Strategic Marketing Proposal

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Strategic Marketing Proposal

  1. 1. Date: 10/1/09 Proposal for: GE Capital The Apartments of Wheaton Center 1
  2. 2. I. PROJECT OVERVIEW and SITUATION ANALYSIS The Apartments of Wheaton Center is a 758-unit renovation project location in Wheaton, Illinois — about 33 minutes from downtown Chicago via train or 45 minutes from the Loop via car. Upon completion, it will consist of 180 premier/renovated homes, one renovated model, 435 upgraded units and 142 “value” units in two 20-story high-rise towers and four 3-6-story garden-style buildings. The asset covers 16 acres and is currently 50-60% occupied (about 450 units). Strengths The apartments in the towers offer bright, sunny, expansive views with multiple large, curved balconies in every home. The corner units offer three balconies, giving the resident a panoramic vista that really opens up the home. South views in the towers are already commanding higher rents than the north-viewing units, though the property team hasn’t attributed this to any reason in particular. Because the asset offers towers, low-rise, and garden-style buildings, there is truly something for everyone here. The property is currently under renovation and, upon completion, will feature upgraded kitchens with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and hardwood flooring in the kitchens. New carpeting, new windows and brighter hallways will make the apartment homes bright, fresh and attractive. The community boasts walk-ability as a key selling point as there is a quaint little town just blocks away featuring a small selection of businesses such as shops, salons, restaurants, pet care and medical care. The Prairie Path hiking and biking trail is accessible directly across the street from the property, as is the Metra station – a somewhat noisy, but rather appealing draw. The convenience of property’s location is a big draw for prospects. The property also pays for most utilities for its residents, a unique feature that helps residents budget their monthly finances as accurately as possible. With the extreme winters in the Chicagoland area, this feature will really see its benefit in those months. Nevertheless, this is a great selling point to which prospects really respond. Another unique selling point is the community atmosphere. The Apartments of Wheaton Center is a neighborhood within the small town community of Wheaton, with a strong bond internally within the property and externally to the town. It also provides easy access to the third largest city in the United States and all the benefits Chicago has to offer. Challenges The renovation has been a very prolonged process, and residents are understandably becoming impatient with the noise, the mess and the inconvenience of it all. The process was under way for two years before Draper and Kramer was introduced as the management company roughly a year ago. Finally, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The renovation should be completed in December 2009. 2
  3. 3. Some of the amenities have already been renovated and are in place such as community common spaces in the clubhouse, the leasing center, the business center/Internet café, and the fitness center with basketball and tennis courts. The pool and landscaping are scheduled to be completed in March of 2010, before the weather warrants is opening. The on-site team wants to celebrate with a big resident event, including a rubber ducky race at the pool. There is still a lot of scaffolding on one of the resident towers, and a great deal of debris is visible from inside the fitness center, but that is scheduled for removal by December. Another challenge noted by the leasing team is the lack of in-unit washers and dryers. Many of the competitors offer this feature, and The Apartments of Wheaton Center face obstacles to leasing with many prospects. They do have positive ways to overcome this, pointing out how laundry rooms are open 24-hours, how they have multiple machines available to allow multiple loads to be completed at once which reduces the overall laundry time, and how many have been made more comfortable with flat screen TVs and couches to make the waits more comfortable. Finally, many prospects note that the rent at the property seems higher than many competitors’. However, The Apartments of Wheaton Center pays for most utilities, so once the leasing consultant is able to point out that these savings makes it more cost effective in the long run, that obstacle is usually overcome. Based on the challenges of the property and understanding all of the strengths it has to offer its residents, The Apartments of Wheaton Center is looking to strengthen its brand and marketing efforts in order to increase its traffic flow. Outlined below is a comprehensive marketing plan that will engage residents and connect with prospects to create awareness and drive traffic to The Apartments of Wheaton Center. 2. COMPETITIVE OVERVIEW The current competitor mix includes a variety of luxury apartment communities. These communities range from renovated buildings to brand new ones, but all within the Wheaton- Lombard-Downers Grove area. The top three competitors are The Residences at The Grove, Yorktown Apartments and City View at The Highlands. The Residences at The Grove are brand new, luxury apartment homes. Located off Interstate 355, they are visible from the road, but reaching the community itself poses a challenge to interested parties. Signage is subdued, so one must be looking for it to notice it. The price points are on par with Wheaton Center, but the unit sizes are smaller. Amenities are also similar in offering as Wheaton Center. The overall experience at the property is one of top-of- the-line luxury and the sense of living an elevated lifestyle. Yorktown Apartments is a renovated apartment community located in Lombard, down Roosevelt from Wheaton Center. The community is well-kept, although the leasing office wasn’t easily located. Price points and amenity offerings are on par with Wheaton Center, 3
