A few months back I grabbed coffee with Ben Watson, Marketing Manager at HAP Investment Developers. We share a passion for marketing and design and connected over the fact that real estate has so many different dimensions and personalities. Roles like real estate marketing are often overlooked.
I thought our conversation would make a great blog, so I asked Ben if he’d be interested in guest posting. Ben suggested that we do a video interview instead. Just as I was hesitant to appear as a guest on podcasts, video was never a medium that interested me. However, if it’s scary and uncomfortable, it’s probably a good sign. Reluctantly, I agreed to meet Ben in HAP’s midtown NYC office to conduct a video interview which can be viewed below. Lucky for you, Ben also typed up his notes and put more formal responses below in writing.
I want to thank Ben for his time, Zach for all his work on the video, and HAP for hosting me.
What interested you about real estate and how did you end up landing a role in real estate development?
My interest in real estate started at a young age, I grew up in a suburban environment and would often explore new housing developments being constructed. I developed a strong appreciation for architecture and design, and different uses of materials. The effect of layout and function of a structure and how that impacts either positively or negatively how people live fascinates me. I was offered my position at HAP Investments after working for Corcoran Sunshine for nearly two years. Corcoran Sunshine is the leading sales and marketing firm for new development in NYC and has also entered the Miami market. At Corcoran Sunshine I worked with the cities largest developers on some of the most influential projects in the city, but I wanted to be more involved in the overall development process and have a greater impact. The opportunity to work at HAP, a growing development firm and build their marketing department allows me to have creative direction of not only the firms branding but also its portfolio of buildings. HAP Investments has 12 active projects both condominium and rental totaling over 1000 apartment that will come to market in the next three years.
Walk us through a typical day?
I would not say in real estate development that you have a typical day, which is actually one of the more exciting aspects of working in the field. HAP is currently working on improving its brand and how it is perceived in the US. I am interviewing branding agencies that will redesign the firms website and create new investor marketing collateral. The marketing team sends regular reports to our investors and we create video content to show progress at the sites, and interview the project managers on the project. HAP is an Israeli company and many of our investors are not located in the US. It is important to visually show them progress on projects in which they are partnered with us. We create marketing tools to use by our sales teams in our Tel Aviv office, raising funds for our projects. I speak to that office everyday to make sure their needs are being met. A lot of my time is spent with our public relations firm, Rubenstein fielding questions and relaying information to the press for different types of media coverage. HAP is very active on social media platforms, and I work with that team to make sure our message is consistent. The only typical part of my day is that a large portion of it is spent in meetings pushing forward on all of HAP’s marketing goals.
Can you discuss a recent project you worked on, your responsibilities and how it unfolded?
I recently produced a short promotional film for our tower project located at the Exchange Place PATH stop in Jersey City, NJ. HAP is raising funds for this project, a 42 story rental building designed by CetraRuddy. I hired the production team, the videographer, and a commercial drone operator to represent the views from 400 feet above the site. I was very involved in the creative direction of this video. I had specific needs on shots that had to be represented and the overall feeling the video had to create. The entire process took about two weeks and 8 hours were spent shooting scenes in lower Manhattan and around the project site. The final video, I was very pleased with and much of the success is that very talented people were hired to create the content. As the client, I must be very involved because the end result ultimate rest on my direction and instruction to the team. You can view the video here.
What types of people succeed in real estate marketing roles?
The successful people I have met and interacted with on the marketing side do have some similar characteristics. Maintaining creative control and being consistent with the branding of a project is very important. Keeping the message that your firm wishes to convey intact is another key aspect. I believe it is important to not loose focus on the product you are representing whether it is a rental or condo unit or commercial space. I find that a less is more approach is often very effective in real estate marketing. Understanding how an agent will sell or rent the product is also crucial in the creation of marketing campaign and strategy. If you do not understand how to sell to the consumer then you will be disadvantaged.
What are some career paths within real estate marketing?
There are several different career paths one could chose in working in real estate marketing. You could work for a new development sales and marketing firm on the brokerage side. One benefit to this is that you will be exposed to a wider variety of developers, architects, and designers as typically you are working on far more projects than if in house for a developer. Branding and Creative agencies that cater to new development is another career path especially if you are more of a design driven person. These firms create the actual marketing and sales tools for the projects under the direction of the sales and marketing firm and the developer. Working directly for a developer one should decide if they want a large or small firm. The cultural differences are very different between the two, and larger firms will have bigger marketing teams with various levels of structure and management. In all of these options being proficient in project management is a valuable career skill to develop as it overlaps in all of the job requirements.
What advice would you give to a young person looking to get into real estate marketing?
Advice I would recommend is to consider what aspects of real estate interest you. Do you enjoy residential, commercial, hotel, or retail? Do you wish to work on large towers with hundreds of units or small very detail specific buildings? The more a person can narrow their focus the easier it will be for them to identify the right job opportunities at a sales and marketing firm, branding and creative shop, or for a real estate developer. Look for internships that will allow you to explore your interest and think about the culture that you wish to work in.
Benjamin Watson joins HAP Investments from Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group where he served as Sales Operations Manager. In his new role, Benjamin will oversee HAP’s project branding and marketing strategies, including the sales process for all developments. He is responsible for ensuring consistent, profitable growth in sales revenues, deployment and management of sales personnel, and identifying objectives, strategies and action plans to improve short- and long-term sales and earnings. Benjamin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from the University of Virginia with a concentration in Marketing and Management.
If you have any questions for Ben, feel free to leave them in the comment section.