As the team behind The Malibu Life, Madison Hildebrand and Jennifer Chrisman are known for their passion, professionalism, integrity, and uncanny industry knowledge. One of the most recognizable faces in luxury real estate thanks to his former role on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing, Madison is also a published author, motivational speaker, and philanthropist. Jennifer is equally impressive, bringing a wealth of knowledge about the Pacific Coast, experience selling some of the most expensive homes in Malibu, and a dedication to serving her clients at the highest level.
The dynamic duo recently sat down with Luxury Presence Founder and CEO Malte Kramer on The Presence Podcast to share what it takes to build a successful team and brand, how to know when it’s time for a rebrand, and what goes on behind the scenes at the highest level of luxury real estate.
How has your partnership evolved over the years? What’s changed, what’s still the same, and do you have any advice for aspiring business partners?
Madison: I needed someone like Jennifer that I could really trust and had the backbone and the experience so the business did not slip through the cracks when I was out in the field filming for Bravo.
It’s always been like gravy and mashed potatoes with us, I swear. But it really comes from the foundation, first and foremost, of having the same ethics. The same morals and values and knowing that we have each other’s back a hundred percent. And then having fun.
We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we take our business very seriously. So we have a lot of fun while we’re doing it. And we just work really well together and choose to surround ourselves with those types of people as well.
Jennifer: As you work together, you fall into natural roles. We enjoy working together and we have a very good work ethic, but we also enjoy different aspects of the business. I love poring through contracts and the minutiae of that. That’s not his thing. So we balance very well.
You have this very well-known public profile from the show and your personal brand. How has that impacted your business?
Madison: When I was approached by Million Dollar Listing, I was not expecting to do more than one or two episodes that season. Then it became a hyper microscope over my life. Even though the real estate was kind of fun and it was sexy, my brokerage hated that I was on TV and that the commissions were flashy [on the screen]. I got resistance from my company. I got resistance from my family. I got resistance from the public. But I knew in some way over time it would be an opportunity that we could parlay for not only our business and our brand, but also for our clients. And with time, that’s what ended up happening.
Can give us a look behind the scenes of a recent challenging deal or one that fell apart? What are some of the lessons learned?
Jennifer: We have clients where both happened. The deal fell apart and then the deal came together.
Madison: It took almost a year from the beginning to the middle of finding the right home, going into escrow, and spending $20,000 on inspections. This was a massive house, a massive price tag. We were thrilled that this was coming together. Then it fell apart.
We wrote several other offers, and they went into multiples and in some cases didn’t work out. Eventually, we found an off-market property for the buyer. However, it was under construction and they wanted to close in 30 days and construction wasn’t going to be done. So juggling inspections and high, high, high profile clientele… there were so many moving parts under a very short amount of time.
It’s important to keep your focus on what is right and what is the next best move for the client. Not what is the next best move for me or that commission, because that stinks and it smells and everyone knows it’s in the room if you bring that to the deal.
Can you share your thought process and approach when you decided you needed a brand refresh?
Jennifer: We wanted to be able to dedicate more time to our clients and find a company that could help us put forth what we wanna say, how we wanna look, without so much involvement like we had in the past.
You can’t stay stagnant. You have to evolve in technology, and different things are working now that weren’t working when we became partners. So he and I looked at each other and said, ‘It’s time. What do we do next?’ With the help of Compass, we shaped what we wanted our new look to be and we found Luxury Presence and they were able to bring it to life.
What was the experience of working with Luxury Presence like?
Madison: It was a very clear process. It was efficient and we’re getting results every month. You get the results page so you can actually track what’s working and what’s not.
You get one shot to have a first impression and there’s so much to building a website and that technology changes, which is kind of what initiated our need to upgrade our website in general. So it’s great to work with a team like Luxury Presence that knows what they’re doing, so they know the questions to ask so we can just kind of keep doing what we need to do with real estate and our business.
Jennifer: One thing I found really helpful is that Luxury Presence gave us tasks. There were timelines. There was a complete idea of how long it would take and when we could get going. We’ve worked with other companies and things get dragged on and they never really come to fruition the way you want them to. This was very clear and concise. And before we knew it, we were running up and running.
What are some of the other marketing initiatives that have been most successful for you?
Madison: There’s a strategy behind everything. My way of looking at it when I got into this business was that every person I’m looking at lives under a roof, right? So everyone is an opportunity when I’m looking around a room or in a store, so I wanna smile and I want to engage. That can be the beginning of a relationship or a contact, and they may not be the ones that are moving right then or there, but they may know someone. So everyone in this business is an opportunity, and I think that is what people forget.
Start with the low-hanging fruit, your closest family members, entrusted confidants, and other colleagues you may have worked for in the past. Let them know you’re committed to real estate a hundred percent by showing them through social media, through personal letters, and getting answers to their questions in a timely manner. Do that enough and you’ll convert someone to a client.
Jennifer: As far as the marketing and what specifically works or doesn’t work, we’ve tried it all. There are still those conventional real estate things, postcards and magazines, and then the world has evolved to social media and now we have AI and all these things. If you’re not trying them, you’re not casting the net. Someone else is gonna try them and run right past you.
Madison: There is so much and you do want to compete and you can get in your head and you can beat yourself up about it if you’re not doing enough or somebody’s doing more. Well, guess what? You don’t have to be. If social media is not your thing, then don’t focus on it. Know what you’re good at and then capitalize on that. If you are a contract expert, highlight that. That’s what makes you different. Most people are trying to learn everything and not becoming really great at those few things that work with their personality and with what their brand represents. You just need to know who your niche is and who relates to that and where to find them.
Do you have any advice for real estate professionals or teams who are thinking about doing a rebrand?
Jennifer: Be authentic. Don’t fall into the pitfall of trying to do what other people are doing.
Madison: If you’re going to rebrand, what are you leaving behind that wasn’t working for you or that you want to change? And be very clear as to what that change is going to look like and what it’s gonna take you to get there. What team are you putting together, what resources are available to you from your company? Take advantage of all of those. And you also want feedback before you execute and launch it to the world.
This is an excerpt from The Presence Podcast. Watch the full interview above, or listen to it at the podcast links below.