When it comes to marketing your community, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll go broke. How you reach potential renters has dramatically changed in the past few years. Gone are the days when you can simply place an ad in an apartment magazine and hope the telephone will ring. These days, to be successful you must actively pursue renters.
Realize that today’s renters are smart and do their research. They know what others are saying about your community—both the good and the bad. They know which communities are offering concessions, which management team is easy to work with, and which leasing professionals actually care. They are doing all of the work to find out everything they want to know about you.
Therefore, before you create a marketing plan to reach these people, you first have to know what image they have of you. To do so, go out 5, 10, 15, and 20 miles away from your community and ask people (on the street, in retail stores, at gas stations, and in restaurants) if they have heard about ABC Apartments. If they say, “I would never live there,” you know you have an image/reputation problem to address in your marketing strategy and marketing plan. If you’re told “I never heard about ABC Apartments,” then you know you have to reach out and educate the consumer about ABC Apartments. The same goes if you’re told “I’ve seen them, but I don’t know if they are low income, apartments, or condos.” Clearly, your marketing is not hitting or your marketing message is not clear.
With the current reality of your community’s reputation in mind, you can begin to create a marketing road map so you can achieve occupancy, reduce turn over cost, and increase revenue. Here are the key questions to get you started:
- What are our goals? Does your community need to completely change its reputation within the community? Simply get the word out that we exist? Clarify an existing message?
- Do we have effective employees and support staff to achieve the goal? If not, what resources will we need? How do we create/implement better customer service?
- Which target market/audience are we trying to reach? Military? Seniors? Working professionals? How will we find the right market?
- Will we have seasonal, one-time, or year-round residents?
- How will we differentiate our apartments from our competition?
- How can we compete with low cost apartments? Do we want to?
- How can we reduce our cost to attract new residents?
- How can we reduce our cost to retain existing residents?
- What is the projected marketing budget?
- What are the marketing vehicles (email, newsletters, mailers, social media communication, etc.) we will use to reach our targeted market/audience?
- In the event that something unexpected happens with the initial plans, what is the backup game plan to continue on the road to reaching our goals?
- What are our short and long term business goals (3 months, 6 months, 1 year)?
By creating this sort of detailed roadmap, you’re allowing all the members of your team to have an understanding of each of the components and the timeframe to achieve your goals. The roadmap literally paints a picture of the scope, effort, and timeline of a marketing plan.
Having a roadmap will help you identify your target market and justify the time and financial resources required to achieve your goals.
Marketing versus Advertising
As you go through this process, be careful not to confuse marketing with advertising. They are definitely NOT the same function. Advertising, which is about paying money to announce your marketing message, is only one component of marketing. There is so much more that goes into marketing and creating a marketing plan, such as knowing:
- The Competition – Who are we competing with?
- Product Pricing – Are our rents low or too high?
- Distribution – How will we get our message out there?
- Promotions – What do we have to do to close a lease?
- Sales Strategy – What training do our leasing professionals need to effectively sell our product?
Clarity and Consistency
Another key to creating a successful marketing strategy is consistency. Many times when occupancy increases owners will cut marketing budgets and cancel advertising. By being consistent in your efforts, even during the peak occupancy periods, you will gain trust with the renters because they’ll always know what they are going to get by renting in one of your communities.
By creating a solid marketing foundation that’s consistent, you will be able to make sure your marketing message is clear, your collateral material is effective, and your level of customer service is high. Have you ever looked at an ad in a magazine and said to yourself, “What are they
selling?” By having clear and consistent marketing messages, you will educate and inform people on who and what you are about.
Once you have a marketing roadmap in place and begin taking action on it, be sure to monitor your results, the ever-changing marketplace, and your competition. You want to know what’s working and what isn’t, as well as what changes others are implementing (and whether they are seeing positive results from it). Keeping your pulse on these factors is key to your success.
For example, maybe another community has changed its marketing strategy and has increased its level of customer service. Maybe they are offering flexible lease terms because a major employer is cutting back or bringing in contract workers. Knowing what is going on in the marketplace or with your competition will help you more easily identify what has changed in terms of needs and wants of your customer. You can then identify and make adjustments in your own plan for success.
Also, monitor your own results. No marketing plan is set in stone. Think of it as a fluid document that changes with the market feedback and your customers’ needs. Train your team members to take note of marketing results and to come to you with their findings. Without the help of your leasing team your marketing efforts and dollars will be wasted.
With the ever changing business environment, it is important that rental communities change the way they attract and reach potential renters. From the leasing and marketing side to the sales process and level of customer service your residents expect, make sure you detail how each element will work in your new marketing plan. When you and your team are aware and trained on how to implement and adjust the plan, you will become the community of choice for today’s renters.
Cathy Macaione, President, Cathy Macaione Consulting Services, an Apartment Marketing and Management Specialist, has more than 31 years in the Real Estate Industry.
Cathy’s creative marketing skills have won her numerous awards including Chicago’s prestigious CAMME and ALEX awards. She demonstrates her creativity and expertise through the exploration and implementation of alternative marketing methods.
Prior to starting her own consulting business, Cathy held numerous positions, ranging from leasing professional to property manager to marketing/training director, for several large management companies. Cathy is also an experienced trainer and developer of “Personal Touch” workshops and seminars.
Cathy is a frequent contributor of articles on marketing, maintenance, leasing and management tactics to industry publications. She facilitates and presents for Multifamily Pro’s Brainstorming Sessions, Multi Housing World, Home Builders, Several Apartment Associations and Management Companies across the country. Cathy is the author of “Six Days to Success: Training the New Leasing Professional” and creator of “Stopping the Real Estate Gremlins”, a complete Video DVD training series. Cathy is a national speaker and speaks on topics related to Leasing, Marketing, Maintenance, Customer Service, Tax Credit, Image, Student Housing and Resident Retention. Cathy has earned the H.C.C.P designation.
For further information on Cathy, please contact her at [email protected] or 630-800-6895.