Five Questions with Mark Milford from Balke Brown Transwestern
At Atomicdust, we’re lucky to partner with brilliant business owners and marketing professionals. Our clients and partners span various industries — from healthcare, to restaurants, to professional services and consumer goods — and with each project, we learn as much from them as (we hope) they do from us.
This month, we talked to Mark Milford, Associate Vice President of Residential Management at Balke Brown Transwestern. Mark is responsible for marketing and leasing many of the firm’s multifamily residential spaces in St. Louis. We first got to know Mark in 2013 when we created the brand identity for Cortona at Forest Park. More recently, we’ve been working with Mark on launching the new Encore at Forest Park, and 2B Residential, the newly launched residential services division of Balke Brown. (Stay tuned for more on both of those projects!)
How do you approach marketing? What’s your marketing philosophy?
My marketing philosophy is to always make a great first impression. There are so many possible initial points of contact with our customers – from them reading one of our ads to finding us in online search results, or possibly just driving past our location. We want to look good from every angle, online and offline, so that no matter what direction our customers come from they like what they see.
What’s even more important than great visuals and strong messaging is having a great team that genuinely cares about the customer. Your team should be dedicated to giving customers a stellar first impression and then maintaining that relationship throughout the buying process.
What has been your most successful or favorite marketing effort? Why do you think it was successful / a favorite?
My favorite marketing effort was throwing the big public launch party for our new apartment community, Cortona at Forest Park, that honored other local businesses as well. It was a great opportunity for the public to experience our product without any pressure to buy whatsoever.
Partnering with a local magazine and PR firm, we had a big launch that included food vendors, DJs, a photobooth and much more. It was a light-hearted affair, celebrating others’ hard work while also introducing a new apartment community. We had more than 700 people attend, and it generated some excitement around the project.
On the flip side, what is the biggest risk you’ve taken? What did you learn from it?
Our biggest marketing risk was joining every social media channel available when we launched – but without a plan for how to implement a content strategy for each channel. With a limited budget, we couldn’t hire an agency. We still thought that since social media was “free” and “simple” that we could master it in-house in no time.
But, boy, were we wrong. We didn’t seek out the right tools and started neglecting most of our channels within a few weeks. We thought that casting a wide net would be the best approach, but we could barely keep up with even the most important social media channels or our own website.
We learned quickly that we are more successful when we narrow our focus and do a few things well, instead of trying to do everything under the sun and seeing what sticks.
What do you think is the most significant marketing challenge facing your industry today?
The biggest marketing challenge facing our industry is reputation management. While it can be difficult to get your biggest fans to leave you rave reviews online, it’s very easy for someone to use the internet to complain about you.
We strive to be the most competent and professional company we can be, and provide top-notch service to our customers. But unfortunately, there are people who never give us a second look because they read one bad review, parts of which may be exaggerated or, at worst, untrue.
It can be challenging to read and respond to reviews in a timely and appropriate manner, especially with multiple locations and team members. It can be even more difficult to not let the review dishearten you or to resist the urge to get into a public argument with the reviewer.
Instead, we always take the high road when responding to negative reviews, and try our best to remind the large majority of customers who have had good experiences living with us to leave reviews, too. We know we can’t avoid bad reviews, but we strive to have the online commentary reflect our real-world reputation, which is overwhelmingly positive.
What is the most helpful business book or resource you’ve come across?
Marketing Profs’ free email newsletter has been a great learning tool for me. Every day, I get a curated list of three or four helpful articles, infographics or white papers that talk about all things digital marketing. I have learned so much from these little snippets each day, and it only takes me 5-10 minutes to read up on the latest trends, tips and tricks.
I have no formal training or schooling in marketing, but after a year or two of reading up on these marketing trends, I feel like I have a good working knowledge of online marketing. Even though they don’t cater to my industry specifically, I read every article through the lens of apartment and real estate marketing. I’ve learned that most marketing tips can be universally applied to most industries.