Finding Your Path
The Value of the Brand
By Lorne Polger, Senior Managing Director
When we set out to build our company 15 years ago, we recognized the importance of branding. While Mitch and I both had personal and business relationships through our 20 prior years of doing business, the “Pathfinder” brand was new.
So, we started from scratch. We built the brand employing various strategies. First, and foremost, we tried to consistently identify ourselves (and our team members) as being part of Pathfinder. We designed a trademarked symbol and used it on our business cards, letterhead, and website. When we met people, we introduced ourselves as being with Pathfinder Partners.
Shortly after we opened our doors, we put our company’s website on the Internet (www.pathfinderfunds.com). We did not have much content at that time, but as we grew the company, we continued to add to and refine the site on a regular basis. It is currently in its fifth iteration. Future versions will surely follow.
In the early years, we thought it was important to have a media presence. This included speaking engagements, interviews, and quotations in articles. In each case, we ensured that the Pathfinder company name was prominently mentioned. That strategy continues today.
In 2009, we began publishing our quarterly newsletter, The Pathfinder Report. We focused on content that would be of value to our readers – not the usual self-promotion typical of company newsletters. We built a database of contacts we met through business and included them on the distribution list (that list continues to be updated regularly). Over the years, our friends have referred their friends and without any real marketing or promotion, our distribution list today is in the thousands.
Over the years, we have received many positive comments and can point to numerous property acquisitions and new investors that are directly attributable to the decade-plus of effort spent researching, analyzing and writing about economics, real estate market trends and investment strategies that we’ve shared with you. It is a labor of love, and well worth the effort.
Shortly after the launch of our first fund in 2007, we hired a local public relations firm, which was instrumental in helping us distribute press releases for our acquisitions, launches and closing of funds, as well as getting interviews in local, regional, and even national media. In each situation, the brand was prominently mentioned.
We regularly authored original content articles, some of which were republished in prominent periodicals. We wrote about what we were doing, why we were doing it, and why it mattered.
And finally, but perhaps most importantly, we leveraged our relationships. We gained a few pounds along the way, regularly attending breakfasts, coffees, luncheons, and dinners. We spoke at and sponsored events at regional and national real estate conferences. We mentored university students as well as young real estate entrepreneurs. We were and have remained extremely active in the community, serving on and leading civic, political, religious, and charitable boards and supporting a bevy of worthwhile causes. All these endeavors helped to build the Pathfinder brand.
Why do all that work? First, it’s the right thing to do. And the cumulative effect made it easier to get people’s attention. Investors. Brokers. Lenders. Influencers. Other principals. We could walk into a meeting and people would say, “we’ve heard of you guys.” Our reputation preceded us.
Is this relevant today now that we are 15 years in? Absolutely. I would argue that is now more important than ever. It has never been more competitive than it is today to win deals and compete for capital. Many listed apartment properties these days garner dozens of offers. Hard money deposits have increased dramatically, almost becoming commonplace. Often, a seller will tell us, “It’s not about offering the best price. We want to make sure our buyer performs as they have promised.”
We have spent 15 years making sure that we perform on our promises. My last newsletter article discussed the power of relationships. If you combine the power of branding with the power of relationships, it can be a force multiplier. Having a positive reputation and a successful brand walking into a deal gives us a leg up on the competition.
Will the trend continue? I think so. Reputation can tip the scales where other terms are near equal. I think about it when we sell deals. All things being equal, who are we going to pick to buy our property? The buyer with the positive reputation for negotiating a contract quickly and fairly, performing in a timely manner, following through on commitments, closing on time, being good to deal with, etc. All elements to a successful brand building exercise.
Is Pathfinder Partners a household brand? Hardly. We will leave that to Tide® and Starbucks®. What we need is to have a name that investors and those in the apartment investment community recognize and respect. We are very grateful to have achieved some small measure of success in that regard, but the work isn’t close to done. Building and maintaining a great brand requires a continuing commitment to never rest on your laurels. Constant attention and nurturing are required. It is a bit like having kids. Even when they are older, you are still their parents. We remain committed to working on it.
Lorne Polger is Senior Managing Director of Pathfinder Partners. Prior to co-founding Pathfinder in 2006, Lorne was a partner with a leading San Diego law firm, where he headed the Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Law group. Reach him at email@example.com.
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