Q&A with Lynette R. Hegeman: In Difficult Times Demonstration of Value Proposition is Critical

Most recently Hegeman ran her own marketing company focused on helping developers of residential communities in resort locations create and execute effective marketing strategies.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> She talks to MHN Online News Editor Anuradha Kher about marketing strategies during a downturn, the role social media plays and how small multifamily companies can effectively market to their prospects.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: What will you change with regards to marketing at Gables? </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman:</b> Gables has done a great job of general marketing and it is my hope to enhance the efforts and focus on three key areas: developing strategic plans for each market, adding new tracking measures that will validate all marketing efforts, and a branding concentration on Gables Residential. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The basis of any good marketing program is to begin with the development of a collaborative and strategic marketing plan. One of the most important keys to creating a great strategy is recognizing core differentiators. What makes them stand out from the competition? What makes them unique? Once these differentiators are highlighted, then a strategy can be created. A core component to the execution of the strategy is having all efforts tracked to identify campaign strengths as well as weaknesses so that modification to the strategy can be made quickly. We will be implementing a METRIC system that will assess each tactic, the cost and the number of leads/responses that convert to leases. This information will allow us to measure efficiently our marketing efforts and make <br clear="none" /> modifications according to the tactics that are producing the most qualified leads and conversions. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In addition, we will focus on Gables' overall branding to ensure that we are well positioned in our key markets. Experiential marketing, community networking and resident referrals will continue to be a major part of our campaigns. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: What role will social media play?</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman:</b> Social Media and the use of technology aligns with our target demographic and has proven to be a great tool to communicate with our prospects and residents. At the end of the day, our goal is to convey that Gables Residential is committed to Taking Care of the Way People Live – our mission is to ensure that we do this by providing top-notch service – in everything we do.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: Why is marketing important during a downturn? </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman: </b>Gables believes marketing during a downturn is even more important than during strong economic times. This is reflected in the fact that Gables chose to add my new position in clearly a time of cutbacks and costs savings in other areas of the organization. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> During a downturn, competition for new prospects and existing residents is more significant than in boom times when typically there is a housing shortage or significant job growth. As prospects and residents have more choices, it is most important to market in a very targeted fashion to those most likely to be interested in the product that you have to offer. It is important to keep your name and product in front of those who are likely customers. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In challenging economic times it is easy to believe the only way to compete is with price and many companies chose to do so. We believe it is critical in difficult times to demonstrate a value proposition of our communities and level of customer service that it makes to the resident. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: What advice would you give a small multifamily company about marketing? </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman:</b> Be certain that you put systems in place to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. There are many ways to market your product. Some have large up front costs and some are relatively inexpensive upfront, but what is most important is that you have a way to evaluate the true cost per lead/lease of your efforts so you can make smart decisions going forward on your marketing spend. In addition, make sure that your marketing and operations teams are clearly aligned. Ensure that what you are marketing is being delivered 100 percent as expected.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: What are the new marketing trends? </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman:</b> Social media; most companies are dipping their toes into the social media realm at present but I am not sure anyone has yet figured out how to make complete sense of a efficient business model from the current social media offerings. Additional trends revolve around the use of mobile devices for marketing whether texting or iPhone apps. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: What is the biggest mistake a property owner can make when marketing his or her property? </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman: </b>Not having a quality onsite sales and management team to back up the marketing promise; not having good property identification and directional signage-great marketing won’t help if you can’t get the prospect to the property and can’t deliver a quality sales presentation when the prospect arrives. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: Can you provide some marketing tips for multifamily developers? </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman:</b> Yes, include your marketing team at the very early stages. The biggest mistake developers often make is waiting until they have created their vision of what they want, only to later discover that what they created was not what prospective residents wanted. Allow marketing to assist in doing market due diligence, speak to local businesses, neighbors and other developers to get a clear picture of the area. If you are a developer that has already developed and feel challenged with lackluster sales, hone in on your existing residents and make them feel a part of the community. You will be amazed at how much your current residents and their feedback can make or break your future sales. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>MHN: Are there any marketing strategies that apply in good times but not when the market is down? </b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Hegeman:</b> Marketing should not waiver despite a good or bad economy and I do not differentiate my marketing strategies. The risk many take is cutting back marketing when the market is good and then not being prepared when the market takes a turn. Honestly, it is the bad times that make us stronger, smarter and sharper. Those that market consistently and efficiently will be the stronger company and will be able to weather any economic storm.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> --<a href="http://www.multihousingnews.com/multihousing/index.jsp" target="_blank">Multi-housing News</a>