Each time I write this blog for RENX, I’m generally focused on specific issues that impact the new way we all need to think about residential and resort real estate development marketing. What follows is an interview I did to help promote a conference I’m speaking at, The Canadian Resort Investment Conference, that gives a good overview of how all these specifics come together under an umbrella philosophy. This is the stuff that keeps me awake at night.
At the risk of seeming blatantly self-promotional, I’ve decided to post this interview here, because it explains what I do all day, and it gives all the other posts before and after it some context. Read this, and you’ll understand the bias in all the other things you read on this blog. Context is key.
“At age 8, David mailed a TV commercial concept, complete with hand-drawn storyboard, to the Mars Bar corporation. For his trouble, he received, by return mail a cardboard box filled with Mars Bars, and was thrilled that he could be rewarded for crazy ideas. It was clear his future was in marketing.
He earned a degree in journalism, and has worked in the marketing and advertising business for more than 20 years. From 2005 – 2008 he was VP Marketing for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and Blueprint Global Marketing, where he was focused entirely on developing marketing programs around the world for residential and resort real estate projects. At the same time he and his partner Marcus Braun co-founded Braun/Allison Inc., a marketing creative services firm specializing in real estate marketing campaigns.
Q: Marketing resort property has traditionally followed a formula – how and why do you see this formula changing? What types of marketing methods are now being used in the industry?
The recession has changed everything. We are now operating in a world where the investors and flippers are gone, and the remaining buyers are actually thoughtful end-users. These people, buyers who will actually close and use the homes we are selling, need a very different kind of information than what we as an industry are used to providing. They have been rocked by the recession, and they are being very careful with the purchase decisions they make. They are careful not only because they don’t want to make a bad move, but because they don’t want to appear to have made a bad move. Education and information are the only antidotes to fear and uncertainty. We need to stop being “hype and jive” marketers, and instead become more like journalists, Marketing Journalists, if you will. We refer to our company as a Marketing Newsroom, because that’s the functionality we need to provide to our clients these days. We need to help them BE the media.
Q: What is the impact of social media on the real estate/resort industry? A couple years ago the industry catch-phrase was “experiential marketing” and today it is “social marketing” ….do you think this is a fad that is on the cusp of developing into something more evolutionary or is it here to stay?
Oh it’s here to stay all right. The recession has sped up the mainstreaming of social media. At a time when we are all looking for community and distrustful of traditional communications channels, suddenly there is a new way to talk to people, and engage with them on a meaningful level. What would more motivate you to buy a car today — a fancy ad campaign or two friends on Facebook telling you it’s a great car? 18 million Canadians are on Facebook, and of those, more than 50% are over the age of 35. That makes it an exponentially more powerful medium that the CBC and Globe and Mail combined. The CBC gets all excited and sends itself press releases if more than 2 million people watch a TV show. And most of them leave the room when the commercials come on.
Q: “The success of the future of the second home property industry is reliant on _???_.”
Truth. And plenty of it.
Look, it’s really simple. For years we’ve sold resort and recreational property by showing people a sunset on the beach with a couple holding hands and wearing matching sarongs. Well that just won’t cut it anymore. Today, our buyers want to know about construction quality, the energy efficiency rankings of the appliances, the resale potential, the demographics of the community, the weather each month historically and projected into the future, the cultural opportunities, the soundproofing in the walls, the insurance policies, the census data for the area, the population migration and immigration patterns, the reason why the second bathroom is near the dining room, and so on. Be a journalist. Be the media. Blanket prospects with a nice warm layer of facts and credible information. They will respect you for it.
Q: Today, developers and hoteliers have to find ways of making their product more attractive and marketable. From your experience what can they do to achieve this in today’s climate?
First off, be reasonable. If you have a “C” site, don’t put in an expensive Euro-kitchen and a bidet and try and sell it at premium prices. Build a good entry-level product and sell it accordingly. If the land cost won’t allow you to pro-forma this way, don’t buy the land. Proformas that rely on hype will fail. Second, really think about the consumer and how they will use the space. Maybe they don’t need or want two sinks in the master bath, but would prefer a space for a laundry hamper built in to the cabinetry. Think about storage. Think harder than ever before about floor plans. Think about little things, like where the towel bar goes, and positioning it near the shower door, and over a heat vent to warm the towels. Are you a ski resort? How will you aid in four-season enjoyment? Is there is a bike wash station? Can you build a skate park so the teens will enjoy being there and families can enjoy their time together? Will there be pets? Is there a space in the kitchen for a dog dish? What about privacy? What about community? It’s the cumulative effect of all these small decisions that give you a strong and solid truth….something consumers can gravitate to.
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.