What’s New At Verv
Big things are happening! We’ve got ourselves an awesome new office, and we’re resolving to show it (and other things) off a little more on social media – stay tuned for some good stuff. Most important, we’ve got some super exciting projects on the go, and an incredible suite of tools to help make your next project ahhhh-mazing. Here’s to this year being a great one!
Amazing things we’re working on…
A masterplanned community of contemporary family homes adjoining 642 acres of Tynehead Park. Nobody’s backyard is bigger – and all the conveniences of the city are close at hand.
Set amid 2,000 acres of Pacific Spirit Park, this 21-acre masterplan promises a lifestyle imbued with the Musqueam philosophy of community – and the meaning of home.
Some of our favourite recent projects…
Steps from the vibrant heart of Metrotown, on the quiet beauty of a tree-lined street, this sophisticated collection of 321 exclusive homes by Townline truly sets buyers apart.
We can’t wait to start working with you in 2018! Shoot us an email and let’s chat about how we can blow your next project outta the water
Recent Blog Posts
I took some flack last week for my synchronicity comment in this blog. A couple of people reached out and said either, “what the hell are you talking about,” or “you’re frigging crazy.” The latter is a pretty typical daily occurrence for me, it’s true… but the former: fair point. I didn’t elaborate. I shall now do so in the most asynchronous way possible: writing this blog two weeks later, while letting my brain partially melt listening to Ruben Gonzalez.
Hablar cara a cara es la mejor manera… whoa… this Cuban shit is getting to me. But Gonzalez is right: talking face to face really is the best way. Marketing is changing, and it’s changing quickly. It seems like every single day there is some new channel that fragments our attention spans further. To quote Douglas Coupland: I MISS MY PRE-INTERNET BRAIN. (Great read, btw – if you click on just one measly link here, make it this one. My other links are usually locker room innuendo or 90s rock videos. This one isn’t!)
Thanks to the likes of Amazon, Uber, and Best Buy, clients are getting increasingly accustomed to personalized, instant attention. Don’t get me wrong: I know many of you are trying. And getting some verbose email about a real estate development after filling out a reg form on a project website is fine.
However, I will burst the real estate world’s collective bubble right now: your sales teams almost never actually respond. At least not in a fortnight. In towns like Vancouver, Seattle, LA, and Toronto, where it’s a knife fight just to present offers, this sucks. I would literally bet my dog Speedo that most buyers don’t want to wait longer than Moby Dick to be contacted with answers to their questions. (I couldn’t make it through one blog without a big-haired rocker. Sigh.)
Marketing Has a New Clock
Anyway, back to timeliness. The old model of digital marketing was as follows:
Email blast or web visitor → data form → email back or send content
→ CRM/nurture → sales call → qualification
The problem with this model is the asynchronicity of it – if, indeed, your sales team follows up at all. Now, we can have instant, synchronous conversations that look like this:
SEO/SEM/organic traffic → web conversation (qualified via bot
if you’re really keen) → highly qualified lead
For 2018, I say f#*k the forms. Get your marketing team to investigate the plethora of messaging apps out there and start having timely conversations with real people. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s much more valuable to both parties. For my “you’re frigging crazy” feedback friends (yeah, you know who you are) who are trying to tell me that nobody wants to use messaging or web conversation apps… heard of Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Viber, or WhatsApp? You don’t use one or two of those?
For the quants out there, here’s some more data to stoke your analytical fires:
- In 3Q15, messaging app usage surpassed social networks.
- More than 50% of users between 18 and 55 have used chat bots.
- Consumers no longer believe in store hours – they want 24×7 service.
- 1 in 5 adults over age 33 would prefer not to communicate with this guy. (All kidding aside, messaging makes everyone look sexy.)
Still think I’m cray?! My prediction for 2018: The best and the brightest real estate developers will start having real conversations in real time with their valuable customers – rather than subjecting them to yet another useless form.
The first law of thermodynamics says that energy (consequently mass) can’t be destroyed or created; it can only be changed from one form to another. The elemental particles that make up you, me, the earth, space, the stars are all the same. When we are born, they form our brains and bones; when we die, they will form something else. It’s always been this way, and always will be. In one form or another, our energy will continue for billions of years.
