What’s the cornerstone for any promotional marketing plan? A sound strategy. Without a strategic plan, it’s impossible to accurately determine budgets, select branded merchandise, assess what’s worked in the past…and what hasn’t. (Check out the 10 ways strategic planning will benefit your marketing programs in Part 1 of this series.)
Strategic plans are the road maps for your marketing campaigns, and they’re essential for knowing where you’re going. To make it to your destination, every strategic plan must contain five building blocks: Beginning with the end in mind; thinking outcome, not product; putting your audience first; thinking about packaging and distribution; and building in ROI. (For more on the essential building blocks, see Part 2 of this series.)
So once you have the strategic plan complete, you’re done…right? Wrong! In order for your ideas to truly come to life, you must execute your strategic plan.
Your Strategic Plan: Executing It To Perfection
To get the most out of your strategy, follow these seven tips for successful implementation:
1. Develop A Communications & Implementation Plan
While some communities have the authority to develop marketing plans on their own, most are receiving directives from the property management company. Unfortunately, some things get lost in translation. Here’s why.
Let’s say the corporate vice president of marketing develops the strategic plan and orders the appropriate branded merchandise to support it. These promotional products are delivered to the individual property managers who, in turn, give the items to leasing consultants for distribution. The problem: the leasing consultants have no idea what to do with the merchandise so they either give away the promotional items incorrectly or don’t give them out at all—resulting in a failed promotion and waste of money.
Thankfully, there’s an easy fix. Develop a communications plan that complements the promotion. Include written directions on the items included in the promotion (from promotional gifts to interior signage and support materials—and everything in between), the criteria for who qualifies to receive the branded merchandise and how these items are to be distributed. Work with your promotional consultant to make sure there are instructions for each item in the promotion to ensure nothing gets missed.
2. Determine A Schedule
Part of the written documentation should be a schedule and timeline of how the promotion will work. You may want to email this out prior to the promotion start time so the properties allocate any necessary staff time to prepare.
For finite promotions, there should be a start and end date. Include any steps to be done or accomplished at interim intervals. For ongoing promotions, include reorder instructions if more items are needed. Provide a timeline on how long reorders take so staff can plan accordingly and not be left empty handed.
3. Look For Ways To Consolidate Ordering
For property management companies, you have options when ordering items, especially staples that each of your locations use. Depending on the type of product and order quantity, you don’t simply have to order branded merchandise with the corporate logo. You may be able keep the economies of scale of a larger order and be able to imprint individual property logos by grouping them together and doing a simple copy change.
Branding the actual property name (rather than the management company) goes a long way with attracting local prospective residents, so work with your promotional consultant to see what options are available.
4. Allocate Assembly Time
Many promotions consist of multiple items that must be packaged together prior to giving them to recipients. For example, let’s say you’re attending a housing fair. To entice booth visitors to share their contact info to build your prospect list, you’re giving away t-shirts.
Rather than reaching into a cardboard box and handing them out (not a way to make a good first impression), you want a way to package them to increase the perceived value of the gift, plus you need a way for the tees to be displayed neatly on a table to spark up conversation in the booth.
One way is to consistently fold and roll the t-shirts so the logo is visible then secure them using a ribbon imprinted with the property name. Additionally, you can include an information card by punching a hole in the top left corner and then threading it through the ribbon before the bow is tied to complete the assembly.
While this is simple to put together, you can’t wait until the night before to start. Allocate staff time to complete the task, or work with your promotional consultant to have the assembly taken care of prior to delivery so all you must do is unpack the box at show time.
5. Factor In Shipping Time (And Cost)
One way to quickly derail a promotion (and you budget!) is expediting freight to ensure delivery. Plan well in advance and work with your promotional consultant on the production schedule. Always add in a couple extra days for unforeseen delays in production or transit interruptions due to inclement weather.
