Bonitamedia’s Weblog

Creating a lasting impression for small business

Branding Real Estate Communities – MUCH Harder than it seems…

Started a great conversation with Olivier Blanchard regarding real estate and branding campaigns. REALTORS brand (coming soon), Builders brand, Developers brand, Developments brand – or should I say Bland. Not wanting to offend anyone, but given how much the genreal public has been overwhelmed with under-whelming advertising, there is little wonder why campaings often don’t work as expected.

Today I want to focus on Developers. Developers are the ones that start with a chunk of land and turn it into a beautiful community, hopefully attracting people to reside at (not in) their creation. Living in SW Florida, I can assure you there are no shortage of golfing communities, waterfront communities, gated communities, family communites and so on. As a developer, finding out what your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is will be as challenging as permitting. No matter where you are building your community, you need to discover what sets you apart from the others. To do that, you need to know well beyond your client (technically, the client is the builder NOT the homeowner), and you need to know their clients – the end-user, the homeowner. Having a “Signature Golf Course” built by a well-known designer doesn’t qualify. Having better snow-making equipment doesn’t work either (for you northerners). It goes well beyond that – and frankly, much deeper.

I was a REALTOR for nearly 10 years. I finished my career working for one of the largest developers in the area (Developer “A”). The company is publicly traded. They spent countless dollars branding their name. They got into building “custom” homes. Their goal was to be huge and successful. For a time, they were. I believe they even won Builder of the Year (after I left). However, behind the scenes, many mistakes were being made that ultimately brought the company down. Buying land at costs that were way too high, venturing in to “Custom” Home building, (while I’m here, “Custom” is NOT choosing one of these 8 floorplans and choosing finish – that’s customizable – huge difference. Custom means everything is drawn from scratch, based on each clients’ needs) and straying from the core company values all played huge roles in the demise of this company. Allowing sub-par contractors in just to get work finished, cheapening materials in order to make the balance sheet better and so on helped bring them down. This developer orignially sold and branded their projects as well-run, high-end, lifestyle and social communities, then when they transformed into a home builder as well, their brand was lost going through the same transformation.

On the flip side, we have Developer “B”. They opened back in the early 1980’s with a single project bordering the Estero Bay and Imperial River. Offered tremendous ammeneties (features), but from inception, always branded the BENEFIT of buying in their community. The fact that contractors were scrutinized. Standards were higher than anywhere else. This particular developer limited the number of projects it would take on, created an image of each individual community, all the while maintaining the core beliefs of the company. Before working for Developer “A”, I applied at “B”. Eight years of sales experience (mostly in the top 5% of my peers) wasn’t good enough. I needed experience with another company first – they suggested “A” (kind of like a AAA baseball team I guess) for refinement. Again – holding to their core values. Core values that would parallel Walt Disney. Every presentation started with the vision of the company founder, to provide a harmonious place to live amongst nature and enjoy it’s resources without disturbing the natural beauty. Holding true to these values from the top on down has made their develpments some of the best places to live here locally.

Can a community be branded effectively? Yes. However, it is one of the hardest things to do in that industry. Not to be different in your marketing is virtually suicidal, however, there is little difference from one community to the next – unless the underlying developer spends the time needed to create a brand for the developer first, and the community second.

I would love to map out step-by-step instructions how to accomplish proper community branding, but it isn’t that simple. It is time consuming. It takes research, patience and thought. However, when you figure out your USP (and please – make it unique!), shout it from the rooftops! (Or the sides of your friendly neighborhood mobile billboard company!)

Next post we’ll go into some easy do’s and don’ts when branding yourself as a Real Estate Professional…

J

Advertisements

December 29, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Soul searching+pure motives=more business…

Today I had a revelation – not of the religious sort, but then again, maybe a little. This is not intended to portray any one religion as better than the other, because quite frankly, I don’t think anyone can make a case that one is the best – besides, this is a marketing article, not a thesis on religious doctrine…

So – here is the revelation. An overwhelming majority of the successful business owners that I know have deep-rooted religious beliefs. They attend mass, services on Sunday, go to the Synagogue. They observe and respect both the religion and the tradition behind their chosen faith. The first comment I can hear coming is “God favors the righteous”. Knowing that each religion is different, and many religions believe if you do not follow their “path”, you are out of God’s favor, I eliminated the option that God looks at these business owners differently than one who is not as dedicated to religion, or who is agnostic, atheistic, satanist, etc… The conclusion is this – a subliminal business-model branding that happens every day, every week, in every organized religion. It is a simple philosophy that is as old as time: The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. HOLY CRAP BATMAN! SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING DEVINE! Will it work?!?