  4. 4. although the in-unit finishes were not at the same level. The overall experience at the property was enjoyable, with an appealing leasing consultant who seemed genuinely engaged with the residents of the property. Their website offers many features that increases the user experience and makes it easier to find the information desired. It also appears to employ SEO tactics. City View at The Highlands is almost across the street from Yorktown Apartments in Lombard. This community is brand new with an upscale, elegant feel, but was difficult to locate with the signage. The price points are higher than Wheaton Center, although amenities are on par. Although the entrance to the building was impressive, the experience was less so. The leasing consultant seemed bothered, starting the visit by saying she was not showing units. She offered pricing on a few handicapped units, then provided a packet to take away. There was no discussion of what amenities were available. The website did not enhance the property experience. Starting with an unappealing color palette, the website is difficult to maneuver and not well-planned from a user perspective. 3. TARGET AUDIENCE Wheaton Center is an older property in a quiet suburban neighborhood, so its resident population is a mix from seniors to young college grads to young married couples just starting out. Some tenants in different units are related – a married couple may have their elderly parent living in one of the apartments. It is a place with a sense of community where seniors feel safe, and their families can feel good about them living alone. Still, seniors only make up about 12% of the residents. The typical renter is between the ages of 24 and 40, income ranging from $25,000 - $40,000, and the owner/management team wants this overall demographic mix to remain largely unchanged. Through the renovation process, they’re hoping to achieve higher rents and an overall increase in tenant credit scoring. 4. MARKETING CHALLENGE The Apartments of Wheaton Center is community like no other. Boasting a prime location in Wheaton and across the street from a Metra station, its residents enjoy the convenience it provides and the sense of community it exudes. However, the construction has taken its toll on traffic flow, and the property must now fight harder than ever to capture the attention of potential prospects. Therefore, The Apartments at Wheaton Center will need to break out among its competitors and showcase all that it has to offer. It will need to strengthen its brand, bolster its strategy and enhance its creative aspects to reflect the upscale community it is. 4
  5. 5. 5. MARKETING STRATEGY STATEMENT In this ever-changing market landscape where consumers are becoming more sophisticated, it is important for The Apartments of Wheaton Center to cut through the noise and reach its target audience in a manner in which they will understand and respond. This requires a cohesive campaign, with all pieces working at maximum efficiency levels to leverage each other and convey the desired message to the audience. Using a multi-pronged approach that utilizes a combination of mediums, The Apartments of Wheaton Center will advance to the forefront of the competitor landscape and become a first-option with its audience. 6. IMPLEMENTATION TACTICS There are several categories in which The Apartments of Wheaton Center should focus to strengthen its marketing efforts, and thus its relationship to its target audience. These sections are: • Multi-media • Signage/Critical Path • Collateral • Media • Resident Retention/Referral • Events/Pets The Internet is an extremely important vein through which traffic comes. In today’s world, 66% of the US population uses the Internet, with over 80% of web users finding websites by using a search engine. As it relates to apartment seekers, 90% of people researching rental information use the Internet as a resource, and over 60% of apartment seekers start their search online. As such, it is vital that the website is the best it can be. For many, it is the first — and sometimes only — impression of the property. When evaluating a website and its effectiveness, there are several key points to consider. The design should be user-centric, and needs to enhance the content of the site, not overpower it. A website’s content is its primary importance, and the design should make it easier and more enjoyable to retrieve that content. A website also needs to focus the user’s attention, show them what they should know and lead them along the desired path. The less thought required to navigate the website, the better the user experience and easier it is for them to travel the path desired. Search engine optimization (SEO) is also an important key point. With so many users searching online, it is essential that they are able to locate the property’s website through searches. Without SEO, a property is immediately forfeiting communication with half of the apartment-seeking population. It also limits the ability to track and modify campaign tactics to ensure maximum return on investment. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is another way to reach those online searchers. When used in conjunction with enhanced SEO, PPC can increase traffic to a website by three times the current amount. Flexibility is the final key point a website must 5
  6. 6. contain. As campaigns and properties grow and evolve, it is necessary that the website is able to handle this without a negative result. Design, content and navigational elements must be able to support changes along the path. An effective email campaign will also support a website and offer a way for these Internet- focused prospects to communicate with the property. Automated campaigns will keep the property top-of-mind with prospects during lengthy buyer cycles, with minimal effort by the leasing consultants. This is a simple, yet effective, way to support them and convey necessary property information to potential residents. One-off email blasts are also beneficial tools to communicate new information, such as specials, events and property announcements – information that could bring wavering prospects back into the fold. Another critical tool in reaching potential audiences is signage. Signage is important because people in the vicinity of the property already have a relationship with the area, which makes them stronger prospects. This is the property’s opportunity to announce