13 August, 2016

selling a luxury realty product? read these

a post on +LinkedIn from sangeeta debnath about "What could be the ”Marketing Strategy” for luxury residential projects?" prompted this answer from me (this is a bit more elaborate than the exact comment i put up, due to the nature of the medium):

i would say that the way to sell luxury of any kind, and specifically of the real estate variety, one needs to create it first. very rarely can you create a hype around a luxury real estate product that does not justify it. as i say below, the super-rich didn't become super-rich without being smart. add to this above average intelligence, their wide-ranging travels and exposure to luxury globally, and you have a unique customer that cannot really be fooled in the real sense. so, unless you are indeed offering real luxury realty to the super-rich, they will not buy. i feel the following aspects are important when it comes to selling such a product/service:

the british real estate tycoon lord harold samuel is credited with this quote, but it probably predates his utterance
lord harold samuel is credited with this quote, but it probably predates him
1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: if you are not located in the most premium of the areas, you have lost the battle before the first shot is fired. the difficulty in selling to this specific end-user (you would rarely find a super-luxury apartment complex being gobbled up by "investors" since the value they seek is in quick appreciation and on-demand liquidity, both of which are absent in such projects) increases disproportionately with distance from the most premium of locations. remember that the quote, "the three most important factors in buying real estate are: location, location, and location" isn't just pithy and witty, it is also true. get the location right, and you are halfway there

what's with luxury and brand names?

2. BRAND NAME: this is a bit difficult to generate without already having a brand associated with luxury. but there are hacks if you aren't already a well-known brand. you could rent one through collaboration, co-branding, creation-from-scratch, or straight up lying (though i wouldn't suggest the last one, especially when it comes to selling to the super-rich, as i explained right at the beginning). in india or the arabian peninsula (even in japan, to a degree), for example, a european brand name (even if a completely made-up one...but be careful there. as i said, lying will be caught, every time) will score over an indian one. you may add a collaboration with a foreign company (german, french, english are best, though american or australian add a bit of value too). one could also co-brand with someone (say, a renowned designer or an actor or sportsperson or even a flamboyant business celebrity), or some other luxury brand (like a swiss watch or an italian car for example), or even with a foreign realty development company. or you could create your own by something that is very personal in nature...like each house having a single artist bricklayer who comes from a long line of bricklayers and who signs his work (this is maybe stretching it too far, but it should convey the meaning of what i mean by "personal"). each of these has its pros and cons, and it depends on what target segment you are aiming for. what is important is to create a mythology (a larger-than-life story) around your brand and what it is offering

this is literally the first quote that pops up on google. not very innovative of me!
3. INNOVATION: are you really offering something unique? something creative? something no one else is or very few are offering? it could be as basic (in marketing terms) as a golf course, international spa, award-winning foreign architect, exclusive elevators, one house per floor, etc) or as niche as a technology that only (say) NASA uses or that which apple has not yet released or something similar. if not, it makes your task as a marketer that much more difficult, mostly because your targets are the super-rich, and these people didn't become rich without being pretty smart with money. they are mostly very well-travelled, and well-connected, and hence have seen quite a few things in the world. if you are either offering the same old ideas that others do too, or are offering something they have seen as too common, or too "below their station" somewhere else in the world, chances are they are not only going to reject your offering, but actually call you out for it. so, don't try and make up stuff (like coining new names for common features or locations) and don't try to pass off an old idea for a new one. it won't work...and in fact, it will work against you since super-rich people are also super-connected to each other (simply because there are so few of them)

globally certified as "well-travelled"

4. GLOBAL STANDARDS: whether it is your construction techniques, or your marketing strategy, whether it is the raw material you use in the actual building or the accessories fitted inside, whether it is your sales office or the venue for the event you decide to throw at launch, it must be top of the line. the super-rich, to repeat, have seen it all...and if you aren't doing something seriously innovative every time (which itself is virtually impossible to do all of the time), you better make sure that the least you do is adhere to the international standards in your offering. they are comfortable with these standards. here's the thing: if you actually do everything by international standards, there is quite some chance they won't notice it...but if you don't, they'll notice it. 100%. every.single.time

