Magazine article Journal of Property Management

THE EYE of the Beholder

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

THE EYE of the Beholder

Article excerpt

You know your company is the best, with the best services, the best people.... But how do your clients and peers see you? Only a strategic marketing auditor knows for sure.

Today, real estate management clients demand quality service, operational excellence, and positive brand identity. While almost all companies strive to achieve these goals, many of them judge their successes or failures subjectively. By conducting surveys of clients, tenants, vendors, brokers, and peers, real estate companies can determine objectively how they stack up. More importantly, companies can pinpoint strengths and areas that need improvement.

While audits to evaluate tenant satisfaction are fairly widespread in the real estate industry, surveying the perception of your company and its services among clients, peers, and competitors is a relatively new idea in the industry. The focus of a strategic business survey can center on operations--how clients, brokers, etc., feel that you perform certain tasks. For example, one real estate management firm saw itself as responsive and easy to deal with. Yet the brokerage community found the company's senior executives unresponsive. As a result, brokers often took leasing deals elsewhere.

What is interesting about this example is that it illustrates a disconnection both between the actual performance of a function--a quick response to a lease proposal--and the company's perception of how it is seen by others. In this case, the first step was to change the actual performance--set a benchmark to respond to all lease proposals within three business days.

The more difficult transition is changing the brokerage community's perception. This can be done through a strategic marketing and public relations plan that emphasizes speed and responsiveness.

Survey questions should be customized to reflect concerns of each company. Among elements that can be surveyed are:

* the company's top competitive advantages in their specific market;

* the company's strengths and weaknesses compared to competitors;

* the effectiveness of advertising and marketing materials in conveying a company's message;

* the consistency between the company's message and its performance;

* unmet market niches that the company could fill.

Assessing Your Image

In an era when large national and regional companies are building name recognition to achieve a market advantage, building a "brand" image is an important component of success. Because of the differences in location and price, branding in real estate products is not as straightforward as it is in the realm of consumer products. Nevertheless, by establishing a clear message that reflects the company's mission, assessing how others view a company and then determining how closely these perceptions match a company's own vision and values, a company can become more successful in creating a lasting, positive image that will translate into new business.

A large management and leasing company that had several mergers and acquisitions of smaller companies saw itself as a top-notch landlord and tenant representation company. An image assessment revealed that the marketplace saw it as a property management company. The exception was one market in which its leasing function was strong. In order to match its image to its vision, the company needed to launch a campaign to educate the broader national marketplace about its leasing capabilities. Without the assessment of its "brand" in the marketplace, the company would not have realized what was needed.

Determining how well a company's activities match the needs of the market and their competition is another area that can benefit from an outside assessment. For example, one company had devoted a fair amount of time and resources to build up internal resources that had a direct impact on clients. However, when their clients were surveyed, the company discovered that their principal sales advantage was not the internal resources at all, but rather the skill of several key principals, who were perceived by the clients as the deciding factor that placed this company ahead of the competition. …

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