its presence and show passersby what it has to offer. In addition, signage offers a way to dress up an unattractive critical path, which can often serve as a barrier to entry for potential prospects. Currently, signage/drive-bys are the second strongest source to traffic. This means there is opportunity to grow this source. Signage should be bold and visually appealing to the viewer while providing content information. More than anything, the design should allow for maximum visibility, or the source is futile. As we discuss the critical path, it is necessary to note the importance of a prospect’s first impression of the property. As the prospect enters the leasing office, an enthusiastic, professional greeting should be employed to make the prospect feel welcomed to the community. Refreshments, such as water and cookies, would contribute to a welcoming, and non-pressured, environment. With the size of the property, The Apartments of Wheaton Center face a lengthier-than-usual lease-up period. As it will be used a great deal for an extended amount of time, the leasing center itself would benefit from location in a larger space. A waiting area for prospects would make them more comfortable, and a more private area for application and lease signings would make them feel more secure. It would also help prospects waiting to have some visuals to look at, something will help them understand the community better and set their expectations. These displays should tie into what the prospects should walk away with knowing – that the property is closely tied to its larger community of Wheaton, or that it has all the features and amenities to create a top-notch living experience, or inviting the prospect to picture themselves at the property. Just as prospects will come to the property to learn what it has to offer, they will most likely also leave to think over their decision. To help them with their decision, they will take an information packet to remind them of the visit and the property. Therefore, it is necessary that the collateral pieces accurately reflect the tone of the property and all that it has to offer. It must present the property in the best light possible, connect with the other sources from which the prospect came, and be the culmination of the property’s brand. There are several ways to accomplish this – through a sophisticated presentation, something that reflects a fun and quirky 6
  7. 7. tone or allows the leasing consultant to create a customized packet per person to reflect the message of uniqueness. No matter the execution, the collateral must reach the audience on the level in which they can identify. In addition to the brand message, it is vital to speak it where the audience is listening. Media outlets used must be targeted to the correct audience, or the message will be missed altogether. Best practices include sources targeting those actively seeking apartments, conveying the most enticing information possible, increasing visibility and tracking results to make informed decisions on future tactics. Social media is an increasingly effective tool in media outreach, but it is often misused in an effort to “keep up with the pack.” It is easy to be hi-jacked by unhappy residents with negative comments living in cyberspace forever, and making a negative first impression on viewers that is nearly impossible to overcome. Therefore, before social media tools such as Facebook.com and Twitter.com are employed, it is important to make sure residents are in a positive mindset. If there is any hesitation or question, we recommend a closed forum such as Ning.com. This keeps the comments and potential negativity contained, and provides the property manager/administrator the opportunity to resolve issues before they become public. Since happy residents are the best advertisement, it is important to ensure they are content. Thus, a formal resident retention program should be developed. The Apartments of Wheaton Center have already created an enjoyable environment for its residents through events, and have made a good start with communication in the newsletter. But it should go even further and create a resident sub-brand that is consistent with the brand look and ties all pieces together, evident in a formalized program. This can include many aspects, such as communication (continuation of the newsletters and the addition of a resident-only social forum that houses up-to-date property information), events (continue with resident events and create a formalized schedule to allow residents to plan around) and a benefits program (including personalized notice letters, door hangers and bi-fold with incentive options). This will help keeps residents happy and close the back door of leases. An offshoot of the resident retention program is the resident referral program. Resident referrals are one of the best ways to reach potential audiences because, as mentioned, a happy resident is the best advertiser, and will bring their friends into the fold. People want to be surrounded by friends. Therefore, it is important to have a strong program in place. A multi- channel resident referral program is recommended to reach the audience, which includes employing such tactics as door hangers, emails and strong referral bonuses. Events are a great way to bring potential prospects to the property and tap into the resident channel. At many events, residents will bring guests, thus providing a prospect that already has ties to the community. Even for the other guests, events at the property offer a low-pressure selling situation and give the prospect a glimpse at what life would be like living there. 7
  8. 8. The Apartments of Wheaton Center offer a benefit atypical of many apartment communities, and one that brings with it its own audience sect: pets. By creating a unique campaign relating to pets, The Apartments of Wheaton Center will tap into this audience sect and widen the net to increase traffic to the property. It will also provide an opportunity for additional community relations and potential property PR. 8
