REALTY MARKETING IN THE NEW NORMAL

REALTY MARKETING IN THE NEW  NORMAL

THE IMPACT OF PANDEMIC HAS FORCED REAL ESTATE MARKETERS TO RETHINK STRATEGIES. THE DIGITAL CHANNELS HAVE BECOME A MAINSTAY AND ENGAGING HOMEBOUND CUSTOMERS HAS BECOME A MISSION CRITICAL. REALTY+ BRINGS THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS FROM THE INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS TO UNDERSTAND HOW MARKETING TEAMS ARE TRAVERSING THE NEW NORMAL

By: Sapna Srivastava

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. More so for real estate that till now relied on traditional marketing mediums of print adverts, outdoor hoardings, channel partners and internal sales teams. The present altered environment has forced the realty sector into crisis management and re-engineering their business continuity plans.

Sanjay Kumar Jariwal, Media Marketing and Sales Prestige Estates Projects Limited giving an overview of the situation and their own planning stated, “In the initial days of lockdown last year, we were compelled to pause our marketing campaigns for couple of days on traditional media. In order to stay relevant, we innovated our creative strategies/methods and witnessed a successful transformation. We realised that this could be the new normal, and we actively adopted to the new situation and deployed our campaigns with new creative – Enough Space, Think Home Think Prestige, Virtualex, Oyster is now your world. The creative were used extensively on various platforms on traditional media along with various digital platforms. As throughout the lockdown and Pandemic, we launched several successful campaigns which provided a virtual experiential of our properties to our customers. Considering the favourable commercials being offered by couple of media platforms as a resultant impact of the pandemic, we leveraged it to our advantage through marketing associations, partnerships with all mediums except cinema. As with regards to budgetary constraints, our company numbers started picking up relatively soon as compared to the industry standards and hence we did not need to introduce/levy any significant cuts plus the offerings by various platforms.”

Manju Yagnik, Vice Chairperson, Nahar Group, Sr. Vice President, NAREDCO, Maharashtra expressing her views shared, “In a crisis whereby living amidst pandemic with regular lockdowns we engage in a more proactive marketing plan to adjust and adapt to rapid changes. The marketing strategies are being planned keeping in mind the current mind-set of the homebuyers, especially the first time home buyers. The biggest challenge is foreseeing what buyer wants, his needs, expectations and how his preference will evolve. So, we have to monitor the buyer and plan our priorities accordingly. Like in 2020 during pandemic, space was a major concern with Work-from-home scenarios and our launch Olivia by Nahar at Chandivali campaigned around spacious homes. The promotions and campaigns a mix of digital and offline, were concentrated around space for everyone in the family like an office corner, a wellbeing zone, to kitchenette, online classes etc. Now in 2021 with a similar pandemic and lockdown scenario our marketing budgets and plans for a new product launch are concentrated around the theme #migratetogreat which focusses on moving to a better lifestyle. We are largely concentrating on online mix of Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Email Marketing, Digital Advertising, content marketing etc.”

 

  1. Virtual (world) is now real: the foremost has been to Embrace Technology, be it online distribution – through “End-to-End Online Booking platform with e-commerce features”, Enabling Virtual site visits, ZOOMING – with the growth of video conferencing, Virtual Exhibitions etc.
  2. Highly Optimised Marketing: Cutting off the extra flabby restricting spends to high performing channels/ platforms/ media • Redefining Customer Experience in line with the changing behaviour towards health and safety
  3. Product Innovation: Working closely with the architects, design and technical teams to offer product upgrades with facilities that have become a high priority. Upgrades such as contactless movement within the society (contact-less lifts), enhancing WorkFrom-Home/ Work-from-Anywhere within the apartment complex with WIFI facilities across the apartment complex, ensuring mandatory amenities like – clinic, grocery store etc. within the apartment complex.
  4. Collaborate with partners to generate targeted leads/ line of business opportunities.

Darshan Govindaraju, Director – Vaishnavi Group stated, “The past year’s economic condition has forced businesses to be both agile and adaptable. At Vaishnavi Group, we had to take a step back and understand our customers evolving habits. Which platforms are they getting their information from? How has the pandemic influenced their priorities? How comfortable are they with digital interactions? And this renewed understanding of our customers has become our road map to navigate through the pandemic.”

