Bob Pifke serves as CMO for Real Property Management, the nation’s leading property management franchise. The company has 260 offices across the country and total assets under management valued at more than $7 billion.

Over his storied career, Pifke has worked on both the client and agency side. recently chatted with the veteran exec about the realities of being a marketer in the property management business. What are the marketing challenges associated with differentiating a brand in this emerging, rapidly changing market?
 One of the biggest obstacles is how little awareness there is for any brand in our category. Ten percent of property owners don’t even know that property managers exist as a category, which is surprising. They don’t even know that they can outsource their property management. Through awareness research we’ve conducted, it became clear that the people who knew about professional property management firms are existing customers. When you get past that group, the awareness levels are extremely low for any brand.

For Real Property Management, specifically, I think another obstacle is our generic name. We have a descriptive name, and when you have a descriptive name, it’s very difficult to differentiate yourself from others. Most of the companies in the business right now have generic names. There are a lot of variations of Real Property Management. We’ve been having discussions with our franchisee advisory council about potential solutions to overcome that challenge. How would you describe your marketing philosophy?
I am a pragmatist. At one point, I was general manager of Ogilvy Direct in Houston, the agency’s direct mail practice, and I’ve really maintained a results-focused perspective toward marketing ever since. I’m always thinking, “OK, let’s try it, but what are the results? How many leads did we get? How many qualified leads?” I’m very into dollars and cents.

That mind-set works very well in a franchising business because most of the entrepreneurs that have bought into our franchise are pragmatists, too. One of the reasons they joined a franchise is they know that they can run a business better with some help. Yet at the same time, they know they have to pinch their pennies. It’s been a very nice marriage with me joining Real Property Management because the franchisees appreciate that kind of thinking.


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