Obviously one of the biggest developments in the multifamily industry in recent years has been the launching of a record-number of new constructions. In 2016 alone, 320,000 new units opened in 50+ unit communities alone—so that doesn't even include new units that opened in sub-50 unit communities. That's an almost 50% increase on the 2015 numbers which were themselves thought to be high at the time.
This is a major problem for older communities and it won't go away for a few years. That said, these older communities do have a few advantages on new constructions that they can use to help market themselves.
So we want to share three of these apartment marketing tips for older communities in today's blog. Ultimately, all three points revolve around one main idea: There are advantages to being an established community and you should use them. Quite often the things we think are weaknesses are just strengths wrongly considered. That can be the case if you are an older property trying to compete with newer communities.
The first point is that getting floorplan-specific content, meaning photos and videos of individual floorplans in the community, is harder for new communities that are not yet open. It's possible to get a company to do computer-generated videos of yet-to-be finished floorplans, but that can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. The same applies to photography, of course.
Your community, on the other hand, has a natural advantage—your units are already finished. If you have good video and photo content that shows your apartments, you can attract people who will choose you because they like what you currently have and don't want to wait to see what the new construction will look like. One of the things that has surprised us over the years is how easily some multifamily shoppers can be persuaded to stick with a company based only on their marketing. In one case, we had a client tell us that half of their residents don't even look at other management companies when they need to move. They stay with the same company because their marketing and online presence makes it so easy to research and lease online, why would they look anywhere else? Do not under-estimate the power of a good online presence.
It's not just the apartments that already exist, of course. Your reputation also is well-established whereas the reputation of a new construction is a blank slate. So if you have a number of good recent reviews, you're interacting with reviewers, etc. then you're in good position to compete with these new communities. If prospects search for you and find your community online and then see all those positive reviews, that further entices them to schedule a tour.
Maximize Your Online Presence
One of the things we have observed over the past 18 months is that the age of a domain seems to play a greater role in Google's search rankings. This means that a website that has existed for awhile on the same domain name is probably going to have a leg up when it comes to competing with newer websites. Certainly a website that has been producing high-quality work for a long amount of time is, all things being equal, going to perform better on search than a brand new website.
For older communities, this can be a huge boost if they know how to take advantage of it. There are two main areas we have in mind.
First, make sure you're getting as much value as you can from your community website. As we already mentioned, you should have floorplan-specific content on the site to help you qualify prospects online rather than having to do it on-site during leasing tours. But there's so much more you can do with your website.
If your site is relatively easy for Google to crawl and for human users to interact with, Google will start auto-generating things called Site Links. These are indented links that go directly to relevant pages on your site from the search engine result page. This is what they look like:
The site links do two things for you: They take up more space on the search engine result page, which means your competitors get pushed further down the page. They also make it easier for prospects to navigate directly to the page most relevant to their interests, thereby helping them to use your site more effectively and hopefully to either qualify or disqualify themselves as a lead.
The other piece here, when we are talking about maximizing your online presence, is paid search. Just as they do with organic search, Google also cares about history when evaluating paid search advertisements. If your community has been using AdWords for a long time and producing real quality advertisements that people actually click, that works strongly in your favor with AdWords's algorithms. (We could get into the weeds here, but the main idea is simple: Accounts with a proven history of producing good ads receive a boost in their ranking relative to accounts that are new or have a history of producing sub-standard ads.)
A further benefit to using AdWords is that studies show that when an ad and organic listing at the top of the page are both pointing to the same domain, users are far more likely to click one or the other.
Simply put, if you are using organic and paid search tactics effectively, you should be in a very strong position relative to your new rivals.
It's an interesting thing that the thing many in our industry think is so exciting and interesting—novelty—is actually not as valued by the search engines. In the past, you could expect new domains to start ranking on branded keywords within a month. These days, it takes new domain names much longer to start showing up in higher search positions on Google. That's a bummer if you're the community behind one of those domains, of course.
But if you're an established community, it's a significant point in your favor as you compete with the new properties opening in your area. Take advantage of it. Don't let your age be a liability; make it a strength.