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Trapp on Being Free to Find the Right Balance Between B2B and B2C

B2B and B2C

New demands are being placed on multifamily marketing executives for more creative Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing campaigns. Many such professionals have risen up through the ranks of the apartment marketing profession, staying focused on B2C the whole way. However, Sequoia Equities Director of Marketing Lisa Trapp believes the time is rapidly approaching when she and her colleagues will need to start thinking more like peer groups in other industries like automotive who have an equal fixation on both B2C and B2B. Trapp recently sat down with us to discuss this future:

NATIONAL APARTMENT ASSOCIATION: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

LISA TRAPP: I have been in the real estate industry for over 13 years. I started on site and worked my way up the traditional ladder. Through my collegiate work, I started pursuing more of a marketing position specifically. I worked for an acquisitions company to begin with, then with a developer, and now I am back working for a company that is focused on acquisitions. I serve as the Director of Marketing for our entire portfolio here at Sequoia Equities.

NAA: You led a session at the 2014 Apartment Internet Marketing Conference earlier in the year on B2B and B2C marketing. For the record, what is the difference between the two, particularly with regards to the apartment industry?

LT: The model may vary by company. For Sequoia, when I refer to B2B marketing, I am referring to marketing upstream to our investors, which are primarily high-net-worth individuals that we do business with. We are also pursuing institutional capital. Our particular model is we are an owner-manager. That's 85 percent of our business. B2C is traditionally how we define the marketing role within the industry, reaching out to customers and consumers.

NAA: From your vantage point, where does the multifamily housing industry excel at with regards to marketing?

LT: I think we excel at a lot of things, quite frankly. We are great when it comes to advertising. I think that we are fantastic at developing campaigns. At least the peer group that I have had the opportunity to work with, they are fantastic brand managers. They are very good at brand development, brand equity analysis, etc. We're also great at managing budgets.  And just by virtue of having more digitally focused marketing, we've been much more effective than other industries at creating efficiencies financially and also through the use of human capital to execute marketing. 

NAA: And where do you feel the industry needs to improve?

LT: Marketers could improve their management of the data complexity that exists. Now that we have all of this data, what do we do with it? We can improve on the development of customer profiles, working cross functionally with the IT folks, operations, and training. Marketers, in general, can do better reaching across the aisle to really understand what others' needs are and how we can best collaborate together to make sure we are providing an optimal customer experience. One of the areas we'll increasingly need the allocation of resources is in the B2B sector as we continue to compete for additional fee business as we develop relationships with banks. As our private equity network grows, we're going to need to be able to share information across multiple departments and certainly be able to share that data upstream so that we are recognized as a sophisticated and very capable organization to do business with.

NAA: Do you have an anecdotal story of a B2B marketing initiative or effort that has been particularly successful for Sequoia?

LT: There was a campaign we ran a few years ago. Right in the trough of the recession, we began to experiment internally with different applications for video media. One of the things that came out of that was perhaps we could shoot not a property video, but a video campaign that would embody in a very human and a very real way what our company stands for. Video media was a relatively new format at the time. I think most of the video marketing that had been done to that point was to showcase the physical properties themselves. We wanted to take the opportunity to create a sort of spoof on the Most Interesting Man in the World campaign.

NAA: The Dos Equis beer man?

LT: Yes! But instead we wanted to make it the Most Interesting Man in Multifamily Property Management. What we did was create a full video spoof based on the Dos Equis campaign. We were relatively young as a brand. We had just re-branded in 2007, and we didn't have a lot of recognition in the industry. We were what was referred to as an "emerging manager." We had great infrastructure, great policies and procedures. We were a very capable organization, but nobody really knew who we were. So, we used this grass-roots Most Interesting Man in Multifamily Property Management spoof as a way to catapult us to the next level. We would have meetings with banks and meetings with our general partners, and they would be looking for some of the anecdotal details they could include in presentations. What we were able to do is use our Most Interesting Man campaign to get opportunities such as interviews such as these, to speak at different conferences, and to gain momentum for the business-to-business brand ... for who we are as an organization that makes us distinct from our competitors.

NAA: Are they any techniques from B2C marketing that can also be applied to B2B?

LT: Yes, I think video media is the perfect application of that. I think social media certainly is. Digital media and website development can certainly be segmented so you have different  website content and very different messaging to your B2B audience than you would have B2C. In the B2B realm, they're more interested in news and facts and data and profits-based messaging, which doesn't play very well to consumers and customers who are searching for apartments. Segmenting those two websites has worked really well for us.

NAA: Is there another industry that apartment professionals can look to as having achieved the right balance between B2B and B2C?

LT: The automotive industry has done a great job of that, managing shareholder expectations. But their consumer-focused messaging has been more along the lines, especially among American automakers, of "We're listening to our customers, and we're responding accordingly." I think Domino's Pizza has also done a great job with that, as have United Airlines over the last couple of years.

NAA: Is there a marketing initiative coming up for Sequoia that has you excited that you can talk about?

LT: We are right in the middle of shooting a new video marketing campaign called "Living It Up." It is going to provide 45 mini-documentaries throughout cities on the West Coast where we will not shoot a property video that showcases the usual things like floor plans and the amenities. Rather, 70 percent of each video will focus on the lifestyle outside of the community itself. We think that through great photography and good copywriting, people understand the features and benefits of living at the property. The video piece can be stronger if we can take it out of the community. We can interview local business operators, restaurateurs, owners of yoga studios. It will really vary by market. Each city will have different interviews. For instance, we did interviews in Portland with people at Voodoo Donuts, which is a brand that is indigenous and very engrained in the local culture up there for those properties. In Sacramento, we shot with a master sushi chef named Taro who owns a very successful line of sushi restaurants called Mikuni's. It's been a really fun and creative project to work on!

By Teddy Durgin