Your community association is a business. This includes assets, liabilities, governing rules, possibly employees, and elected board members providing oversight. What else do all businesses manage? Their brand, which is one of their most important assets.
The brand of your association is not always top-of-mind, but maybe it should be. Why? Because the strength of your community’s brand can significantly impact your association. This includes attracting new residents and property values which are two of the most important concerns of current owners. The brand of your community association, or any business, is simply what the public thinks of when they see or hear your name. The perceptions include factually what they know as well as emotionally what is perceived.
How does an association enhance and protect its brand? The answer is marketing your association. This is where homeowner association (HOA) board members must put on their marketing hats. Never worn one? No problem – here are some tips that will have you marketing your community like a professional. 
1. First impressions matter.
What do visitors and prospective residents see when they visit your community? Do they see a well-manicured and attractive entrance, prominent monument sign, or a combination of both? This is the area that represents your community -- everyone sees it, even those simply driving by. If you are a mid or high-rise building, the same logic applies to your lobby. First impressions matter and your entrance is prime real estate for establishing and reinforcing your association brand. It can serve as a billboard that entices people to visit while establishing the feeling and mood of your entire community.
2. Familiarity can breed complacency.
Familiarity can easily breed complacency. You enter and exit your community so often it becomes second nature. This makes it hard to see things with a fresh pair of eyes. Try this, put yourself in the mindset of a potential buyer. Enter your community as if it was the first time you’re visiting. What do you see? Are the streets properly maintained and well lit? Are common areas inviting? Is directional signage clear? Does the landscaping add or detract from the experience? Do you feel welcome? Experiencing your association the way a prospective buyer will help you find ways to improve it – and attract new residents. A great community association management company has the right resources to help you objectively evaluate your community. They can draw from best practices within the industry and from current clients. Additionally, they can work with you to facilitate improvements in an efficient and economical way.
3. It’s a lifestyle.
Want to set your community apart from neighboring communities? A good way to start is by creating an atmosphere of fun, which encourages community engagement. This can be accomplished most effectively through events. Events should be aligned with the culture of your community. They can range from tried and true barbeques to ice cream socials to panel discussions on interesting topics with guest speakers to music concerts. Additionally, you could consider partnering with local businesses to arrange food and wine tastings, promotional giveaways, etc. Hosting events like these can create positive experiences within your community, which lead to a powerful word of mouth effect. For example, pictures and updates shared via social media can spread to large audiences extending your reach significantly. Your residents become your real estate agents, spreading the word to neighboring communities, family and friends.
When successful, your community becomes known for its lifestyle and recognized as “the place to be.” This recognition can become true differentiators when prospective buyers are evaluating where to live. A professional, experienced association management company with local resources can be instrumental in developing a successful lifestyle and event program.
4. An attractive investment.
Potential buyers and current owners will value different aspects of your community. Some people gravitate towards softer aspects such as what they can see and experience. Others will be keeping a keen eye on the financial health of the community association. Prospective buyers will evaluate many factors when making their decision. One way to set your association apart is by positioning ownership as a sound financial investment.
One suggestion is to create a mechanism for showing prospective buyers your documents during the sales process. If they know they’re moving into a community that is managed responsibly, it may be the deciding factor between choosing your association and the one across the street. If your association is currently experiencing financial challenges, address them immediately. Look to your community association management company for help. They might be able to assist in the creation of communications that help explain the current circumstances, and steps being taken to improve the financial standing. Ideally, your association management company has the financial details, reporting and strategic planning resources to put your association in the best light possible.
5. Connect the
According to various studies, over 80% of consumers conduct online research before making big purchases. Think of your own buying habits and this number probably won’t surprise you. This makes your community’s online presence as important as the physical one as discussed earlier. Your community’s website and social media pages can be a significant opportunity to promote your brand. Consider creating landing pages dedicated to prospective buyers by highlighting the amenities, community events, and overall resident experience that sets your association apart. If you live in a highly competitive real estate market, this can be an invaluable tool in helping buyers and real estate agents learn more about what a great place your community is to live in. 
Any marketing strategy involves time and effort, but by using these five basic tips you’re well on your way to promoting your association’s brand. This can increase resident satisfaction and attract your next qualified buyer. For more help, contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading community association management company.
Wednesday April 13, 2016