Engagement is critical with this audience. Folloze helps us project that reputation as a company that our clients want to work with.”
Thanks to data from analytics integrated into the Folloze platform via partner Demandbase, Walker & Dunlop also discovered a high correlation between engagement with existing and net-new customers with the brand program: 69% of existing active accounts and 64% of new accounts participated in the Walker Webcasts.
“Most significantly, $7.5 billion of net-new transaction volume in 2020 came from companies that attended the webcast,” Zegal said. “So, we gained share, and we became No. 1 in our market in that year — while others were struggling, we rose to the top.”
From a CRM perspective, Zegal said the webcasts have proven to be great conversation starters and a powerful re-engagement tool.
“We had one client that watched 40 webcasts,” he said. “People are engaged, and engagement turns virtual relationships into real relationships and real monetary value. It also changes the dynamic with our CEO — when he walks in a room during a sales call, his presence has a halo effect.”
Zegal said he also plans to roll out Folloze to additional account teams across the business to create destination sites with personalized content for key clients.
“One of the reasons we went with Folloze was that we knew that it worked within our ecosystem, within our tech stack,” he explained. “There is a lot of potential to expand what we’re doing with Folloze, help build better relationships and cross-sell into our key accounts.”