What’s In A Name?

After 25 years working in this industry, I think I’ve learned enough about our business to be able to make the statement – “You’re only as good as your name.”  Every year we see companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising, signage and common area improvements.  However, our residents only know us as the Landlord.  It seems that’s a moniker no one wants to assume.

Recently, I noticed that several applications forwarded to us for various clients were incomplete.  The landlord’s name and phone number were often missing, which can be a sore point because in today’s rental climate every landlord wants current landlord references.  The reality is that many people don’t even know the name of their landlord.  They wrote the cheques out to the building name or the numbered company, but have no idea who owns the building or who manages it.

Seems absurd doesn’t it?  What it tells us is that residents don’t know (and frankly in many cases) don’t even care who we are.  What’s scary is that if people don’t care, it usually means that they’re indifferent to the service too.  In a market where we’re all fighting for product differentiation that doesn’t speak well for our marketing efforts.  In fairness, who can blame a resident for being confused when the municipal address of a building is 1 Church Street, but the name of the property is Rideau Tower.  Then to top it off, the rent cheque is made payable to Stephen’s Company.  This is hardly uncommon, but it’s certainly counter-productive from a resident-relations and marketing perspective.

So here are some tips to make your company memorable:

  1. Consistency – Wherever possible, keep the rent cheques for all your properties payable to one source – the name of the company managing the building.
  2. Stop Using Meaningless Names – The name of your building should be the address.  Thompson Towers, Rivergate Apartments, Cordon Suites means nothing to our consumer.  The only exception is if you have a central leasing office and a standout community.  Perfect example would be the Gates of Bayview by Sterling Karamar – three buildings, one rental office and it’s actually a gated rental community – thus the name.
  3. Street Signage – Street signage without the physical address, phone number, name of the company and website are somewhat useless – so tear them down.  Besides your own signage there should only be one other – the Certified Building signage as approved by our industry.  Is there any point in advertising all of the local websites?  Do you really believe people can read the text on those signs driving by at 50 km per hour?  Check it out.  I’ve got great eyesight and I can’t see it fast enough.  My motto is: Promote your own website.  Why advertise for someone else on your property?
  4. Special Signage – Does every single sign have to be plain or ordinary?  Look at Park Willow’s backlit signage.  It’s three years old and still performs well.  They seldom have to use any other form of advertising to keep their buildings full.

I think it’s a shame that a resident may have lived in a building for years and not know their landlord or management company. You’ll often find that when asked for the management’s name and phone number on new applications. It’s time that this industry stood up and was counted. If you want to keep your customers it starts with a relationship where both parties know the identity of the other. We’ve been around way too long not to be known – we own this city and it’s time your residents know it as well.

It’s hard to believe but I’ll finish off by sharing this one story.  A new applicant comes to rent an apartment in a building.  She uses her current address in the appropriate place on her application.  We asked her about references and she blew us off.  We asked her if there were any problems with her current landlord and she said ‘no’ – she just wanted a change.  We said ‘great’ because the new building belonged to the same owner.  She took the application right out of our hands and ripped it up.  Turns out that there were lots of problems and we wouldn’t want her as a resident at either building.  So you see – everyone could have been saved a lot of wasted time and effort if she had known the name of the landlord for both buildings.