Additionally, look at the logistics and how it relates to shipping. If you’re ordering a product in bulk that will in turn be delivered to numerous individual properties, can the shipments be split at the manufacturer and sent directly? Work with your promotional consultant to determine the options available. It takes some planning at the beginning, but this will eliminate the need to ship goods to the headquarters and then reship to each community—in effect, doubling your shipping costs.
6. Have A ‘Plan B’
Even with all the planning in the world, unforeseen things can happen to impact the effectiveness of your promotion. Here’s an example:
A property was hosting a resident appreciation event by having a coffee giveaway. Staff was to set up a coffee station at the property entrance and offer on-trend travel tumblers filled with a favorite locally roasted coffee to residents as they left the property in the morning to go to work.
Unfortunately, the day of the event was much colder than forecasted. The staff moved the event inside the leasing office, but in doing so, only saw about 1/3 of the traffic from residents. All communications about the event indicated the coffee station was going to be located at the property entrance, and even though the staff put up some impromptu signs inviting residents to come inside, the majority didn’t have time to stop. As a result, the promotion didn’t go over well, there was product left over and residents didn’t feel appreciated.
Lesson learned: Always include a contingency plan with promotion instructions so staff can act according to your wishes in the event of something unexpected.
7. Track & Measure ROI
How do you know if the promotion has been successful? This goes back to building metrics into your promotion (read Part 2 for details) and then using the communication plan to explain how you want the properties to track the data and report back.
The leasing consultants and community staff must know what to do when they give out the branded merchandise. Whether it’s sending an email to a designated person at the time of giveaway or making notes in a spreadsheet to be submitted at program completion, clearly define expectations in the communications plan.
For example, perhaps your property offers online rent payments but few residents are taking advantage of the service. Conservatively, let’s say that having a resident use the online service saves five minutes of staff time per unit when compared to processing traditional paper checks. With 12 residents signing up for the online service, that gives staff an extra hour a month or 12 hours a year. With 24, you gain an extra two hours a month or 24 hours annually and so on. Of course, you’ll want to look at your own processes to determine the actual time spent/time saved.
When staff have to manually process payments, you’re not only losing those hours but also incurring the opportunity cost to take advantage of staff being able to tackle other tasks on property. And you can assign a dollar amount to these costs by multiplying what you pay your staff per hour by the number of hours it takes to process payments. Take the total cost and then divide it by the number of payments processed, and you have the cost per resident.
Looking at this figure, you can determine how much you want to spend per resident to get them to change their behavior (move from traditional payment by check to online transactions) and then work with your promotional consultant to select branded merchandise within your budget parameters to not only promote the program but also reward those who make the switch.
With all of these calculations described above, you can also determine ROI based on the number of conversions and total overall spend to conduct the promotion.
Regardless of the campaign you’re conducting, metrics are essential to be able to measure effectiveness so you know what programs to repeat, which ones to course correct for next time and which ones to avoid altogether.
Your Successful Marketing Plan
As we’ve talked about in the previous installments of this series, the goal of any promotional marketing plan is to get your property name into the hands of your intended audience. Branded merchandise, when used correctly, with purpose, can enhance the experience residents have with your brand so they think positively of your community and want to live there year after year—and tell their friends to live there, too.
Use the building blocks in Part 2 and follow the implementation tips above. Combine these with your own experience, trial and error—tailor the plan to your specific audience and goals. You have all the tools necessary to work with your promotional consultant to build amazing promotional programs together.
Best of luck crafting and implementing your promotional marketing programs based on a foundation of sound strategy. The road map is before you; are you ready to take the trip? Here’s to your success!
Valerie Hayman Sklar grew up in the property management business, leasing her first apartment at 12 years old. Today, as president of Detroit, Michigan-based The Apartment Boutique powered by Corporate Specialties, she combines her vast property management experience with her love of all things marketing. The result is a unique promotional marketing firm uniquely targeted to the multi-family market. Contact her to learn more.