6 Marketing Lessons From Roxanne The Bulldog

Roxanne the Bulldog: Multifamily Marketing Master

Roxanne The Bulldog, a marketing genius

Everyone loves his or her dog, but it’s rare to have one that is clearly a marketing genius.  Roxanne the Bulldog is just such an expert when it comes to condominium marketing and it gives me great pleasure to pass along some of the lessons in multifamily marketing that she has taught me over the past 8+ years since she took over our lives:

1. Sniff First

Bulldogs are not known for their sense of smell, but Roxanne does a great job relative to investigating and evaluating any given situation and determining an appropriate course of action.   At IGNITION Residential, we do the same thing before we embark on a multifamily marketing project.   Our Due Diligence encompasses a complete analysis of a project site, the proposed building, the proposed unit mix and designs, the projected target market, and the nature of the competition.  This process is done not only for our clients, but also for us, as we tend to eschew marketing a residential project that doesn’t pass our own “sniff test.”  This is a determination that either the project is on track to be a success based on decisions made prior to our coming on board OR evaluating whether our client will agree to consider recommendations that we feel will turn a project into a success.  We don’t need to be right and we don’t need to have our recommendations taken as law, but we do want to be heard.  Our recommendations will always be based on hard evidence and facts; we take our Due Diligence seriously.

2. Trust Your Instincts

Roxanne the Bulldog runs on instincts honed by experience.  She will look askance at man or beast who appears to pose a threat and usually reacts accordingly (lots of harmless barking).  She knows, after 8 ½ years, which actions are likely to result in her receiving a treat (breathing is one since I’m a soft touch), and which actions are likely to result in a stern reprimand (none, actually, since I’m a soft touch).  As marketers of multifamily residences, we also rely on our instincts and, as is the case with Roxanne, our instincts are also honed by experience – 30+ years of experience.  For example, we know instinctively that you don’t build a condominium tower on spec…even if you can.  We know that you try to obtain 50% pre-sales for any multifamily condominium development…even if they’re not a financing requirement.  And, after many years and at least four real estate downturns, we also have excellent instincts regarding the timing of a cratering or an emerging condominium market.  If your own instincts have not been informed by years of experience, talk to someone whose instincts have some gray hair on them.

3. Stay Stubborn

Roxanne S. Diamond’s middle name, like all bulldogs is Stubborn and it’s no wonder that bulldogs are so closely associated with my personal hero, Winston Churchill.  Yes, he also had a bulldog and, perhaps, his refusal to surrender to the overwhelming power of Nazi Germany in the early years of World War II may have been the result of learning the power of persistence from his own stubborn bulldog.  As marketers of multifamily residential developments, we know that a challenging market is not a reason to give up but rather, to stick our chins out and come up with our own version of the Royal Air Force.  This means being resolute in acknowledging and confronting the problem and being flexible and creative in dealing with it.  It’s the persistence that’s necessary when the real estate market changes – whether it’s a rental or a condominium market — and real estate markets can change almost overnight from “order taking” to doing whatever is necessary to close a deal.  That can mean discounts, promotions, events, etc., but you can’t be stubborn by sitting still.  Being stubborn, in the case of multifamily marketing, means facing a challenge instead of running away from it.  It means staying focused on the challenge and coming up with creative ways to out-rent or out-sell the competition or, sometimes more important, working tirelessly to survive a market that wants nothing more than your scalp.  All of us who have survived a number of these situations know this lesson well.  To underscore this important lesson on staying stubborn, watch how Gus doesn’t take no for an answer (it may be the best thing on this blog other than the picture of Roxanne).

4. Humor Counts

Roxanne, like almost every bulldog I’ve ever met, is hysterical.  She makes us laugh every day and allows my wife and me to keep some perspective on what really matters in life…and what doesn’t.   As marketers of multifamily residential projects, we take our missions seriously, but we know the importance of having a good time and making certain that our buyers have a good time dealing with us.  Buyers are looking for people, both developers and marketers, in whom they can trust and humor is both a way to break the ice and to keep an initial contact, a negotiation and a sale on track by making what is almost always a stressful experience for a buyer into a pleasurable experience.   Roxanne often gets what she wants by negotiating with conscious persistence and unconscious, intrinsic humor; people can do the same.  Negotiating by drawing a line in the sand or issuing an ultimatum usually ends up with an angry buyer, a frustrated seller, and both parties losing sight of the primary objective, making a deal, in favor of winning a point.  The primary objective for us is to rent or sell units for our clients and we act professionally at all times, but we do so without being tedious, condescending or patronizing.  We treat people as people, not statistics, and we use the negotiating process as a way to meet people, to make them enjoy working with us and, in the final analysis, to trust us.  It’s what makes a successful salesman different from a successful attorney or shoemaker.  In fact, one of the best salesmen that I know is one of my partners in IGNITION Residential, PT Vineburgh.  In addition to being armed with the necessary facts about any project on which he works, PT puts everyone at ease with his sense of humor.  Consequently, buyers/renters like him, they trust him, they enjoy dealing with him, and they close with him.  And, when the light strikes him correctly, PT even looks like Roxanne.