According to Viral Oza, Chief Marketing Officer, Mahindra Lifespaces, marketing priorities remain the same as before, but what is changing is how they are being achieved. “For a start, the use of digital technology in customer experience and product/service delivery has both deepened and widened across categories. Purchase decisions continue to be based primarily on the inherent value of goods and services. At Mahindra Lifespaces, we had begun developing the back-end infrastructure for ‘zero touch’ real estate marketing and sales well before the pandemic, with an intent to enhance convenience, accessibility and transparency. We were therefore well prepared to deliver to the needs of our customers when they were not able to physically visit our project sites during the lockdown last year. In September 2020, we launched a residential project in Palghar (under the ‘Mahindra Happinest’ brand) where marketing and sales were concluded entirely online, via a customized, mobile-first platform, and without any face-to-face meetings or physical visits – a first-of-its-kind launch in the Indian real estate industry. Moreover, our customers were able to use platform capabilities such as digital walkthroughs, online inventory selection and virtual meetings to involve geographically dispersed friends and family members in the decision-making process.”

Cyriac Joseph, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Ozone Group expressed, “The real estate industry was severely impacted by the pandemic in the first half of FY 2020- 21. However, we did see positivity returning to the markets from Q3 onwards and by Q4, we see that the demand has increased and almost back to pre-covid levels. At Ozone, marketing plans are similar to FY 2019-20 with a renewed focus on digital marketing. In addition, there are a few launches planned for FY 2021-22 and we are well on track for a ‘business as usual’ scenario.”

As per Mohit Mishra, Chief Marketing Officer, Office Business, ‎DLF Limited marketing is one of the most dynamic disciplines and if there is anything that changes fastest in an organisation, it is the marketing plan that must adapt to both internal decisions as well as market dynamics. “We too have changed gears owing to the pandemic and have created provisions for a much higher client engagement as well as pushing brand awareness in these difficult times.”

Prashin Jhobalia, Vice President Marketing Strategy, House of Hiranandani was of the opinion that the marketing plans have now changed to being more digitally inclined to benefit from the incessant digital presence of the potential customers. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are being preferred as the go-to marketing tools and channels. “The current marketing plans also provides for cost towards adopting newer technologies, imbibing new tech–oriented processes and keeping a close watch on the technological changes that are taking place at a rapid pace. At House of Hiranandani we deployed a series of new prop technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and video walkthroughs that enabled customers to visualise the project from the comfort of their home.”

Lalit Makhijani, Chief Marketing Officer, Godrej Properties Limited talking about managing marketing plans amid the pandemic said that the company put the customer at the centre of all decision-making. “We are helping our customers provide a home for their family, and to enable that, we ensure that our messaging should be present on all the platforms that our customers are present on. Our marketing plans have always been based on this philosophy, and we work with our media partners to ensure that we are able to make our project information easily accessible to customers wherever they look for it. Because of this conceptual clarity, a clear understanding of customer needs, and a strong network of media partners, we are able to maximize the impact of our budgets, and reach our audience effectively to serve their demand.”

Sachin Bhandari, CEO, VTP Realty shared, “Any organization must know how to navigate market scenarios and calamities like the one we are currently in. We always plan for such contingencies and are highly adaptive to the changing requirements. Similarly, we have earmarked micro-plans which only set the plan of action for a month to 45 days. We plan as we go and tweak our spends strictly basis the market scenario. We have re-negotiated all our media purchases to either reduce cash outflow or add significantly more value to the older deals. Apart from the budgets, our entire marketing plan is now designed around making the online buying journey most easy and conducive for the buyer.”

Dhruba Jyoti Ghosh, SVP Marketing, Provident Housing Limited felt that the pandemic had practically been a reset 2.0 not just for the real estate industry but industries at large. “After the reset 1.0 during 2008, the RE industry bounced back and bounced back strong between 2010 and 2013. The upward movement during the last six months has been encouraging, but it was not easy. This pandemic made the industry take a closer look at Marketing as the key driver of business, once again. A multi-fold approach has been fundamental to our adapting to the changing consumer behaviour, over the last year, amid the ongoing pandemic and years to come.”

