by Elaine Simpson, President of Occupancy Solutions, LLC
To be successful, multifamily professionals must recognize common marketing mistakes and know how to avoid them. We must first understand what marketing is and is not.
Marketing is an essential element for every business. Marketing and advertising for rental housing has gone beyond the classic printed ads, billboards and rental magazines. Thanks to the rise of technology and social media, the world of marketing and advertising has become bigger than ever. Unfortunately, all of these resources can cause confusion and intimidation, but if we learn the right strategies and use the right tools, we can handle our marketing without fear or hesitation. Marketing is the first step in building a relationship with the customer and building brand recognition.
First things first. Marketing is not the same as advertising. Similarly, marketing is often confused with the simple act of selling. Marketing is made up of the activities companies use to attract the attention of their potential residents and lead them to the sale or purchase. Marketing starts with the process of identifying potential customers with the interest and income to rent from you. This is known as your target market. It involves understanding who your potential residents are and what they want from your community. Colors, logo and other design elements help to align the image of your community with the interests of your target audience. It is marketing that defines your brand and attracts the potential residents you want. Advertising is the process of making your community known to the marketplace and is essentially spreading the word about what you have to offer based on what you know about your audience. Put another way, marketing is the way in which you convince potential renters that you have the right apartment for them. Advertising is how you communicate to them the existence of that perfect apartment.
As professionals we must understand what to do right and what to avoid in order to successfully market our communities and management companies.
Things to avoid:
Using just one marketing type;
Thinking marketing, selling and advertising are all the same thing;
Placing advertising that does not contain a “call to action”;
Using the same old methods of yore;
Ignoring current residents as a source of promotion;
Using social media inconsistently and/or without tracking efforts, monitoring or maintenance;
Creating a marketing campaign without doing proper market research.
Defining and building a target market requires extensive market research. In the rental housing industry, we can create and utilize a market survey of nearby rental communities with rental rates and amenities similar to our own to assist us in defining our market. Once our market survey form is created, one need only update the data on a monthly basis. The data collected allows management to adjust rental rates and gauge occupancy levels of the competitors. Many large management companies today have special computer programs that analyze various factors such as availability of specific floor plans and rental “specials” within submarkets and then set rental rates that can change daily. Smaller companies must rely on their staff, managers and corporate representatives to use the data collected in the periodic calls and visits to the competitors. Data collected is used to set marketing goals and marketing strategies.
Things to do:
Train Your Employees – Every interaction counts in a successful marketing campaign so it is important to train your employees how to communicate with your prospects in face-to-face encounters, over the telephone and on the internet.
Set Appropriate Marketing Goals – This is important in order to provide direction for your campaign. You must also create specific objectives and plans to reach your goals.
Inform and Educate Your Target Market – Concentrate on relevant content through the use of different media such as blogs, webcasts, social media, newsletters, etc. Choice of media also depends on your budget and target market. Consider only specific publications, banner ads and use of search engine optimization (SEO) for the internet.
Create advertising that focuses on how your clients’ lives will improve by living at your community. This is usually accomplished by using “Feature Benefit Closing” techniques and should be used throughout your marketing campaign.
Give your residents and prospects a voice by creating an outlet for communication through the use of surveys, focus groups, interviews and reward programs.
Be consistent in your image, product and customer service.
Anticipate customer needs and understand customer wants.
Keep up with market trends.
Practice “the pitch” after making it concise and focused.
Sell value and lifestyle, not the price.
Offer extraordinary customer service.
Keep it fun or entertaining to create and hold attention.
Be confident in your presentation.
Integrate the “four P’s” – product, price, place and promotion to support your branding & campaign.
Understand the different types of marketing and mix them to be most effective:
Direct Marketing – emails, phone calls or texting to a captured list of prospects with a call to action. Also use interactive web pages, promotional letters and offers.
Active Marketing – approach and follow up is important when using on-line blogs and forums, instant chatting and cold calling.
Inbound Marketing – use of Search Engine Optimization, web pages, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. to bombard prospects with information then wait for return responses.
Outbound Marketing – this is the most traditional method and is easy but you may spend more time and effort casting a wide net rather than reeling in the fish. Examples are television, magazine ads, some internet ads, some web pages and grass roots outreach efforts.
Guerrilla Marketing – use of unconventional methods to “wow” prospects by creating unique visual perspective and engage their imaginations. Examples are public relations stunts such as forming flash mobs or interactive advertisements such as dinosaur footprints leading from public places to your community.
Promotional Marketing – holding contests, sweepstakes, giveaways, or raffle tickets for free gifts.
Smaller companies generally do not have the benefit of having a marketing director telling them what to do and how to do it and must come up with ideas on their own or turn to outside marketing consultants and companies such as Occupancy Solutions for guidance and training. Occupancy Solutions offers in-person training, consultations to review and develop individual marketing plans, on-line e-learning webinars and training courses and much, much more.