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Building tenant relations through newsletters.

The promise of excellent service and quality that was heralded in the '80s has become the minimum for doing business in the '90s. The challenge for property managers today is to provide better and faster service to tenants with the goal of exceeding tenant expectations.

The old philosophy of winning market share at the expense of limited tenant contact has taken a back seat to relationship-building programs, which focus on moving the property management team closer to valued tenants.

Winning over a new tenant is often a long-term task, but it is only half the battle. Sustaining these relationships has become the challenge and the key to long-term profitability. Meeting individual tenant needs is expected in a successful relationship. What keeps tenants loyal, and renewing their leases over and over, is service that exceeds their expectations. And excellent service, after all, is defined by the tenant.

Stop and think...what type of quality service do you associate with Delta Airlines, Disney, and Nordstrom? It's pretty high, isn't it?

Now, what type of service do you associate with your local electric company or post office? Their level of service probably is not the same calibre as the first group.

It is not necessarily true that the second group fails to deliver good service. In fact, for the price, their service is excellent. But the Deltas, Disneys, and Nordstroms of the world do not just deliver good service, they subtly remind their customers, on a regular basis, of the great service they provide.

Conversely, the public utility companies place less emphasis on making the customer aware of the good service that is delivered. This leads the customer to take good service for granted, until they have a problem. The result? A poor customer-service image.

What is essential in keeping tenants loyal and in combatting the perception of a poor service image is a pro-active approach to property management. In his best selling book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells us why so few people succeed and so many fail. He recommends cultivating the habit of rendering more and better service than is expected.

Hill called it the "law of increasing returns," today we call it "perceived value." But call it what you like, the message is still the same: If you want to be successful, give your tenants their money's worth - and more. Then, remind them on an on-going basis of the great service you do provide.

The publication of a tenant newsletter is one relationship marketing program that can be used to build a high-quality service image. Newsletters serve to:

* Keep the lines of communication open with your tenants (the more information you provide for them, the better they will understand your services).

* Reinforce the tenant's perception of a "valued customer." (Tenants like to be thanked and remembered as an important part of your business.)

* Build your credibility.

* Show your accessibility and caring.

* Educate and inform tenants, as well as prospective tenants, on the amenities offered, procedures to follow, new tenants, events, center and city happenings, new staff members, corporate office news, and industry trends.

* Eliminate the competition (when you meet and exceed tenants' needs you in effect have no competition).

* Enhance your property's image.

In Megatrends 2000, John Naisbitt tells us that the '90s will see the triumph of the individual.

"When the focus was on the institution, individuals got what suited the institution; everyone got the same thing. No more," writes Naisbitt. "With the rise of the individual has come the primacy of the consumer. It has been said for many years: The customer is king. Now it is true."

To continually focus on the tenant as an individual as well as an important part of your tenant foundation, it is critical to provide newsworthy articles that will help them in their business and personal lives. The information you present will be well received if it is written in an entertaining fashion and presented in a professional, attractive format. Remember, in many cases, your newsletter is the only printed representation of your property that the majority of your tenants see.

What you include in your newsletter depends upon what you hope to accomplish through regular communication with your existing and prospective tenants. The commonality of tenant newsletters is the goal of communicating property management's concern and care for its tenants' needs.

To give you an insider's view of tenant and employee newsletters, the following case studies describe three properties that currently publish newsletters. Two are tenant-oriented newsletters and one is an employee newsletter.

Case 1: The Concourse

The Concourse, a 65-acre, multi-use business development, is a joint-venture partnership which is managed by The Landmarks Group, a full-service real estate developer based in Atlanta. The Concourse publishes a monthly, four-page newsletter for tenants entitled The Concourse Profile.

While Concourse's office complex is an environment that encourages a "walk to everything" atmosphere, there was a need for property management to provide a vehicle for regular communications with the tenants.

"We find that our newsletter is an effective public relations and marketing tool, not only for our tenants, but for prospective tenants as well," says Lisa Maddox, concierge and newsletter editor. "Some tenant send copies of our newsletter to their parent companies, located out of state. The home office always feels they are more a part of the success of a branch or regional office if they know more about them.