 

INTEGRATING OFFLINE & ONLINE MARKTING

The necessity of virtual connect with the customers has reinforced the need for embracing digital marketing and embracing technology to track and report analytics across customer touchpoints. As per Manju Yagnik the next three to six months will bring many societal changes that will trickle down to the marketing plans. “When it comes to traditional offline channels we are currently engaging in Direct mail, Telemarketing, Channel Partner activation, and Public Relations like editorials and advertorials. Since, buyers are largely at home we are concentrating more on online campaign mix like Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Email Marketing, Digital Advertising, content marketing etc.”

Use of social media platforms has gone through the roof with the onset of pandemic to take the product to the target audiences. Right from launch of new properties and communicating with the audience through live sessions all is done through social media platforms, video, audio calls.

According to Sachin Bhandari, The digital versus offline media plan is obviously heavily skewed. “We largely invest in advertising online and have completely transformed our sales process to be digital and without physically meeting a single sales person. Our product tours and all collateral are digitized and payment gateways are also integrated. We anticipated the need to virtual sales early on and have been ready with a completely virtual marketing and sales experience for over a year now.”

Darshan Govindaraju concurred that pandemic had accelerated the shift towards digital marketing. “We are actively invested in our digital presence both to market our projects and more importantly to hear from our customers. We have an active Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn profiles that has opened a two way channel of communication with our customers which is unheard of in traditional marketing. In the online space, the stronger a company’s knowledge of its customers, the greater the ability to market to the right audience. Understanding our customers better has been the biggest learning this past year.”

Sharing his approach Sanjay Kumar Jariwal stated, “With regards to offline channels, we are focusing on print, Billboards on the outskirts on Bangalore and near to the airport. For project launches during the pandemic, we had Live virtual launch on our website including property portals, social media channels and LinkedIn. In terms of the commercially driven avenues, we are intensive on Google search and Display, DV360, Outbrain, and Taboola and few more. In addition to the above, radio channels have always been a keen area of investment for us.” “We are mostly working with online platforms as there are feeble chances of in person interactions. So digital platforms like LinkedIn and Google networks are taking precedence from erstwhile press and outdoors. Events and site visits are happening virtually and so are customer contact programs,” said Mohit Mishra.

Dhruba Jyoti Ghosh explained his 360 approach in choosing the marketing mix or the channels to get the optimum ROI in marketing RE. “The only difference has been re-orienting the marketing mix based on the consumer touch-points/ media consumption due to the pandemic. Though our spending has been skewed towards online channels even more amid the pandemic. Be it Facebook, Google, a select set of Publishers, RE Portals, Native Ads, etc. The focus has been to eliminate the low-performing channels and align only specific properties that perform best on the respective channels. The substantial drop in the median cost for offline channels, print, and radio helped re-instate the brand presence and visibility/ share of voice (SOV) with limited and calculated spending on the same.”

Sharing similar views Lalit Makhijani added, “We have always had a diverse media mix, and have been at the forefront of embracing newer mediums of reaching our customers. Our systems and processes are aligned internally to measure the effectiveness of every rupee we spend on all online and offline channels, so we are able to maintain a strong sense of clarity when planning our media mix for each project. Not only do we invest in marketing our projects to our customers, we also strongly believe in providing the right content and guidance to our customers to support their purchase decision. We share it through our website and social media pages, which has resulted in more than 1 crore views of our content on Youtube, and hundreds of thousands of followers on various social platforms.”

Prashin Jhobalia said, “Crafting and promoting engaging films, theme based project shoots, engaging influencers are other highly preferred options included in the marketing plans. We provided an immersive property experience for our customers, often located miles away from our projects, through 360-degree project videos, virtual site visits, and expansive location images shot through drones. We tied up with around 25 influencers with a good mix of categories and reach, and successfully created noise about or Glenridge Project at House of Hiranandani Hebbal, probably the first to successfully experiment with this kind of a tool in the marketing segment. However, one cannot undermine the conventional modes of marketing as they are an essential tool to reach the mass audience, especially ones who are not digitally inclined. Hence, print advertisements, radio engagements, hoardings, mailers, sms, events, collaborations and associations form the other sect of marketing plan.”

Cyriac Joseph feelt that digital marketing takes precedence over all other mediums. “There is constant tracking of ROI of various digital campaigns and we ensure that our plans are dynamic and robust duly allowing for change and interventions where required. The contribution from Channel Partners and referral sales have been encouraging and we expect this trend to continue.”

