A Condo and a Lifestyle – How condo marketing has gone wrong
Seattle Times, A condo — and a lifestyle, too:
It’s really about the unveiling of a project with throwback elegance, said Dean Jones of the marketing firm Realogics. “It’s speaking to people who want to reward themselves with a higher level of living.”
Yes, marketing is often seen as speaking to people, but for these projects to be successful they’re going to have to listen to people and for the most part none of the projects here in Seattle listen to people. And while they talk, they’re not talking about what we want to hear.
I know for me, and many of my friends considering condo purchases, that much more often than not the marketing of the local projects does much more to detract me from purchasing then it does what the marketing team’s intended efforts are.
What I’ve found is that condo marketers are too concerned about building a brand and an image around a condo that fits into their one or two marketing personas. Personas that don’t ever represent one of their actual buyers but personas that if you average out the likes and dislikes of 500 to 1000 of their potential customers then maybe that persona is representative. But while many of us are normal people, we’re not statistically average.
The marketers then develop a plan, they brief the agents and the agents repeat the story and the vision about the condo to so many customers they begin to believe it. And yes, sometimes it works, sometimes we the buyers buy into it, but I bet more of us don’t.
I’m not going to buy at Lumen to be Enlightened. I’m not going to buy at Onyx so I can hang on the rooftop terrace with models in bikinis. I’m not going to buy at Enso so that I have a place to showcase my crap from Nepal.
What’s going to get me to buy? Two things:
1. A project that listens. Recently projects didn’t need to listen to their customers, their was enough demand and the market was moving so quickly they didn’t need to. But very soon they’re going to have to listen. Domaine is going to need to hear that their location is not optimal and come up with a plan to address that (hint: give away Honda Metropolitan scooters). Veer is going to need to hear that if I’m going to ‘Revel in what I create’ then I really need the opportunity to create. I need a blank slate and an interior designer to work with. Or I need at least more than two options for my kitchen counters. Why is it that I can customize a $10,000 Kia more than I can customize my $500,000 loft?
2. A project that speaks from the heart. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of Flash websites. What I want is a site that’s updated regularly. That features interviews with the interior designers, the architects, the developers and talks about what they were really envisioning. What we have now is a game of telephone. So just start a blog! Be honest. Have the experts write their own entries. And keep us up to date with what’s going on. Stop sending me a billion emails hyping your pre-sales and reservations, or links to your paid advertisements in the Seattle Times New Homes. Then once you start to sell homes post the buyers profiles (if they want) and not those of your made up Tom Cruise-esque models. This will get people visiting your site. They’ll start to comment, because you’re going to encourage open and honest public discussion. You’re going to then respond to the comments and use the least amount of marketing speak possible. It’ll be hard but you will sell more units. I promise.
3. Have websites that don’t suck. This really deserves it’s own blog post, but quickly here are the few that jump to the top of mind without evening having to think about it.
- Don’t use Flash – use AJAX. If you don’t know the difference hire a web design firm that does and pay them well. Why? The big reason is that the web firms you’re using now are not designing sites that are usable which frustrates your customers to no end. The other reason is that Flash content doesn’t get indexed by Google which means you’re missing out on a huge market of customers looking for information on Seattle condos through search engines.
- If it’s a conversion post photos of the outside and inside of the building. 75% of conversions don’t have real photos on their site. And the new construction folks are just as guilty. I recently went through all the listings on this site to get images for them to add to my details pages and was surprised at the number that obfuscated the exterior.
- Post your prices and what units are available. I know you like to keep it all secret so that we have a hard time keeping track of your stale inventory and your hourly repricing of units but we can still figure it out so just make it all public. I hate having to pick up the phone and deal with an onsite agent to find out what’s going on.
- What’s the building’s address? Too many sites just have a map with a star on the location but neglect to give the actual street name and number.
I’m sure you know all the above already and have great reasons for why you’re making your customers lives difficult and I’d love to hear your side of the story (just email me and take me out to dinner at El Gaucho).