Written by Mike Krankota, Art Director
We’ve all been there: You have this magnificent idea, but you can’t get it out of your head and onto paper. Or perhaps you have grand hopes for a goal but are having trouble plotting out the concrete path to get there. Whether your project is visual, conceptual, or written, we all struggle with this process from time to time.
For clients working with agency partners, this creative block often manifests itself through statements like, “I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it,” a strategy that often leads to extensive trial and error that introduces added frustration for all involved. On the agency side, it can manifest in the form of hours spent staring at a screen until the imposter syndrome fully takes over and every idea feels equally terrible. In other words, creative blocks are no fun for anyone and often contribute to outcomes no one is satisfied with. So how do we combat them and break on through to the other side?
As an Art Director with many years of experience, I’d love to walk you through my process for dealing with creative blocks on the path to better real estate marketing (using a bit of good humor along the way).
Write Your Way Out of the Problem
The best advice I have ever received in my career—and one I pass on to my team—is that sometimes the messaging should steer the design and not the other way around. If you’re feeling like the idea isn’t quite there, often a great copywriter can pull it out of the trash with a magnificent tagline or bite-sized messaging idea that gets things going. Don’t be afraid to reach out for written inspiration to help get the gears moving again on your project. In lieu of external copywriting help, creating a word cloud of simple bulleted list of the big ideas you want to convey can also be a great place to start. You can also reach out to Threshold for help with your creative process! Our writers specialize in writing their way out of the problem and helping inspire messaging-driven content.
Walk Away For a Minute
A wonderful mentor advised me once to sometimes go walk a dog. Take care of your plants. If you must, mess about on social media or something. Just take that little break. Keep the thing in the back of your mind, let the ideas happen organically, and just see what comes up. It can be easier said than done (there is a certain inertia to overcome before getting away from your desk), but brains are excellent at working through challenges in the background and sometimes that’s the best path forward.
Personally, I rely on my garden and dogs for help with this. I didn’t acquire these things specifically for this purpose but they certainly don’t hurt. For others on the creative team, it might be pestering a cat, taking the trash out to the dumpster, or doing a crossword. Whatever your strategy, walking away from the desk is a fantastic way to consider, find, and explore new ideas.
Flip It Upside Down
So you’re looking at a possible idea. Say it’s a name. A logo. A website. But something isn’t quite right. What if you flip it all the way over to find new ideas? What is the opposite? And when you consider it, does it resonate? Is there a place to find a new perspective from flipping the idea and seeing the other side of it? Why or why not?
Often, our internal creative discussions start with “what if…” and that is why we succeed. Asking that question always leads to big ideas.
Sleep On It
This tactic is like “Walk Away For A Minute” taken up a notch. It works best when you’re partway through your creative process or have reached the end of a certain stage and can’t decide how to proceed to the next. In these cases, sometimes, the answer is to just muse for a moment. Again, your brain is great at working through things in the background, so sleeping on it (literally or figuratively) can really help you wrap your mind around a complex project or elusive strategy.
For example, at Threshold, we always encourage clients to give immediate ‘gut reaction’ feedback but also to think about it for a few days and offer additional thoughts after they’ve had time to sit with it. Sometimes, the presentation is what draws you. Or a color. Or a feeling. But ultimately, you need to make sure this is the right call for you and your company/property/startup/etc. and giving it some time can sometimes be the best way to get there.
That said, make sure the time you take is intentional and structure. Give yourself a deadline and think about the questions you need to answer in order to proceed. If you wake up the next morning and still like everything you saw, consider why. What appealed? Why did it resonate? How can we turn this into something that sells?
At Threshold, we are experts in this process, so we try to guide feedback based on our levels of experience. It’s a fun process, especially when timelines allow the opportunity to involve multiple stakeholders in the creative process to ensure the end result is something everyone feels invested in.
Phone a Friend
Sometimes, a single creative can do this. Often, it’s a group effort. “Hey, I have this idea, any thoughts,” is all it takes. Creative teams are naturally collaborative. We are stronger than each individual part, and the sum of a true team is far greater than you can imagine.
This is a strategy we use constantly as an agency team, but it applies to client teams too. If you can’t come to a consensus among those you collaborate with, it’s often wise to ask someone who understands the larger goals of the project. Their feedback, whether positive, negative, or neutral can help push past the half-baked concept and illuminate actionable steps toward a more perfect execution.
Threshold has a collaborative environment that demands that the best idea wins, regardless of who came up with it. At the same time, we pride ourselves on being a client partner who can work with everyone to make sure it’s a win all around. After all, if you can’t successfully champion the ‘why’ behind a particular strategy, there’s likely a better idea out there and working together is the best way to find it.
Creative blocks and “I’ll know it when I see it” attitudes are a pain for both agency creatives and client-side stakeholders. But a holistic thought process and a willingness to collaborate can turn something that seems impossible into some of the biggest wins of your real estate marketing plan.
Setting a new start community up for success is among the most complex projects you can undertake as a real estate developer or property manager. From branding and positioning to floor plan creation and event planning, the sheer number of marketing projects necessary to attract new residents and turn great construction into a successful community can quickly become overwhelming. That complexity is multiplied when you take into account the various touch points you’ll need along the way to translate a central brand identity across every digital and print asset, from websites to brochures to signage.