Viral Oza too expressed that digital media (including social media) currently comprised a significant chunk of their marketing efforts, with a growing proportion of spends towards brand engagement. “The share of spends on digital within the marketing mix varies with markets and projects. We’ve used outdoor and print in the past year, but in a limited way.”

The world is now digital, which means there is nowhere to hide. One slip up and the customer will tell. We live and operate in a world where everything is instant. Instant trolling as well as instant gratification. And no one is immune to this. The biggest brands and most famous personalities have been subjected to instant opinions and feedback from the masses.

 

THE DOWNSIDE OF DIGITAL/SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

Businesses use Social Media to create awareness about their brands as a social media marketing strategy. However, many businesses heavily rely on social media to promote business and end up generating little to no leads by attracting non targeted audiences.

Prashin Jobalia advises that while digital advertising is the need of the hour and every brand needs to advertise on their digital/ social media platforms to be able to reach the right target audiences, but before diving in, a brand needs to be ready with the required skill set to be present online. “One can easily learn the nuances of digital advertising through organised learning sessions and can practise to get better. Digital medium serves every kind of audience. Hence, brand content needs to be customised to suit a sect of audience. There is no – One size fits all concept for digital advertising. Constant monitoring of the content can help you gauge the response of the audience, as well as promptly respond to any unwanted or negative thoughts. Timely interventions can avoid unwanted content from going viral. Staying updated on technological advancements that often take place at a lightning speed, can do more positives for the brand.”

Manju Yagnik sharing her perspective said, “The Coronavirus pandemic is resulting in shift of business and buyer behaviours. With work from home situation we are seeing considerable rise in the screen time across the board. For real estate sector, using digital marketing tools though not new are now the best medium to connect to the potential house hunter. Now developers are creating virtual tour of the properties for the client’s understanding and better insights. Today, with masses on social media it is more advantageous than challenging by simply staying on top of your social profiles, providing regular, relevant updates and interesting content, to engage the customers. One need not spend a fortune for being active on social media platforms.”

Enumerating the challenges Viral Oza stated, “Digital is a key medium, not only from a customer acquisition perspective, but also for an interactive and immersive brand experience. Having said that, some of the challenges associated with digital media include – The digital divide and limited technology use among certain segments of customers (such as senior citizens), which sometimes results in discomfort with virtual processes. Identifying the right platform for the right audience, given the plethora of continually emerging new platforms and new technologies.

Sanjay Kumar Jariwal recommends understanding the target group’s basis the projects while on boarding a digital platform and thus generating qualified leads. “There are a lot of variety and options for one to choose from online platform. The task of narrowing down the most conducive platform and one which will give you the desired result is challenging. In order to arrive at an accurate solution, we internally monitor these platforms to evaluate the kind of qualified leads generated and conduct an in-depth analysis to comprehend the results. We use the platforms depending on the quality deliverables leading to conversions. One initiative that we have taken is ensuring CPL (cost per lead) related deals with various platforms, wherein we deploy a set of prerequisite benchmarks and on mutual agreement take it forward. Moving one step forward, we had managed for qualified site visits generated from these platforms post thoroughly assessing them. All of these measures are intensely evaluated based on demographic and geographical prerequisites that match our parameters in order to produce convertible leads.”

“An average individual is exposed to unprecedented levels of information in a single day. Studies have shown that our collective attention span is narrowing with the rise of social media. Therefore the biggest challenge for any advertiser or brand is to stand out in this noise and communicate the relevant information in the fastest consumable manner,” added Darshan Govindharaju.

Being digitally vocal and active on social media is a double-edged sword as per Sachin Bhandari. “You automatically expose yourself to the instant feedback of your customers. Along with the bouquets, brickbats are also often thrown. It is to be looked at as a huge opportunity rather than a challenge. VTP Realty conducted a study a few years back with millennials and their consumption behaviour towards brands. We learnt early on that in a new-age digital world, not only have the mediums changed but the younger generation of humans have also changed dramatically. They share their experiences openly with the world which is largely unknown to them. They are influenced by other people’s opinions and experiences of products and services. They don’t trust advertising content as much as they believe word of mouth. And we believe therein lies our big opportunity for being accessible and accountable. Our large customer relationship teams are always accessible and on standby 24/7. The senior leadership handle all escalations. We have created a technology platform for customers to safely access their
property documents and payment receipts. The strategy is to not over-promise and be accountable. All our marketing communications, sales and customer support pitches follow this simple motto.”

