The Failure Is in the Details

Some 15 contractors are building projects in an enormous construction site in east Netanya. The projects resemble one another in one aspect: They are all high-rise residential buildings that feature 4-5 room apartments designed for young middle-class couples. Despite marked similarities, some of the projects are in high demand and sell quickly, while others are plagued by poor sales that force realtors to lower prices and offer tempting deals. Real estate experts agree that these discrepancies are not always explained by differences in quality of construction or location - marketing is often the key.

"A significant number of contractors build fine, attractive projects and simply don't know how to market them," say marketing personnel in the building trade.

"Marketing errors are sometimes made even before a campaign is launched, in the earliest stages of marketing," explains Leora Migeners-Uzan, managing director of Marketing Solutions, a real estate marketing firm. "One common mistake is focusing on the number of rooms in the apartment rather than the size of the entire apartment - in other words, minimal attention directed toward breathing space. In certain locations, like Kiryat Ono and Hod Hasharon, that's a very critical factor.

"Another error is related to the entire subject of pricing strategy. Sometimes, contractors initiate marketing with overly high prices and are then forced to lower them to sell apartments. This maneuver harms the image of the project."

"One problem associated with selling apartments is marketing personnel," adds Yossi Tzuri, an expert in direct marketing systems and training of marketing personnel. According to him, 90 percent of marketing personnel are attracted to the occupation by a lack of choice and their lack of expertise harms sales figures.

Tzuri maintains that marketing experts have found that correct presentation accounts for 50 percent of sales of real estate projects. "The natural customers who are well-suited to a new project are the first to make contact. Poor preparation of marketing and personnel chases natural clientele away in the first phase of showing interest. For example, when a customer calls and asks for preliminary information to see if he should bother, and the response is that information is not provided over the phone, the company has lost that customer."

Tzuri adds that mistakes do not end there. "Later, when the client actually arrives at the building site, marketing personnel commit additional errors: Sometimes there is no one permanently located at the site but a telephone number where he can be reached. Or there is permanent staff but insufficient manpower and clients leave."

Tzuri says that the lack of expertise and professionalism is the gravest marketing error. "Some, for example, have never been instructed about the details of the project. You have to understand that there is no perfect project. Thus, marketers must be completely familiar with the project and know how to emphasize the most significant and positive factors. I hear customers complain about one matter or another in the technical details, and, instead of helping them, marketing personnel say that there's nothing they can do."

According to Tzuri, marketing expertise is most important when sales are difficult. "Sometimes, in a situation where a project does not succeed, marketing personnel give off a sense of desperation and desire to sell the property instead of projecting a real interest in the client and his needs - and that influences sales."

Uri Weiss, general manager of the Israel Housing Center, adds that there are many instances in which marketing personnel fail to gather relevant information from interested parties and fail to follow up on potential clientele to ascertain how serious and interested they really are.

Yitzhak Amsalem, deputy director of marketing for Almog CDAI real estate, adds that many, particularly veteran, contractors are very close-minded and that influences sales. "For example, at the level of planning an apartment, they don't always check the suitability of plans to the target population. There has been some improvement, but many contractors still fail to examine the needs of their target clientele and then they try to correct their errors, while the process is in motion, by offering perks in the technical details, reduced prices and a variety of additional items."