That’s why new start developers and asset managers often turn to full-service marketing agencies to help them navigate all the moving parts. A full-service agency is a marketing partner that covers the full array of digital, print, and strategic services that feed into a successful marketing plan for you property. Because new start developments are working from scratch to stand out among the competition and reach an untapped audience, working with a full-service partner is key. Spreading your marketing needs across multiple partners and vendors can compromise your strategic vision and dilute your brand identity, leading to less effective real estate marketing.
So what services should you look for in a real estate marketing partner? For new starts, here are the key services your marketing partner should be able to cover.
Research & Discovery
Any good real estate marketing plan begins with research and discovery. Skipping this step can be tempting if you are already familiar with your market (especially if you live locally yourself), but that’s never a good idea. Every new start enters a unique market defined by its precise location, existing competition, and ever-changing audience demographics and interests. That’s why we always recommend working with a marketing partner that will do their own research and discovery before launching into the branding process.
Although savvy developers usually conduct their own internal market research in order to design communities that will meet market demand, a marketing partner will cover additional nuances that help you activate a specific target audience and ensure your vision comes through loud and clear. While a developer might pay attention to rental rates, amenities, floor plan availability, and housing density in the area, a marketing partner might pay extra attention to competing brands, audience demographics, local history and culture, and other details that complete the picture of how your community can connect with new residents.
Naming & Branding
Without a cohesive naming and branding strategy, all marketing collateral suffers. You need a brand identity that is unique and recognizable so that potential renters have something to latch onto when comparing you to a sea of competitors. After all, details like amenities and floor plans matter when selecting a home, but what matters even more is how you tell the story of those advantages so that your audience takes the time to engage and learn more.
Telling this story begins with a suite of branding decisions that can be consistently applied across all collateral in order to amplify brand recognition and brand loyalty. That means naming, logo design, colors and patterns, typography, voice guidelines, and lifestyle imagery guidelines should all be established with your marketing partner, then codified into a comprehensive brand guidelines document so that future collateral builds upon the central brand identity.
Web Design & Development
In many cases, a landing page or full website is the first place your brand will come to life and get the chance to connect with your audience. Working with the same marketing partner on web design and development that you worked with for research, naming, and branding helps ensure that this crucial milestone fully realizes the brand identity you worked so hard to create. Few things can compromise an otherwise solid marketing plan more easily than a poorly executed website that is out of step with your larger marketing strategy.
Along the way, it’s also essential that your web designers and developers understand UX and SEO best practices so that your website isn’t just pretty and on-brand, but also pleasurable to use and easy to find so that your audience of potential renters can actually connect and take action. Make sure your marketing partner is well-versed in UX and SEO so that your websites and landing pages continue to pull their weight long after they’ve been launched. In fact, we recommend working with a real estate marketing partner that offers long-term hosting, management, optimizations, and periodic design refreshes on your site so that as trends change, you can stay ahead of the curve.
Print & Digital Asset Creation
In addition to website design and development, there is a wide array of digital and print assets that contribute to your brand efficacy and help your audience make their housing decision. Included in this category are assets like floor plans and site plans, virtual tours, photography and videography, brochures, flyers, business cards, and letterhead. Each of these separate touch points is a chance to amplify your brand identity and engage your audience. If executed poorly, they can have the opposite effect—diluting your brand identity and failing to connect with potential renters.
Once again, consistency is key when it comes to asset creation. Every asset should be an extension of your larger branding and marketing strategy in order to maximize ROI. Details like these can often go unnoticed unless they clash with your brand or otherwise fail to meet expectations, so they can sometimes become an afterthought for developers and property managers. A great marketing partner knows how important it is to get these details right so that everything fits seamlessly together.
The real estate marketing funnel is increasingly digital, but environmental graphics still play a key roll in raising awareness, driving foot traffic, and creating great tour experiences. From construction banners and billboard graphics to temporary lease space design decked out with floor plan graphics, rendering graphics, and targeted messaging that speaks to your unique differentiators, your marketing partner should be able to help with it all. Meanwhile, permanent signage should also be carefully crafted to amplify your brand identity so that you’re never at risk of blending in among your local competitors.
As you work hard to complete your new development project, your digital marketing should be working just as hard to raise brand awareness, generate leads, and nurture those leads so that your efforts pay off with a swift lease-up. When it comes to digital marketing, you’ll benefit from having the same partner involved in your ad campaigns and email tactics that was present for the research & discovery, branding, and design projects along the way. This digital marketing partner is then better equipped to target your unique audience with the right message at the right time in the right place.
Promo & Swag
As you prepare for open houses, housing fairs, grand opening events, and move-ins, branded promotional items can go a long way in keeping your new community top of mind with prospects and delivering a great move-in experience that turns residents into brand advocates. Welcome kits, giveaway items, and event promo should be more than an afterthought; the right item outfitted with a unique design can be the difference between a memorable brand experience and a throwaway object that people quickly forget about.
If you’re still looking for a new start marketing partner who covers all these bases from discovery to promo, we’d love to chat! Threshold covers all this and more in order to deliver cohesive marketing strategies that build on one another to accelerate lease-ups and drive high ROI. Keep us in mind for your next new start project or use our chatbot, Trent, to schedule a no-strings consultation to learn more about what we do.