One of the side effects of the democratization of media – that is, the opportunity for everyone to broadcast their stories, to anyone who will listen – is that real estate development projects need to be far more precise about who they are trying to reach. In a world where the average consumer is bombarded by as many as 4,000 messages a day (and growing) you need laser-precise targeting to attract the people who you really want to talk to.
The days when a marketing plan would define a target audience as simply as “women ages 18-35” are over. They should have been over a long, long time ago. But communication options were such that enough money thrown at a vague general audience, through vague general media, would likely attract enough attention for the campaign to be judged a success.
Today, the thought of any but the largest of the large companies being able to waste money on a general mass-media assault is unthinkable, and unwise. Now, we are faced with millions of communication channel choices, and in order to make any sense of them and develop a logical approach to building a media plan and a creative approach, we need to know far more about the people we are trying to talk to.
Here’s an analogy: Let’s say I want to knit a sweater. I could go into the world’s biggest knitting store, where I would be overwhelmed by all the hundreds and thousands of patterns. But, if I know that I want to knit a cardigan sweater, for a woman, in a plus size, with 6 buttons, and two front pockets, and a shawl collar, and roll back cuffs, then I’ve limited the selection of patterns. Then there are only two or three to choose from, and chances are I will get exactly what I was hoping for.
The more precise you can be with your target audience definition, the more likely you will have exactly the results you are looking for. You can do a better job of choosing the right media, and a better job of creating a message that will resonate with that particular audience.
There are research companies, and segmentation studies, and all sorts of other help available to real estate developers that can afford this kind of information and advice. It’s worth every penny, I say. But even for a small operator who needs to base decisions on a less scientific approach, a simple shift in mindset can work wonders.
As an example, we recently worked on a real estate development project where the audience was defined as young couples who had bought a first-time condominium in downtown Vancouver. The couples found that living in a small space was too difficult and they were prepared to move a little bit away from downtown in order to have more space in their second purchase.
Our creative messages leveraged the fact that small downtown condos can be difficult places to share, and our media choices were specific to this particularly downtown crowd. Interestingly, every single eventual buyer we talked to matched the pre-determined audience description perfectly.
For your real estate project, ask yourself as many questions as you can about who your audience is. What makes them tick? What are they worried about? What brands do they like? What makes them happy?
Go deep into this line of inquiry and you will find things that fuel decision-making around media and creative issues, and may even influence design and spec issues for your project as well.
Talk to known prospects. Talk to your competitor’s customers. Talk to the front line sales staff. Talk to bankers, brokers, agents, insurance reps – anyone that might have some insight that you might not have yourself.
Of course you still need to know the standard stuff – age, marital status, gender, income and etc, – because many media only offer these sorts of qualifiers for their readership/viewership.
It’s worth the effort. With a better, more well-rounded understanding of who you are targeting, you will be able to create more compelling messages, and place those messages in more appropriate media, and attract a more qualified base of prospects to your project with less budget and more success. And isn’t that what we are all trying to do, every day?
David Allison, Author and Partner at Braun/Allison Inc.
David Allison is a partner at Braun/Allison Inc.; a Vancouver-based company that provides creative services for residential and resort real estate developers. His book, Sell The Truth, is available for free here. You can connect to him on LinkedIn , follow him on Twitter @BAdavid and read his blog, One Brand Clapping here.