‘On the Ground’ with Eric Brown: Why Blockbuster Is Bankrupt and Netflix Isn’t

With property management and marketing, it's important to remember that it is about them, not you.

I am the kind of guy that Blockbuster loves; I simply do not return the movies on time. We recently moved, and tossed out an embarrassing amount of movies, all of which landed on our credit card at some point. I am also an avid Netflix customer. Each company has figured out my behavior, except one solved an issue for me and the other created one. Could I become more responsible? Yes. Is that likely? Probably not. Is it Blockbuster’s fault that I am not organized? No, it isn’t. But I am no longer their customer, so Netflix won.

As a property management company, how many of your silly rules create a problem for your residents and prospects instead of solving a problem? Likely more than you care to admit.

Marketing is not about you, it is about them

How many of your company rules are about you, versus them? If we all were to look at our policies and procedures that way, the three-ring binders that house those silly rules would be much thinner, and our residents and prospects would be much happier.

Take accepting only money orders for move-in monies. Set aside the potential risk of accepting a personal check for a second. (The perception of risk is likely much higher than the actual risk, but I digress.) Further, if the screening and application process are well executed, good residents do not give you bad checks, particularly at move-in.

When we demand a money order in lieu of a check at one of the early initial resident touch points, we are implying that we do not trust you. Forget that you told the prospect that a money order was required, forget that they should be more organized; the bottom line is you have created a problem for your new resident. The trade-off of ill feelings, even if they aren’t identified initially, is the beginning of the end. You have done nothing to enhance the resident’s experience.

Marketing is a process, not an event

We typically think about apartment marketing as something to create leads to fill vacancy. However, marketing is a series of events that has a starting point and a middle, but never an end.

Is your staff behavior consistent with marketing at every opportunity? Is there a Netflix-like apartment operator just around the corner eroding your market share because you are unwilling to get rid of some of those silly rules that serve you and your company and not the resident? Heck, with deeper analysis the rule may not even serve you but is there because you have always done it that way.

Which of those rules can you abolish that you are hanging on to?

Eric Brown’s background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for Village Green Companies, a Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.

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