Learning at the knee of the masters…
Little bit of redundancy here, but i tend to do that. Writing for me is a bit like thinking out loud; it helps me percolate up what i know and how it works. If i’ve learned anything in life, it is virtually everything has been done before. Simply by taking the time to look i’ve almost always been able to avoid pitfalls and find road maps that spared me blunders.
Learning from those who been there, done that is just common sense. Rather than belabor this, let me put it into perspective that is both current and relevent to now. We (the RCSC) are in th the midst of creating a marketing program; something they have never done.
The last time that happened was under DEVCO, and once they were built out in 1978, the “selling” of Sun City ceased. Contained in those first 18 years is the perfect blueprint of how it worked. It is a fascinating study in quality and quantity compared to a simple, clean concept that for most would have appeared to be understated.
Quick recap: First 5 years (1960-1965), massive national campaign with ads that would have the cast of Mad Men drooling. Seriously, they were that damn good. The problem was, there was nowhere’s near enough return on investment. The 50 person advertising company working for DEVCO, as good as they were, it didn’t get the job done.
Meeker comes to Sun City, mid 1965 and one of his first actions was to let them all go. He replaces it with a 3 person team and they focus on a Play and Stay program and building a true sense of community. I won’t belabor it, he was brilliant and by turning the community loose as a sales force, he explodes the myth that Sun City was a place old people went to die. By the way, did i mention he sold 2000 homes a year from 1968 to 1978?
Here’s the real kicker; in those years there was virtually no competition. Today, there’s near on 400 age restricted communities and the builders selling homes in them have massive marketing budgets. Sun City can never compete in the “traditional” types of marketing; nor should they ever try.
Let’s be blunt, the value in us driving sales in Sun City is about two things: The more homes that sell, the more money we collect in the Preservation and Improvement Fee (PIF). Of more importance to those living here, we enhance the value of their property and make Sun City less desirable to those looking at Sun City as just a “cheap place to live” or invest.
Bringing this full circle, let me spell out it from my perspective. Our marketing program should be almost totally internal. By focusing on building a stronger sense of community, we go to the heart of what sells Sun City…those of us living here. No one loves it like we do and by arming residents with the tools to promote the community we follow in Meeker’s footsteps.
I see that being done in a number of different ways: More effective communications, better branding of the community, targeted marketing and events with a purpose and great promotion. I know it sounds like a lot, but we do some of those things already, we just need to do them better. Ouch; sounds trite, but by setting goals and reaching them we move that much closer to preserving both the value and values that were built into Sun City.