From postponed launches to shuttered sales centres, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 forced homebuilders to rapidly adapt.
The Condo Store’s Chief Marketing Officer, Rich Kuypers, joined the company just as the real estate market was plunged into uncertainty. Over the last year, he’s helped TCS strategize and adapt to unprecedented market circumstances, all while launching new company initiatives and star-studded digital events.
Livabl caught up with Kuypers to learn more about how TCS’s marketing strategies have evolved over the past year and what 2021 will hold for new home marketers.
Livabl: Shortly after finishing your MBA and master’s degree in sports administration, you began working for Golf Canada, followed by management positions with the LPGA tournament and Molson Coors. What interested you in the sports and entertainment industry, and sparked the transition to marketing and real estate?
Rich Kuypers: My fascination with sports and entertainment is just like everyone else’s — fandom, knowing that the outcome has not yet been decided, and the drama that exists inherently. I acted to try and leverage that passion for a career, and it has worked out. The sports and entertainment industry is not for everyone in terms of a career, but it was for me. There is nothing like the feeling — or roller coaster of feelings — of producing live events. Pure exhilaration constantly tempered with somber anxiety. As I said, it’s not for everyone.
The lessons and hard truths of an unrelenting industry prepared me nicely for real estate. To execute a real estate project or campaign takes the same skills and thinking that programs in the beer industry or golf world require, which is analyzing data and trying to understand consumer behaviours. Truly what all industries require is something that is looked for even in kindergarten: the ability to work well with others. If you can treat people with respect and humility, you will be able to do your job.
On another note, golf is always a hot topic. Whether you’re at dinner parties, social events or in an office setting, people love to talk about golf — usually their own golf game, and they ultimately love to play golf. My tenure as a collegiate player and professional have been catalysts for me in terms of meeting new people and being able to relate and connect. Golf is not for everyone, but for the people that it is for, they are all about it.
L: You started working at TCS in the spring of 2020. What was it like jumping into a new company during one of the most unpredictable and challenging periods of the year? What were some of the early projects that you kick-started with TCS?
RK: One year in and I have not met some of my co-workers in person. That is strange and unique, but then again, so are the times we are dealing with right now.
Simon and the TCS team were incredibly welcoming at a time when there was enough uncertainty to go around. I started working on our Toronto pandemic hero program — which was a great way to begin — talking about others who are doing great and important work around the Greater Toronto Area, and I just kept on going from there. It didn’t hurt that our ambassador, Pinball Clemons, is a sports icon, which was a nice way to get started and bridge my worlds together.
L: TCS prides itself on being authentic and establishing trust with clients without the use of huge advertising campaigns. How did you work to maintain this standard amidst the challenges of COVID-19 and the absence of in-person interactions, events and meetings?
RK: Consistency and openness. I can talk about our track record of returns and we can show potential client examples of where and how our clients have made significant gains for their families over the years, but people want to be talked to in human terms, not sales jargon and quantitative analysis.
Whether in the media or in a private client meeting, we are sure to discuss every aspect of an opportunity, including what is happening in the world, the market, and the impact on a potential investment. We have our outlooks on the market and certain geographic areas. We love talking about the numbers and investment potentials, and we are always happy to share those. However, to be fully trusted, we need to ensure that we highlight the entire situation and speak directly, confidently, and honestly to our clients and, of course, potential clients, in any outreach that we may conduct.
L: In August 2020, TCS kicked off sales at 181 East with a digital launch joined by celebrity guest, Russell Peters. How did TCS pull this event together? What was the experience like to throw a completely digital event like this without the elaborate parties and presentations that developers have traditionally used pre-COVID?
RK: Russell is a pro, so it was easy to work with him on the project and take the virtual launch concept to new heights. Nothing will replace the idea of in-person meetings and events, especially when bringing in a public figure to meet with people, but when faced with the challenge, I was happy that we were able to bring such a positive event and message to the community.
Russell genuinely loves the GTA, and he clearly is not afraid to talk about it — and he’s a big real estate enthusiast, so the content was a breeze for him.
L: Looking back on the last year, how would you say TCS has evolved its marketing strategies to adapt to the circumstances created by the pandemic? What have been some of your most notable triumphs and challenges?
RK: We are in a growth mode. We are looking for the right people to join our syndicate of investors. Historically, we’ve grown with referrals from existing clients who have been part of the program and purchased with us, and this year hasn’t changed that.
The truth is that we have some really exciting opportunities for the right people who are connected to strong networks and have built their own trust, so we want to talk to these people just as we have for the past 15 years, but without face-to-face contact. This process — meeting and discussing our value proposition — has shifted like all business contact across the globe.
It may take a bit longer to build the relationships and the trust, but that is fine — whatever the potential client requires in order to feel good about what we are bringing to the table. In one sense, because the product and the value of investment returns are tangible and can be shown via email or other mediums, we are lucky in that we are still able to do business and talk to clients using numbers and historic return on investment.
Creating a 15th Anniversary program for the company and giving away Jaguar SUVs to clients is definitely the coolest program. Nothing in real estate comes close to that program, so we are very proud of it and it just shows how we value and treat our clients. However, a lot of the heavy lifting in the role so far has been done behind the scenes — the boring stuff, preparing the firm for growth and to be able to accept new clients in 2021. It’s an exciting time.
L: How do you see TCS’s marketing approach evolving this year? What plans do you have and what projects are you taking on?
RK: We certainly will be more present and available in the real estate community. For a long time, TCS has backed off from too much of the spotlight, and while we will never really change that, we want to ensure that our voice is heard and that the realities of wealth creation through pre-construction real estate are heard from a credible source with cache and market leadership.
We will have a couple of investment offers for our clients in 2021, and with all the noise in the market on a normal day, let alone amidst a pandemic, we want to be aggressively taking advantage of talking about what we do and the value it brings, privately or publicly.
One of the more exciting things we have planned for 2021 is a communication about getting into the market called, “I Wish.” This is simply highlighting the fact that it is easier to get into the market than people think, yet a lot of people haven’t had the conversations about what it takes and end up saying, “I wish I got into the market years ago”. There is never a time like now, and we will have a little fun with that angle and talking to newer or latent investors on the value of getting in and having your money work hard for you.