6 Digital Marketing Mistakes in Multifamily—And How to Avoid Them

Slipups happen, but they can impact both your occupancy rate and your bottom line.

Effective digital marketing is key to the success of any multifamily community. That’s because digital marketing is the source of many of your leads—qualified ones, if you’re doing your job right—and that translates into leases.

Image by Flash vector/iStockphoto.com

Effective digital marketing is key to the success of any multifamily community. Image by Flash vector/iStockphoto.com

According to the 2022 NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey, 83 percent of prospective renters visited a property or company website when searching for an apartment. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) visited a rental listing site such as Apartment.com or Rent.com, and 40 percent visited the property’s social media sites when searching for an apartment.

“Eighty percent of our prospects engaged with us somehow on the internet, whether that’s on the website or social media platforms,” said Lisa Gunderson, vice president of asset management for Bristol Development Group in Franklin, Tenn. “So, it’s critical to the success of our assets that this works well.”

Still, digital marketing mistakes are not uncommon. And they can impact both your occupancy rate and your bottom line.

“It’s money that’s not well spent,” said Tammy Casserly, senior vice president of growth and brand development for Resident360, a multifamily branding and marketing agency. “It’s an investment that’s not yielding a return.”

Here are some of the more common digital marketing mistakes to avoid.

Not Targeting Prospects Correctly 

It’s Marketing 101: Know your target customers and design your marketing strategy to capture them. “You need to personalize your marketing,” Gunderson said. “The emotional connection occurs when somebody sees a story or an image they can relate to.”

Select keywords that your prospects will use when searching online. And keep them specific. Instead of “Nashville apartments,” use “apartments two blocks away from Vanderbilt University,” for example. “You’re going to cast a net that’s tighter, and you’ll get a better quality of traffic,” Gunderson said.

Similarly, avoid automated services that post generic content, such as holiday tips or recipes. These do nothing to help you lease up your property. If you want to feature a signature cocktail in your social media, don’t post the recipe; instead, use photographs of a recent social event at your community at which that cocktail was served. That’s more likely to engage prospective renters and illustrate what the lifestyle is like at that community.

Letting Content Get Stale

If you feature specials or concessions on your website, remove them when they expire. “You can spend time and dollars on making a site look beautiful and on driving traffic, but if the customer experience isn’t consistent from what the prospect sees online to what they see when they visit the property, then what you do online just goes out the window,” said Nofel Molai, director of marketing for Cottonwood Residential in Salt Lake City.

Update your content frequently, and don’t forget to include new attractions in the neighborhood that might excite a renter, such as restaurants or entertainment venues. Gunderson said that Bristol had a community in Louisville close to where a new soccer stadium was erected. The company updated the keywords in the community’s website to capture any prospects who might have been searching for that stadium.

Failing to Optimize the Community Website

Don’t forget the basics, such as including plenty of professional photographs—and tagging them. Molai said he often sees websites that feature videos that aren’t formatted correctly and take longer to load, which can cause prospects to click off. “It’s always great to have powerful content,” he said. “But you have to be careful not to slow down the load time of your site.”

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Casserly often sees amenities buried on community websites so that viewers have to dig through multiple menus and pages to get details. Keep amenities front and center; a full slate of amenities is what often tips the scales for a prospective renter.

Using Social Media to Announce Specials

Keep specials and concessions on your website or on internet listing sites such as Apartments.com. That’s where your prospects are looking for a new home.

“On a daily basis, I see properties using social media to advertise their specials,” Molai said. “But no one goes on social media to search for discounts on a one-bedroom. They go there to see if the community has events, if residents are having a good time and what they say about the amenities. It’s lifestyle-focused.”

Plus, it’s ill-advised for current residents to see discounted rent posted on social media sites they engage with. “You’re literally telling your residents that they may have a one bedroom for $1,500, but we now have a special at $1,000,” Molai said. “That can cause a ruckus.”

Forgetting about Mobile

It’s great to focus on desktop platforms, but don’t forget that prospects may search for an apartment on a mobile device as well. Review Google Analytics data to learn how people are browsing your site. If you have a substantial number who are viewing the website on a smartphone or tablet, make sure it loads properly and that the most important information displays on the top half of the page to optimize visibility.

Ignoring Low-Hanging Fruit

Sometimes even the most basic change can have a huge impact. That’s why Casserly advises all her clients to complete their Google Business Profile. “You can include floor plans, hours of operation or location,” she said. “That way, when you start spending money on Google Ads, your listing is working harder for you and will yield better results. It just takes five minutes, but it’s a huge thing if you’re running Google Ads.”

Avoiding Digital Marketing Errors

The best way to avoid these common errors is to have a qualified digital marketer—or a team—on staff. If you don’t, then engage a third-party vendor who does have that expertise. Larger apartment owners or managers—those with multiple communities—may need outside companies to assist them even if they do have an in-house digital marketing team.

Attend conferences such as the Apartment Innovation & Marketing Conference to keep up with the latest trends and tools available to market your communities.

Most importantly, don’t market blindly. If you spend money on digital marketing, but don’t track those dollars and monitor incoming leads, it’s impossible to determine whether those ads are cost-effective or if you’re just wasting your advertising dollars.

“It’s being able to track and know what’s working and what’s not,” said James Love, vice president of marketing and brand for Draper and Kramer in Chicago, which has a residential management portfolio of more than 6,000 rental units in Illinois, Missouri and Texas. “If you’re going to spend all this money, you need to be able to say where it went and what you got for it.”

Read the September 2023 issue of MHN.

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