One of the perennial problems for small to midsize apartment communities is how they can compete with larger companies. Larger companies have more resources not only in terms of cash, but also in terms of staff.
Plus there are all sorts of other knock-down benefits as well: When you use a wider range of ILS's because you have more money, you learn about how each of those ILS's perform. When you market thousands of units, you learn more about how your marketing performs in a given area. Being bigger makes life easier in a lot of ways. It comes with its challenges too, of course, but many of the benefits of bigness also make life harder on smaller communities who have to compete with these large companies. So today we're sharing some apartment marketing ideas for small companies.
Be obsessive about metrics.
The moneyball revolution in baseball happened when small-market teams that didn't have the budget of the Yankees or Dodgers decided to obsess over advanced stats and let those numbers guide their squad-building decisions. The results revolutionized the game. Something like it can help revolutionize your marketing.
Here are things you should be thinking about: How many leads do I actually need to generate in a given month? How about during peak leasing season? This question is going to force you to think about conversion rate and to see how efficient your leasing team is.
You should also ask something like, "How many leads from each source does it take to lease a unit?" Put another way: Take your number of leases per marketing channel and divide by your leads per channel. This is going to give you the conversion rate for each channel. Once you know what channels convert at higher rates, you can start focusing more of your limited marketing budget on those channels.
You should also be looking for all the marginal wins you can find: Teach your leasing staff to track all the vacancies in a community or in your portfolio and if they give a showing that doesn't go well, have them suggest that the prospect might be interested in some other floorplan you offer.
The big way that smaller companies win relative to larger companies is through winning a lot of small, marginal victories which, over time, really move the needle.
Create a single integrated marketing strategy.
Here's some good news for you: As the above implies, marketing is no longer purely a money game. Prior to the internet, there were limited media outlets for promoting a brand or product and so the company with the most money usually gained the greatest visibility and won the most business.
But with the internet, anyone can be a media producer. And with Google, reaching an audience is less a matter of dropping exorbitant amounts of money into your marketing budget and is much more about creating relevant media that people actually find useful.
In other words, the days of dropping x dollars on newspaper ads and x dollars on signage and x dollars on a print guide are over. Now you can push all your marketing dollars toward creating an internally coherent advertising strategy built around your own website. You can use money to create the site, to generate content that goes on the site, and to push more traffic to the site--and you can measure all of that with a free tool from Google.
The old approach to marketing depended on mass messaging and so the company with the biggest budget usually won. But digital marketing on the web is less about who has the largest budget and more about who uses their budget the best. It still costs money, but the web (Google, particularly) rewards the intelligent use of your marketing dollar. So stop thinking about mass messaging and start thinking about targeted marketing.
Get everything you can out of Google My Business.
Next to your community website, your Google My Business profile is the most important piece of your online marketing presence. Why? Because your Google My Business profile is how you integrate all the work you're doing on your website with Google. It also makes it way easier for people to find out about your community from within Google, which is another perk. So what do you need to do to get the most out of Google My Business?
At a minimum, you should have photos that show both the exterior of your apartment community as well as some floorplan-specific photos. (You can label the photos by floorplan in the photo description, which can give users a better idea of what they're looking at in each photo.) You also want your website's URL to be listed in the profile along with your community name, address, and phone number. (Name, Address, and Phone Number is sometimes abbreviated as NAP in local SEO discussions.)
You can add more value to your page, of course, by generating reviews from residents and by using it as a place to share community news. Most of your residents will have a Google account, so tell them to follow your page and then you can be simultaneously building your social media profile and helping your performance on Google.
Use AdWords to generate cost-effective leads.
Given that we've written an entire eBook on this point, we won't say too much here. But the short idea is that with AdWords you can generate extremely targeted, precise leads that you would not be able to generate for that level of spending with any other ad source. It's a phenomenally powerful tool that allows you to target specific keywords and to defend your online presence from competitors and listing services. And the best part with AdWords is that competing with the big boys doesn't require a gigantic budget; it simply requires well designed ads.
Finally, define clear and realistic goals.
There's an old joke that if you're trying to get away from a bear you don't have to be faster than the bear; you just have to be faster than the slowest person in your group. It's funny, but it is also making an important point: Define the right objectives.
Your goal is (probably) not to one day go toe-to-toe with Greystar. Rather, your goal is to maintain a high-quality community that is profitable and that people want to live in. The key movement that needs to happen here in most cases is going to be mental: Don't let yourself be bothered by what Greystar or some other behemoth is or isn't doing. Don't judge your own community based on standards that aren't even appropriate for your community anyway. You're not trying to compete with Greystar, ultimately. You're trying to build a community that is both profitable for you and pleasant for your residents. And that's a much more feasible (and pleasant!) goal than going toe-to-toe with the giants of the industry.