Our consciousness… well, that may be another story.
Billions of years before us, billions of years after: in the grand scheme, our lives, no matter how consequential, are the tiniest blips on the cosmic timeline. Our legacies, futures, pasts – they really don’t matter. But our consciousness, the essence of being, might matter a little. It may be the only thing that actually matters, since our matter doesn’t matter (nerd humour).
One of the things I’ve learned in my brief 40 or so years is this: consciousness is a choice. Synchronicity is important. Being present – here and now – is all that this experience called life is about. Consciousness is what turns electrical inputs (lights, sounds, touch) into the human experience – the experience of being aware.
It’s that experience that we take for granted, or get too busy to acknowledge, or lose track of. But it’s fundamentally what makes us tick as human beings: presence and interaction. And maybe we forget that our clients, our friends, random strangers on the internet – each and every one of them is battling this experiential crisis, too.
So in 2018 – my year of synchronicity – I am going to be present, be open to experience, be open to failure, reciprocate to people who care about me, enjoy the process, seek discomfort, try new wine, soak it all in, and (as you can see) be vulnerable.
Let’s open things up a little. We just might like it. And our clients might, too.
Life is a helluva story.
Recent Blog Posts
The Trends We Are Using at the Big V
Yeah, we create great brand strategies and logos, and we come up with superb names for our clients’ projects. For each of the projects we work on, we strive to create a unique personality – one that will resonate with the target markets we are aiming to entice. We used to call it “marketing journalism” or “selling the truth.” Now, we know it is about selling the value that your clients already have.
A Prussian gentleman once said, “Our most sacred convictions, the unchanging elements in our supreme values, are judgments of our muscles.” I used to use this saying to justify my own dysmorphic view of myself – that is a whole other blog – but my thoughts have changed. I think Nietzsche was talking more broadly about the human need to create values based on our own perceptions of who we think we are.
We tell ourselves stories about what it means to be sexy (like owning a Tom Ford suit, a Luger pistol, and an old racy Aston Martin (all of which I’m working on).) About how we attract potential mates by overpaying for, and displaying things that make us look clever and top of the food chain (like having a MacBook Pro in a Hipster coffee bar). We flock to brands and products that reinforce these stories we seek and create for and of ourselves, and the deep-rooted values we think they reflect and impart. You cynics out there – you’re doing it too, in one way or another.
In real estate marketing, our primary job is to create real estate brands that are congruent with the values our audiences wish to reflect and impart. And we do a damn good job at it.
On the tactical side, we are always looking out for the sharpest and straightest arrows to add to our marketing quiver. We pull out these piercing little points to make our clients’ marketing endeavours – and their projects – locate and penetrate those proverbial bulls’ eyes. We look for highly effective methods of delivering our stories in ways that identify and hit our targets, and make the job of sales easier.
In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here are some real estate marketing musings that have all the makings of the sleek, golden-tipped arrows you’ll need for 2018.
Can we all stop being so frigging lazy with email campaigns?! At the very least, let’s make them more interesting by adding some photos and assets. Even better, let’s add some interactivity. Here are some of the best ways to incorporate interactivity into your email campaigns:
- Use real-time marketing
- Add surveys, polls, and reviews
- Include videos – everyone loves a vid
- Add menus for easy navigation
- Use GIFs instead of pictures
Personalization and Synchronicity
What happens when you get an email that begins with “Hello there!” Instant *delete* – right? Add some personalization to your emails, syncing in as much information as you have about your recipient. The name is a bare minimum. How about a date of the last conversation, or a neighbourhood you know they’re interested in? Keep it personal – and keep them interested.
Remember my name and I will like you; remember my eye colour and birthday, and I will never stray from you. We are using personalization and segmentation tools with our own email blasts, web visits, and content creation. In 2018, it’s so easy.
Kill It with Content
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: pre-selling real estate is all about selling the dream – the golden haloed story about the future.