Lalit Makhijani stated that instead of considering social media platforms as lead generation mediums, we should look at them as opportunities to help our customers make the best possible decision of buying their dream home. “We regularly share content with our customers that helps them better understand the home-buying journey, as part of an initiative we call “Home Ally”. Through “Home Ally”, we share our rich understanding of real estate in India, various design ideas that customers can consider when buying a home, helpful legal and regulatory information – and all of this supports customers to make a well-rounded purchase decision. Thus, when companies start looking at these platforms as an opportunity to support customers, it rarely creates any challenges.”

Cyriac Joseph shared his perspective, “While the cost of digital platforms has seen a gradual increase, it continues to be the primary and ‘go-to’ medium for all project level promotions. Since all developers (and channel partners) are on digital platforms, the CPL’s are bound to increase. However, with a prudent yet effective approach which is constantly monitored, one should get the required results. With AI, it is now easier to reach the right audience and optimize costs. In the absence of these tools, the customer acquisition process will be a constant challenge.”

In Mohit Mishra’s opinion, digital at one end has given a wider low-cost reach and has also enabled reaching out to customers who have been working remotely/ “But we need to use the medium judiciously and the message should have the same warmth and empathy that we use to aim in our offline/mainline communication. We should also be wary of digital fatigue of our audiences who are now solely working and communicating through multiple screens,” he cautioned.

Dhruba Jyoti Ghosh elaborated, “The biggest challenge in Digital/ Social Media Marketing or advertising continues to be the quality of leads. Though over the last 5-7 years, we have improved significantly in targeting and fetching higher quality of leads, we still have nearly 50% of the leads, which are unworkable leads. With the threat of “botattacks” and “clickbait” generated leads, on more prominent and more popular display ad channels, it becomes even more challenging at times. A constant check on the lead flow, with continuous feedback and quick action, helps reduce the damage. A few larger challenges in digital marketing are in store for us in the coming days.

A “Cookieless” world/ environment is already evolving with Safari (Apple) and Mozilla’s Firefox implementing restriction on third-party cookies, and Google Chrome announcing its decision of phasing out the third party cookies by 2022, it is important for brands to gear up for the same with contextual targeting, nurturing first-party data etc. New policies/ guidelines for influencer marketing may substantially reduce the effectiveness of Influencer marketing as it currently stands. Companies will need to take a more creative and surrogate approach in building this channel than direct. The implication on rules imposed on Facebook/ Google globally may see similar action in India too such as new guidelines for Social Media and OTT platforms. Finally, it has become extremely challenging to reach a non-savvy consumer base. Hence, the mix of vernacular print media and vernacular messaging/ WhatsApp Chats driven with AI has been handy.”

 

MANAGING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS

Explaining the company’s relationship building strategies, Sanjay Kumar Jariwal said, “Customer relationship is of utmost importance to us. Our brand’s foundation has a repute of having exemplary relationships with our customers. In spite of the pandemic last year, we continued to focus on providing smooth customer service to keep our patrons happy. We had prioritized customer safety by sanitising our site offices and only if the customer was comfortable, we went forward with the meeting, else had given the customer option for Virtualex. We provided virtual servicing options such as couriering the agreements and documents to our customer’s residence in order to avoid any human exposure. With respect to branding, we shifted our focus from project specific campaign to Enough Space, Think Home Think Prestige and The Oyster is now your world which addressed the current economicsocio conditions.”

Manju Yagnik sharing her approach state, “A customer-centric brand is built over trust, promise, empathy, personal connect and bonding which is USP of Nahar Group. We have listened, learned and evolved over the years and continue to do so even today when it comes to our buyers.” Darshan Govindaraju mentioned.  “Under these stressful market conditions, Vaishnavi is able to deliver projects not just in time but ahead of schedule. Vaishnavi Serene, a residential complex of 896 units is poised to be delivered 18 months ahead of schedule. Vaishnavi Oasis has received the Occupancy Certificate much ahead of time last December. Our customers are delighted and they have become the voice of the brand. Today, close to 40% of our sales come from customer referrals. Our ability to deliver has instilled trust and confidence among home buyers which is fueling our brand image and our customer relationship.”

