Typically, insight into the property industry focuses on the ‘real estate’ side of the business such as acquisitions, valuations, deals and developments, with little consideration given to the support roles that make these assets sell.
With plenty of anecdotal information and hunches to go off, Lee and Canning set out last November to launch a survey to find the answers. They discovered some interesting results.
Research – is enough being done?
Property is a long-term product in most cases, which means getting it right is key to delivering on commercial objectives. For the PRS, PBSA or BTR property investor, the reassurance that a property being imagined today will meet the needs of the future customer on completion and beyond is vital.
Despite this, 82% of those who completed the survey believe that not enough research is being done.
Research into product development and what a customer may looking for in the future – arguably even more important post-Covid – should be a key part of a company’s strategy, the report found.
“Understanding the customer and what they want from a product is crucial for any industry. But in a developing and maturing sector, there is lots of opportunities to innovate, grow, and work with customers to deliver something new, exciting and disrupt your competitors,” Lee said.
“The fact that the sector knows they aren’t doing enough research, shows an understanding of the power good research can bring, yet we still have challenges in actioning it. We want to support the sector to move past any barriers causing this bottleneck and get its hands on the insights they need to feel confident about the decisions they make.”
On brand – how important is it?
The research shone a light on a long-standing debate on the drivers of brand and location within PBSA.
When exploring this topic, the survey revealed that there is a real mismatch in a) what marketers and non-marketers believe is a brand and b) the importance that the consumer places on brand.
Interestingly, 21% of non-marketers do not believe brand is important to their consumer, with just 9% saying it was very important compared to 22% of the marketers who responded.
But Canning argues building a brand and reputation is important for the sustainability of any business.
“When we look at how the conception of brand is viewed across PRS, there is clearly a problem,” she said. “An investment in brand is a long-term investment. But when done correctly, it is this very thing which gives lifelong brands longevity, sustainability and a stamp of quality of which your customers become your ambassadors.”
Looking into the future and what the PRS, PBSA, BTR and co-living sectors may look like, the report shows that there is an opportunity for the sector to build cross-generational communities and marketing opportunities across PBSA, BTR and co-living.
“The PBSA market has clearly changed the way that students expect to live whilst studying at university, so it is only natural that these customers who know, trust and respect the product of PBSA would move to a familiar environment when they become young professionals,” Lee commented. “If you trust your student home operator, why wouldn’t you rent from an associated brand when you move on?”
Lee and Canninng say this is a clear argument for the importance of brand and are urging the sector to consider if they wish to operate across multiple audiences.
Marketing influence – what role does it have to play?
The survey found that, when it comes to influence and engagement, marketing generally has a role to play across the business.
This is high for involvement in operations (77%) and sales (82%) – which is ‘positive to see and what we should expect’. On the other hand, looking into further department engagement, marketing appears to have less consultation with finance (54%), acquisitions (49%) and product design (59%).
“If we all agree that to build an effective marketing strategy, we need to understand the customer and the product – engaging and being involved in the product is a vital part of brand development,” Lee said.
“Separating this sets a difficult precedent, inserting unnecessary barriers between your product and brand.”
Perhaps the other most striking statistic the survey underlined was the lack of senior board-level representation of marketing, with 53% of respondents saying that marketing was not a board-level position.
The report argues that this is a worrying position for the value that strategic marketing can have on an organisation, as without ‘respect, engagement, and the ability to drive change across the business’, a marketing team cannot deliver to its full potential.
“As The Property Marketing Strategists, we want to help elevate marketing as a discipline which creates sustainable and effective marketing and builds knowledge across [the] PRS,” Canning concluded.
You can request the full report from The Property Marketing Strategists here: The Property Marketing Survey.
The Property Marketing Strategists is a new joint venture between Lee and Canning, who continue to operate their respective consultancies, Lagom Marketing and Luxtrum Sales & Marketing, respectively. It aims to be a platform and network to elevate strategic marketing within the PRS, supporting and guiding business and marketers to navigate the operational challenges highlighted in the survey.
The Property Marketing Survey was conducted online between November 17 and December 3 2020. Forty-three people across the PRS, co-living, PBSA and student accommodation sectors responded, with 52% hailing from PBSA.
The team recognises that this is a very small sample size, and further research needs to be conducted, but says the findings provide a clear steer from many of the issues facing the sector.