An interview with Jessica Foster, Marketing Manager at Buckingham Companies

We sit down with Jessica Foster, Marketing Manager at Buckingham Companies. Buckingham Companies is a fully integrated real estate investment firm, managing a portfolio of over $3 billion of real estate for its own account and partners.

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How did you end up at Buckingham Companies and what problem does Buckingham Companies solve for its clients?

Buckingham is a vertically integrated real estate firm that uses 40 years of operational expertise to increase value and maximize returns for our institutional partners. As a full-service real estate company, we have development, construction, residential and commercial management, asset management and investment services. Buckingham was a client of mine when I worked at a PR agency. Through a series of events, I was brought in-house to handle digital marketing needs for the company.

As the Marketing Operations Manager, what are your main responsibilities at Buckingham Companies?

I call myself the problem solver for the company. By creating operational efficiencies, we can provide exceptional customer service to our clients while streamlining efforts internally. My favorite motto is to work smarter, not harder. I bring that mindset to everything I implement for the company, especially as we continue to grow in every aspect.

To get a bit more technical, what are some of the acquisition channels that have worked well for Buckingham Companies and why do you think that is?

As an organization, we are meticulous in everything we do. We ensure we are developing the right asset for the right area at the right time. The key to our success is the ability of team members to collaborate cross-departmentally on projects that touch each of our business lines. As the operations manager, I work routinely with the development, IT, business systems, and asset management teams to ensure that our vendors and processes work together to create efficiencies for everyone. The ability to brainstorm, collaborate, and sometimes fail with colleagues is what makes us a strong support team.

What role does your Marketing team play when it comes to organising, operating and improving your growth funnel?

At Buckingham, our sales and marketing team is one. It's essential that the systems we adopt allow leads to seamlessly work through the sales funnel, and if there are missteps, we can easily pinpoint the issue and resolve it in a timely manner. Our site teams work closely with the regional sales managers, who are responsible for the marketing needs of asset management. From collateral to ad spend and sales training to CRM management, the regional sales managers are responsible for that aspect of marketing. My job is to ensure the tools in place are working as they should and to research what technology is needed for adoption to make the lives of our sales teams easier. I believe sales and marketing are married in our line of work.

At ColdFire, when we look at our clients' Growth strategies, they vary greatly. Some have found a single, scalable client acquisition process while others thrive on a mix of top-of-funnel strategies. If you had to summarise the high-level LeadGen strategy of Buckingham Companies, what would it be?

Our company thrives on a mix of product types, which has been beneficial for us the last 40 years. The different product types create different marketing strategies we have to adopt in order to be successful in the varying markets. Our business intelligence team analyzes growth markets and brings us multi-year data to evaluate potential growth opportunities and statistics of what has and hasn't worked for others in the area. We adopt those strategies and A/B test them throughout the pre-lease, lease-up and stabilization phases. Having an aggressive budget during pre-lease and lease-up allows for more testing with the end goal of having a strong strategy we can carry into stabilization for years to come.

What is a Growth technique that you've used at Buckingham Companies or at previous companies which you believe is underutilized at most Marketing teams - and why?

My site teams will laugh if they ever read this: follow-ups! All marketers can never stress enough the value of a follow-up. Our company implemented an auto-follow-up schedule within CRM a few years ago and after a while, the site teams requested it be removed because the follow-up wasn't personalized enough to meet our company's customer service standards. Our team understood and removed it, but then our follow-ups decreased significantly. We are now back to the drawing board of implementing AI follow-ups with different vendors that are out there. The follow-ups that are completed by AI won't be our company's CX standard, but my point is what standard is that right now if a follow-up is almost non-existent? When we did auto-follow-ups, our company had a less than 10% missed follow-up score. We are hoping AI will beat that metric with more precision in meeting prospect needs. Follow-ups are misrepresented by most because some sales and marketing teams expect this task to be one they don't have to monitor or ensure is being done. They think their job ends when the lead lands in the CRM queue when in fact getting the lead in the queue is your first job.

Growth can happen using marketing and product development. Which has worked better for Buckingham Companies and why do you think that is?

For property management, the bottleneck happens at interest. We receive thousands of leads into the CRM queue daily and it's hard to keep up with lead management, especially with staffing issues, inadequate technology, and availability in the rental market. Customers expect instantaneous replies to inquiries and in this market, if you aren't the first to respond, or rather the first to respond when it's convenient to the prospect, you might as well be last. It's hard to meet that demand with the other challenges our teams face on a day-to-day basis. Hence our desire to implement AI follow-ups on-site.

Has your Marketing team experimented with some kind of cold outbound strategy (like cold email)? If yes what was the general outcome and if no, why not?

When influencer marketing was a hot topic prior to the pandemic, we experimented with hiring influencers to experience our new high-rise asset. We gave them a weekend stay for free in our guest suite and provided them with an experience package during their stay to show their followers what it was like to live at our premier asset. We didn't expect to get a lease out of the trial, but to our surprise, we got three that were all from the same influencer! After about eight different influencers, we ended the program because the ROI had been met but it was interesting to adopt a fad in our industry that normally doesn't see that.

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