It’s not every day you discover an organisation with an exemplary record for seeing projects to fruition, choosing not to broadcast its success.
Even more perplexing is the fact that their results have been achieved without relying on our industry’s trusted consumer platforms for the marketing of its projects. Meet Whiterock Capital Partners, a team specialising in the marketing of development projects while refusing to submit to the moniker or traditional model of “project marketer”
A stewardship more than an agency
Unlike the traditional agency model as it is understood, Whiterock CEO and co-founder, Andrew Donnelly says the team view their remit as something of a private bank to astute developer clients, taking on a stewardship over an active investment, with a view to realising strong returns within a given timeframe.
With eyes firmly focused on margins, they adopt a measured and highly specialised approach to the process, guided by their fundamental criteria for project success: saleability, revenue and liquidity.
Three core drivers
A project’s marketability is determined based on the ability to satisfy these criteria – and Whiterock demonstrates an absolute conviction in this regard, turning away projects in cases where the fundamentals don’t stack up.
“For us, there are three core drivers to maximise the saleability, revenue and liquidity of a project,” Says Andrew.
1. Meet The Market
To this end Whiterock adopts an advisory role: “We undertake vigorous demand-side modelling to ensure a project will be quickly absorbed by the market,” says Andrew.
In taking on an end-to-end role on a project, they will immerse themselves at the very beginning of a project, ensuring that every need of the target audience is met from apartment layouts to finishes to storage in the basement, to ensure every last unit is absorbed. “It’s almost an IBM build-to-order model. We know what the buyer wants so we aim to give them exactly that.” This is all done with a keen eye on build costs supporting healthy margins at the necessary price points.
“There are no ‘juniors’ in this organisation.”
In keeping with their philosophy of stewardship, each project is spearheaded by Whiterock’s three directors, Andrew Donnelly (CEO), Munro Donen (Sales Director) and Odele Smith (MD).
Andrew is responsible for the “property in” component of the business, being acquisitions, relationships and marketing. Munro handles “property out”: overseeing sales and driving project profitability, whilst Odele spearheads the strategic direction and running of the organisation as Managing Director.
Collectively, they bring to every project a remarkable reservoir of experience and strategic expertise across the critical disciplines of development, design, architecture, marketing, sales and operations. Every project they take on is adopted and managed in a hands-on fashion by this leadership team, rather than briefing projects down to junior managers.
In each case, the directors work alongside the developer to set the objectives and parameters by which to take the development to market. From that point on, Munro activates and manages sales channels to ensure that their partners are on point in bringing the right buyers to the project and converting sales accordingly.
3. A Pioneering Marketing Methodology
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Whiterock’s approach is the patent disregard for traditional advertising channels. In stark contrast to industry norms, you’d be hard pressed to find a Whiterock logo on a project signboard or realestate.com.au.
Projects are marketed through vast private channels – a “sales ecosystem of sorts”, comprising a plethora of curated sales partners, covering a diversity of suburbs and demographics, each incentivised and responsible for – bringing active (and qualified) buyers to the table.
It takes some time and coaxing for us to extract from Andrew that, in certain cases, sales partners are required to make a financial commitment of sorts (a bond linked to their results) in order to participate in the sales of a project – a painfully simple logic that makes a helluva lot of sense in theory, and seems
to translate to real world results. Simply put, Whiterock will only back sales partners who are prepared to back themselves.For us at BD, the question remains though: if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Are real estate platforms, local print media and even the burgeoning ‘social’ media channels falling short?
“Often yes,” says Andrew, “when you consider that much of the advertising audience likely represents an unequivocal waste of dollars, given only a small portion are likely to be serious buyers.”Then there is the problem, in a Softening market in particular, of project inventory languishing on the market for many months in a public forum, which leads to increased time on market and, ultimately, lower prices.
The opportunity to complete sales on a project without ever spending a dollar on media seems almost too good to be true. But Whiterock’s impressive track record suggests not. With a reputation for full completion of sales on projects ranging from three townhouses to 400 apartments, their model seems to be disturbingly effective. Perhaps even more impressive is their settlement rate of 99 per cent, with 98 per cent of their sales coming from local buyers.
The oversubscribed King’s Lane in Darlinghurst, for example, saw 12 luxury townhouses sold within 2 days, and the outstandingly impressive Emporia project in Campsie saw 250 apartments sold within 3 months, in a location full of languishing projects.
“We have established premium investment partnerships offering access to high-quality real estate opportunities across key markets in Australia – and in all cases our partners have established relationships of trust with the buyers they bring to the table.”
Why aren’t other businesses operating in this manner?
Perhaps it’s because Whiterock Capital Partners really isn’t an “agency” in the traditional sense. On entering their offices we felt we were entering a world of family office private wealth which reflects their mantra of advisory over traditional numbers selling.
Challenging the “project marketing” paradigm is not an endeavour suited to the faint hearted. The stakes are high; the competition is fierce and without some real meat on the bone, the likelihood of success isn’t promising.So, it seems that, for now, this unique organisation will continue to fly unaccompanied below the project marketing industry’s radar – and all will continue to appear quiet on the Whiterock front.
In reality, the exact opposite may be true – but this very private organisation of elite operators seems content to perpetuate this unassuming veneer.
CEO, Whiterock Capital Partners
Andrew Donnelly is co-founder of Whiterock Capital Partners and brings with him a wealth of experience in medium/high density Property Development, Project Marketing and Investment. Over 14 years experience of developing international financial distribution networks, property development, site acquisition, investment strategies and capital raising with strong branding, marketing and sales delivery capabilities.
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