According to Viral Oza branding has always been very important and at times like these, a big part of bringing alive the values of the brand is through customer experience. “How we address our customers’ concerns related to home buying reflects significantly on the brand. Our focus is on ensuring convenience and ease of access for our customers at multiple touchpoints of their home buying journey with us. Our customers can experience their homes digitally, via video meetings scheduled per their convenience and on platforms of choice (MS TEAMS/ Zoom/Google Meet, etc.). Our project webpages are optimised to provide an engaging virtual experience, including amenities and features and simplifying the actual buying process, includes the financial aspects, since we understand that this is seen as a daunting aspect of the journey.”

Cyriac Joseph explained their initiatives, “At Ozone Group, we have used the pandemic period to introspect on our business and fine-tune as required to make it more robust and efficient. We have successfully completed our rebranding exercise and unveiled our new corporate identity to reinforce our core values. The rebranding exercise gave us an opportunity to refresh all our projects and touch points with the new branding. With this, we expect better brand perception, increased brand loyalty and continued investor confidence. We plan to further increase our communication with our customers through a monthly newsletter and keep them updated on all developments that impact them. We are confident that this would go a long way in building a better relationship with our customers.”

As per Mohit Mishra, brand image and corporate values are most important factors of business. “In times of crisis, all marketers go back to the core of brand which is defined as customer centricity for us. We have upped the ante on customer engagement and client connect and are all ears to listen and provide solutions to their woes and questions. Safety and Security are pivotal to my company and we have walked extra miles to provide the safest workplaces with international benching to our customers and the accreditations and awards received by us are a testimony to that.”

Prashin Jhobalia stated, “We have endeavoured to maintain a cordial relationship with our customers even after the completion of the sales process. This is to ensure that the living experience of our customers is always positive. Community events, mailers, informal meetings and lunch sessions, online contests are some of the regular engagements that take place to help us connect with customers and build a cordial rapport. Recently, during the inauguration of the Blue Turtle Clubhouse facility at our Hebbal and Bannerghatta townships, we received an overwhelming response from our customers who attended the event and joyfully participated in the engaging activities. Our exciting referral program encourages our customers to refer the brand to their relatives and friends. We feel proud of the fact that a considerable amount of business is received through referrals. Our Channel Partners are the other face of the company. We have always maintained a cordial relation with our Channel partners. Recently, we organised a Channel Partners meet where all the best performing channel partners were felicitated for their contribution in enhancing sales and customer relationship management. These kinds of events go a long way in building relationship which is then manifested in the form of growing business.”

Lalit Makhijani mentioned, “We are a Purpose-led organization, and our Purpose is to create spaces that enable Everyday Joys; one community, one family, and one home at a time. This Purpose is our true north star, and guides the decisions made by all of our employees. This helps us turn every customer interaction and touchpoint into an opportunity to enable Everyday Joys.”

Sachin Bhandari agreed that the biggest influencing attribute to brand reputation is the customer experience itself. “Customer relationship and brand building are more or less two sides of the same coin. VTP Realty stands for thoughtfulness as an operating philosophy and each employee strives hard to adhere to this philosophy especially when handling customers. While we strive to be 100% error free, our product and services are subjective to individual customer’s choice and preferences. There are many scenarios when we are in tough situations and but our SOPs are such that the organization holds itself accountable in every such situation. In-depth questioning and review is done for all customer escalations. Time and effort are invested so that every single customer becomes an evangelist.”

Dhruba Jyoti Ghosh added, “We successfully converted our existing customers to Brand Advocates, which enabled the Sales team to convince and reassure new prospects to proceed with their purchase. The two most important aspects of brand building during the pandemic were Extensive Communication and Being Available. Right from the beginning of the lockdown, we ensured that proactive communication is sent out to existing customers and prospects. We make sure that the customer relations team is available with all data even during the lockdown, whilst the team worked from home.

We ensure that the visibility of our promotions and content is optimal. With low noise (read spends) in the media from peers and with this optimal presence, our visibility has been extremely high, adding to the high share of voice. This further adds to the ongoing brand-building efforts. Finally, our efforts on content marketing have grown in leaps and bounds This establishes Brand Trust and leads to Brand Leadership/ Thought leadership in the market/ industry. Our efforts on Social Media, Quora, Blogs, Forums, media (responses and authored articles), responding to reviews etc., have been vital in strengthening our Brand Trust.”

