Letter from the President
As 2022 draws to a close, we enter that time of the year when we reflect on our highlights, take our final notes from our losses, and look ahead toward the new year — or as we say in my household, what did you love, what did you learn, and what will you lean into next?
What We’ve Loved
Here at Catalyst, we have so much to love, and right at the top of my list is our team’s weekly Friday morning meetings where we take time to read Gold Standard nominations. This is a time when team members nominate each other for work well done throughout the week that exemplifies our Gold Standard. At the time of this writing, we’ve received more than 314 examples of our team members calling each other out for acts of thriving relationships, professional communication, strategic marketing, powerful creative, and punctual delivery. More than once per day this year, someone on our team was crushing it enough for their colleagues to notice.
This is the heart of what we do at Catalyst. We’re intentional, celebratory, and authentic about it. It’s a compelling force in our culture internally, and out of that strong internal culture, we are able to deliver a marked excellence in client partnerships. As a result, we’ve set company records with client longevity this year, and we’ve earned word-of-mouth referrals for new portfolio-level clients. With the release of our Datalyst™ platform, our partners have real-time access to their marketing results and can easily calculate the value we drive across all their assets.
Our case studies from this year are endless stories of driving leads, cracking the code in tough markets, and launching numerous websites and innovative campaigns in partnership with clients who engage our creative energy and launch out with us on some of the coolest and most challenging journeys. We love it when we end up with a win — and a trophy to share with our clients.
We’ve enjoyed touring the country this year speaking about our work as the first in the student housing industry to jump into the metaverse/NFT world with a couple of award-winning campaigns. We’ve met so many friends and new partners at the record number of meetings we’ve held at conferences this year.
We’ve had a great time talking about these topics and more on our newly launched Good Mood Media platform that features two podcasts: The Lone Star Podcast by Mark Renkens, and Good Mood Marketing™ by Katie Degutis, Thomas Demiranda, and myself. Sparked by our Gold Standard values, our vision is to offer a unique and optimistic outlook on real estate marketing, agency culture, and really, just life in general. Go catch up with us on your favorite streaming platform, and hit us up if you want to have a conversation with us next year.
What We’ve Learned
What we’ve learned is simple: Being authentic about the Gold Standard leads us to examine processes, prices, and partnerships, and we’ll always have work to do to chase these standards. We continue to develop our CX program with an eye to sharpening pencils on the client experience and making sure our services are delivered with Gold Standard signature excellence. We’ve designed several new processes, including a retrospective process based on a framework underpinned by the Gold Standard. Any team member can call for a retrospective at any time to look back at a project and discuss how we can do better next time. It helps us better serve our clients and our own team members. The bottom line is that we’ve set perpetual learning into motion to help ourselves keep it fresh and challenge the status quo.
What We’re Leaning Into
What we’re leaning into is a triple bottom-line measure of success: profit, people, and purpose. Profit brings us all together; without financial health, we don’t exist, so we measure that first. We’re eager to achieve this so we can pay attention to the value we believe everyone seeks at work — a focus on personal growth and a sense of purpose. We’ve made ground this year with team workshops on imposter syndrome, discussions around Sunday scaries, and generally prioritizing ways we can set the environment for positive mental health as a key focus in our team’s cultural landscape. We offer four hours per month to team members to take mental health time off, and we pay for an annual app subscription for each team member of their choosing to boost mental health opportunities. We have also established a couple of for-purpose partners (Shelters to Shutters and City on a Hill) that focus on areas we feel are relevant to us: homelessness and poverty. We’ve started some basic measurements on how we put out a statement on people and purpose alongside our financials periodically, and this is an area we will continue to lean into to form a full identity as we go forward.
Thank you for partnering with us, and here’s to a bright and beautiful holiday season.
Until next year, cheers everybody.
Christy McFerren, President
Trust the Pocket
By Thomas Demiranda
Vice President of Business Development
This may not come as a surprise to some of my teammates at Catalyst, but I’m a huge Tom Brady fan, which all started with Brady being the quarterback for my favorite team, the New England Patriots. The admiration has evolved over the years as I pay close attention to Brady and his commitment to the game of football.
Out of all the attributes Brady has — football IQ, mental toughness, and selflessness — it’s the trust he has in his teammates that catches my attention most. In football, there’s a term called the “pocket.” This is a strategic area described as how the offensive line forms a wall to protect the quarterback, who heavily depends on those five 300-pound-plus bodyguards to keep him from getting hit and delivering on the play. Now, on the other side, there also is a combination of four to five giants prowling to terrorize the quarterback and end the play.
The quarterback, or Tom Brady in this example, must trust his teammates to get the job done, and those teammates must do their job for Brady to be as effective as possible. It’s not far-fetched to use this analogy to describe any type of team in the professional world. Here at Catalyst, we are a marketing agency of 20-plus teammates working together to do our job. All of us work within our pocket — various departments — and we depend on our teammates to do their jobs.
What happens when one of us drops the ball? It affects everyone else on the team. The best thing you can do for your team to ensure success is to complete your assignment by doing your part, and doing it well.
For me, I am in sales and the company depends on the revenue. The best thing I can do is continue to build relationships and partnerships, and get them realized. When there’s trust that each team member will stay focused on their individual assignments/jobs, then collectively, we thrive and we win.
