I was recently asked by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) to be a judge for their annual awards which celebrates excellence of Greater Toronto Area developers, architects and home builders. My area of focus was four unique marketing categories related to residential home builders.

After reviewing 132 submissions across several categories, I feel qualified to say there’s only so many ways property developers can promote, position, and attract potential home buyers to their (not yet built) development.

The majority of the channels/mediums used to engage and capture leads (potential buyers) were, for the most part, identical. Same with the actual messaging. Across 132 submissions, I came to learn that having a dog, enjoying coffee on a nice sunny day, and partaking in the occasional sniff of garden flowers makes me an ideal candidate/lead for, well, 132 different condo or home developments in Toronto!

Despite the similarities in most of the stories, benefits, and community portrayals, some of campaigns (submissions) resonated more than others. If I’m being honest, only 5 or 6 campaigns stood out and continue to be memorable in my mind. In a nutshell: the great campaigns really understood their audiences and had messaging that a) differentiated themselves against its peers and b) clearly spoke to their target audiences and their actual needs. The great campaigns didn’t seem like pitches. They felt like extensions of the values and things I as a potential buyer want in a home, a lifestyle, etc.

That’s a takeaway any marketer can take back to his or her job regardless of industry. Do you really understand your audience, the messages that will resonate, the needs they actually have, and why your service/product/solution can actually help them? Will your messaging not read like a sales pitch?

It can be easy to gloss over getting the message 100% right in order to get to the creative part of building and conceptualizing a campaign and promotion. While the mechanics and creativity around a campaign is important, it won’t matter if the message doesn’t hit with the intended audience. In many of the award submissions, I saw more than 100 campaigns with budgets going in to the six-figure ranges with messaging that frankly wasn’t strong. Messaging is the foundation to any marketing campaign!

Other interesting learnings from this exercise:

  • Technology
    It was surprising that more Marketing technology wasn’t included in these multi-channel marketing campaigns – especially when you consider millennial audiences made up a big part (or nearly all) of most property developers target audiences. Nearly half of the submissions didn’t have responsive websites and only some of those websites/landing pages had lead capture forms. None of the websites had chat options and only one submission talked about using website tracking technology to help guide/inform its sales team. Finally, one interesting finding: two campaigns featured translation or multi-language sites to appeal to their global audience (most developers are targeting high net-worth Asian/European families). I thought that was a nice touch and good attention to detail. 
  • Constant Content
    Only a few submissions talked about leveraging content as a means to engage its audiences across multiple touches (ie. more than once). For most people a home purchase represents the largest purchase of their lives, so long sales cycles is and should be expected. I was a bit surprised most marketers of these developments didn’t have more deliberate content journeys as a means to develop trust, brand recognition, and constant engagement. After all, the level of competition amongst builders for condo and home buyers in Toronto is fierce! There was one submission, however, who used 9-part video story as content and dripped the videos out each week. The videos were 1-3 minute style guides with an interior design expert showing small tricks to decorate and maximize space.

Thanks again to the BILD team for the opportunity to be part of the judging panel! This was a fascinating way to develop a concentrated sense of what is and isn’t happening with regards to marketing (strategy, tactics, tools, etc.) for residential property developers.

The single biggest takeaway for me – even more than the importance of messaging and audience understanding – is strategy. If the strategy isn’t strong, than supporting tactics and tools probably aren’t either. That’s entirely why Goose Digital believes in strategy-lead approach for any marketing effort (big or small).

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