We’ve been pitched on all manner of new marketing directions. VR kits: from goggle-sized all the way to full headgear virtual reality craziness. AI websites: artificial intelligence that learns how to interface with buyers. Full sales centre facial recognition technology: to ensure your leads are happy during every moment of the purchase journey.
It’s a combination of expensive, nerdy, and not even remotely scalable.
But great content: that is gonna continue to be the way. Video, renderings, Instagram cards, neighbourhood photography, home buying guides, better living journals… whatever the medium, make it relevant to your audience. Our rule is simple: inform them, educate them, and/or entertain them, but always – ALWAYS – be telling a story.
It’s unlikely that Jay-Z or Gisele will endorse you or in any way become a part of your project marketing mix. Meh.
Interestingly, brands that we really fall in love with often use like-minded, on-brand micro-influencers in their brand activations, with significantly more success than mega-influencers. Intuitively, it makes sense. Who really gives a crap if Bono says Ray Bans will get you laid. We all know he’s found what he’s looking for – and that the man has no need for Ray Bans. Who can relate to that?
But what if a normal person, with a normal job, and a normal-ish life, who happens to blog about the local cocktail scene, says, “Come on down to Portfolio for a cocktail event this Friday, and check out the best kitchens in Calgary”? Well, if they have 0–1,000 followers, the rate of engagement averages around 10–15 percent, and for 1,001–4,000 followers it’s about 5–7 percent. Bigger influencers with over 100,000 followers average less than 1 percent engagement. You do the math.
Micro-influencers are often more effective, way cheaper (usually in the hundreds of dollars), and much more localized – just like real estate.
Tap into Life Events
It’s pretty obvious that people will devote a lot of time and research to a new home purchase. This is a huge life event. A full 50 percent of new home buyers start their research 6–12 months in advance. This fact alone should inform your projects marketing phases. Think much earlier awareness campaigns, and long-term retargeting opportunities.
As the old saying goes, things happen in threes: life events and significant moments included. According to Google, people searching real estate listings are 5 times more likely to search about retirement planning, and 4 times more likely to be looking for childcare. These people are going through major life changes, and these events dramatically shift shopping habits and normal brand loyalties.
Here’s another interesting Google nugget: people searching for new homes are 4 times likelier to be searching for interior design or furniture ideas. Lots of opportunities there, too.
We think it makes sense to look for ways to open up associations with like-minded brands and possible purchases. While developers and realtors should certainly care about homebuyers specifically, you should also be thinking about search and content strategies that leverage these trends.
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know I like fashion. I like the parallel to real estate – a pile of commodity materials sold for many times their utility worth, fuelled by our most personal mythologies of desire and selfhood.
This year ima be hustling the lookbook. These collections of well-styled images will creatively tell the story of a project, and of the buyer’s amazingly sexy future life living there, while conveying the essence of the building’s brand.
The best luxury fashion brands are amplifying their bricks-and-mortar experience online, and lookbooks are key to this transition. Alluring photos showing people loving the lifestyle, with a little copy to lubricate the storyline: the secret sauce for a compelling lookbook.
Another little gem of storytelling I’m going to be throwing in front of clients this year is the idea of “fear of missing out” – FOMO, baby. Creating a sense of urgency, and yield management through the fear of loss. Magical!
We don’t even tickle the idea in real estate, other than the old-school (and pretty weak) “create a lineup at the sales centre” trick. Back to our ever-important digital experience: what if you could see how many people were looking at the unit or floor plan you really want?
Methinks people go to real estate websites today and generally think the large-ticket items we sell are stable, and without much velocity. Let’s show them how scarce and limited some or all of your product really is. Picture this: “Oh my god, honey, 157 people have looked at the northwest unit on the 19th floor. Yeah, the one we want with the mountain view. Can you call Melvin the sales guy ASAP?!”
Together with great assets, lookbooks, and compelling content, 2018 just might be the year that real estate marketers close the gap between sales centres and consumer chosen digital experiences. Let’s use some new thinking to innovate around the complex nature of how our home buyers purchase.
