Just as important as it is in the business world, branding and marketing is equally important in the community association industry. No matter how small or large a community may be, it should be branded and marketed in order to attract potential homeowners. Doing so will help the community stand out from others by showcasing its unique features. According to Patty Mullen-Smith, Vice President of Access Property Management in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, it is important for associations to have a brand and be recognizable. She explained that the branding process usually begins with the developer. “The developer is creating a brand from inception so that they can sell the community,” Mullen-Smith said. “They are looking to attract initial homebuyers to purchase within the community.”
At this time, a logo is designed, as well as signage. In addition, extensive marketing is implemented that focuses on specific features, such as the location of the community and its proximity to major roadways, as well as the amenities offered. The features being highlighted depend greatly on who the developer is looking to attract as the initial homebuyers (i.e. professionals, young families, adults 55 and over, etc.).
Mullen-Smith noted that once an association transitions into a homeowner controlled board, it should then take the opportunity to look at the community and determine its mission statement for branding and marketing purposes. However, she explained that oftentimes, the board becomes so focused on the overall health and operations of the community that the branding and marketing get pushed to the wayside. For example, the board has many responsibilities, such as maintaining the financial integrity of the community, developing guidelines, enforcing rules and enhancing the aesthetics of the community, just to name a few.
However, it’s important for boards to recognize the need for promoting their communities to the public as well. Creating a demand for homeowners to purchase a home in the community is ultimately aiding in the future health of the community. Since, typically, a home buyer’s largest investment is their home, a buyer would want to purchase in a community where they will obtain the largest possible return at the time of sale of their home. On that note, board members should ask themselves who the target market is for their community.
One way to achieve this is to ask new homeowners what brought them to the community. This can be done as part of the association’s welcome packet, said Mullen-Smith. “This helps determine the specifics as to why the homeowner was attracted to purchase their home in the community and if they would recommend the community to other potential buyers,” she noted.
Once the board members have acquired their data, they need to focus on the specific homeowner that they want to attract. Once the target homeowner has been defined, a marketing campaign can be developed that focuses on ways to attract homebuyers within the target market. “For example, marketing efforts will be different for a young professional who works long hours and wants to come home without having to worry about doing anything with the home versus an active adult who wants to live in a community with a large clubhouse and activities going on all day,” explained Mullen-Smith.
Similar to the marketing strategies the developer used, the board’s marketing should focus on the community’s geographic location, amenities, etc. In addition, features such the styles of the homes offered within the community and rising property values can also be utilized in the marketing process.
Should a community’s logo ever be changed? “Typically the logo carries forward from the developer when the homeowners gain control. It’s unusual that a homeowner controlled board would change that logo but it might be good idea if the logo is out of date,” said Mullen-Smith.
For example, if the logo is outdated and the association is trying to attract young professionals to move into the community, it may be necessary to update the logo so that it’s more modern, she explained.
Additionally, another way to attract potential homeowners is to offer a website, said Mullen-Smith. She suggested that the home page showcase the community, its location and mission statement and that the site may also include links to vendors in the community at large.
“All communities should have a website,” she noted, adding that it’s just as equally important that the website stay current for it to be effective.
The board can opt to create a communications committee to develop the website or inquire about purchasing one through its management company. Most large management companies have affiliations with website providers and can offer site development and updates as part of the management contract with the association, explained Mullen-Smith. Through these contracts, the board members are also able to access the site and post current information, she added.
Once a community has a website, it should share the link with local real estate agents, suggested Mullen-Smith. Not only should the association share the website with real estate agents, but it should also invite those agents who consistently sell within the community to come and meet with the board, she said. The board can give the real estate agents an FAQ sheet highlighting the community for prospective homebuyers. The information provided to the real estate agents can also include changes to the community, such as new tennis courts, the addition of tot lots, etc.
Mullen-Smith noted that it is extremely important for an association to be recognized by the community at large. “Get involved,” suggested Mullen-Smith. Most associations make up a very large voting base for the municipality and/or county in which they are located. Therefore, volunteering or running for office can help an association project its community to the community at large, she noted.
Additionally, if an association has a large clubhouse or other facility, the board can offer it for election purposes, suggested Mullen-Smith. She also advised opening up community events to the public. For example, if an association is hosting a guest speaker or is holding an event that can be beneficial to the community at large, the board can invite the public to attend. This encourages people to go on site, which could lead them to considering living there, said Mullen-Smith.