The 2012 United States presidential election has been decided. There was a clear winner with a team whose campaign was considered—even by some opposing professional operatives as—“flawless.”
The marketing and sales techniques that proved effective nationally can offer useful guidance for fractional real estate developers and their marketing and sales teams as well. Following are but a few of the many ideas:
1. Start marketing very early.
A year or more before formally launching your project, engage in pre-launch activities. These can include invitations to join an “Insiders’ List” of those to be among the first to learn the details of your project.
The pre-launch period is an excellent time to build extensive opt-in mailing lists of people who sign the guest book at your office or attend your open houses. Keep in touch with these people through regular monthly newsletters.
Note: The winning political party never closed its 2008 local electoral offices in the nine battleground states. Rather, they continued the voter registration, volunteer recruitment and training efforts that were already in place.
2. Conduct focus groups and surveys.
Interview your current owners or owners and guests in your resort area to learn what their ideal vacation home would be like (size, amenities, etc.).
Or, have people fill out brief questionnaires for research purposes. Be sure to ask if they are considering ownership in the next 3, 6 or 12 months.
Use polls to gather and analyze information electronically, such as those offered by Mailchimp and Zoomerang.
3. Study your demographics.
Identify the audience that has already bought the fractional real estate property that you offer or properties similar to those that you propose to offer. From this data, determine where you can find more of this demographic.
Note: The winning political party called households on public voter registration lists and asked four questions to establish household demographic data and political leaning. They also asked the names of neighbors.
At some resorts, the names of property owners can be purchased, but one must take care not to violate anti-spam laws and not to contact those on the Do not call list. Seek legal advice, as needed.
The author has learned that some marketing companies can qualify prospects by credit scores!
4. Speak to the choir, but don’t preach to the choir.
Craft your overall marketing message and direct it to the people who are already disposed to liking it. Show what your fractional offering can do specifically to improve the way your target audience currently vacations. Demonstrate how you can save people time and money and avoid inconvenience. Create a memorable statement for your marketing message.
Marketing needs to be directed not just to the qualified people living in certain zip codes, but to people who also have an affinity to the special activities that the resort offers—year-round sports, fine dining, music festivals, art fairs, etc.
The winning political party identified its target audience by lifestyle factors such as magazine subscriptions, preferred drinks, which TV shows they watch, etc.
It kept in touch with its audience by frequent email or text message requests for donations, volunteers and invitations to rallies, parties, special events and so on.
In contrast, the losing party sent emails with detailed explanations of political positions in an attempt to “convert” recipients to the party’s own point of view.
5. Reach out to your audience personally.
“Micro-marketing” beats “macro-marketing.” Messages “narrowcast” to a targeted audience via email, text messages, social media and person-to-person are cheaper and far more persuasive than TV advertising “broadcast” to a general audience.
It is well-known that owner-referral programs are usually the cheapest and best-performing fractional real estate marketing programs. These days, when people are making decisions on what to buy, they rely far less on ads and far more on recommendations of friends, family or user reviews they found on the internet.
Note: The “ground game” that the winning campaign played of personally contacting individuals was considered among the important factor in its success. In contrast, the nearly billion-dollar “air game” of TV advertising proved ineffective. Ultimately, weary voters turned off their TVs or just tuned out the message.
6. Show that you care about potential purchasers as people, not just sales prospects.
Two questions appeared regularly in pre-election polls:
- “Which candidate is best qualified to fix the economy?”
- “Which candidate best understands people like me?”
In an election, where the economy and jobs were said to be the main issues, the candidate who lost was consistently chosen as the best able to handle the economy. The candidate who won consistently scored higher on understanding people like themselves.
Before your fractional sales people present the property, they must show that they care about the vacation and lifestyle needs of the prospects. They do this through emails and phone calls prior to the guest’s visit (known as “lead nurturing”) and during the “warm up” and “discovery” portions of the tour. The entire process is known as relationship marketing and sales.
7. Close early and often.
Sales agents need to learn many ways of asking their customers for the sale. They need to be persistent if at first they don’t succeed. Top sales agents know how to ask five or six times in different ways in order to move customers forward toward ownership.
Fractional sales people need to place themselves in the shoes of the prospects and view the world through the prospects’ eyes. From this vantage point, they “advocate” (not “sell”) the solutions the property offers for improving the prospects’ vacation lifestyle. That is, they demonstrate how the property solves the problems that the customers acknowledged in “discovery.”
In this role, sales people serve as professionals—trusted counselors who stand with customers—on their side—helping them make better decisions for themselves. This support helps people to do what they want to do anyway.
During early voting, the winning political party had people on the ground calling residents in their district to be sure they had voted so they could cross their name off the list.
As reported in The New Yorker magazine, the people running the successful ground campaign said that they did not attempt to change people’s political beliefs. The only motivator that worked was to tell people that their neighbors would know if they had voted or not. Campaign activists did not so much try to persuade as they did to support. They helped people do what they had basically intended.
8. Pay attention to “science” and to real-world facts.
The “science” that fractional real estate developers and their marketing and sales people need to attend to includes, but is not limited to:
- Google Analytics can provide useful data about the demographics of site visitors, which pages are most viewed, key words searched on and other useful feedback that can help you increase the effectiveness of your website.
- HubSpot Marketing Grader is a free tool from a marketing software company that quickly offers a score of one’s marketing program. It also offers proprietary software.
- Before sending out an email campaign, test A and B versions of it on a small sample of your mailing list. Send out the winning version to the remaining list members. “If you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing.”
- Mail distribution companies, such as MailChimp, Lyris and others produce data on the results of email campaigns such as per cent opened, click through rates, most frequent readers and so on. Use it to improve email response.
- Determine the cost-effectiveness of individual marketing programs, as feasible. Delete under-performing programs and expand the programs that deliver results.
- Determine the productivity of each member of the sales staff. Offer additional training, as appropriate.
It’s not enough, however, to install monitoring systems. Feedback needs to be evaluated and corrections implemented. Repeating the same mistakes, yet expecting different results has been called “a definition of insanity.”
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What lessons have you learned from the 2012 U.S. Presidential election? Share your ideas. Reply below.
David M. Disick, Esq. is the fractional consultant who helps real estate developers secure financing. This article is based on his book, Fractional Vacation Homes: Marketing and Sales in Challenging Times. Order it from his website: http://www.TheFractionalConsultant.com.
Disick draws on his Manhattan financial connections and hands-on resort development expertise in the service of his consulting clients in the United States and abroad.
Disick is author of the newly published Free Special Report, “The Seven Crucial Ingredients for a Winning Financial Presentation.” It is available through his website. Contact him at: http://www.TheFractionalConsultant.com.