"We offer our tenants many emenities, and I always list those on the back of our newsletter, along with the location and telephone number," continues Maddox. "Some of our tenants will send a copy to out-of-town clients before their visit. Usually, the clients will stay at a nearby hotel, and they use the newsletter to help them find the services they need during their stay. For those that will be in town a few days, the newsletter informs them of special events in and around the city, so they can plan their evenings."

Concourse also uses its newsletter for future tenants. The newsletter is sent to those tenants who have leased space, but will not take occupancy for several months. "This way, my future tenants will become acquainted with Concourse over a period of time, and they won't feel that they are moving into an alien complex," says Maddox.

When asked if there are any drawbacks to publishing a monthly newsletter, Maddox remarks that "it is the time required in its production.

"Because of the size of the complex, we always have announcements and updates to fill the pages, that's never a problem," she continues. "Although the newsletter is a small portion of my job, at the same time, it's also one of the most visible portions."

Distribution of the newsletter is also Maddox's responsibility. "It used to be handled by the day porter," explains Maddox, "but I started delivering the newsletter myself a couple months ago. I felt it would be a good opportunity for the tenants to be able to place a face with our management."

Maddox also uses the distribution of the newsletter as an opportunity to train new staff members. Recently she took her new assistant with her on newsletter delivery and personally introduced the new addition to tenants.

"It does take a little longer to distribute myself, but I find that the tenants appreciate it," she says. "The distribution also gives me an opportunity to ask questions informally before they become major concerns." Again, the tenant's perception of service is enhanced.

Maddox works six weeks in advance of her scheduled publications. "It takes a lot of coordination," she says. "I have to have everything written, edited, designed, and ready to print in two weeks, and then make sure all the tenants receive it in a timely manner. At the end of the month my newsletter becomes top priority." But, continues Maddox, "Concourse has published their newsletter for three years, and tenants have now come to expect and look forward to it."

Case 2: A.R. weeks

A.R. Weeks & Associates is a 25-year-old Atlanta real estate development company with 6 million square feet of industrial/office warehouse buildings, in seven business parks. A full-service firm, Weeks develops, constructs, landscapes, and manages its properties.

Debbie Lashley, property manager, handles the production of Developments, a quarterly newsletter for the company's tenants. Because six out of seven of Weeks' properties are business/industrial parks, tenant communication is a daily challenge. "That's why we instituted our tenant newsletter," says Lashley. "Ray Weeks, our CEO, wanted to establish a communications vehicle for our tenants that could also be used as a marketing tool for our company."

A.R. Weeks' tenant base lacks the concentration of tenants in a multi-story office building complex. The newsletter is the ideal forum for property management to regularly communicate with tenants at all locations. But, because it would not be cost- nor time-effective to produce a newsletter for each building, a major challenge is incorporating articles that will be of interest to all tenants.

The newsletter has worked very well for A.R. Weeks. Even though some of the tenants provide for their own maintenance, for example, the newsletter serves to remind them that Weeks is there if its services are needed.

"You would be surprised by the number of calls I receive for property maintenance from those tenants that did not initially contract for the services," says Lashley. "We find that because we make ourselves highly visible to them, they come to rely upon us and use our maintenance service."

Week's newsletter contains a variety of articles, along with "regular columns." "Who's Your Neighbor?" is intended to acquaint the tenants with neighbor companies and the services and products they provide.

The newsletter also has a regular column on "Landscape Tips," which is tailored for each season. The winter "Landscape Tips" includes tips on lawn care, shrubs, and winter color. "This is a popular column for everybody," explains Lashley. "The tenants like it because the tips make their jobs easier, and from a management standpoint, it helps us to maintain our properties' clean and uniform presentation."

One issue contained an article on the construction of the county's new civic center. "Since the civic center will have the facilities to accommodate trade shows, conventions, and lectures, our tenants appreciate this type of information for their business events planning, especially since the new center will be right in our backyard," says Lashley.

