Apartment Marketing: Not a One-Size-Fits-All Endeavor

Marketers have to tailor their strategies and tactics to best connect with the lifestyles of prospective renters. Stephen Ursery of LinnellTaylor explains how.

Stephen Ursery

The June sun and heat have arrived, and for multifamily marketers that means one thing: it’s leasing season.

With such a traditionally high number of leases expiring in the summer months, marketing campaigns typically reach their maximum intensity in this period. But while the goals of these efforts are the same—attract a sufficient volume of qualified prospects—the strategies and tactics used by marketers can vary quite a bit. Stated simply, what works for a Class A community may not be a good fit for a Class B or Class C property.

That’s because these community classifications have different prospect profiles and different marketing budgets. Class A communities typically appeal to high-income professionals who place a premium on luxury and convenience. They aren’t price conscious and expect high-end finishes and truly modern, cutting-edge amenities, as well as walkable neighborhoods and often great pet amenities.

Broadly speaking, Class B communities appeal to renters who don’t make as much income as Class A residents, but they still seek out quality amenities in a good neighborhood. They often have a commuter lifestyle and place a priority on having friends and family nearby. Meanwhile, Class C properties attract blue-collar renters who are highly budget conscious; they certainly don’t expect high-end amenities and conveniences but they still want to live in a secure neighborhood that provides their kids with access to good schools.

Given these factors, apartment marketers have to tailor their marketing strategies and tactics to best connect with the lifestyles of the prospective renters most likely to lease their homes.

The Ties that Bind

When outlining the distinctions between promotional efforts, apartment marketers are quick to point out that there are some basic, fundamental similarities as well, regardless of property type or resident preferences.

Marketers in all asset classes seek to build strong online presences for their communities through search engine marketing (SEM) and social campaigns. They know the importance of good online reputation management.

“It is very important that you are constantly monitoring your review sites to ensure that you are current with your responses,” said Megan Mahoney, marketing director for LMC’s East Region. “Your replies also need to be thoughtful and genuine, not just a standard response. Prospects everywhere are looking at these and placing a real emphasis on them.”

Furthermore, prospective renters in all demographics expect community websites that offer an intuitive and good user experience. “Prospects need to be able to schedule tours through a website and even apply for a lease,” said Kim Morgan, marketing manager for JVM Realty. “And websites need to be transparent about what the rents are. It’s really outdated to say, ‘Call for rent.'”

Promoting Class A

When marketing a Class A community, operators typically have one thing going for them: attractive, striking images. These images are key to reaching the high-income professionals looking to live in a luxurious community in an urban market. They want the status that comes with living in a beautifully appointed apartment home.

“You’re often blessed with a beautiful asset, so you want to get images of that out there as much as you can,” Morgan said. “Class A campaigns are typically heavy on visuals.”

Accordingly, Class A marketers often make aggressive use of Google display ads, build robust image galleries on ILS’ and community websites, and engage in extensive Facebook and Instagram re-marketing, according to Morgan. The Class A renter is often reliant upon digital communication channels so they can stay connected in the midst of a very busy lifestyle. 

Additionally, the marketing copy for Class A communities often emphasizes lifestyle and convenience because that’s what resonates with working professionals with an incredibly active lifestyle, Mahoney notes. Amenities like rooftop amenity decks, infinity-edge swimming pools, smart-home technologies, package locker systems and concierge services are just some of the amenities that might be featured in a Class A community’s marketing campaign because of their appeal to these prospective renters.

By contrast, copy for Class B and C properties—which don’t feature such high-end amenities—might place a heavier emphasis on price, how safe a community’s neighborhood is and its proximity to good schools, playgrounds, grocery stores, shopping and recreation centers. These less affluent prospective renters are looking for value—the best neighborhood and community amenities they can get in their price range. 

Marketing for Class B, C

Class B and C marketers use the same digital tools as their Class A counterparts, but they are often faced with smaller budgets. So out of necessity, their marketing campaigns often utilize expensive SEM tactics less than their Class A counterparts. These marketers, especially those in Class C, are likely to rely more on free Craigslist postings as well.

Faced with smaller budgets, these marketers often need to rely on some “old-school” techniques as well to reach their prospective renters.

For example, placing promotional flyers in neighborhood laundromats and grocery stores can be a cost-effective way to bring potential residents to a Class C community.

Class B and C communities also are more likely to have signage and banners at their entrances encouraging people to stop by and emphasizing price. “You want to capture the attention of people driving by and create that awareness that ‘I can afford that rent,'” Morgan said.

Be Analytical

Regardless of what specific techniques an apartment marketer uses, it’s critical that a modern marketing team make use of analytics and be willing to change course if those analytics point out the need to do so.

“You need to be focused on those analytics and be willing to change your marketing efforts in response to these numbers,” Mahoney said. “The marketing world is constantly changing and in order for your communities to be relevant, you should be proactive with your strategies.”

“Once we get into those analytics and really see where our traffic is coming from, we often adjust our marketing and advertising spends,” Mahoney added. “For instance, if Marketing Source A is doing really well for us in a market but Marketing Source B is not, we adjust our spend towards A. Not all markets are the same, so your marketing efforts shouldn’t be. A key to marketing any community is to be flexible in your approach and be fully aware of your market and current conditions.”

Stephen Ursery is a content manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing, a Denver-based public relations agency that focuses on the multifamily industry.

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