it's a tightrope walk, and there are no second chances

5. ENTICE, PAMPER, BUT DO NOT CHASE: you need to find the golden mean between the extremes of attracting your target segment to your product and not seem needy to sell the same product to them! yes, it is a razor-thin line to ensure that your target market is attracted to your shop/site/product (and feels pampered and important) while not becoming so aggressive as to become an irritant to their normal lives (how do you know you have crossed that line? they'll stop taking your calls or simply ask you to not call them..."we'll call you if we are interested" means "we are not interested and you just crossed the line, buster"). send them gifts, call them on their important dates, invite them to events, but there is no objective way of telling when you are being extra nice and when you are interfering and irritating. you just need to play it by the ear. ideally, the thumb rule should be that for every two calls/texts/mails/communications, you should receive one from them. for this, you need to design your communication to elicit response as a call for action rather than just be seen as a passive reach-out. the way to do this is to imagine if you were forwarding your communication to the concerned person and answer this question: would you say "FYI" or "FYI&A". if it is just "FYI", you aren't doing it right

inner peace....innnnnnnner peaaaaaaaace!

6. BE PATIENT: this applies not just to the closure of sales, but also to the building of your relationship with the target segment. whether it is the price point you intend to charge, or the volume of traffic of inquiries you envisage, or the time between the first and second visits, or absolutely anything in the sales cycle. if you have the depth of pockets to be patient, you must. the market needs to understand what you are making and what you are selling, and why you are selling at the rate you are selling it at. give it time to catch up. don't rush, don't panic, don't be desperate, and don't stop work (either your marketing work or the actual construction work). i know that means one has to have pretty deep pockets, but then making and selling luxury real estate is not a game for poor people. the market needs time to catch up with the product in that location with that price point with that quality with those features and so on...give it time to run towards you. by running backwards to catch up with where you think the market is standing, you will be undercutting your own price, value, and interests. also, really rich (and in all probability, successful) people can smell fear, and (to repeat) they move in very small social circles. one whiff of desperation or panic, and you can kiss your investment good-bye. stay strong. be patient 

"ek goli, ek dushman"

7. BE A SNIPER, NOT A MACHINE-GUNNER: needless to say, mass marketing using television, hoardings, newspaper front pages etc are wasted on the super-rich. in fact, if you give them any indication that such a product/service is accessible to all and sundry, you'll probably make your own task that much more difficult. use targeted advertising...my own opinion is use none. high-end luxury is difficult to sell using traditional ATL advertising. you will need BTL activities like events (a costume party in collaboration with some liquor brand, a golf tournament with a luxury car maker, a comedy night co-branded with a high-end credit card etc.), previews, invitation only meetings, and even specifically targeted experiences (ballooning, paragliding, etc.) to open up the relationship with your targets. in this, other brands catering to the same market are your allies, be them car makers, jewellery or watch sellers, chartered jet companies, high-end travel firms, or even big 5 consultancies and wealth management companies. as long as your marketing plan is clear on what you want and what you are willing to give your partner, it shouldn't be very difficult finding these allies. it is worth the effort

you wanna sell something to uncle scrooge? think like him

8. THINK LIKE THE SUPER-RICH: steve jobs was neither a great designer nor a great programmer. he was not even a great engineer. his superpower was that he was the greatest power user of his own products. he looked at an apple product and thought the way a customer/user would. he used it just like them...and invariably, he found faults, drawbacks, problems, bugs, and so on...which, combined with his brilliantly creative intellect, allowed him to say such simple things to the designers and engineers that seemed like amazing insights to them, but came as completely obvious and natural to steve, the product user. the first and foremost item on your to-do list is to put yourself in their place...how do they think? what would they buy? why would they buy? at what prices would they buy? and so on...this isn't anything new. any marketing activity must begin from the target customer and their thinking process. however, in mass marketing, due to limitations of budget and time, one does not have the luxury of spending too much of either on this exercise...in the luxury market, with a small inventory, focussed target segment, and clear definition of customer requirements and price points, one can actually spend a lot of time and money on this...and one should. it will be well worth it

well then, what are you waiting for?
there are other rules too...but as in any marketing, none that are golden, not even the ones i have set above...they are all meant to be broken, given the right idea, the right team, the right product, and the right circumstance...i just thought i'd put down the ones i could think of...at the end of the day, the test (taste?) of the pudding is in the eating, right? so, go right ahead and use your instinct, your flair, your style, and your personalised approach...and go get 'em, tiger!