When asked about her biggest challenge in publishing the newsletter, Lashley will tell you that it is the time involved. The newsletter is produced by the property manager and administrative personnel and not a full-time newsletter staff.

"I typically have about one week, after the last issue is mailed out, to catch my breath and start planning for the next issue, although it does get easier with each issue," Lashley remarks. She is very organized, allowing four weeks for story ideas and writing; two weeks for design, layout, and rewrite; and one to two weeks for printing and mailing.

Maintaining a balance of interesting articles, professional presentation, and on-time delivery is the challenge for Lashley. "Because you want the stories to be timely and interesting, it's always a concern to keep them from being the same old story, not just a different issue," she explains.

Planning ahead and keeping a general theme throughout the entire issue is one way she avoids the "same old story" syndrome. "If you lose focus on the purpose of your newsletter and produce a quarterly newsletter just to get it done, why bother?" concludes Lashley.

Case 3: CPA Realty

CPA Realty, Inc., is a 21-year-old real estate management firm, operating in eight cities in the Southeast. CPA Realty manages primarily residential properties with assets of over $107 million. Bob Love, CPM[R], president and founder, publishes a quarterly, four-page newsletter for his employees, entitled CPA Today...A Newsletter For Our Valued Employees.

In his publication, Love talks about the direction of the company and emphasized its goals. Included in each newsletter is a "President's Message," in which he talks candidly with employees, discussing goals, NOI objectives, and quarterly results.

"It's a real morale booster for our employees," Love remarks. "Ant it gives them a feeling that they're part of an organization that cares about them. Most importantly, they feel that they're 'in' on what's going on."

Because CPA's employees are located in eight different cities, the newsletter works at bringing a cohesiveness to the organization. "Our employees like to know what's happening with the other people in our organization, so the newsletter provides a way that they can learn about each other," says Love. "Property management is a very people-oriented business and depends on the efforts of many employees." From the leasing person through to the maintenance person onsite, we want to make everyone know that they are part of our team."

In a recent issue, CPA's newsletter included an article announcing the winners of the "Outstanding Employee Award" and the "Outstanding Achievement by Property Award." the article congratulated the apartments' staff and managers and featured photographs of Love presenting the award.

The newsletter also includes a special feature article entitled "Getting the most from your staff." The article discusses the importance of motivating employees and how it is closely linked to "productivity, performance, and profits."

"Helpful Hints" are given in the newsletter on various areas of responsibility, ranging from maintenance suggestions for keeping a running stock inventory of shop supplies, to advice on how to deal with fire ants, through how to collect 100 percent of monthly rents. The newsletter also contains comments which were received from residents. "This is great feedback for our employees and gives them a real sense of pride in their work," says Love.

Love's biggest challenge is to make the newsletter worthwhile for employees. "I don't want to include articles just for filler, I want the newsletter to inform employees and help them learn and grow," says Love.

"Since we have been doing this, I've heard from several people that the newsletter is also an excellent tool for developing your business," says Love.

He sends copies of his newsletter to key clients and has had very positive feedback from them. "I think it helps to establish a personality for us, particularly with clients," Love remarks. "They identify your company with the type of newsletter you send out."

Conclusion

Today property management is more than just a well-maintained building or a glossy piece of literature; it is a people-oriented business. Developing and maintaining long-term relationships with tenants and employees is no longer an add-on strategy or one that can be resurrected when needed. It has become a fundamental part of an industry that is moving closer to serving the tenant as an individual.

Property management firms that are delivering superior service and are keeping their tenants aware of their continued efforts are positioning themselves for long-term growth and profitability. Newsletter offer a non-threatening, relationship-marketing vehicle to keep lines of communication open and to demonstrate caring and accessibility, as well as to serve as a subtle reminder that a company is meeting and exceeding tenant expectations.

Marlene deLlano is president of The Newsletter Works, an Atlanta-based company specializing in relationship marketing and the design and production of newsletters.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:deLlano, Marlene
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:2542
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