Life Continues to Be Tremendous
2017 was a year that brought a glimmer of hope to a dark-souled, stoic young calf like me (segment: Gen X):
- Infant mortality rates continue to fall, death at the hands of another human are slim (in Canada), and a horrible demise via small virus or bacterium is minuscule.
- It seems like for the first time, the glass ceiling of sexual inequality, abuse, and bullshit has had the guts ripped out of it with #metoo. Scumbags of the world, be scared. Be very scared.
- Inequality between the wealthiest and poorest nations has continued to decline.
- The economy is humming along nicely in both Canada and the USA.
- Alien life is out there (I just read this and am convinced little green men must be buzzing around at the speed of light… I mean, two billion habitable planets in our galaxy alone??)
- Annnnd, America is being made great again. (Or something?)
In 2018, hug your kids a bit more, help an old person lug their groceries to their car, tell the people you care about that you love them, and let Verv help you try out some of the above trends on your amazing new real estate project.
Life is a helluva story.
Recent Blog Posts
On falling in love, Wikipedia says: “In romantic relationships, falling in love is the concept of moving from a feeling of neutrality towards a person to one of love.”
What is the catalyst for moving from a feeling? What takes someone from meh to OMG? (And how does that apply to real estate? Getting there…)
Proximity, smell, season, stage of life; the list goes on and on. Let’s not get overly hypothetical here (for that see Carl Jung’s thoughts on developing love). My hypothesis isn’t overly complicated: I think falling in love comes down to two really compelling factors.
Love Factor One: Attraction
Not to sound like a superficial asshole, but methinks physical attractiveness plays a massive role. Maybe, just maybe, through millions of years of evolution, we developed these sensitive things called eyeballs and became bipedal for reasons of love and procreation. We developed eyes to see things to love, and we started to move upright in order to find things farther afield to love.
In real estate, especially for pre-sales initiatives, making your project gorgeous and distinctive is part of the survival of the fittest. If you show prospects how stunning your vision is, how well it meets their views of the ideal, how attractive this home will be, and how fulfilling your project will be in their lives, they will be more likely to fall in love.
For the Arrivé development in Seattle, we created these stunningly realistic renderings that show life, personality, brand, and vision. And we think our market will fall in love.
Love Factor Two: Language
As our ancestors stood up and saw farther and better, procreated more, and grew bigger brains, we developed language. Since the dawn of man we’ve huddled in groups, around fires, and on tailgates telling each other stories. Our stories become part of our personal brands – a beacon of attractiveness to potential partners. Through our stories, they can ascertain whether we are funny, ambitious, successful, progressive, or boring.
For the Ella development in Kelowna, we tell the story of freedom, choice, change, excitement, and a better way to live. We think it’s a catalyst for moving from meh to OMG.
We love helping people fall in love. And we’d love to help your market fall in love with your project.
Recent Blog Posts
Value Prop – Velocity
What do Bruce Lee, Isaac Newton and Buddy the Elf have in common?
THEY GET SH*T DONE.
As the Head Cheese at Verv Projects, I get to grease hands, do the dog and pony show, sip martinis, and play golf. (Ok, so the latter two clichés almost never actually happen, but they make my role in the professional world sound minutely cooler.)
Every time I do the dog and pony show and pimp the talents of my Verv elves, I’m asked by our prospects some version of this question: “What makes Verv better than the other guys?”
For the past five years, I’ve slow-danced with the persons(s) sitting across the table from me through my version of Are you Experienced. Jimi’s version and mine aren’t dissimilar:
If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise from the bottom of the sea
Come, Mr or Ms Developer, come across to me… We are experienced. Sheit, we’re very experienced. We’ve done nothing but real estate, day in, day out for 13 years. But what does it really mean to you?
Welp, two things for sure: Velocity and Vision.
Projects in today’s most successful companies operate in nanoseconds. They adapt, scale, and meet consumer expectations on the fly and in real time. Wrongly or rightly, velocity is the currency by which we all measure our wins/losses on a daily basis.
The fast shall live, the slow shall die.
