Sales..the way we did it in Value Designbuild Pvt. Ltd (VDB)…
I often ask myself why I entered business as it was not a part of our family culture as we were basically agriculturists. Though I lived in Madras, Bangalore and Muscat over the last 36 years I am still a small town person. Not for me the slickness of cities, the exaggerated affection, the false personal promises and the various impersonal actions that masquerade as the truth. So, I decided that we will approach sales in a different way in VDB.
To start with was the advertising strategy. We changed the narrative. In our very first paper advertisement in 2003, for our project Ochre, in Cooke Town, Bangalore, we used the lines ” It is just 4 kilometres and 211 feet from the top of Brigade Road to the site, should normally take you only 10 minutes driving time, but it actually takes 40 minutes”. As I expected it struck a chord. This kind of copy was used in all our advertisements, whether in print, radio or the web. The ‘in your face’ truth wasn’t known as a way to advertise.
For the first few years we did a mix of Designbuild jobs and small boutique apartments, mostly 8-10 apartments, in the upper value spectrum. Selling was reasonably easy as our locations and quality ( and the market) was good. Then, we did arguably one of the first ‘theme based’ developments in Whitefield, which people believed was too far from the happening parts of town. We used a Balinese theme and built 28 row houses under the name Nusa Dua. My wife and I visited Nusa Dua in Bali in 2005 to see what Balinese architecture was all about. We used as many features as we could when the building was designed. Interestingly, it succeeded. Our advertisements for Nusa Dua were well appreciated. I was only nervous of one beautiful advertisement which had a woman stand under a water fall with her bare back facing the viewer. I held the advertisement back as I thought I would be panned for sexism. Finally, we released it on a hoarding opposite the Manipal Hospital, near the Leela Hotel. The other advertisements ( just 4 types) continued on hoardings and in the print media. It succeeded to the extent that even today people I know remember the campaign and that advertisement in particular as it was considered very elegant. No one even thought of calling it sexist. The project sold better than we expected.
Before, I go on to our next strategy, let me share what happened next.
Blunder of my life:
I made a cardinal error, one that I regret even now, 13 years later. I moved from upper end and niche developments to a mass development project addressing a different market, one that was in the range of Rs. 50 Lakhs to Rs. 75 Lakhs, in 2007. There were 195 apartments and suddenly we were in Yelahanka , competing against the big boys. People questioned us – who are you? We have never heard of you. Sales was excruciatingly slow. We scratched our heads for a solution. We couldn’t take every prospect to see our completed projects, as they wanted to see what we had built. Hardly any quality Digital marketing tools were there then.
FM Radio advertisements were just making a mark and all the big boys were advertising there. I casually checked as to what the costs were and found to my shock that they were not expensive. We then decided to get into Radio . We also said no to jingles – humour – either subtle or otherwise – but humour and honesty would be the theme. We took ads only on week days, mornings and evenings, when we expected our audience to listen to the radio. Our content was real and humorous.
Suddenly, the perception changed. People stopped asking us who we were and didn’t want to visit the buildings we built anymore. The perception was created – if these guys are on radio – they must be experienced and capable. While we thought the radio ads would be more of a reminder medium we actually made sales from those who heard us. When the Lehman Brothers downturn happened we did not have a single call or visitor for almost 4 months. Then we decided on a bold strategy. Lets have an “Enjoy the Recession” theme. We asked for people to call and say why they were enjoying the down turn and the best answers got prizes. We also got sales again. It was clear, alternate advertising does succeed, provided you could rise above the clutter.
Selling – we took a different path. We never rushed anyone into buying. We gave them the details of our developments, showed them the place and let them decide in peace. We never called them unless they asked us to. Once decided they had to pay 10% on booking and 15% on execution of the agreement, which would be in one week’s time, from booking. So, it was virtually 25% down payment. We never compromised there. No 1 Lakh as advance or a token amount to book. I have never considered that a sale. For us at VDB only the 25% was a sale and we wanted anyone who bought to be doubly sure of his /her/their interest in buying. After so many years, we have not had more than 5 cancellations between booking and handing over. We never ran anyone down while trying to sell. We stood by our quality. We believe that our quality was as good if not better than anyone else who was constructing in India. Yes, I mean it. We have stood by this and the fact that we have never violated approved plans and had no litigation regarding title.
As I end this chapter of my career and move to other subjects , I must say that I live in one of VDB’s own developments, Nusa Dua. We have been living here for ten years. What better way to tell the world that you are confident of what you have built. Give me a better idea and I will try it…
( My career is still not over as I have more to sell. With COVID 19 – will strategies change? I’m not so sure. One thing I am sure of though – the time spent at sales and its peripheral activities has been interesting and challenging. I’m satisfied.)