When you think of marketing in general, the first thing that comes to mind is almost certainly branding. Maybe you think of a memorable commercial that you closely associate with a favorite brand, like Doritos famous Super Bowl ads. Maybe you think of a scene from popular TV show Mad Men, like this iconic scene from season one:
In either case, marketing is being closely linked to a certain ideal that people associate with your product. The task of the marketer is to communicate that ideal to prospective customers and establish it in their minds.
For many products, that's a great strategy--difficult, to be sure, but effective when done well. Think about popular brands like Chipotle, Apple, or Whole Foods. These are all companies that have built remarkably strong brands. And for these companies it makes sense. A brand is good for companies looking to establish loyalty with customers. So if you have a product people will buy regularly, you can profit from a great brand. If you're Apple and if your brand is such that people instantly think of you when they need a phone or computer, then you've won a major victory and will profit time after time thanks to your brand.
But this is one of the many areas where our multifamily industry is unique. People often age out of our industry by the time they are in their late 20s or early 30s when they start looking to buy a house. So we don't really benefit from building long-term loyalty via a brand in the way that Apple or Chipotle does. Another complicating factor is the nature of our product--an apartment is a high-risk purchase. So you can be sure that people will do a bit of research before making a purchase. With a low risk purchase like a burrito, simply being thought of as being cool in some way may well be enough to get people in the door. But when you're selling people a place to live the sale is much harder. The result of all this is that a brand-based approach is often going to be less effective in our industry.
Targeted apartment marketing solves this problem.
What is needed to make marketing successful in multifamily is three-fold:
- We need a strategy to reach the right people.
- We need marketing content that is closely linked to our product in a way that brand-based marketing often is not.
- We need a model of marketing that can be implemented by small-to-midsize companies with a limited marketing budget.
Taken together, we call this strategy targeted apartment marketing. The idea behind it is to use online advertising to reach the right people and to create high-quality photos and videos that allow prospects to see into the apartment online. There are five important aspects of this apartment marketing strategy.
Pay-per-click advertising allows communities to target a small but highly relevant group of people.
If you think about Chipotle's billboards or Doritos' Super Bowl ads, those advertisements make a lot of sense because pretty much everyone that sees them could become a customer. Everyone needs to eat, after all.
But our target market is quite a bit smaller. Start with all the people living in your area. Now eliminate everyone who owns a home. Then eliminate everyone who is already in a lease and isn't looking to rent. Then eliminate everyone who doesn't want to live in your area. Then eliminate everyone looking for something at another price point. Then eliminate people who won't move in because of your pet policy. Simply put there are a large number of people you don't want to advertise to because they are never going to become customers. So why pay money to reach them?
AdWords is the way to solve this problem. By targeting only the people who search for specific keywords, you can reach a more targeted group of users who actually are far more likely to become residents.
On Craigslist you need to market specific floorplans rather than the entire community.
One of the most important things to understand as an apartment marketer is that most prospects do not think of your product as being the entire apartment community, but instead the individual floorplan. The community isn't irrelevant, but no one is going to rent a floorplan they despise just because they like the fitness room and clubhouse.
Therefore, when you are marketing your property on a site like Craigslist, it's important that you first emphasize the floorplan before moving on to the community. Share plenty of floorplan photos and talk about the specific qualities of the floorplan in your marketing copy.
If you're wondering how this falls under our targeted apartment marketing strategy, that's actually simpler than you might think. A big part of targeted marketing is using your marketing to disqualify bad leads as well as qualifying good leads. If you can emphasize the floorplan, that is going to disqualify people who don't like the floorplan but will also make people who do like it more interested and more apt to take the next step.
Use walkthrough video tours to show leads what their apartment looks like.
This is the same basic idea as the Craigslist strategy described above. If someone sees a video like this, they are more equipped to decide whether or not to take the next step in the leasing process:
The goal with your marketing is always to be doing two things--reaching the right people and helping them make an informed leasing decision.
Create floorplan pages that give the leads all the information they need about that floorplan.
We talk about floorplan landing pages regularly for the simple reason that they are one of the best and most neglected ways that an apartment community can help prospects learn about their community. What we see most communities doing instead is maintaining separate pages for all their floorplans and their photos. So you can see a list of floorplans (sometimes accompanied by a two-dimensional floorplan diagram) on one page and a bunch of (typically unlabeled) images on another page.
This isn't helpful to our prospects. They want self-serve information that helps them make a buying decision. When we fail to provide them with photos and videos of each floorplan (and an easy way to find them on our websites) we are failing in our marketing.
Make it easy for leads to contact you.
The best way we know of to do this is to make sure your phone number is easy to find on the community website. You should have it in the top right corner of every page on your site. You should also include it in your marketing copy and in the footer on your site. You can also set up things like push-to-call extension on your AdWords ads that make it even easier for prospects to call you:
The goal is that if a prospect wants to call you they can do it without much effort.
Targeted apartment marketing may not seem as exciting as brand-based approaches like what you see on Mad Men. But it's an efficient, effective approach that makes sense within our industry and doesn't require huge marketing budgets to implement.