 

NAVIGATING HUMAN RESOURCES CHALLENGES

Work from home comes with its difficulties. The absence of physical presence sometime results into extension of timelines said Manju Yagnik. She however admitted that team members pitch in to finish the task accordingly. “Remote management is not always in favour of businesses and certain activities need face to face meetings for quick decisions. Marketing activities is a team effort and it requires regular interface. New ideas flow out when team meets and brainstorms on a particular subject. The same goes for buying of home and we may not be able to convince a potential buyer over a call or zoom meeting all the time. A visit is what takes to close the deal for a select few.”

Sachin Bhandari feels the real challenge is to balance in-house versus agency outsourcing. “While there are pros and cons to every scenario and each organization will have its own strategy, we at VTP Realty try to maintain the ratios equally. Keeping a healthy team size along with having many different agencies that can be hired as and when required to augment the strength of the internal team. VTP Realty inculcates a sense of entrepreneurship in every employee thus turning them into thinking and accountable resources who have the capabilities to take action.”

Sanjay Kumar Jariwal shared that Prestige Group, as far as the marketing team was concerned witnessed a pause on couple of media platform during the compulsory lockdown imposed last year. “Our marketing team including creatives, IT and HR team ensured a smooth transition to the virtual and digital space hence, the work did not suffer. These efforts immensely contributed to our team being able to deliver and achieve our goals and sales objectives.”

According to Mohit Mishra a lower headcount and remote distributed team teaches a manager to be more productive in an individual capacity and top up his/her selfcontribution. “It also challenges the interpersonal and communication skills as the same person now must communicate across levels and hierarchies and at the same time, making the optimum use of the workhours.”

Prashin Jhobalia believes that finding solutions makes work more meaningful than counting the problems. “While work-from-home is an inescapable situation for some time, we need to find ways to work communicate and collaborate better with the help of technology. We have included weekly team meetings that take place through google meet. It helps the team to engage and remain well-informed on the happenings in different verticals. The immediate superiors maintain a direct connect through zoom calls, WhatsApp and emails. Series of encouraging and informed sessions and online celebrations are organised so that the team feels motivated and connected to the office. These techniques have ensured we get the best from each team member and work continues at a normal pace.”

WITH THE EVER CHANGING SCENARIO OF THE PANDEMIC ACROSS THE COUNTRY, THE PATH FORWARD IS ANYTHING BUT CLEAR. WHAT IS CERTAIN IS THAT ADAPTABILITY AND INNOVATION ARE THE KEY TO EMERGING STRONGER FROM THIS CRISIS. THE BUSINESSES CANNOT AFFORD TO GO BACK TO THE ‘OLD’ WAYS OF DOING THINGS AND MARKETERS WILL HAVE TO REINVENT THE MARKETING PLANS IN THE NEW NORMAL TO GAIN AND RETAIN CUSTOMER’S CONFIDENCE AND BUILD STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN ORGANIZATION AND OUTSIDE FOR SUSTAINED LONGTERM GROWTH.

Dhruba Jyoti Ghosh said that the key to overcoming all the challenges arising from remote operations is technology, which has been extremely helpful in our organisation. With the implementation and integration of various Martech tools and solutions across the board has eased these challenges and enhanced employee efficiency across the Sales, Marketing and CRM functions.”

Lalit Makhijani believers in supporting employees through the toughest of times. He said, “The Company has not laid off any of our teams across the country in spite of the pandemic. This has encouraged our employees to contribute to the organization’s success in a meaningful way, and we have seen no reduction in the impact that our teams create as part of day to day work. In fact, our marketing and sales efforts have led to exceptional results – by end of Q3 FY21, we witnessed a 16% growth in booking value compared to the 9 month performance of the previous FY.”

Viral Oza too mentioned that notwithstanding the pandemic, there had been no reduction in headcount or salaries at Mahindra Lifespaces, in fact, employees even received due performance pay, despite 2020 being a difficult year for the industry as a whole. “We had in place the IT infrastructure to quickly shift to remote teamwork and collaboration even before the first lockdown was announced last year. We’ve implemented a chat-based business communications platform to help our teams across locations collaborate smoothly and securely, while ensuring work is visible, integrated and accessible. Our pan-India Marketing team comes together online every fortnight to share industry trends and best practices, and to generally check in on each other. Most importantly, our team members have pitched in to support each other in times of need, especially those of our colleagues who were faced with Covid-related challenges in their families.”

 

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