Your very existence as a land developer is about risk analysis/mitigation. After years in the development process, a project is suddenly thrust into the position of being ready to go to market. Which means you need a team that knows how to get shit done, and get shit done fast – and on budget. After 13 years in the real estate trenches, we’ve seen all the scenarios, we know all the pitfalls; we can telegraph the punches coming at you (Bruce Lee style).
That’s the vision. Not just because we’ve seen it all before: the constrained budget, the staging of a site, the planning of a sales center, the creation of assets, campaigns, and engagement plans. We also see what you’re trying to achieve from a monetary perspective, a community perspective, brand perspective, and market adoption perspective. You’re aiming to inspire a feeling, a sense, a better way of living for people. It’s like a gravitational pull – and we know how to create it.
(Wait, did I just drop Hendrix, Buddy the Elf, Bruce Lee and Isaac Newton in the same blog?)
Velocity is measured as distance/time. At Verv, we cover huge distances in short periods of time for our clients, all the time. What impresses me even more about the Verv Elves is the intangible element of grit – holding each other accountable, being comfortable with discomfort, and getting shit done.
I grew up with a rather absent dad and a very present mother. Maybe it was a different time – men were often found in the garage, focussing on things like cars, beer, darts, and lawn cutting. My dad was around, but spent more time in his own head than outside of it, engaging with the nuclear structure.
My mom, on the other hand, was ever-present, readily availible in mind, body, and spirit. She would give her shirt to me, my friends, or anyone else within arm’s reach if they needed it. The constant pusher of swim meets, tae kwon do sessions, cultural experiences, sports gear, mix tapes (later CDs), and all the other aspirational things two young fellas could want. My mom wouldn’t hesitate to jump in the car and drive 70 kms to take my brother and me to a beach, library, art gallery, or ski hill.
Until today, I’d always chalked it up to my mom being a maritime hippy-dippy caregiver who wanted the best for her kids. To some extent, we as primates are genetically hardwired to want better for our offspring than we had. It’s a simple part of the human experience, and the essence of the American dream: your offspring shall be better off than you.
I look back now and realize there was more to it than the provision of things we wanted and experiences we would (albeit later) cherish. Fuck, we all know the most rewarding things in life aren’t accoutrements, bank roll, or even mere experiences. The most valuable things are much softer, and have been baked into all of us since we climbed out of the oceans. Connection, presence, absorption.
Back to today. I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past three days catching up with long-lost family and exploring the small towns and fishing villages of Nova Scotia’s eastern shoreline with my oldest daughter – she’s 10. It’s been idyllic, adventurous, captivating. Tonight, as a full moon rose over the atlantic horizon, we were running around on a soft sandy beach, tripping each other, throwing rocks at the waves, taking slow-motion video on my phone.
Chasing my daughter down the beach towards the car, wind blowing her hair, it was one of those surreal, fleeting moments were my binary self was lamenting, “This will likely never happen again.” She stopped, turned around, read my mind and said: “Thanks Dad, I really liked being with you today.”
It was at that moment I figured out what my mom was really up to.
Recent Blog Posts
Real Estate Developers: Good or Evil?
Mr./Ms. Developer, you are a brand.
No matter the size of your company, your brand is being watched and talked about by somebody, somewhere. Developers are already behind the 8-ball – I mean, you destroy grasslands and forests, gentrify neighborhoods, and are generally presented as money-grubbing scoundrels at the very best of times. (See movie review of Yogi Bear in The Vancouver Sun, January 4, 2011: “It’s a classic little morality tale of good vs. evil, in this case the bears and rangers against the developers.”)
Large real estate developers need to be proactively thinking about the strategy for their brands (meaning their businesses, projects – whatever you want to call it), and how they engage with the cities and communities they work in. The world has changed. As this New York Times article puts it: “Yes, they [brands] can run ads on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and everyplace else. But social media elevates consumers over corporate marketing; suddenly what matters isn’t what an ad says about a company, but what your friends think about that company.”
The opportunity here is to stop being reactive and start being proactive, thinking through not just a social strategy but an entire brand activation approach: social, content, web, community engagement, altruism, integrated project launches… You’re limited only by your imagination.
Mr./Ms. Developer, your entire business relies on campaigns. Figure out what yours is, and get on the stump.