Real estate: Marketing Maverick

“Developers sell houses. Sales and marketing people sell dreams.” That is the enthusiastic view of marketing expert Ms. Amy Wee, vice president of Singapore Business Association in Vietnam (SBAV), Director of Branding and Marketing @CENGROUP

With 25 years of experience in marketing consultancy for many products, services and brands in many countries, below are her experiences in marketing in general and real estate marketing in particular.

Ms Amy Wee - Vice President of Singapore Business Association in Vietnam (SBAV), Director of Branding and Marketing @ CENGROUP


As an international branding expert, you have a lot of professional experience in brand development and building marketing strategies for different brands in many business sectors. Could you please share some working experiences or your own marketing stories?

Ms. Amy Wee: Branding is the soul of a business where the company is a reflection of each and every one of us who represent the thoughts, the actions and values to the market. Hence, branding is beyond a name; it is how the company is known in the heart of the market.

I have been doing marketing for 25 years across the region with the most number of years in Vietnam and Singapore. I spent a year in New York studying the market for advertising and merchandising and comparing the works in America with Asia. I realised that the characteristics of branding across the globe are different, yet the same; what I mean is, everyone wants to present the best branding exercise to the target market, but due to each market’s complexity and demands, the companies have to deliver the branding packages to the market in whichever way best suited. At the end of each brand journey, a company should have inched closer to the target market closing in on achieving the business objectives.

I started in Vietnam in the last quarter of 2007. I was invited by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) to be a trainer in the developments of the upper trade for FMCG industry. And one thing leads to another; I found myself as a consultant for FIVIMART, delivering the know-how of making the products and merchandising systems a pull-factor to achieving a bigger market share. After FIVIMART I joined HAPRO as a marketing director, where my role was to direct the strategic growth of the subsidiaries to achieve market recognition. I was also the brand consultant for one of Vietnam’s leading leather product manufacturers and retailers, where I changed the brand name to GURKHA and marketed the quality products with distinctive classic European designs across the retail shops in key shopping malls, and through the website for international markets.

Branding success can only happen if the head of a business believes and supports changes. A business will lose its lustre if it doesn’t move along by means of customer demands and understanding its own and competitors’ SWOT.


How about real estate marketing in Vietnam today?

Ms. Amy Wee: Real estate in Vietnam is the fastest-growing industry with various diverse industry big-wigs jumping into this pool of gold, from big local banks to big local retailers to big construction companies. This dynamism automatically creates good location lands to be scarce and now, new development towns are quickly built to make every inch of land worthy of residential and commercial constructions. With such market progression, competitions naturally become intense. And with the existence of many foreign developers sharing the same grounds as the local developers, and foreign developers already having their brand names known worldwide and the local developers having extremely strong connections with the right people in the market, differentiating the products becomes mandatory and building brand evangelists becomes a competitive stature!

And of course, as I always preach: make your product visibly and acceptably different at a price that the customers see the value worthy of. And it is only then that the market will be your evangelistic angels!

Vietnamese generally buy a property by word-of-mouth, where trust is highly regarded. Any above-the-line marketing only creates publicity, but the real buyers count a lot on personalised services. The real voice to the market is the people that the developers partner with to sell their properties. It is also these people that will advise the developers on the values of their properties and how their properties will be promoted.


As for customers, what is your comment on the differences in terms of purchase behaviour between real estate buyers and normal buyers?

Ms. Amy Wee: First, properties involve higher stakes of investments than most things that money can buy. It is typical that a higher stake purchase would require much consideration before making the decision to buy or not to buy. The opportunity cost is always higher for real estate, especially if the market is a developing one. Vietnam has progressively made investments in real estate easier with relax laws and regulations in order to elevate the economy to a stronger platform.

Vietnam infrastructure has improved tremendously over the last 10 years, and slowly but surely the Vietnamese government builds amenities in every estate to create convenience for the people, and lands with good amenities and road infrastructure are fetching good returns in investments. But because many lands now having good amenities, this gives potential investors lots of choices and hence stiffer competition among the many developments that are currently available for sale. Hence, personalised services are important to investors, and if these investors can have the full services of real estate to their convenience - from buying a home to bank loans, to furnishings, etc. - you can count on closing the deal rather successfully.


Do you have any advice for real estate marketing and sales executives to attract more potential customers and maintain a good image for the corporate brand in general and their products and services in particular?

Ms. Amy Wee: The best advice I can give to any marketer is to predict the future. This future that you predict, plus the burning desire to achieve, will lead you to be recognised, trusted and respected. As a good marketer, make your customer your friend. If this customer has become your friend, his voice can be louder than a million dollars of advertisements that you may place to promote what you are selling. And if you make every customer your friends, and their friends become your new friends; your worth as a sales/marketing executive multiplies many folds.

But to start being successful, you need to want to be successful. When you have this drive to succeed, then you will have the desire to gain knowledge of the products that you are selling, be informed of the market that you are involved in, know what your competitors are up to, always listen to what your customers want from your service, deliver your promises to them, and understand and accept rejections. Always remember this: you are a crucial part of what your company brand is made of; one critical mistake and your company brand can be history!

Developers sell houses. Sales and marketing people sell dreams.


It is reported that you are currently working as a director of branding and marketing at CENGROUP. Why did you choose CENGROUP among many large businesses in Vietnam?

Ms. Amy Wee: I did not choose the company I wanted to work in; I chose the bosses I wanted to work with! A dragon body moves in the right direction because the dragon head goes in the right direction. The bosses I report to (the chairman and the vice chairman) believe in cultivating a business culture where our people are emotionally invested and because they (our people) are happy, that is when they want to contribute. It is because we grow our love and respect for friends from within the organisation, and we radiate these same emotions to care for and respect our customers. With the developers who are our business partners, we offer advice on how they can differentiate their products, which is essentially selling characteristics and the pricing strategy.

I am into my 5th month in CENGROUP, and I am certainly appreciating every opportunity to be a part of this joyful organisation. The trust and friendship I earned from business partners make my work day in this industry a blessing.


Could you please unveil the upcoming brand and marketing development strategy for CENGROUP?

Ms. Amy Wee: “People” have always been CENGROUP’s business. And by listening to our customers’ requirements, I see the need for CENGROUP to add on more services into the basket of services that we are already offering: furnishings (CEN PLUS), CENVALUE (land and house valuation), CENINVEST (developing residential projects) and STDA (CENGROUP’s sales arm, and also the largest sales agency in Vietnam).

I am also creating a “people developer” programme where our staff is constantly given soft skills and knowledge-based training. Through each progression, our staff will be awarded a certificate of achievement.

The strategy is never about trying to be the market’s number 1, but to create a strong footprint in the market as a respected and trusted real estate service provider with a basket full of services that can result in benefiting the customers and CENGROUP mutually. Through this small step, we take each and every encounter we have with our customers and know that we will edge ourselves to be number 1, naturally. As the saying goes, “Rome is never built in one day”.

I would like to end this interview by saying this: “Market yourself well, before you market anything else”. Success is within your own confidence.


Source: Ms. Amy Wee

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