Photo: Mark Cohen, TCS Marketing Systems
Toronto’s urban landscape has undoubtedly changed over the past few decades.
From the addition of CityPlace to the evolution and expansion of Liberty Village, Canada’s biggest city has been transformed thanks to the many new construction projects that have been developed over the years. Mark Cohen, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of TCS Marketing Systems, is an industry leader who has witnessed Toronto’s continued evolution. He’s played an instrumental role in the launches of dozens of condo developments and master-planned communities and helped shape the technology that’s used across the industry today.
Livabl caught up with Mark to learn more about how Toronto’s new construction industry has progressed throughout his career and where it’s heading in the future.
Livabl: Toronto’s urban landscape has been transformed during the early decades of the 21st century. Across your career, what have been some of the most memorable projects that you have worked on that left an impression on both you and the city?
Mark Cohen: I have had the pleasure of working on some of the largest projects in the city and with some of the most established builders. Each project has its merits, but the one I keep coming back to as a hallmark of my career is CityPlace.
As Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Concord Adex, we strategically sold and delivered the largest ever high-rise planned community in the city with over 8,000 units. My mentor at the time told me, ‘Don’t worry about the competition, let the competition worry about you.’ That has really stayed with me, and I take pride in the trailblazing I have done in the industry and being a part of shaping the landscape of Toronto.
L: For real estate professionals who are just breaking into the field, how would you describe the difference between what it was like when you started your career compared to now? What are some of the biggest changes the Toronto new construction condo industry has experienced?
MC: In my 37 years in the industry, I have worked every type of project.
The pre-construction industry has evolved to include a lot more access to research and data, but also technology has become part of assisting us in really understanding trends and providing us with more ways to reach buyers. When I started, it was all about networking and relationships. Today, the data guides us and social media drives us.
Another big change has been the volume of projects — people have a lot more choice. At TCS Marketing Systems, we excel at anticipating coming trends, and that has remained an advantage for us through the changing landscape.
L: From your days working at some of Canada’s largest development companies, like Concord Adex and Menkes, what lessons did you take away from those leadership experiences that shape your philosophy on marketing and sales today?
MC: Our philosophy is there is a condo for every person, and there’s a purchaser for every condo. After working on projects like CityPlace and delivering over 5,000 condo units with Tribute Communities, I recognized that future residential development would be founded on value creation.
First, it was about closely aligning developments with identifiable lifestyle needs of buyers. I like to get in early with projects and drive the design of the product. I want to make sure we understand the buyers and how they live. And the second is the strength of the people I surround myself with — my team. I’ve got the best in the business. Everyone contributes. The sum total of the parts is greater than any one individual. Technology may have become better, renderings slicker and research abundant, but at the end of the day, it is about understanding buyers and making that person-to-person connection that has kept us successful in this industry.
L: Information is everything in real estate. How does TCSMS make use of in-depth research to drive its holistic and technology-driven approach to sales and marketing? Why is it important to keep evolving this approach in your work?
MC: I strategize each project with a combination of years of experience and a forward-thinking approach. At TCSMS, we have embraced access to data and research as well as using technology to help guide our sales and marketing programs. A great example of this is that TCS Marketing Systems has an exclusive relationship with RealTimeRevenue.ai, a high-performance, data-driven platform and methodology that is proven to accelerate pre-construction sales.
We are always looking at opportunities to incorporate technology to help make our project sales and marketing more efficient. We feel it is important to provide our clients with a wealth of knowledge to help ensure they maximize the revenue for their projects, and keeping up with the latest research and technology allows us to do that.
L: The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the real estate industry like never before, from unstoppable growth in the resale market in the second-half of 2020 to reinventing how new construction sales are launched and sold. How did you navigate your team through this unprecedented time, and what strategies did TCSMS implement to keep things moving?
MC: Like many have expressed, COVID-19 shook our world, but in a way, brought us all closer together. Our team bonded together tightly, and I’m so proud of each member and how they handled the turbulence brought to their individual lives through COVID in a professional manner.
Our clients, prospective purchasers and realtor friends were always at the centre of our operations and I’m happy that our core values prevailed through that time. The pandemic also forced us to look inwards and rely on each other more. We strengthened our internal strategies and pulled together a full virtual launch for a large scale project on the Barrie waterfront (Debut Condos), and other projects followed this new industry trend. We were the first to do pre-recorded theatrical presentations versus the customary Zoom meetings, and these have since become common throughout the industry.
L: Looking back on everything that has transpired over the last year, what are your predictions for the Toronto residential development industry in 2021?
MC: Working from home is going to remain a part of our vernacular but it will not stop people from wanting to move to Toronto and purchase homes. We anticipate a strong year for launches and developers have really taken the time to understand the shifting needs in terms of amenities and lifestyle changes, so with that, we expect a bounce back year for the Toronto pre-construction industry.