Successful branding delivers on an authentic promise that helps you connect with your customers and strengthen your relationship with them. For multifamily operators, there are interactions with residents, prospects, employees, clients, investors and during acquisitions where you have an opportunity to deliver your brand promise.
It is crucial to develop a strategy that will appeal to the emotions of each recipient along their journey. Our approach focuses on exuding the joy of anticipation, increasing devotion through interaction and the warmth of remembering. Kits are increasingly used as a tool to help deliver brand experiences so it is important to be clear about what you are trying to achieve. If you clarify your objectives, we find that everything else becomes much clearer.
There’s another, more pragmatic benefit to developing a strategy: the kits often cost less. The most expensive kits usually lack a coherent plan, and as a result frequently include random and expensive items which don’t contribute significantly to the overall impact of your kit. Sure, sometimes the random stuff is cool, but it likely did not deliver the experience you intended it to.
The burning question is how do you create a good strategy? At Benson, we use a proprietary assessment tool and strategy workbook. We developed these tools to gather the troops’ thoughts and help prioritize approaches. We find that helping the client from inside their organization is the most critical step to building a plan, and the assessment helps keep everyone aligned.
You can create your own assessment by really thinking about your overall brand promise and developing a list of pertinent questions that will help you focus on a strategy to create a more predictable outcome.
Remember when you create a kit, whether it’s to welcome a new resident or thank an investor, you’re not only investing money, you’re investing in your brand promise! If we seem passionate about this subject, that’s because we are. Benson has a lot of insight into the process. We have developed and implemented hundreds of kits over the past 20 years. That’s why we’d like to share our knowledge and experience to help make this process easier and more successful for you.
Once you have a clear strategy, it is time to develop the kits. This means asking more tactical questions. Read on for four critical tactical details to consider when developing a kit!
1. Kit Components
The components you decide to include in your kit not only highly affect the experience, they impact the total cost as well and not due to the obvious reasons, like product cost. For example, we find onsite managers often want bottled water in professional shrink sleeves. While these look fantastic and bottled water seems cheap, it is also heavy, which makes shipping costs prohibitive. A great compromise is bottle tags made of cardstock; many hotel chains use these in order to deliver a branded experience at an affordable cost.
While we’re giving tips about affordability, we’d also like to suggest that you include any branded promo items that you may already be using. Adding them to your kit is what we call “product sharing” and it, like ride sharing saves a lot of money.
If there are barriers to a proper strategy, one effective, although less than ideal, tactic is to allow your employees to choose products for the kits. If you provide nice packaging like boxes or bags, employees can assemble the kits when needed which empowers your staff and allows flexibility. The downside to this is that it doesn’t deliver a consistent experience and total cost is hard to measure.
2. Presentation and Experience
Stats show that more than 80% of Apple’s customers hold on to their iPhone box. Why? Well, it’s not by coincidence. Apple intentionally designed the packaging to make people want to keep it. They even studied how consumers open their new iPhones. Let’s be honest–most of us don’t have a budget like Apple, but with a little thought, kitting and delivering your brand promise can be easy and effective while creating a similar experience.
That’s why it’s always important to focus on how the packaging aligns with the experience you want the person to have when they first see and touch it.
If you’ll excuse a bad pun, sometimes you need to think outside the box. While a box is often the first option people think of for presents, it’s not always the right packaging.
For example, we are developing a generic utilitarian move-in gift that includes a lot of items that the renter may use during the first few hours of move-in. We opted to use a burlap bag instead of a box. Why? Three reasons: first, we want to save the traditional box-and-bow experience for another interaction. Second, the bag gives us more flexibility because we can easily add additional items before distributing onsite. Third, some select items we include are “green,” so encasing them in a box destined for a landfill doesn’t match up.
As our move-in kit example shows, it’s important to keep your overall strategy in mind when designing packaging. For instance, a simple-but-still-special move-in package could consist of a beautiful ribbon and tag combination, personalized with a handwritten note.
The nicest option, of course, is custom packaging. In fact, custom packaging is all the rage in the food and beverage industry and is becoming a key tool to increase sales.
