Monday, March 21, 2011

Persistence: the fifth P of marketing?

The 4 P's of marketing are technically known as product, price, place, and promotion, but if I could be so bold as to suggest an addition, I'd have to tack on a fifth P: persistence. (Note: Before you start yelling about how the 4 P's have been the same for decades, and who am I to suggest a change, stop and think about it for a moment. How many hundreds of marketing campaigns might have fallen flat, if not for a brave soul or two who championed the cause? Besides, this is my blog, and therefore I can propose whatever strikes my fancy. Okay, moving on...)

Like many other marketers, I am not one to throw in the towel easily. True story: my stubborn streak actually landed me a dream job back in 2005. I saw a marketing manager position posted online and begged the recruiter to send me to interview for the role. Even though I gave my best effort, I was denied a shot at an interview; the recruiter said I simply wasn't experienced enough for him to even consider forwarding my resume to his client. Deflated, I went about my business, and then lo and behold, I saw the same position posted again a few months later. I immediately called the recruiter, and said, "Listen, all you have to do is get me in the door. I can do the rest." Several interviews later, I had the role. Call it persistence, or call it pig-headed stubbornness, but if I truly believe in something, I am loathe to call it quits under any circumstance, personally or professionally.

And so the true subject of this post: I'm very excited to say that after nearly a year and a half in my current role at Dolben, we are finally ready to take the plunge into the wild world of social media. I've been pitching this since the summer of 2009 (even before I was hired: social media was discussed during the interview process), and until last week, other initiatives have taken precedence. I fully understand and appreciate why we've needed to take things slow; we've had a mountain of projects to tackle over the last eighteen months, and a one-person department can only take on so many things at once. Still, even with a mile-long "to do" list, I've been pushing social media on a constant basis. Why? Based on what I've seen and heard, I'm convinced that it will enhance our marketing and resident retention efforts. I also feel pretty strongly that the longer we wait, the more our teams will have to play catch up when we finally make our entrance.

Interestingly, my most recent campaign to "go social" succeeded thanks to one of our advertising partners. Through an exclusive relationship with Oodle and Facebook Marketplace, For Rent Media Solutions is giving clients an advertising boost by listing properties on Marketplace at no charge through the end of the calendar year, and building Facebook Pages for clients who don't yet have them. The icing on the cake? They have a "social media hotline" for on-site teams needing advice. I'm well aware that there are several companies in the multifamily industry who will build out Facebook Pages, manage content generation, and even act as the virtual voice of the property in responding to comments. But as social media newbies, that type of full-scale solution wasn't really what we were looking for: we wanted help getting started, and then wanted to roll up our sleeves and engage directly with our residents and prospects. Thanks to the For Rent team, I don't have to walk our on-site teams through the page development process, and if for some reason I'm not available to help our properties navigate through a sticky situation, they have access to a whole team of people who can help. Plus, our Marketplace ads will connect to our Facebook Pages, allowing the pages to serve as both as a marketing tool and a resident retention tool. Genius.

Throughout the course of this whole process, I've made a few interesting observations that I thought would be worth sharing. If your company is hesitant to adopt social media (or any other new initiative, for that matter), keep these points in mind:

It's not about you. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a social media evangelist: I could sing the praises of Twitter and Facebook all day long. You know what? That's not a good enough reason to engage on a corporate or property level. Figure out why you need a business presence, and you have a case to be made. And no, "everyone else is doing it" doesn't cut it, nor does the fact that you think you're a social media rock star. It's been said (many times) before, but it's worth repeating: Facebook for business is vastly different than Facebook for fun.

Creative thinking is key. So your first proposal didn't fly? Figure out why, and tailor your next try to meet those specific objections. For me, that meant holding off until we could figure out how to build Pages without pain, and to find some way to access experienced social media resources in a budget-friendly manner. There is always more than one way to get from Point A to Point B.

Keep talking. I can't tell you how many times I've brought up social media in conversations with our regional managers, my manager, our on-site teams, vendors, and industry friends. Why? Technology is constantly changing. And until you jump in the game yourself, you never know what might be on the horizon that could influence your next step.

Be prepared. More than a year ago, I wrote a set of social media guidelines and picked a list of "pilot properties" to test Facebook for resident retention purposes. Call me over-eager, but I had no intention of navel-gazing on this project when it was finally blessed. My thinking was: if I could come to the table prepared, the conversation would move that much more quickly. And so it has.

Even with the resources available to us, and the work we've done to date, we're approaching social media with caution: we're starting with just two properties on Facebook. We'll gauge the response, try out some different ideas, and then determine on a property-by-property basis whether social media is a good fit for each one of our communities. I don't know that we'll ever tweet, or blog. But our first step is definitely a step in the right direction, and I couldn't be more excited to get started. Persistence really does pay off.

7 comments:

  1. Sara,

    On the For Rent note, does it bother you that FR has effectively cut off your ability as an operator/marketer to ever post on marketplace outside of their exclusive relationship? It's genius for For Rent but I'm not so sure it genius for owner operator/marketers.

    Just one guys opinion....

    Mike

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  2. Congrats on making the jump, Sara! I can't wait to see where you take it.

    I'm really curious to see how the ForRent Marketplace listings play out. Facebook hasn't made Marketplace a prominent part of the site, and visibility still largely depends on personal social connections. If those social connections include Likes of your brand's Facebook page, then the listings will presumably become more visible as you grow your page's following. For me, I still see activity on the Wall as the key to success for the majority of Facebook pages.

    The rest of your points are exactly on target. Good luck with the new direction, and keep us posted about how it goes!

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  3. @Mike (Brewer): Thanks for weighing in on this, Mike. Honestly? The exclusivity factor doesn't bother me at all. We weren't posting to Marketplace to begin with, so for us, the For Rent deal helps, not hurts. Perhaps my answer will be different down the road, but Facebook (and Marketplace) could also look very different in another 12 - 24 months.

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  4. @Mike (Whaling): Thanks so much for commenting, Mike! Like you, I'm not 100% sure how Marketplace will play out: I don't currently use it and don't know many people who do. Of course, that may change as the site continues to grow.

    Though Marketplace is the backbone of the For Rent partnership, that aspect of the program is more of a value-add for us as we start to build a social media presence. I'd have to wonder if the same isn't true for other management companies new to the social space.

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  5. Sara

    Thank you for the feedback. Having spent a ton of time thinking through and building out a social strategy for our business; I find FR's move to be good for them and bad for us.

    If Marketplace becomes a viable source down the road and I have a workable social strategy in place that would allow me to take advantage; I would want to do it without paying FR to do so. With this exclusive relationship, owners with buildings larger than 50 units can't post to market place independent of FR. [Read: sorry grapes :-)]

    Appreciate your point of view and excited to see your strategy play out.

    Have an amazing day.

    M

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  6. Persistence is a fantastic word. Thanks for the post Sara. Businesses cannot function without that important word. Social media is a great tool for sure to build up your community. Whether its B2B or B2C the results can be staggering when persistence and consistency are some of your keywords that drive the boat each day. I look forward to hearing your results.

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  7. @Jonathan, thank you for reading. I always appreciate your feedback!

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