You may be saying Jon’s off his rocker again, or maybe still on meds after the surgery, because this seems so simple that everyone must be doing it. no one needs to be told, right?

Wrong…

I can tell you there are many “religious” people that have failing businesses. There are many non-religious ones that prosper. They all have one thing in common – they truly respect and understand their customers. Olivier Blanchard (http:thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com) goes as far as saying they “fall in love” with their customers (Olivier – I was half-way through this when I read your blog today…). I stopped by a client’s restaurant today. An up-scale restaurant being hit pretty hard by today’s economic climate. During our conversation discussing different ways to generate excitement for a place that already has “IT” and “WOW” every time you visit is tough. It is even tougher when we don’t want to tarnish or cheapen the brand they have built so eloquently. After about 20 minutes, I left, with some great ideas to pursue. On my way out, I was stopped by mall security (As a reminder, mobile billboards are one of my branding tools) because one of the tenants was complaining that I was in the parking lot advertising for a competitor of hers. Mind you, I was in the back of the parking lot, 40 empty spaces either side of me. She did not have 1 single customer walk in her store during the time I was there, yet she decided to call security and the police. Curious… I hope she doesn’t treat her clients that way. Personally, I am not offended or even remotely mad that she was upset. It tells me that the marketing I am doing for my clients gets noticed and works, because it strikes fear into the competition. However, it would have been a lot easier for her to walk 10 steps and politely ask to change the direction of the truck so the sign wasn’t showing…

That story brings me back to my original comment. Business people that spend time in some sort of house of worship on a consistent basis repeatedly are reminded to treat people with respect. Therefore, they do. It shows in their businesses, their personal life, the choices they make (or don’t make). The moral of the story is this: If someone isn’t going to remind you to treat people well, you need to remind yourself. It WILL come back to you in some way, shape or form later in life.

I’m interested in reading your insights!

December 19, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Branding basics in a tough economy

Branding seems to mean something different to everyone. Best definition I have found is at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand) as you might expect. No great revelation there.

What I do notice though is how often companies react to the economy, to their competition and to their own fears and abandon or stray from their brand to try something new. Now, before any “new media” consultants blast me, here me out :). The issue I am speaking about is not the delivery method, but the actual message itself.

During tough economic times, there are certain givens – almost guarantees – that will happen. How you choose to handle your business during these times invariably will determine your future success – or failure. Customers will slow down their spending habits, forcing each and every one of us to cut back – or close our doors. Interesting thing happens at this point – less businesses to serve the customer-base! Believe it or not, this is one of the greatest oppportunites you will ever have to a) increase your market share, b) increase your profits (you read correctly), c) position yourself to emerge stronger than your competition, and d) have the knowledge and forsight to handle times like these with confidence (because we will see recessions again).

How do you accomplish this? Well, I recently read an article from John A. Quelch – the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5878.html). In this article are 8 factors he believes will help get through these trying times – definitely a must read!

Let’s take a moment to address te “reactive” strategy that seems so prevelant these days. “My competition is selling his product for 10% less than I am selling the same thing – I need to drop my price by 15% to compete…” WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Unless your margins are so high (and if they are that high, you should reconsider your pricing structure anyway), you can’t afford to cut prices that much – nor should you. This is where the power of your brand comes in. If you are a discount retailer, you keep pushing the fact you are a discount retailer. People know that, they expect it, and will naturally think of you when your competition runs their “Lowest Prices” advertising. If you are a service-oriented store, STAY ON TRACK! Don’t get into a price war! Most price wars (at least here locally) are started because one business is closing (or saying they are closing). Ask yourself a simple question: “If I am going to purchase a product that may at some point need service or warranty work, like jewelry, should I spend my money at a place going out of business, where I will never be able to get a missing stone replaced under warranty? Or am I better off going to the store I know will always be there – and has the best service?”

The danger with getting into a pricing war is two-fold: First – you pollute and tarnish your brand. You will spend countless hours and dollars recovering from the image change. Second – you may put yourself out of business!

The bottom line is this… Be proactive in all you do. Stay consistent with your message and images. Don’t be afraid to try new media, but keep consistent. Warren Buffet summed up our current economic condition best (and I paraphrase) “When people are afraid, be greedy. When people are greedy, be afraid”. Some of the greatest opportunities are right before you. It all starts with promoting your brand and image so the consumer will have the confidence to buy from YOU when they decide to buy.

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | Leave a comment