One important part of developing a successful apartment community marketing plan is to size up your marketing strategy to that of your competitors’.  Here are a few tips that every community should analyze to gain a stronger competitive advantage.

Real Competitor
Do you really know who each community’s competitors really are?  When was the last time someone took the time to determine if the community’s named competitors have remained the same?  Competitors change … how are you tracking them?  The only real way I know of to determine who they really are is to create a pin map.  Place a yellow pin for every person who doesn’t lease in your community in the location of the community they did lease from.  Using a red pin, mark the location of every resident that moved out of your community into a different community.

Value
How is the competition building value?  How are they providing a unique experience for their residents and prospects so your community is not a commodity?

Website Content
Explore the competitors’ websites.  Look at what services they are providing and what benefits they are offering.  In addition, you can see what information the site offers readers such as things to do in the area, events, etc.  In other words, are they taking advantage of what the neighborhood offers?

Reviews/Reputation Management
Read reviews about your competitors on channels such as Google, Yelp and Apartment Ratings.com, etc.  Utilize these channels to explore what residents like and dislike about other apartment communities and make certain your communities follow the right direction.  Read the reviews of your REAL competitors.

Social Media
Take note of how the competition is taking advantage of social media.  Do they have presence on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other social media channels?  Do they respond to comments quickly and are they writing engaging posts?  See which channels are generating a lot of buzz for your competitors and make sure that your community/company has a presence there as well.

Local/Hyperlocal
Look at whether or not people are checking into the competing community.  See if they have specials tied to checking in through Facebook or Foursquare.  Are their strategies gaining them more check-ins or local saturation in Google Places?

Link Building
See which directories your competition is listed under.  Strong link building can benefit a website in a couple of ways:  driving traffic and gaining site relevancy.  Look to see if there are any directories and sites that you have overlooked when link building for your own site.  There are many tools out there which can assist you in running competitive link analysis.

Paid Search
Research and see what paid campaigns your competitors are running.  Are they running banners and PPC campaigns?  Which keywords are your competitors bidding on?
Conducting a competitive analysis is an effective method to evaluate your own community and website’s promotional strengths and weaknesses.  It is also a great way to find new ideas on how to further drive the success of your community.  But beware, just because your competitors are lacking in an area, does not mean you don’t have to participate in that value, service and marketing channel.   A successful community constantly looks for new ways to saturate all the opportunities they have and build their online presence to reach potential residents ahead of their competition.

Tami L. Siewruk began leasing apartments more than 20 years ago and specializes in solutions that increase occupancy, rents and traffic while reducing resident turnover.  Multifamilypro.com.  Reprinted with permission of METRO, the Landlord Times.

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