Out of almost any marketing budget the sales and display centre will normally account for between 40% and 50% of the total marketing budget. This figure would include the display contents, design, furniture, the model and running costs but would also need to take up a percentage of other items like virtual tours, computer generated images (CGI’s) and marketing plans. This allocation would be even higher if the construction costs of the facility were directly attributed to the marketing budget.

I am pointing to these figures because they serve to highlight the importance of presentation and the key role the sales centre plays in today’s project marketing mix.

However, I am also quick to agree that the sales centre is only part of a detailed plan that involves many other elements. Such as advertising, signs, direct mail, PR – it’s a long list. Aside from this, the sales centre is critical because it is where the potential buyer will come face to face with the product or at least the best representation of the product for the first time.

And while with the click of a mouse consumers can now gather a huge amount of information and background about a project and a market, I believe this increases their expectations of what a sales centre and display apartment will deliver.

The key buyer’s experience

It is difficult to over-stress how vital the on-site sales office and display centre is to help drive sales and its function has become more important because of the increasing reliance of on-line marketing. We are now in an environment where potential buyers can research markets and do their homework comparing varied properties and projects before they ever visit the sales centre.

The sales centre should bring together the brand experience, selling the location, product, lifestyle and developer in an engaging and still information driven way.

At the start of a new project there is blank canvas, either an empty parcel of land, an area with existing buildings that are about to be demolished or some other form of disused amenity that usually has no bearing what so ever with the new project that is being planned.

In some cases there may be connections to the existing neighbourhood, but if the scale of the project is large these facilities may be some way off in the future. It’s about anticipation; it’s about making imagination a reality.

It is reasonable to assume that for a majority of potential buyers the site is a complete mystery and so too is the product they have come to consider. There is a need to crystallize in the mind of the market the thousands of hours work that will have been undertaken to prepare the project and the scale of the investment involved.

Reaching out to the buyer under these circumstances will in many ways fall into the realm of the sales and display centre, the heart of the marketing effort and so we come to the core question of, what is the right investment to be made in these facilities?

If we do a quick check-list our purpose is to sell the location, the appeal of the lifestyle, the varied product, the finishes and utility of the apartments and the credentials of the development team.

The sales and display centre is at the heart of any project and can frequently cost between $300,000 and well over $1 million. It is an area that has evolved greatly over the last decade and continues to do so.

Sales and display centres, while commonly based around a core layout and content, are all different, as different as the projects and markets they are designed to promote.

It is important that the facility reflects the local conditions, while a basic template can be a sensible starting point; it is important to reflect local conditions and to use the display to amplify the nature of the specific development.

There are many ways to do this and I have seen successful, almost if you like “pop-up displays”, used and on the other hand others that have involved a major investment to built a complete high-quality apartment with added sales centre floor on-site, 100% complete with the balance of the project then in-filled around the display during the marketing.

By linking the display facility into the site and its associated resources the design will help build the projects brand values and appeal with potential buyers. It is something that creates a memorable experience for potential buyers.

The core idea is to set up the facility so that a ‘touch and tug’ environment is created. What does this mean?

In very basic terms the centre needs to display as much about the project as possible that buyers can ‘touch’; a full display apartment being the prime touch mechanism. But there are others such as the creative display of finishes. Finishes need to be big enough to see and feel and created in a way that any consumer can connect with – creating the imagination a reality.

The ‘tug’ is the creation of an environment that will tug as it were at the heart of the buyers, making them want to connect to the project. Both areas are key tools to help engineer a highly emotional connection to the project and operate in a similar way to a well-planned retail experience. It is also the same forces that now operate in many retail stores and even modern fast food restaurants.

A-Place-to-Live-8Many retailers are now alert to the need to cover off every detail of their in-store offer in a fresh and appealing way. They used to always do that but now stronger on-line sales have caused a fresh approach and there are overlaps within our industry.

While the Internet can cover some of the legwork, it is the sales centre that needs to be the clincher.

By taking a touch and tug approach it can be possible to trigger and use the key benefits and features of any project including its location, that will help secure a sale.

I will continue to explore this topic over the next few weeks.