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Does your company need a marketing director?

Does Your Company Need a Marketing Director? In today's volatile and competitive real estate industry, it is becoming increasingly important to stay not one, but two, steps ahead of your competition. Overdevelopment, psychographic and demographic shifts in the marketplace, and the ever changing economy all contribute to the complexities involved in marketing your property successfully. With the unfortunate change in the tax laws, "status quo" is no longer acceptable.

The bottom line now is revenue. To achieve maximum revenue in such a sophisticated market requires a seasoned professional who not only knows the nuances of the marketplace, but can focus entirely on new ways to get a bigger "piece of the pie," as cost effectively as possible. In many cases, this professional bears the title of marketing director.

The following questions may help you decide whether or not hiring a marketing director is a good idea for you.

* Are your properties constantly falling short of their gross rent potentials?

* Do you respond to the marketplace, or does the marketplace respond to you?

* Do you know what your competition is doing?

* Are you spending too much money on advertising? Public relations? Overall marketing costs?

If there was any hesitation in your thought process in the answering of the above questions, you may want to consider hiring a marketing director.

The responsibilities

of a marketing director

The underlying responsibility of a marketing director is to control and manipulate all variables involved in marketing a property successfully. By "successfully" I mean cost reduction and revenue maximization. Just spending a great deal of money on marketing in no way guarantees that you will generate more revenue. A true marketing professional should be able to generate maximum revenue while keeping marketing costs to a minimum.

To achieve this goal, a marketing director should be responsible for:

* General marketing. The marketing director should produce detailed marketing plans with specific performance and budgetary goals and objectives. It is not uncommon for me to do several marketing plans in a given period of time depending upon whether or not a promotion is being held, a new concession program is being offered, and so forth.

Each plan should be as "un-generic" and specific as possible. It should include rental or sales goals, how much it will cost to achieve these goals, and how and when these goals will be achieved.

In-depth analysis should also be done on a regular basis to determine market pricing (Are rents in the area decreasing or increasing?), product availability (Is there a glut of a specific unit type?), concessions (Are concessions being offered? If so, how much?), traffic counts (Is traffic slow?), and a host of other items that help in deciding where and how to position your property.

The marketing director should also direct and motivate the sales staff in their efforts. The leasing and sales staff needs to understand the proposed marketing strategy. They also have to "buy into" it.

You can have the best marketing program in the world, but if the on-site staff cannot carry it through, it is wortless. The marketing director has to make them believe that what they are doing will be successful.

Leasing performance should also be monitored. Are closing ratios too low? If so, why? Are closing ratios unusually high? If so, why? Maybe rents are too high or too low. On-site staff can tell you a great deal about the marketplace, and their input should be welcomed and utilized. Shopping reports should also be initiated and reviewed to evaluate the staff's effectiveness.

* Advertising and public relations. A marketing director should develop and implement advertising strategies. The biggest and most costly mistake that can be made in marketing property is to rely solely on an advertising agency for the success of your property. The marketing director should develop ideas for ads and promotions, not a third party.

We do all of our creative work inhouse and use an agency only for production. We design, write copy, and place most of our own ads, saving thousands of dollars in agency fees and retaining control of our marketing message. If a marketing director cannot come up with creative ideas, they cannot justify their employment.

This point is vital. I have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on creative and other agency fees that can never be recouped. The marketing director should tell the agency what to do, not the other way around.

The same holds true for public relations. We have generated several PR stories in-house that have been well received and published by the press. All you need is a newsworthy story line and a good relationship with the media.

If you do use a PR firm, the marketing director should give the agency guidance and direction. Every story should be proofed by the marketing director to ensure consistency in marketing approach and theme. Make sure that you tell them what they should write and where it is to be published. This is your property, and you have to control its image.

The marketing director is also responsible for ensuring that proper colateral materials are available to the on-site staff. The marketing director should also oversee the production of such materials to guarantee cost effectiveness and professional production.

