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Are You Investing Your Resources in the Right Places?


One of the most valuable marketing tools we can use to become or remain the leader in our markets might be found right next door, or around the corner, or down the block, or across the street. No, I'm not talking about a wrecking ball. I'm talking about taking a good hard look at our own competitive position with respect to the other companies and communities in our areas. Granted, there are only a handful of companies that can effectively compete against all competitors - on all fronts - at the same time. They've found the secret formula for maximizing the investment of their resources. They've learned exactly how many and how much when it comes to staff, time, and money. They seem able to expend a pound of effort, and get a ton of response in return. How do they do it? What makes them special?

The good news is they're not as special as you think. What they are is informed. The bad news is that unless you are too, you're sunk. Why? They're your competition, and they've got the competitive advantage!

If we want to compete with anyone, we must first identify the key points of difference between us and them in order to maximize our investment of staff, time, finances, and so on. Those key points can be identified by looking at just a few areas of consideration: the market or markets we operate in; our residents and the services we offer them; the people we employ; the community or communities themselves; and the finances at our disposal.

The Market
Many companies make decisions about their communities as if they were in a vacuum, with absolutely no awareness or sensitivity to what their competitors are doing in the marketplace. I'm not speaking of rental rates or specials. I'm referring to market trends: finding our where the market is header; and finding our what the residents want as compared to what they need.

Our residents and the services we offer them
Why does a community offer the services it offers? Is there a rational process by which new services are added or removed from a community or a company's portfolio? The question you should be asking yourself is "Is there a rational process by which my company or community selects and implements resident services?"

All too often we hear of a service that another community or company is offering and we say "Hey! That's a great idea!" and immediately set out to implement it. In other instances, we provide services simply because management feels they should be offered - no questions asked. The final scenario, and the most prominent, is that we establish a portfolio of services based on industry standards, and continue to offer them because "We've always done things this way, so why change now?" What are we missing here folks? In all three instances we've taken the easy way out; and have likely left our residents wanting because we failed to determine what they , and the rest of the market (our future residents), truly desire.

The key to avoiding this pitfall is an obvious one. We should consider the menu of services that we currently offer, and conduct a survey to find out whether our residents and future residents (a) want these services, and (b) are aware of these services. Just ask them. It's that simple. The following sample and cover letter will help you to tailor your own to the unique needs of your company or community.

Dear Resident, (address your residents by name!)

The success of our company / community, is built around our ability to meet your needs. As in any business, it is important that we regularly ask ourselves "How are we doing?" We believe that the best approach is to ask our residents to answer that question for us.

By taking a few moments to complete the attached survey, you will help us evaluate our company's / community's performance. you'll find a stamped and ready-to-mail envelope attached; or you may choose to deliver the completed survey to our office at your convenience.

If we receive your completed form by _____________________, you'll be entered into a drawing to be held on _______________________. Three names will be drawn. The grand prize winner will receive a getaway for two to __________________________________________. The second winner will receive a $50 gift certificate for dinner for two at ___________________________________. The third winner will receive $25 off their next month's rent.

We appreciate your willingness to assist us. Thank you for taking the time to respond to our questions. We'll be listening!

Sincerely,

(Signature)

(Name)

[Enclosure]

Tips for Successful Surveying

  1. Hold a drawing for three nice prizes. Only residents who respond prior to the deadline are eligible.
  2. Provide an easy way for them to respond. Postage-paid and pre-addresses envelopes should do the trick. Use a postage permit from the Post Office, and stamp the envelopes. This way you'll only have to pay postage for those surveys that are actually mailed.
  3. Place the letter and survey in an odd-sized envelope printed with a bold message ("Here's your chance to take a Getaway Weekend on us!"). This will help ensure that your letter gets opened and read.

Sample Survey Layout

Please indicate your awareness of, use, or interest in the services listed below. Additional space has been provided for your comments on any or all of the services listed. We encourage you to suggest other value-added services that would benefit you as a resident of our community.
SERVICES I am aware
of this service
I have used
this service
I would like
this service
I am not interested
in using this service
Service One [   ] yes     [   ] no [   ] yes     [   ] no [   ] yes   [   ] no [   ] yes     [   ] no
Service Two [   ] yes     [   ] no [   ] yes     [   ] no [   ] yes   [   ] no [   ] yes     [   ] no
And so on.. [   ] yes     [   ] no [   ] yes     [   ] no [   ] yes   [   ] no [   ] yes     [   ] no

Comments _________________________________________
_________________________________________________

Community Amenities and Technology
You should also assess your cometitor's strategies in the marketplace with respect to community amenities and value-enhancing technologies. All markets are dynamic bodies, right? It makes sense that knowing "the state of the industry" regarding amenities and technology willnot only help you gain a competitive advantage now; but will also help yo position yourself to satisfy your future market. With today's national market trends in rehab and new construction; this information becomes increasingly important in evaluating the efficient allocation of your resources.

A recent study conducted by Coates & Jarrat, Inc. as commissioned by the National Association of Home Builders revealed the trends and transitions that are shaping the future of our industry today. The study predicts that whatever choices our industry makes over the next decade; several inevitable developments will shape our efforts. These trends continue to grow in momentum, including:

  • The continued growth of the American population
  • Growing ethnic and lifestyle diversity
  • An aging population
  • A smaller entry level group of apartment residents (the Baby Busters, or Generation X)
  • The American consumer's growing expectation of quality, service and reliability in all business dealings
  • The growing centrality of information technology in the home and workplace
  • Environmentalism as a mainstream social movement
  • Globalization reaching further into the domestic market

This has practically everything to do with amenities and technology because each and every one of these trends should shape our choices when it comes to the special features that our communities offer. The convenience and value-added choices that technology enables will both free our time and make it more valuable then ever before. We're smarter consumers now - more demanding consumers - and there will be more of us in the future. If you're not investing your resources in this future, you're not investing them effectively.

Any Questions?
There are six questions that you should ask yourself to determine whether you're making the best use of your resources:

  • How do I want to compete in the marketplace? (Do I want to be the very best, or merely stay afloat?)
  • Who are my competitors now, and who will I be competing with in the future?
  • How do I maximize the value of my currently committed resources? How will I continue to do so ?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my company / continunity as compared to those of my competitors?
  • What must I do, including changing my current strategy and / or commitments, in order to achieve or sustain the competitive advantage?
  • Once I've established my strategy, who will implement and monitor it?

Ask yourself these questions, then take the time to analyze the information that you gain by answering them. You'll be well on the way to investing your resources in the right places, and getting the best possible return on your investment!


Tami Siewruk is the President of The Sales & Marketing Magic Companies, Inc.

Meet Tami Siewruk - Biography & Article List

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