5. Keep Chasing Pigeons

Roxanne has spent the past 8+ years chasing pigeons and has yet to come close to catching one.  I often wonder what would happen if she did catch one, but it would probably result in the same kind of existential break that occurs when a dog chases, and then catches, a car.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen that either.  Regardless, it’s the chase that’s important to Roxanne and she remains relentless in her quest.  The same tenacity is important for a multifamily marketing company and, in our opinion, this is one of our core competencies.  While we don’t necessary think of our customers as pigeons, we do understand the value of maintaining an interactive web-based marketing program that is focused on identifying, cultivating and converting prospects into buyer and renters.  Just as pigeons don’t always respond when called (do they ever do this?  Roxanne certainly doesn’t), our customers may not know that they’re viable prospects from an initial contact.  We spend a great deal of time working with prospects, answering questions and addressing concerns that might prevent a purchase decision.  In fact, one of my partners, Michael DiMella, was one of the one of the first marketers in the Boston area to understand the importance of continuing to chase, qualify, cultivate and convert prospects into buyers and renters.  As one of the pioneers of  “Inbound Marketing,” Mike expanded upon many technological advances that have created a “sea change” in the world of marketing in general, and for multifamily marketing in particular.   He knows that you can’t hit home runs without swinging the bat and that you can’t cultivate prospects and turn them into buyers/renters without using the most effective tools to identify them.  Mike, like Roxanne, never stops chasing pigeons.

6. Loyalty Above All

Roxanne the Bulldog, like every dog, is ridiculously loyal.  In my case, I clearly deserve her loyalty, but dogs are fairly generous in giving loyalty even to those who may not deserve it.  Nothing is more important in the marketing of residential real estate (and in life) than this kind of absolute, unequivocal loyalty – to both clients and customers.  Your client, a developer if you’re a multi-family marketer, wants to hear the truth early and often.  Nobody benefits from information being filtered, especially information that indicates a problem.  As a marketer, you owe your client both a clear picture of the problem (pricing, location, layouts, etc.) along with a clear path to address the problem…or, at a minimum, a list of recommendations that can be evaluated in terms of risk (financial and otherwise) and reward.  It’s part of your job…and an important one – especially in a challenging economy where stealth, speed, flexibility and creativity are critical to avoid finding yourself and your client behind a problem rather than ahead of it.  Nobody likes to hear bad news, but you owe it to your client to be honest and…loyal.  Regarding buyers and renters, loyalty is also a precious, if not rare, commodity.  Not unlike Stockholm Syndrome where a victim starts to identify with and, in may cases, falls in love with his/her kidnappers, buyers and renters tend to rely on the person representing the developer in ways that can present a risk to the buyer/renter. More so than ever, it is important to avoid taking advantage of that reliance and trust because the alternative will almost always come back to bite you…and once the trust between seller and buyer/renter has been broken, there’s no restoring it.  Today’s buyers/renters have multiple tools at their disposal that can quickly acquaint them with every aspect of the developer’s reputation, the pluses and minuses of a particular location, and the relative success or struggles of a particular development.  Instead of glossing over deficiencies, be prepared to answer any and all project inquiries directly and honestly.  Again, it’s your job…and loyalty to buyers/renters is no less important than the loyalty that you need to demonstrate to your client.

 

Roxanne the Bulldog, despite the drooling and flatulence, comes to work with me every day and attends most of my meetings. No wonder she’s become such an expert in the field of multifamily marketing!  On the other hand, she speaks only to me, so the best alternative that I can suggest is to visit our website at IGNITION Residential to see what else we’ve learned at the paws of a master marketer.

 

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About Merrill Diamond

Merrill H. Diamond is a trained architect and a founding principal of IGNITION Residential, an interdisciplinary multi-family marketing firm. He is also a founding partner of Diamond/Sinacori, a Boston-based real estate development company founded in 1978. Mr. Diamond has been the recipient of numerous local and national awards for both development and marketing. He has served as both a gubernatorial appointee to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and to the Senate Special Commission on Historic Preservation. In addition, Mr. Diamond has been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Arthur Young / “Venture Magazine;” “Merchant Builder of the Year” by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), and one of “America’s Most Valuable People” by “USA Today".

One Response to “6 Marketing Lessons From Roxanne The Bulldog”

  1. Michael DiMella August 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    And I always thought Roxanne was just another pretty face! 😉

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