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Opinion: A better way to launch a development

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When was the last time a neighborhood association convened and spoke favorably about a new development? It’s not very common. As Springfield updates its planning guidelines that will steer the next 20 years of development, an opportunity is emerging to improve how new developments communicate with area residents. Here are five advertising tactics that developers can apply for a better project launch:

1. Get emotional buy-in.

No one likes change. Unfortunately for construction, it involves a lot of change. To best align business and consumer goals, advertisers seek feedback from stakeholders early in the planning process. Giving them an opportunity to voice concerns and contribute to shape the project usually saves time later on.

Developers can host a groundbreaking party where they present their plans to area residents. Food is a quick way to the heart. Invite residents to speak with the team leading the project.

For neighbors who were unable to attend, consider providing a digital feedback form to catch any complaints that might have otherwise been sent to the city and result in delays. Open dialogue can go a long way in calming residents’ fears of the unknown and may even yield helpful insights that can be applied to the project.

2. Know your market.

As we’re inherently emotional creatures, gathering ample market research in the planning phase of a project provides a reference for future decision-making. Without reference research, we risk making emotional “gut feeling” decisions, which may or may not align with the needs of the customer.

There’s a good example in the center of town where a development – adjacent to our greenway trails – was specifically designed for cyclists and provides a selection of both townhomes and apartments. Building for this specific lifestyle may indicate that research informed the developer’s choices because it serves a niche market.

Bringing focus to the planning process is done simply by asking two questions: What does the neighborhood have that we can preserve? What does the neighborhood lack that we can provide?

3. Build trust with consumers.

Transparency is a value that a growing demographic wants from business. It is easiest to achieve by listening and responding to consumer feedback. Acting on consumer feedback demonstrates that a brand has values beyond profit and builds trust with consumers.

Losing “the neighborhood feel” is a concern for many residents when a new project is announced. Manage that fear by showing the project plans to preserve the unique aspects of a community. Landscaping can cloak long garages in greenery. Match the area’s style in paint color. Adapt the architecture to blend into the community rather than stand out. Not all feedback can be applied but demonstrating a willingness to consider residents’ wishes can still build trust.

4. Promote the benefits.

A best practice in advertising is to promote benefits not attributes. People respond more positively when a message leads with benefits because they elicit an emotional response. If you like an ad, chances are that it focuses on appealing to your emotions. If you disliked an ad, it likely focused too heavily on attributes.

Emotions are tapped when talking about the activities and lifestyle afforded by living in a development. Market research should enable developers to promote what kind of person would like to live here, what they like to do and where they like to go.

Talk about where this type of person was living before the new development opened and how it will change their life for the better. Build a sense of place so new residents understand what it means to live in this part of town.

5. Deliver on promises.

Long-term value comes from consistently delivering on promises. It builds good public relations and over time attracts new business opportunities because the brand has established itself as trustworthy.

When a project is complete, developers can host a community open house to show how features were incorporated using neighborhood input.

In the end, breaking ground can be met with less resistance and optimized return on investment when the neighborhood is given a platform to be heard. Take control of the communication happening around new developments by adopting these five communication tactics. Get emotional buy-in. Know your market. Build trust. Promote the benefits. And deliver on promises.

Marcus Aton is the owner of Aton Marketing LLC. He can be reached at marcus@aton.marketing.

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