This is obviously more expensive, but makes sense for things like investor gifts and in other situations where you want a top-of-the-line experience. For example, we recently created high-end custom gifts and packaging for a client who wanted to thank investors for coming to a pitch meeting. They needed something really special and memorable, so we suggested a premium bottle of wine cobranded with their laser-engraved company logo, packaged in a custom designed and printed wine box. They included a handwritten note in the crinkle paper surrounding the bottle. It was a huge hit that really reinforced their brand promise!
Since custom packaging has many different manufacturing requirements, you ideally want to forecast your needs and produce as much as you can at one time to reduce the overall price. It’s also a great opportunity to think ahead and create kits that all use the same packaging.
If you don’t have the money to create a custom package, you can still add elegance to the experience with lower-cost items like customized tissue paper, wrapping paper, and ribbon.
So now we’ve covered the fun stuff—how things look and what goes into the kit. However, there’s a less glamorous component which, while often overlooked, is a critical component which requires close consideration. Where will you get your components, and how will they be stored and distributed? 11% or more of your total kit costs will often be spent here.
Let’s look at an example: one of our own client’s move-in kits. It’s one of our favorite projects with a clear strategy and great components–green cleaning supplies from a well-known brand. The idea was to gift an environmentally friendly cleaning solution that the resident would not only love, but which they would also use on their newly renovated granite countertops. We wanted to do good from a sustainable stand point with the added benefit of helping protect our client’s assets.
Sounds great, right? Well, it was, but we had to think through a lot of factors on the distribution side. Most cleaning products are not designed to be shipped on their side or upside down and may leak. (Try getting UPS to keep a box upright.) To solve for this, we worked with the manufacturer to create a shipping friendly option.
We also had to consider shipping costs, so we researched the largest box you can ship with UPS without a surcharge and worked backward to figure out how to best size each product and the kit as a whole. You want to fulfill your brand promise while optimizing the number of kits that will fit in your shipping box. We like to start all strategies with this in mind.
When economically feasible, we recommend that you bulk-order your kit products based on projected annual consumption. Doing so can drastically reduce costs. Maximizing economies of scale and bulk ordering are huge drivers in reducing costs. Be sure to work with a marketing provider who has space to store your bulk products.
As you can tell, figuring out the final cost of each brand promise kit is a mix of art and science. Keep in mind that the price is a reflection of more than just the items and the packaging, and you’ll be off to a great start!
4. Implementation and Utilization
Rally your internal stakeholders early. It has been our experience that lack of control and ownership is the biggest hurdle to delivering exceptional brand promise kits.
To do this, you need HR, Training, Office Support Services, Business Development, Operations and a whole host of departments to participate. Often this multitude of departments may have their own vendors and processes which must be accommodated or considered before development and launch. This truly is the most disruptive barrier of all so start early and know who will and will not be on board.
We have seen over the years that, once all the players are sorted out, the initial rollout typically goes well. But here’s a hidden danger: over time, if you don’t have a “good” system for ordering, promoting and delivering the kits, they won’t be ordered and you will likely end up with underutilized or unordered kits.
What’s the best way to prevent this? In our experience, the key is a good system of record that easily allows viewing and ordering of all marketing products. This drives awareness and provides compliance tracking which is a vital component in a successful kit campaign.
When that single system of record also works to promote your items, it makes the exposure even better. Strategy and execution rarely work together. That combined with high turnover on the execution side makes a single system of record necessary. Want to know one of the most common reasons kits “fail”?
Because the strategies are not marketed to your own employees!
Yes, you know why your program includes certain items, but your employees are more likely to send a gift if they see an explanation as to why it supports the strategy, brand, or company values.
As an example, one of our clients launched a national move-in kit and despite an endorsement by the client’s COO, in 6 months only 17 percent of their properties purchased the kit.
A single system of record can significantly help with engagement and communication and invaluable monitoring of usage by user, items, territory, and state. It gives you the power to adjust your inventory as needed, and you’ll know what items are doing well.
There is much to consider when developing your kits to be strategic and cost effective. If you do it yourself, we’d recommend carefully thinking through each of these steps and asking important questions along the way.