  9. 9. 7. LINE ITEM PRICING Website* Development of new website or updates to current website including use of advanced SEO techniques and website hosting on the MTC server. Amount to Budget: $X Optimize current website $X Develop new website $X Annual hosting fee *For more in-depth review, recommendations and costs, please see attached full website proposal. Pay-Per-Click Advertising Recommendation includes creation of all keywords, ad text and one year of program management. The monthly click-through budget will be charged by Google to the client’s credit card. Amount to Budget: $X Account turnover and management $X Annual renewal/service $X Recommended monthly click-through budget Email Campaign Design, programming and testing of initial email template as well as additional email messages based on template. Includes set-up and monthly management of email service. Amount to Budget: $X Design of initial template $X Per additional email, based on template (copy, image selection, reprogramming) $X One-time setup of service $X Monthly service fee Signage Design and execution of signage package including overall signage look and initial design cost offering up to two size options. Leasing center graphics are estimated separately under signage package. Amount to Budget: $X Design of signage package, up to two size options $X Per additional sign modification TBD Fabrication and installation of signage $X – $X Design and fabrication of leasing center graphic package $X Design of six flags $X Fabrication of six flags 9
  10. 10. Collateral Design and execution of collateral package including updated brochure and inserts. Amount to Budget: $X Brochure and insert package (design and printing of 5,000 based on Monterey example) $X Brochure and insert package (design and printing of 2,500 based on City Vista example) $X Brochure and insert package (design and printing of 2,500 based on Parc Rosslyn example) Media Development and presentation of recommendations for a media plan including all sources deemed effective, such as print, online and out-of-home. Online advertising also includes the recommendation for an enhanced Craigslist.com listing. Amount to Budget: $X – $X Annual media purchase $X Craigslist.com one-time setup $X Craigslist.com monthly service (based on 12-month commitment) Social Media Campaign Development of social media campaign. Tools at this stage include Ning.com and Wikipedia. When ready to expand into open forums, a separate campaign proposal will be provided. Amount to Budget: $X Ning.com setup and customization $X Wikipedia.com setup and development Resident Retention Program Design and execution of resident referral program campaign, including design of overall referral program look that will tie all pieces together. Amount to Budget: $X Door Hangers (design, printing and 3 drops of 400) $X Flyers (design and printing quantity of 2,500) $X Per additional email (copy, imagery, programming in current template) $X Customized email design based on program look $X Design of benefits program pieces (door hanger, bi-fold, notice letters) $X – $X Printing of benefits program pieces (quantity of 1,000 for door hangers and bi-folds) Resident/Prospect Events 10
  11. 11. Develop and present recommendations for a series of resident and prospect events. Amount to Budget: $X – $X Per small event $X Per email (copy, imagery, programming in current template) $X Customized email design based on campaign look $X Flyers (design and printing quantity of 2,500) Pet Campaign* Design and execution of outreach pieces related to pet campaign. Amount to Budget: $X – $X Property-branded pet items $X Per additional email (copy, imagery, programming in current template) $X Customized email design based on campaign look $X Flyers (design and printing quantity of 2,500) $X Direct mail (design, list purchase, printing and mailing) *For more in-depth recommendations and costs, please see attached full pet campaign proposal. Agency Service Fee Merrick Towle Communications will meet with client to fully assess needs, review budgets and prioritize projects. A monthly Agency Service Fee will cover all client services, attending bi- monthly meetings, as well as media placement and on-going media management. Media will be invoiced directly to client at net by media sources. If media is commissionable, the Agency will rebate commissions to client. Amount to Budget: $X Per month for the first year, including travel and expenses 11
  12. 12. 8. CONTRACTUAL TERMS AND AGREEMENT All prices are typical for a project of the nature described in this proposal. In the event that materials outside the typical pricing included here are requested, the Agency will provide specific quotes before undertaking the assignment. Prices include two rounds of client- requested changes and assume that all existing art files, video source files, photography and related marketing files will be provided to Merrick Towle Communications at commencement of work. All printing, fabrication and installation costs included in this proposal are estimated and subject to change based upon concepts and designs approved by client. All prices exclude shipping/delivery charges and all applicable state sales tax. Ownership of work will be transferred to GE Asset Management Group upon final payment of invoices. During the life of the agreement, MTC will store all materials on behalf of GE Asset Management Group. The agency will provide a copy of any client-owned materials upon request via external hard drive. This agreement may be terminated with 30 days written notice. All projects will be invoiced for costs accrued to-date in the event of termination. Upon contract approval, MTC will invoice a 1/3 deposit of the creative fees for items to be started within 90 days of contract approval (Those items are indicated with an asterisk). The balance of creative fees as well as production and other costs (printing, fabrication, shipping, etc.) will be invoiced upon completion of each project. MTC reserves the right to request a 50% deposit on approved production charges in excess of $10,000 and advance payment in full of direct mail postage costs. This proposal is valid through October 31, 2009. _____________________________ _____________________________ Date: ________________________ Date: ________________________ GE Asset Management Group Merrick Towle Communications Authorized Representative Authorized Representative 12

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