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How One Marketing Leader Got Ahead

October 2020

Daryl Smith rises from Leasing Specialist to Chief Marketing Officer

What was your first apartment job? 
Leasing and marketing specialist.

Describe your current position:

I oversee KETTLER's marketing department, where I lead the property marketing, corporate marketing and communications, as well as multi-platform marketing, groups. I am responsible for creating growth in consumer activation with our brand via innovation, technology and next-generation experiential marketing strategies.

Who was your greatest influence in the industry (how did they influence you)?
That is a great question. And an interesting one, because there are two women who I am honored to acknowledge. Both have greatly influenced segments of my career. So with that, first I would have to say Christy Freeland, the former CEO of Riverstone. I learned a lot about vision, determination and people strategy from her. Christy had enormous insight and was a compassionate leader, who cared deeply about people and culture. She encouraged my creativity and operational excellence.  

Secondly, is Jennifer Staciokas, who is Executive Managing Director, Property Management at Western Wealth Capital. Jennifer was the first marketing boss that I had in the industry. And when I say first marketing boss, I mean it was the first time I had reported to someone in the industry whose training and career path was in marketing. I have known Jennifer for many years and have always admired and respected her. By chance, she had an opportunity available to lead her national marketing operations when she was at Pinnacle. Fortunate for me, Jennifer gave me the role. I learned a lot about marketing leadership and operations from her. That experience was invaluable, as it served as a stepping stone in preparing me for future experiences.
What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?

I would say transitioning from a regional marketing leader to a national marketing leader. While certainly a very exciting period, it can be a little scary, because you realize you are doing something you have in some ways never really done before. But challenges in life enable our growth. First, I reached out to a few mentors, getting advice on how to transition to this next role. They were extremely helpful, and very open in sharing their experiences and guidance. After getting a sense of the do's and don'ts from these mentors, I took inventory of the objectives of my new opportunity and I developed a plan. I developed an approach to my operations, which I discussed with my new boss. That allowed us to develop early synergies on expectations, which further built my confidence.  
What is your ultimate goal in the apartment industry?

I always knew I wanted to be in a senior marketing leadership role. I just never really expected or dreamed it would be as a Chief Marketing Officer. So I am extremely fortunate. And I am very thankful to those who allowed me to partner with them at the six multifamily brands that I have worked for in last 20 years. The experience those brands and this industry has afforded me has been challenging, but amazing and beyond fulfilling.

What has the apartment industry given you, personally and professionally?
Personally, I have met a lot of talented people who have become very close friends. And that includes both suppliers and practitioners. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for very forward leaning leaders, who empowered and challenged the best of my communication skills, in creating innovative and meaningful methods of engaging our consumers. And similarly, in executing these strategies, I have been fortunate to partner with visionary suppliers, who helped me to enable my strategies. Positively connecting consumers to product means a lot to me both professionally and personally. ItÕs very fulfilling to use my skills set to create a message and channel to connect a consumer to their new home.
What's your favorite or funniest apartment industry story?

Once, while on a tour with prospects, I told them how our company recently introduced video shops. I shared that in response to their questions regarding customer service. I thought letting them know that our company shops and records our performance would underscore our brandÕs commitment to our customers. Well, a few months later at a company awards ceremony, the video, or rather video shop, was played for all. Yup. There I was talking about our video shops, and lo and behold, that prospect just happened to be a shopper. What were the odds?
What's one thing you or your company does that sets you apart?

Our approach to development. Our CEO, Bob Kettler, has a long-standing reputation for development in the Washington, D.C., region. He is a thought leader and sought-after speaker on the discipline and has well-positioned our brand in the space. Success is best when shared. 

How do you or your company find ways to give back?

KETTLER is a family brand, and we believe strongly in our many corporate social responsibility commitments. During the holiday season, our associates at both the property and corporate levels donate toys to support many local causes. We also sponsor and support various local causes. Recently, we have begun inviting children being care for at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their families to enjoy games in our seats at the Capital One Sports Arena in Washington.
What do you like to do when you're not working?

I loved to travel pre COVID-19, particularly internationally. I typically did two international trips per year and lots of trips across the U.S. If I'm not actually traveling on a plane, I tend to spend an enormous amount of time on my flight simulator. And living in D.C., I am fortunate to have access to lots of diverse restaurants, entertainment and cultural events. So I tend to enjoy those as well.
What did you want to be growing up?
A commercial pilot. When I was a kid I loved planes and airports. For some reason, as I got older, I began to see it more as a hobby than a career. By the time I was a junior in high school I decided I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, which is how I ended up in television prior to joining multifamily.
What do you want to be doing five years from now?

I want to continue making an impact in the industry by identifying ways through innovation and technology to further connect our consumers to our product. Our consumers want an experience. They are desperate for it. And the best way to produce it, is to align it with their customer journey. I think multifamily has an enormous opportunity within the next five years to create platform level experiences, much like the hospitality industry for our consumers. For that to happen, we need to develop strategies encompassing three- to five-year plans that re-engineer our talent, product procurement, brand re-imagination and sales redesign. Consistency in use of products and training is essential in creating that unified brand experience for our consumers. Again, think hospitality. Our consumers are desperate for a frictionless experience. While I can't quantify it for you today, I am certain we are creating some of the barriers to our own conversion velocity problems for our consumers to engage. COVID-19 has demonstrated that we have a tremendous opportunity to develop omnichannel marketing strategies using virtual tools, visualizations, chatbots and other digital resources that allow for consumers to make decisions to convert online via their digital devices. This would expand our sales funnel to be both online and in-store, much like retail.
If you could talk to the person you were 10, 15 or 20 years ago, what would you say? I would say don't panic. It's going to be OK. You got it. Take a deep breath. I would say focus. Focus. Focus. Focus. But also take the passion you have and enjoy it more. I think we get so consumed with our career sometimes that we donÕt take the time to let that passion also be enjoyment. I love marketing. I really enjoy it. It excites and fascinates me every day. 
What's your favorite quote?

Nelson Mandela was one of many world leaders I have admired, and I once heard him say, ÒIt always seems impossible until it's done....In the context of what he accomplished, that stuck with me early in life and has stayed with me as I navigated challenges. And it helped me learn that something only seems impossible or scary until you take the steps in doing it. Nothing is impossible if you really try and you make a plan.
What's your favorite song or musician?

Boy, that is a tough one. My musical tastes are very diverse, but a few that come to mind are Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. They are certainly tops. And there is one artist from the Latin music genre that I love, and that is Celia Cruz.
What's the biggest difference you see between our industry today and when you started?

The advancement of digital. It;s so amazing to see how we can better engage with our consumers in much more meaningful ways. The days of engagement through print channels and organic outreach have given way to more robust strategic opportunities to service our customers, and I am loving it. ItÕs so exciting. To me, this is one of the best times to be in our industry, as digital has positioned us in a pivotal point of change with the consumer.