* Management. The marketing director should serve as the "eyes and ears" of management to keep it abreast of the goings on in the marketplace. The marketing director should have an open line of communication with management to bounce off ideas and concepts and to insure tht goals and objections are realistic and mutually agreed upon. The marketing director should also have enough authority to make decisions based on management recommendations.

A marketing director who will blindly follow any direction that is given without bringing up the pros and cons of the situation is no real benefit to the property. Management should look for frank and unbiased opinions followed by constructive suggestions. This working relationship is crucial and cannot be overemphasized.

* Budgeting. The marketing director should also be held responsible for budgetary goals and objectives. Does the proposed marketing plan work within a feasible budget? A marketing director should be able to construct a good, solid budget with specific goals and timeframes for accomplishments. Each line item should be justified and monitored.

The marketing director should then be able to analyze the effectiveness of the marketing program and report back to management. What is the cost per traffic? Cost per rental? Is the advertising strategy sound? Are we getting qualified traffic? Should we use different media? The point here is to make one person solely responsible for making sure that the entire marketing effort is working in an efficient and consistent manner.

Professional make-up

There are certain characteristics and personality traits that a marketing director must have in order to be successful:

* Creativity. This is probably the most important ability a marketing director can have. Being creative will make you money and save you money. New ideas for ads, promotions, resident programs, public relations, and so forth should all be generated by the marketing director. He or she should always be thinking of new ways to make your product more appealing than the competition's.

From writing advertising copy to designing exterior signage, the marketing director should be the creative force driving the entire marketing process.

* People management. Too often I have seen marketing directors at odds with mid-level management or site-level personnel about the way things should be done. To be effective, the marketing director should "sell" his or her ideas to the people who will be carrying out the program, not dictate to them.

The front-line people need to be on the director's side and believe in his or her ideas. If these leadership qualitities are missing, and the pertinent people do not buy into the program, it will probably not be successful. People need to respect and like the marketing director before they will follow him or her.

* Enterpreneurial. There is something about a person with the entrepreneurial spirit or willingness to take a risk that goes hand in hand with the marketing of any product. If a marketing director is not willing to try something new or gain a new perspective, he or she will never keep up with what is going on.

I personally take risks daily trying out new ideas relating to a variety of topics. I have done everything from using "off-color," humorous advertising to dressing leasing personnel in theme costumes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, but you have to be willing to try. This vision is what makes organizations grow.

* Competitive. I want to generate more rentals or sales than anyone else in the marketplace. I want to be 100-percent occupied and will do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal. A marketing director should take this aggressive stance at all times. He or she should take pride in "stealing" residents from another community, not feel remorse or apprehension. We should dictate to the marketplace, the marketplace should not dictate to us.

Accountability

The marketing director should be held accountable only for items over which he or she has direct control. Examples would be advertising costs, traffic generation, rental or sales pace, relevant personnel morale, and publicity.

I have worked on several properties where the leasing pace was outstanding, but because of property mis-management, there was no resident retention. Consequently, mass move-outs made it nearly impossible to gain any ground in occupancy. The marketing department usually has no control over management or move-outs and consequently should not be held accountable.

Likewise, if the marketing director feels that for some reason an ineffective leasing employee is hampering leasing progress and management resists dealing with the situation, these concerns should be documented and weighed into the overall reasons for success or failure of the property.

Summary

The additional expense of employing a marketing director for a property is easily justifiable. Through his or her efforts, the marketing director should be able to increase the amount of rentals or sales substantially, while reducing marketing costs significantly.

If you already employ a marketing director, make sure that he or she has the vision and creativity to drive the marketing effort toward realizing the goals and objectives of your company. Ideas for advertising, leasing or sales promotions and other revenue generating functions should come from the director--not from an ad agency.

If you do not employ a marketing director but feel that you could do better on the revenue and cost side of your balance sheet, you may want to consider hiring one. A person with all of the aforementioned qualities and experience is hard to find. But once you do, you will soon be wondering how you ever got along without one.

Gerry Wiatrowski is director of sales and marketing for Marquette Properties, Inc., a Chicago-based developer of residential and commercial communities.
COPYRIGHT 1989 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wiatrowski, Gerry
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Words:1809
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