Marketing Amenities for Broad Appeal

By Michael Mendillo, President, FirstService Residential Mid-Atlantic

For today’s active adult residents, a marketable and appealing community amenity is not what it used to be. In fact, it’s not one specific thing at all, unlike in the past when a top-notch golf course drove the formula for success. Now amenities are a different story altogether–a story marked by diverse activities that reflect the unique and varied interests of the 55-plus audience. The golf course still has a place in the overall plan for many, but it has been joined by a host of potential options: team sports programs, on-property bike trails, full-service spas and fitness facilities, pickle ball courts, reading clubs, wine-tasting courses and educational seminars.

How can these specialty communities and their managers identify the amenities that make sense for their residents—and for the potential new buyers they hope to attract? The answer lies first and foremost in a piece of advice that applies equally to those in the business arena, and those in the world of entertainment: know your audience.

The evolution of the active adult segment is being driven by the arrival of the baby boomers. Communities and their property managers must understand one key fact about typical boomers: there is very little that is typical about them. Known for their range of views and commitment to change and progress, boomers offer no quick formulas or short-cuts for communities and managers looking for an edge.

And of course, boomers aren’t the only game in town. As board members and managers know all too well, a community’s audience generally spans generations. Often, the youngest residents have little in common with the oldest. Catering to as many interests as possible—and creating an identity for your community that speaks to many—is key. Here are some steps that you can take to understand what activities and programs make sense for your location:

Engage with existing community members: Want to know what residents in your community like to do? Ask them. It seems simple, but far too few community leaders and property managers engage one-on-one with the people they live or work with every day. Hold regular community meetings, send out weekly survey emails and talk to residents when you see them.  Ask them what their “outside” friends think of the community, and what it would take to get new residents to join.

Do the research: Any well-run community can keep the lawn manicured and the clubhouse running on schedule, but transforming a property into a true activity-centered, five-star quality destination village that the 55-plus group yearns to join is something altogether different. To make the right improvements to a property and its programming, a community needs to investigate overall trends nationwide. Analyze professional surveys and polls, and research regional data about local interests.

Know your strengths: Urban, rural and suburban communities are naturally going to appeal to different kinds of residents. Know what the strengths of your region are, and emphasize them.

It takes insight and good communication to discover what will truly revolutionize your community, and to move beyond cookie-cutter programs and amenities. How do you envision enriching your offerings?

Michael A. Mendillo is president of FirstService Residential’s Mid-Atlantic region, which serves more than 1,100 residential properties and 350,000 homes across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois and Washington, D.C. Mendillo’s expertise in active adult community management has made him a respected industry speaker on the subject. Under his leadership, FirstService Residential Mid-Atlantic provides leading 55-plus property management services to many of the 130 active adult communities in the corporate portfolio.