You may think of branding as only applicable or suitable to large corporations like Nike or Coca-Cola. They hire ad agencies and design teams to create highly recognizable logos and pricey ad campaigns that saturate the media and get their name stuck in your head.
And it pays off, right? But what about your property management business? Is it just as important for you to build your own brand?
The answer is a resounding yes.
According to Lucidpress, “A brand exists in the minds of your customers. A brand is the sum total of impressions a customer has, based on every interaction they have had with you, your company and your products.”
Building a brand gives you recognition with your target audience. When they think of property management, they should think of you, much like when people think about soda they often think about Coke or Pepsi. But it goes even deeper than that because the most well-known brands represent a group of traits, much like a person.
You may have a decent website and a social media presence for your property management business (if your site needs a refresh, Buildium includes an out-of-the-box, professional website in its subscription). You may even send out a regular newsletter or email blasts, and that’s all well and fine. But do they all consistently reflect your company’s goals and values? Do they all use the same color scheme and logo? Can you describe how they are all interdependent and connected?
It’s time to build your brand and apply it across everything you do (or at least hire an agency to do it for you). Here are five steps to get you started.
#1: Know Your Audience
The first step is to research your target audience. Who they are and what they’re looking for in a residence or a management company will inform everything else you do to brand and market yourself. And you have two different audiences to research.
First, look into the property owners in your area. What kinds of properties do they own and how many? What kinds of services do they offer to their residents? Are they new to the real estate market or have they been in the business for years? What kinds of values do they hold as a business and as private citizens?
Perhaps the properties in your area are held by community associations or co-ops. How do they manage their properties currently, and what are they looking for in a property manager?
Your second audience is the residents themselves, and may vary from property to property. In one, you may have retirees who are downsizing. They’re looking for a more comfortable living space where they don’t have to worry about maintenance and upkeep.
Another property may attract millennials looking for a community and social events.
Whether they’re higher-income residents looking for property managers who go the extra mile or middle-class residents who only need the basics, knowing your audience will help you target the right people when you’re filling vacancies.
#2: Find a Niche
Have you ever been to a restaurant with a giant menu that offers everything from fettuccini alfredo to chicken curry? You have to wonder how well the kitchen makes such a variety of food. If you pick one of the less popular dishes, when was the last time the chef made it?
Then you sit down at a small French bistro with just five main dishes inspired by cuisine from the Brittany region. They’re focused on just one type of food and they make those dishes every day. So chances are, they do it all well.
The same is true of any business, including property management. Did you know 43 percent of startups fail? One of the top reasons they do is because they lose focus.
Think about it, if you’re busy trying to be everything to everyone, there’s no time to make sure you’re doing any one thing well. Focusing your business on a particular audience, service or even geographical region helps you really concentrate on doing one thing well.
Specializing in one area of property management also helps you stand out against your competitors. If you offer 24-hour maintenance service when everyone else switches to an answering service after hours, you’ve got something that gives you an edge over other property management firms.
#3: Implement Cohesive Branding
Your branding should be consistent across everything your company creates, and should remind people of their association with you and your business. Your website, email, newsletters and advertisements should all have the same message, color scheme, logo and tone of voice. They should all convey your goals and values.
And there are methodologies and templates that can help you do that. Companies like Canva provide entire brand kits that help you coordinate your website, business cards, newsletters and other customer-facing assets.
But your brand is more than a logo and a slogan.
As Entrepreneur puts it, “Your brand is the sum total of your customers’ perceptions, notions and experience. It is the face, personality and the values espoused by your business — and everything in between.”
Your brand shines through in relationships with your customers. And it’s reflected in how you interact with your community.
To create a strong brand, document the goals and values of your company. Use them as a framework for everything you do. Train your employees in your brand values and how to convey them with every customer-facing action they perform.
For example, if you are a community-minded management company that values its personal relationships with residents and clients, that should be reflected in your slogan. It should inform the kinds of content you create for blogs or social media and it should affect how you get your name out.
Perhaps you sponsor the local Little League team to show how much community means to you. You could even offer incentives to employees who volunteer at the games.
If you don’t know where to even begin to craft your brand voice, figure out your brand archetype. Carl Jung, the swiss psychiatrist, defined twelve central archetypes demonstrating a range of personas ingrained in the human psyche. When used with a company’s brand, an archetype helps to personify it in a way that we innately recognize. After all, when people think of Coca-Cola, they think of fun and the act of sharing—not only a soft drink. Which archetype might your brand fall under? It can take some thought to figure it out, but it’s well worth it.
#4: Build a Reputation
A good reputation in your community will help you draw in new customers, and give your current customers confidence in your business. Building a good reputation starts by providing a valuable product. For property managers, that product is the excellent, reliable service you provide your residents and property owners.
The next step is to get the word out. Happy customers will spread your reputation by word of mouth. But more and more, your digital reputation can make or break your business.
Online reviews and testimonials, as well as thought-leadership content can paint a picture of your business for prospective residents and clients. According to a 2018 survey by BrightLocal, 89 percent of consumers look at online reviews for small businesses and 57 percent will only patronize a business if it has four stars or more!
If a property owner or resident expresses their satisfaction with your service, politely ask them if they could provide a positive review for you on a site like Google or Yelp. Testimonials can also have an impact on your business. Asking for testimonials from happy customers to place on LinkedIn or even on your website will help you boost your business.
Of course, no matter how amazing your service is, you can’t please everyone. It’s important to monitor review sites to look for negative reviews. If you do get one, respond immediately and politely and offer to remedy the situation. Doing so will show potential customers that you’re willing to fix problems.
Finally, creating content that positions you as an expert in your field will demonstrate your extensive knowledge and expertise in the world of property management. We’ll cover more on digital content in a minute.
#5: Have a Strong Digital Presence
And this is where you build that online reputation. Most likely, you already have a web presence for your business. You should have a well-designed website that’s easy to use and clearly conveys your niche, your brand personality and your services. It should also provide proof of your reputation, whether that be an endorsement from the Better Business Bureau, testimonials from happy clients and residents or awards and certifications.
But don’t forget to think outside the website. Create a social media presence using accounts that match your target audience. That will most likely include LinkedIn to attract property owners looking for management services. It could also include Instagram to attract millennial and Gen-Z residents, or Facebook and Pinterest if your residents tend to be older.
If you do decide to write blog content, provide content that is both valuable and reliable. It’s okay to toot your own horn from time to time by writing about an award or new property, but make sure you’re also publishing content that benefits your audience. For example, you could write about how to find long-term residents or simple upgrades to properties that increase value.
Promote your content across your social media channels. You can also use your social media to distribute company information or start conversations by sharing industry news or even comical memes.
Just make sure you’re staying on-brand with anything you publish. If you take on a light-hearted tone for your company, it’s probably best not to start publishing heavy-handed articles about politics, for example. Sidenote: In 2019, more and more companies are admirably taking a stand on social issues, when it aligns with their core values.
Your brand is all about how your customers see you as a company. When it comes right down to it, your brand is a way to convey your dedication to service, reliability and quality. Everything you do to create that brand in the minds of your audience is just an extension of those values. And best of all, it will help you differentiate your business from the competition.
Make sure your message is consistent, get the word out in your community and just keep doing what you’re doing as a well-respected property management company—and your brand will take on a living, breathing personality all its own.Read more on Marketing