Leading Women - Judy Gibbons: Luxury Leader
Adversity can impact people in a way that gives them purpose and drive. Judy Gibbons, a broker-associate with Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty in Chicago and president-elect for Women's Council Chicago, knows that well. “I was 9-years-old when my house was destroyed by a tornado,” she says. Gibbons was one of five kids home with their mom when the tornado struck. “My dad was at a friend’s house and saw the funnel cloud heading toward our house. He called us and saved our lives. He told my mom to get us and get in the basement immediately.” But, it was what happened after the tornado that defined the leader Gibbons is today. “My parents handled the loss of the house and material possessions with such strength and grace. I realized, even at that young age, that there isn’t anything worth more than your life, health and the people you love. You can’t get caught up in the small problems.”
That can-do attitude served her well throughout her career in the fashion business and then, in 2004, when she left fashion to start her real estate career. “My husband Peter and family moved from New York to Barrington, Illinois. With three daughters at home, a career in real estate made sense,” she says. Now, she’s a marketing whiz handling luxury listings in her area. “Luxury wasn’t a conscious decision for me; it was based on my sphere of influence. I live in an area that tends to have more luxury homes and horse properties, so I got my start listing my friends’ homes,” she says. But, according to Gibbons, it wasn’t until she joined the Sotheby’s brand that she moved into homes higher than $500,000. “With Sotheby’s, my marketing materials became consistent,” she says. So consistent, in fact, that her photos in the local glossy magazines and the introductory video on her website, make her a recognizable face around town. “I stop into Trader Joes for lettuce, and people recognize me. They feel like they know me. I’ve had people come up to me and ask me to list their home even,” she says.
Gibbons says her marketing takes two forms: old school and new school. “Old school marketing includes print advertising, postcards and all the things real estate [professionals] had done before technology came around,” she says. Her new school marketing includes listing properties for sale on Facebook groups, such as one for luxury listings and the Sotheby’s Global Facebook page.
In addition to listing properties, she says, “I participate in the groups by answering people’s questions or offering advice. You never know when one of the top agents in New York City will see my posts and refer someone to me.” She also uses video, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. “With LinkedIn, I reach the top agents in feeder markets where my clients may be buying homes, such as Aspen, Colo., Florida and Texas.
She markets based on the type of social media she’s using. While she posts listings and has discussions on Facebook and reaches agents on LinkedIn, she takes a more commercial approach to Pinterest and Instagram. “After we photograph a large home, we go back and take photos of details, such as a sink faucet, and use those shots on Pinterest and Instagram,” she says. “They make for interesting ads.” As part of a new marketing campaign, she is using an app called Waterlogue that creates a watercolor photo of the image. “I created a whole ad campaign around the soft, cool look of this feature. I like to tell a story with my listings.”
However, the marketing strategy that most speaks to her luxury buyer is the helicopter rides she offers to buyers of $1.5 million-plus homes. “I just listed 337 acres in downstate Illinois, and it’s perfect to use a helicopter to see that entire property,” she says. Also, because the homes she lists are perfect for movie and television commercial photoshoots, through the Sotheby’s connections, she connects the property owners to those in the film industry. “Most clients really like that. I recently had a property that Ace Hardware used in their commercial. And, many of the people coming to film the commercial or movie have connections to those who may want to buy the house.”
For Gibbons, the luxury market was a natural. However, she says, if agents without the same resources want to break into the luxury market, it is do-able. “First, you have to immerse yourself in their world through reading or watching. For women, if you can afford it, buy a great pair of shoes or a designer handbag. It sounds superficial, but it helps them relate to you. Obviously, you’re not competing with these buyers, but you want to show them you understand their world,” she says. Another way to do that, she says, is to plan a goal setting session that helps you visualize their world. “My manager suggested that I do my planning at the Four Seasons [hotel], order a glass of champagne, use a beautiful pen and visualize what I want and the clientele [to whom I] want to sell.”
Another tip, she says, is to understand the details that make a home a luxury home. “You have to know the latest trends in kitchen design or hardware and architecture.” Also, take classes, find a mentor and meet other agents. “Women’s Council is great for making long-lasting relationships,” says Gibbons. “One of my favorite Women's Council stories happened right after I joined. One of the Council officers tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to get involved. I did and after a few months, she asked me to list her parents’ home. It dawned on me that she had total trust in me. We didn’t work for the same company, but she knew from my involvement in Women's Council that I was trustworthy.”
Perhaps the most important strategy, says Gibbons, is to lead with a giving heart. “Share your experience and information with others. Be a giver. I love to talk to younger agents and give them advice. I graduated from the school of hard knocks—you either fight it or figure it out,” she says. It’s obvious to all that Gibbons has figured it out.
About the Contributor
Tracey C. Velt is a real estate writer from Orlando, Florida.
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