Plan Your Work and then Work Your Plan

Plan the Marketing… Then Work the Plan
Feature, Features, In Focus, Property Management, Property Management
Published Nov 30, 2011

By Diana Mosher, Editor-in-Chief

As the year winds down, marketing plans are being finalized for 2012. It’s time to do some serious thinking about what worked in 2011 and what should get carried forward to 2012. A lot of good marketing ideas get rolled over from one year to the next, but when new ideas come up will the team have the resources and funds to execute them? A proponent of “planning the work and working the plan,” multifamily marketing consultant Kate Good recently shared a number of tips during a webcast “Essential Elements of a Successful Marketing Plan” produced by Multifamily Insiders and sponsored by VaultWare.

In addition to her role as a speaker and trainer, Good also serves as a marketing director and she’s currently working on several properties including a lease-up in Birmingham, Alabama. “Let me tell you, it’s so great to see new construction happen again. I love the sound of a job site. The great thing about a lease-up,” says Good, ” is you really get to start fresh with your marketing and your brand. I like that. Typically you have a bit more money in the marketing budget because you have so many apartments to lease in a short amount of time. So we can investigate some deeper investments in our marketing message.”

But Good also enjoys older properties that come to her with a different challenge. Maybe they’ve noticed a change in their demographics. Or perhaps they don’t have the position they once had, and they want to work on regaining market share… but, they don’t have a lot of money for marketing this year, so they’re looking for low cost/no cost ideas.

Good has plenty of marketing ideas for little or no money. “But those ideas don’t just get implemented without a plan,” she notes. “First there must be a foundation for the entire program; all those ideas that we plug in are great, but first we have to put forth the plan. What is it you want to accomplish and how will you execute it?”

“I truly believe in planning your work and then working your plan,” says Good. “When you plan your work, it makes it much easier to communicate to the entire team what’s going to be the focus and what will be important in the coming year. It’s so important to have that bird’s eye view of the entire year.”

Good points out that marketing is really just the process of observing and gathering information. One of her favorite strategies is “clustering,” a technique she picked up from her former colleague Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) while working at Day-Timers. “Stephen Covey is a brilliant mind. One of the things he taught me was that all along—up until the point when you write your plan—you should be collecting. Grab a file folder and write on it ‘my great marketing ideas.’ And every time you run across an idea in a magazine, or see an idea while you’re driving down the street of something you want to do, toss the information in the file. My own folder has things I’ve drawn on napkins and notes I’ve scribbled on scraps of paper.

“Then, when you sit down to write the marketing plan, take each item and start researching and writing and figuring out where it will fit in. This will help get you the energy and momentum which I think is so helpful,” says Good.

The challenge Good hears so many times when working with property managers across the country is that they don’t even know if the marketing plan is worth the effort to write because what are the chances they’ll get the money to execute the plan. She notes that the resources requested have to be directly related to the business goals of the apartment company. “Whenever I can justify that in my marketing plan, it’s not hard for me to ask for the dollars that I’m going to need. It becomes very worthwhile.”

Good adds, “Never go to an owner and say I want to try this and it’s going to cost $35,000 dollars. Instead, say ‘I need 12 leases and here’s how I’m going to do it.’ Your entire marketing plan should support that business goal. I’m not saying you can write a $4 million dollar marketing plan, and expect that you can get approval. You have to value engineer that marketing plan. But the end result of your marketing should always be about profit to the property and how to help the business thrive.”