For you and your role, it may be different. Whatever the scenario may be, look at your assignments and crush it. Your team depends on it, your quarterback depends on it, and if you do your part well enough, your team may just end up winning big.
A Deeper Dive
Take a look at what we’ve been up to in our case study about The Harper — a luxury multifamily community based in Franklin, Tennessee, that needed assistance with developing a digital marketing strategy to drive qualified leads.
- 79K new users reached
- 600K impressions
- 220 total contact form submissions
- 25 new page likes
Regulations Force Meta to Change Targeting Tools
Our A/B Test Results on New Strategies
A June 2022 settlement between the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Meta (formerly Facebook) resulted in the removal of the Special Ad Audience tool from the Meta platform effective October 12, which has been widely used by advertising agencies to target users with housing ads on Facebook and Instagram. (Read more about this ruling)
In response to Meta discontinuing the special ad audience targeting, the Catalyst digital account team led by Melissa Cornine, Vice President of Client Services, set out to A/B test alternative targeting that would be in compliance with Fair Housing. This measure was taken to determine whether we can continue to run effective campaigns in this new environment that narrow in on our target demographic with little to no impact on campaign costs for our clients and maintain our industry-leading performance. The following summarizes our findings.
September 8, 2022–October 8, 2022
A/B Test Variations
• Variation A: Student and prospect list look-alike audience (campaign model that is being sunset by regulations)
• Variation B: Detailed targeting — apartment list, apartments.com, renting, rent.com, apartmentguide.com.
By utilizing the detailed targeting feature in Meta ads, we can continue to run effective campaigns that narrow in on our target demographic with little to no disruption on campaign costs and objectives.
• Variation A campaign saw a 20% decrease in clicks, increasing the cost per click (CPC) by $.67.
• Variation B campaign received 21% more clicks and reached 25% more users than variation A, which reduced the CPC by $.67. With a broader reach, the campaign can serve more impressions, naturally resulting in higher clicks and a lower CPC.
Utilizing detailed targeting in Meta ads has a net 5% positive measured effect on the volume of ad clicks and a 40% reduced CPC. At this time, running campaigns on Meta’s platform appears to continue to be a viable strategy for real estate marketing.
Good Mood Media™
Introducing two of our very own podcasts: Good Mood Marketing™ and The Lone Star Podcast! Sparked by our Gold Standard values, our vision is to offer a unique and optimistic outlook on real estate marketing, agency culture, and really, just life in general. These two flagship shows are produced and edited right here in Austin, Texas, under our new media brand, Good Mood Media™. Episodes are now available on your favorite streaming platforms.
Good Mood Marketing™ Podcast
The Lone Star Podcast
The Catalyst team and a handful of our clients have a lot to celebrate with seven new awards we recently earned — three w3 awards for our work with Campus Advantage, and four MarCom awards for our work with BridgeWalk, Presidium Berkshire, Campus Advantage, and our own social media.
Cyber Monday 2021: Gold for Campaigns: Marketing Effectiveness
Cyber Monday 2021: Silver for Integrated Campaign
Campus Advantage corporate site: Silver for General Websites — Corporate Communications for Websites
geNFT campaign: Platinum in Strategic Communications — Digital Marketing
BridgeWalk brand guide: Platinum in Strategic Communications — Branding
Presidium Berkshire website: Gold for Website — B2C
Catalyst social media: Honorable mention for Social Campaign
Moments of Success
Quarterly Team Nominations
Good Mood Marketing™ comes from the Gold Standard
“This week I had a 1×1 with Patsy, and it was so nice to just take a half-hour to get to know her better, both personally and professionally. I appreciated Patsy’s proactiveness in setting up that meeting because, when working remotely, you obviously lose those little moments of catching up and getting to know your co-workers better that typically emerge when you work day to day in an office. Patsy has been a great addition to the team and is already promoting the Gold Standard through her efforts in building thriving relationships internally with our team!”
“Allison always does great work, and this week, I witnessed more of that. We have a new project with a new client, and this one is different than usual — all brand strategy. She worked with the team to create a very specific and concise questionnaire to help guide the client through this process. In this line of work, there’s almost no better feeling than trusting your colleague will deliver on the client relationship. Thank you, Allison.”
“Trend-forward is the name of the game here as Hillary always tends to have a pulse on what is going to work well for our social media clients. In one of our brainstorm meetings, she brought forward an idea to incorporate some Cribs-style social posts that could let folks inside the homes they could come to expect by being a part of the program. Her ideas are always reminiscent of the trends happening on platforms we have to use every day, and I feel like her synthesis from trend to pitch is always a win. Love collaborating on things like this with her, and always excited to see them come to fruition.”
Giving Gold Forward
Finding Purpose in Our Work
Making a difference means a great deal to our Catalyst team, and we find meaning in extending our Gold Standard to help nonprofits with creative and strategic marketing. Our standards aren’t just something we strive for — they are the purpose we find in our work; it’s who we are.
Giving Tuesday Episode with Shelters to Shutters
On Giving Tuesday, we joined Shelters to Shutters for a podcast discussion about their mission to fight situational homelessness in partnership — and ways we can fuel purpose and fulfillment together.