Janette Comish is the Group Marketing Manager at MaxSoft and winner of the Ann Shevill Essay Award at the SCA Queensland Awards. She went on to be a finalist in the National Awards. This is her award winning essay on how branding will influence the future of strata.
“Strata living is the fastest growing type of residential ownership in Australia. Latest statistics indicate that current percentage of medium to high density living in Australia is almost 40%. Expected growth over the next decade for metropolitan areas will see over half new constructions to be strata titled. There are many reasons for this growing trend but land availability, affordability and lifestyle convenience are obviously major influences.”
Jan Browne SCA ACT https://www.b2bmagazine.com.au/strata-living-management-going/ (accessed 17 January 2018)
The strata industry is continuing to shift and evolve but are strata managers keeping up? Who will survive and grow and who will disappear along the wayside as this booming industry passes them by? With a major shift from standalone dwellings to strata living, the industry is definitely not about to slow down any time soon. An increase in strata living means an increase in development, therefore an increase in lots to be managed.
With this new inventory coming on board, who will be managing it and how will these management companies be found and appointed?
To stand out from competitors, many strata management businesses are seeing the importance of becoming marketing savvy, creating strong recognisable brands which radiate trust and confidence. To illustrate how modern, progressive and professional a company is, they are turning to alternative marketing channels where they communicate with clients and prospective clients where their messages are being heard. They are engaging with owners online through social media, websites, blogs, podcasts, industry chatrooms and more. Many are also responding to online feedback and reviews - and taking them seriously.
Although there are currently only a few strata management review sites online for Australian audiences, as people turn more to third-party advice before choosing a product or service this will continue to gain significant importance. A current example of an online strata management review site is the following product review web page, https://www.productreview.com.au/c/strata-management-companies.html. Businesses who are engaging with the reviewers on this site are already one step ahead of their competitors. To get involved, a strata business should encourage satisfied committees to write reviews to build a positive brand perception of their company and respond to any negative or positive comments posted. It is all about engaging with people and listening to them. Ignoring the site and hoping no one writes anything bad does not help a brand.
Businesses that choose not to embrace this shift in marketing and rely on their current wave of success, mainly through one-on-one relationships, may be very disappointed in the future. This is not unique to strata and can be observed in many industry sectors.
To thrive in this industry and benefit from its growth it is important to embrace expectations of owners who are becoming more and more technology savvy and are seeking alternative means for carrying out research for buying decisions, including the need to engage strata managers.
The power of perception (a brand) can positively influence the decision to engage a strata management company. The brand needs to create an affinity or emotional connection with owners, providing them justification for paying a premium price for the service. In a world of consumer choice, brand perception is paramount. This perception however needs to be consistent across all touchpoints including: logo and colours, website, signage, uniforms, writing style, email, personal appearance, how meetings are conducted, communications to owners and the list goes on. If a brand is lacking consistency, consumers lose confidence and trust diminishes.
For example, a strata manager may meet a prospective client at a networking event. This manager may dress well, is articulate, knowledgeable and very personable. After the event, the prospective client goes online to check the company website for more information only to discover it is very old, there are spelling and grammar mistakes, the information is not current and does not reflect the same brand presence as the strata manager they just met. Their trust in the brand is immediately diminished. Their thoughts are, if they can’t look after their own business how are they going to manage mine? Relying on one person to carry the brand is a high risk.
There are many people in strata who do carry brands and are ‘stars’ who are able to instil trust and confidence in strata committees and owners. Unfortunately many management companies are ‘key person dependent’ and when this person leaves the company, so do the buildings they manage. For businesses to succeed in the future, they should create confidence in the brand, not just the individual. If an individual leaves, the brand is still as strong and the confidence remains.
As consumers we now assume a company has an online presence and we are able to access information at our finger tips. In this digitally connected world how often do people ‘google’ a business, a service, or a product before purchase? Their perception is formulated from what they see and what other people are saying. The holiday planning site Trip Advisor has been extremely successful because potential holiday makers rely on third-party opinions to book their holidays. We can no longer rely solely on first person recommendations or referrals and appreciate that the world is connected in so many ways. Although a strata management company may have been referred or recommended, ‘googling’ the business is still part of the process.
The first click through will often be a website followed by any online reviews. The website should be responsive (can be read on mobile devices), easy to navigate, supplies the information required and projects confidence and trust to the reader. Looking to the future, a strata management business may have the best relationships but if their online presence is not consistent with their brand, then business can be lost without even knowing why.
A strong brand in strata will create a positive perception in the minds of owners, will differentiate the brand from competitors, position the company as an employer of choice and provide longevity and future-proofing as the industry grows.
Brand perception can cost a company business and should be seen as a necessity for future success.
Written by: Janette Comish - Group Marketing Manager for the MaxSoft Group
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