Residential property markets are always dynamic and right now we are seeing just how dynamic, as sentiment can move from one of almost boundless opportunity to a far more cautious, even negative perception. When markets swing like this, I am asked almost on a daily basis what role marketing has to play, and it’s true that marketing does have a sharper focus when buyer demand changes and when different levels of supply cycle through the market.

Last year we saw various reports and media headlines about investors swamping the market, prices constantly rising, first home buyers being locked out of the market, governments moving to boost supply, cheap money forcing up prices, offshore buyers doing the same, and all of this combining and creating the perception that almost any new project would more or less sell itself. Yes that’s a very simplistic summary I agree, but there can be a predisposition to take a one-sided view (be that positive or negative) and this sometimes has the knock-on impact of unravelling sound and well tried marketing principals that are so important in project marketing, and so I wanted to add my views to where the market currently sits and what role marketing has to play in the current market settings.

Upfront, one key word best describes the foundation of my comments, and that’s planning. Lots of detailed and essentially advanced and flexible planning, and a great deal of that planning should usually be found in the original sales path for an existing project and certainly for any new project planning in today’s environment it takes on an even more fundamental and critical role.

The Marketing Cycle

It’s easy to see how media headlines can create this or that sort of frenzy in the market, sometimes as if the heavens were falling in, but in reality I suggest markets are never as volatile as they are portrayed. It’s the key reason why planning plays such a central role, as given the life cycle of almost any project, market conditions will always vary.

My approach would always be to look for a robust marketing plan from the pre-launch stage, to the very last sale, and always align the budget to accommodate different market conditions. A detailed plan needs to take into account what different marketing options might be required, and across all activity it’s essential to maintain a solid base of communication with buyers and potential buyers.

One area that I suggest takes on particular significance when markets change is what sort of release strategy will be the most successful. I say this because the release of a new project really is a one-off event.  Done well it can be a solid start to a project, but done poorly it can be a wasted opportunity.

Data management plays a key role and in today’s market what potential buyers receive by way of a project release, be that an email or any form of communication the content needs to be well planned.  I no longer think just a few lines of random copy and an image is enough. Like many other industries are already showing, the quality of first contact needs to be enticing and clearly targeted.

If markets are more complex then the quality and amount of information provided at first contact comes into much sharper focus, and there needs to be a very easy and I suggest more detailed call to action that goes beyond just a series of emails. Buyers need to be invited to allow direct and personal contact early in the communication.

Media Mix

Planning should also address all of the various media options.  What worked when markets were very active may not automatically work if buyers are more cautious, more selective and harder to engage.

One big advantage of digital media is the value of reporting that’s available which helps to understand the source and depth of buyer interest in a project. But the raw numbers can be a little deceptive and what we’re currently seeing is that projects are attracting interest, clicks and registrations, but the conversion into direct interest, and then down the track to actual sales is taking longer.  There’s a more cautious approach that needs to be taken into account.

How do we do this? That’s a key question and I think it comes down to the quality of information available to buyers, how that’s delivered and the importance of personal contact, having a conversation of better still face-to-face. It sounds a bit like dating and I guess it’s not a bad comparison, today the connection with the buyer is important, no matter what sort of buyer we’re talking about. Being off-handed never works, but in a competitive market buyer service takes on a more urgent dimension. There’s no room for a gung-ho attitude – that soon backfires.

Review – Be Flexible

When market conditions move or are even in a state of flux it’s important to review marketing tactics and to be flexible, a solid marketing plan should allow for this. Look at areas that are tried and true, solid ways to create interest like signs and hoardings, make sure all digital content is up to the minute and don’t discount some oldies like letter box direct mail and press, but make sure there’s good value in whatever is done. Value not only in terms of dollars spent but the ability to reach your target market.

Also keep track of emerging areas like mobile digital media time which is now significantly higher when compared to desktop.  Mobile marketing has forever changed how we communicate with buyers.

Websites have also changed and been turned upside down in content and structure, so take the time to understand the formats and how best to manage content. I am also reminded to appreciate that all formats are applicable to mobile, such as microsites, blogs, social media and videos.

The bottom line is that traditional forms of media are still relevant but new formats offer amazing new ways to stay in touch with the market.  Be flexible and consider all options.